‘After a long battle...’ the conventional platitude carried me back across the decades into my boyhood bedroom on that sunny afternoon in the October of my fourteenth year.
“Is that your blood?” she’d asked, peering into the microscope I’d been given as a birthday present a few days before.
“Uh-huh,” I replied, not sure I could trust my new voice to hide the maelstrom of feelings washing over me.
“Where d’you get it?” she asked.
“Finger prick,” I said, trying to sound cool.
“Didn’t it hurt?”
“Nah... Well, maybe a bit.”
“Can we look at mine?” she asked, turning and looking at me as if for the first time. “Please?”
“Sure,” I said, passing her a sterile lancet. “Here you go.”
She hesitated. “I don’t think I can do it,” she said. “Will you do me?”
“Okay; which finger?”
She looked at them as if trying to see which might be the least sensitive. “This one,” she said, holding out her ring finger.
Her hand felt soft and smooth and warm in mine, her pale skin almost transparent in the gentle autumn sunlight. The thought that this was the first time we’d touched felt like a third presence in the room. She turned her head away and closed her eyes.
“Go on, do it,” she said, marking the moment when I decided to become a doctor.
I remember my quick stab with the lancet, her gasp of pain, and the crimson drop of blood that welled up on her fingertip. But mostly I remember how she turned and kissed me then, our lips meeting slightly off-center, amidst the faint smell of lavender.
And then a few minutes later she said: “My blood’s got a lot more white cells in it than yours.”
Sadly, she was right.
Issue 6 & 7
The Stories & Poems
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