After the Deed Poll
You tap the pen against the papers. They’re lying on the table in front of you, filled to the brim with questions. The form reminds you of a very eager date, desperate to know your entire history. It waits to know when your father got diagnosed with diabetes and desires to know why you no longer talk to him.
The room you sit in is cluttered with uncomfortable chairs. It’s silent, save for the quickened beat the pen you hold is making. Your chair is the only one that’s placed at a table. It is made of glass and it’s cold.
Sitting there, you remember how you sat on your bed a few months ago, shoved in the corner of the walls, waiting for your sister to call.
‘I’ve blocked him,’ she says.
A moment passes between you and the phones.
‘Let’s change our names together.’
‘Is mum okay with it?’ you ask, uncertain that taking her maiden name would hold anything better than your old one.
You hold your breath as you wait for her answer.
The bits of paper call out to you. It’s been far too long since they last felt the pressure of your answers. However, the questions themselves don’t jump out at you. They’re not easily answered. Who knows their NHS number, anyway?
You become increasingly aware that the pen you hold, you grip, does not belong to you. It’s owned by the receptionist that wore an overpowering floral perfume today. She’s probably forgotten about you by now while she taps away at her keyboard with long, acrylic nails.
The phone rings. She answers with chipper. You swear you can see golden syrup dripping from the speaker.
You wonder if it’s your dad. Your ex-dad.
He could be waiting on some test results.
He could be booking an appointment.
The absurdity of your thoughts flash like a siren in your mind and you reprimand yourself. It can’t be him. No one could be that sweet while talking to him.
You focus once again on the page.
‘Mums fine with it. Happy, even.’
‘Shouldn’t she change her name before us?’ you enquire.
‘She can’t. They’re not divorced yet.’
You wait a considerable amount of time before you can change your name. The burial of the old one taking a lot of effort. It’s slow, ruminating in the memories you’re wanting to forget. You think about buying flowers and writing a memorial poem.
The form doesn’t care about their marital status, yet it waits with bated breath to know yours. Now, that’s a question you can answer. You have to go over the tick next to the ‘single’ box a few times. The pen had been without its cap for too long and the ink had retreated inside for warmth.
You write your age down, about to follow that on with your address, marvelling at how you’re clearly getting the hang of this, when a man sits across from you.
From surveying the room when you had arrived, you note that he has placed himself underneath the clock. He’s disturbed the orange fabric that coats the waiting room chairs by perching upon one of them. You can only see his lower half while being hunched over your questionnaire.
His legs are clad in dark blue denim that has heavy wet patches. It must be raining outside. You recognise that they are not skinny jeans, and something sparks at the base of your neck. His shoes would have been pristine suede trainers, if not for the rain, that do not match the jeans. Another spark joins the kindling in your neck.
You force yourself to stop taking in this man.
Flames begin to shoot into your brain.
You close your eyes and hold your breath.
You remember your mum crying when you told her.
‘Oh, love, I am so sorry I let him stay here for as long as I did.’
You wait and watch another tear fall before responding.
‘It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Plus, he’s gone now. I’d rather those things happened to me, rather than you two.’
‘But you shouldn’t even have to think that way,’ your sister interjects, her face thick with foundation and regret.
The questionnaire wants to know if you take any medication. You have to use a search engine to know how to spell their names and while you wait for it to load, you do not look at the man.
There’s a fire burning in your hair now, encompassing your skull. You finish writing the last letter of ‘Sertraline’ and flick your eyes to the torso of the man in the hopes it extinguishes the flames.
He’s wearing a jumper that gives you déjà vu. It’s coloured with varying shades of teal and is patterned with squares. Seeing it reminds you of sitting on a beach in Spain, waiting for the sea to go out so you could explore the ocean floor further.
It reminds you of a garden. Being handed a conversation from across the Atlantic.
‘Then, when grandad died, he couldn’t wait to console you.’
‘I was in a state,’ your sister defends.
‘So was I, but he got me to console him,’ you offer to the list of reasons why your childhood was different to your sisters.
From the corner of your eye, you see your mum look smaller than she ever had before. Even smaller than that time you visited her in the hospital before her chemotherapy.
She’s hugging her knees. You knew she blamed herself in the same way people blame themselves for tragedies out of their control.
‘Did he really get you to do that?’ she asks, though underneath her words she’s afraid to know the truth, of what he did to her baby girl.
Lying to your mum was no longer an option.
You put the pen down on the table. Carefully, so it doesn’t clash against the frosted glass. You turn the papers over, putting the only blank page face-up. You untangle your headphones and wait for your playlist to start. The need to fill your ear drums with something other than the past overwhelms you.
Your own orange chair sighs as you stand up.
In your wake, you leave your history and a man with a face you can wait to see.
Amiee Bolger is currently in the final semester of her Creative Writing Undergraduate degree at the University of Winchester. When she isn't writing various creative and critical assignments, she can be found working on her own science fiction and fantasy pieces, at a concert, or cuddling one of her many cats.