This is a short story I wrote back in year 12, in the style of A.S Byatt. Enjoy!
Henrietta Smith sat in the icy grey room with four others, two men and a woman with her rather sickly child. The two men were starkly different; one sat upright in his chair, his neatly ironed suit molded perfectly to a thin nervous body. The other man wore thick dusty overalls, bulky steel cap boots and sunk low into his chair, his large rough hands holding a coupé magazine, faded with visibly tattered corners. The woman wore a loose cardigan with furrowed slacks, her hair hung lank around her face. She was barefaced and patterned with spider web like lines, depicting her obvious lack of sleep. Henrietta however sat neatly in her chair with folded hands and legs precisely situated to one side of her chair. Her hair was pulled back into a slick almost masculine bun, enhancing a noticeably weathered face covered in a thick and unpleasant layer of make up; red circular cheeks, vivid turquoise eyelids and thin brown lips. Her outfit was all dark, the black and grey ensemble projecting an air of mourning.
“Miss Henrietta Smith,” the call of her name was produced from an exceedingly sprightly voice. Her steps toward the office were slow, almost hesitant, but her ageingface showed no fear; it never did.
The specialist’s office was white and streamlined, somewhere between modernist and clinical. He, Henrietta’s personal reaper, waiting to tell her that death has arrived, sat patiently on a luxurious leather chair. He was young and smug, qualities Henrietta neither shared nor approved of.
“How have the past few days been Henrietta? I hope you have been relaxing as I instructed you too.”
Yes indeed he had instructed her. In fact she had been prompted to write a short story about it. Just like so many of her tales the young intelligent girl was instructed ‘otherwise’ or informed ‘those dealings are not that of a gentlewoman’ or ‘no truelady would par take in such vile actions.’
She despised her specialists’ authority. Writing her stories was all that was keeping her sane throughout the entire process. Test after test, consultation after consultation; even if she were to get well again the last 8 years of her life could never be returned to her. Writing had been all she had been able to do, even when the joints in her hands creaked with pain she still clattered out the words through her ancient type writer. She had never left a story unfinished, and never would. These tales were her children; she could not leave them ill formed or incomplete, even if she was certain no one but her would ever read them.
“Yes I rested,” she replied bluntly, strengthening the bitter old woman stereotype she assumed he had created for her. As he shuffled through masses of paperwork her thoughts returned to the story in her mind. She had to fight the urge to thrust her hand into his shirt pocket and remove the pen that was calling out to her, pleading her to continue bringing this new tale into the world. The girl in this story was named Sophie; she was sixteen and excelled in mathematics and physics. Even though Henrietta had personally hated these subjects when she was boarding at school, when she wrote, through Sophie’s eyes, she felt she herself could have discussed the theory of relativity with any man that felt the need to discuss it. Sophie had many similar sisters, girls whom had been trapped in arranged marriages behind white picket fences, forced to clean and cook, do mundane tasks while the men whom surrounded them travelled and were free.
“…the last surgery was not a success…” her specialist had been talking all this time. Henrietta was certain he was married, not only by the evidence on his finger, but by the neatly packed lunches always sitting on his desk, and the photo hanging at directly eye level on the opposite wall of a young blonde woman. Henrietta had never met this wife, or even spotted her in the clinic, which led her to believe she was not permitted here. It made Henrietta sick to think that this women could be trapped, experiencing constant stasis in her own home, in her marriage. This wife could be intelligent, artistic, but was wasting away, getting washed into the ocean of women who fitted the typecast that men like Henrietta’s doctor had fashioned. In Henrietta’s eyes all men shared this evil quality. Like her father.
Perhaps she needed a different type of specialist, some one older, kinder, and a woman. Instead she continued to write them down, as the evil villain, the destructive curse in every girl’s, like Sophie’s, life.
Henrietta faded back into the present, “I hate to inform you, but your last test displayed some complications. We believed your intended surgery will no longer be possible.”
He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look her in her eyes. He was still looking through draws. Henrietta had noticed the slightly increased level of volume in his voice, not filled with guilt or sympathy, but just to show he found it obligatory to talk to an elderly person in a raised tone; even though he knew her hearing was perfectly fine. She was ignoring what he had actually said, departing in and out of her subconscious.
“We have run out of treatment options I am afraid,” the words her doctor spoke shattered the plots forming in her mind.
The appointment ended with Henrietta signing necessary documents begrudgingly and being hastily pushed out of the building. Perhaps they were ushering her rapidly as a new patient could substitute her following appointments, or just to make her rush, scamper to her death, instead of letting it come to her.
Henrietta was alone in her miniature dusty flat, smelling of damp timber and gradually decaying food. She had just finished squaring off the large pile of unfinished stories, a tower of at least half a meter, in the center of her coffee table. She stared directly at them, then turned her back and sat in her favorite chair. She sat and waited for her fear, death, to engulf her, all the while supposing what a great story this would have been to write.