Moments pass while Sheridan just sits there, gazing into two faces filled with bated breath. The second woman looks up slowly with a simple smile on her face, one of which smothers laughter. This smothering smothers the very optimism Sheridan felt she had left. The blonde looks at the second woman and then back at Sheridan. Her definition of optimism — a much more ecstatic idea than that of Sheridan ever being since they arrived — is suddenly swept away like a crisp autumn wind trailing through rows of tombstones, and replaced with an unexpected; unwieldy minute — like the cemetery, a minute fixed with sombreness.
“Well, technically,” she adds, putting an effort into diverting attention from the density in the air. “I am.”
The second woman senses the tension as her smile diminishes. The blonde doesn’t hesitate to continue, however, “You already know that me and Lora have been trying to get a baby since,” — she barely chuckles — “God knows how long. Each of us tried, since we both really want to do the In Vitro Fertilization method, but it doesn’t come cheap…but then finally, Dr. Henderson suggested the donor approach. And we thought, why not!” She bites her bottom lip before continuing. Her desperate mask of supposed deterring the negative seems to be working, in her denying eyes.
Sheridan can’t speak. She wants to, though, but it seems that the mysterious shadows are wringing her neck, keeping those indignant words locked in her throat.
“At least we would have enough money to take it on. The process isn’t always easy though, trust me.” Sheridan reluctantly stands up, somehow humiliated — dazed, and ambles toward the kitchen. The second woman bows her head slightly, ill at ease. The blonde turns her body, resting an arm on the back of the couch and the same sided leg on the seat of it, so that she could at least see the back of Sheridan’s head as she carries on, “Although, for us it was easy. Lora has her connections, bumfucking bastards who live to smoke pot or snort speed. Now, I know what you must be thinking, won’t that affect the baby? Well, I looked into it, and the specific amount of ——”
Lora puts a firm hand on the blonde’s shoulder and she stops mid-sentence. Sheridan opens the refrigerator, trying to keep composed and draw less attention to herself, if possible.
“Honey,” Lora begins, “I think it’s time to leave. We have that — thing to do,” — Sheridan’s eyes roll up. She hates the tingling sensation that is brought on by welling tears — “Remember?” The blonde had been listening to every word Lora embellished while staring at the back of Sheridan’s head regrettably, but now she looks over at Lora, half-stunned, half-comprehending. “We don’t want to be late for that thing.”
“Congratulations, girls,” Sheridan interjects in a low raspy voice, without turning to face them. When Sheridan finally spoke, it caused both women to turn to her and listen (even though all they already heard had been said, and it isn’t as though they are expecting more). “I wish you the best with it. Getting pregnant can be tough, and a stressful process. Once you get it, don’t let it go…”
It just isn’t fair. There’s no other way to put it. Sheridan is happy for them, they’re her closest friends after all, but a part of her; an inner voice deep within her; something that never usually seems to get a fair say in anything Sheridan considers thoughtfully, convinces her that their happiness for the matter is inappropriate. She hates it. The hand that she used to open the refrigerator absently lets go of the door handle and slips passed silk to rest on her bare belly. She feels the coldness of her soft hand penetrating her flesh.
It’s too soon to feel better. Two years too soon…
Sheridan was sitting in the first pew next to James. Everyone surrounding them in the church was dressed in dark clothes, mostly black. She held a piece of crumpled tissue in her trembling hands at her waist, and James’ solemn expression was solely visible in his face — the only sign of unfeigned pain rested in his eyes glazed over. His back was straight, legs sprawled and wouldn’t stop shaking, and his left hand was resting flat on his thigh. His other arm was wrapped around Sheridan’s shoulders in comfort. The same nurse from the NICU was also present among the rest. She was wearing a black dress that covered her arms and legs completely.
From the corner of her eye, Sheridan saw that nurse staring at her from a pew further back on the other side of the aisle between them. When she turned to look at her, trying not to show off her tearstained face much to everyone in the nurse’s direction, she gave the impression of forcing the lightest smile. It was the sort of smile that said, ‘I recognize you, glad you came,’ but rendered her appearance evidently drained and stressed.
‘The choice is yours,’ the nurse mouthed out.
Sheridan was able to read her lips accurately, and was confused. The nurse simply stared, her black eyes rimmed with even blacker flesh.
Sheridan turns around quickly after realizing her stillness. The way she knows it, it only invited more attention. She looks at her two concerned friends, distressfully. They’re both staring at her and standing near the front door. Lora has both of her shopping bags in hand at her side, and is holding the blonde’s hand with the other.
“Lea——” Sheridan breaks off, but quickly recovers herself. “Leaving so soon?”
Half of her wants to be alone, away from the constant reminder of her impression of partiality. The blonde tilts her head, staring at Sheridan sympathetically, as Lora replies in a soft tone, “Yes. We understand that you need time to be alone. This was premature.”
With that, she opens the door, and both women step out, closing it behind them. Sheridan stands there, with “…premature,” repeating itself in her mind.
Why is it still so bothersome? She thinks.
The answer seems impossibly out of reach. Michael is gone, and it’s something she’s going to have to learn to accept. She just wants to curl up on the tiled kitchen floor and cry her heart out. Instead, she slowly turns and opens the refrigerator. Hunger is hardly present, although, she subconsciously wishes to find a gift; something that would comfort her and bring her peace of mind. Nothing. All at once, she remembers James’ note. There must be something in here, in that case. Her eyes scan the shelves. She then kneels down and moves things around, managing to restrain tears from leaving her eyes in the hopes of finding some joy. There it is. Staring at it, she slowly smiles her emergent tears away.