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Five things Emily Sloane regrets

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1. They didn't bury her. The midwife said that they should; that it helps with the healing process. Emily didn't want to, though, and Arvin finally gave in. They handed over the tiny body and the nurses took it away, and after that, Emily doesn't know what happened.

She thinks she can guess. She thinks that she's happy with it, that when she hiccupped with pain and tears, she must have inhaled a little of her child, the ashes sinking deep within her.

(She wonders, though, what she would have put on that gravestone, if it had ever been made. She can see it in her mind's eye: slate grey and unforgiving, with sloping cravings of an angel's wings to sing her baby to rest.)


*

2. She should have spent more time with Laura before the accident, she's sure of it. God judges you like you judge others, Emily's mother had said, and somewhere in between church and Sunday school, it had sunk in. It was why she volunteered to be a dinner monitor, and why she walked home with Jenny Ellis, even after the boys shouted things about how Jenny's dad was no good and didn't belong in their town. It was why she gave Jenny a cutting from her mother's roses, and took the beating for it when it turned out she'd done it wrong and ruined half a bush.

God judges you like you judge others, and she held Sydney's hand during the funeral, watching an empty box being lowered into the ground.


*

3. When she was seventeen, she cut all her hair off and went for the shortest bob she could find. It was supposed to be rebellious and chic, but it looked muddled and strange poodle-like instead. It took her the better part of a year to grow it all back, and she hated every second of it.

It's strange. After all the pain of her illness, and of chemo, and of watching everyone around her slowly wilt because of it, the only real annoyance - the one thing she can focus on with a pure and unadulterated anger - is the red scarf tied carefully around her bare scalp.

She looks at herself in the mirror and wishes she'd savoured herself for a little longer.

 

*

 

4. She read History, in the end, and didn't do too badly overall. It wasn't anything spectacular, but it was a way to pass the time and work out what she wanted to do. She thinks that maybe she would have preferred to go someplace a little more liberal than Harvard, but her parents had insisted. No strange sandal-wearing campuses for their little girl, and she'd finally given in.

She does regret the experience a little.

Only a little, mind. Second year, she took the Italian History option and ending up sitting next to a cute guy with pale, closely cropped brown hair and round glasses. He held out his hand in greeting the moment she sat down.

"Hello," he said, and showed her the nicest smile she'd seen for ages. "My name's Arvin."

 

*

 

5. Once in her life, Emily regretted marrying Arvin Sloane. It was only the once, and it passed as quickly as it came.

By then, of course, it was too late.

 

*

fin