“Look, I’m not happy about this entire situation. I’ve been with Greenwich since day one and now… what? I never applied to work at Grey Enterprises Holdings. No one in the New York office did, and we’re not stoked about it.”
The way he says Grey Enterprises Holdings makes it sound like something sonomous with Nazi Death Camp. There’s animosity in every word he’s said to me, and that’s become something of a pattern with my employees in New York. And several from Grey Publishing. There’s a possible mutiny brewing beneath me, and I’m too sick to put a stop to it.
“I hear you,” I start, my voice already breaking with each nauseating contraction in my stomach. “But can you just hold on one second, Mitch?” My finger barely has time to swipe against the mute button on the screen of my phone before I lean into the toilet and lose my breakfast. The floor is cold and too hard through my stockings and my toes are pinched past the point of pain in my slightly too tight Jimmy Choos. I’ve been trying to leave for the office for over an hour, but I can’t stop throwing up. No matter how many nausea lozenges I suck on, no matter how many crackers I force down, no matter how many minutes I lay down sipping water… I always end up sprinting for the bathroom. This happened once on a weekend I was home with Christian while I was pregnant with Calliope, and I’d ended up in the emergency room for dehydration.
If that happens today… I don’t even know what Christian will do.
“Mrs. Grey? Are you there?”
“I’m sorry, Mitch,” I say, pulling my head out of the toilet and unmuting the phone. I slump back against the wall and place a cool hand over my clammy forehead. “I’m listening.”
“Are you, though? Because it seems to me like you’ve just come in here like a bulldozer and flattened everything us lifers have built! You ran off Scott, you closed our press… now we’re not even Greenwich anymore? We didn’t sign up for this!”
“Neither did I. Believe me, this was not in any of my plans. But it was Carmen’s decision to sell, and I can’t do anything to change it. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure there is as little disruption in this process as possible, and no one loses their job. That’s the best I can give you, and if that’s not enough, I’ll be happy to write you a letter of recommendation.”
A bitter huff sounds through the phone, and I glance up at the ceiling, praying he’ll hang up before I hurl again.
“The amount we’re expected to deal with right now better be reflected in our compensation once annual raises start coming around…” he grumbles.
“That’s actually one of the positive things about this transition. As an entity of Grey Enterprises Holdings, we’re now much better funded. I expect that will be reflected in salaries going forward.”
His strife draws out for several more minutes, and I do my best to talk him down. By the end of the conversation, I’m at least sure he won’t quit. But even that small victory doesn’t stop me from once again falling face first into the toilet the moment I set the phone down.
“Ana?” Evan calls from behind me. I turn and see him watching me wearily, his frown deepening as he closely examines the color of my cheeks. “You alright?”
“Oh, yeah. Having a great time.”
He cringes. “Sorry… I just came up here to see if you were still planning on going to your doctor’s appointment. We should be leaving shortly.”
“Oh, shit…” I let my head fall into my hands, the general misery so close to overwhelming me I almost tell him to cancel. But then I remember that Christian said he would be there. So I have to put on a brave front to communicate to him that I can handle this and that his reaction to this pregnancy is completely overblown.
It’s that resolve that pulls me off the bathroom floor. I hurriedly take yet another nausea lozenge from the tin on my counter, then hand it over to Evan. Downstairs, Harper gives me a bottle of water to sip on the drive, and I cling to it for dear life.
All of that ends up on the asphalt of the parking lot in front of my OBGYN’s office when I step out of the SUV and immediately double over.
“Wyatt, is that a photographer?” Evan asks, bending to pull my hair away from my face and gesturing to the bushes at the front of the medical complex. I follow his gaze and see the movement that drew his attention. As Wyatt sets off to investigate, Smith and Harper move to surround me, shrouding me from view while keeping me in a claustrophobic bubble. I groan and hold onto Evan while he moves me around them and guides me through the front doors of the building.
Christian isn’t there waiting for me.
We check in at the front desk and I sit in the waiting room with my CPO, just like I did back in Boston. It’s painful this time. Not just because I’d prefer the CPO I had then to the one I have now, but because he doesn’t have to be here at all. This time, I should have Christian next to me, and I don’t. Not even after he promised he’d be here. Every second that ticks past seems to come slower and slower, but my eyes stay trained on the door. With each and every one of them, I can hear the words he said to me yesterday as clearly as if he was saying them in front of me right now. “I’ll be there.”
Well, where the fuck is he?
“We’re ready for you Mrs. Grey.”
My eyes shoot up to the friendly looking woman in magenta colored scrubs, standing at the door with a clipboard in her hands. She smiles at me expectantly, but my eyes move back to the door one last time. Then I reach into my purse for my phone. There isn’t a text from Christian, so I send one of my own.
You said you’d be here.
“Anastasia?” The nurse presses me. I toss my phone back in my bag, take a deep breath, and smile at her.
“Yes, sorry.” She sweeps her arm through the door and directs me to a room at the end of the hall. It’s oddly relieving walking into the examination room without my security team hovering over me. The nurse directs me to take a seat on the table and asks several questions. Then she leaves me for a few minutes to let me change into a paper gown. I take the time before the doctor arrives to check my phone for Christian’s response, but there’s nothing.
Only a ‘read’ receipt.
“Mrs. Grey?” I glance up at the knock on the door, and Dr. Greene steps into the room. She beams at me with all the summer light of August as she plops down on a stool and rolls her way across the room. “I hear you might be pregnant?”
“Yeah, I took a test and it was positive.”
Somehow, her smile brightens. “Well, we’re going to take another one, and if that one comes back positive, we’ll get you an ultrasound.”
“Okay, tha—“ I’m cut off by another knock on the door, which Dr. Greene acknowledges with confusion.
A balding man who wears a suit beneath his white coat enters the room, looking embarrassed before he even starts to speak. “I’m sorry, Dr. Greene, but Mrs. Grey is actually going to have her examination performed by her… uh, personal physician.”
I raise an eyebrow at him. “Personal physician?”
He steps back and Christian walks into the room, followed closely by… Dr. Baker. My OBGYN from Boston.
“Good afternoon,” Dr. Baker says, her overly polite handshake a clear play at breaking the awkward tension in the room. “I’m so sorry that this is happening.”
“But it is,” Christian says, leaving no room for argument. He holds the door open and glances at Dr. Greene. “If you wouldn’t mind…”
The look of shock on Dr. Greene’s face is palpable. Her eyes move to the man in the suit, but he shakes his head in return. Straightening her jacket, she turns the same cheery smile on me and takes my hand.
“I’m sure you’re in very good hands, Mrs. Grey. Excuse me.”
Dr. Greene gets off the stool and marches proudly from the room. Once the door closes behind her, I turn wide eyes on my husband.
“You have got to be kidding me?”
“Don’t,” he snaps back, his voice a warning. I grind my teeth together and turn to Dr. Baker.
“Oh, it’s alright.” She lowers herself onto Dr. Green’s vacated stool. “How are you feeling?”
My eyes move nervously to Christian, only to find him staring intently back at me, clearly ready to analyze everything I say.
“The morning sickness has been… a lot,” I tell her, trying to downplay any negative as much as possible. She nods and flips through the files she must have brought from her own records.
“That was true with Calliope too…” She flips through her papers again and starts reading through her notes, reciting the medications that had worked for me in the past. She’s not even able to get her prescription pad out though, before Christian is cutting her off.
“Tell her what you told me.”
“Mr. Grey, perhaps we should…”
“No! Tell her what you told me.”
Dr. Baker takes a deep breath and swivels on her stool to face me again. There’s hesitance in her eyes that wasn’t there before, and it makes me feel cold.
“Mr. Grey called to talk to me about your history, and how it may affect this pregnancy…” She pauses, as though she’s uncertain how she should continue, and I take a bracing breath.
“Well, generally, women who experience a placental abruption during their first pregnancy are at high risk for reoccurrence for every pregnancy thereafter.”
“How high is the risk?”
“It’s about 1 in 10.”
I take a much easier breath and look between the doctor and my husband like they’re crazy. “That’s only a ten percent chance it’ll happen. That means there’s a ninety percent chance it won’t.”
Christian turns yet another insistent look on the doctor, and she frowns. “It’s just that, it’s such a rare complication to begin with that the jump in probability is, medically, staggering. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy pregnancy. It just means…” She pauses, like she can’t decide whether or not she’s actually trying to scare me or encourage me. “You had a very traumatic delivery the first time. There will be some damage and scarring to your uterus that could make any future complications you do experience… more severe than they were in the past.”
Christian stiffens, and my mouth goes dry.
Dr. Baker smiles again, picking up the mood of the room in the same skilled way Dr. Greene did. “But we shouldn’t panic until we know all the facts. Why don’t we take a look, huh? You wanna lay back for me?”
I do as she asks, and place my legs in the plastic stirrups on either side of her. She wheels the ultrasound closer to me and pulls a long line of blue gel across the probe. Once it slides inside of me, my eyes immediately dart to the monitor it’s connected to, and Christian’s hand wraps around mine. I flinch a little as the wand moves around, but any discomfort vanishes from my mind the moment I see the small flicker amongst the static in front of me. When Dr. Baker turns up the volume, and the sound of a thrumming heartbeat fills the vacant silence around us, Christian’s hold on my hand tightens.
I turn to him, and feel the first sense of hope I’ve been able to conjure in days. His eyes are stuck on the monitor and the crease in his brow isn’t from anger or defensiveness. It’s discovery. For a long breath, Christian stares at the flicker as though he’s seeing the sun rise after a night he thought would never end. There’s awe. There’s surprise. There’s want…
And then he looks at Dr. Baker and his eyes cloud over again.
My gaze shoots to Dr. Baker only to find her carefully composed demeanor now colored with concern.
“It seems…” She shakes her head and stops, moving the wand around again and narrowing her eyes as she leans in to examine the screen. When she finds whatever it is she’s looking for, she turns a grim look on Christian. “I see two heartbeats.”
She points to the monitor, circling her finger around one black circle, then another. “It’s twins.”
My mouth drops open as what she’s showing me comes into focus. Two tiny disturbances in a field of static gray that each flicker with their own unique signs of life. It takes a careful ear, but listening to the sound from the ultrasound machine closely, I start to hear the difference between the two heartbeats.
“Oh my god,” I breathe, reaching out to touch the screen.
“What does that mean?” Christian asks.
“It means… Well, pregnancies with multiples present risks all their own. With Ana’s history…” She pauses in the same way, like she’s preparing to give devastating news. “It makes the risk of a placental abruption much higher.”
“How much higher?” I ask, before Christian can go on whatever rant he’s got on deck. “20%? 30%? 50?”
The doctor worries her lip a bit with her teeth, then takes a deep breath. “I’ve never seen a case where a woman with your history became pregnant with multiples and had a normal pregnancy.”
“No,” Christian says, dropping my hand and storming away from the bed. He begins to pace, his hands up in the air as if he doesn’t really know what to do with them. “No. No. No. No. No.”
I block him out and turn to the doctor. “So, you’re saying this pregnancy isn’t viable?”
“I’m not saying it isn’t viable. I am saying it’s high risk. Extremely high risk.”
“So what does that look like?”
“Well, let me take some measurements.”
She starts to drag her cursor across the screen, drawing lines that measure the size of the babies. Christian returns to my side, but his jaw is locked, his body is seized with stress, and there’s a dangerous fight brewing in his eyes. He shakes his head the entire time Dr. Baker works, so I do my best not to look at him.
“I’d say you’re about nine weeks, and based on the size of the fetuses, I think you’re looking at permanent bed rest starting around four, maybe five months.”
So only two months from now…
“And that will let me carry them to term?”
“I can’t give you any definitives, but if you intend to move forward with this pregnancy…”
“I do,” I say before any other suggestion can be made.
“Well, then… I would probably account for an early delivery in your birth plan.”
“Will I be able to carry them long enough for them to survive?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about her?” Christian interjects again. Dr. Baker turns to him, a questioning eyebrow arched high over her amber colored eyes. “You said that the damage from Calliope’s delivery could make all of this worse, and the only thing that could be worse than her almost dying, is the absence of ‘almost.’”
Her lips press together as she weighs the advice she has to give. “We know what to expect this time and we can plan in a way we couldn’t before… I’m the best, and I’ll do everything I can.”
“That’s not good enough.” He turns again, moving all the way to the far side of the room. His back is turned to us, his hands on both his hips, his breathing exaggerated. “Dr. Baker, would you give me a moment alone with my wife?”
“Of course, Mr. Grey.” She gives me a reassuring kind of smile and squeezes my hand before she makes her exit. I keep my eyes focused on Christian, waiting for a tirade that doesn’t come. He just stands there, looking at the wall.
“I don’t know what to say to you, Christian…” I begin, nervously. He lets out a defeated sigh, then turns back to look at me.
“You know, I know what Kate is going to say to you on your deathbed. It’s a beautiful speech, you’re really going to love it..”
My throat tightens, and I swallow automatically. “Stop…”
“I know what your dad’s face looks like the moment he realizes he’s lost you forever. I know what my mother’s tears sound like, I know what color Mia’s complexion turns… You think I’m being callous, but it’s only because all of that is very real to me. I’ve been trapped in that moment every time I’ve gone to sleep this week, and I’m telling you, Ana… I can’t live through that again. I can’t lose you.”
“Christian…” My eyes start to fill with tears and words fail me. Stuttering sounds croak their way from my throat like a broken muffler, but I can’t turn them into sentences. What is there to say?
I think he senses my moment of weakness, because he flies across the room and takes me by the hand.
“Please,” he pleads. “Ana… please. You can put it all on me. You can hate me for it. You can punish me for it. I can live through that. I can’t live through losing you. Please, don’t do this.”
I turn away, unable to bear the unusual supplication in his gaze. Dr. Baker’s insights have suddenly painted this whole scene a new color that my eyes haven’t quite adjusted to yet. I don’t even know what I’m thinking right now, and Christian’s pleas on top of my own uncertainty is overwhelming.
“I need to think about it,” I mumble. His calm and subjugated demeanor evaporates, and he shoves away from the examination table.
“Think about what? Did you hear what the doctor just told you? You can’t do this, Anastasia.”
“That’s not what she said…”
“That’s exactly what she fucking said! You can wade through the margins looking for as much hope as you want, but she was very clear about what we should expect. It’ll be worse than it was last time. You’re not going to make it through this, and I will never accept that.”
“Well then let’s talk about things that we’ll never be able to accept, Christian. What do you think it’ll do to me to wake up everyday knowing that I made the choice to end the lives of my children?”
“They’re not our children.” He growls the menacing words through clenched teeth, the same uncontrollable rage boiling to the surface I saw last week before I ran to my dad’s, and it once again has me moving away from him. This time though, he stops and takes a moment to breathe, rather than let his anger explode out of control. Still, when he speaks again, it’s through clenched teeth. “What about Calliope?”
“That’s exactly what I’ve been telling you!” I reach down for my stomach. “This could have been Calliope. It was Calliope. And I wouldn’t trade her to take everything that happened back, even if it had been worse. I wouldn’t even consider it. Not for a second.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, if you don’t…” He chokes slightly over his words, so he has to swallow and change direction. “Calliope is here, real, and she needs you. You’re her mother and right now, what you’re talking about could leave her in this world without you. I lost my mother at four and all that I have left of her are a couple flashes of a hairbrush. Calliope’s not even two, Anastasia. She’ll have nothing. She won’t even remember you.”
That hits me harder than anything he’s said so far. The pain in the last part of that statement is almost unfathomable, and I have to turn around again so he doesn’t see the tears welling in my eyes. Half of me expects his touch, though it never comes. He lets me cry softly to myself, letting me feel everything he just said to me.
“This is real too,” I say at last.
“I saw you during the ultrasound, the moment you saw the heartbeat. This is real. You can pretend it isn’t all you want, but it is. I heard what Dr. Baker said, I hear the pain in your voice… but that does not make this an easy decision for me.”
“I don’t expect it to be easy. I expect you to be rational.”
I blink, then look away again. I can feel the fight inside me dying away and the feeling that takes its place is dark, like a cloud rolling across a clear blue sky that bleeds the color from everything around me. I feel an echo of oppressive hopelessness swirling menacingly over me, calling me into it’s deadly depths like a misplaced lighthouse in the middle of a storm.
It’s everything I fear, and I feel it creeping towards me with a kind of inevitability that can’t be stopped, except by the warmth and light emanating from my womb.
“I need some time to think about it,” I say, numbly.
His head rolls back with frustration, but he doesn’t scream at me anymore. He clenches his jaw, pulls his lips tightly together, and starts to nod.
“Fine. I’ll go back to Escala tonight. But I’m coming home tomorrow, and we are going to make a decision.”
“I don’t plan on changing my position.”
He swallows, then starts toward me. I nearly trip and fall to the floor in my hurry to be engulfed in his arms. He holds me so tightly against him, it’s like he’s ready to fight a tug-of-war against death to keep hanging on.
“I love you, and I won’t survive without you.” He leans his forehead against mine. “Your heart beats, my heart beats. Please remember that.”
I nod, and his lips melt into mine.
An hour later, I’m home and am greeted with the sounds of Calliope’s misery filled cries the moment I come through the door. Mackensie has her in her arms, while Gail hovers over them with her favorite pink elephant in hand, but my baby just wants to scream. Big alligator tears roll down her cherry red cheeks, and the sight of them makes my nipples ache.
“Oh, Calliope,” I say, reaching for her the moment I step into the kitchen. Her gray eyes lock with mine, and she nearly throws herself from Mackensie’s grip in an attempt to get to me. I catch her just in time to keep her from tumbling to the floor, while she suctions to me like an octopus wrapping around her prey. Her tears stop almost the moment I have her, replaced instead with a whimpered ‘mama’ that she repeats into my blouse over and over again.
“She’s been like that since you left,” Kensie says, drooping onto a barstool and laying over the top of the counter. “I’ve tried everything.”
I reach up and place a hand on her forehead, then kiss both of her cheeks. She doesn’t feel warm, and now that she’s in my arms, she’s fairly pacified.
“She misses her Daddy,” I say, hugging her against me and swaying back and forth.
“Should I take her to Escala?”
I shake my head. “No, I want her with me. Go ahead and take the day, Kensie. I’ve got her.”
“Are you not going into work?”
“Not today.” I lean back so I can look at Calliope’s face, and brush away a few stray hairs that have stuck to the tears on her cheeks. “She can hang out with me in my office here.”
“Alright,” Kensie says, though her tone expresses a great deal of reservation. “I’m just going to hang out in the staff residence then, if you need me.”
“Thank you.” I give her a kind, but dismissive smile, and start towards my office. Calliope’s playroom is just across from me, so I set up the baby gate at the end of the hall to keep her where she’s supposed to be, then keep both doors open for her to move between the rooms freely. Her toys end up scattered over the pretty rug on the floor that keeps my office from being too oppressive and masculine, the way Christian’s office feels. I find myself distracted on most of my phone calls and ignoring more emails than I probably should, but I can’t bring myself to care. I know what a dire position we’re in right now, I know that Phoenix is still in it’s baby stages and needs my nurturing to get it where it needs to be, I know the promises I’ve made… but the only thing that feels good right now is Calliope.
She makes the storm clouds part, she breaks through the darkness shrouding my thoughts like golden sunlight.
She’s what I’m fighting for, she’s what I have to lose. And yet, the battle waging between Christian and I, between my fear and my hope, and between reality and possibility doesn’t touch her. She is joy, and nothing can dampen that.
After yet another lonely dinner, Calliope and I move into the living room. I build her a squishy bed of pillows and blankets on the floor and turn on The Little Mermaid while I read through the edits Stevens has submitted for Phoenix. It’s a good arrangement, until Calliope starts trying to sing along with ‘Under the Sea,’ and everything else, work included, disappears.
I push my laptop to the side and move closer to her, brushing the tip of my nose against hers again and again until she starts to giggle. The sound makes my heartbeat quicken.
“I love you so much, Calli-lily,” I tell her. She lets herself fall forward so that her lips mash into mine, and I pull her into my lap while I smother her with kisses. Her laugher chimes around me like a bell that wards away the demons, clearing my mind and calming my soul. I lean back against the couch and stare into the eyes that mirror so perfectly the ones that own my heart. “Do you want to be a big sister?”
“No,” she replies, with the same kind of causal dismissal she would use if I offered her more peas or a cup of juice. I don’t know if it’s the exhaustion, the stress, or the start of a complete mental breakdown, but her response makes me laugh so hard, I nearly lose my grip on her. She laughs back, clearly having a fabulous time even though she has no idea what’s going on, and it only makes the warmth surrounding her glow brighter. I squeeze her as hard as I can.
“You really are your father’s daughter.”
“Yeah. Just like Daddy.”
My fingers find their way to her sides and I start to tickle her just as an unexpected commotion erupts in my entryway. I look up, hoping the beep from the security alarm is a prelude to Christian’s entrance, but instead, it’s followed by raised voices. Harper, who has spent the last hour silently camped out at the kitchen table, gets up with her hand on the holster attached to her hip. I nervously start to take Calliope in my arms, preparing to dart to the basement, then stop when Kate, clinging tightly to Kennedy, storms into the living room looking as though she’s just been through an ordeal.
I perk up immediately.
She lets out a huff and moves Kennedy higher up on her hip, pointing over her shoulder to the four hulking figures hovering in the shadows behind her. “That’s a little much, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yeah. Well… Christian.”
She nods her head in agreement, but rolls her eyes as she moves next to me on the couch. After placing Kennedy in the pillowy bed next to Calliope, she kisses my baby on the forehead and plops down on the couch next to me. There’s an accusation in her eyes that I don’t understand.
“Your husband is having a breakdown in your apartment.”
She shrugs. “Elliot is over there right now trying to talk him off the ledge, but apparently he’s completely fucking losing it. And there’s lots of alcohol involved so, you know, only good things can happen from this point forward.”
I shake my head in disbelief and start to get off the couch, but she reaches out and wraps her fingers around my wrist to stop me.
“Ana. I know you had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and now Christian is on a rampage.” She hesitates, which is unusual for Kate. “What happened?”
I collapse back into the sofa, fighting against the pinprick sting of tears at the corners of my eyes. The darkness my afternoon with Calliope managed to keep at bay, starts to seep through the cracks in the armor around me, and I feel myself falling into the pain-filled chasm Christian and I have found ourselves on opposite sides of once again without any idea how I’ll ever climb out.
“It’s twins,” I tell her, and the concern on her face is instantly replaced with joy.
“Twins?! But Ana, that’s amazing!”
I give her a dark glare that drains away her relief like water through a sieve. “It’s going to be like last time. The doctor told me that I was already at high risk for another placental abruption, twins makes it a certainty. And the scarring from my first abruption could make this one worse. Much worse.”
In the exact same way I watched it happen with Christian, then Luke, then my father, a look of abject horror sweeps across her face. Her color fades, her mouth drops open, and her eyes reflect a kind of terror I can’t let myself feel. She blinks wildly for a few minutes, processing what I’ve said and somehow coming up more lost.
“He flew in my doctor from Cambridge,” I continue. “I thought maybe she was overreacting or letting my history cloud her actual, medical opinion, because everything she told me just got worse and worse. But I stopped by my regular obstetrician’s office and when she looked at the charts… well, she didn’t even give me the slim ray of hope Dr. Baker did. She told me the risk is so bad that the states with the strictest abortion laws have exemptions for this situation. ‘Danger to the life of the mother.’”
The quote tastes bitter on my tongue.
“Jesus.” The word is filled with hurt and disbelief, in the exact same tenor that resonates inside of me. She curls into herself a little as she pushes back into the cushions, then blinks back at me with a kind of sympathy that tells me she doesn’t have the sage words or wisdom to guide me forward. “What are you going to do?”
A tear breaks over my waterline, and I dash it away before more can follow. “I don’t know. I hear what the doctor’s are telling me, I understand what it means, and I can feel what it’s doing to Christian… but I just can’t do it.”
“Yeah, choice. I don’t choose this. I don’t want this. I—“ My eyes fall on Calliope, who has started drifting off with her cousin, and the argument inside of me changes. I don’t know how, I don’t know what to… and the frustration I feel in that confusion breaks the last of my self-control. I dissolve into all consuming tears, and Kate wraps all the way around me.
“I know, Ana. You’re a mother protecting her children. Of course you can’t.”
“Am I though?” I shake my head and pull away from her, tears still streaming down my face as I unload everything on her that I can’t carry alone anymore. “What if I don’t survive, Kate? What if it happens exactly the way it happened last time, except I don’t wake up? I’ll leave Christian absolutely devastated, alone, with three kids under the age of two. Even if it’s just Calliope… He’s twenty-four, he could live another seventy years. I couldn’t even fathom having to live through that amount of time without him. How can I risk putting him through that?”
There’s a vision that runs through my mind then, one I’ve seen over and over again since I took that pregnancy test. Christian and I tossing the kids into the rust colored piles of leaves beneath the giant trees in our backyard. It suddenly disappears. There’s no laughter from my daughter, no blissful happiness behind the smile of the man I love. It’s just gone. A picture of Calliope’s graduation takes its place, but as I disappear from the image, the pride on Christian’s face changes to regret and longing, while Calliope smiles through a deep kind of sadness I can feel the permanence of.
“So… are you going to terminate the pregnancy?” Kate’s nervous voice breaks through the picture. I bite my lip while the images dissolve from my mind and slowly shake my head.
“I can’t. There’s absolutely no way I could go through with it, and even if I could, I’d never be able to live with myself.”
She nods solemnly, then wraps her arms around me again. I sit in her embrace for a few long, silent moments, then I bury my face in her shirt and let myself fall apart.