I went to the doctor yesterday. It feels like eons ago. I got the young doctor this time, the pale chap with the red hair, which I was pleased about. The younger they are, the more recent their training, and that can only be a good thing. I hate it when I get old Dr. Wilson; she's about sixty, and I can't imagine she knows much about the latest drugs and medical breakthroughs. She can barely work the computer. The doctor was doing that thing where they talk to you but don't look at you, reading my notes on the screen, hitting the return key with increasing ferocity as he scrolled down.
"What can I do for you this time, Miss Oliphant?"
"It's back pain, Doctor," I told him. "I've been in agony." He still didn't look at me.
"How long have you been experiencing this?" he said.
"A couple of weeks," I told him.
"I think I know what's causing it," I said, "but I wanted to get your opinion."
He stopped reading, finally looked across at me.
"What is it that you think is causing your back pain, Miss Oliphant?"
"I think it's my breasts, Doctor," I told him.
"Yes," I said. "You see, I've weighed them, and they're almost half a stone—combined weight, that is, not each!" I laughed. He stared at me, not laughing. "That's a lot of weight to carry around, isn't it?" I asked him. "I mean, if I were to strap half a stone of additional flesh to your chest and force you to walk around all day
like that, your back would hurt too, wouldn't it?"
He stared at me, then cleared his throat.
"How...how did you...?"
"Kitchen scales," I said, nodding. "I just sort of...placed one on top. I didn't weigh them both, I made the assumption that they'd be roughly the same weight. Not entirely scientific I know, but 3/4."
"I'll write you a prescription for some more painkillers, Miss Oliphant," he said, talking over me and typing.
"Strong ones this time, please," I said firmly, "and plenty of them." They'd tried to fob me off before with tiny doses of aspirin. I needed highly efficient medication to add to my stockpile.
"Could I also have a repeat prescription for my eczema medication, please? It does seem to become exacerbated at times of stress or excitement."
He did not grace this polite request with a response but simply nodded. Neither of us spoke as the printer spat out the paperwork, which he handed to me. He stared at the screen again and started typing. There was an awkward silence. His social skills were woefully inadequate, especially for a people-facing job like his.
"Good-bye then, Doctor," I said. "Thank you so very much for your time." My tone went completely over his head. He was still, apparently, engrossed in his notes. That's the only downside to the younger ones; they have a terrible bedside manner.
That was yesterday morning, in a different life. Today, after, the bus was making good progress as I headed for the office. It was raining, and everyone else looked miserable, huddled into their overcoats, sour morning breath steaming up the windows. Life sparkled toward me through the drops of rain on the glass, shimmered fragrantly above the fug of wet clothes and damp feet.
I have always taken great pride in managing my life alone. I'm a sole survivor—I'm Eleanor Oliphant. I don't need anyone else—there's no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity. That's what I've always told myself, at any rate. But last night, I'd found the love of my life. When I saw him walk onstage, I just knew. He was wearing a very stylish hat, but that wasn't what drew me in. No—I'm not that shallow. He was wearing a three-piece suit, with the bottom button of his waist-coat unfastened. A true gentleman leaves the bottom button unfastened, Mummy always said—it was one of the signs to look out for, signifying as it did a sophisticate, an elegant man of the appropriate class and social standing. His handsome face, his voice...here, at long last, was a man who could be described with some degree of certainty as "husband material."
Mummy was going to be thrilled.