Otis was numb as he supported his wife out of the consultant’s office. Erica was sobbing quietly, not caring who saw her. Employees and other patients passed them in the corridor and averting their gazes when they saw Erica’s distress. Otis just looked ahead, he had no idea what to say or what to think, he just had to get out of this sterile unforgiving space. They both had high hopes when they arrived, it was one of the best fertility clinics in the country. What the doctor said wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t fair, they were wrong, they had to be. Outside the cold wind stung his eyes, he mumbled something to Erica about staying put while he went to fetch the car. He didn’t turn to look at her, he couldn’t bear to see her so upset.
Otis marched across the car park almost running to the car trying to banish the thoughts overtaking him. This can’t be it, they must have made a mistake. What fucking low sperm count? He already had son that he loved and cared for dearly every weekend. He started the engine and the radio sprang into life, some idiot was talking about the cost of the royals he switched it off immediately. Otis slowly moved the car towards the entrance where Erica was waiting. He stared blankly ahead as she got in and sat beside him. Seemingly more stable now Erica patted his hand, Otis looked at her. Her eyes were red from crying but she had regained some composure. She didn’t have to say anything, he knew how disappointed she must be feeling. Their individual thoughts were disrupted by the sight of flashing headlights behind them. Erica spoke softly,
“Let’s go home.”
Otis indicated, moved the car forward and nodded his acknowledgement. Erica slumped back in her seat relieved to be getting away from the clinic. Fragments of the earlier conversation in the consultant’s office started to come back to her. Low sperm count, IVF, 40 – 50% success rate, several months of treatment. It didn’t add up, Otis already had a son, how could this be? It wasn’t fair, this was a mess. Otis’s mess, she reminded herself. They were stuck at traffic lights and it had started to rain. Erica opened the window to get a blast of much needed fresh air. She didn’t want to argue about this, but couldn’t see how to avoid it either. Otis was fine when she was being poked and prodded, but it would be a whole different issue if he had to go through it. She wasn’t infertile she still had options. It was a hollow victory, but one Erica felt she needed right now for her own sanity. There were still some questions to answer, a blazing row was not the best way forward. It would be easier all round they stayed civil towards each other, but one way or another she wanted a baby. Neither of them had spoken for a while, Erica sensed she should lighten the mood.
“We should stop off for a takeaway and get some wine, it’s been a long day.”
Otis was relieved the tension in the car was finally broken and he altered his route.
“Erica, we will work this out…I’m sorry, I know how…”
“Let’s wait till we get home.”
Erica was surprisingly calm now and Otis figured she was still in shock. Hopefully they could avoid an argument, he could really do without it.
Erica and Otis picked over the takeaway. Otis cleared the plates and was busy washing up in the kitchen. Erica had forgone her normal trash T.V. fodder. Instead she opting for soft music in the background as she thumbed through a magazine, whilst sipping her wine, seated with her legs folded in the armchair. Erica wanted to keep the mood as light as she could, she had to keep her focus.
In the kitchen Otis was trying to prepare himself for the ‘talk’ he and Erica were poised to have as soon as he finished cleaning up. He had to admit he was slightly unnerved by Erica’s calmness so far. Other than the breakdown at the clinic, she seemed okay, but experience had taught him to proceed with caution. He and Erica had a good marriage, but their arguments were legendary. He hung up the tea towel and went into the lounge.
Otis sat on the sofa with his feet firmly on the floor and Erica put her magazine to one side.
“I wanna have a baby Otis.”
“I know, I know and I want you…us to have one too…”
“So what are we going to do about it?”
“Look I know what you’re thinking and there’s no way Harrison isn’t mine. He is my son, that is a fact. He looks just like me…everyone says so. You’ve seen us together, we’re like two peas in a pod.”
Just the thought of Harrison was starting to annoy Erica, she sipped her wine. It wasn’t the child’s fault, but right now he represented everything Erica wanted to share with Otis that she didn’t have. She chose her words carefully.
“You’re probably right, but… we need to know for sure.”
“I don’t need some doctor telling me what I already know.”
Otis could feel his anger rising. He stood up and moved to look out of the window. He could not cope with the idea that Harrison might not be his son, it was too cruel to think about. Adele could not have done this to him, no, he didn’t want to think about it.
“Maybe you don’t need to know, but I do. Our next course of action depends on it.”
Otis started pacing the room, trying to think of other ways to pacify Erica, anything so he he could avoid trying to manage and control the expectations of two women, yet again. Erica watched him with quiet repose. He returned to sit on the sofa.
“Erica, believe me I know how much you want this, but remember the doctor said there are other options.” He swallows hard. “We can consider adoption, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
“Good I’m glad to hear that, we’ll start with a paternity test for Harrison, because adoption could take years and I don’t want to wait anymore.”
“Adele, will never agree to it.”
“She doesn’t have to agree.”
Otis sensed this discussion could easily spiral out of control if one or both of them didn’t stay calm. He took a deep breath before he answered.
“I only just got visitation rights sorted, you know how hard that was for me…for us.”
“I’m 34 Otis, I want a baby.”
“I can’t lose my son Erica, not again.”
Otis is sitting shaking his head. Erica looks across at Otis, she almost felt sorry for him.
“Am I being unreasonable Otis?”
“That’s not fair.”
“Well then answer the question, am I being unreasonable?”
“No I’m not. And you’re right we have been through a lot with Adele and I’ve stood by you. Now you have stand by me, unless of course you want me to have the conversation with her?”
Otis laughed, breaking the tension for a moment, but he knew Erica was deadly serious. He needed to change tactics.
“Look, this has been a helluva day and I think we both need to rest, sleep on it and talk some more tomorrow when our heads are a bit clearer, okay?”
“Fine, but I’m not gonna change my mind.” Erica walked to the dining table and poured herself more wine. She gestured to Otis but he shook his head.
“I know, I just need more time to get my head around it. The idea that Harrison isn’t… that Adele lied… it’s a lot to take in.”
Erica returned to her seating position.
“I realise that and maybe she is telling the truth, but we need to know for sure and we can’t put it off indefinitely. I’m not getting any younger.
Otis’s phone vibrated in his pocket, he removed it, Adele was calling him.
Otis tensed, stood up and started walking out of the lounge. Whilst he was grateful for the distraction, he could do without anymore dramatics. It was unusual for Adele to call in the middle of the week, so he was more surprised than anything else. He took a deep nasal breath in and gave a loud exhale trying to calm himself before he answered the phone.
“Hi… yes fine, yeah we’re both okay…”
His tone of voice was a bit patchy, so he quickly moved the conversation on.
“Is everything okay with Harrison?”
Erica watched Otis leave the room, without looking at her. Although she wanted the paternity test at the top of everyone’s agenda she may be forced to rely on others to make it happen. Erica felt she had been more than patient with Otis, Adele and to some extent Harrison, so she figured they could all afford her some leeway. Whether or not that happened remained to be seen, but it wouldn’t happen tonight. Otis had moved into the kitchen and lowered his voice to counteract the acoustics.
“Oh…okay…that’s good…I don’t think it will be a problem…I’ll check the date and confirm… make a few changes if I have to…but in principle yes…I’ll get back to you…thanks for letting me know. Bye, bye.”
Otis was relieved, nothing serious. Next week there was going to be an open day at Harrison’s school, showcasing all the children’s work for current and prospective parents. Harrison had spent a lot of time on his artwork for the event and he had expressed that he wanted both his parents to attend. Otis smiled a little; this was real progress. Three years ago he and Adele were at each others’ throats arguing, going backwards and forwards to solicitors’ and court hearings it was hell on earth, now they could at least be civil to each other. This was why it was so difficult to accept that Adele had been lying to him for the last 5 years.
Erica was sitting at a table for lunch, waiting for her younger sister Mona to arrive. She was late as usual. Mona and Erica got on so much better now as adults; as children Mona attempted to either cover every flat surface with pictures or create pictures from whatever she found lying around. Mona on the other hand just wanted to be in charge, telling everyone what to do and how to do it. The door to the restaurant opened, Mona floated in and sat opposite her. Erica smiled, some things never change, Mona had a pencil embedded in the side of her hair.
“Sorry I’m late, the morning just ran away with me. Have you ordered yet?
Erica shook her head.
“So what’s up?” Mona removed her jacket and scarf.
Erica is scanning the menu.
“Why does anything have to be up?”
Mona raised her eyebrows.
“Come on, out with it what have you done this time?
Erica shook her head. All her family and friends loved Otis, he could do no wrong.
“I haven’t done anything, we’re…both fine…
“Except…come on Rica out with it” Mona checked her.
“What’s wrong?” Erica looked confused, Mona was never concerned with time.
“I’m in the middle of designing a new mural for the community centre. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow and I’m still sketching ideas. I don’t have anything solid.”
Erica jumped on the opportunity to change the subject.
“Do you have a theme?”
Mona turned to look at the waitress who came to take their order. “Are the burgers good in here?” The waitress nodded emphatically.
Mona chose a burger while Erica went for chicken skewers. Mona continued.
“With all the stuff going on recently, they want something that represents a safe haven, peace and harmony…you know… I’ve had lots of ideas… but nothing special…”
“You’ll figure it out, don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“You’re a fine one to talk!”
“Do as I say, not as I do remember.”
They both chuckled, happier that the mood felt lighter. It was rare for Erica to see her sister so unsure and she wanted to cheer her up.
“They wouldn’t have asked you if they didn’t like your work”
“I know, it’s just that…it’s the largest project I’ve been asked to do and…well. If it’s not right it could turn into an eyesore, not to mention dating quickly and badly if I don’t get it right.”
Erica cocked her head, this wasn’t like Mona at all.
“You can’t do anything about time, you have to work with what you have now. It should be a reflection of the present, let the future take care of itself.
Mona takes the pencil from her hair and retrieves a sketch pad from her bag. Erica smiled, that was more like it. After filling the page and scribbling a few notes, Mona put the pencil back in her hair and the sketch pad to one side.
“Cheers Rica, I reckon I will be up all night finessing it but, the ideas are clearer now.”
“Happy to help.” Erica sips her drink.
“So what’s with you?”
Erica took a deep breath.
“Out with it.”
Erica paused, “We went to a fertility clinic.”
Mona is visibly shocked, silent, with her eyes wide and mouth open.
“Jesus Rica, you kept that quiet, I didn’t even know you were trying…I mean there’s no reason why I should know…it is your business after all…oh my god, are you okay?
Mona was babbling.
“I mean there are lots of options these days, it’s not the end of the world, are they sure? Get a second opinion, you need to be sure about these things you know, doctors make mistakes all the time.
Erica was bemused watching her sister unravel.
“But seriously, are you okay?
“Aside from your assumption that it’s me, yeah I’m fine. It’s Otis.
Mona looks quizzical.
“Well that can’t be right, I don’t understand, he’s got Harrison…”
“I’ve done some research, fertility in men decreases after time too, you know.”
“Fair enough, but he’s not that old surely…”
“It doesn’t matter, if your sperm count is low, it’s low.”
Mona is shaking her head.
“But that doesn’t make any sense, what about Harrison?”
“It makes sense if Harrison isn’t his.”
“Have you told mum yet?”
“No! Don’t be ridiculous, I’m still trying to get my own head around it?”
“Well you better think quick, she’s heading this way!”
Mona looks behind her and sees her mum exiting a taxi across the road.”
“For God’s sake Mona, I thought it was just us two. Why didn’t you tell me you invited her?”
“I casually mentioned it when she phoned this morning. She invited herself. I didn’t know you would be dropping the fertility bomb, you should have warned me.”
The waitress brings their meals.
“Why isn’t she driving?” Erica asked.
With her mouth half full Mona answers.
“I’ll let her, tell you.”
Erica could only imagine what kind of scrape her mother had got herself into this time.
“Okay fine, whatever, just keep quiet about me and Otis”
Otis was sitting in the weekly team meeting idly scribbling on his pad. His new boss Belinda, was trying her best to boost morale after the slightly lower quarterly figures had been issued. Performance was well below par since George, their beloved boss had retired. Belinda had some great ideas but lacked experience.
Otis’s thoughts began to drift. He didn’t want to upset or lose Erica nothing could be worth that. Equally, he did not want to wreck the bond he had only just solidified with his son. What would he do if wasn’t Harrison’s father? Maybe it didn’t matter. He’d fought hard to be a regular part of Harrison’s life, he couldn’t just switch off from that. Harrison needed a regular, stable, male influence in his life. Right now, that was Otis and he wanted it stay that way. He also didn’t think it was fair to allow Adele to shoulder the responsibility of parenthood alone, especially because he held his own suspicions about Adele’s emotional state. He and Erica had argued about it many times, but Otis would always give Adele the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t want to jeopardise the negotiations that finally led to Adele’s agreement to fixed regular visitations. Otis heard someone call his name.
“Don’t you agree Otis, Otis!”
Otis’s awareness came back into the room quite sharply.
“Um, um, I’m sorry, I missed that last part.”
Belinda did not look impressed, she carried on.
“…And as supervisors it’s up to you to lead by example, motivate staff and get some of these good ideas into practice.”
Otis was not happy that his thought process had been interrupted or that he’d been caught, not paying attention. Straightening his seating position, Otis was slightly irritated at how long this thinly disguised reprimand was taking. In his current mood, he would have to choose his words carefully.
“With all due respect Belinda, it would help if senior management were a little less… shall we say covert with regard to their plans for the future of the company, particularly if they want us to implement new, untested procedures.”
Belinda had her stock answer prepared.
“Senior management are aware of all of your concerns and are doing everything they can to maintain transparency, while they safeguard the future of the company.”
“That’s great Belinda, but we don’t know what that looks like from a practical point of view, and…”
“Well we don’t want to go over old ground again do we? That won’t solve anything, we all need to focus and do better for the next quarter. I think we should draw the meeting to a close now and get back to work. Thanks everyone and don’t forget the new promotion offer that starts today, check the email I sent yesterday if you’re not sure about it.”
There was a collective sense of relief from everyone, now the meeting had finally come to a close. Some of the more knowing colleagues gave Otis a sly nod or pat on their way out acknowledging that they supported his views and were thankful to be getting out of the meeting. Otis waited patiently until most people had left. He stood up as Belinda got to the door, he was surprised when she turned and stopped to look directly at him.
“We haven’t had much time for a chat since I took over. I know you also applied for the position, but as I’ve explained management want to go in a different direction.”
Otis tried to mask his bemusement. If only someone would explain, there would be less confusion, morale would improve and probably the figures. Belinda continued.
“I hope this isn’t going to affect our working relationship.”
Otis wanted to be clear, without appearing weak.
“No not at all Belinda, I’m sure we’ll have a good working relationship and there are no hard feelings on my part. I was distracted earlier, it won’t happen again.”
“Good, I’m glad that sorted.
Belinda smiled and seemed relieved. This role was demanding and she needed an ally.
“Well you might have to consider, that it’s just not meant to be.”
Erica could feel the blood pounding in her ears. She was going to kill Mona for blurting out what she just told her to keep quiet. Instead Erica sat seething trying to stay calm.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about, she was gonna find out soon anyway.” Mona was indignant.
Erica looked at Mona, with as much hate in her eyes as she could muster. Mona looked hurt, but she was more concerned than anything else.
“That’s right”, said Raylene “One way or another, it was bound to come out.”
Erica was in no doubt about that, she just needed more time to process the situation, how it made her feel and what to do about it. She didn’t want to hear anyone else’s opinion, especially her mother’s, about what she considered to be a private matter. It was all still too raw, Erica wanted to be the one to explain and provide answers to the inevitable questions that would be asked. This felt wrong, she wasn’t ready for a debate and they were in a restaurant for god’s sake, but her mother would not be stopped.
“As much as I hate to say I told you so, I told you so! Otis is a great guy, but you knew about Harrison and I said then, if you’re serious about this relationship, then you have to be serious about co-parenting. You can’t separate the two issues; at least you shouldn’t it’s not fair to the child. I warned you, if one day you want to have kids of your own, then you run the risk of them coming second place to Harrison. Sleepless nights and full nappies are not anyone’s idea of a great time and Otis managed to skip that period with Harrison, because Adele was at her mother’s and off her meds…”
Even Mona was shocked, she’d gone too far.
“You can say what you like, something is not right with that woman!”
“Okay, okay, you’ve said your piece, again. This is why I didn’t want to tell you.”
“Why, it’s only the truth, what’s wrong with that?”
“Because, because it’s not that simple, that’s what’s wrong with it.”
Erica gets up, fuming with tears in her eyes.
“Oh come on Erica, don’t be like that we’re here for you.” Mona moves to comfort her sister but instead gets a hand in her face blocking her advance.
“I don’t want to talk about it. It’s none of your business anyway, it’s between me an Otis.”
With tears flowing freely, Erica runs out of the restaurant.
Mona is on the phone talking to her mother, there is fresh paint on her clothes and several canvasses leaning up around the room. Mona has the phone held between her ear and shoulder as she cleans paint from her hands.
Mona: You can’t blame her for not wanting to talk to you. You were pretty hard on her and you know how she hates confrontation, especially in public places.
Raylene: It’s nothing I haven’t said to her before.
Raylene: Time waits for no-one and like you said, she’s not the one with the fertility problem it’s him. If she really wants to have a child, maybe Otis is not the person to have one with.
Mona: Don’t beat around the bush mum, say what you really think. You can’t be serious about that, there are other options you know.
Raylene: I suppose, but I don’t know what these other options are and we don’t know what Otis’s thoughts are, though I’m sure we can guess.”
(Mona was shaking her head and laughing in disbelief)
Mona: Oh, now you’re considering that Otis might have a say in all this! We might know a lot more if you could have just waited for the dust to settle before you stuck your oar in. They only found out a couple of days ago.
(Raylene was still adamant)
Raylene: Well I didn’t know that! Not that it matters, time is crucial in these things and she’s getting on now 35…
Mona: Jesus mum, she’s 34!
Raylene: Oh give me a break, 35 next birthday! Whatever, she needs to decide on something and get going. If she waits for Otis to make up his mind about the next move, nothing will happen; you know it, I know it and she knows it.
Mona: Knowing is one thing, but doing something about it is completely different. Erica’s as stubborn as a mule once she digs her heels in.
Raylene: Like I said, maybe it’s just not meant to be.
(Mona shakes her head)
Mona: That’s not going to sit well with Erica.
Raylene: I know, I know.
Erica was lying on the sofa, wrapped in a warm throw watching a cheesy eighties rom com feeling completely broken. Otis came rushing in to comfort her. Erica sat up and stretched out her arms towards him.
“I got here as soon as I could.”
Erica didn’t want to speak she just buried herself in the warmth of his chest and closed her eyes.
“Yes! yes! yes!
Otis exhaled loudly and kissed Erica’s lips twice in quick succession before rolling over on to his side of the bed. Otis’s breath deepened he would be asleep soon. She wanted to stay in her warm glow, but the gentle snores coming from Otis reminded her that the reality of her situation still required attention. Unusually Erica felt sleepy too, but as she started to relax, some of her mother’s more stinging comments from earlier in the day drifted into her consciousness. Raylene meant well, but her delivery could be surgical at times. A much louder snore from Otis prompted Erica to give him a firm, but gentle nudge so he adjusted his position.
Erica: It doesn’t fucking matter! Are you actually serious right now? You’re trying to tell me that, you…no that you want us, to continue co-parenting Harrison without knowing for sure whether he’s even yours? Is that what you’re saying?
Otis put his head down.
Otis: Erica, Harrison needs me, we have a bond I fought…we fought tooth and nail to get to where we are with him and I couldn’t be happier…
Erica: And what about my happiness Otis, what about what I need?
(Otis fell silent and took a breath)
Otis: I don’t think Adele would manage on her own, I mean she’s come to rely on us now. She’s in a much better place.
Erica: Oh you’re finally willing to accept that she’s a crazy bitch!
Otis: That’s not fair, Erica. Post-natal depression is a real thing…
Erica: Yeah and the rest of it. I know you’ve been hiding it from me, but we all no she’s not right!
Otis: And by ‘we’ I suppose you mean your mother.
Erica: Leave my mother out of this and don’t change the fucking subject! This is about you and me. You’ve got everything worked out for you and your needs, but what about me Otis? What about my hopes and dreams. I want a baby Otis, your baby how’s that going to happen?
Otis: We can adopt.
Erica: Oh we can adopt, just like that you can wave a magic wand and we can adopt. What if I don’t want to fucking adopt!
Otis: It’s an option, I’m open to it.
Erica: Oh how fucking gracious of you! And how much research have you done into this adoption business that you’re suddenly so keen on, eh?
Otis: I didn’t say I was keen, it’s something we should decide together…
Erica: What like we’ve decided together not to get a DNA test or not to even try IVF…
Otis: You were there at the clinic, you heard what the consultant said…
Erica: I didn’t hear him say don’t try, I didn’t hear him say just wimp out and do nothing!
Otis: I have to go work. We can talk about this when you’ve calmed down.
Erica: That’s it, light the touch paper and just walk away. This won’t fix itself.
Otis: What do you want from me!
Otis has raised his voice for the first time and immediately regretted it.
Otis: I’m sorry for shouting. I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.
Erica is beside herself, but tries to keep a grip on the situation.
Erica: I’m like this because…because you won’t talk. We have to discuss this, I don’t understand why can’t you see how unfair this is to me? You’ve decided what you want and I’m supposed to go along with it. Well I won’t, I can’t.
Otis: I’ll see you later.
Erica was fuming. She was pacing the floor and crying. This was all too much. Still in her dressing gown she curled up and sank back on to her bed trying to console herself. She thought back to the consultation at the clinic, something inside her flipped. She believed this was all her fault. But it wasn’t. Maybe it was the relief, carrying the burden of loss and guilt all this time. But there was another chance. She could do all the right things, proper supplements, a decent diet. Otis didn’t understand, how could he, he had Harrison, for now anyway. The plan could get back on track, the motherhood chapter of her life could begin. Erica got up and starting rummaging at the bottom of the wardrobe. She pulled out a box and started looking through her memorabilia; old photos, boarding passes, concert ticket stubs, the scarf she wore quad biking in Egypt. She looked at her and Mona’s christening photo. Erica was sitting on the floor cross legged gazing wide-eyed at her little sister. She smiled through her tears, remembering it like it was yesterday.
Flicking through the rest of photos, she came across her and George the first night they met at some ridiculous pirate costume party. George was Erica’s first proper relationship. They clicked immediately and despite their differences they worked. Erica was rigidly organised, but could easily get into a flap if things weren’t going according to plan. George wore the same calm, steely, yet cheeky expression regardless of the circumstances. He told her she didn’t need a plan, she needed a life. Erica was both excited and scared but a complete smitten kitten. So together they back packed around Asia and travelled to South America. They were having a blast until Erica found out she was pregnant. Or had been pregnant. Barely out of their teens, this was a shock to both of them. The doctors in Cuba were amazing George wanted them to fly home straightaway, but Erica refused. She didn’t want anyone at home to know. She felt ashamed and stupid that her body had rejected her child. It wasn’t a conversation she was going to have with anyone not even George.
Instead she retreated into survival mode, put on her brave face and bore her sorrow alone. They were near to the end of the trip anyway and planned a few days of luxury in the Caribbean before heading home. It was supposed to be romantic and relaxing after 6 months of roughing it. They went through the motions, but the spark was gone.
On the last night they had dinner on a balcony overlooking the sea. The tipsy newly weds on the next table asked George to take their photo and the giggling couple kindly reciprocated. George and Erica perfected their smiles and poses. For all intents and purposes they looked like the perfect young couple in love, but in reality neither one of them knew how to comfort the other.
Her phone starting ringing, it was her mum. This was all she needed. She answered and waited.
Raylene: Hi Erica, it’s your mum.
Erica: Hi mum.
The emotion of the recent argument and resurfaced memories with George had taken their toll.
Raylene: Is everything okay?
(Erica reached for a tissue and noisily blew her nose)
Raylene: Oh Erica, I’m sorry I should have been more tactful, you know what I’m like.
Erica: That’s okay, I mean…its not that… you were well out of order. I’ve just had a massive row with Otis.
Raylene: What happened?
Erica: I just yelled at him because he doesn’t seem to want to do anything. I don’t get it. I don’t think he’s bothered. It’s not fair mum.
Raylene: You’ll work it out. You’ve had a shock you need time…not too much time mind you. You know what men are like, their egos are fragile, especially with anything dick related. Otis is a great guy, but he’s still a man.
Erica: I don’t know what to do.
Raylene: Otis is just as scared as you are, he just doesn’t want to show it.
Erica: I know, but he’s being so stubborn. He’s made up his mind and my feelings don’t matter.
Raylene: It’s big news, you both need to adjust. Instead of sitting wallowing by yourself, why don’t you come over? We can have a chat, or not, watch some old movies, have a bottle of something sparkly…?
Erica: Jesus mum, it’s still morning I only just got up.
Raylene: Obviously I didn’t mean we should crack it open now…unless you want to? But I’ve been up for hours, I went for a long walk this morning it feels like nearly lunchtime to me.
Erica: Okay, but I haven’t showered yet…
Raylene: Great, see you in a bit then.
Otis could barely concentrate on his work. He was glad to be at the back of the room for this GDPR training and awareness course. The trainer was doing his best, but he had lost most of the room. Otis thought back to the screaming match with Erica earlier. She was still in shock, he was feeling it too, but he wasn’t going to be taken over by it. He had a lovely afternoon with Harrison to look forward to and he didn’t want anything to spoil it. He and Erica would work things out, she would come around eventually, she always did.
Erica didn’t take much notice of the large silver Mercedes parked on her mum’s drive. She often had friends pop by. She selected her mum’s key from the bunch and let herself in. She could hear laughter and a familiar male voice as she approached the kitchen and her senses heightened. It was George. Erica silently vowed to kill her mother.
Raylene: Erica, look who just happened to pop by?
Raylene was unsuccessfully trying to hide her excitement. She always had a soft spot for George. She opened a cupboard to avoid Erica’s glare.
George: Hello Erica.
George stood up from the stool he was sitting on and quickly crossed the distance between him and Erica to greet her. He placed a light hand on her shoulder and bent his head to give her a quick peck on the cheek. Erica had tried to forget how tall he was. He smelled divine as always, Erica swayed slightly, she would need to eat soon. Instinctively George moved his hand to support her.
Erica: I thought you and your wife lived overseas now.
Ignoring the statement George immediately withdrew taken aback by her abruptness and pulled out a stool for Erica.
George: Here sit, you look tired. Are you okay?
Erica: I’m fine, thanks.
Erica smiled stiffly. George hadn’t changed much, same broad smile and cheeky eyes taking everything in. Thank god she decided to go for full hair and make-up this morning.
George: You should eat something…
(under his breath)
George: …before you get too cranky!
Erica threw him a look.
Raylene: It’s ready, I just threw a couple of things together. Erica be a love and take these plates.
George was glad to be reminded that Raylene was still in the room. She must have sensed the awkwardness, but she did not show any signs of concern. Erica laid out the breakfast bar while Raylene busied herself with getting croissants out of the oven, laying out a plate of smoked salmon and piling scrambled eggs into a big serving bowl. George was pouring coffee for Raylene and himself, he gestured towards Erica, she shook her head.
Erica: Tea please.
George chose his words carefully
George: My father-in-law took ill suddenly, we got here as soon as we could so the children could say goodbye to their grandfather, or so we thought.
Erica tensed at the mention of children and felt foolish about her stiff manner.
Erica: I’m sorry, it must be a difficult time for all of you.
George: Honestly it’s not that bad, the prognosis is much better than we…were led to believe. We need to look at his day to day needs, make sure his medication is right and maybe assess his accommodation, but nothing is that serious for now.
Raylene: Dig in.
Raylene settled into her stool and smiled as she sipped her coffee.
George: Eat, you look as if you need it.
Glad for the distraction, Erica took a small forkful of delicious eggs and closed her eyes gratefully. She was starving. Resigning herself to the fact that things couldn’t get any worse Erica tucked in heartily, oblivious to the concerned glances from both her mum and George.
Raylene was an interfering busybody most of the time, not afraid of the harsh truth. But she knew her way around a kitchen and Erica needed the comfort of her mother’s food in the midst of what felt like her personal crisis. As she finished her plate the glow returned to her face and she felt energised for whatever came next, because Erica was pretty sure George’s presence at her mum’s was no accident.
Lunchtime arrived, providing a welcome break from training. Otis checked his phone, no return text message from Erica. He considered calling when Belinda cornered him.
Belinda: How’s the training going?
Otis: Um, it’s fine, there’s some new information but I’ve come across a lot of this stuff before. It’s more of a refresher for me, but definitely useful for newer staff members.
Belinda: Good. I would like you to take the lead on this, all the marketing material will have to be changed before the deadline and if you can give Stuart a hand with some of the letters for our top clients that would be great.
Otis: Um…marketing? Isn’t that…I mean it’s not my strongest suit.
Belinda: We’re all having to take on extra work to implement these changes, have a sit down with Janet she’ll go through the basics with you.
Belinda checked her watch.
Belinda: I’ve got to rush off to a meeting with HR we’ll talk later. This is a great help Otis, thanks.
Belinda disappeared as quickly as she’d arrived, leaving Otis wondering what had just happened and how he could get out of it. Thankfully he would be leaving early for Harrison’s open day.
Whilst George was enjoying himself telling Raylene about his overseas exploits, Erica’s expression suggested that he had outstayed his welcome so he made his excuses to leave. He wasn’t expecting to see Erica, but he was elated when she walked in. Raylene escorted George to the door while Erica searched the fridge. Raylene bounced back into the kitchen.
Raylene: That was a lovely surprise.
Raylene eyed the bottle that Erica was in the process of opening.
Raylene: Oh good you’ve found it, the flutes are in the cupboard next to the fridge.
Erica: So you’ve kept in touch with George all this time, how come you never told me.
Raylene: There was nothing to tell. He remembers my birthday and I send him the odd Christmas card, it’s not a big deal.
Erica: You still didn’t tell me though.
Raylene: Like I said, it’s nothing.
Erica: And today, he just happened to be here when you invited me over?
Raylene: That was a fluke, I swear. The door bell rang as I hung up the phone to you. I hadn’t seen him for years, what was I supposed to do?
Erica: Nothing, I just…well you…could have told me.
Raylene: Told you what? There’s nothing to tell, is there?
Erica: Forget it, forget I said anything…I thought it would be just the two of us.
Erica was anxious to change the subject
Raylene: Look, I know things ended abruptly between…
Erica: …No, no we are not discussing it.
Raylene: Okay…okay, I don’t want us to argue again. Let’s just watch a film and escape for a few hours. We don’t have to talk about anything if you don’t want to.
Erica nodded, she was too wrung out for another round of arguing today.
Her mum hugged her tightly
George sat in his car for a few moments. It wasn’t an actual lie George told himself. He did have another meeting but it was more social than business. The real reason for staying for an extra few days was Erica. He did not want to leave this time without clearing the air. When George and Erica returned from travelling their relationship fizzled out and they went their separate ways. There was no big fuss or argument they drifted apart never talking about what happened. George blamed himself, he was the one who convinced Erica to take a risk and enjoy life; dragging her halfway across the world, roughing it in hostels, grabbing food on the go and the joys of public transport. He shook his head just thinking about some of the shoddy vehicles they travelled in. But George loved it, all of it. He barely considered how bewildering it must have been for Erica. Out of her routine and thrust into strange worlds with different customs and weird food. It’s no wonder she lost the baby. He did not have the words to describe how guilty he felt.
Otis followed the open day signs into the school main entrance. There were lots of parents and excited children milling around. Otis was scanning around looking for Harrison and Adele, still heading towards classroom eight as instructed. The door was open and the teacher at the front was explaining the environmental theme for the artwork displayed. On one side of the room there were paintings depicting the current state of the world; oceans full of plastic, wild animals still hunted for fun, their fur, or their ivory and men with rifles. There were also felled trees making way for cattle and the rising gases warming the earth and melting the ice caps. The other side of the room was more utopian; a large lush green forest, a ring of people from all over the world holding hands, plastic being recycled to make homes and roads. Holding pride of place on the new road was Harrison’s electric car. Otis smiled, Harrison had told him so much about the project and he had to admit it was impressive. Otis spotted Adele sitting at the far side of the room, Harrison standing and proudly explaining. Otis crossed the room to join them, seeing his approach Harrison rushed over to greet his dad with a beaming smile. Otis allowed himself to be tugged so he could see the car more clearly. Adele nodded politely and gave them some space, she looked good today. She displayed traits of her former zany sense of style in a fitted, colourful, patchwork dress paired with funky tan boots.
In the kitchen preparing dinner, Erica was smiling to herself and thinking about the crazy afternoon she had just spent with her mum. One minute Raylene was ranting about time running out and the next she was being the comforting mum Erica always wanted her to be. Not without a motive though. Erica decided not to question her mum too much about George, she didn’t want to give anything away. If her mum knew about the miscarriage surely she would have said something years ago. Why now? It didn’t make sense. Maybe she was telling the truth this time. Either way she did not want it to affect any plans between her and Otis. They had a good relationship, Otis was a good man, stubborn as a mule but she loved him. Every couple goes through trying times, they would get through this. She would cook his favourite meal, they would talk, not argue this time and work something out.
Adele wasn’t much of a cook so she insisted on paying for takeaway they got on the way back to her house. Adele was being more than generous with this unscheduled time with Harrison and Otis was glad to be afforded the opportunity to spend extra time with his son. Also he wasn’t relishing the thought of another argument with Erica. This was the first time he’d thought about her today and he immediately felt guilty especially after the way they left things this morning. He checked his phone, no messages or missed calls, he reasoned she must be okay or she would have been in contact. Otis noticed Adele’s house was tidier than usual, it looked like Adele was finally conquering her demons.
Otis stayed longer at Adele’s than he had intended, because Harrison insisted, excited his dad would be able to read him his bed time story on a weekday. This was a real treat. The earlier exuberance was fading and Harrison drifted into gentle sleep before the end of his story. Otis gingerly got up from the bed and half closed the door. He entered the lounge as Adele came in from the kitchen.
Otis: Thanks for letting me stay.
Adele: That’s okay, I said you could read to him if he was good and he was so it all worked out.
Otis: I appreciate it, I’ll pick him up on Friday as usual?
Adele: Yeah fine, but before you go there’s something I need to tell you.
Erica checked the planner on the fridge and realised that Otis might be late after attending Harrison’s open day. She wasn’t worried, besides Otis would be in a better mood after spending time with Harrison and that suited her just fine. She continued her preparations and switched on the radio. Erica was adding tomatoes to the salad bowl when the phone rang. She assumed it was Otis calling and wiped her hands quickly.
Erica: Hi, are you on your way? Dinner is practically finished I’m just doing the salad.
George: Hi Erica its George.
Erica: Oh, hi, I…
George: Your mum gave me your number I hope you don’t mind.
Erica: That depends, what do you want?
George: I’m staying in the UK for an extra few days, it would be nice to see you…we, we should talk.
Erica: Talk about what? What do you want George?
George: We never talked about the miscarriage Erica.
Erica: So…why do we have to talk about it now?
George: Because obviously you’re in pain…because I still care…
Erica: …Because my mother has a big mouth. She told you, didn’t she! She had no right. This is none of your business George it’s between me and Otis.
George: I know, I know, but… I just want…I need to, explain… it was a difficult time…
Erica: I was there George, it was happening to me, I know exactly how fucking difficult it was, I remember every detail. You could barely look at me as I recall.
Erica’s eyes filled with tears.
George: I’m sorry. I was an idiot I didn’t know what I was doing I was, young and scared.
Erica: So was I. I’m not doing this with you now George, it’s not fair, I’m hanging up.
George: Erica, please… You can’t keep trying to crush your feelings about this.
Erica: Good bye George.
Otis sat in his car crestfallen. His phone was ringing, it was Erica. He was in no mood to argue he put the phone on silent and let it go to voicemail. He started the engine and drove away in the opposite direction to home.
Otis walked straight into the bedroom, the door was open, this was unusual. He was also surprised to find the bed made and Erica absent from it. Her car was on the drive, where was she? Otis took another glance at the inviting bed and headed downstairs. He gently opened the lounge door and peered inside. Erica’s heavy breathing reassured him that at least she was in the house. She had passed out on the sofa judging by the empty bottle of red wine on the coffee table. Not wanting to wake her with his presence Otis slowly retreated, relishing the idea that he could have the bed to himself tonight. Although, he doubted he would get much sleep. Adele had been accepted to study costume and design at the other end of the country and she was taking Harrison with her. He would have to deal with that and Erica tomorrow. For now he was tired and fell into a deep fitful sleep.
Erica awoke with a banging headache and opened her eyes, for a moment she couldn’t work out where she was. The large glass of water on the coffee table and I what she assumed was a bacon sandwich slowly came into focus. She tried to raise her head but the throbbing was too much and she laid it back down. Her mouth was dry, she needed to drink. She slowly moved into a sitting position and took three large gulps of water before easing back down again.
Otis came in from the kitchen holding a mug. He was in a bathrobe, Erica was confused, it must be very early in the morning Otis should be dressed for work by now and he never has time for breakfast. Her head hurt, thinking was too much like hard work. Otis clarified her confusion.
Otis: I took the morning off. How are you feeling?
Without looking, Erica shook her head and snuggled into the throw. Otis couldn’t resist a sympathetic smile.
Otis: Mmmm, that bad eh? Drink the water and take these paracetamol, eat the sandwich if you can manage it.
Erica took the tablets as instructed and a small bite of the sandwich before lying back down again. Otis stood watching her for a moment.
Otis: I’m sorry about last night. I should have called. Adele is moving to Wrexham to study costume and Design. She’s taking Harrison with her.
This was all Erica needed. Her head was so woozy she could barely think, she wanted to be angry because yet again Otis’s thoughts were only about him. Erica was even beginning to think this wasn’t about Harrison at all, just Otis’s deep seated need to be in control. Erica’s head throbbed which suggested she was overthinking. She needed a clearer head for this, she groaned.
Erica: Give me an hour to let these painkillers kick in.
Erica sunk back into the sofa.
Otis: Thanks, I’ll check some emails.
Erica: Thanks for coming.
Adele sat down opposite Erica.
The two women could not have been more different. Erica had opted for a formal dark trouser suit with a close fitted white t-shirt underneath and a large pendant hanging low on her chest. She had straightened her hair and pulled it into a ponytail at her nape. This was going to be all business. Adele was back into her creative groove sporting natural soft curls and a selection of wooden beads around her neck teamed with a close knit, form fitted, brightly coloured dress. Erica wanted to keep the mood as light as possible.
Erica: Would you like a drink?
Adele: Green tea would be lovely thanks.
Erica: How are you?
Adele took a deep breath to steel herself.
Adele: I’ve made a decision and I’m sticking to it.
Erica: I’m not here to talk about that.
Adele’s curiosity was piqued, she tilted her head to one side.
Adele: Oh? I just assumed…
Erica: I… me and Otis are trying to get pregnant.
Erica swallowed hard
Erica: There are some problems.
Adele regarded Erica intently.
Erica: Otis has a low sperm count, the chances of us conceiving without IVF or some other treatment are practically non existent.
Erica looked directly at Adele
Erica: Is Otis Harrison’s father?
The waitress arrived with Adele’s green tea. They both adopted false smiles until she left.
Adele: I am trying to get my life back on track.
Erica was growing impatient, but it was Adele’s turn to be on the back foot.
Erica: Answer the question.
Adele: This course is a fresh start for me and I need it.
Erica: I’m not asking you again
(pause, Adele shakes her head and lowers her eyes)
Adele: No, Otis is not Harrison’s father.
Erica sits back in her chair and puts a hand to her forehead. Adele continues less confidently.
Adele: What are you going to do?
Erica is trying to slow her breathing she sits up and leans towards Adele, Adele leans back into her chair. Erica’s anger is barely contained, her voice is low and her words are precise.
Erica: There is a special place in hell for people like you.
Adele: I didn’t want this to happen, I never thought things would get this far. It was a difficult time for me.
Erica: A difficult time for you!
Erica fought to keep the pitch and tone of her voice down.
Erica sat back in her chair, shaking her head.
Adele: I’m really sorry.
Erica: You’re really sick.
Erica gets up to leave, but Adele grabs her hand.
Erica is incensed, but Adele’s grip is surprisingly strong. Erica quickly scans the cafe and sees a few concerned looks, this is not the place for a scene.
Adele: Please, before you do anything at least let me explain. I know you’re angry, but now you know, you may as well know everything.
Erica: I don’t care, I owe you nothing.
Adele: Please, I…please there’s no-one else
Erica sits, Adele releases her hand.
Adele: Thank you. Darrell, his name was Darrell.
Adele: Yes, he’s dead now. Drug overdose not long after Harrison was born.
Erica: Oh, I see. Maybe this isn’t the best idea.
Erica: Look this is sad, fucked up, whatever you want to call it but it doesn’t excuse what you did.
Adele: I know, I know. I just never told anyone about it before, not even my mum.
Erica: You shouldn’t be asking me for anything, you don’t have the right.
Adele: After Darrell died I was devastated, I broke down, I couldn’t cope. My mum was taking care of everything, I couldn’t function.
Erica: This isn’t fair, I am not an advocate for your cause. You need to sort this out with Otis.
Adele: I don’t think I can.
Erica: You can, and you will!
Adele: I’m going away to study. Far, far, away isn’t that enough?
Erica: I don’t know, is it? You’ve seen what Otis and me have already done to make Harrison part of our lives. What if Otis…what if we decide to move too, what then?
Adele: You wouldn’t, not now that you know the truth. Oh my god this can’t be happening. This is my chance, I can finally move on, you can’t ruin this for me.
Erica: You’ve already ruined things, but there could be another way.
Adele looks confused.
Adele: What? What other way?
Erica: Agree to a DNA test, Otis can’t argue with the facts.
Adele: Harrison will be devastated, Otis will hate me.
Erica: You took that risk when you lied.
Adele: I didn’t lie…Otis just assumed, he didn’t know about Darrell…
Erica: Jesus, this just gets worse.
Adele: I design, I create, it’s what I do, what creatives do. We take chances, we morph in, out and around people, sometimes the wrong people at the right time or the right people at the wrong time, shit happens, we’re complex, we’re…
Erica: You’re pathetic. You didn’t tell the truth and now it’s about to blow up in your face…
Adele: No, not like this…I have to think about it.
Erica: There’s nothing to think about, get the DNA test, tell Otis and let the cards fall where they may.
Erica: It’s no worse than what you’ve already done.
Adele: What about Harrison?
Erica: Better he finds out now and from you, rather than someone else.
Erica’s phone was ringing, it was Mona.
Erica: Hi, can I call you back I’m in the middle of something here.
Erica hung up the phone, Adele was fiddling with her cup and saucer.
Adele put her head down.
Adele: I never thought things would get this far. I was so out of it with the medication and everything…Harrison bonded with Otis so quickly. I needed to get better. It was easier to just give in and give Otis the access he so desperately wanted. It’s ironic if Otis and you didn’t step up with Harrison I may never have got better.
Erica: You’re welcome. I’ve offered you a solution, grow a backbone and get on with it.
Adele: I’m sorry about… you know the fertility thing, there are lots of other options these days…
A brief wave of sadness came over Erica as she remembered how this all started.
Erica: Do what needs to be done.
Erica put a ten pound note on the table and left.
Back at home Erica wondered if it was too early to start drinking. Maybe Adele was right, no! Erica was not willing to accept that crazy bitch was right about anything. But Adele had not actually agreed to her request. Erica was assuming the DNA test would be a formality, but she left before Adele gave an answer; it was hard for her to sit and watch Adele be so flaky. Neither Otis or Harrison would cope well with the truth, in fact the opposite was more likely. Otis was never going to agree to any treatment anyway, what was the point? Nothing made any sense anymore and she was no nearer to having the baby she wanted so badly. Erica checked her phone, another missed call from Mona, it might be nice to hear something cheery for a change. Erica smiled and rang her back.
Erica: Hey sis, I’ve been meaning to call how was your presentation?
Mona: It was great, they really liked my ideas for the mural, hopefully we can get the details finalised this week and then I can start.
Erica: That’s great news, I knew you could do it.
Mona: I had some serious doubts, thanks for getting me over the line. How are you doing? I understand mum’s been keeping secrets.
Erica: Yeah, tell me about it everyone’s got something to hide.
Mona: Including you it seems…
Erica: What, what’d you mean?
Mona: George came to see me when he couldn’t get any joy out of you.
Erica: Jesus I don’t believe this, what did he tell you?
Mona: Everything, why didn’t you tell me?
Erica: If you’ve told mum, I swear to God I will kill you.
Mona: No I haven’t told her, yet.
Erica: What do you mean yet? I swear, I feel like I’m in the middle of a nightmare. This isn’t anyone else’s business why can’t you all just leave me alone?
Mona: Because you’re not dealing with it. You’re running around like a headless chicken and the situation is getting worse not better. You’re obviously in a lot of pain and we all want to help, even if you don’t want to help yourself.
Erica: You can’t help, it’s all a big fat mess.
Mona: I agree it’s not great, but… you need to talk to George this nonsense has gone on for long enough.
Erica: I don’t want to talk to George.
Mona: I don’t care what you want, you need some peace of mind, some closure. George is the only person who can give you that, go and see him.
Erica: I don’t know what to say, I feel like an idiot.
Mona: Well you need to say something. It’s only a matter of time before he blurts something out to mum and you do not want her on your case!
Erica: Mum can fuck right off, she is not holding the moral high ground here.
Mona: Fair enough, that’s mum we know what she’s like. But given everything that’s happened, the miscarriage, Harrison, Otis’s fertility issues and you desperate for a baby because “now the time is right”. Suppose you did get pregnant or adopt a baby, are you sure you want to raise the baby in this fat mess as you call it?
Mona: Well? Are you? Is that what you really want? Come on sis, think it through, go and talk to George.
Erica: I don’t see how talking to George is going to change anything.
Mona: Nothing will change if you don’t do something.
Mona: Erica, get out of your own way and do what needs to be done.
Mona: I’ll text you the place he’s staying and you can do what you like, it’s your life.
Mona: It’s hard, I get it, especially after all this time…
Erica: He’s got kids you know, three of them, with his wife.
Mona: I know.
Erica: That could have been me.
Mona: I know, but you’ve got Otis…
Erica: Good old reliable, but seedless Otis.
Mona: Shit sis that’s a bit harsh. Just because the grass looks greener on the other side doesn’t mean it is. You and George were good together, but not like you and Otis…
Erica: I wouldn’t be childless if I stayed with George…
Mona: But you didn’t stay with him and things are what they are now. (pause)
Mona: Go and talk to him, I’ll come with you if…
Erica: No! No, I’ll do it, I’ll be fine.
(Erica replied hastily and in a higher tone than intended)
Mona: Are you sure?
Erica: Of course!
Mona: It’s no trouble…
Erica: I’ll be fine
Erica’s voice returned to a normal tone.
Erica: Like you said, it’s time to be a grown-up about it.
Mona: It’s George, there’s nothing to worry about, he’s safe.
Erica: I know, I know.
Mona: Okay, good, someone’s on the other line I think it’s work, I’ve got to go. Ring me later, let me know how it went.
Mercifully the lift was empty when Erica entered. It gave her a chance to compose herself. She knew, she was being ridiculous, but her heart was racing. There was no need to be nervous, it’s not like her and George didn’t know each other. Otis was never going to agree to any scientific methods to get her pregnant and adoption could take forever. Even then there would be hundreds of questions, vetting, a complete intrusion into their lives and Erica didn’t want that any more than Otis wanted his physicality scrutinised. George was her only option.
Erica stepped out of the lift and looked around hesitantly, there was no-one else around as she moved down the corridor. Erica knocked the door and waited. The door opened, George stood in the doorway. He was wearing a dark coloured polo shirt and stone jeans.
George: Are you sure about this?
Erica nodded. George widened the door and ushered her inside.
Otis sat in the conference room alone, waiting for Janet to arrive and run through some marketing basics. He could not be less interested if he tried. There was so much change happening at this company, he was seriously considering whether or not he should start looking for something else. Maybe he needed a fresh start somewhere else like Adele and Harrison. He gulped as he thought about losing Harrison again. There was no way he was going to give up on his son after all this time. If he couldn’t convince Adele to stay then maybe he could convince Erica to move. Adele was much stronger now, there was no doubt about that, but whether or not she would be able to cope by herself in a new town with just her and Harrison was a different matter. Otis made up his mind, he was not going to let Adele do this without his support. Janet came rushing through the door. Otis smiled to put her at ease. For the first time in days, Otis felt hopeful.
Erica lay back on the huge bed in George’s hotel suite, pulling the white sheet around her. George was in the bathroom. Erica banished the creeping guilt she felt about George cheating on his wife. She convinced herself it wasn’t cheating in the proper sense. This was about unfinished business, it wasn’t about sex. If anything George was providing a public service, Erica wanted a baby and he could help, pure and simple.
George was anxious to release years of guilt, anger, frustration and loss. He articulated far better than Erica how he saw their younger selves. They lacked maturity, they lost a baby they didn’t plan and didn’t know they were having. Thanks to him they were thousands of miles away from home and he didn’t know what to do. Worse than losing the baby was the lost of youth. Something grown-up had happened and he didn’t have the emotional intelligence to deal with it. Obviously George had suffered just as much pain as Erica had, pretending to cope and assuming the other was okay.
Up to this point, Erica thought she was playing along to get what she wanted, but the pain of reliving the miscarriage was acute and with it came cleansing tears. Ironically this helped her cause, as George was able to comfort her this time. Erica smiled. George was in the shower singing badly and loudly, Erica swung her legs out of the bed to go and join him for round two.
Otis takes a deep breath and calls Adele’s number.
Otis: Adele it’s Otis I’ve…
Adele: Look, I know I should have said something before but I…
Otis: No honestly, it’s okay, I understand, I get it.
Adele is confused
Adele: You do?
Otis: Of course, after…everything…your illness, looking after Harrison… with me and Erica. It’s been a lot. But everything is so much better now, thank God. It’s a bold move and I still want to support you… Erica and I still want to support you…
Adele took a deep breath
Adele: So you’ve spoken to Erica?
Otis: Not yet, but she’ll be fine about it.
Adele: Fine about what, what are you talking about?
Otis: I’m…we’re… me and Erica are going to move too.
Otis: It’s not a big deal.
Adele: What about your job and…
Otis: I can get another job, I’m not losing Harrison again Adele, I just can’t.
Adele is crestfallen, her heartbeat has quickened and she is trying to slow her breathing.
Adele: I…I… can’t believe this. How have you managed to make this about you, it isn’t about you. I don’t know why you can’t get that through your thick head!
Otis: I didn’t mean to upset you Adele, I’m sorry.
Adele: This is supposed to be my fresh start it’s got nothing to do with you!
Otis is completely taken aback and fearful about the direction the conversation has suddenly taken.
Otis: I’ve…we’ve made a lot of progress…Harrison and I have a great relationship now…I don’t want to lose that. Have you told him yet?
Adele has calmed a little at the mention of Harrison.
Adele: No I haven’t told him yet. I was going to wait for this weekend and take him somewhere nice to soften the blow.
Otis: I see
Adele: Look I don’t want to seem ungrateful, I just need to get back to being me, the person I was before Harrison was born.
Otis: I appreciate that but…I want you to know you don’t have to do it on your own.
Adele: I won’t be on my own. I’ll have other students and Harrison will be at school. We’ll make new friends. Our existing friends can visit us and we can come back and visit them.
Otis: Of course I didn’t mean…
Adele: Didn’t mean what? That I couldn’t possibly cope without you or Erica’s begrudging charity?
Otis: He’s my son Adele I can’t just give up on him.
Adele: I don’t want to talk about this anymore, it’s giving me a headache.
Otis: I’m sorry, maybe later?
Adele: Tomorrow, bye.
Adele hangs up the phone and starts to cry.
Otis was staring into an empty fridge wanting to cook something nice for Erica, but was uninspired. He was also unsettled by his earlier conversation with Adele. Before he spoke to Adele, he thought convincing Erica to move would be his big issue, not anymore. Harrison means the world to him, Adele and Erica both know that so they should understand his motives. He wasn’t being entirely selfish either. They all benefitted from this co-parenting arrangement, as a result Harrison was a good boy, bright, talented, funny and they all helped make that work. It was in everyone’s best interest if that continued, wasn’t it? Otis didn’t like that he was second guessing himself, he thought he was over this hurdle with Adele, but this move felt like he was back at square one.
Otis closed the fridge door, he needed a distraction. He thought about Erica and felt guilty. It was not going to be easy convincing her to move halfway across the country away from her mum and sister. Maybe Adele was right, maybe he would have to make do with less frequent visits and video calls. Otis shook his head, no! Time to think about something else.
The cinema! He and Erica hadn’t been in ages. There would be no pressure, no talking or arguing, a couple of hours escape, that’s what he needed.
Erica was grinning from ear to ear on the way home. She knew it was ridiculous to think she was pregnant but as the saying goes ‘third time’s a charm’. She couldn’t do anything else but wait, stay positive and try to mask her deep joy. She checked the rear view mirror, her mouth looked like she had a wire hanger permanently stuck in it. Otis must not suspect anything, he wouldn’t understand, she would have to get herself under control before she saw him.
Erica thought about Adele, that conversation felt like years ago. It was a rash decision to meet with Adele, but she was so pissed at her for lying she couldn’t see past anything else. Then Mona got in her head, then George happened, she smiled. Snap out of it! Maybe it was better if Otis didn’t know the truth, it wouldn’t make him or Harrison happy. Shit, she had to fix this. No need to overreact, things could wait and settle down for a week or two. Adele wasn’t due to move for another 6 months at least, there was time. With any luck she would be pregnant by then and some of this would sort itself out. Harrison could have a brother or sister. This was crazy, Erica needed to speak to Adele before she blurted out the ugly truth to Otis. Erica yawned, she would contact Adele tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.
Adele was distraught. First Erica, then Otis. She wanted to take Harrison and run away. She regretted telling Otis exactly where she was going. It would have been better to just disappear, but that would not be fair to Harrison. Adele was breathing quite heavily again, she didn’t want to be back on any medication, but she was very agitated and she still had to pick up Harrison from his after school club. Maybe she should get her mum to collect him, give her some time to regroup her messy thoughts. Calling on her mum or Otis for that matter would not be possible when she moved? What if she had an episode then, who would look after Harrison? The panic started to rise, Adele slowed her breathing, she had to calm down. The counsellor assured her she would help her find an adequate support network find when she moved, it would be fine. She made the right decision, it was the right thing to do. Besides she had already enrolled. It would work, it had too. Her breathing returned to normal, she felt better. Still, some time to herself sounded appealing. She would call her mum to pick up Harrison, Adele imagined a nice hot bath, maybe a glass of wine.
Otis did not imagine he would be watching the film by himself, but Erica was tired and didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, she positively encouraged it. Otis was relieved not to be arguing, so he didn’t resist. Enveloped in the darkness of the cinema Otis switched off his phone, stretched out his legs and started to relax. After a slow start this film was becoming an engrossing tale of intrigue and subterfuge; Otis was completely absorbed and unaware of the voice messages stacking up on his phone.
Otis rushes into the hospital waiting room to find Erica.
Otis: I’ve just been down to the ward, they won’t tell me anything or let me in. What’s going on? Where’s Harrison?
Otis is agitated and understandably anxious for answers. Erica ushers him to a chair and hands him some water to drink while she tries to explain.
Erica: Harrison is with Adele’s mum, she picked him up from his after school club, he’s fine.
Otis: So what happened?
Erica: Did you listen to any of my messages or read any of the texts?
Otis: Barely, I got here as soon as I could when I heard the word hospital. Do you know what happened?
Erica: Not exactly,…she’s lost a lot of blood but she should be okay…
Otis: Oh my god, this is my fault I was pushing her about the whole moving thing…
Erica: What did you say?
Otis: I was going to tell you later…I told Adele I would still be there for Harrison no matter what…
Otis: And…I told her we were going to move too
Erica: Wow! And when were you going to ask me?
Otis: I was waiting for the right time…
Erica: But you had already decided, told Adele…then I was an afterthought who is supposed to trot behind you in agreement no questions asked?
Erica was raising her voice.
Otis: That’s not fair, it was a big blow when Adele told me about the move, what was I supposed to do, let her take my son and disappear halfway across the country.
Erica: We’re in this together, you’re supposed to discuss it with me first.
Otis: We’ve been doing more arguing than discussing recently, I didn’t want another row.
They both had raised voices at this point and were attracting quite a few listeners in the waiting room, realising this they both sat back in their chairs.
Otis: We can’t talk about this here.
Otis: What else did you find out?
Erica: Nothing, that was it?
Otis: Do…do they think it was an accident…or?
Erica: I don’t know, they need to wait until she’s awake, before they can ask her.
Erica: You need to call Adele’s mum, she wants to be here and she can’t leave Harrison.
Otis: Of course…what about you?
Erica: I’ll do whatever you want Otis, isn’t that how this is supposed to go?
Otis: Erica, please.
Erica: Go and see to Harrison, I’ll wait here until Adele’s mum gets here.
Two days later in Adele’s hospital room. Otis is sitting in the chair, Adele is fully dressed and packing her things into a bag. Her head is bowed, she is not looking at Otis.
Otis: You gave us all a fright, I didn’t know what to think…
Adele: I can only imagine, I’ve had all of this with my mum. She took some convincing I wasn’t trying to harm myself, I thought she might have to be sedated at some point. It was a stupid accident, I slipped, broke a glass and cut my leg.
Otis: You lost a lot of blood.
Adele: I’m more embarrassed than anything else, I just want to get out of here.
Otis: I understand… have you talked to anyone?
Adele: Someone came round this morning.
Otis: What did they say?
She smooths over the bed.
Adele: They asked a few questions, the usual stuff. They need the bed so they can’t do much more than refer me. I told them I was already seeing someone so they agreed to discharge me today once the doctor does his rounds.
Adele sits on top of the roughly covered bed.
Adele: Where’s Harrison I thought you were bringing him?
Otis: I’m not supposed to say anything, so act surprised. He’s stopped at the gift shop to get you something.
Adele: That’s nice, thanks for checking on him, my mum can be a bit… anxious with him.
Otis: No problem.
Adele: I need to get out of here soon, there’s a lot to do, I need to order boxes and start packing.
Otis: Packing, what for?
Adele takes a deep breath
Adele: There’s nothing else to do in here except think. I’m going to move sooner rather than later, it’s for the best. The more time me and Harrison have to adjust before the autumn semester starts the better. It’s what I should have done in the first place, I don’t need permission from you or Erica…
Otis: You can’t… it’s too soon…does Harrison even know…what about Erica?
At that moment Erica and Harrison appear at the doorway. Overhearing her name Erica shoots a concerned look at Adele, but Adele is focussed on Harrison, the soft toy and helium balloon he is holding carefully as he advances towards her. Adele is elated to see Harrison and helps him up onto the bed.
Erica: We’ll leave you to it, come on Otis let’s go and have a coffee.
Erica takes Otis’s hand and moves him towards the door. Otis moves reluctantly opening and closing his mouth wanting to speak but is unsure what to say, especially in front of Harrison.
Adele: Thanks for bringing Harrison, it’s okay you can go if you want to we’ll get a taxi home.
Otis does not want to make a scene in front of Harrison.
Otis: Oh, okay… if you’re sure? It’s no trouble.
Adele: It’s fine.
Otis: We’ll talk soon then?
Adele nods and Otis says his goodbyes to Harrison.
Back in the car Otis is still reeling from news of Adele’s imminent moving plans.
Otis: Adele wants to move now, she isn’t waiting for the start of term, I don’t know what to do, she mentioned you, did you speak to her?
Erica: It’s a bit rash, but she’s a creative, it’s not completely unexpected… you know what she’s like.
Otis: She can’t take Harrison away like that, what about school? It’s not right what did you say to her?
Erica chose her words carefully
Erica: After you told me about the move initially… I wanted to… hear what she had to say for myself…
Otis: Why, didn’t you trust me?
Erica closed her eyes, breathed deeply and ignored Otis’s comment
Erica: … I listened to her reasons for wanting to…to kickstart her life again……after everything that happened…having Harrison, meeting up with you again and…
Otis: I don’t understand, what did you say to make her want to up sticks so soon…
Erica’s patience had run out
Erica: No! You are not going to put this on me, that crazy bitch had already decided to move before I spoke to her…I was just checking the facts.
Otis: I don’t want another row, what are we going to do?
Erica: There’s nothing we can do.
Otis: I think we should go back to court and demand full custody, clearly she isn’t in her right mind.
Erica: That’s a bit drastic.
Otis: I can’t sit here and do nothing, if she takes Harrison we won’t have any bargaining power, we have to stop her before she goes.
Erica: And if we fail? You’ll never see Harrison again.
Otis: Yes, but if we win…
Erica: You think Harrison will be happy being away from his mother, and what will it do to Adele? She couldn’t handle that. I think she’s crazy, that’s no secret, but if she wants to start again she has that right.
Otis: Still, there’s no harm in checking where we stand legally. In the meantime I need to look at a transfer to start with and we should let the house before we think about selling.
Erica: I don’t want to move.
Otis: We’ll talk about this later, I need to be at work.
Back at home Erica is tidying and muttering to herself about the ridiculous notion of moving, especially now she had everything the way she wanted it. As she was plumping cushions her phone rang.
Mona: Hey sis, what’s happening?
Erica: Oh hi
Erica: So what?
Mona: You went to see George and…
Erica was anxious to change the subject quickly
Erica: Sorry Mona, I meant to call so much has been happening. Adele had an …accident
Mona: Oh no, what happened?
Erica: Otis was out, I got a frantic call from Adele’s mum saying Adele was in hospital and could Otis look after Harrison so she could get down there. No-one could get hold of Otis so I went to the hospital. They wouldn’t tell me much, she had sustained some deep cuts and was bleeding out a lot.
Mona: How did she get cut?
Erica: From what I can gather, she was drinking wine in the bath, slipped and fell.
Mona: We’ve all been there!
Erica: Yes, but most of us can handle it!
Mona: True, so how is she now?
Erica: I think they’re discharging her today.
Erica: Yes, I know, that’s not all either.
Mona: There’s more…?
Erica: Adele wants to go to study halfway across the country and take Harrison with her.
Mona: You are joking!
Mona: What does she want to study?
Erica: Costume and design I think…
Mona: Cool…I mean it’s a cool subject. What’s Otis saying?
Erica: He’s lost it. He’s talking about us moving as well so he can be close to Harrison, but I’m not budging, not this time.
Erica: Tell me about it.
Mona: What are you going to do?
Erica: Dunno, but I can’t see myself moving whatever happens.
Erica: This Adele and Harrison show is starting to get on my nerves. I’ve got a life too, I want things…a baby.
Unconsciously Erica rubs her belly with her free hand.
Erica: Even if I’m not pregnant, I can do the IVF thing by myself. Otis doesn’t have to be part of it, I can get a donor.
Mona: Seriously? Wait, you think you might be pregnant, how? With Otis and everything…did you and George…
Realising what she said Erica clears her throat and quickly regroups.
Erica: Well, um there’s still a slim chance…probably not… unlikely… but I haven’t come on yet, so I’m always hopeful.
Mona: So you and George didn’t bump uglies?
Erica faked her indignation
Mona: It’s fine you don’t have to talk about it. It’s none of my business as long as you got what you needed from him, I’m cool with what ever.
Erica wasn’t expecting such candour from her sister, but wanted to keep her tryst to herself anyway, for now.
Erica: Thanks sis. I just think it’s time I started putting my needs first. I’ve had enough. I want a baby and if Otis doesn’t want to help then I’ll take matters into my own hands.
Mona: Shit sis, for real you’re going to split up with Otis?
Erica: I don’t want to…but if it comes down to it, what choice will I have?
Mona: This is heavy stuff and you seem… a bit too calm about it. Have you spoken to mum?
Erica: No! She’ll only make things worse. Telling her won’t make a difference anyway, I’m definitely not moving, that’s all mum will care about…
Mona: That and the slightest hint her first grandchild might be on the way.
Erica: I suppose…
Mona: Splitting up with Otis is a big deal, me and mum have got your back no matter what. Maybe you need a weekend break or something we haven’t done that for ages.
Erica: I’ll think about it.
Mona: Tell Otis what you’re thinking, he might feel differently if he realises how much this is affecting you.
Erica: I don’t think he cares anymore.
Mona: You don’t believe that!
Erica: I don’t know what to believe.
Mona: You and Otis are still good together, tell him how you feel before you do anything drastic.
Mona: Good, gotta go, bye.
Erica hangs up the phone
Erica is sitting in her favourite chair with a glass of wine flicking through a magazine waiting for Otis to arrive. She hears the key in the door and sighs. She fans out a few takeaway menus on the coffee table. Otis enters the lounge.
Erica: How was your day?
Otis: Lots to do, not enough time to do it. The usual. Can we talk about something else?
Otis has kicked off his shoes to one side and is loosening his tie. He sits on the floor in front of Erica with his back against her chair. Erica moves her legs to accommodate. Otis sighs.
Otis: I don’t know what’s going on anymore, how did we get here?
Erica: Where do you think we are?
Otis: I spoke to my solicitor today.
Erica: That was quick, what did she say?
Otis: I can’t stop Adele from moving or from taking Harrison with her. I could fight for shared or full custody, but she isn’t hopeful and thinks I already have the best deal I can get.
Erica: I see
Erica: What are you going to do?
Otis: I don’t want to lose him Erica?
Erica: I know, but what are you going to do?
Otis: I want to…I want us to move so we can continue to be close and be part of Harrison’s life.
Erica: I’m not moving.
Otis: Can’t we discuss this?
Erica: Fine, go ahead and discuss it, I’m ordering something, what do you want to eat?
Otis: Pizza, pizza’s fine whatever toppings you want. Or half and half get a large and whatever sides you like. I’ll have some wedges as well.
Erica makes the call while pours himself some wine. Erica finishes the call.
Otis: It works.
Erica: What works?
Otis: Me, you, Harrison and Adele. It works, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to make sure we all gel together for Harrison.
Erica: I agree, it’s worked fine but now it’s changing. Adele wants to take her crazy life in another direction and that involves moving away. She’s allowed to change.
Otis: Can’t you be on my side for this?
Erica: I have been on your side Otis, for years we have done exactly what you wanted and now I want what’s best for me and that means staying put.
Otis: You can still visit your mum and your sister whenever you want. They can come and visit it won’t be a problem.
Erica: It won’t be a problem, because it’s not happening. Why can’t you just visit Harrison at the weekends and have him come here?
Otis: Harrison can’t travel by himself and Adele doesn’t drive.
Erica: Perhaps she should learn… other people manage you’ll just have to make more use of holidays and video calls at least they’ll still be in the country, some people have to do this from overseas you know.
Otis: It won’t be the same.
Erica: No, but it may not be forever either.
Otis: What do you mean?
Erica: Adele may not even last the first semester, in which case she could be back soon. Even if she does see it through, it’s three years, students get lots of holidays, there’ll be plenty of time to see Harrison. And she may well come back after the course is finished, she may not even like the place. You just don’t know.
Erica: There’s no point rushing into anything especially when you know how flaky Adele can be.
Otis: Good point…but what if…?
Erica: Face it, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You could up sticks and follow her and she could be back after 4 weeks then what? You would have quit your job, turned your life around and for what?
Otis: This is a big upheaval for Harrison, I want to provide some continuity for him and I don’t want him to forget about me.
Erica: He won’t, you’ll just have to make a bigger effort, that’s all.
The door bell rings. Erica gets up to answer it. Otis clears a space on the coffee table for the boxes.
Otis: I think I should be there, to help with the transition at least until Harrison gets settled in.
Erica: And what about me, what about us? What do I do while you’re transitioning with Harrison? And how do you know Adele even wants you there, won’t she have enough to do?
Erica realises she has said too much and silently admonishes herself as she bows her head and closes her eyes.
Otis: It’s not about what Adele wants, this is for Harrison.
Otis: What makes you think Adele doesn’t want me there, did she say something?
Erica: Not in so many words…
Erica: She wants to change her life…and I suppose if a consequence of that means you don’t play such a big part…then I think that’s a risk she’s willing to accept.
Otis: I’m not willing to accept it.
Erica: I know, but I can’t keep putting my life on hold…it’s not fair…
Otis: I know.
Otis: Maybe you’re right, maybe I am sticking my nose in where it’s not wanted, but I am needed especially after the accident whether Adele thinks so or not. This is about Harrison, that’s all that matters.
Erica: I see
Otis: No I didn’t mean…
Erica: Except that you did mean it, I’m not sure why I keep fighting it.
Erica gets up
Otis: Erica, I’m sorry, this is hard…
Erica: It’s hard for me too. I’m tired I’m going to bed.
Erica moves towards the door
Otis: I’ll go for a week, or a long weekend just to see him settled and assess the situation.
Erica: Do what you like, good night Otis.
Erica is sitting on the toilet with the lid down holding a box of tampons and crying. She jeopardised both her relationship and George’s for nothing, Erica felt completely beaten. She thought about Mona and escaping for the weekend. It wouldn’t solve anything she’d still have to deal with it when she got back. Erica forced herself to think positively. She splashed water on her face and dried her eyes. Her phone was ringing. Erica didn’t want to talk to anyone, she checked to see who was calling before she answered it was Adele. She cleared her throat.
Adele’s breath starts to quicken at the sound of Erica’s voice.
Adele: Hi…Erica…how are you?
Erica: I’m…getting on with things…you know.
Erica was trying hard not to betray too much emotion in her voice, at the same time she was nervous about why Adele called. Adele cleared her her throat but Erica was ahead of her.
Erica: I know a lot’s happened since we last talked properly…I said some things…you said things…then the accident…err…I wondered if…
Wanting to keep her nerve and unable to hold on any longer Adele blurts out.
Adele: I’m not going to do the paternity test.
Erica breathes a sigh of relief, but she is also distracted.
Erica: Okay, okay, that’s fine, that’s good.
Adele is taken aback by Erica’s response
Adele: It’s not the right thing to do
Adele had a whole speech prepared and she needed to get it out
Adele: At the hospital…after the accident. It was an accident, you know…
Erica: Of course, of course it was, it could have happened to anyone…
Adele took a deep breath.
Adele: Spending time alone gave me a chance to think. Otis is the only father Harrison has known and he… he was there for Harrison, well and me. If the truth came out and anything happen to me…then Harrison would be an orphan.
Adele shuddered at the thought that Harrison would not be looked after.
Adele: That wouldn’t be fair. None of this is Harrison’s fault and he shouldn’t suffer.
Erica: Yes, there is that.
Adele: It’s been too long, no good can come from the truth now. I’m sure you can see that, can’t you?
Adele breathed a sigh of relief as she finally stood up for herself.
Adele’s voice quietened
Adele: And now that you know the truth…Otis would not thank you either…if he found out.
Erica rolled her eyes, shook her head and sighed , realising she was now complicit in this cover-up
Erica: Yes, I know, I’m sorry…I think I was being more hormone driven than anything else, when we met.
Adele: Of course… I hope you manage to work something out. They can do wonders with fertility treatments these days.
Erica swallowed as she was again reminded of her plight.
Erica: So…that’s settled then.
Adele: Good, it’s a relief we can agree on this.
Erica wanted to change the subject.
Erica: So you’re okay now if Otis decides to relocate?
Adele: I suppose so, it’s his…well yours and his choice.
Erica: It’s a big decision, there’s lots to consider. We should probably wait to see how you get on before we rush into anything.
Adele looked questioningly at the phone. Realising what she said Erica hastily added.
Erica: But I’m sure you’ll be okay. Good luck with everything if I don’t see you before you leave.
Adele: I hope so, thanks, bye.
Adele hangs up the phone.
Otis’s bags are packed and waiting by the door.
Otis: I think that’s everything.
Erica: Well you better get off then, so you can beat the traffic.
Otis: Are you sure you’re okay with this? I’ll be gone for a week, ten days tops honestly.
Erica: Do what you need to do.
Otis bends to kiss Erica goodbye, she turns her head and offers her cheek. He kisses it lightly and gives her a gentle squeeze. Erica stays put in the hallway as Otis closes the door behind him and loads the car. She hears the engine start and the car pull away, only then does she allow her silent tears to fall. Her phone buzzes in her dressing gown pocket. It’s a text from Mona enquiring if Otis has left. Erica sniffs and wipes her eyes before she responds yes. Mona is busy working, but lets Erica know her and mum will be there later with wine and nibbles so they can plan their short getaway. Erica closes her eyes and smiles gratefully holding the phone to her chest.
One year later
Otis and Adele sit in a booth at their local diner watching Harrison and his friends celebrate his eighth birthday. There is lots of noise and laughter as the children feast on burgers, hot dogs, fries and milk shakes. Harrison is in his element, barely noticing his doting parents across the aisle. Adele broke her gaze briefly to look at Otis, still beaming proudly at Harrison’s antics.
Adele: I’m glad you stayed, it’s been so good for Harrison…and…for me, we both appreciate it.
Otis slowly turns his attention to Adele
Otis: Me too. I think he looks a lot more like you now that he’s getting older.
Adele swallows quickly, but keeps it together lifting her voice slightly.
Adele: But he definitely has your brains…
Otis: And your creative talents…
A loud bang followed by high pitched squeals jolts both of them, but it’s just one of the many balloons popping. Adele is grateful for the distraction and takes the opportunity to change the subject.
Adele: Have you heard from Erica recently?
Otis lowers his head.
Adele: I didn’t want to pry, but…
Otis: No, that’s okay. I haven’t wanted to discuss it…it’s complicated.
Adele: So you’re, still together then?
Otis: Like I said it’s complicated.
Adele: It’s useful to know where things stand. Harrison would be devastated if you suddenly took off.
Otis shook his head
Otis: No, no that would not happen. I won’t leave him.
Adele: That’s the problem isn’t it? She wants you to choose her.
Otis: Not exactly, she’s desperate for a baby and…and that’s not a priority for me right now. It’s Harrison, he comes first.
Adele: I see.
Adele: But you’re still talking aren’t you, you are trying to work things out?
Otis: It’s been a while, I didn’t think she would hold out this long, I honestly thought she’d come around.
Adele reflected for a moment. So far this move was the best thing to happen to her. Her studies were going great and thanks to Otis, Harrison was thriving. She was a fool to ever think she could have transitioned so well without his help. Whilst it was a relief not being around the intensity that came with Erica, she could see how unhappy Otis looked at the mention of her name.
Adele: You should talk to her. Clearly, you still have feelings for her and there isn’t anyone else is there?
Otis shook his head.
Otis: Maybe later.
Otis smiled, patted Adele’s hand and reverted his back attention to the excited birthday boy.
Raylene was chattering away occasionally swearing at the odd driver as she was bibbed and flashed for driving too slowly or turning without indicating. Mona could not make it because of work, that was the only reason Erica relented and allowed her mother to accompany her. Erica tried to close her eyes and listen to the radio, but that was even more stressful as she felt the car swerve quickly. Not wanting to distract her mum Erica forced herself to speak quietly.
Erica: It doesn’t matter if we’re a bit late, as long as we get there in one piece.
Raylene: You are not going to be late. Everyone at that clinic has been more than kind, you need to stay on their radar for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Erica: Of course Mum, but it’s not like that. It’s everyone’s job to be kind and helpful.
Raylene: Even so, it costs nothing to be polite and be on time.
Erica: Left! Left!
Raylene swings the car left oblivious to the driver behind her shaking his fists.
Raylene: I’ll drop you off at the main entrance and then park.
Erica was relieved to be getting out of the car.
Erica: There’s a pay and display and don’t forget to check where it’s parked before you leave.
Raylene waved, blew her a kiss for luck and sped off to find a space. Erica shook her head and walked towards the doors.
The small waiting room was empty. Erica approached the receptionist and gave her name. The receptionist smiled and directed her straight to the doctor’s office. She knocked the door and waited, Erica was surprised when the door opened wide and the doctor beckoned her inside.
Doctor: Please take a seat, I’ll be one moment.
Erica nodded and sat as the door closed behind her. She nervously started squeezing her hands. Her phone rang and she considered ignoring it, but remembered her mother was still at large. Taking a deep sigh Erica checked the phone and saw it was Otis calling. Erica stared transfixed at the phone and felt her heart beat quicken. She had not spoken to Otis for months, this was not the time. The sound of the office door opening shook her from her trance and she quickly switched the phone off, but her mind was reeling. The doctor was back in the room and making his way around the desk. Erica took slow deep breaths to calm herself and silence the blood pounding in her ears. The doctor sat opposite her and smiled.
Doctor: Congratulations Erica, you’re pregnant.