The Roommate's Baby

By: Penny Wylder

I glance from her broad smile to the nurse, who's offering me an apologetic grimace as she stands, on her way back to the desk. Then I look to Mr. and Mrs. Henry, tightly embracing, both of their faces a mask of fear and concern.

"Rina?" Dr. Morgan prompts.

I look back up at her, the waves of nausea in my stomach turning into a full-blown ocean of worry. "Actually, I'm going to have to come back," I say.

Dr. Morgan steps fully into the waiting room now, letting the doors to the clinic swing shut behind her. "But Rina, we've timed your cycle exactly. If you don't come in today, we'll have to wait a whole month, restart the cycle all over again."

"I know, I know," I babble. What's my problem? I know what I want. I've been planning for this for months. I've scheduled everything down to a T—I took time off work for the next couple of days to rest, I've planned out when I'll tell my mom if the cycle works, I've got a list of new apartments that I'm looking at so I move once there's a baby on the way. I've even spoken to my mentor about my maternity leave options at work, and they're pretty decent.

I have everything planned, covered all my bases. It's now or never. This is what I want—a baby. This is what I need to do to get what I want.

Yet now, staring down at my fate—and at Mrs. Henry's fate—I feel my feet moving of their own volition. Not toward the clinic doors, but away, toward the exit, one slow step at a time.

"Rina, what's wrong? If you have any concerns, please, let's discuss them."

"I'm just..." I glance from Dr. Morgan to Mrs. Henry and back again. Mrs. Henry seems to finally notice that there's someone else in the room. She lifts her tear-stained face to mine and frowns at me.

"I'm just not sure I've pursued all my options," I hear myself saying to the doctor.

"Don't do this yet then," Mrs. Henry speaks up, shaking.

"Sweetie, shh," her husband whispers.

She shakes him off and pushes to her feet. "I mean it. If you have no other options, I understand, but if there's another way for you..." Mrs. Henry gazes into my eyes, desperate, suddenly, as though to save me from her own fate. "Don't do this unless it's your last resort."

That does it.

"Rina, let's discuss this in private," Dr. Morgan is saying.

"That's all right. I'm sorry, Dr. Morgan. I have to go." I'm babbling, but I don't care. I need to get out of here, now.

I bolt through the doors, my mind at war with itself. What am I doing? I thought I wanted this.

In the parking lot, I nearly run straight into the mess that Mrs. Henry left behind. The man, her donor, is still shouting and screaming, even as the security guards wrestle him toward the ambulance that's pulled up. "Please!" he shouts. "Please, I just want to talk to her. She's carrying my child! My child!"

The last thing I see are his wild eyes as a uniformed ambulance driver slams the doors to the back of the ambulance in his face, while another tries to wrestle him onto a stretcher inside.

I hurry across the parking lot to my car. Once inside, I suck in a few deep breaths, trying to steady myself. Still, my hands are shaking so hard that it takes me several fumbling tries to start the ignition and put the car into gear. I pull out of there in a rush and make a beeline for home, my heart heavy and my stomach a riot of nerves.

I speed through the drive home, probably faster than recommended. Once at my apartment complex, I leave my keys with the valet downstairs and head straight up to the penthouse loft I share with Cannon—my roommate, my coworker, my close friend since law school. Yes, on our salaries we could have both afforded our own places years ago. But not one quite as lux as this apartment, right downtown, a five minute walk to our office, central to all the restaurants and bars that we love —and the penthouse suite in a luxury building, complete with valets, maids, butlers, the whole nine yards.

Yes, we're spoiled. But we also just like having roommates. At least this way, we joke, if one of us chokes while we’re eating, we have a chance at getting rescued. Or if we slip and fall in the bathtub, someone may find us before our bodies get too gross.

We might have a slightly morbid sense of humor about our roommate situation.

But today I'm not in the mood for Cannon's usual jokes. By the time the elevator dings open straight onto our floor, I'm barely keeping it together. My eyes burn and my throat is tight, and all I want to do is retreat to my bedroom and cry my eyes out, preferably with an enormous container of Ben and Jerry's. But when I step out of the elevator onto our floor, I see Cannon has taken the pint I bought out of the fridge and helped himself to it on the couch. He's more than halfway through the container already, and he's watching that stupid cowboy show I hate.

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