Brad was already in bed, sitting up against the pillows, reading. Cody had been asleep for a couple of hours. I was grateful for that, because I didn’t want him to see me like this.
Brad has always been sensitive to my moods. The moment I walked into the bedroom, he knew something was wrong. He lowered his book and looked at me.
With a huge lump in my throat, I lifted the covers and climbed silently into bed.
“Lydia, what is it?”
“I’m happy for Carol,” I said in a shaking voice. “But it hit me just now…. I can’t have children. I mean, I’ve known all along and it isn’t like it’s any surprise…so I don’t understand why I should feel like this now.”
“We’ll never have a baby of our own,” he said softly. “We have to accept that.”
I was in my teens when I first underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. From the time I was sixteen, I knew my ability to conceive had been lost. I would never, under any circumstances, bear a child. Brad and I had discussed this at length before we married. I thought I had accepted it.
“We have Cody,” Brad reminded me gently.
Cody was deeply important to me; I didn’t need to tell Brad that. And yet, I still ached. My arms had never felt so empty. My heart hurt. For the first time, I understood with all my being the pain Carol had endured before Cameron came into her life.
“Cody is as much my son as if I’d given birth to him,” I whispered.
“Yes, but you never knew him as an infant.” Brad was telling me he understood what I was feeling. “Do you want a baby?” he asked, his voice low and soothing.
I nodded, deploring the tears that filled my eyes. “I want your baby.”
Brad placed his arm around my shoulders and kissed the top of my head. I knew he was struggling to find the words to comfort me. Above all, I needed his assurance that he loved me despite my physical inadequacies. If he’d married just about anyone else, he could have fathered a second child. It was his bad luck that he fell in love with me.
I was aware of how ridiculous I was being. I didn’t care. I wanted to feel a baby—our baby—stretching, kicking and growing within my womb. That was denied to me because of my cancer. It was unfair and wrong and I was miserable, swallowed up in self-pity.
“I would’ve been a good mother,” I sobbed.
“You’re already a great mother.” Brad got out of bed and went into the bathroom, returning with several tissues.
“Let’s adopt,” Brad suggested as I mopped my face.
“Adopt?” I repeated the word as if I’d never heard it before. We’d talked about it, of course, but I suppose the option had never seemed real to me.
Brad stood there waiting for a response.
“Do you want to adopt?” I asked.
“I would if that would help you,” he said. He made it sound as simple as snapping his fingers.
“Oh, Brad.” In that moment I loved him so much. But the problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted.
“We can start calling adoption agencies tomorrow morning.” He seemed pleased with this solution. “I do have flashes of brilliance every now and then,” he murmured, getting into bed again.
“You do,” I said. With gratitude and love, I spread eager kisses over his cheeks and lips.
My husband took my face between his hands and kissed me back, each kiss growing in intensity. “This doesn’t mean,” he whispered between kisses, “that we should give up our efforts to…make a baby.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed, sliding my arms around his neck and pulling him to me.
My husband is an appreciative lover, and I felt his tenderness and his love in every cell of my body as we moved together, whispering encouragement.
Afterward, we lay spent in each other’s arms. Earlier I’d felt bereft, lacking as a woman. Brad had showed me I was woman enough to satisfy him, and knowing that brought me intense pleasure and pride.
“I’m hungry,” he whispered close to my ear.
“Brad! How can you think about food at a time like this?”
“Sorry, I can’t help it. I’m famished.”
“There aren’t any cookies left.” I’d baked peanut butter cookies Sunday afternoon for Cody. But Brad liked them as much as Cody did and had eaten more than his share.
“I’ll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” he said, tossing aside the covers. He shrugged into his robe. “Want one?”
My first reaction was to decline, but then I changed my mind. “Yeah, that sounds good,” I said, folding back the blankets. I found my nightgown and slipped it over my head.
By the time I joined Brad, he had the bread laid out on the countertop and was searching the cupboard for a jar of peanut butter.
“Next to the stove, right-hand side,” I instructed him.
While he made the sandwiches, I got out milk and poured us each a glass.
“So, should I check into adoption agencies tomorrow?” Brad asked.
“I…I’m not sure yet.”
“You don’t seem convinced.” He turned to look at me. “We need to be very sure about this before we apply.”
“Let me think about it some more, all right?”
“There are a lot of questions we’ll have to ask ourselves,” I pointed out.
“Well, we both work. What about day care?”
Brad unscrewed the lid on the jelly jar. “My mother watched Cody after he was born so Janice could work,” he said. “I can approach her about that so we won’t have to worry about child care.”
“Okay.” Still, there were plenty of other questions. Like: Would we be willing to maintain a relationship with the birth mother if she wanted one? And what if the child had some inherited disease or condition—could we cope with that?
“I could pick her up after work,” Brad was saying.
“Her?” I teased.
“Did I say her?” he asked, sounding surprised. “I guess I just assumed you’d want a girl.”
“How about you?” I asked.
“I’d be happy either way.”
“On the other hand, if we have a choice, I think I’d like a little girl.” Brad slapped two slices of bread together and handed me the first sandwich. I reached for a plate and cut my sandwich in two. Brad ate his standing over the kitchen sink.
“Cody will be good with an infant,” I said, picturing my stepson with a baby. “Boy or girl.”
Brad agreed with a quick nod. He’d gobbled down his whole sandwich before I’d had the chance to eat half of mine. I put the second half in the fridge and we went back to bed.
We cuddled close and I felt the even rhythm of his breathing a few minutes later and realized he’d fallen asleep. It took me a while longer as I reviewed our discussion. Adoption.
Brad and I could bring an infant into our lives. I thought about how my family was likely to react. I knew it would please my mother; she’d always wanted more grandchildren.
I could say with certainty that Margaret, however, would insist adoption was a mistake. After making sure I knew she disapproved, she’d list ten excellent reasons why Brad and I shouldn’t adopt a child. But it wasn’t Margaret’s life, was it? I reminded myself that the decision was ours, not my sister’s.
What seemed like minutes later, the alarm on our clock radio was buzzing. The morning news followed. Brad was already out of bed and in the shower. Although I don’t have to be at work until ten, I make it a habit to get up with my husband.
Yawning, I went into the kitchen, started the coffee and dropped slices of bread in the toaster. Cody, lucky boy, could sleep for another hour before he had to wake up.
“Have you done any more thinking about what we discussed last night?” Brad asked me as he took his first sip of coffee.
“A little. What about you?”
“I’ll do whatever you want, Lydia.”
“Let’s talk about it again in a few weeks.”
He nodded. Before he left for work, Brad kissed me with extra fervor, and I took comfort in what he told me so effectively without words. I stepped outside with him, into a spring morning soft with promise. Standing on the deck, I watched him pull out of the garage.
I must’ve done something very good in my life to deserve Brad Goetz.
With Jacqueline and Colette’s encouragement, Alix joined Go Figure, an exercise gym for women, which had recently opened on Blossom Street.
Exercise, Alix heard from a variety of sources, was a good tension reliever. As the wedding date grew closer, Alix was in desperate need of something to calm her increasingly frazzled nerves. Knitting just wasn’t doing it anymore, not when this farce of a wedding got more ridiculous with each passing day.
As an added inducement, Colette had signed up with her. Go Figure wasn’t like any gym Alix had ever seen. It had equipment but no mirrors, except in the changing stalls, and no men.
The exercise program was predesigned and set to music. You went around the circle of exercise equipment, spending forty-five seconds on each machine, then you spent another forty-five seconds dancing or running in place on a small platform. After that, it was on to the next piece of equipment, and so on. The goal was to do thirty minutes of exercise, which meant completing the circle twice. Forty-five seconds? Anyone could manage that.
When Colette suggested they try this out, Alix had scoffed. She didn’t want to brag, but she was in good shape. She hoisted twenty-five-pound bags of flour nearly every day. Mixing all that bread dough and lifting it onto a floured board wasn’t for weaklings. Still, the first time she completed the cycle at Go Figure she discovered muscles she didn’t know she had.
After their initial week, during which they were allowed to visit as often as they wanted for free, Colette and Alix had decided to sign up. The gym recommended three to four sessions in a seven-day period. Having an exercise partner was great encouragement. Alix felt the workout had reduced her stress and Colette appeared to be enjoying the benefits, as well.
One drawback was that they couldn’t really chat. Not with the music blaring and the beat urging them on. But Alix and Colette usually found a few minutes before or after their sessions to talk.
“Did he call?” Alix asked when they’d finished the latest round of exercise. She didn’t have to explain who he was.
“No,” Colette muttered. Her face was red from exertion. She draped a small towel around her neck as she moved toward the dressing room. Pushing aside the curtain, she glanced at Alix. “I already told you he wouldn’t. That’s the way we both want it.”
When Colette had first mentioned Christian, Alix had serious doubts about him. Who wouldn’t? He seemed to be virtually blackmailing her into that dinner date. Something was going on between those two, something Colette hadn’t told her. Based on what she’d said earlier, there’d obviously been an incident, maybe a disturbing one. Alix wouldn’t pressure her, though.