This is a short short story. I hope it is long enough to convey the intended meaning….
Often stories come to me from one phrase that I heard in a totally different context, and I make up a whole new scenario from. This one is a mixture of the real feeling I had of being first pregnant (mainly the nausea) back in the days on two incomes when we could afford new furniture, and the line ‘I guess we love one another’ from another couple of dear friends, whose fate was sealed together at something seemingly offhand and random. Happily, they are still together, unlike this fictional pair (there, now I’ve gone and told you the ending in case it was too subtle).
The wood was as dry and sallow as some of the books contained on its shelves.
“About time someone did this,” he said, the words in themselves an accusation against her. “This ought to fix it. Been in the shed awhile. Should still be good though. Don’t think this stuff goes off.”
As soon as the lid was removed, the smell of the linseed oil permeated the room. Almost immediately she choked back a dry retch. It was as if her olfactory cells had the reaction imprinted upon them.
It threw her back 13 years, to that first dreaded excitement of knowing she contained a life within. The bookshelf had been new, the unmistakeable linseed smell wafted through the house. Each morning as she rose to get breakfast, the smell hit her first, followed by a wave of nausea. Then came the fear, which sat cold and hard, somewhere deep in her belly, near the soft, warm tissue that was to become another person.
She remembers telling him of her suspicions, almost as a weapon in a heated conversation about their unlikely future together. The arguments had been thick and fast, and now they mixed with words of blame and anger. Neither had planned on a baby, and indeed, each had been secretly planning a different future. A simple test result would decide their future.
Although they both awaited it, the shrill, demanding telephone ring made them jump. He was the one who answered, nodded resolutely, and said ‘I see. Thank you,’ as he hung up the receiver.
“Well, I guess we love each other then.” was all he said.
Almost without question, their lives had merged after that.
And now, two further lifetimes later, the stench of the linseed oil still made her physically ill.
“No. I was wrong. It goes off alright.” Too late, he resealed the lid. But the smell had already escaped and like an ethereal genie, could not be put back.
Their gaze held longer than was necessary.
“I’ll be off then,” he said lightly, and he firmly shut the door behind him, still carrying the jar of oil.