There’s a First Time for Everything

I thought for a change I’d post one of my short stories that I had published. This one was in an Australian magazine and I was delighted to buy a copy in a New Zealand newspaper shop where we were holidaying at the time. The photo, no prizes for guessing, is Sydney Harbour Bridge which we have driven across, walked across and climbed to the top of.

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There’s a First Time for Everything

“Is this your first?” I say.

She nods and chews her bottom lip. She is just so nervous. I try to think of ways to calm her. I put my hand on top of hers. It’s cold and there’s a tremor which she’s trying to conceal.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine, you’ll see. It’s an everyday thing; hundreds of people are doing it, no problem.”

She nods again and this time a glimmer of a half smile flickers over her features. She’s so young, it makes me feel ancient, though forty isn’t nowadays. Her pale skin has a flare of spots round her mouth as if she’s been touching them and spreading them around. Fine, mousy blonde hair falls over her eyes and her cheeks and I want to tell her to pin it back so that she can see clearly. 

As if I’ve spoken aloud, at that moment she digs into the pocket of her coat and pulls out a blue sparkly hair-band. It’s so little-girlish I can’t help smiling. She drags it over her forehead, capturing the wayward strands of her hair and revealing a high forehead which she’s obviously been trying to cover up. She looks even younger, like a modern day Alice. I grin at her, aware that I probably look like the Cheshire Cat to her, my teeth revealed in the rictus of my smile. I’m not feeling terribly confident myself.  

“I don’t want it to hurt,” she stammers. “That would be awful.”

“It won’t,” I reassure her. “Not nowadays with all those new drugs and things. Before, it used to hurt something terrible, but that’s all past. It’s all quite painless now.” I hope she doesn’t notice my crossed fingers behind my back. I can’t stand pain and I certainly don’t want to even think about it.

“I hope it won’t take too long,” she says and her voice has disappeared to a whisper. Her hands are shaking even more.

“It will be over before you know it,” I say. I take hold of both her hands to still the trembling. “Stop worrying. You’ll be fine, believe me.”

“Excuse me.” She jerks her hands away. “I have to go to the loo.”

She rushes out and leaves me alone. I look around at the equipment waiting to be used. It’s all clean and sterile, instruments neatly lined up in their plastic wrappers, Through the frosted glass of the window I can just see the vague shape of the chestnut tree in the driveway. The candles on it are large and white and pregnant with fruits to come. The branches quiver in the freshening breeze. They remind me of her hands.

When she returns, there are two red spots on her cheeks but she looks calmer.

“Feeling better?” I ask.

“Yes, thanks. It’s my first time, you see, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

“You won’t,” I reassure her. “You’ll see. You’ll soon get used to it. I have every confidence in you.” But I don’t. Not with shaky hands like that.

“Take some deep breaths,” I suggest. “They’re supposed to be calming.” So she deep breathes for a few minutes, her chest rising and falling as she does. I frantically think of other ways of helping her to relax. 

“Exercise,” I say. I’ve read somewhere that exercising releases endorphins which calm you down. “Couldn’t you run round the block? Do press-ups? Touch your toes ten times?”

She’s looking at me as if I’m demented, which I admit, I’m getting close to. It’s those shaky hands. I have to drag my mind back from the horrible pictures they’re trying to sneak into my brain.

I’m just about to run out of the room myself when the door opens and a man in a white coat enters.

“Good morning Mrs Brown,” he says to me. “I’m here to supervise Janine as she does her first filling. We don’t want anything to go wrong, do we?”

“No,” we both chorus wholeheartedly.

I lie back in the dentist’s chair and watch as Janine reaches for the drill. Her hands are steady as a rock. I relax and close my eyes.

Not that any of us can go to the dentist these days! Keep safe, keep well and may your teeth stay healthy!

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