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Queenie
Author:Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams



To all the Queenies out there—you are enough. Trust me.

In loving memory of Dan O’Lone and Anton Garneys.





chapter


ONE


Queenie

In the stirrups now.



Queenie

Wish you were here . . .



I LOCKED MY phone and carried on looking at the ceiling before unlocking it and sending a follow-up “xx.” That would prove to Tom that I wasn’t as emotionally detached as he accuses me of being.

“Can you just bring your bottom riiiiight to the edge of the exam table?” the doctor asked as I inched myself down closer to her face. Honestly, I’ve no idea how they do it.

“Deep breath, please!” she said a bit too cheerfully, and with no further warning inserted what felt like the world’s least ergonomic dildo into me and moved it around like a joystick. She placed a cold hand on my stomach, pressing down every few seconds and pursing her lips every time I squealed. To divert my attention from this manipulation of my insides, I checked my phone. No reply.

“So, what do you do . . . Queenie?” the doctor asked, glancing at my chart. Wasn’t it enough that she could literally see inside of me? Did she need to know about my day job?

“I work at a newspaper,” I said, lifting my head up to make eye contact when I responded, as it seemed like the polite thing to do.

“That’s a fancy career!” She pressed on, plunging her way back in. “What do you do at the newspaper?”

“I work at the Daily Read. The—ouch—culture section. Listings and reviews and—”

“In the technology department? That makes sense,” she said.

I hoisted myself up on my elbows to correct her, but stopped when I saw how concerned she looked. I glanced at the nurse behind her, who looked just as concerned, and then back at the doctor. She still looked concerned. I couldn’t see my own face but guessed that my expression mirrored both of theirs.

“Hold on a tick, we’re just going to—Ash, could you just get Dr. Smith in here?” The nurse bustled out.

Many uncomfortable minutes passed before the nurse came back in with another doctor, a man who looked as standard as his surname would suggest.

“Let’s get a closer look . . .” Dr. Smith said, bending down and peering between my legs.

“What’s wrong? Can you not find it?” I asked, worried that the IUD had maybe been absorbed into my womb, the way I still worried that every tampon I’d ever inserted was still knocking about inside me.

“What do you think, Ray?” the first doctor asked her colleague.

“We might need to get Dr. Ellison in here, you know,” Dr. Smith replied, straightening up and putting his hands on his hips.

“I saw a cleaner mopping up some sick in the hallway, why don’t you get him in here to have a look too?” I asked all three hospital staff as they stared quizzically at the ultrasound.

“Aha! Look, the IUD is there!” the original doctor said, pointing at a speck on my on-screen uterus with the excitement of someone who’d just discovered a new planet. Relieved, I lay back on the exam table. “But could you pop your clothes back on and have a seat in the waiting room? We just need to have a quick word, and then we’ll call you back in.”



* * *



“Never, ever trust a Gemini man.” I plonked myself down on a chair next to Aunt Maggie. “Here—” she said, holding out a bottle of antibacterial hand gel. She squeezed some into my palm, and as soon as I rubbed it in, she grabbed my hand to consolidate her point. I’d thought that Maggie coming with me would be a calming and firm adult presence, but instead she was just transferring her germ OCD onto me.

I tried to focus on the peeling GYNECOLOGY UNIT sign on the wall to stop myself from pulling my hand out of her grip.

“You know I don’t believe in astrology, Maggie.” She squeezed my hand tighter, I suppose by way of punishment. I slithered my hand out of hers and crossed my arms, tucking my hands into my armpits so she couldn’t grab at them again.

“Your generation don’t believe in anything,” my aunt told me. “But listen to what I’m telling you, it’s for your own good. Gemini men, they are takers. They will take every single thing from you, and they will drain you. They will never give to you, ever, because it’s not about you, it’s always about them. And they will leave you broken, in a heap on the floor. I’ve seen it happen a million times, Queenie.”

The woman opposite raised a palm to the ceiling and mm-hmm-ed in agreement.

“As you know, I steer clear of all men, apart from our Lord and Father, because I haven’t had time for them since 1981, but believe you me, it’s the Gemini ones you need to watch yourself with. Get yourself involved with a man born in June, and there’ll be trouble.”

I chanced an interjection—“But Tom was born in June”—and instantly regretted it.

“Oh! Exactly! This is what I’m saying!” Maggie exclaimed. “And where is he, please?” She looked at me quizzically. “You’re here at the hospital and he’s nowhere to be seen!” I opened my mouth to make the point that not all men born at a certain time of year were variations of Lucifer walking the earth and ultimately shut her down; but, always wanting to fully explore any subject, Maggie had more to say. In the increasingly busy waiting room, she continued to use her best outside voice to lecture me (and everyone sitting around us by way of volume), and though I was too anxious about the goings-on of my womb to take any of it in, the woman opposite us nodded along aggressively, staring at Maggie’s auburn wig as though it could fall off at any minute.

“Wasn’t Prince a Gemini?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure he was born in June.”

“Prince—God rest his soul—was Prince,” Maggie said, looking me dead in the eye. “Astrology did not, and does not, apply to Prince . . . if you get involved with a Gemini man, you’ll regret it. They like the chase—trust me. The pursuit of a woman makes them feel strong, it makes them feel good, and it makes them think they have a purpose in life. And we all know that unless men have a purpose, they feel aimless. But Gemini men are a whole different story,” Maggie continued with awe-inspiring enthusiasm. “When they do finally get the woman, they’ll drop her. Drop her like they didn’t even know her. Gemini men don’t mind who they hurt, who they have to use, who they have to step over—they don’t even bloody notice.”

“Are you sure you don’t mean white men, Maggie?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. Her line of fire sounded a little too specific.

“You can take it how you want to,” she said, folding her arms and pursing her lips. “You’re the one who thought she found her white savior. And look!”

Maggie is a big woman. In all ways. She has a new and even more surprising wig made every week, she doesn’t like to wear black because it’s too depressing, and she has to wear more than one pattern at any given time, even when she’s pottering around the house, because “Jesus wants life to be about color.” The obsession with color is a nod to her fleeting career as an artist, a career in which she never created anything but hype around herself. Maggie is also intensely religious, but the less ever said about that, the better. My aunt and grandmother always use religion as a stick to beat everyone with, and even to dwell on it for more than one second would be to entertain something I had no time for.

I sat on the edge of my seat to prevent the hospital staff from screaming my full name out this time around. “What’s to stop them from looking me up when I’ve gone?” I asked Maggie, trying to derail her rant. “What are the rules?”

“Who’s looking you up?” she asked me.

“Anyone in the waiting room?” I answered quietly.

“You’re not a celebrity, Queenie,” Maggie said. “Don’t be so paranoid.”