The Roommate's Baby

By: Penny Wylder

"Please, you have to help me," the woman shouts to the nurse at the desk.

The nurse frowns and glances from the woman's face to the stack of papers in front of her. With a shuffle, I see her move my file aside and open the one beneath it. "Mrs. Henry?"

"Yes, yes."

"I'm sorry, I had you down for half an hour later," the nurse is saying. This must be the woman she confused me with. "Can you wait a moment while I—"

"There's a man," the woman, Mrs. Henry, interrupts, "in the parking lot. My husband is still out there arguing with him. He tried to grab me, I..."

The nurse is back on her feet in an instant. "Please, Mrs. Henry, have a seat, I'll call our security team."

My eyes go wide as the nurse reaches for the phone. Just moments later, a full team of security guards burst through the clinic doors and out into the parking lot. Through the exterior door, when it swings open, I spy two men standing outside. One is restraining the other, with both of his arms pulled behind his back. The man being held back looks wild, his hair a mess, clothes askew, as he screams toward the open door.

"That's my child! I don't want her to have my child!"

The doors slam shut after him, but not before Mrs. Henry and I both get an earful of what he just yelled. She collapses in tears, and I stand aside as the nurse rushes to embrace her.

"It's all right," the nurse coos, rubbing Mrs. Henry's back as she continues to sob. "It's going to be okay. We'll take care of this."

"It's the donor, isn't it?" Mrs. Henry wails. "I recognize him. From the brochure."

"It's just a misunderstanding. We'll sort everything out."

Mrs. Henry hiccups. "We... we just picked the sample that seemed best. He..." She hiccups again. "He reminded me of my husband. And John can't have children, so we thought... This seemed best..."

"And it will be, Mrs. Henry, I promise you. Everything will work out."

"But that man." She glances over her shoulder at the now firmly-shut clinic door. "He said he didn't want me to carry his child. He said he changed his mind. He doesn't want his son or daughter out in the world without him knowing them, without him having any contact at all..."

My stomach churns. I clutch the counter beside me to steady myself. But my mind is already racing back to last night, when I sat at home with a stack of donor files and carefully selected my candidate. A handsome blond man with piercing green eyes and an excellent school record. He donated his sperm to help pay his way through grad school. He's smart, seems funny, at least from the way he worded his answers on the clinic questionnaire. I don't mind having kids out in the world, he wrote on the paper, as long as I'm not on the hook for child support, someone might as well take advantage of these good genes!

He wrote that when he agreed to be a donor, but what if he changes his mind? What if years later he comes looking for me, tries to get custody, or something worse? What if he goes mad like that man outside in the parking lot screaming his head off right now?

The doors swing open again and Mrs. Henry gasps and startles. But it's just her husband now, the man who was holding the other one's arms. John I guess. He rushes to her side and cradles her in his arms, taking over from the nurse. "It's okay, sweetie, the security team have him now. They're taking him to the hospital, to get him help."

Watching him hold her, comfort her, makes my heart constrict. Maybe, if I were with a guy like that, then this whole thing wouldn’t seem so difficult or frightening…

Then I shake myself out of it. John Henry seems nice right now, but I’m sure eventually he’ll turn out just like my ex did. I’ll stick with the safe bet. No Mr. Husband for me, thank you very much.

"That's our child's father," Mrs. Henry is wailing, meanwhile. "What if our child turns out like him, what if he comes back looking for me, what if..." She trails off into another mess of hiccups.

Just then, the doors to the back of the clinic swing open again. My doctor, Dr. Morgan, pokes her head through, completely oblivious to the disaster that's taking place in her waiting room. "Rina?" she calls. Her eyes dart to me immediately, her usual calm, reassuring smile on her face. "Are you ready? We've been waiting for you."

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