Swallow

Lottie had an open gaze and her lips and eyes smiled together. Her eyes were incredibly large and curious, like a cartoon princess’s, over-scored by delicate, arched eyebrows, like most of her patients’ on the Children’s Ward. Her level of trust the result, no doubt, of a cherished upbringing by doting parents and starting life sitting chubby-cheeked in a perambulator, surrounded by gushing passers-by who wanted to coo and bask in your prettiness.

I had heard her call patients ‘gorgeous’ but the first time she had called me this, I had blushed from the inside out. I understood what it must feel like to actually be gorgeous. Lottie had no reason to remember me; I was usually on my own ward, chasing after a confused patient who had wandered off, but for some reason Lottie always drew my attention. We were like dog-owners insidiously morphing into our own patients.

Lottie’s dark hair was looped into a glossy topknot as usual, and her pale forehead was framed by tendrils that today curled in the moisture of tiny beads of perspiration on her temples. Close up her eyes were the same nut-brown shade as her hair. It felt as though I were peering through holes in her eyes and looking straight at her hair. She must have touched me on the arm because I smelt a faint waft of body odour,  an undertone to the fragrance of fabric conditioner on her uniform. I noticed with a start, that the translucent skin on the inside of her wrist was criss-crossed by a network of superficial, linear scars, self-inflicted. Catching my gaze she jerked her hand away and pushed both hands deep into her pockets. She took a moment to swallow and with a brittle smile, she looked at me as if seeing me for the first time, ‘What,  can I do for you?’

Swallow

(This is part of an assignment on the Future Learn Start Writing Fiction Course. It is the third re-write of the original story ‘Blush’, this time with back story and extra detail.)

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