There’s nothing like a straight line to taunt a woman who prides herself as an excellent researcher. Add another one that actually spells it out for her in case she missed the line on the first test strip or the second one and I’m lost. I don’t even have any morning pee left to test the fourth one I bought… just in case there’d be a false positive. But there it is. Three test strips saying the same thing. Three false positives can’t be wrong.
And that’s not a good thing because I’m single—have been since Kevin and I broke up six months ago. All I have of the guy who got me into this predicament are memories of our one-night stand and his first name.
The mere thought of him has me biting my lower lip. How many times did we do it? Twice? Three times? We’d had a few drinks at the bar but I wasn’t so drunk that I couldn’t stand up straight when we walked out together. I remember dancing on the sidewalk because I was simply feeling silly—and giddy. A first for me.
I remember our kiss in the rain and then his offer to dry off in his apartment. Classic line and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. But it’s not like I didn’t want to spend more time with him for I did—every minute and every second before I’d return to my boring life in the morning.
He was drop-dead gorgeous with copper hair and green eyes, sculpted shoulders, chest, and abs. Oh, why stop there? He had thighs of steel and a cock I couldn’t get enough of. Holy hell, but he sent me to the moon and back so many times that I forgot my name.
Is it crazy that I’ve caught myself more than once dreaming about him? That’s before I kick myself for acting too cool that when he asked for my number, I told him in my best femme fatale voice that I didn’t do encores. And boy, do I regret it.
Because I’m pregnant.
But how the heck can I be pregnant when we used protection—all three times we did it?
The knock on the door sends me in a panic and I sweep the test strips off the bathroom counter and into the trash can next to it. I unroll a few squares of toilet paper and neatly lay it over them just as the door opens and my best friend Harlow James steps into the bedroom.
“Is everything okay?” She asks as I wash my hands and dry them as calmly as I can. It’s not like Harlow to just walk into occupied bathrooms but this is her house and I’ve been in the bathroom for most of her wedding reception, checking on the same test strips from this morning as if their uniform results would magically turn negative.
“Of course, why wouldn’t it be?” I’m smiling broadly. Maybe too broadly. All my teeth are probably showing, a clear sign that I’m guilty of something.
Yeah, guilty of finding out I’m pregnant on the morning of my best friend’s wedding which has been nothing but perfect. Last-minute, but perfect. I even cried real tears and managed to ruin my makeup although I suspect it didn’t have as much to do with the wedding than the fact that my professional life, as I know it, is over. And hormones.
Why did I have to do the pregnancy tests this morning, right before the wedding when I could have waited until tomorrow? That way, Harlow and Dax wouldn’t have had to worry about me being so emotional.
But I’m also happy for them. After everything Jeff put her through the last two years, Harlow deserves her own happily-ever-after. Dax is the perfect man for her. He’s gorgeous, devoted, and it doesn’t even matter that he’s thirteen years younger than she is. As far as anyone else is concerned, they’re soulmates.
I pretty much melted when Dax called her mi vida when they said their vows. My life. It’s like the dramatic Filipino soap operas my mother watches whenever I visit her and Dad during the weekends.
Will I ever find someone who’ll say that to me one day?
“Is everything okay?” Harlow asks again as she stands at the door. Behind her, the reception is still going strong and it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. It’s only been three hours. Or is it four?
“Yup. I’m just tired, that’s all. I had a full day at the clinic before I flew in last night.” We’re in my bedroom, one of the five or six rooms in their funky sustainable home called the Pearl. After socializing during the reception, learning how to dance the salsa with this cute doctor named Gabe, and eating my share of New Mexican food (my favorite are the sopapillas), I’m exhausted. I may also be suffering from a case of heartburn from all the New Mexican green chile.
But I’m not complaining. There’s nowhere else I want to be but here in Taos, New Mexico for my best friend’s last-minute wedding. All it took was a phone call and I dropped everything to be here. Well, Kathy Pleschette, our office manager, and I did. It’s so unlike Harlow to be so impulsive and have a wedding with barely a week’s notice, but then, nothing about Harlow these days is anything like the Harlow I’ve always known. Version 2.0 is what I call the version of Harlow James post-Jeffrey-Gardner-divorce. And that’s a good thing because Jeff was—and still is—an asshole.
“Sorry for the late notice,” Harlow says although there’s nothing apologetic about her tone as we giggle.
“Stop it with the apologies, Harlow. I’ll take this any day over a full rotation at Miller General.”
I’d flown into Santa Fe Airport right after work last night via a private jet courtesy of a grateful parent of one of our pediatric transplant patients. I’m not even going to worry about ethics. A free ride on a private plane is a free ride on a private plane. Let’s just say I hitched a ride.
“Thanks for arranging that sweet ride from Santa Fe to get here, by the way. I must have taken so many pictures to send to my mom. I’m sure she’s sent it to all her friend by now. Look, my daughter is on a private jet,” I say as Harlow lies down on the bed next to me, our legs dangling off the edge. Well, my legs are. Harlow is tall enough.
“Your mom means well though,” she says. “She’s very proud of you.”
I sigh. “She sure is.”
Harlow turns to look at me. “So what did you think about Sawyer? He volunteered to pick you up and I wasn’t about to say no.”
“Sawyer’s hot,” I reply, remembering doing a double-take when I saw him at the airport. He’s a big guy, a former Marine who now works private security… and it shows. I did detect a very slight limp in his gait but that’s probably only because I’m anal like that. “And to think he can officiate a wedding, too. Lucky you.”
“We honestly thought he was kidding when his brother told us,” Harlow says, laughing. “Can you believe it? Sawyer of all people is an ordained minister? He’s a Marine, you know.”
“Is he single?”
I laugh. “Not really.” Sure, my hormones are going crazy and I’m horny as hell but watching Sawyer’s hands grip the steering wheel as he drove only made me think of Jordan and the way he touched me that night.
Stop it, Addy.
Outside, we hear Dax and the rest of the guys cheer over something followed by laughter. How their newborn twins can sleep through the racket I have no idea but that will be something I’ll worry about when it’s my turn to have the baby that no one knows about yet.
“So what’s up?” Harlow asks, her tone serious now. “You’ve been quiet for most of the day. Is something wrong? Your parents okay?”
Harlow knows I’m close to my parents, sometimes too close. Ma is the quirky one who used to make Filipino delicacies for Harlow to try before all hell broke loose with her divorce. Ma has since stopped doing that. She’s not a fan of divorce. At. All. She believes that people need to work it out no matter what happens. It doesn’t even matter that in Harlow and Jeff’s case, it was over long before it was over. The guy cheated on her and everyone in the hospital knew it but Harlow. There’s no returning from that.
“Yeah, they’re fine. They say hi, by the way.”
“Tell them hi back.”
“This was the best wedding I’ve ever been to, Harlow. Down to those damn sopapillas that Nana personally drizzled with honey. I probably ate ten of them.”
Harlow chuckles. “Everyone does.”
“Thanks again for inviting me.”
“Why wouldn’t I invite you? You’re my best friend and colleague and research partner,” Harlow says. “I’m just happy you made it. I know it was such short notice.”
I scoot to the middle of the bed so I’m completely on it, no more legs dangling off the side. I pat the space next to me. “Why don’t you move up here, Mrs. Drexel? Unless your husband is looking for you already–”
“Oh, please. We’ll both crash the moment the party ends,” she says, laughing as she scoots up on the bed next to me. “Isn’t this just wild?”
“It is, but it’s also beautiful. You’re so lucky. Dax is a dreamboat… and so are his friends. First Sawyer, and then Gabe who is an awesome dancer. He made me look so good dancing the salsa out there. You’d think I took lessons.”
“Yup, that’s Gabe for you. A natural. All you have to do is follow his lead.”
“Exactly. He had to remind me in the beginning not to lead, that it’s his job to lead. And…” I abruptly sit up, suddenly feeling sick to my stomach. “Excuse me. I gotta–”
I don’t finish the sentence for I’m rushing to the bathroom and retching over the toilet bowl. Nothing comes, like always, at least, ever since this whole morning sickness started about a week ago. I flush the toilet and wash my face before joining Harlow in the bedroom. Her eyes narrow as she watches me return to my spot on the bed.
I clear my throat. “Must be all those sopapillas I’ve been–”
“Addy, are you pregnant?”
As I look at Harlow, I know there’s no point in lying. “I found out this morning. The test stick thingy is in the trash. Actually, three of them. All the same. Positive. Did you know they have one that actually spells the word out in case you’re not sure?”
Harlow stares at me in disbelief for a few seconds. “Oh my god! Addison!” She wraps her arms around me and squeezes. “Congratulations! I didn’t realize you and Kevin got back together.”
“Um, no, we didn’t.”
She pulls away and frowns. “I didn’t realize you were seeing someone new.”
“I got myself a sperm donor.” The words spill out before I can stop myself. A sperm donor?! Where the hell did that come from?
“You did? When?” She looks confused. “I mean, why didn’t you tell me? That’s a big decision to make.”
I shrug, hugging a pillow to my belly. “It was one of those last-minute decisions. You know, I’m thirty-three and I want to have a baby so why not do it myself kinda thing?”
Harlow continues to look at me, the expression on her face bordering between are you serious? and ohhh-kay. “Your parents must be thrilled.”
I shake my head. “They don’t know yet. I mean, I didn’t even know if it would take, you know. I just figured I wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to still be young while the kid grew up.”
I’m winging it as I go but I don’t care. The lie comes out so smoothly, too, and while I hate myself for lying to my best friend and colleague, the same woman who’s gone through three miscarriages and one stillbirth and knows all too well how this whole thing works, I can’t stop myself.
I really should stop while I’m ahead but I need to save face. What would everyone think if they learned the truth, that I got pregnant from a one-night stand and I can’t get a hold of the father? And judging from the fact that a woman wearing a ring on her finger answered the door of his condo last week, the asshole just might have been married.
“I can understand wanting to be young when you have kids,” Harlow says. “Come to think of it, when Ani-Pea and Dax, Jr. will be ten, I’ll be fifty-one. Can you imagine that?”
Suddenly I feel like a dick and I start to cry. “Oh my God, Harlow, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.”
She smiles, squeezing my hand. “I know you didn’t. I’m just being analytical right now.”
“Are you sure?” I can do analytical every day. Between the two of us, we’ve authored over seven research papers on the topic of pediatric kidney transplantation. Up until Harlow met Dax, both of us lived and breathed data.
“I’m sure,” she says. “But even if I’ll be in my fifties by then, Dax will be in his late thirties.” She pauses, her brow scrunched up as she thinks. “Wow, that is a big age difference, isn’t it?” She gives me a look of feigned shock. “Oh, my, what a scandal! Look at her, robbing the cradle!”
Suddenly we both laugh at the inside joke. It’s all we’ve been able to do for the last year when Harlow found herself embroiled in a scandal over her involvement with a man thirteen years her junior, “a boy toy” she allegedly kept hidden in the desert, according to her vindictive ex-husband.
I still don’t know how she managed to go through her days unscathed by all the gossip but with Dax and his family by her side, I can see how she did it. The rest of the world could all go to hell in a handbasket but with the Drexel extended family by her side, Harlow had nothing to worry about. She found the family she’d always wanted.
“So what are your plans?” she asks and I draw a blank. It’s as if I’d run out of lies for the day.
“Can you believe it? I have no idea.”
Harlow’s eyes narrow. “Wow, Addy, you really did go into this quite… impulsively. That’s not like you but at the same time, wanting to have a baby is just… logic be damned. I know that was me when Jeff and I were trying to have kids. Nothing else mattered.”
I suddenly wish I could take back my lie but it’s too late. I can’t be so flippant about something like this, not to Harlow who’s lost so much in her quest to be a mother. But I’m also not being flippant at all. I’m just in a panic.
“I did go into half-assed, didn’t I?” I say softly.
Harlow sits up on the bed, her long wavy hair falling over her shoulders. I can’t believe I’m looking at the same woman who never used to smile and who never let her hair down. She’d always been my version of Super Woman, someone who could do it all whether it was being one of Manhattan’s top pediatric transplant surgeons or the perfectly coiffed society wife on the pages of some random Hamptons society magazine. I was just the specialist she offered a position at her clinic after I finished my internship.
“Well, what’s done is done,” she says, shrugging. “You’re pregnant and that means you’ll need to take care of yourself and the baby. Prenatal visits, vitamins, no stress which means you could maybe cut down your hours at the clinic if you have to.”
“I can’t do that.”
“If you have to, you should,” Harlow says. “I mean, you’ve got a baby on the way, Addy. And just like you said, you’re not young anymore. Having a baby over thirty puts you in a high-risk category… well, if you talk to every gynecologist out there, that is.”
I nod, sighing. Of course, she’s right. This isn’t her first rodeo. “I’ll get that sorted out when I get back.”
“So what did you pick?” Harlow asks.
“What do you mean?”
“The sperm donor, silly,” she says, laughing. “I’m sure you knew what he wanted to look like, right? Or, at least, saw the traits on some form. Did you pick a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian male with European ancestry? A Viking, maybe? Or a Filipino like–”
“Redhead,” I blurt out. “I picked a ginger. Green-hazel eyes, hotter than hell, and I think, Irish. Maybe blue-collar.”
“Hotter than hell… So you saw him?”
Realizing my mistake, I shake my head. Crap, isn’t the process anonymous? It’s not like I can swipe right based on the face, right? “No, I mean, I imagine he’s hotter than hell.”
Harlow looks thoughtful for a few moments. “It would certainly make a good combination if you ask me. I hear gingers are really hot.”
“He sure was,” I sigh before catching Harlow’s surprised expression. “No, I mean, that’s what I heard.”
But it’s no use. Just as I find it hard to believe myself, Harlow doesn’t look like she believes me either. But I’ve dug myself in a hole so deep I might as well keep going.
Besides, Jordan really was hot.