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Authors: Cosette Hale

Taking Chances

Taking Chances
Cosette Hale

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© 2016 by Cosette Hale

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* * *

e were inside the taxi
. I looked over at him, glad to see that last night’s anger and frustration had disappeared. When he looked at me, I quickly gazed outside, watching the town fade away to darkness. I turned my head back to him and realized he hadn’t stopped watching me. It was strange— otherworldly, almost— but I couldn’t look away, and neither did he.

Similar to the other day, we locked eyes, and the seconds stretched out beyond what was socially acceptable. My drunken state was not helping, and I was in a heightened state of recklessness. I felt giddy, alive, and on fire as I drank in his stare. Neither one of us moved an inch, but in my mind I already had his hands all over me, ripping at the button of my shorts, and touching me through my increasingly wet panties. I was praying he couldn’t read my mind— what a shock he would have gotten.

I turned my face away, feeling ashamed, and rested my head back, closing my eyes. “Everything is spinning,” I said, trying to break the spell. He shifted in his seat and handed me a bottle of water. I took it and sipped from it, if only to give me something to do besides linger in the awkwardness of the earlier moments.

* * *

Chapter One

it as one of those moments in life when all possibilities exist— when you are so aware of everything around you and take joy in being alive. That’s how I felt when I found out I was pregnant. Elation is such an underwhelming word to describe what was going on inside me. It’s as if I had discovered the secret of my existence was to have that very experience.

I was so scared to tell my husband of three years. We’d had a serious conversation when we were newly engaged, and we had decided we would travel and kick-start our careers (well, his) the first five years of marriage. And
consider babies. It was two years too soon, and a couple of months ago we finally planned our first real vacation. We would be leaving next week to the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas to be exact).

Since the pregnancy test I bought during my lunch break on Tammy’s suggestion was not convincing enough, I called my boss to let him know I’d be taking the rest of the day off. I promptly purchased three other brands of home pregnancy tests. After drinking three cups of water and tea, the pee tests all indicated the same thing. I was expecting.

Greg wouldn’t be home for several hours still, and I spent them all researching early pregnancy symptoms, comparing mine with what Google revealed. I was already checking off a few of them— nausea, fatigue, and cramping. I avoided the later pregnancy stuff because I didn’t want to freak myself out even more at the moment. Somehow I ended up on YouTube, watching wives surprise their husbands, or daughters surprise their parents, with the news of a pregnancy. I cried with a few of them, but mostly I laughed at the expressions of shock from these family members who were so happy to receive the news.

Would Greg be the cheering husband? The one that was silent but almost had tears in his eyes? As for our parents, I hoped they would all be jumping up and down. I’m sure Greg’s usually quiet parents would be extremely happy, if not as loud about it as my Cuban mother— and my dad always went along with her antics.

Then I had my moment. I was so certain of wanting to have this baby, of being a mother to the seed I couldn’t even feel growing inside of me. It was a little too much, this overwhelming desire to meet the person who was not there yet but would be all mine to mold and teach and be responsible for.

I was determined not to get fancy with surprising Greg about the baby and tell him as soon as he came in by showing him the four pregnancy tests. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, and I cleaned up around the house, since Greg had mentioned that morning that he liked it better back when I didn’t work and our home was always clean. A few months ago, I started working again after being a stay-at-home wife for the past couple of years, and it was taking us some time to get adjusted to the chores and such. With Greg logging more hours than I did, and his role being much more stressful than my customer service call center position, I tried to keep up with the housework. This new job was merely something to make me feel useful instead of just sitting on the couch all day and watching soap operas after the cleaning was finished, but I had grown to enjoy my coworkers’ company and the extra paycheck that I used to save up for our upcoming St. Thomas trip.

Around 5:30 I received a text from Greg:
Hey babe, I have to work late. Have dinner without me. See you later.

I was annoyed at having to postpone my news, but I was glad I didn’t have to cook dinner, which I’d forgotten about. That would have been something else for Greg to nitpick at. We were going to have a serious talk about that, actually, because I was getting tired of him finding any little detail to complain about. It had to stop. But that conversation would have to wait.

My phone rang, and I thought about ignoring whoever was calling, especially if it was my mother. I wouldn’t be able to hold myself back from telling her my news. When I saw the name on my cell, though, curiosity got the better of me, and I answered.

“Hey, Harvey,” I said.

“Hi, Audrey. How are you doing?”

A little pregnant
. “Fine. How are you? Is Nat OK?” Harvey is my friend Natalie’s husband.

“Yeah, she’s good I guess. She’s still at work, I think.”

“Yes. Greg just texted me a while ago. He has to work late, so I guess Natalie would too,” I said, opening cupboards to scrounge for my dinner. Natalie is my best friend from High School, and about a year ago she helped Greg get hired at her company where she is Vice President of Sales. It’s a nice salary and Greg’s dream job, so we moved from several states away and into a much larger house than I ever imagined we could afford in the same neighborhood as Natalie and Harvey.

Harvey was quiet on his end of the line, so I asked, “Is something wrong?” I didn’t think he had called to chat since we only talked or hung out when I was also hanging out with Natalie.

“Do you think it’s weird that Natalie is working late so often?” he asks, after several more moments of silence.

“No, she has a job with long hours, and so does Greg. And she’s in a higher position than him so she must have even more on her plate, I would think. What are you worried about?”

“Nothing, I guess, if Greg’s also working late. Listen, don’t tell her I called you to check up on her, OK? Or Greg.”

“I don’t like keeping secrets from my husband, Harvey, and I really believe you should talk to Nat if you’re worried about something.” I put my hand on my waist.

“Look, things haven’t been too great lately, and I will talk to her, but can you please promise me you won’t say a word about this? I’ve never asked you for anything.”

“Goodness,” I said, “I’ve never heard you so serious.” It’s true, Harvey is generally an all-around lighthearted guy. It was unnerving to hear him this way, but I was sure he was being paranoid for no reason. Natalie had not mentioned anything to me that should make him sound this concerned, but I promised him I wouldn’t discuss this with anyone, and we hung up. Besides, I had other things to talk to Greg about.

Eight-thirty rolled around and he still wasn’t home. I texted him, but there was no answer until 9:30 when the front door opened, and Greg walked in with the largest bouquet he’d ever given me. Did he hear about the baby somehow? Impossible. Only Tammy from work suspected, and she had never even met Greg.

“Sorry I had to work late again,” he said, reaching down to me on the sofa to give me a kiss. I grabbed the flowers, all red roses, and tried to get a whiff, but these were duds on that front. They were lovely, nonetheless.

“Beautiful,” I said. “Very thoughtful of you. Did you eat something at the office?”

“I didn’t have time to tell you, the whole evening took a turn for the better after we lost a big account. I got tipped off to a new client and jumped right on it. We arranged a meeting with a catered dinner. They were so eager to sign that they made my job easy.”

“Nice! Congrats, babe!” I said, this time standing up to kiss him. I braced myself to give him the baby news.

“And,” he started, interrupting my chance at the big announcement, “I have to wake up early to get all the paperwork taken care of since I didn’t want to stay later tonight. I’m exhausted.” He undid his tie as he yawned, walking into the bedroom.

Disappointed, I followed him, debating whether it was a good moment to tell him, especially if he was so tired. I was hoping for some excitement from him. Maybe a little jumping up and down and squealing? Sounded like what I wanted to do. By then he was already in the shower with the door closed. I gave a loud sigh and got myself ready for bed, too.

The next day I went to work as usual, did my job like always, and spoke to my co-workers in the same way. Tammy, however, wasn’t buying it. We had become close in the past six months, ever since the first day they sat me in the cubicle next to hers.

“So?” she asked after we had separated from the larger group of people and sat down at our desks.

“So what?” I tried to feign innocence.

“What do you mean, so what? You told me you were going to buy a pregnancy test yesterday, and you never came back!” she said in an accusatory tone.

I wanted to lie, I really did. Greg should have been the first to know, and then my parents, but that hadn’t worked out. And Tammy was right there, waiting to be excited with me. She would squeal. I let myself be happy and nodded enthusiastically.

“What?” She whispered loudly, “You’re pregnant?!” I nodded again.

“Oh my God!” she squealed in as hushed a voice as she could. I made a pitchy noise along with her, and we hugged. She congratulated me as I told her the story of the prior evening.

“Well, you have to tell him tonight,” she said, pushing her short, red hair behind her ears and raising an eyebrow. I twisted the ends of my own long brown hair in my hand nervously.

“I know. I think I will make a nice dinner when I get home.” We discussed how I was feeling (nauseous), when I would tell everyone else at work (not for awhile), and whether I wanted a boy or girl (which I hadn’t even considered, but now I kind of hoped for a baby girl). The rest of the day dragged on. I wanted it to be over with so I could get home and cook. I was thinking Cornish hens.

As I was driving home from work, Natalie called. I hit the answer button on my phone and listened to her over my car speakers.

“Get ready for a delicious dinner!” she said, without me having uttered a word.

“Huh?” I was confused.

“I already arranged it with Greg and Harvey. We’re going out to Le Mer’s tonight. I’m paying. It’s a huge thank you for Greg’s job well done yesterday and a celebration for all of us. Audrey, you don’t understand how much that move of his last night saved all of our asses. They were about to start laying off a few people, and, honestly, it’s because of Greg that everyone was still at work today.”

“Oh, that sounds like fun,” I lied, because what could I possibly say? What excuse could I give to get us out of dinner? Nat wanted to do this nice thing, and, surely, Greg deserved it. I would still be pregnant tomorrow, right?

“OK, remember, wear something fancy. This place is high class,” she laughed. We had always used the term “high class” in a mocking tone, but lately it seemed we were in the high class.

“Sounds good. What time?” I asked, mentally scrapping my dinner-cooking plans and figuring out my timeline for getting ready and perhaps painting my nails.

“Eight o’clock.”

“See you then,” I said as cheerfully as I could. Of course, I was dying to give her my news, but instead, I ended the call.

I considered telling Greg before we left (so we would have something else to celebrate), but he got to the house with no time to spare for him to even take a shower. He jumped in quickly anyway and sprayed himself with so much cologne afterward I had to step out of the bedroom to breathe.

Dinner was delicious, we all looked very “high class”, and Greg was happy. I was glad for that. Maybe he’d stop being so nitpicky and grouchy if things were now going better at work. I probably said little all night, being wrapped up in my own thoughts, but the other three seemed to enjoy themselves. When Greg and Natalie both happened to be gone from the table at the same time, I took the opportunity to talk to Harvey about the phone call.

“You see, Harvey, she was at work last night, just like she said. What made you think she would be anywhere else?” I asked, looking around to make sure she was not on her way back. Harvey did look a bit tense, and I would have thought he’d be relieved that his fears were unfounded.

“Yeah, she was at work. That was never really my concern. Um, listen, I’d rather not discuss this right now,” he said, and I saw that Greg was returning from the bathroom.

“OK,” I said, a little taken back. This was strange behavior for Harvey. He didn’t show it the rest of the evening, though, joking and laughing with all of us throughout dessert. I noticed a few times he would stare at each of us longer than I thought was normal. What was up with him?

Greg was rather tipsy by the time we finished with dinner, so I drove us home. Not drinking was not a problem for me. I never drank (on account of it triggering awful migraines) so no one even wondered about me refusing the wine. He hit the bed as soon as we walked in, and I shook my head.

“At least take off your shoes,” I said, grabbing his legs and taking his loafers off for him myself. He made some kind of groan, and then I heard nothing else.

I was putting his shoes in the closet when suddenly I was the most nauseous I’d been that whole week. Running to the bathroom, I spilled my entire high-class meal into the toilet. Yep, I was definitely pregnant.

oday is the day
, I thought to myself the next morning as I turned off the alarm on my phone. It was Friday, and I would make a nice dinner and afterward we would Facetime our parents and tell them the good news. I was about to get up when I moved the covers, and then I saw it.

It was the most blood I had ever seen in real life and it was all over my pajama pants and bed sheets. I started shaking a bit and suddenly crying because I realized it meant I had miscarried. The saddest part was that I was all alone, and Greg didn’t even know I had been pregnant to begin with.

After I stopped freaking out, I very slowly got out of bed. The walk to the shower was painless yet emotionally draining, and I sat on the floor as I turned on the water, letting it soak right through my pajamas. After a couple of minutes of this, I stood and undressed, throwing the soggy, red-tinted mess to the corner. I washed as best I could but noticed there was still fresh blood. I got dressed, stuck a feminine pad in my underwear, and headed to the hospital. Obviously, I needed to be 100 percent sure, and I didn’t have a gynecologist in this town.

As I opened the front door to leave, the presence of another person gave me a shock.

“Shit, Harvey! You scared the hell out of me,” I yelled. I also wanted him out of my way so I could get to the ER.

“Sorry, I was about to knock,” he said, his brows furrowing at my state of agitation.

“I have to go.” I passed him, not worrying whether I was being rude or not.

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