There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Jane – The Surprise…
The news of her pregnancy was a surprise to the 45 year old, and to be honest not a welcome one. Her two other children, both boys in their late teens, were very happily studying at the same university fifty miles away. Whilst she missed them all the time, she had sailed through the empty-nest syndrome perfectly well.
Jane had gone to the doctor to enquire about hormone replacement as she seemed to have entered the menopause early. Before prescribing the treatment, her doctor felt it was a good idea to rule out any other reason for her symptoms with a simple test. He delivered the news with a certain amount of care to a bewildered Jane; sitting at her side with a glass of water and a box of tissues to hand.
He had known his patient for twenty-five years and was well aware that Jane was looking forward to some long-awaited overseas trips with her husband Mike and that the planned six weeks in Australia would now have to be put on the back burner. Jane took the glass of water and sat in dumbstruck silence for several minutes as the doctor waited patiently.
It was at that moment that she felt the ‘surprise’ kick gently against her hand clasped across her stomach. Obviously the baby was keen to voice its opinion about the matter and was making quite sure that she knew there were now two of them to consider.
Following a scan the following week it was determined that Jane was just over five months pregnant and what she had thought was middle-aged spread was going to be little more difficult to shift than anticipated. She had insisted that her husband, who was still in denial about the whole thing, come to the appointment and saw the look on his face as he watched his latest child squirm and kick on the monitor.
‘Can you tell us what the sex is at this stage?’ Jane gripped Mike’s hand as he leaned forward to peer at the screen.
‘I don’t want to know Mike, please let’s wait until it is born,’ she smiled apologetically at the nurse who was just about to spill the beans.
Mike grumbled all the way home about how quick she had been to give away all the baby and toddler clothes and did she know how much it was going to cost to buy all new kit including one of those new-fangled pushchairs?
‘Darling,’ Jane reached over and laid her hand on his knee. ‘That was fifteen years ago and you never know; this baby might be a girl.’
He shrugged distractedly and Jane could see that Mike was not as invested in the turn of events as she already was. Of course he did not have the benefit of hormones racing through her system, which to be honest she rather enjoyed as she had thought they might have been totally dormant. Except of course after the office BBQ five months ago; she chuckled away to herself much to Mike’s annoyance.
Thankfully they had not reached the stage of paying for their planned six weeks in Australia and Mike now moved his extended vacation time to early the next year so that he could be there for the arrival of the new addition. He tried to be enthusiastic about his impending fatherhood but it was a process he thought he would never experience again…
He loved his sons but admitted to himself that he enjoyed them a great deal more now that the three of them shared similar interests such as football and heading down the pub for a swift pint on Sunday lunchtimes. Now that they were enjoying university he had found himself excited about the prospect of increased freedom to pick up some of the old threads of his life. He had been looking forward to scaling back at his firm too and letting his partner take the slack so he and Jane could take those trips they had promised themselves. He thought back to the sleepless nights with two babies under three and then again when they hit their teens with less than fond memories.
However over the next few weeks he found himself looking over at Jane sitting on the sofa with her feet up on the coffee table, knitting baby booties and matinee jackets in soft white wool and did not have the heart to be disgruntled for long. In fact she was blooming and he had to admit the re-emergence of her hormones was doing wonders for his love life.
The next hurdle of course was to tell the boys… Dan and Geoff came home for the Christmas break, six weeks after their parents had received their unexpected news. Mike had picked them up from the station and they barrelled through the front door eager to see their mum and enjoy one of her home-cooked meals. They flung their bags on the carpet before turning to give her a hug. Both stopped in their tracks, looking at the obvious and now very noticeable bump that Jane was cradling with both hands.
Nervously Jane searched their faces and was highly surprised when they both fell about laughing.
‘Great gag Mum,’ Dan was hanging onto the door frame to the lounge. Geoff whipped out his mobile phone and insisted on taking a selfie with his head next to her bump whilst Jane and Mike looked at each other in bewilderment.
Mike put his hand on Geoff’s shoulder and reached out his other to Dan who stopped laughing at the serious expression on his father’s face.
‘You are kidding, right!’ both of them stared at their parents before picking up their backpacks and heading silently up the stairs to their rooms.
Both boys had jobs over the Christmas break in bars in the centre of town and during the day they would help out around the house as Jane tired easily. Her ankles swelled and she found it difficult to focus on household chores and preparing meals. Mike took over the cooking and in the evening, when the boys were at work, they would sit on the sofa and she would rest her legs across his knees as he massaged her feet. She also became very tearful and the men in her life tiptoed around her in case they set her off again.
Mike spent as much time as possible with his sons over the holidays trying to persuade them that having a baby brother would be cool; they would be able to teach him how to play football and about girls. The three of them convinced themselves that it would most likely be a boy, especially as there had not been a girl in either side of the family since Jane had been born into a family of five brothers.
After a subdued Christmas Day with a rather crispy turkey and soggy potatoes cooked by father and sons; the more urgent business of preparing for the new arrival took priority.
Mike had decorated the nursery and he and the boys had managed to assemble the cot and various essential pieces of furniture before Dan and Geoff returned to university in the middle of January. Early in February he and Jane had gone to the large industrial park to one of the large stores that sold pushchairs and car seats and were both exhausted by the time they reached home. Mike had not been to the pub for several weeks and seeing that he was looking frazzled, Jane told him to meet his friends for a drink whilst she caught up on one of her weekly television shows. She assured him that she would be fine for an hour and reluctantly he headed off patting his phone in his back pocket.
His friends who were the same age as Mike, gave him a hard time in a good-natured way and promised to turn out for the school football matches to offer moral support when the other kids called him granddad. They then sat smugly back with their pints and reminisced about sleepless nights and nappies.
Halfway through the programme; Jane felt the first twinges and ignored them as indigestion. By the time the next adverts rolled around there was no doubt that something was definitely happening. She grabbed her mobile phone and dialled Mike’s number holding her breath as another pain rippled across her abdomen.
The next morning Dan and Geoff arrived at the hospital and were directed to the maternity ward waiting room. After a few minutes their father came in still dressed in his green gown and hugged them one after the other. He looked shattered and as he stared at them tears rolled down his cheeks.
‘Dad for god’s sake where’s mum and what’s happened?’ Dan grabbed Mike’s arm shocked and terrified what the answer might be.
Unable to speak Mike gestured for them to follow him and they walked behind him glancing at each other nervously.
Their father pushed open the door to the labour suite where they saw their mum, flushed and exhausted but smiling down at a bundle in her arms. Mike walked across and placed his arm around Jane’s shoulders looking lovingly down at the two of them.
The boys felt reassured by their mother’s smile and she beckoned them to the other side of the bed. From here they could see the scrunched up face of their new little brother and they both reached out to gently touch the blanket he was wrapped in. At their touch the baby opened his eyes and it seemed as though he was looking directly at them. They caught their breath and knew immediately that they would move heaven and earth for this little boy.
Jane glanced at Mike and they both smiled and then she turned to her two sons. ‘Meet your sister Imogen boys.’
Dan and Geoff looked at each other in disbelief and then Geoff touched his mum’s shoulder gently as he leant over to take one tiny hand in his.
‘Great gag mum……’
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection.
Sandra Cox Names Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2020
This book is filled with fascinating short stories, each one based around the named character of the book. Each story is different and might revolve around a child, an adult–young to old–or even a ghost. What they all have in common is the emotion they bring to the story. The scenery is detailed and pulls you into the location. And the characters are relatable. I enjoyed these stories and think you will too. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, relax and sink into these stories.
Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.