The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

1


Kate


Kate sees the familiar nameplate on Dr Williams’ office door and feels a knot in her stomach. She doesn’t know why, after all this time, it still affects her like this – she should be used to it by now. But every time she walks through his door she’s filled with hope, and every time she walks back out, she feels utter despair and sadness, unable to believe that fate could be so cruel.

As if he knows what she’s thinking, Matt grabs hold of her hand as they sit in the clinic’s waiting room. Squeezing it, as if he is somehow able to transfer his boundless optimism onto her.

He kisses her head as she leans into him. ‘I think this might be the one,’ he says, over-enthusiastically, as if believing it hard enough will prove him right.

‘It’s certainly the last one,’ she says wearily.

‘Let’s see,’ says Matt with forced joviality.

‘Kate!’ exclaims Dr Williams as he opens his door.

She should call him Ben, as he’s requested a hundred times. But using his first name means she knows him well, and if she knows him well, it would be admitting how long this has been going on for.

‘Doctor,’ she says, as she stands up and walks towards him with an outstretched arm.

‘Good to see you,’ says Dr Williams. ‘Matt, how are you?’

The two men greet each other as if they’re old friends, meeting at a football match. Kate finds herself wondering at what point the bonhomie will be replaced with the business in hand. She suspects it’s when her legs are in stirrups and said hand is gloved.

‘So, are we all ready?’ asks Dr Williams, now seated in front of them at his desk. He doesn’t look up from his computer screen to see Matt’s determined nod.

‘Okay, so all your numbers are looking good,’ he says, almost to himself. ‘We’ve identified the strongest embryo which, I’m pleased to say, is of the highest grade.’

Kate feels Matt looking at her, knowing that he’ll be beaming from ear to ear, but she doesn’t have the energy to return his eagerness because she’s heard it all before. ‘Highest grade’, ‘4AAA blastocyst’, ‘It doesn’t get much better than this’ – all had been bandied around during their last three attempts, but it hadn’t made that line go blue on the pregnancy test, had it?

Matt’s enthusiasm had propped Kate up at first, when test after test proved inconclusive. She’d relied on his positivity to bring her back around the right way after they were told that the reason they couldn’t get pregnant was due to ‘unexplained infertility’.

‘It means there’s nothing wrong,’ he’d said as he practically skipped out of Dr Williams’ office three years ago.

Kate didn’t have the heart to tell him that it also meant that there was ‘nothing right’.

Instead, she’d adapted her diet, stopped drinking, and stood on her head after sex. But nothing had resulted in them being able to conceive, hence they now find themselves in the clinic. Again.

Once Kate’s lying on her back with her legs in the air, she sings Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in her head, to distract herself from the fact that there is a doctor, an embryologist, a nurse and a medical student all staring intently at her lady parts. Galileo Galileo, she hums, in an attempt to take herself to another place.

‘Once you’ve had a baby, a smear test will be like just going to the hairdressers,’ her sister Lauren had offered when they’d inadvertently run into each other at the doctors. Kate hadn’t wanted to share her infertility struggles, so had been caught on the hop. Of all the things she could have said she was there for, a smear was the first thing that popped into her head. She could have kicked herself.

You would have thought that an older sister with three children would be the perfect antidote to the situation that Kate finds herself in. Someone who would sympathize, offer unbiased advice and a shoulder to cry on. But Lauren is not that person, or perhaps, more to the point, Kate doesn’t see that person in her. Instead, she sees a woman who is living the life she had assumed she’d be living, and sisters or not, Lauren’s perfect little set-up is not the kind of support network Kate feels she needs to be immersed in right now. And anyway, she thinks, how could she possibly understand what I’m going through when she only has to look at her husband to get pregnant?

She jumps as she feels a sharp pain in her groin.