by Pembroke Sinclair
Mia waited for the printer to spit the paper into the tray. She chewed nervously on her nail until the printout dropped into the holder, then she picked it up delicately. She scanned the page until her eyes fell on the results section in the middle. Positive. She felt her heart sink.
Mia hated having to turn in that report. She hated to sit at her desk and look at the couple sitting across from her, their hands intertwined and bodies leaning forward waiting for the good news, only to tell them that one or both of them were mutated. Every time their faces crumpled and the tears flowed, she felt a little piece of herself die. All of their hopes and dreams were shattered in one brief moment, and their carefully formulated plans dashed. Mia knew how that felt. She knew how devastating an instant could be.
She placed the paper into a folder and headed into her office. She started when she noticed a person sitting in the chair across from her desk, then scowled when she recognized who it was. She took her lab coat off and hung it on the back of the door before making her way to her chair and taking a seat. She folded her hands on the desk and leaned forward.
“What are you doing here, Bo?” She noticed that his hair was mussed and his generally sharp green eyes looked faded and tired. He slid forward in his chair and placed his hand on the desk.
“I need your help, Mia. Pam, from Texas, well, uh, she just found out she is pregnant, and I need you to test each of us for mutation.”
Mia felt her face flush and she clenched her jaw. She pulled her hands from the desk and folded them across her chest. Sucking in a deep breath, she averted her gaze to the window and tried to calm the rage that was boiling inside of her.
“Look, I know I have no right to ask,” Bo pleaded, “but what’s done is done. We can’t change what happened. I need to know that everything is going to be all right.”
“We have waiting lists,” Mia snapped. “We are already two months behind in screening our regular clients. What makes you think you can push your way to the head of the line?”
“Please, Mia,” he whispered, looking forlorn. “Please do it for me.”
She wanted to slap the plea from his face. He had some audacity coming into her office and expecting her to help him. Not after Dallas. She took another deep breath and looked him in the eye. “I’ll see what I can do.”
He stood from his chair. “Thank you.”
She mouthed obscenities at the back of his head as he left.
Mia was still fuming later that afternoon when she pulled into her sister’s driveway. She turned the engine off and gripped the steering wheel. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm down. The squeals of children permeated the car, and Mia looked out her passenger side window.
Nathan and Sadie had been playing in the flowerbeds with bright yellow trucks when she pulled up. As she sat in the driveway, they had moved from the dirt and placed their filthy hands on the passenger window and smiled widely. Mia smiled back and stepped out of the car; her frustration melted away only slightly. She walked around the front of the vehicle; the kids met her half way and wrapped their arms tightly around her legs.
“Aunt Mia! Aunt Mia!” They pressed smudged faces snotty noses into her black skirt. She bent down and embraced both of them, their small hands gripping her neck.
“How are my favorite niece and nephew?” She kissed their cheeks.
“Good,” they responded in unison.
“Come and check out my new trucks,” Nathan said and started pulling her by the hand.
“Yeah, come see the new twucks,” Sadie parroted.
Mia followed them to the flowerbed and plopped down next to them in the grass. “Wow,” she spoke as they demonstrated how one truck scooped up the dirt and the other one carried it to a new location.
“Here, you try.” Nathan rolled the truck to her.
She took the truck and flipped the dirt so that it rained down on all three of them, causing the two children to erupt in laughter.
“No!” Nathan giggled. “Not like that, like this.”
“Yeah, like this,” Sadie chimed in.
“Oh, I see,” Mia responded and followed Nathan’s lead. “Like this?”
“Yes.” He sat back on his feet in triumph.
“All right, kids,” a voice from the house spoke. “It’s time to get ready for dinner.”
The three of them turned to look at the children’s father, Luke. He was holding the youngest girl, Kaya, and pushing open the screen door. The group got up and headed for the house, the kids running ahead, while Mia stopped to kiss her brother-in-law on the cheek. She kissed Kaya on the forehead and ran her hand over the baby’s smooth head. She smiled as she thought about how lucky they were.
She brushed her hand across Kaya’s cheek and headed into the house. She made her way into the kitchen where Terri was mashing the potatoes. The two greeted each other with pecks on the cheek.
“How was your day?” Her sister asked.
Mia flopped down into a bar stool and shook her head. “You’re never going to believe what happened. Bo came in today.”
Terri’s eyes grew wide and she stopped messing with the potatoes. “What did he say?”
“Apparently, he got the girl pregnant. He wants me to conduct the test to see if either one of them harbor the errant gene.”
“When are they scheduled?”
Mia furrowed her brow and flattened her hands on the counter. “What makes you think I’m going to do the test at all?”
“Oh, Mia, you have to. It’s the right thing to do.” Terri began working on the potatoes again. “If the test comes back positive, there is still a chance to abort the baby.”
Mia fought back the urge to smack her sister. Bo didn’t do the right thing, why should she be obligated to? “We’re already two months behind,” was the only thing she said.
Terri was about to speak when the kids came running into the kitchen. She told Mia they would talk about it later, and the family sat down to dinner.
After the kids had been tucked into bed and the house was silent, the three adults sat on the couch and shared a few cold ones. They sat quietly and enjoyed their beer before Luke leaned forward in his chair.
“So Terri tells me that Bo came to see you today.”
Mia nodded and took another swig from her bottle. “Yep.”
“What are you going to do?”
Mia sighed and stared at the brown glass. “I’ve already conducted the test.” She whispered. “On Bo anyway.”
Terri choked on her beer. “What? When?”
“About three months ago. When we first started talking about having kids.”
“What did it say?” Luke set his beer on the coffee table.
Mia met his gaze and shrugged. “I don’t know. I was too afraid to find out. Then it happened. The folder’s been sitting in my desk drawer since.”
“Well, you have to find out. You have to tell him.”
“Why, Luke? It’s not going to change anything. He’ll have to be sterilized or he won’t. It’s not going to make his indiscretion goes away. It’s not going to make her less pregnant.”
He placed a hand on her knee. “He deserves to know. She deserves to know. You’re right, it’s not going to change the past. But don’t ruin their lives, their future.”
Mia scoffed and slammed her beer onto the table; the white foam poured over the side and pooled around the bottom in a golden puddle. “Don’t ruin their lives? What about my life?” She stood abruptly from her chair. “Whose side are you on?”
Luke held his hands up in defense and looked to his wife for support. Terri stood and placed a hand on her arm.
“We’re not taking sides,” she explained. “We just don’t want you to do something out of spite that you might regret.”
Mia huffed and grabbed her keys before heading for the door. Both Luke and Terri asked where she was going.
“Home.” She placed her hand on the knob and stopped. Pointing a finger in their direction, she said, “And I have every right to be spiteful right now.”
It took every ounce of self-control for her to not slam the door. No matter how angry she was at Terri and Luke, she didn’t want to wake the kids. She stomped to her car and slammed that door. Her knuckles were white the entire ride home, and her head ached from clenching her jaw.
It took Mia a long time to fall asleep that night, and when she finally did, she found herself back at her wedding day. She could see everything clearly, but it was like she was watching a movie, not actually participating in the festivities. She could see the blue and yellow ribbons hanging from the pews in the church, Sadie dressed in her white dress throwing rose petals into the aisle, and Bo standing at the altar with a smile on is face, his goatee freshly shaved and glasses winking in the light. She saw herself approaching from the back of the room, a smile covering her entire face. The Mia who was watching these events unfold felt a deep sadness develop in her chest. She bowed her head, and when she looked up again, she was in the kitchen of her apartment, chopping up carrots, while Bo was pouring two glasses of wine.
“I was thinking,” she spoke between chops, “that maybe we should be screened soon. And think about having kids.”
Bo clinked down the wine bottle and handed her a glass. She took a long sip of it and turned to face him.
“We’ve had this discussion before,” his voice was icy. “And we decided that it would be best if we waited until we were more settled into our lives and jobs.”
Mia placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know. But what if we never get settled into our lives and jobs? What if it’s always chaotic? I would hate to think that we missed our opportunity because we were waiting for the perfect time. When is the perfect time?”
A loud banging on the door woke Mia from her sleep. She rolled over in her bed and stared at the TV, an old horror movie about kids and a cornfield flashed silently on the screen. She glanced at the clock. 3:00 A.M. The banging sounded again. She pulled herself up slowly and walked to the door. Peering through the peephole, she sighed. Her hand rested on the doorknob a few moments before she pulled it open. Bo stared at her with glassy red-rimmed eyes, leaning against the frame for support. His sandy blonde hair was tousled and his round face was flushed. She pulled the door open farther and he came inside, landing heavily on the couch. She closed the door softly and stared at it briefly before turning and sitting in a chair across from him. She rubbed her eyes, then folded her hands in her lap.
“Have you been drinking?” she asked calmly, but she could feel the anger beginning to rise in her chest.
“Yeah,” he answered. Taking a deep breath, he leaned forward on the couch and pouted. “I just wanted to see you again.”
“And you thought that three in the morning was the ideal time to do that?”
Bo moved off the couch and knelt in front of her, taking her hands into his. “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.” He began sobbing uncontrollably. “I never meant for anything like this to happen. If I could take it all back, I would. I’m really, really sorry.” He buried his head in her lap.
She pulled her hands out of his and placed them on the arms of the chair. “What are you going to do?”
He lifted his head and looked deeply into her eyes. “I don’t know. I don’t really have a choice here, do I? That’s my kid. I can’t deny it anymore. What do you want me to do?”
Tears began to burn her eyes. “I want you to do what you think you should. What you think is right and noble.”
He fell from his knees and sat heavily on the floor. “Will you be there to help me?”
The tears erupted from her eyes and she had to look away. She stared at her dark gray sweats; puddles of black were forming where her tears fell. Bo pulled himself up again and placed his hands on her shoulders. His face turned red and his tears began to mingle with hers.
“Please tell me you will be there to help me,” he whispered.
She stood from the chair, inadvertently pushing him to the floor, and made her way across the room. Sniffing loudly, she wiped the tears from her face. “Why? Why should I be there to help you? You don’t need me. If you did, you would have never done this to me in the first place. How dare you come in here and expect sunshine and rainbows. You knew the consequences of your actions, now live with them.” She turned from him and buried her face into her hands.
The visions of her dream came back to her in a flood. She wanted so badly to have children, but that had been taken away from her. In one drunken moment with ‘an old friend’ while on a business trip in Dallas, Bo had decided their future.
He stood up slowly and wrapped his arms around her. He buried his face into her hair and shoulder, whispering into her ear. “I know. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
She wrestled away from him. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. That child was supposed to be mine!” She started to yell. “I was the one who wanted a baby, not that slut you slept with!” She walked to the front door and jerked it open. “Get out!”
Bo nodded and walked to the door. He paused for a moment and looked into her eyes. “I still love you.”
“Obviously not enough.”
She slammed the door behind him, and collapsed onto the ground. She cried until she couldn’t cry anymore.
Mia was late to work the next day. When she entered her office, there were three messages from her sister. She sat at her desk for a while before picking up the phone and dialing the number.
“Hello?” Terri’s familiar voice spoke on the other end of the line.
“Hey,” Mia responded quietly.
“Hi,” Terri’s tone matched hers. “Everything all right?”
Mia told her the story of Bo’s early morning drunken repentance. Terri was silent for some time, and Mia tried hard not to start crying all over again. She fidgeted with a pencil and the telephone cord.
“Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? Go home and get some sleep. You can come over for dinner tonight, and afterward, we’ll go out and get hammered. Luke will be fine with the kids.”
Mia nodded. “OK. I’ll see you tonight.”
She hung up the phone and walked into the bathroom that was connected to her office. She splashed cold water onto her face and blew her nose. She headed back to her desk and opened her top right drawer. She pulled out a manila folder and set it in front of her. Taking a deep breath, she opened the folder and glanced at the top piece of paper. It was her test results. She scanned the page quickly. Negative. She didn’t have the errant gene. She tentatively turned over the readout to look at the results for Bo. Her breath caught as her eyes stopped on the Positive.
All of the anger slowly drained from her body, and she closed the folder mechanically. She reached for the phone. She brought the earpiece to her head and was about to dial the number when she stopped. She placed the receiver back in the cradle. After everything Bo had just put her through, did he really deserve to know?
© 2008 Pembroke Sinclair
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
Discuss this story at ResAliens Forum at SFReader.com.
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Pembroke Sinclair is fairly new to the world of publishing, but already has several stories under his belt. He writes an eclectic mix of tales ranging from western to science fiction to fantasy; although his passion lies in science fiction and is currently working on a science fiction novel. Some his stories include "Guiding the West" (Static Movement); "Sadhu," "Mendicant," "Sohei," and "Dukkha" (The Cynic Online Magazine); and "Lonely Space" and "The Soul Collector" (NVF Magazine Issues 8). To read more or contact the author, visit his blog at Pembroke Sinclair.