Chapter 09

Image result for sick tissues

By the time the weekend ends, the strangely intense, periodic bouts of nausea and overwhelming exhaustion haven’t passed, so I’m forced to stay home from school on Monday, and then again on Tuesday.  It leaves me with a deep feeling of regret because I had also skipped classes on Thursday. So, while I’m either bedridden or sprinting to the bathroom as quickly as possible, I’m also desperately trying to catch up on homework. I’d really hoped this was just food poisoning, but when Kate got back from school on Monday, she told me that half of her classes were empty because of a really bad flu that’s going around. It’s the worst scenario because a flu can last over a week rather than a few days like food poisoning, and while I know there’s nothing more that I could be doing to get better, Christian has been his usual, over-worried self.  

“I think the nausea is starting to go away,” I assure him over the phone on Tuesday morning. “I’ve only thrown up once this morning. I’m mostly just tired now.”   

“How many days have you been nauseated?”

“I don’t know, four or five. There’s a flu going around and you know me, if there’s something to catch within 100 miles of me, I’ll get it.”

“Is the nausea made worse or better when you eat?”

“Uh… better, I think.”

“Have you been ingesting excessive amounts of acetaminophen?”

The specifics in his line of questioning suddenly has me suspicious and I frown. “Are you on WebMD?”

“You could be having acute kidney failure, Ana.”

“It’s the flu, Christian.”

“You don’t know that until you go to the doctor.”

“I know what the flu feels like, and if I go to the doctor, they’ll just tell me to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, and I’m doing both of those things already. There is nothing a doctor can give me to make me feel better.”

“What if you have Meningitis or Typhoid… or Dengue Fever?” He asks, his voice becoming more and more panicked as I assume he scrolls through the list of possible conditions on his laptop screen. “Jesus, this says you could be having a brain aneurism.”

“Christian, I promise you, I’m fine. Get off the internet and get back to work or I’m going to call Ros and have her come take your phone away.”

“Go to the doctor, Anastasia.”

“I love you. Good-bye.”

I think I hear him say my name in protest once more, but I’m not positive because I pull the phone away and hang up. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Christian is overreacting and if I wasn’t so tired, I probably would go to the doctor just to placate him. Part of me does love that he cares so much, but, right now, all I want in the world is sleep and going to the doctor is counterproductive to that.

I stretch my tired muscles for a moment and then put my phone on my nightstand, close the book open on my lap, and nestle down in the pillows to take a quick nap before picking my homework back up. Unfortunately, just as I fall into the peaceful place between dreams on consciousness, there is a knock on my door that drags me back to reality.

Fucking Kate.

“What?” I groan, but when the door opens, it isn’t Kate who steps inside, it’s Luke. I sit up in bed, surprised. Since Kate’s slip during Christian’s visit, Luke has been staying at his apartment again, trying to take advantage of me being bedridden to put some distance between us until Christian gets fully over our kiss. I also know that he’s using his newfound free time to look into Leila, so his appearance now has me on high alert. If he’s here, it must be because he’s found something.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” He asks, coming to sit on the bed next to me.

“Fine,” I reply, but when he lifts his hand to check the heat in my forehead, I push him off and stare at him expectantly.

“Well?” I ask.

“Well, what?”

“What did you find out about Leila?”

He sighs. “I’m not here because of Leila.”

“Oh,” I deflate a little. “Then why are you here?”

“You know how sometimes I can be your best friend, and sometimes I have to be your CPO?” He asks.

I narrow my eyes at him. “Yes.”

“Well, this is CPO time and I just got a call from Mr. Grey. I’m here to take you to the doctor.”

“Well, you may as well leave and go and enjoy the rest of your time off.” I tell him, rolling my eyes as I fall back into my pillows. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I don’t think you understand me, Ana. I was told to take you to the doctor, even if I have to carry you down to the car and drive you there against your will.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Please just get up and come with me,” He pleads. “I’m really not in the mood to manhandle you down the stairs.”

I glare at him for a moment, testing him, but when I see the unwavering determination behind his eyes, I sigh and then pull back the covers to get out of bed. He gives me a few moments privacy so I can change from my pajamas into more suitable clothes for public, and the I reluctantly trudge out into the hallway.

The cold November air actually feels a little good when we get outside, but the motion of the car as we work our way through the streets towards Student Health triggers my nausea again. I need something to distract me to keep from throwing up all over the interior of my new car, so I turn to Luke.

“So, have you found anything out about Leila?” I ask, and he lets out a long breath.

“No. Well, nothing that would suggest she’s here as a threat to you. She really is enrolled in Boston University and both her attendance and grades are good. Her parents do live in Hartford and, according to her credit card records, she went home to visit them a few weeks ago. This last weekend, she had Broadway tickets and had done some shopping in Manhattan… Her trip there appears to be legitimate,” He pauses, and gives me a nervous side glance before he speaks again. “Are you sure she had someone following you? Is it possible she just met someone for coffee and whoever she was with was just leaving?”

“No,” I shake my head. “No, he was following me.”

“Okay,” Luke nods, “Well, I’ve given Taylor everything I’ve been able to dig up and he’s going to see about getting Welch or Barney to take a closer look. He’s just got to make sure they won’t say anything to Grey before he tells them what it’s for.”

I swallow, feeling guilt rising up inside of me again. “Luke… maybe I should just tell Christian. He’s not entirely unreasonable, and if he sees everything you and Taylor have done to ensure I’m safe while I’m here, maybe he won’t try to force me to come home after all…”

“You know that I’m driving you to the doctor for a mild flu right now, right?” Luke replies. “He wanted me to take you to the Emergency Room until I talked him down to a general practitioner. I don’t think that man is capable of being reasonable when it comes to you.”

“Well, then I guess I hope you’re right and I’m just paranoid,” I sigh as Luke pulls into the parking lot at the on campus clinic and kills the engine.

“So do I,” He agrees. “But in case you’re not… I could use your help convincing Grey to pay for a home security system without tipping him off. Now that I’m not there all the time, I think it’s necessary.”

“I can do that,” I nod. “I’ll just tell him it’ll make me feel better about leaving Kate behind when I go back to Seattle. She still has a hard time staying in the house alone.”

“Good,” He replies. “Now let’s get this over with so you can get back to bed.”

With flu season in full swing, Student Health Services is packed, and, once I’ve checked in at the receptionist’s desk, I’m given paperwork to fill out and am told that it’ll be almost an hour before the doctor can see me. I spend a good deal of time glancing around at the waiting room at other students and I feel my spirits sink as I watch a girl a few seats away from me curl up into a ball in her chair, looking miserable. Apparently, even though I’ve been sick for days, I haven’t even gotten to the worst of this flu yet. She’s clearly much worse off than I am.

“Anastasia Steele?” A small woman dressed in sea green colored scrubs calls, and I smile at her as I reach over to squeeze Luke’s arm and then get out of my seats. She leads me to a small examination room, takes my vitals, asks for any medications I’m taking or allergies I have, and then sits me down on the exam table. She leaves the room and I have to wait almost another half an hour, this time without Luke to talk to, before the doctor finally comes in.

“Good Afternoon,” She greets me, as she reaches out to shake my hand. “I’m Dr. Young.”

“Anastasia Steele,” I reply. “But Ana, if it’s easier.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ana. What brings you in today?” She asks.

“I have the flu,” I tell her.

“It’s going around,” She sighs. “When did your symptoms start?”

“Last Friday,” I reply.

“And what symptoms have you been experiencing?”

“Nausea mostly. Fatigue. A low fever. Maybe a little dizziness.”

“Any aches or pains? Chills?” She asks.

“No, not really.”

“Has your nausea led to vomiting?”

“Yes,” I reply, and she gets up and walks around me, lifting my shirt a little to press on my lower back.

“Any pain here?”

“No.”

“And have you experienced a sore throat? Congestion? Diarrhea?”

“No,” I reply quickly, and while she hums under her breath she moves back to her computer, in front of me this time, and when I smell her perfume, I immediately feel my stomach lurch. I gag, and quickly reach up to cover my mouth with my hand, but I know from the past few days, once the nausea starts, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Dr. Young quickly reaches for the wastebasket by the door and holds it out for me to throw up into, and when I’m finished, I apologize and take the paper towel she offers me to wipe my mouth.

“Well, you don’t have a fever or any of the other symptoms we’ve seen with this flu,” She says, “But clearly you’ve got something going on. Have you eaten anything unusual lately?”

“Not for the past few days,” I reply. “Toast and crackers mostly. But I did think the clams in the pasta I ate on Saturday tasted funny.”

“Are you sexually active.”

“Yes,” I tell her, feeling the unnecessary embarrassment rise to my cheeks.

“And what do you use for birth control?”

“Just the Ocella.”

“Condoms?” She asks, but I shake my head.

“Birth control pills don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases,” She says disapprovingly.

“I have one partner,” I assure her. “I’m not concerned.”

“I see.” She writes something down on the clipboard in her hand, and then looks at me again. “And when was your last menstrual period?”

“Uh…” I hesitate. “I usually have it the 3rd week of the month. It’s hard to remember. Ever since I’ve started birth control, my periods have been pretty spotty. Some months I don’t really even have a period.”

“Okay.” She nods, making a note. “Have you gone out of the country recently?”

“No,” I shake my head. “I went to Hawaii a few months ago.”

“Any bug bites?”

“A couple maybe.”

She nods again as she makes another note and then gets up from her chair, setting her clipboard on the desk. “I’m going to order a few different tests so we can get a better idea of what’s going on, so if you’ll take this cup and give me a urine sample, I’ll have the phlebotomist come in to draw some blood.”

“Okay,” I agree. I take the cup and head into the bathroom. It’s awkward and almost a little embarrassing leaving the sample in the small metal box next to the toilet, but the embarrassment isn’t nearly as daunting as what’s waiting for me back in the room. A young man, who doesn’t look like he could be much older than me, is sitting next to the bed I’d just vacated, pulling tubes and vials out of a box.

Needles. I hate needles.

Once I’m back on the bed, he makes idle chit chat and begins wrapping my arm with a rubber band and feeling around for veins. When he actually pokes me with the needle, he asks me questions about my major and my plans for the coming Thanksgiving holiday to distract me, and I have to answer them while staring up at the cabinet next to the exam table. Thankfully though, he’s pretty good at finding a vein and the whole process is fairly quick. Almost as soon as I feel the sharp prick just below my elbow, he’s wrapping my arm with gauze and tape and then wishing me good luck, taking the vials of blood with him as he steps out of the room.

Luke is allowed to come sit with me while I wait for the results of my tests to come back and, while he tries to scare me by telling me I’ve most likely caught some horrific tropical disease, I lie back and fight the unrelenting exhaustion that seems to be my sole personality trait right now.

“Ana?” Dr. Young’s voice asks, tapping on the door.

“Come in,” I reply.

The door opens and I force myself to sit up, feeling a little bit of the dizziness now that I’m no longer upright. She enters the room, closes the door behind her, and settles down in the stool across from me.

“Well, I’ve reviewed the lab results and great news, your blood work looks great and you, my dear, are just as healthy as you can be.”

“So, I don’t have the flu?”

“No. You don’t have the flu.”

“Then what’s wrong with me?” I ask, confused.

“You’re pregnant,” She says, and as I stare blankly back at her, I think for just a moment that I might have hallucinated.

“I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head slightly, “What?”

“You’re pregnant,” She repeats.

I gape at her, feeling as though all the blood in my body has suddenly gone cold. Pregnant? How could I possibly be pregnant?

“Anastasia?” Dr. Young checks, and I look up at her, feeling my eyes widen with my panic as I try and sort through this in my head.

“H-how…?” I ask.

“Well, oral contraception isn’t 100% effective-” She begins, but as I feel the reality of what’s happening beginning to weigh on me, my denial begins to bubble through my lips and I cut her off.

“No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” I repeat, over and over again. “I’m careful, diligent…  I can’t be pregnant. I can’t.”

“Well…” She hesitates. “Our tests have been wrong before. Why don’t you change into a paper gown and we’ll run an ultrasound, just to be sure.”  

I turn to look at Luke, who has gone completely pale, and he gets quickly out of his seat to exit the room. The doctor takes a hospital gown out from the cabinet and hands it to me, then steps out of the room to let me change. It takes me longer to get out of my clothes then it should because I’m shaking so badly I seem to have lost nearly all my coordination, but when I am covered again, I crack open the door and then take a seat on the table once more. Dr. Young comes back into the room a few minutes later, and she’s pulling a heavy machine with her.  

Once she’s set up, she helps me get into the correct position on the table and then pulls out a long stick, which she covers in plastic and lubricant.

“Okay,” She tells me, smiling much too brightly for someone holding a torture device in her hand. “This might be a little uncomfortable.”

I take a deep breath as she pushes the wand inside of me, and then immediately turn to look at the monitor. It’s hard to tell what I’m looking at and everything seems to be a little blurry, but I’ve never been so engrossed in anything in my life. I can’t even feel the discomfort of her searching around inside of me, and when she finds the small, round ball of black, she stops.

“Okay,” She says, pointing up to the screen. “This is your uterus, and this small white bean shape here is the fetus. That flicker you see in the picture, that’s the heartbeat.”

I inhale sharply as I look at the tiny bit of static on the monitor which is irrefutable proof that I am, in fact, pregnant. Dr. Young begins taking measurements and pictures of the baby, while I attempt to control the shakiness of my breathing. This has to be a nightmare. A fever induced nightmare. I’m going to wake up, in my bed at any second…

“Alright,” Dr. Young says as she finishes up and pulls the wand out of me. “It looks to me like you’re around eight weeks along. It’s going to put your due date right around June 18th.”

“How did this happen?” I ask again. “I’m perfect with my birth control. I’ve never missed a dose.”

“Oral contraception can be tricky,” She tells me. “They have to be taken at the same time every day…”

“I have an alarm on my phone,” I interrupt her. “I take it every morning at ten. I even have a different alarm for when I go to the west coast on the weekends so I can make sure that I’m consistent.”

“Have you taken any other medications or antibiotics?” She asks, and while I start to shake my head, I immediately freeze.

Antibiotics.

Fuck, fuck, fuck… when was I sick? The second week of September, that was… eight weeks ago. Fuck!

My birthday. I had a sinus infection on my birthday that I took antibiotics for and Christian and I… oh god.

I think Dr. Young can see the realization hit me, because she starts to nod as she prints the ultrasound pictures from the machine and then begins working on something on the tablet she’s brought into the room with her.

“I’ve been,” I swallow, trying to get a grip on myself. “I’ve been taking birth control and… and drinking.”

“Well,  you’ll need to stop doing both of those things immediately,” The doctor tells me. “I’ll give you some information about the dos and don’ts you should be aware of for the next few months and I can get you a 30 day supply of prenatal vitamins to take home with you today. If you’re interested, the clinic offers a maternity program that is generally more cost effective than traditional OB care, I can include information on the program with the rest.”

I look up at her, my mouth still open with shock. This is really happening. “I-I don’t… I don’t,” I stutter, still unable to form coherent sentences, and as she looks at the shock and panic clearly etched in my expression, the comforting smile she’s held in place since she’s come back into this room vanishes.

“Or… We could discuss other options?” She suggests.

“Other options?”

“Termination?”

“Like… like an abortion?” I clarify, and while she doesn’t nod yes or no, the careful, non-judgemental face she’s making is all the affirmation I need. Could I do that? Do I want to do that? Is that what Christian is going to want? Oh my god, Christian! What am I going to say to Christian?

As the reality starts to set in, my heartbeat quickens and I can feel my breathing become more shallow. I might be about to have a panic attack.

“Anastasia,” Dr. Young says, reaching out and placing a comforting hand over mine. “You don’t have to decide anything right now, we have time. Maybe you should go home, take a few days to process, and decide what you really want. When you’re sure, you can make another appointment and we’ll go from there.”

“Okay,” I agree.

“Do you want your ultrasound pictures?”

“Yes, please,” I nod, and then, because I’ve been such a headcase for the last few minutes and she’s shown me nothing but kindness, understanding, and patience, I add, ” Thank you.”

“Of course, Anastasia.” She hands me the photograph, which I take with shaking hands, several informational pamphlets, and the package of prenatal vitamins she promised, and then smiles at me as she leaves the room to allow me to get dressed again. I place the ultrasound photo on the examination table and stare at it as I pull off the paper gown and slowly slip back into my clothes. The small white spot in the center of the dark circle looks so unthreatening from here, but right now, it feels as though it’s going to cause my world to fall apart.

When I’m dressed, I pick up the picture and turn for the hallway where I find Luke waiting, looking as pale as I’m sure I do. He doesn’t say anything to me, he simply holds my coat up for me to slide my arms into and then leads me through the office towards the car. We’re silent as we pull out of the parking lot and start towards home, mostly because I’m not even sure what to say.

“You didn’t call…” I start hesitantly.

“No,” He replies, “You think I want to be the one to tell him?”

“What am I going to do, Luke?” I ask desperately.

“Well, I think you’re going to have a baby.”

“Am I?” I ask, and his head jerks sharply to the side.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m still in school. Christian and I don’t even live on the same side of the side of the country. I don’t even think he wants kids. I mean, I’m not ready for this. We’ve only been back together for five months, that’s nothing. We’re not married. He hasn’t even met my fath-” I freeze. “Oh god, Ray! My dad doesn’t even know Christian exists. I’m pregnant with a man my father knows nothing about. This is a nightmare! I can’t do this…”

“Are you saying you want to… get rid of it?” Luke checks, and immediately I fall silent. Is that what I’m saying? This whole thing feels so unexpected, definitely not how I have ever planned to have this situation go. But, even being as freaked out as I am right now, do I want to terminate the pregnancy?

I reach down to cover my stomach with my hands, imagining the small peanut shaped blob of white inside that isn’t just a spot on a picture. It’s a baby. It’s Christian’s baby. It’s my baby. It’s a life that we’ve created together through a physical expression of love.

My mind immediately shifts back to my birthday, to that night when this baby was conceived. It had been perfect. In all the times Christian and I have made love, I had never felt more connected to him than I did that night, and in that connection, we made a baby together. Heat floods my body as I once again feel the depth of the love that had filled me that night as I listened to his words and felt his touch, and I know in that moment that, though this was unplanned, it was meant to be. I glance down at my hands and picture the flicker of the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, and as I imagine that flicker just beneath my palms, I know that termination isn’t an option.

“Ana,” Luke says with cautious anger when I don’t respond to his question. “You need to talk to Grey before you make that decision because I’m not going to…”

“I’m not going to get an abortion, Luke,” I cut him off. “No… I don’t want that. I’m going to keep the baby. Of course, I’m going to keep the baby.”

He relaxes a little and nods. We’re home now, so once he’s pulled up the alley behind our house, he kills the engine and then turns to look at me.

“So what do you want to do?” He asks. “We’re supposed to go to Seattle on Friday, are you going to tell him then?”

And live with this secret for three days?

“No,” I reply, shaking my head. “I can’t wait until the weekend, but I don’t want to tell him over the phone.”

“Well, let’s start by getting you inside.”

I nod and then climb out of the car, dragging my feet as I walk towards the house. I’m so numb that I don’t even feel the difference in temperature when I step through the glass door, let alone notice Kate sitting at the dining room table with food and book propped open in front of her.

“Hey, how’d the doctor go?” She asks.

I stare back at her blankly, still unable to say the words out loud, and as she waits for my response, her face steadily falls into a look of panic. “What’s wrong, Ana?”

“I– I’m,” I take a deep breath. “I’m pregnant.”

“What!” She exclaims, her eyes immediately shifting to Luke as though she’s looking for confirmation.

“Oh, you heard correctly,” He assures her.

“Okay…” She replies slowly, clearly still trying to process this new information. “So… just so I’m clear, are we happy about this or…?”

“Happy,” I tell her, though my voice still doesn’t have the conviction I feel growing stronger and stronger with each passing second, so I reaffirm the statement again. “We’re happy about it. I’m keeping it.”

“What did Christian say?” She asks.

“I haven’t told him yet.”

“Ooh,” She says, sucking a sharp breath in through her teeth, like she just saw someone take a horrible fall down the stairs.

“Can you guys give me a minute?” I ask. “I’m going to call him.”

“Yeah,” Luke says, pushing off the wall and turning to leave the room. Kate gets up from the table and turns to follow him, but she stops very suddenly and then rushes across the room to wrap me in a hug.

“Congratulations, Ana.” She says. “I’m happy for you, and whatever he says… I’ll be here for you.”

“Thanks, Kate,” I nod, and she gives me a small, nervous smile before turning to leave the kitchen.

I pace back and forth in front to the oven for a minute, trying to work up the nerve to make the call, but it’s impossible. I don’t know if he’s going to be angry and if he is, I don’t think I’m ready to face that. This is a good thing, a wonderful thing. I want him to feel that with me, and maybe he will. With shaking hands I pull out my phone, find Christian’s name in the recent calls, and then hold it up to my ear.

“What did the doctor say?” He answers immediately, the concern already apparent in his voice.

“Christian, I– I need you to come to Cambridge,” I tell him.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“I just need you to come here, okay?” I say weakly, as, for the first time since I found out, I feel tears begin to prick behind my eyes. “Please?”

“Okay,” He says. “I have an important meeting tomorrow at three but, once it’s over,  I’ll get on a pl…”

“No,” I interrupt him. “I need you to come here, right now. Tonight.”

He’s quiet for a heart beat, and the silence breaks the last of my resistance, causing irrational, probably hormone fueled tears start flowing freely down my cheeks.

“I’ll be there in 7 hours,” He says, at last.

“Thank you.”

“I love you,” He tells me, and the way he says it almost sounds as though he’s not sure I’m going to say it back.

“I love you, too. I’ll see you soon, bye.”

I hang up the phone and quickly dash the tears from my eyes. I can’t be like this when Christian gets here, it’ll only freak him out more and I don’t want that. This is scary but the longer I have to think about this little life growing inside of me, to feel connected to it, the more I’m able to feel the resounding joy in it. I’m going to be a mother, I’m going to have a family with Christian, and if he accepts it, shares my happiness, I think this will actually mean that I’m going to get everything I’ve ever wanted.

But only if he’s on board.

I need to get a grip and put on a strong front so I can show him that this is a good thing. It’s scary now, but in the end, it’s going to be wonderful. I take a deep breath and decide to go take a shower, hoping the hot water will help me relax and clear my head so that when Christian gets here, I’m ready to face whatever version of him I’m going to be up against.

The next few hours are the longest of my life. I have homework I should be catching up on since I’ve missed three days of school, but I can’t sit still long enough to work on anything. I can’t do anything but stare nervously out the window.

Christian texts me at about 11:30 to tell me he’s landed in Boston, and in the 20 minutes it takes for him to get to Cambridge, Kate and Luke both disappear upstairs. I’m pacing back and forth across the living room, rehearsing what I’m going to say for the hundred-millionth time, when I see headlights of Christian’s rental car pull into the back alley through the kitchen window. The nerves creep up into my throat, choking me slightly, so I take a long, shaky breath and then remind myself over and over again that he loves me, until I hear the door slide open.

“Anastasia!” He calls, his voice fully panicked.

“I’m in here,” I call back meekly. His footfalls are heavy as he moves quickly through the kitchen, and when he comes around the corner and sees me standing there, waiting for him, he stops  for a moment, looks me up and down, and then practically charges towards me to wrap me in his arms. I see Taylor out of the corner of my eye, shooting a concerned look in my direction before disappearing up the stairs as well.

“I’m here,” Christian whispers against my hair. “What is it?”

“Have a seat,” I tell him as I push out of his arms and gesture to the couch. He backs up slowly, not taking his eyes off of me, until his legs hit the cushions and he slowly lowers himself down.

“I don’t really know where to start…” I tell him, and I watch his adam’s apple jump as he swallows.

“Is it cancer?” He asks.

“What?”

“Is that what’s wrong with you? Is it cancer?”

“No,” I say, shaking my head quickly. “No, I’m not dying, Christian. I’m fine.”

He hesitates for a moment, examining my face as though he’s trying to decide whether or not he believes me, but a second later, he exhales with relief and his entire body relaxes.

“Oh, thank god,” He says. “Don’t you ever do that to me again, Anastasia. Do you have any idea how terrifying the last few hours have been for me?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d go right to death! I just, I didn’t want to tell you this over the phone…”

Immediately, he’s back on his guard again. “Tell me what?”

“Just… I just need you to… what I mean is that…” I stutter, struggling to find the words.

“What is it, Ana?” He demands.  

“I’m… Christian, I’m pregnant.”

The moment the words are out of my mouth, his face immediately goes blank. “What?” He asks, the strength completely gone from his voice.

“I’m pregnant,” I repeat. “About eight weeks. Apparently, the antibiotics I was taking when I had that sinus infection made my birth control fail. I got pregnant on my birthday.”

I pause, waiting to see if he’s going to respond to me, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t do anything. His face is still completely blank, his eyes wide and unmoving. I think he might actually be going into shock…

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, tears welling in my eyes again. “I didn’t know. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I know you said you wanted to wait and I did too, but it’s happened now and… and I want it. I didn’t know I would, but I do. I want this baby more than I’ve ever wanted anything.” I stop and stare at him, waiting for anything, and it takes forever. I can see it when the initial shock wears off and he starts to process because his eyes start shifting back and forth. Still, I don’t say anything, I let the words sit between us until finally, he looks up at me.

“You’re pregnant,” He says, not a question.

“I’m pregnant,” I affirm, and then, miraculously, he leaps to his feet and kisses me, hard. It takes me a moment to react, but when I do, I’m hit with a tsunami of emotion at once. Elation, joy, relief… they all crash over me, rise up inside of me, until it all comes bubbling through my eyes.

“You’re not mad?” I check, astounded by the happiness I see reflected in his eyes when he pulls away from the kiss to look at me.

“Mad? No. Anastasia, we’re having a baby. You and I… We’re going to be a real family. Forever. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. How could I possibly be mad?”

“You said you wanted to wait,” I say, tears of joy now streaming down my cheeks and over the uncontrollable smile stretching wide across my face. “You said you weren’t sure you even wanted kids.”

“You know me,” He replies, beaming. “I never know what I want until it hits me right in the face, or at least runs into me in dormitory at Harvard University.”

I laugh. “So, you’re happy? Really? You’re not just in shock?”

“Oh, I’m definitely in shock,” He says. “And I’m probably going to be in shock until I hold our baby in my arms, but I promise you, I am more than just happy right now. I love you so much, Anastasia.”

He kisses me again, more passionately this time. I feel his tongue brush my lips, and so I open my mouth for him, reaching up into his hair so that I can hold him to me while we share our jubilation with each other.

“Well,” He says, stepping back once again and reaching up to cup my cheek. “Let’s get you packed. We’ll take whatever you’re going to need for the next few days and then Sawyer can bring the rest. I’ll find someone to marry us first thing tomorrow and then we’re going to find you the best Obstetrician in Seattle.”

“Wait… Seattle?” I ask, my smile faltering a little. “What do you mean?”

“You need a doctor, Anastasia,” He says. “A good one. I only want the best for you and for our baby. But don’t worry, my mother knows everyone, she’ll make sure we have the best.”

“Yeah, but I’m not going home, Christian. I’m not dropping out of school.”

“But… you’re pregnant,” He says, and now it’s him who sounds confused.

“It’s not a disability. I have six more months until I graduate and the baby isn’t due for seven. I’ll have to find an OB in Cambridge, or Boston maybe. I’m not leaving Harvard.”

“What do you mean you’re not leaving Harvard?” He asks, and now I hear the defensive anger rising in his tone. “Of course you are, I’m not leaving you across the country while you’re pregnant.”

“That’s not up to you,” I tell him, “Wait… Is this why you’re happy? Because you think I’m going to move home?”

“Of course not,” He says, but his confidence in his denial lessens when I raise an accusatory eyebrow at him. “Okay, fine. Yes, a little. You’re having a baby. That’s wonderful and I’m happy, but I also want you home. What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong with that is that you don’t care what I want at all. Why can’t you understand what Harvard means to me, Christian? I worked hard to get here, I’ve worked hard to stay here, and I made a promise to my dad and to myself that I would graduate. I’m not going to give up my dream of graduating from Harvard six months before I achieve it. Not for anything.”

“Don’t say that I haven’t supported you finishing your education. I didn’t try and stop you when you wanted to come back here,” He argues. “When you said you wouldn’t stay, I accepted it. I don’t want to take this away from you, but this pregnancy isn’t just about you, Anastasia. That’s my baby, too.”

“I never said it wasn’t.”

“Well, if you stay here, I’m going to miss everything. Doctors appointments, lamaze classes, the first time it kicks… What if you go into labor and I’m 3000 miles away?”

“First of all, if I go into labor and I’m still in Boston, we have bigger problems than you being in Seattle because it will mean I’ve gone into labor more than a month early. And, I know that this isn’t ideal and the timing of this sucks, but I’m not going to throw away my dream so that you can go to lamaze classes.”

“So, I just don’t get a say in that?” He snaps.

“Do you really think that you’d be there anyway?” I accuse him, and he narrows his eyes at me.

“I got on a plane at a moment’s notice and flew across the country for you today, Anastasia. Are you really questioning my commitment to you right now?”

“No, but you thought I had cancer. Not every doctor’s appointment is exciting or life changing, Christian. Most of the next few months, I’m just going to go in there to get a regular check up. Can you honestly tell me that you would cancel a lunch with a client, or your operations meeting, or a business trip so you could hear a doctor tell you nothing has changed or so you could go practice breathing exercises with me?”

“No, you would run all of your appointments through Andrea first so we can align your appointments and classes around my schedule,” He says, and before the words are even all the way out of his mouth, I can see the regret in his eyes. “That came out wrong…”

“I don’t think it did,” I say angrily. “Our lives can’t be all about you and GEH, Christian. I’m not giving up my dreams and everything that I’ve worked for to structure my life around what is convenient for you. I’m sorry that you may miss things, that kills me, but I’m not leaving.”

“Well, I don’t agree with that.”

“Tough.”

He takes a deep breath through his nose, clearly trying to calm himself so that he doesn’t explode on me, and while he turns away from me, running his hands through his hair while he paces across the living room, I start again so that I can head off whatever argument I know he’s formulating.

“Don’t act like I’m not home three days a week,” I argue. “Or that I’m not going to be home for over a full week later this month, more than four weeks between December and January, and another week in March. I will make sure that you get to experience this pregnancy with me as much as possible, but I’m not going to drop out of school with six months left just so you have the choice to go with me for a checkup at the doctor’s office if it’s convenient for you.”

His jaw tightens and his lips push together into a tight line as he turns around and sits on the couch. I stand there and wait for him to work through this for a minute, but when the anger recedes and he looks up at me again, he doesn’t look pacified or even defeated. He looks sad, and that makes me feel much worse.

“Fine,” He says at last. “Stay.”

I sigh and then move next to him on the couch, lifting his arm and placing it over me so that I can cuddle into his side.

“I know this is hard,” I say softly. “I’m sorry. I wish this would have happened six months from now so that we could do this the way we both want to. But, if I’ve learned anything over the past three months, it’s that we can make this work. We’re so great now. We’ve learned to communicate and to compromise… we know how to make each other a priority without abandoning everything else in our life. I love you, Christian, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure you don’t miss anything. I promise.”

He leans over and kisses my hair. “Okay,” He says at last. “I love you, too.”

“Mmm,” I hum. “You know the doctor told me today that my due date is on June 18th. Our baby could be born on your birthday.”

“I couldn’t think of a better gift,” He says. “Do you have a picture or something I can see?”

“Oh, yeah.” I quickly get off the couch and make my way into the kitchen where I left my purse. The ultrasound pictures are in an envelope inside so I pull them out and then hurry back into the living room to give them to Christian.

“Right here?” He asks, pointing to white little peanut in the center of all the black.

“Mhm,” I nod. Christian brushes his finger over the picture, staring at it intensely until he has to push his lips together to hide the barely noticeable quivering that has begun.

“We’re having a baby,” He says again, and I let out a small breathy laugh.

“Yes, we are.”

“You know… I just proposed to you and you haven’t said anything yet.”

“That’s funny, I never heard a question,” I tell him, and he looks up at me for a moment, then sets the picture down on the table and takes my hands in his.

“Anastasia…” He begins, and suddenly my eyes widen with panic.

“No,” I say quickly, yanking my fingers out of his grasp. “No, no, no. Not like this.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t want you to propose to me just because I got pregnant,” I tell him. “What about all the other stuff you said before about not wanting us to be apart for our entire engagement and asking my father?”

“I think it’s a little late to ask your father, don’t you?” He asks sardonically, but I ignore his tone and shake my head.

“No, I don’t. We might be going out of order, but I don’t want us to go into marriage feeling like there’s a shotgun coming up the aisle after us. I want you to propose to me only because you love me and you want to spend the rest of your life with me, not because I got knocked up. I want us to be ready and with me living here, and you living there, and all of the stress that this pregnancy is going to add to our situation, I don’t feel ready. Especially if even your proposal comes as an afterthought to the baby.”

“You want romance,” He infers.

“Yes,” I agree, and he sighs.

“I do love you, Anastasia, more than anything. I do want to spend the rest of my life with you. But you’re right, you deserve the perfect proposal. I don’t even have your ring on me. So I’ll wait, for the right moment.”

“Thank you,” I tell him, and then lean in and kiss him softly on the lips.

“It’s late, we should go to bed,” He whispers against my lips. “Your body needs all the rest it can get.”

“Okay,” I nod, and as if to emphasize his point, a deep yawn forces it’s way out of me as he gets off the couch and reaches for my hand to help me to my feet. He doesn’t say anything more as he leads me up the stairs, but it’s a comfortable silence. His thumb runs lovingly over the back of my knuckles the entire way up to my bedroom until I have to let go of his hand to change into pajamas and then move into the bathroom to wash my face..

He’s quicker than I am at getting ready for bed, so he’s the first to crawl under the covers, and when I finally am able to settle in next to him, the bed is already warm and inviting. He pulls me against him, encircling me with his arms, and when I feel his hand come down to rest over my belly, I feel a warm feeling of comfort that I carry with me until I fall asleep.

Next Chapter

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