A Tricky Proposition(6)

By: Cat Schield


“You can’t do this alone.” Whether he meant get pregnant or raise a child, he wasn’t sure.

Her gentle smile was meant to relieve him of all obligations. “I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t doubt that.” But he couldn’t shake the sense that she needed him.

A thirteen-year-old boy appeared in the hallway and waved to her.

“Hello, Billy,” she called. “How did your baseball tournament go last month?”

“Great. Our team won every game.”

“I’d expect nothing else with a fabulous pitcher like you on the mound. I’ll see you in a couple minutes.”

As often as Jason had seen her at work, he never stopped being amazed that she could summon a detail for any of her two hundred clients that made the child feel less like a patient and more like a friend.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Without waiting for him to respond, she followed Billy to the treatment area.

Reluctant to leave, Jason stared after her until she disappeared. Impatience and concern urged him to hound her until he was satisfied he knew all her plans, but he knew how he’d feel if she’d cornered him at work.

Instead, he returned to the parking lot. The Camaro remained at the curb where he’d left it. Donning his shades, he slid behind the wheel and started the powerful engine.





Two

When Ming returned to her office after her last appointment, she found her sister sitting cross-legged on the floor, a laptop balanced on her thighs.

“There are three chairs in the room. You should use one.”

“I like sitting on the ground.” With her short, spiky hair and fondness for natural fibers and loose-fitting clothes, Lily looked more than an environmental activist than a top software engineer. “It lets me feel connected to the earth.”

“We’re three stories up in a concrete building.”

Lily gave her a “whatever” shoulder shrug and closed the laptop. “I stopped by to tell you I’m heading out really early tomorrow morning.”

“Where to this time?”

For the past five years, her sister had been leading a team of consultants involved with transitioning their company’s various divisions to a single software system. Since the branches were all over the country, she traveled forty weeks out of the year. The rest of the time, she stayed rent-free in Ming’s spare bedroom.

“Portland.”

“How long?”

“They offered me a permanent position.”

Her sister’s announcement came as an unwelcome surprise. “Did you say yes?”

“Not yet. I want to see if I like Portland first. But I gotta tell you, I’m sick of all the traveling. It would be nice to buy a place and get some appliances. I want a juicer.”

Lily had this whole “a healthy body equals a healthy mind” mentality. She made all sorts of disgusting green concoctions that smelled awful and tasted like a decomposing marsh. Ming’s eyes watered just thinking about them. She preferred to jump-start her day with massive doses of caffeine.

“You won’t get bored being stuck in one city?”

“I’m ready to settle down.”

“And you can’t settle down in Houston?”

“I want to meet a guy I can get serious about.”

“And you have to go all the way to Portland to find one?” Ming wondered what was really going on with her sister.

Lily slipped her laptop into its protective sleeve. “I need a change.”

“You’re not going to stick around and be an auntie?” She’d hoped once Lily held the baby and saw how happy Ming was as a mom, her sister could finally get why Ming was willing to risk their mother’s wrath about her decision.

“I think it’s better if I don’t.”

As close as the sisters were, they’d done nothing but argue since Ming had divulged her intention of becoming a single mom. Her sister’s negative reaction had come as a complete surprise. And on the heels of her broken engagement, Ming was feeling alone and blue.

“I wish I could make you understand how much this means to me.”

“Look, I get it. You’ve always wanted children. I just think that a kid needs both a mother and a father.”

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