Grazia Book Club: Caroline Corcoran’s Through The Wall

'I was pregnant, once. It never happened again.'

Grazia Book Club: Caroline Corcoran's Through The Wall

by Rebecca Reid |

Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran: I listen to them have sex, frowning at how uncouth it all sounds. And then I think – what a hypocrite. Because here I am having sex myself. With a man who I think

is called Eli. I wonder if the couple next door can hear us too; if they are having similar thoughts.

Over Eli’s naked, olive-skinned shoulder I glance at the TV. I have no idea who turned it on but they have put it on mute, a breakfast news segment on turkey farming. What an odd juxtaposition, I think, to all of this sex.

As Eli finishes, I look away, embarrassed, from the poultry, then pull my dress back down over my thighs.

‘I’d better head to work,’ he says, no eye contact. I barely have the energy nor inclination to nod. ‘Door’s unlocked,’ I reply, and he slips out without another word.

I exhale and reach down to the floor to pick up my glass then take a sip of amaretto and Coke. It’s 7a.m. but I haven’t been to bed yet so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Plus, it’s there and I’m thirsty. The door slams.

I rest my head back against the sofa, look around. Half-full glasses, Pinot Grigio bottles, cigarettes stubbed out into old chocolate dessert ramekins. Crisps, squashed into vinegary hundreds and thousands on a cushion. Student scenes; not what I had thought my life would be at thirty-two.

I turn the TV off and return my attention to the couple next door. I think they are doing it on their sofa, this couple, because intermittently the arm of their furniture is knocking up against the wall. Sorry, wrong pronoun: it’s knocking up against my wall.

Lexie

‘Tom, we need to do it,’ I say. I have a provocative way like that.

He’s sitting on the sofa in his T-shirt and pants, shovelling in a spoonful of porridge with one hand and scrolling through social media with the other. I pull off my pyjama top without waiting for an answer because the stick said to do it and we are slaves to the stick. Tom knows this is compulsory even though he has tired eyes, will likely now be late for work and really wants that porridge.

But he goes away tonight for three days, so it’s now or not at all. Not at all – when you’re thirty- three years old and two years into trying for a baby – is not an option.

Tom takes off his pants one-handed without removing his eyes from his phone. You learn, when trying to get pregnant, to multitask in ways you could never imagine.

I move the porridge to one side, being careful to rest it somewhere where it won’t get knocked off. This isn’t ‘I have to have you now’ sex so much as ‘I have to have you now because the stick says so but we’ve obviously got time to move the porridge to one side because no one wants to get sticky oats on the DFS sofa’ sex.

‘Don’t worry,’ I whisper breathily. ‘We can be quick so you’re not late.’

Tom swallows a mouthful of porridge and waits until the last second to give up scrolling. Half an hour after he leaves I am still lying on the sofa, knickerless, with my legs up against the wall, hoping – as I always hope despite increasing evidence of its uselessness – that this gravity-boosting move helps to propel things along.

I was pregnant, once. It never happened again.

Now, I think of pregnancy as less of a yes or no thing, rather as something more cumulative. A spectrum, on which I am in a segment marked Unequivocally Unpregnant.

My underwear goes back on gingerly. Don’t upset the potential embryo. Don’t disturb the sperm.

I stand up. I can hear my neighbour, Harriet, moving around next door, ticking across her wooden floor in heels, keys rattling, front door opening.

I know I should feel embarrassed in case she heard something just now, but I’m so focused on my only current goal that I can’t muster up the pride to care.

Plus, I swear that I just heard the sound of sex coming from her flat, too. Hot morning sex, I think, that they couldn’t resist even though they were meant to be at work. The opposite of the type that we were ticking off on a to-do list through the wall.

Through The Wall is out in paperback now.

Book club questions

How do you feel about reading sex scenes in books? Do you think they'd be hard to write?

What can you tell about the women in the book from just this extract?

How does the first chapter start to build tension? What makes you want to read on?

Grazia Book Club is a new Sunday series, where we'll share an extract from a book that we're obsessed with and that we think you'll love. You can share your thoughts on the book by using #GraziaBookClub.

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