Thursday 23 June 2016


Fiona’s private life collides with her professional duty as she presides over a case in family court: a teenager refusing medical treatment for religious reasons.

The court house. The air always reminded her of school, of the smell or feel of cold damp stone and a faint thrill of fear and excitement.

Her mind after her husband leaves her. At first, she was in an unreal state of acceptance, prepared to tell herself that she had, at worst, to endure the commiseration of family and friends and a degree of severe social inconvenience – those invitations she must refuse while hoping to conceal her embarrassment. Then she felt the first conventional ache of abandonment. In court, she sat and watched the parties below her settle. At her elbow was a slim pile of creamy white paper beside which she laid down her pen. It was only then, at the sight of these clean sheets, that the last traces, the stain of her own situation vanished completely. She no longer had a private life, she was ready to be absorbed.

Adam, the son of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is persuaded to accept medical treatment. Is Fiona’s interest in him more than professional? After his recovery, he visits her. You must go, she said. Lightly, she took the lapel of his thin jacket between her fingers and drew him toward her. Her intention was to kiss him on the cheek, but as she reached up and he stooped a little and their faces came close, he turned his head and their lips met. She could have drawn back, she could have stepped right away from him. Instead, she lingered, defenseless before the moment.

Is she in love with Adam? That is the question her husband asks after they reconcile. She let out a terrible sound, a smothered howl. “Oh Jack, he was just a child! A boy. A lovely boy!” And she began to weep at last. 

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