What Did You Say You Saw by Suvi Mahonen

1Suvi Mahonen holds a Master’s degree in Writing and Literature from Deakin University. Her writing has appeared in a number of literary magazines and online in Australia (Griffith Review, Island, Verandah), the UK (East of the Web), the United States (most recently in Grasslimb), Canada (All Rights Reserved) and Chile (Southern Pacific Review). One of her short stories, ‘Bobby’, was featured in The Best Australian Stories 2010 and was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. Currently pregnant with her first child, she and her husband Luke are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the newest member of their family. Suvi’s work can be found here (http://www.redbubble.com/people/suvimahonen)




The weirdness finally wears off when there’s only five minutes remaining. It takes the dregs of my limited self control to stop myself from jumping off the nutter couch and pointing triumphantly at Laura and shouting ‘Ha!’

I don’t move. But my face must have. Because she pauses in the middle of her sentence.

‘You wanted to say something?’ she asks, arching her eyebrow in the way that she does so that it disappears behind the thick black upper rim of her funky Gucci glasses.

I think quickly. ‘I was just wondering what happened to your old pot plant?’

She glances over her shoulder at the empty space on her desk between the computer and the inbox tray where a small, spiky, phallic-like cactus used to sit. She turns back.

‘It died.’

I can tell she doesn’t believe me. I don’t care. It serves her right for suggesting Olanzipine ‘Just in case’.

I knew I shouldn’t have told her.

As soon as I did I realised I’d made a mistake. It was the look she shot me. Something about it said here we go again.

The wheels on her chair squeaked as she leaned slightly forward, small gaps appearing between the buttons of her red silk blouse. Her pencilled eyebrows drew closer.

‘What did you say you saw?’

I laughed to show it was nothing. ‘It was nothing.’ I laughed again. ‘I knew as soon as I saw it that it wasn’t really there.’

I looked out along the jagged line of building tops that crossed the breadth of her office window. I looked back. She was scribbling on her pad.

‘What?’ I said. ‘You’ve never seen something out of the corner of your eyes that just turned out to be a shadow.’

She stopped and looked at me. Her nostrils twitched. I felt like grabbing that Mont Blanc pen of hers and ramming it up one of those nostrils.

Then she smiled. ‘Of course I have.’ Then she capped the pen and put the pen on the coffee table and covered the pen with the pad. Face down. Then she told me a pithy anecdote about snakes in her garden turning into twigs. Then she brought up the Olanzipine.

I knew I shouldn’t have told her.

‘Are you going to get another cactus?’ I say, wishing I’d thought of something better to try and distract her with.

Her rubesque lips pucker a fraction. ‘No.’ She crosses her grey wool-skirted, black-stockinged, high-heeled, still-quite-well-shaped-for-fiftyish legs and frowns. ‘I’m trying to understand why you’re still refusing to sign our contract.’

Laura and her contracts. A year’s gone by and she’s still stuck on them. I know the easiest thing to do would be to give in and sign it. But I always thought they were ludicrous. I mean really, just because you make a promise with your shrink not to harm yourself, or not to steal, or not to purge, or not to be a compulsive sex addict, etc., doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll keep it.

Anyway, I have another reason now.

I lean back into the couch. I run my hands over the swollen front of my dress. Feel a reassuring kick from my baby beneath my fingers.

I smile.

‘Because you can trust me.’

Laura sweeps back a strand of her coal-black hair that’s strayed onto her face. ‘I do trust you,’ she says. ‘But I’d still like you to sign this contract.’ She holds out her pen to me.

I keep my hands folded.

‘If you trust me, why do you want me to restart the Olanzipine then?’

‘Because …’ she lowers her arm and starts tapping her Mont Blanc against the tip of the heel of her shoe. ‘As I explained to you before, pregnancy and the post-partum period, especially the post-partum period, are a high risk time for recurrences of prior psychological problems.’ She pulls her glasses down her nose a fraction, making her eyes grow larger.

I’d avoided those magnified eyes of hers when she’d called me into her office forty-five minutes ago. I’d felt so defeated. I was hoping she’d forgotten what I’d yelled as I’d stormed out a year ago, slamming the door so hard behind me that the handle hurt my hand. And, as I walked the short distance from her office door towards the centre of the room – where the nutter couch and the square squat coffee table and the purple rug with the wavy trim sat waiting for me – I kept expecting her to say something. Something like ‘I knew you’d be back eventually’.

She didn’t.

Instead, as the nutter couch enveloped me in its big, soft, brown, leathery-smelling hug, she just stood next to her desk, holding her elbows, gold bracelets and loop gold earrings jiggling.

‘So,’ a kind of smile creased her cheeks. ‘Can I touch it?’

All was forgiven.

Until she mentioned the Olanzipine.

I knew I shouldn’t have told her.