Excerpt of The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
(Page 6 of 10)
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"You're saying Dr. Bentley won't be coming?" his wife asked.
The nurse nodded. She was tall, so thin and angular it seemed
the bones might poke from beneath her skin at any moment. Her
large blue eyes were solemn and intelligent. For months, there
been rumors, jokes, that she was a little bit in love with him.
dismissed them as idle office gossip, annoying but natural when
man and single woman worked in such close proximity, day after
day. And then one evening he had fallen asleep at his desk. He'd
been dreaming, back in his childhood home, his mother putting up
jars of fruit that gleamed jewel-like on the oilcloth-covered
the window. His sister, age five, sat holding a doll in one
hand. A passing image, perhaps a memory, but one that filled
him simultaneously with sadness and with yearning. The house
was his but empty now, deserted when his sister died and his
moved away, the rooms his mother had scrubbed to a dull
gleam abandoned, filled only with the rustlings of squirrels and
He'd had tears in his eyes when he opened them, raising his head
from the desk. The nurse was standing in the doorway, her face
gentled by emotion. She was beautiful in that moment, half
not at all the efficient woman who worked beside him so quietly
and competently each day. Their eyes met, and it seemed to the
doctor that he knew herthat they knew each otherin some
profound and certain way. For an instant nothing whatsoever
between them; it was an intimacy of such magnitude that he was
motionless, transfixed. Then she blushed severely and looked
She cleared her throat and straightened, saying that she had
worked two hours overtime and would be going. For many days,
her eyes would not meet his.
After that, when people teased him about her, he made them
stop. She's a very fine
nurse, he would say, holding up one hand
against the jokes, honoring that moment of communion they had
shared. She's the best
I've ever worked with. This was true, and now
he was very glad to have her with him.
"How about the emergency room?" she asked. "Could you
The doctor shook his head. The contractions were just a minute
or so apart.
"This baby won't wait," he said, looking at his wife. Snow had
melted in her hair and glittered like a diamond tiara. "This
on its way."
"It's all right," his wife said, stoic. Her voice was harder
"This will be a better story to tell him, growing up: him
The nurse smiled, the line still visible though fainter, between
her eyes. "Let's get you inside then," she said. "Let's get you
help with the pain."
He went into his own office to find a coat, and when he entered
Bentley's examination room his wife was lying on the bed, her
in the stirrups. The room was pale blue, filled with chrome and
white enamel and fine instruments of gleaming steel. The doctor
went to the sink and washed his hands. He felt extremely alert,
aware of the tiniest details, and as he performed this ordinary
he felt his panic at Bentley's absence begin to ease. He closed
eyes, forcing himself to focus on his task.
"Everything's progressing," the nurse said, when he turned.
"Everything looks fine. I'd put her at ten centimeters; see what
He sat on the low stool and reached up into the soft warm cave
his wife's body. The amniotic sac was still intact, and through
could feel the baby's head, smooth and hard like a baseball. His
child. He should be pacing a waiting room somewhere. Across the
room, the blinds were closed on the only window, and as he
his hand from the warmth of his wife's body he found himself
about the snow, if it was falling still, silencing the city and
the land beyond.
(c) 2005, Kim Edwards. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Penguin Group.