By the Butterfly Tree: Part Seventeen

My story heads towards its close… but if you’re new to this piece of fiction, it’s best to start here.

Alex Balfour, production director of Balfour, McAllen and Company (Engineering) Limited, looked down from the office walkway at the fabrication shop. The foreman, Ross McGeoch, was going from job to job, checking that everything was going as smoothly as humanly possible. That young man was a gem, Alex reflected. He blessed the day that his uncle, Robert McAllen, had taken him on as an apprentice after he’d done some summer holiday work for the firm, several years previously. He’d make a terrific project manager when Uncle Jo retired, he thought.
As he watched for a few moments longer, though, it seemed that something wasn’t quite right this morning. Ross seemed to be… what? Sort of… jumpy. Bothered. He’d just fetched another drawing from the office. Oh, and it must have been the wrong one. Now he was frowning, and dashing off for something else. And so on it went. Not like him at all. Something wasn’t quite right. Alex decided that a friendly chat at coffee-time would be in order. If there was a way he could help, he’d try and get out of him what the trouble was, he thought, as he headed for the stairway.

At ten fifteen, Ross made his way to the top offices. Alex had seen him earlier, and just said he’d like ‘a wee chat over a coffee.’ It was the the way Alex solved everything.
“So.” Alex pushed a cup and saucer in front of Ross, and pointed to the sugar bowl and biscuits on a tray.”How’s it all going?”
“Oh, a few snags on the Matthewson job, but nothing that can’t be sorted by the day’s end.”
“Good. Now… Listen, laddie. I don’t want to pry, but you don’t seem quite yourself today. Just happened to notice you seemed a bit… worried, maybe?”
Ross sipped his coffee, flicked one hand through his hair, and shrugged with a half grin. Not the usual cheery one, Alex thought. “Oh, I dunno…”
Alex just smiled, drank his own coffee, and waited. He knew Ross by now. Sure enough, he suddenly sighed. “Thanks for being so decent about this. It’s about Laura, the wifey.”
“Go on…?”
“Well, as I think I’ve told you, there’s a bairn on the way, yes? She’s about half way. Well, you know how they give mums-to-be all kinds of check-ups these days? Blood tests, and what all? Laura’s been for them all, regular as clockwork, and no problems to report. Then, just the other day, she got a letter. Putting it simply, it turned out that they wanted to repeat one of the tests, so it was down to the clinic for a blood sample repeat. She tried to get out of them what it was all about. Eventually, someone admitted that the result they’d got was a bit abnormal, so they wanted to run the test again. It happened all the time, they said. They didn’t make any big deal of it, so she wasn’t too bothered. Anyway, yesterday, she gets a letter in the post. Again, cutting it short, it was an appointment to go up to the hospital. Not a lot of explanation, except for some reference to this same test. Now of course, she’s worried sick. And, to be frank, so am I.”
“So when’s the appointment?”
“This Friday morning.”
“Right. Thursday afternoon, just make sure everything’s ticking O.K, especially the Matthewson stuff, of course. Then, Friday, take the morning off, and go with that lass of yours. No need to book anything out – I’ll square it with Uncle Bob. Would that help?”
Ross felt that a lead weight had been lifted off his back. “That would be absolutely terrific. Thank you ever so much for your concern.”
Alex lowered his voice. “A word, laddie. You’ve made a very positive contribution to this firm in the time you’ve been with us. I’m quite sure I speak for all the directors when I say that I wish you both all the best, and I fervently hope nothing’s wrong. But in any case, I think you should accompany your wife. And… give her the directors’ best wishes, will you?”

On Friday morning, Ross and Laura made their way to the obstetrics and gynaecology department of the local hospital. Laura was just holding herself calm as she gave her name at the reception desk. Fortunately, the sister on duty that day was one of a growing new breed, who realised that setting people at ease went a long way in antenatal care.
“Ah! Teamwork, I see. Always good.” She motioned towards the seats in an inner waiting area. Not all staff took this view, Laura knew. She sighed with relief. The sister looked at her notes. “Laura McGeoch, is it? Right. One of the ladies here will see you shortly. And then the prof will see you, too…” She rolled her eyes. “That’s when he appears. I’m sorry about this. I think us lot here are having a wee whip-round for a nice clock for him, as a retirement present. Only we’re no’ goin’ to wait for his retirement. We’re going to make it an alarm clock.” Ross and Laura grinned.

After a short interval, a young midwife beckoned to Laura and led her into a side-room. “O.K… I’m Gina, by the way. I’ve checked the notes, so let’s have a look at you, and a wee feel of that tummy.”
Laura made herself comfortable on the couch, partly undressed. Gina carefully and painstakingly inched her gentle fingers over Laura’s tummy, using a stethoscope at the same time. At length, she stopped and smiled. “Well, so far, so good. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll not say any more until Mr Munro’s seen you.”
Laura rejoined Ross to await Professor Munro’s arrival. In the bustle around him, Ross had tried unsuccessfully to read a magazine. He was glad to see that Laura looked a little more relaxed. After around half an hour, Laura was called away to see Mr Peter Munro.

The Professor did only about as much as Gina had done. Finally he smiled.
“O.K, fine. Relax. Your husband’s with you, I gather? I think we’ll call him in.”
When Ross was called, he felt sick, and then relieved as he took in the smile of the consultant. He and Laura sat down in front of his desk. And then Peter Munro, a man with bushy eyebrows over clear grey-blue eyes, a mop of greying hair, and more letters after his name than in it, began a part of his job that he rather enjoyed.

“Well, first of all, Mr and Mrs McGeoch, I must apologise to you if all this procedure has given you cause for alarm. I can imagine how you both may have felt over the last few days, having got one of the hospital’s standard letters without much explanation.” Clearing his throat, he went on. “However, I’m very glad to be able to say that, in your case, there is absolutely no need to worry any longer.” Noting the visible signs of relief on the two faces in front of him, he continued. “Very simply, we routinely do tests to look at the amount of a certain substance in the mother’s blood. If it’s higher than usual, it can mean there’s a problem. But in this case, there’s another factor we need to take into account.” He paused, savouring the moment. Ross looked puzzled, then broke in.
“I hope this doesn’t get much more complicated, professor.”
Peter Munro looked up calmly and smiled, holding the fingers of both hands like steeples as he did so. “There… isn’t really a complicated way to say the next bit, even if I tried.”
He turned to Laura. “You are expecting twins, Mrs McGeoch. Congratulations, both of you.”

The eighteenth and final part is now published here!

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