In sickness and dishonesty

In sickness and dishonesty

by Charley Barnes

‘He thinks it was a miscarriage.’

It’s the first time that I’ve said this out loud. The room is so quiet that I can hear the nurse breathing and I can’t bring myself to open my eyes. When I hear her moving around – over-turning papers, opening a drawer – I crack my right eye open, and follow it with my left. She’s sitting on the stool opposite the bed on which I’m perched. My legs are still spread open, the sheet is covering my midriff – as though the exposure of my soft stomach is what makes this experience immodest.

‘Can you try and relax for me, please?’ she asks.

I spread my legs a little wider but make a conscious effort to keep the soles of my feet pressed together, as instructed. I close my eyes and imagine my husband in the waiting room; waiting to make sure that there is no permanent damage, waiting to hear whether we can try again, and how soon.

‘You’ll feel a sharp scratch,’ she says, but it came seconds ago when she took the first sample. That’s when I know that she heard what I said, even though she isn’t, even though she won’t, acknowledge it. She pulls the speculum out too slowly without winding it shut. I recognise this as a special type of female violence.


C.S. Barnes is a Worcester based author and poet who has recently finished her Doctorate degree in Creative Writing, and now spends her days wondering what to do with it. Her debut prose collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017 by Black Pear Press, and her debut poetry pamphlet, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, is forthcoming with V. Press (July 2018).

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