Cycling

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Chapter Nine

I was at my desk going over marketing proposals when my phone rang. I reached for the receiver without looking up.

“Elise Heller,” I said, tucking the receiver between my chin and shoulder so that I could keep working while I talked.

“Hey, it’s me.”

Paige sounded upset, which got my hackles up. I looked away from my work, and took the receiver in my hand, sitting up straighter.

“Hi, Paige. What’s going on?”

“Um, I couldn’t wait any longer.”

“You took a test.”

“Yeah.”

My heart broke for her. “Well, it’s still early. Your beta’s not for two more days. It might just be too early to get a positive.”

“It was positive.”

I put my free hand to my chest, finding it hard to breathe. “Holy cow. You aren’t telling people, are you?”

“Just Jake, and you, and Julianne. I’m waiting for a positive beta to do anything else.”

I shook my head, stunned. “I’m so happy for you.”

“You don’t hate me for calling so soon, do you? I know it’s a pet peeve of yours.”

I smiled. “Oh, no, sweetheart, I’m happy for you, really. I wasn’t—”

“You weren’t expecting me to get pregnant.”

Yeah, that’s about it. “I wasn’t really expecting any of us to get pregnant. You know me, I’m a complete pessimist.”

“I’m a bit surprised too, don’t worry. You try long enough, and it’s bound to take you by surprise when it happens.” She paused. “How are you doing?”

“Oh, you know, the usual. I haven’t been able to keep food down for three days and my breasts are so tender it hurts to wear a shirt. This has happened before though, so I’m trying not to read too much into it. Progesterone is as effective at making these symptoms pop up as a baby would be,” I said, something I repeated to myself by rote after all these cycles.

I really was trying to temper my potential excitement. Sometimes I was sure this was it, other times I was convinced that my “symptoms” were psychosomatic. I went back and forth at least once an hour. It didn’t help that I was getting daily injections of progesterone, a hormone that would help support a pregnancy if I was pregnant, but could mimic the symptoms if I wasn’t. I didn’t want to let myself hope.

“Do you have a feeling one way or the other?” Paige asked.

“Not really,” I replied honestly. “But it’s still really early. So are you excited or nervous, or what?”

“Both, I think. We’ve been waiting a while for this, so it feels so good to be one step closer. I’m starting a list of everything that needs to be done, and it’s not a short list.”

“Okay, the fact that you’re making a to do list is a little annoying.”

But I laughed, because this was my friend, and I had seen her through bad news before. Her sadness at losing her husband’s biological link to their child bad been heartbreaking. She deserved to be pregnant, and she deserved to be excited about it. Even if she was, perhaps, too excited.

“I’ll let you go so you can get back to work,” Paige said. “Good luck.”

“You too.”

A few minutes later, a text popped up from Julianne.

“Can you believe it?”

I couldn’t, and I replied as much to her text. This was the first good news our group had gotten in a while. It was a nice change for a friendship that had begun due to catastrophic news.

I stared at the pregnancy test, willing myself to put it back into the bathroom cabinet from whence it came. Like a lot of infertile women, I had a secret stash of pregnancy tests in the bathroom, waiting to use them every month. I was mere days from my beta, but the wait was starting to get to me. I wanted to know if I was or not, and I wanted to know now. Stupid Paige, for testing early and putting the idea into my head. She was going to pay for this.

I picked up my cell phone, which I’d set down next to the pregnancy test.

“Hey, Elise.”

“Julianne. I need you to talk me out of taking a pregnancy test.”

“Oh, Elise. You’re usually the strongest of us all.”

“I need to know, Jules.”

“The longer you wait to test, the longer you have to be hopeful.”

“But the sooner I take it, the longer I have to be happy about the baby.”

“Unless it’s negative. Or a false positive. Maybe you still have your trigger shot in your system. Now you’re setting yourself up for a few more days of sadness.”

“But I want to know.”

“You won’t know for sure until your beta. You’ll spend all your time between now and then wondering if the results were wrong.”

“I’m still not convinced.”

“Put the test down and step away. Even if you have to stop drinking water for the day.”

She was right, I knew that. I needed to back away. Testing early never really gave me comfort. Positive or negative, I’d still want to see the results of the blood test before I would believe it. I’d want to see an ultrasound before I believed there was a baby there. I’d need to hold that baby in my arms before I believed that I’d take it home with me.

“Okay, I think the crisis is averted.”

“Just because Paige tested early doesn’t mean you have to too.”

“I know, you’re right.”

“Good. Be patient, Elise.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Yeah, because I’m not trying to get pregnant too or anything. My cycle happens to be taking a bit longer than yours.”

“All right, thanks for talking me down. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Good luck, doll.”

I put the test back in the drawer I’d taken it from, and shut the drawer, pretending I didn’t know what was inside. But I knew. So I pulled the drawer open again, and pulled the pregnancy test back out. I could simply not tell anyone what it said. Yes, that seemed like a fair compromise.

No. I wasn’t going to do this. Back into the drawer, this time resolutely slammed shut.

There was a knock on the door.

“El? You okay in there?”

Dammit, it was Ben. Oh, of course it was. Who else would be in my house, check on what was taking me so long in the bathroom?

“Oh, yeah,” I replied, and opened the door. “I’m fine.”

“What were you doing in there for so long?”

“Nothing.”

“Better be nothing. You didn’t wash your hands.”

“I’m having trouble being patient.”

“I feel you. Hey, at least you have symptoms to over-analyze. I’m stuck over here with nothing.”

“This must be impossible for you.”

Ben shrugged. “There’s nothing I can do to help or hurt the situation. I did my thing at the doctor’s office, and after that, you do all the work, whether we get pregnant or not. Obviously I want you to be pregnant. I know that you’re doing everything you can on your end, that we’re doing everything we can. So if it happens, it happens. If not, we’ll figure out the next steps. We always have before.”

“God, you’re so logical and chill about this.”

“Someone has to be. It certainly won’t be you.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, what, you didn’t take a test, but you stared at one for a while?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me have the test. Then we won’t have to worry about you sneaking back in here.”

“Julianne talked me out of it. I’m okay now.”

“I’m sure you are. I’ll take it anyway.”

I retrieved the test from the drawer, and placed it in Ben’s outstretched hand.

“We’ll wait it out together,” Ben said.

I nodded. “Yeah, we can be patient as a team, right?”

“Right.”

I stared at Ben’s fingers as they wrapped around the pregnancy test. The urge to snatch it from his hand struck me suddenly, and I bit my lip.

Three more days until my blood test.

And Ben didn’t know that test had come from a three-pack.

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