Monday Mourning |
by Joy Norstrom

 Sherry opens her eyes to sunshine streaming through her window. Its arrival announces that Monday morning has arrived. She rolls away from the obnoxious light and stares at her cracked and peeling closet doors. She wills them with her mind to open. Of course, nothing happens. There is no magic in real life.

Glancing over at her digital alarm clock, the green numbers flash 7:14. Just under three hours to go. She should get up. Get dressed.

Instead Sherry closes her eyes. Lying in her cotton cocoon she is protected by her sheets. Passed down from her mother, the floral pattern is faded and soft. She feels warm. Safe. Eventually, her eyes open and she glances back at the clock.

7:38. Jeez, snap out of it! Millie is counting on you. Disgusted, she claws the sheets back and kicks her way out of bed. Time to kick your ass in gear, honey. You’ve made your decision. Just get it over with. How tough can it be anyway?

Wrestling with the closet doors—the pin is off its track again—Sherry manages to open it enough to appraise the contents. Same stuff as always. She chooses the utilitarian, business casual skirt. It’s easy, it works, and it makes her feel thin. Better yet, it doesn’t need ironing.

Pantyhose? Not likely. She’s not her mother. Besides, its summer. Flipping through her shirts, she stops at the white cotton button-up. It looks safe. It’s loose and kind of flowy. She puts it on, looks herself over in the mirror. She’ll wear her brown
strappy heels; they are already sitting by the front door. But something, something else is needed.

Accessories? Looking in her jewellery box, piled with odd bits of costume jewellery and mismatched earrings, she rummages around. Maybe the amber necklace? Or the silver one her mother helped Millie buy last mother’s day?

Sherry fingers the smooth silver chain, the ornate pendent, and remembers the card it came with. Bright flowers and butterflies, coloured with Millie’s felt pens. To Mommy, it read. You are the very best. Love Millie. For a moment a smile touches Sherry’ lips. But no. Not today.

She puts the silver necklace back and chooses the amber. It’s nice. It works. It doesn’t make her think. She checks the clock. 7:58.

She brushes her teeth, pulls her hair back into a pony tail, than sets off to pack Millie’s daycare bag. Change of clothes. Sunscreen. Sun hat. With everything else prepared, it’s time to wake Millie.

Unlike her mother, Millie gladly chooses her own clothes: an orange t-shirt with frilly sleeves, a pink tiered skirt, and purple-dotted wool leggings. All are her particular favourites. Sherry knows the leggings will be too warm however chooses not to argue: no one wins against a determined four-year-old.

"Do you want to have breakfast at home or the Tree Fort?" Sherry asks. "We could get a bagel with cream cheese and a special hot chocolate."

"With sprinkles?"

"Of course with sprinkles."

Millie chooses the Tree Fort and Sherry is not surprised. Unlike breakfast at home filled with Cheerios’ and bananas, breakfast at the Tree Fort involves whip-cream and sprinkle-adorned hot chocolates served in special tea cups. And of course there is the fort, nestled under the wide branches of the painted oak mural. It is filled with train tracks, with airplanes, with books about polar bears. Millie loves the tree fort because it’s just for kids. Sherry loves the tree fort because it means five minutes of uninterrupted time to savour hot coffee and read the newspaper.

But today there is no newspaper for Sherry. There are bagels with cream cheese and an animated discussion about unicorns. There is still the banana—which Millie claims to have developed an allergy to—and which Sherry has insisted on.

Other children are enjoying the polar bear book so today Millie asks Sherry to read about snowy owls:

‘Snowy owls have round, yellow eyes. They watch for prey scurrying across the frozen tundra. Female snowy owls lay their eggs in shallow holes in the rocky ground. Their nests provide protection from the arctic wind. They stay with their young."
"What’s a female?" Millie asks.

"A female is the mom. She stays with her young."

"Oh. Like us."

"Yes, just like us. Except my eyes are brown." Sherry smiles and Millie smiles too.



"Are you full? It’s time we go. Mommy has to get to work. And remember, Oma will pick you up from daycare for a sleepover tonight."

Millie claps her hands and grins, already imagining Oma’s never-ending supply of baking and ‘of course sweetheart; whatever you would like’s.’

At the daycare Millie is excited to see her friends. Sherry bends her knee to give her daughter a hug but Millie is already half-way to the craft table where her bestest friend Scarlett is hard at work.

"Hey you, aren’t you going to say good-bye?" Sherry smiles, her arms empty. She remembers how it wasn’t long ago that Millie would cling to her desperately, screaming for her not to leave. Sherry dreaded those mornings. Now that they are gone, she longs for them. She checks her watch. 9:30.

During her commute Sherry turns the radio on and flips through the programmed stations. Advertisements. She turns the radio off. With nothing to provide distraction, anxiety begins to creep into the edges of her mind. She turns the radio back on.

Before long she finds parking by the large glass building, double-checking the address against the one she’s written down. Taking out her cellphone she calls her office.

"Hi Mark. Sorry, I’m really not well. Not sure what’s up…ya, I will…ha, ha, chicken soup for sure…you’re right, probably that stomach flu…okay. Thanks. I will…bye."

Turning off the phone, she takes a deep breathe. That was easy, and just in time. It’s 9:55.

Walking confidently in her strappy heels, Sherry enters the glass building and locates the elevator. She takes a quick glance at the directory to ensure she is headed to the right floor.

Traveling up to the fifth, coffee in hand, Sherry is thankful she had the foresight to ask for a to-go cup. Not for something to drink, the coffee is already cold, but to give her hands something to do.

Stepping off the elevator, Sherry looks around. Sunlight is streaming through the windows and over potted plants. There are stacks of out-dated magazines and health posters papering the cream-coloured walls. A chill runs over her. The air conditioner is on, full swing.

She takes a deep breathe, pulling the cold air into her lungs, and walks directly to the receptionist. From the corner of her eye she scans the waiting room. It’s half full. Maybe five, six young girls—er—‘women,’ Sherry mentally corrects herself. She doesn’t make eye contact, but she’s certain they are taking in her work-appropriate skirt, the button down top, the grey roots that are beginning to sprout along her hairline.

"Yes? Can I help you?" asks the receptionist in fake nursing scrubs. The scrubs are covered in cheerful white owls, their unnatural beaks grinning. Tearing her eyes away from the owls, Sherry takes a deep breath. She is sure that a dozen ears are alert and ready to hear what she will say.

"Yes, Sherry Andrews. My family doctor made an appointment for me.

10:00 am." She adjusts the coffee cup in her hands.

"Consult or scheduled procedure?" the receptionist smiles brightly, her fingers poised over the keyboard.

"Um…procedure. Abortion procedure."

"Do you have the gestational age?"

"I’m thirty-six." Sherry’s face flushes. She must be twenty years older than anyone else in the waiting room. Fifteen at least. They are probably wondering why she is there.

She doesn’t wonder herself. She’s made her decision. Not that there was a choice anyway. Children are expensive. She has Millie to think of, Millie to put first.

"Gestational age is the age of the fetus."

"Right. Sorry. I wasn’t thinking." Sherry’s flush goes from pink to blotchy red in seconds. "Fourteen weeks. Or so."

"Perfect." The lady smiles and hands Sherry a clipboard and a pen. "Could you have a seat and fill this out? We’ll call your name when we’re ready for you." Taking the clipboard, Sherry looks back down at the smiling owls dancing on the receptionist’s smock. The cheerful yellow eyes. The goofy grins. She knows why they are happy. Their mothers stay with them.

Holding the clipboard to her chest, Sherry sits down. She checks her watch. It’s 10:03.

The Writer: Joy Norstrom is a writer, mother and social worker from Calgary, Alberta. She enjoys hiking, wine and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

The Artist: Mark Zlomislic's art resides in the tension between the eternal and the temporal. It explores the human need for security and the inevitability of an impermanence he has difficulty accepting. He paints to capture moments of time that reveal frailty and vitality, joy and sorrow, decline and glory. Born in Rakitno, Hercegovina, he has lived and studied in Vienna, Paris, Munich and Zagreb. His influences include Bacon, Balthus and Tom Thompson. His work is included in numerous private collections throughout North America and Europe. His gallery and studio are located in Cambridge, Canada.