if the name fits

‘I really want to change my last name,’ says Annette over coffee. ‘I’ve never liked it. Annette Abbot. Annette Abbot. Ah! Ah! Ah!’ She waggles her jaw up and down. ‘Sounds like I’ve got something stuck in my throat.
‘How long’ve you been married?’
‘Twenty years.’
She takes a sip of coffee.
‘He might need a little reassurance then, your husband.’
‘Maybe. He knows how I feel about it, though. And now the kids are grown up, does it matter? I’ve no idea how to go about it, though. It’s probably more hassle than it’s worth.’
‘What was your maiden name?’
‘Swansborough. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Annette Swansborough. Like one of them film stars from the Thirties.’
‘You could have some pictures taken.’
‘Well I will. When I get my passport renewed.’
She finishes her coffee and starts getting her things together ready for the afternoon visits.
‘Why don’t you have it hyphenated? That way you’d get the best of both.’
‘Abbot-Swansborough? That’s no better, is it? I’d sound like a village in Dorset. No, I think I just need to go back to my maiden name. It’s who I am.’
She shoulders her bag, pats her pockets, checks her glasses are still on top of her head, and turns to go, just pausing long enough to tell me one last thing.
‘That reminds me when I was at a patient’s house,’ she says. ‘I was working with Anne, that lovely new nurse, you know? The patient had an unusual name, can’t remember what. Anyway, Anne said she was the same, her last name being Pratt. Which means when you write her name down it comes out A. Pratt. She said she’d always hated that, but she was married so what could she do? And I was like you. I said why don’t you hyphenate it? With your husband’s surname before yours? It might soften the blow. But she said no, absolutely not. Why? What’s his name? Wright, she said. A. Wright-Pratt. God, we laughed so much I got cramps. And the rest of the visit every time we caught each other’s eye we’d start up all over again.’

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