This story is by Kristen Marshall and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Eve waited for Andrew to leave for work before going back in the bathroom. Sitting on the side of the tub, she stared at the tests purchased last week. Two different tests so she could be sure of the results. Andrew would not know about the test until she was ready to tell him. Her hands were trembling. Caffeine hadn’t been a part of her diet in years but she heard it helped so she had some that morning. Her shy bladder would not cooperate the other day when she tried. Today it must.
Andrew stood in the doorway staring at her. She didn’t hear him pull in the driveway, walk through the house or come in the bathroom. But there he was. And he was smiling. She barely saw him doing anything other than working these days and couldn’t remember the last she saw him smile.
“Evie, tell me the good news. Are we going to be parents?”
“I haven’t taken it yet. What are you doing home?” She tried not to sound annoyed.
“Forgot my phone.”
“It can wait.” Now that he was here, he would wait for the test results with her.
Work waits for nothing. Andrew got a promotion last year and put trying to get pregnant on hold. He needed time to acclimate and wanted to make sure he could fully focus on the pregnancy when it happened. He loves kids and wants 5 of his own so he hadn’t intended on waiting this long. “Not much longer,” he would say every couple of weeks. But then a new account would be handed to him and there would be another delay.
Eve didn’t want to do this with him. Would he be disappointed if it was negative or mad if it was positive? Andrew made plans and followed his plans. Surprises were not his thing. She couldn’t read his face now. The smile had faded and he was in serious mode. And now Eve wouldn’t have any time to absorb the results before having to deal with his reaction. There was no way out of it. If he was going into work late, this was getting done now, he would not allow a delay for any reason. Her bladder felt the pressure again but even her bladder knew better than to disappoint a waiting Andrew.
“Okay. 3 minutes and we will have a result”. Andrew sat on the edge of the bed and looked out the window. He patted the spot next to him but said nothing when she sat down next to him.
They both just sat staring out the window until he broke the silence. “We weren’t even trying,” he said quietly as if someone would overhear them.
“Well, it’s not positive yet. I’m just late and got worried”. Eve felt hot. He was going back through his mental calendar, contemplating his plan. She got up and went back to look at the tests in the bathroom. She couldn’t sit next to him but staring at the tests was not helping either. Nothing could make time speed up. She remembered her mom saying the same thing to her every time she sat waiting for her dad to pick her up on Friday. “A watched pot never boils”. It never made any sense to her, until now.
“I’m not sure we are ready yet”. He was standing in the doorway watching her, again. “I have so much going on at work. I want to be a good father, be there for you through it all.”
They both had less than stellar dads. Her dad would take her out to dinner on Friday and promise maybe next week they could do a whole weekend. She wouldn’t hear from him any other time, he never attended any school functions or helped her with homework. He had shown up for her wedding and walked her down the aisle. As long as he didn’t have to pay for anything, he was more than happy to play the role of loving father. Andrew’s dad was an unemployed drunk who verbally abused his mother and left when he was 12. Andrew never saw him again and never looked for him. He never had a sip of alcohol and never talks about his dad; only talks about what a good dad he will be. He started reading parenting books a month after the wedding.
“Andrew, we still have two minutes for the test and we don’t even know if it will be positive. Please don’t stress about this yet.” She went back into the bedroom and turned on the TV hoping he would get distracted by the news.
“I know I haven’t been a great husband lately”.
“You are working so hard.”
“I know. With so little time for us, is this even be possible?”
Eve had done the math too. Her periods are not regular which was frustrating when they tried before. “Yes. It’s possible. Your sister’s dinner party.” His sister, Angela. Andrew spent his life protecting her, even after the threat of their dad was gone. She spent her life making him proud. Angela reveled in the attention, thriving on the praise and became accustomed to it. She expected it from all men but only one man mattered; no man came before her Andrew. Not even her own husband. Much like Eve, Luke came second.
They couldn’t miss any of her events. Even if it was a Wednesday and they both worked all day and would have to be in early the next day. Even if they hadn’t talked to each other in days because of the latest account Andrew was working on. He would always make time for her. Eve used to throw a fit, cause a fight or be a total bitch at the party. But Eve was ready on time, didn’t complain once and was on her best behavior at the party. If you can’t beat em, join em. Another one of her mom’s cliches that made sense now in her adult life. Andrew was overjoyed and appreciative. He made love to her that night, brought home flowers the next day and even took her out to a movie Friday as a thank you.
The timing was tight but it worked.
One more minute. Eve couldn’t sit still and walked back in the bathroom. Her palms were still sweaty. The timing worked if she had had a period last month. Except she hadn’t. And they hadn’t had sex for at least two months prior. One more minute.
Eve had hoped for some time alone to process the results; time to make the necessary appointments. Now with him here, that won’t happen. Andrew will not miss a beat. He will go into methodical planning instantly. He will be at every appointment, reading every doctor’s note. He will know the exact due date and will re-run the math. If this test is positive, everything changes.
Lines were forming, not clearly, but they were there. 30 seconds. Eve looked away. Suddenly she didn’t want to stare, she wanted to let the test have its time. Was three minutes really enough? She read the directions again, checking to see what the lines meant so she was fully prepared when she looked back.
She felt Andrew’s eyes on her for the third time and she thought of Luke. They called themselves the Outlaws, formed their own team. No one ever noticed if they were missing from a party for too long or found it ironic when they were out at the same time during the week. No one ever noticed them period. She agonized over this secret. Would she continue sleeping with him? Would she lie to him about the paternity?
Luke and Andrew are complete opposites. Spontaneous vs planned. Calm vs anxious. Affectionate vs aloof. Angela was making sure she had the best of both worlds with her husband and her brother, not ever noticing how far she pushed Luke away.
Eve liked the life Andrew built. Unlike her chaotic childhood, he gave her stability and organization. But it was at the expense of the love and warmth that Luke has given her. The rewards for good behavior were infrequent, unlike the penalties. Not one error went unnoticed.
Andrew walked over to the tests. A small smile began to form. He picked up one of the tests and looked at her. “I’m sorry I have been putting this off. I want to start our family.” He walked over and handed her the test. “But it is always best to plan ahead so let’s try in a couple weeks. No surprises”.