She sat at the laminate table, head in her hands, completely spent. She had cried a lifetime’s quota of tears and there was no moisture left in her. She had become a desert of emotions, devoid of even the ability to smile wanly at her friends’ efforts to amuse her.
The trajectory of her life, this yawning chasm of mediocrity, each day of drudgery more laboured than the next, had drained the colour from her personality and her complexion.
Was this her punishment for not keeping the first baby?
Excising it from her body before it was barely bigger than a walnut had seemed the only solution to her misery at the time. How could she bring a child into this waking nightmare of a marriage? The unfairness of it on an infant, an innocent, weighed heavily on her.
And now this. This latest lesion in her death by a thousand tiny papercuts hunched her shoulders even further. It was the waiting that was so impossibly hard. A second little line on a stick, another little line on her journey up life’s mountain, yet another little line to join the others on her arms.
“Hey, baby! Watchya doin’?”
Oh God! He was home. She grabbed the white stick lying on the table between her elbows and shoved it deep into the pocket of her jeans. Pulling her sleeves down over her wrists and onto the mounds of her palms, she stood.
He came up behind her, stretching his arms around her and lacing his fingers across her belly.
“Don’t worry. We’ll try again. Don’t be sad. I know how much you want a baby. Soon, babe. Soon.”
He gently swept the hair from her neck and kissed her, his lips brushing like butterfly wings across her skin.
“I’ll go shower, then maybe we can go down to the pub for dinner?” Taking her silence for consent, he walked to the bathroom, peeling clothes off as he went.
She heard the rushing torrent of the shower, then his whistling, confirming that he was firmly ensconced under the steaming water. Safe in the knowledge she wouldn’t be discovered, she reached into her pocket and retrieved the test stick.
She inhaled, held her breath, and willed herself to look at it.
Just one blue line.
She was light-headed with relief. A crooked smile crept across her mouth. She could pretend to be happy just a little bit longer now, a pretence fuelled by reprieve.