Not Right Now by Laurel Osterkamp
CW: mention of abortion
The entire day had been a series of bursts: a burst of noise while flagging down a taxi, a burst of nerves while sitting in the waiting room, wondering if she’d back out, a burst of guilt and tension, every time Tricia and Simon met each other’s eyes.
Now everything was deflated. Even the couch sagged with their weight. Tricia drummed her fingers against her knee; there was a hole in her worn jeans where it poked through. Both Tricia and Simon stared straight ahead, as if tonight’s episode of Fantasy Island were playing on their broken TV, which obviously, it wasn’t. Listening to the bustle of the city, the honking horns and screeching breaks and the collective murmurs of passersby, would have to be entertainment enough.
Tricia got up, moved to the window, and looked out. She could feel Simon’s eyes staring into her back. Her eyes stayed on the cityscape outside, but she spoke to him. “You know that without my job, we’d never have been able to afford that baby, right?”
“Of course,” he murmured. “We went over it a thousand times.”
His voice was soft, nothing like how Doug, her boss at the studio, had sounded when she’d told him about the adoption. “You’d said you weren’t having kids,” he’d responded, all hard edges and aggression.
It was true; Tricia had said that. Due to a terrible infection and an emergency room procedure from when she was in college, she knew that having a baby wasn’t a possibility, not for her. She’d told Simon early on in their relationship and he’d said he didn’t care. “All I want is you,” Simon had insisted.
As for herself, Tricia had never experienced maternal yearnings. She’d been too busy, working her way up from intern to local news reporter to local news anchor to finally getting a job at CBS National News, where occasionally she’d come face to face with Dan Rather. Her only focus had been on working her way up the ladder, and none of the rest of it, the sixty-hour work week for poverty-level pay, or subsisting on ramen and grilled cheese, or a schedule that was opposite Simon’s so that they could literally go days without seeing each other - none of that had bothered her.
But it had bothered Simon.
“Cassie is pregnant,” he’d told her one Monday evening, when Tricia was still, miraculously awake at 11 PM. Simon had gotten home from his shift at the restaurant, a job he’d insisted he’d have only until he got his big break.
Cassie was Simon’s second cousin. She’d been a runaway, had even crashed on Tricia and Simon’s couch for a week last spring. Tricia knew that Cassie was a mess. “Oh no,” Tricia had answered. “And she’s keeping it?”
“Sort of. She wants us to adopt the baby.”
Tricia laughed, hoping Simon would join in. But he didn’t. “Simon, be realistic. We can’t handle a baby. Not right now.”
Then, Simon launched into what was surely a prepared speech, saying that sometimes God or fate throws you a sign, and you know that what you’d planned for your life is not, actually, the path you should take. What if this baby was their salvation? What if they would forever regret the loss of love and joy it would bring them, were they to tell Cassie no?
Tricia said she’d think about it. She was being honest about that, but could she really claim to have been acting in good faith when she mentioned the possibility of adoption to Doug? She knew how he’d respond, even though this sort of discrimination had supposedly been made illegal a few years ago.
If she adopted this baby, her career would be over.
Simon had caved easily, too easily, given that Tricia could tell how desperately he was clinging to the idea of a baby. He called Cassie, said they’d pay for her to come into the city, that they’d make the appointment, that they’d take care of her afterwards. She didn’t need to worry about a thing.
Now, Cassie slept in their tiny bedroom, enduring cramps and bleeding. As for Simon and Tricia, tonight one of them would sleep on the couch, the other on the floor.
“I should check on her,” Tricia said, roaming toward the bedroom, thinking she’d retrieve some pillows while she was in there. Without them, the floor would be cold, hard, and unforgiving.
Laurel Osterkamp is a novelist and a high school teacher, and she is pursuing her MFA in creative writing. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and multiple pets. You can find her on Twitter, @laurellit1, or on her blog, www.laurellit.com.