Later that evening, they sat alone in their apartment, wondering if they had made the right decision. The two lovers collapsed on opposite ends of the sofa in the dark living room, lit by street lights coming in through the uncovered windows. Neither one dared turn on the lights for fear of having to look each other in the eyes. The scent of lavender and peppermint oil, which she used to cover the antiseptic hospital smells she brought home on her nurse’s uniform, lingered in the sofa cushions. The unsettling sound of a police siren floated up from the street, three floors below. The decision sat with them, but it was becoming weaker, flickering like a flame at risk from the next breath.
It was different on the way home. Walking across the park, they held hands while the first snow fell softly around them. Playful as children, they were filled with delight, rejoicing in the snow salting their hair. Melting snowflakes, forming wet shapes of stars, needles, and columns, decorated their glowing red cheeks, like the imprints of leaves on sidewalks after rain. Snowfall, their favorite part of winter, blessing them at that moment, confirmed they had taken the right road—an uncertain road—but definitely the right one. They believed the snow, the gift of the first snow, was for them alone, their reward for making the right decision. They began to imagine the little one walking between them. Holding the small, warm hands in their twice-larger hands, they saw their future selves pulling the child up, swinging its tiny body in the air between them, listening to its happy, gleeful giggle. They allowed themselves to wonder—boy or girl?
But when they arrived at the apartment, their coats were wet and uncomfortable; their shoes, when they kicked them off, left muddy traces on the mat and smelled of old leaves and dog droppings.
He was angry no one had thought to leave the heat on or plan an easy dinner. Anticipating the need for a clean tee, something he had ignored for days, he remembered the damp, and, by now, permanently wrinkled laundry in the washer. He had forgotten to put it in the dryer and was irrationally angry at her for not reminding him. His mind filled with the details of his lessons for tomorrow and their challenges: Jamil who had talent, but whose family rarely paid; Sian who could not play the D chord even on his small guitar; Yashi who had trouble with transitions and always cried when her lesson was over. Why did he decide to teach music when all he wanted was to play guitar and write songs? Did he even really like children?
She too was angry. He didn’t hang up his coat or put his wet shoes on the rack. What would it be like picking up after a child when he was so messy? She was irrationally angry that he had no idea what she would be going through. Her mind filled with unwanted details of births she had witnessed, flashes of blue skin, the silence—when there was no first cry—and the look on the father’s face. At the hospital, when emergencies outnumbered available nurses and she started imagining people dying in the hallway, her therapist told her to put her anxiety on a canoe and send those thoughts down the river. She closed her eyes, saw the river, smelled the fresh mountain air, heard birds singing in the trees, but the scary thoughts would not float away. How could she hope to be a good mother when she lacked courage before mothering even started?
In the morning, when they folded back the bedding to get up, they saw the blood. Distracted by first-awakening needs—for the bathroom, for eating breakfast, for getting out the door on time for work—the vision of the red streak across the white linen jolted them into stillness. They stood, each on their own side of the bed, looking down at the dried blood. In the deadly quiet of the bedroom, they swallowed their shock, bit the inside flesh of their cheeks, choked on attempted words.
They knew this might happen. There was no need to be so alarmed, but they were. They felt the threat. They felt the road to their future, the proud future which they had imagined on that walk in the snow, begin to narrow for them. The decision had moved from being theirs, to belonging to the universe, to belonging to fate.
He leaped across the bed to her side.
Startled, she stepped back.
He put his arms around her and lifted her body. He laid her, softly, carefully, lovingly back on the sheets. He crept into the bed, cradling her. Together, waiting, they watched the morning light creep up the wall.