As promised MRKH Norge would get the first chapter of the Rokitansky book to read and enjoy before the book is released.
And here you can now read the first chapter of the book – Next week 3 chapters will be released on the Good read website, and the book is in sale from October 13 !!
Enjoy the read and if you want to comment on the chapter or leave a message for the author feel free to do so at the end of the page!
Rokitansky by Alice Darwin
Moira stared at the fifteen year old girl in her bedroom mirror. She neither liked nor knew what she saw. She could hear them talking about her down below. Muffled, displeased voices. She washed and dressed then cautiously crept downstairs, lingering on the bottom step, uneasy and unnoticed. The front door slammed and Mother muttered and blasphemed. She stood still where she was and listened to Father crunch his way across the snow-covered gravel driveway. A driveway much like the one leading to the house next door. A house which looked much the same as all the other houses on the street. A street lined with the same houses, filled with the same people doing the same things at the same time, over and over until the beginning skipped past the middle to an end.
Moira shuffled her way towards the kitchen door and stood, unconsciously chewing on her lower lip. She watched Mother, hunched over the kitchen sink, her hair scraped back into a small knotted bun. The odd grey wisp escaping in a static dance about her elf-like ears.
“Morning,” Moira whispered. The word lingered in her throat, as though not quite ready to be born into the world. A hushed statement of the time of day rather than a satisfying greeting of any kind. She forced the word out of her mouth and watched as it flew away on wary wings in the direction of Mother’s good ear. The word landed safely at the designated destination and Mother stopped her furious scrubbing. Without turning to face her daughter, her body stiffened, then sighed and released some words of its own.
“You don’t have to do this you know,” said Mother. And now that the words were out there, floating in the space between them, she turned to face Moira. Their eyes could not and would not meet. “It’s not too late to change your mind,” Mother added. It was as though the words themselves drained and exhausted her. There was nothing more or less to be said. Moira stared at Mother, who in turn stared at the floor. The floor had nothing to say. It was time to leave, so Moira left the wordless vacuum and returned to her room to fetch her things.
They sat in the taxi. There were things to be said now that the journey had begun, but Moira knew that Mother would never say them in front of the man driving the car. She was grateful then for the ten minutes of peace the snow and a cancelled train had bought them. Her leather seat had retained the heat from the previous passenger, it was strangely comforting to feel the warmth of another human being, albeit indirectly. The driver puckered his dry, chapped lips and performed a lacklustre whistle for the duration of what was always going to be an uncomfortable journey. His eyes met with Moira’s in the rear view mirror to confirm that all was far from well. Their final destination echoed the sentiment as the driver pulled up outside the hospital. Mother disliked hospitals. Mother disliked whistling. She grumbled at the fare, there would be no tip.
Moira climbed out of the car and was hit by a wave of apprehension. Mother bum-shuffled across the back seat and followed her daughter into the outside. She mumbled an empty thank you and slammed the car door a little harder than was necessary. They stood still then for what seemed like a long time, while life moved on around them.
“Well come on then, unless you’ve changed your mind,” barked Mother. Willing and able to make a scene, now that the audience had driven away. Moira had not changed her mind. Mother didn’t require an answer to know that. “Selfish through and through, just like your father. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just an attention-seeking little bitch.” The words stung. She looked at Mother then. Reluctantly, their eyes met. Moira could see her mother’s fear, see her anguish, see her guilt. Mother could see that Moira had no intention of turning back, she had come too far now. Neither could cry, though both felt that they should. Mother’s face relaxed and softened ever so slightly. The army of angry lines around her mouth temporarily ironed themselves out for the sake of appearances. “Let’s go in then, get this over with,” she said, before abruptly turning on her heel and leading the way towards what the day had in store. She was not a thoroughly unkind woman. She was capable of love once, but life had changed her, as life sometimes does.
The air felt cold inside the hospital. They registered at the desk and sat down next to each other but far apart. Mother sighed and glared and fidgeted. They both wanted to speak but were too scared to try. Words can be spoken and unspoken. Important, though sometimes unnecessary.
“I’m going to call Father,” announced Mother and left Moira alone with the bare waiting room walls. Moira wanted to ask her to stay, to confess that she was afraid, but the words got stuck.
“Moira Sweeney?” read a nurse from a clipboard. She was younger than Mother but shared the same serious expression and heavily lined brow.
“Yes,” said Moira. This felt like school.
“Follow me,” said the nurse. Moira looked around for Mother. The nurse, who had already begun walking stopped and turned back to check on her progress. She frowned back at Moira, the lines in her forehead accelerating into folds of deep creases. Her expression said many things, it said, “I’m tired and irritated and hurry up.” So Moira did. She followed in the footsteps of the nurse’s white squeaky shoes, along sterile corridors and into an unmarked room. She stepped inside and held her breath without meaning to as the door was closed behind her.
The windowless room smelt of talcum powder and was eerily lit by a flickering fluorescent tube. Moira was aware of a lock being turned. A silver-haired man in a white coat sat at a desk squinting at paperwork. He removed his glasses and rubbed them with a grubby-looking red spotty hanky. After a swift but thorough examination, he placed them back on the end of his large bauble of a nose. He squinted at Moira momentarily before returning his attention to the crumpled piece of A4 in his fingertips.
“Come in, come in,” he said with a veil of forced cheer. His other long pale hand conducted her closer. “I’m Doctor Goodman. Just reading this letter here from your GP. Step behind the curtain and take your clothes off, there’s a good girl. I’ll be with you in just a moment,” he said. He forced the words out of his mouth as though the effort to expel them exhausted him. With each syllable he grew less able to disguise his weary tone. Moira followed his nicotine-stained finger to a curtained area and did as she was told. She wondered three things; why a doctor would be stupid enough to smoke, whether by taking her clothes off, he had meant everything, or to leave on her socks and pants, and whether Doctor Goodman was indeed a good man or a paedophile in disguise.
Moira removed and carefully folded her clothes into a neat pile. She stood and waited and stared down at her own nakedness. She jumped as the squeaky shoed nurse whisked back the patterned curtain. Her hands instinctively flew to her breasts, uncomfortable with her own nudity and not used to it being observed by others.
“And your knickers,” said the nurse, scowling impatiently at the triangle of navy material. Her voice was sharp and snappy and reminiscent of a cloth against glass when cleaning windows. Moira unhappily removed the last item of clothing and stood ill at ease on the cold tiled floor. An army of goose bumps gathered on her skin and her small nipples hardened and pointed at the doctor, willing him to get on with whatever he was going to do. He stood then, rather robotically as though he had things on his mind. His chair scraped angrily across the floor in protest. He pulled back what remained of the curtain blockade and a ripple of displeasure formed on his brow like a critic faced with a substandard work of art. They both stood and stared at her then, frowning in unison. The doctor spoke and the nurse scribbled down his words into permanence, whilst nodding and shaking her square-shaped face at the clipboard.
“How old are you now, Moira?” Doctor Goodman asked her breasts.
“Fifteen,” Moira replied to the floor, “I’ll be sixteen tomorrow.”
“Normal height for age…” said the doctor to the clipboard. “No excessive facial hair.” What a relief, thought Moira, though she could have diagnosed that part herself, she had eyes and a mirror.
“Hands by your sides, please,” he said, his tone impatient, but kind. “Small breasts have formed. There is a mass of pubic hair, indicating that puberty has started or at least tried to. Hop up on to the bed for me and spread your legs, good girl.” Moira obeyed his command without question and turned to stare at the wall. There was a poster of a skeleton and a map of Italy. She wondered if this was where the doctor liked to go on holiday. There was a sound of stretching plastic.
“Female genitalia of normal appearance from the exterior,” he said before tapping her on the knee with a gloved hand. “Now I’m just going to do a quick internal examination. You have nothing to be afraid of.”
Moira was afraid.
“It shouldn’t hurt.”
“You might feel a little uncomfortable, just try and relax,” he said.
She couldn’t. Pain had entered the room and he was screaming inside her head. Instinctively Moira snapped her legs shut. The doctor gently opened them again and continued to examine and hurt her. The nurse stood and stared as though this was completely normal, like she was watching something mildly interesting on the television but was considering changing the channel during the next commercial break. Moira stared up at the ceiling and focussed her attention on a small broken spider’s web, dancing in the heat from the radiator below. Finally he stopped. Moira tried not to cry as she listened to the sound of stretched plastic, a man’s footsteps, the screech of a pedal bin opening its metal jaws and the light thud of the doctor’s gloves swallowed inside, used and discarded. The bin snapped closed, its contents redundant and forgotten.
“I’m going to need to do an ultrasound,” sighed Doctor Goodman, as though this were the most inconvenient thing to happen to him that day. The nurse momentarily put down her clipboard and wheeled an old-fashioned computer with a small TV screen towards them both. Then she took a tube from the shelf and squirted some cold transparent gel onto Moira’s tummy. The doctor took what looked like a small car window scraper and pushed it down onto her abdomen, spreading the cold gel all over her skin. The doctor and the nurse both stared at the small screen, screwing up their faces in displeasure, but Moira couldn’t see what they were looking at. The doctor pushed down harder in frustration at whatever he didn’t see, rolling the instrument of pain backwards and forwards as though he was ironing and doing his best to straighten her out.
“I can’t really tell what I’m looking at,” he said crossly. “A rudimentary uterus perhaps?” he asked nobody in particular. The nurse had returned to scribbling and shrugged her shoulders. Moira saw her hand make the shape of a large question mark with her pen. “That’s all for now, Moira. Get dressed and sit in the waiting room. Send your mother in, there’s a good girl,” said Doctor Goodman, before taking the clipboard from the nurse to read what she had written he had said. Was she a good girl? Did the doctor calling her good make it true? Was he a good man? She didn’t know the answer to either question. She knew she wanted to go home. Not the home where she lived, but the home in her head. A home she imagined from books and films and longing.
Moira returned to the room for waiting and sat with her fingers in a white knuckle knot on her lap. She sat rigid and still while the hands of the hospital clock stuttered forwards. Time passed, the pain didn’t. Just when she thought maybe Mother and Doctor Goodman had forgotten about her, the sound of squeaky shoes echoed down the corridor.
“Follow me please,” said the nurse once more. Her gut said to run to the exit, but Moira was an obedient breed of girl, it wasn’t in her nature to do the opposite of what someone had asked. She stood and followed the nurse as instructed, back to the room she had recently left. Everything was the same as before, but different. Mother was there this time, sitting opposite the doctor. Her expression was hard to read, twisted and wrong.
“Everything is fine,” said Mother.
“Doctor thinks you just need a little operation, to see what’s what.” Moira nodded. She didn’t need an operation to know that she wasn’t like everybody else.
She reluctantly removed her clothes for the second time that day and put on a hospital gown that gaped open at the back. She thought perhaps it was broken but the nurse insisted it was all the rage in the gynaecology ward. Moira wasn’t entirely sure what a gynaecologist was. She guessed it meant a fanny doctor and wondered why on earth anyone would ever want to become one of those.
Moira lay on a cold metal bed in her open-backed gown. A porter, in a uniform the colour of dry mud, wheeled her from one part of the hospital to another. She was perfectly capable of walking, despite what the doctor had done, but was grateful for the ride nonetheless. As they travelled down a labyrinth of identical looking corridors, the rolling view of discoloured, magnolia ceilings made her feel dizzy and nauseous, but she didn’t complain. In a small room with grey walls, a softly spoken man with tired eyes injected something cold into her arm. The edges of the room went from grey to black. Moira’s circle of vision got smaller and smaller until there was only nothing.
Pain awoke and enveloped her. Moira opened her eyes and surveyed her surroundings. This was a new room. A bedroom, but not hers. The pain cradled her firmly in the metal bed, assisted by well washed, white hospital sheets. Her eyes blinked and adjusted to the light before finding Mother and Father, huddled in the corner with sad faces.
“She’s awake,” said Mother. She disappointed them then, by surrendering to sleep and allowing the throbbing discomfort to close her heavy eyelids once more.
When she opened them again, it was clear that more time had passed, but how much or how little was uncertain. Mother and Father had been joined by Doctor Goodman, who sat on the bed and held her hand. She tried to sit up a little, to get a better view of the final act. The pain sliced between her legs and tore into her tummy, spreading over her body like a glass of spilt milk. She wanted to tell them, but she couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. She daren’t look under the sheets to see what had happened down there.
“How are you feeling?” asked the doctor. Without waiting for her words he continued to spew his own. “I’m afraid I have some very sad news Moira. You have a very rare condition called Rokitansky syndrome. I feel I must confess I’ve never seen anything like it, but I’ve spoken to a colleague in the city and he has confirmed what is wrong with you. We will refer you there for some treatment in due course; they’ll be able to tell you more about the condition. From what I understand and from what I’ve seen, in your case it means that your womb did not grow as large as it should. That’s why you haven’t had any periods. It is probably best if you think of it as not being there at all. The good news is, we didn’t find anything unexpected down there, you are otherwise a normal, healthy young woman. The bad news is that you won’t ever be able to have a family of your own.” Moira processed his words. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she could only hurt. The doctor paused then, and stared hard at Moira to try and ascertain if she had heard and understood him. He decided that she had. “I’m very sorry,” he added, patting her hand. He was wearing a comforting smile that didn’t quite fit his face. After delivering his news and apology he made an awkward departure, leaving his words and a faint smell of talc behind.
Mother and Father came closer to the bed. Not too close. They looked at her with red, swollen eyes, searching for who they thought she had been.
“We’ll get through this, together,” said Father from a distance. Moira couldn’t help thinking that they had never been further apart.
“Everything is going to be okay, you’ll see,” said Mother. “We are here for you,” she added. And then they were gone. They left with the tears they had shed for themselves and the girl they had known.
Moira was left alone with her pain and their sorrow. She reached for her bag at the side of the bed without knowing what she was looking for, careful to keep her body still while her hand explored. She rummaged inside the bag until her fingers found a small, circular, compact mirror. She opened it and cleaned the glass with a corner of the white hospital sheet. She stared for a long time at the reflection and what it showed her. A tear burst its banks and rolled down her cheek as Moira recognised the girl in the mirror. She saw herself. She closed her eyes and silently cried. She had known deep down for as long as she could remember that something was wrong. What she didn’t know, was what happened next.