MY LOVING BLOOD – A SHORT STORY BY JUDY UPTON
If Mum knew that I was here she would kill me. Eighteen years on from the day when Stork Incorp debited the final instalment of my conception fee from her gold account, I am finally about to meet the male who fathered me.
My first sight of the imposing grey concrete buildings of Stork Incorp, with their surround of high barbed wire fences, heavily mined on the inside, is almost enough to turn me about in my tracks. Almost, but not quite. I am determined to meet him, this male who – out of Mum’s earshot, and even then still under my breath – I sometimes refer to as ‘Dad’. As a child all I had to prove his existence was a small, crumpled photograph, torn from the Stork Incorp catalogue of the year of my birth. But that tiny picture, hidden inside my pillow, heard as many childhood secrets and wiped away as many tears as any flesh and blood parent.
Bright red blood: that is what we share, and why without him I feel like I’m only half a person. I have inherited my mother’s hair and eyes but according to our medical records, my blood is my father’s. It’s not my head or my heart that aches to know him, it is my blood. It pumps faster now in growing expectation as my two escorts lead me through countless gates, doors and security scanners and past the windowless nurseries where the few male children reared are kept. I wonder about what a male child looks like, but I do not suppose I shall ever have the opportunity of seeing one. It must have been a strange, strange world before the revolution, when males were allowed to roam free among us.
I am ushered into the waiting room and left by myself. In here, at least, the decor is fairly cheerful, a stark contrast to the drab accommodation blocks I passed on the way. Here, the walls are painted in pastel shades and covered in pictures of smiling faces of mothers and girl children. I’m growing more nervous by the second. What shall I say to him?
The only word I can think of to describe what has drawn me here to finally meet my father is an old-fashioned term no longer used – LOVE. I love him although I have never met him, and I hope that once he knows who I am, he will love me. Love must be the thing that fills up that cold, empty space inside of a person.
I work as a plumber. I was startled to read somewhere that there used to be male plumbers too in the old days. Mum says that it cannot be true because it is a skilled job, and if males had been responsible for our sinks and toilets the whole planet would have been flooded with sewage in no time. It does make you think. At school we were taught that males have only a limited intelligence and are all dangerous and destructive. Apparently they began to threaten both the survival of womankind and of the planet itself.
My escorts still have not returned. Do you suppose they can have forgotten me? I must say that the women in this Jane Austen novel seem to be very taken with the charms of the males in the story. These males do not act like they are dangerous at all, and the way she has written it, they seem to be almost as intelligent as the women.
At last I can hear the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside. My escorts are returning to collect me and take me to see him. I am coughing and sweating – will it arouse their suspicions, or are the women who come here to choose a father for their children usually nervous like this? If my deception is discovered I may be thrown back out into the street without seeing him, or I may even be arrested. That does not scare me as much as the prospect of meeting Dad, even though it is something I have spent the majority of my life waiting for. Will we be like strangers to each other? After all, we share nothing but blood.
There is a warmth down deep inside of me, in my blood. Perhaps there is a similar warmth in him and at the sound of my voice it will kindle into love. I wonder if he will still be recognisable as the male in my photograph, taken nearly nineteen years ago. Unfortunately, I will be behind mirrored glass, and although I will be able to see him clearly, he will not be able to view his daughter. This is a precaution by Stork Incorp to ‘protect the woman’s anonymity and to avoid causing undue disturbance to the controlled daily life patterns of our males’. At least we will be able to speak to each other. This is allowed so that those women looking for a male with a higher than average I.Q., rather than a specimen with mere physical beauty, may question
the males at length, though it’s stressed in the publicity material that the males might well choose not to answer.
I sit down in the chair provided and look through the glass into the opposite room, where my father will soon enter. The escorts leave me, the door in the room beyond opens, and here he is. It is him. Yes it is; older, naturally, a few lines on the handsome face, a sprinkle of grey in the thick brown hair, but it is unmistakably the face which has looked out at me from that torn piece of paper, these past eighteen years. Dad.
“Hello,” I stammer.
He sits down in a chair but doesn’t try to stare in the direction from which my voice is coming, out of habit, I suppose. He has never had the opportunity to view one of his visitors and probably never will. Of course I do not interest him – not yet, not until my fumbling tongue can explain our special bond. Our bond of blood.
“I have come here for a very special reason…”
He is not reacting to my words. An awful thought has just struck me. Suppose he is not English and cannot understand me. Some males are imported from abroad to give a wider choice and variety. I must put the thought out of my head. I must carry on now I have come this far.
“Hello, Dad. Yes, that’s what you are. You are my father.”
He jumps up out of the chair. He understands.
“I love you, Dad, and I’ve missed you all of my…”
He has turned away from me. He is pushing a button on the wall. What does that mean? I cannot see his face to see how he is taking my news.
He is not listening to me. He is at the back of the room now. He is hammering on the door by which he came in. He is pounding on his door, but it’s my door that flies open. My escorts are back, and with them two huge, grim-looking women.
“Dad, what’s happening? What’s going on? Do they treat you well in here? Why won’t you speak to me?”
The heavy gates slam shut behind me. My hands are nursing my head where it cracked against the pavement. Lifting my face from my hands, I see first the barbed wire barricade around Stork Incorp and then upon my fingers I see my blood, our blood, beginning to collect and to drip down the front of my dress.