Present Day

     “Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in this world who feels so broken. I look around and seem to feel so completely alone.”
     Melissa dropped her head, lost in herself. Dr. Stenson let her have a moment in silence before he spoke.
     “Why do you feel so alone, Melissa?”
     She slightly jerked her shoulder in response. She seemed to be lost in thought, but finally gave her answer in a quiet voice.
     “I have no idea.”

***

3 Months Ago

     She woke with a smile on her face. It was hard not to when you were being tickled awake in the morning.
     “Ben, stop it!” she giggled.
     This, of course, only led to an increase in tickling.
     “Benjamin Michael, you stop that immediately!”
     Ben figured it was an order he could easily ignore, considering the command came out in the middle of snorts and giggles. Grinning, he eventually released her so that she could breathe.
     Her body was immensely pleased that it was finally able to relax. Melissa turned her head and grinned back at Ben.
     “You’re going to pay for that.”
     “Uh huh”, he casually replied, already dismissing her threat.
     She pursed her lips as he rolled out of bed. She wanted him to be afraid.
     Very afraid.
     “I’m not kidding, Ben. You’re going to regret every second you spent tickling me out of a wonderful, peaceful sleep. You’ve had your last laugh at my expense, pal.”
     He looked back at her with a sleepy, smug expression on his face before he walked into the bathroom.
     “Whatever you say, sweetheart.”
     As he closed the door to the bathroom and started the shower, she frowned up at the ceiling. It probably didn’t help that she was a mere five foot five, weighed only one hundred and ten pounds, and had what her friends considered one of the sweetest personalities known to man.
     Not much to strike fear into her fiancé.
     Oh well, she thought, already shrugging it off. She had much bigger and more important things to occupy her mind.
     Itching with excitement for Ben to finish his shower, she rolled out of bed and began pacing. She had woken up in the middle of the night and decided it was time. Time to tell him what she had found out just yesterday.
     When Ben finally came out, she was grinning like a kid in a candy shop.
     Reflexively, he smiled back.
     “Good morning, beautiful.”
     “Good morning, handsome.”
     He slowly walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and gave her a teasing kiss.
     “And why are you so happy this morning?”
     This was it, she thought. She took a deep breath and knew she was about to change the course of their lives.
     Still smiling, she told him.
     “We’re pregnant.”

***

Present Day

     “I think you know why you feel so alone”, Dr. Stenson replied.
     Her silence made him carefully consider what he wanted to say next. Deciding that they could come back to this topic later, he changed the subject.
     “Tell me how Ben is doing.”
     Still looking down at her hands, she gave a small smile that disappeared as soon as it came.
     “He’s doing okay. He’s doing much better than I am.”
     “Tell me about him.”
     Grateful that the topic had changed, she finally looked up.
     “He began painting again. He’s been spending a lot of time up in the attic, sometimes going hours without taking a break. Sometimes I have to force him to stop so that he doesn’t forget to eat.”
     Thinking of her Ben, her face lit with a soft smile.
     “He tells me I’m interrupting genius when I force him to stop and eat. You’d swear I was torturing him based on the look he gives me.”

***

2 Months Ago

     He interrupted her again.
     “Sweetie, does it honestly take 1 hour to get ready for a party?”
     He already knew the answer, but he just couldn’t hold the question in.
     “I mean, seriously…”
     Deciding not to dignify his question with a response, she closed the bathroom door in his face.
     Absurdly pleased with herself, she continued applying her makeup, already deciding to take a little longer than she had initially been planning on.
     She heard him groan outside the door as if he was in pain.
     Laughing quietly, she continued working her magic with her eyeliner.
     Ten minutes later she finally opened the bathroom door and began dressing. She really hadn’t decided whether she wanted to wear the red blouse or the…
     “Melissa! We’re going to be late, honey!”
     Upstairs, Melissa rolled her eyes.
     Oh no, we can’t have that, she mumbled to herself.
     Immediately wincing at her snippy thought, she took a breath and imagined herself putting on a cloak of positive thinking. It felt lame, but it was better than mentally beating up on her adorable husband.
     “I’ll be right down,” she shouted.
     Making one last attempt, he yelled back.
     “Honey, I don’t know how you could possibly make yourself more beautiful than you already are.”
     Smiling, he heard her laugh and finally walk out of the bedroom.

***

Present Day

     “When I first met Ben, I was jogging in the park. I was taking a break near the lake when I heard someone near me ask why in God’s name I was running when a nice pleasant walk got a person where they needed to go.”
     The memory made her smile.
     “I turned around and saw this gorgeous man sitting on the bench with a sketch pad in his lap, and my first thought was, Oh great, a sexy man just happens to talk to me when I’m sweating like a pig.”
     Dr. Stenson smiled back at Melissa. “You never know when that special someone will come along.”
     “Yes, well, I was sweating horribly when he did. But he’s always told me since then that I was an absolute vision and he just had to introduce himself before I ran out of his life, never to be seen again.” She smirked. “He usually gets dramatic when he’s trying to romance me.”
     “Anyway, he asked me if I wanted to rest for a little while next to him on the bench and enjoy the lake. My feet were killing me, so I figured why not. He introduced himself and said he was an artist. He’s never had a filter when it comes to his art, so one of the first questions he asked me was whether I’d feel comfortable to let him paint me nude.”
     Dr. Stenson laughed. “Pretty gutsy.”
     “Yes, well …” Deciding to change the subject, since Ben had eventually gotten his way with the nude painting, she focused instead on the comfortable warmth she felt when she thought of her and Ben that first time they met.
     “We still like going to parks, since it reminds us of when we first met. I’ve tried to get him to jog with me, but in all these years he’s never budged. I honesty don’t know if Ben would run even if a crazy person was running at him with a knife. He’d probably just power-walk in the opposite direction.”
     Thinking how wonderfully funny that was, she let out a laugh.
     After a while though, her smile slowly slipped off her face to be replaced with a look of helplessness.
     “I’ve always thought it was fate that brought us together. We were so happy, and then we were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant.”

***

1 Month Ago

     “Well, Mr. Ben Harper, just where is this surprise party you’re taking me to?”
     “Actually, I was thinking we’d just go out to dinner.”
     “Oh yeah, sure.” Thinking he was joking, she turned and smiled at him, but she dropped her smile when she saw he was serious.
     “Wait a minute, are you joking? You mean we’re just going out to dinner? You made me get ready for a party and put on this dress when it’s just going to be the two of us!”
     With her temper just about to fully kick in, Ben replied in a quiet voice.
     “There was a party tonight, but I just decided this very moment that I don’t want to share you with others tonight. I want you to myself tonight.
     Her temper immediately vanished. She sat staring at him as he continued to drive.
     “You know, sometimes you can be the most romantic man.” And with a touch of humor in her voice, she added “And I suppose because of that you think you’re off the hook for getting me excited for a party we’re no longer going to.”
     Stopping at a red light, he turned to her and decided to ignore her last question. “I’m romantic only sometimes?”
     Smiling, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
“You have your moments,” she replied.
     Ben smiled as he continued to look at her.
     “Sweetie, the light turned green.”
     Bringing his attention back to his driving, he started to pull into the intersection.
     “You know, one day our baby is going to …”
     He was never able to finish his sentence. Another driver, who was later found to be drunk, ended up running a red light and hitting the front passenger side door.

***

Present Day

     Suddenly, tears started to fall down her face.
     Dr. Stenson had thought she needed some quiet to collect her thoughts, so the room had been silent for a while.
     The silence ended up weighing heavily on Melissa, and she couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Another minute passed, and she cried gently at first, and then hard enough so that her shoulders were shaking.
     Her heart was broken, and there was simply no putting it back together as it had been before.
     With grief on her face, she eventually looked up.
     Her speech was slurred with tears, but she was compelled to speak.
     “She would have been 6 months old today.”


Written by Charles Weatherhead
Written over the course of three days:
   November 20, 2010
   January 3, 2011
   February 19, 2011