The Roommate's Baby

By: Penny Wylder



"Rina Smith?"

I straighten my skirt and shove to my feet, waving at the nurse behind the desk and wondering if she recognizes me by now. After all, it's my third time here at the clinic.

My stomach is a huge ball of nerves. My first two visits were easy—I just had to speak to the doctor about what I want. That much wasn't hard. I want a baby. Then I had to submit my employment history, proof of my capabilities to take care of said baby, not to mention being able to afford the steep price tag attached to this treatment. But again, that wasn't hard. I've had a hugely successful legal career, and I'm due for another promotion next quarter when my boss and mentor retires and names me as her successor. My life is completely on track in every way. By the time I'm forty, just twelve years from now, I should make partner at my firm. I'm living every dream I've ever had.

Except one.

I've been kind of busy, between killing it at work, keeping up with all my close friends, and enjoying my time off in ways I love—vacationing at the shore, going on hikes on the weekends–I haven't had a lot of time to date.

Okay, so I've had zero time for dating, actually. Ever since my first and only long-term relationship fell apart a few years ago. Well, more like blew up in my face. It’s left me hesitant to ever go through anything like that again.

But who needs love anyway? At least the romantic kind. I don't need a partner—I love my friends, I love my family... And I love the baby I'm going to have.

What could possibly go wrong? Me, raising a kid all on my own. After all, my mom had me when she was my age, an oops baby from a one-night stand who was never involved in my life. She raised me on her own, all while maintaining her career as the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, and we were happy as hell. I never needed another parent in my life, I never felt like I missed out on having a dad. I had Mom, I had my grandparents, I had my aunts and uncles... And my baby will have the same.

Just as soon as I get through this procedure.

As long as I can be as strong as my mom. As independent. As caring and loving and involved enough to take up the space that most people need two parents for.

There go those nerves again, rioting in my stomach.

I take a deep breath as I stride up to the counter at the IVF clinic to begin filling out the last round of paperwork.

"Excited?" the nurse asks me with a polite smile.

"And nervous," I admit, forcing a smile back.

"That's perfectly natural. But you’re ready to go for this?"

"Of course."

"Well, let's just wait for your partner to get here, and then we can get started," she says, still smiling.

I bite my lower lip and hesitate. The swirl in my gut only worsens. "Um..."

"What's the matter? Is he running late?" The nurse frowns.

I wince. Clearly she has me confused with someone else. "No, there's, ah, no partner. I'm single."

"Oh! My goodness, I'm so sorry," the nurse replies, all in a rush that almost makes me wonder if there's something to be sorry for.

I hate the expression on her face. The poor you look.

I want a baby. I haven't met a man I'd want to reproduce with. And thanks to modern medicine, I don't need a man for it, I can just come in here, pick a photo and profile of a guy from a selection of donors, and get on with my life.

So why do I feel like something is missing? Like there’s a hole where half of this equation ought to be?

I ignore the sensation. Push it right down to the bottom of my heart, where I push everything else. Remember what happened last time you got serious with a guy? He dumped me drunkenly at a St. Patrick’s Day party, in front of all our mutual friends because he wanted to stay out playing beer pong longer.

I don’t need that. I don’t need a guy to complicate everything, to mock me or belittle me. I can do this on my own. Just like Mom. I ball up my fists and keep that fake smile plastered on my face.

"It's all right," I'm in the middle of saying to the nurse when the doors to the clinic burst open. A woman hurries through, out of breath, her eyes wild. She brushes in front of me, and I'm about to protest, but when I take one look at her panicked expression, I let her through. It must be some kind of emergency.

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