Tessa tried to draw her knees up but the pull to the stitches in her side vetoed that idea fairly quickly. She slid her hands across her abdomen gingerly. Padding and medical tape testified to the unlikelihood that the last few hours had been a horrible dream.
A baby? Just gone…she hadn’t even known there was a little life growing inside, so why should she feel like this? It was like a whole knot of cold was sitting just under her sternum. Was that where a baby would be? Where something had been growing inside of her? She pressed her fist against the spot of cold, black spots floating into her vision as pain unlike she’d ever felt burned through her.
At least her body felt something. The cold was so numbing. She was tempted to press again when she heard the knock.
She closed her eyes and focused on the window where the slate grey sky was just melting into twilight. There’d been another night where twilight had been a foreshadowing of something amazing. The night that had changed her, or had it just been the harbinger of this? Had it just been a way for the universe to showcase the pain that followed her, the loneliness that was never far from her life?
She’d never even wanted kids. Her career and her life just weren’t really built for them. Hell, she had trouble taking care of herself, let alone another person. For God’s sake, she lived on Lean Cuisine and Stouffers for dinner. She’d learned to deal with the nights and the fact that no one had ever quite fit with her.
Except when you were with Jon.
She closed her eyes against that thought. Except with Jon was becoming a little too much a part of her vocabulary.
“Tessa?” he asked again. She heard the door open and shut gently. She couldn’t even look at him. God, what he must think of her. They’d barely been together a half year.
She didn’t even know his family and she’d nearly added to it. Maybe that was the price she had to pay. She’d been happy for way too long, really. She’d been ignoring the signs when Jon kept his life separate from hers.
They’d never even discussed a future beyond a day at a time.
She closed her eyes. Maybe this was the wake-up call she needed. The push to show that she was deluding herself. She’d never be anything more than a handy bit of fun to a man like Jon. He already had a family.
She heard him pull a chair to her side, her throat tight when it came to the side she faced. She could smell him, the mix of cigarettes and leather, the lack of cologne in deference to hours spent in the studio. She flinched as he traced the line of her face from temple to cheek.
“I know you can hear me in there,” he said quietly. “I’d prefer to talk to those pretty green eyes of yours, but if this is what I get, this is what I get.”
She didn’t say a word. Had nothing to say, really. Jon’s strength had always been words. He knew what to say, knew when to say it. He tripped over his feet sometimes, but he’d always been careful to say what was within his limits. No promises that he couldn’t keep. He was so careful with her, perhaps too careful.
“I love you, Tessa. We’re going to get through this, I promise you. I’m sorry that this happened. I’m sorry you were alone.”
She tightened her jaw, swallowing back the quick words that wanted to tumble out. She was always alone, really. Why should that make a difference now?
“I won’t let that happen again.”
She could hear the resolve in his tone. The strength in his voice and the sureness there was such a part of him. She just wished that sureness embodied the whole of their relationship instead of just the piece she was allowed to be a part of.
She kept her eyes shut, but finally spoke. “So what’s the plan? What’s the excuse that you’ll use for your family?” Finally, she opened her eyes when he didn’t answer. “What’s the spin, Jon?”
The look of horror in his eyes was almost enough to have her snatch the words back. Maybe she was wrong, but the way he looked down and away from her told her the truth. He’d already been thinking about it. He was a smart man, of course. He was a man that looked at almost every angle. Almost.
“It doesn’t matter,” she closed her eyes again, rolling away from him. “Just try not to make me look like a mistress trying to trap you with a baby. I’d appreciate it.”
He stood up, she could feel the temper and the outrage vibrating off of him as he leaned over her. “I know you’re hurting, so I’ll let that pass.”
She shrugged. “I’m tired, Jon.” She turned her cheek into the pillow. “I want to sleep for awhile.” She forced herself to let her breath even out.
“Don’t lock me out, Tessa. I’m hurting as much as you are,” he said softly. “Just because we never talked about kids didn’t mean I never wanted them. That part of you and part of me would’ve made something beautiful that I’d love just as much as I love you.”
Would the baby have been on the outside looking in, too? The little voice that was always whispering to her was getting louder. Had she been ignoring it in hope or in desperation?
The door to her room opened again and Dr. Esser stood in the threshold. Her shrewd eyes looked from Jon to Tessa and stepped back. “Should I come back?”
Tessa shook her head, thankful when Jon pulled back and stopped looming over her. She eased herself onto her back, flashing a quick look at Jon when her bed rose slightly. A quick brush of his fingers in her hair had her stuffing down the urge to bat his hands away. “No, that’s fine, doctor.”
Dr. Esser closed the door behind her and took her usual place at the end of the bed. Instead of staying there she stepped forward and looked over the fluids that hung at her head then to the monitors that still blipped and beeped. Content with her findings she unclipped the heart monitor on Tessa’s finger and turned off the machine.
“I’m very happy with the results from the hypovolemic shock. I was worried that your kidneys may have been damaged. I’m happy to report that the last few tests have come back satisfactorily.”
Tessa tried to cross her arms, but the quick flash of pain had her put her hands at her sides. Jon’s fingers found hers, tangling like they always did. Her first reaction was to tighten and link, but instead she left them lax on the bed. She just couldn’t.
The doctor’s eyes were sympathetic as she glanced down at Tessa’s stomach. “The incision will be painful for a few days, and there may be scarring that you’ll want to look into getting corrected down the road.”
Tessa nodded, but knew the scar would stay. Seemed fitting that she had a few on the outside as well. “I appreciate how well I’ve been treated at Riverview, Dr. Esser, but we both know a nurse could have told me those things.”
She sighed. “No, there are a few more things we need to discuss before we make plans for follow-up visits and your discharge.”
Tessa sat up straighter, her stitches driving her back with a gasp.
“Tessa, please,” she heard Jon say just before a gentle hand landed on her shoulder. She beat down the impulse to shove him away from her and took a deep breath.
Dr. Esser came forward, flipped the sheet away and tugged at the loosely tucked gown until the wide length of gauze gleamed across her belly. She stared up at the ceiling as Jon gasped and took a step back, out of the way. Not wanting to, but knowing she had to get it over with, she looked down at her flat stomach, bulging slightly with the filmy, rust colored material. “You pulled at your stitches a bit too much. I’ll have a nurse come in and redress you after we’re done.” She let the flap of cotton fall back into place, pressing lightly on the tape edges. “You can cover up,” Dr. Esser said and stepped back.
Sucking back the embarrassment and the need to hide the angry looking proof of her loss, she tugged at the covers. Jon’s hand was there, smoothing it down gently. She let herself look up and saw the pain there in his eyes. For the first time, she reached out for him and the relief gave her a small measure of hope.
Dr. Esser sat at the bottom most corner of her bed and laid her chart down on the swing tray stationed there out of the way. “When I was checking for damage during your surgery I noted the status of your remaining ovary. I had no choice but to take the one on your right side and I was able to save the left,” she began.
There was a but. There was always a but.
“But your left ovary wasn’t as strong as I would have liked. Most women don’t have to worry about that since they can almost always rely on the other.”
“But not me,” Tessa said quietly.
“I’m not ruling out a future that includes children, I just wanted to let you know that the chances are far slimmer than that of a—“
“Normal woman,” Tessa finished. The cold knot spread and dug into her chest.
“No, not normal, Tessa. Than that of a woman with two working ovaries. Even women with perfectly healthy ovaries can have a problem conceiving, I just want you to be aware that if you choose to try again—“
“This was a mistake,” Tessa said bluntly. “I got pregnant by accident.”
“Oh,” the doctor said softly. “Just because you didn’t plan this pregnancy, doesn’t mean you will feel the loss any less. In fact, I strongly suggest seeing one of our councilors to discuss any—“
“I’ll be fine,” Tessa interrupted.
“Be that as it may, if your future includes wanting to start a family I don’t want you to discount your chances. I just want you to be prepared for any difficulties that may arise. Your remaining ovary works, but it’s not as strong as the one you lost. And the age factor may also come up with you being in your late thirties.” Dr. Esser patted her calf. “I believe in arming a woman with all of her options before I let you out of my sight. You’ll need to do a follow-up visit with your own gynecologist within the next week and again in three months. We’ve forwarded the info onto Dr. Paulson with the help of your friend.”
She nodded, her head spinning. Not just this baby. Not just this one moment. The cold drilled deeper until she could almost imagine each of her bones shattering with it. She heard Jon trying to talk to her, the worry and the pain evident even as the words muffled into nothingness.
She nodded as the doctor told her she would be back, too lost to reply. She was always going to be alone. She closed her eyes and let the soft grey curl around the edges of pain that remained.