On Second Thought(2)

By: Kristan Higgins

Now, if I’d known what would happen later, I would’ve said, Are you kidding? You’re gorgeous, even though his face was kind and interesting rather than gorgeous. Or even better, I want lots of pictures of the man I love. Even if it was smarmy, it was also true. Love had surprised me at the age of thirty-nine.

But in my ignorance, I said, “Nah. It’s really strong,” and smiled at him. He kissed me, twice, and I gave him a long hug, breathing in his good clean smell, then patted his ass, making him smile again as he left.

The minute he pulled his BMW out of the driveway, I bolted up the stairs and into one of the guest bathrooms, where I’d stashed the pregnancy tests. The lights there were motion sensor for some reason, and a little picky, so I jazz-handed and flapped until they went on.

Why the guest bathroom? Because Nathan was the type to sit on the edge of the tub and watch me go through the whole thing, stick in hand, trying not to pee on myself. I’d let him watch the first two times, but I really didn’t want an audience.

Because no matter what the literature said, a negative pregnancy test still felt like my fault.

“Two lines, two lines, two lines,” I chanted as I peed. After all, I’d be forty in a few months. No time to waste. We’d been trying since we got married.

I set the test on the edge of the sink, not looking at it, heart knocking. Three minutes, the instructions said. One hundred and eighty seconds. “Come on, two lines,” I said, channeling my sister’s cheerleader attitude toward life, minus the sugarcoating that she seemed to put on everything. “You can do it!”

A baby. Even now, the cells could be multiplying inside me. A mini-Nathan on the way. A boy. The image was so strong I could feel it in my heart, my rib cage already expanding with love—my son, my little guy, with blue eyes like his daddy’s and brown hair like mine. I could see his little face, the soft blue newborn cap on his perfect head, a beautiful baby, warm in my arms. Mrs. Coburn—Eloise, that was—would look at me with newfound admiration (an heir!), and Nathan Senior would cluck with pride over Nathan IV (or perhaps a different name. I was partial to David).

One hundred and seventy-two. One hundred and seventy-three.

I decided to go for two hundred to give the pregnancy hormones a chance to really soak in. To give those two lines a chance to shout their news.

A baby. A husband was already pretty surreal after twenty years of singleness. Somehow, it felt greedy to be asking for a baby, too.

But I did want a baby, so much. For the past six or seven years, I’d been telling myself I was perfectly fine without one. I’d been lying.

One hundred and ninety-eight. On hundred and ninety-nine.

Two hundred.

I reached for the stick.

One line.

“Well, shit,” I said.

The disappointment was surprising in its heft.

I wrapped the pregnancy test in some tissues and buried it in the trash.

Not this month, little guy, I told my nonbaby, swallowing. I wouldn’t cry.

It was okay. It had been only four months. I could have wine tonight at Eric’s party. And Nathan would be sweet when I told him. He’d say something like, “At least it’s fun trying.”

But if it took too much longer, it wouldn’t be. I’d known friends who went through this, the grim tracking of the ovulation cycle, the way making love becomes insemination, as romantic as a turkey baster. One of my college friends, in fact, had said she preferred the turkey baster. “I don’t have to pretend that way,” she’d said.

I’d bought a six-pack of pregnancy tests. Hadn’t really envisioned needing more. My periods had always been regular; a good sign, the doctor said. But now, there was just one lonely test left, since last month, because I hadn’t believed the negative test, I had repeated it the next day.

The lights went off. I jazz-handed, and they came back on.

“Next month,” I said, my voice bouncing off the tile of the bathroom. Then I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled until it felt real. I was lucky. Nathan was great. If we couldn’t get pregnant, we’d adopt. We’d already talked about it.

I imagined my sister, Ainsley—my half sister, really—would get knocked up the first month she tried. She rarely had to work for anything. Happiness just fell in her lap.

Well. Sitting in the bathroom wasn’t going to make me feel better. Coffee would, and now that I knew I wasn’t pregnant, I could have another cup. I left the bathroom and made my way downstairs. It seemed like a five-minute walk.

Nathan’s bread and butter came from designing high-end homes—faux Colonials and Victorians and Arts and Crafts “bungalows” that were 4,800 square feet on half an acre of landscaped perfection. Westchester County, just north of Manhattan, couldn’t seem to get enough of them.