“Morning sickness can be exceedingly draining,” the doctor said sympathetically. “Eat slowly. A few crackers can work wonders. There are a few effective methods to reduce the nausea, which are covered in one of the pamphlets I gave you. If natural remedies don’t work to alleviate the symptoms and the nausea is persistent throughout the day, come back and I’ll prescribe a safe antiemetic. Don’t purchase over-the-counter medicines, as they can be harmful to the baby.” The doctor rambled on for a bit longer, talking about the changes Cleo could expect in her body, suggesting reading material, and finally warning that if she opted for termination of the pregnancy, she shouldn’t wait too long.
The doctor eventually stopped talking long enough to give Cleo a very thorough physical exam, with a urine check, blood test, a PAP smear, and so many other invasive little pokes and prods that Cleo eventually stopped listening to the doctor’s explanations about what she was doing and why. She just wanted to go home and pretend this day had never happened.
When the lengthy prenatal exam ended, the doctor sat them down once again.
“Vivian, my receptionist, will schedule your next appointment—we’ll do a dating ultrasound just to make sure we have an accurate idea of the baby’s due date. After that ultrasound, I’ll expect to see you once a month,” she said. “But once you’ve recovered a little from the shock, please consider contacting one of those single-mother groups I spoke about earlier. It could help you with your decision making.”
Cleo kept her eyes on her plate throughout the late lunch Blue had dragged her to. She was vaguely aware of Blue calling her boss to say that she would be late back to the office, and Cleo felt a pang of guilt for keeping the woman away from her work. But at the same time she felt wholly incapable of functioning in any normal capacity.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she whispered, after half an hour of staring at her healthy green salad going limp in its bowl. Blue reached across the table and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Luc and I will always be here for you, Cleo,” she said, and Cleo groaned.
“Luc is going to be so disappointed.” Her brother loved her and would support her through whatever decision she made, but he would want more for her than this. Twenty-seven years old and accidentally pregnant? This was what they would have expected from her during her rebellious teen phase, not now that she was finally getting her life sorted out. Despite still desperately clinging to her dancing, she did enjoy her new job—she found it challenging and interesting. Mr. Whitman was worlds away from Dante as a boss, and he was happy to train her as they went along. He was also exceedingly grateful for the introduction to Mrs. Clarke. The two had now been on three dates and were already talking about the next one.
She hadn’t seen or heard from Dante Damaso since that last day in his office. Well . . . she had seen and heard of him. Seen him in magazines and newspapers with a different leggy beauty on his arm in every picture, and heard chatter about him around the office. But it was like she had never really known him, never spent hours in his bed, never experienced absolute sexual bliss in his arms. It had started to take on a fairy-tale, dreamlike quality in her mind, like it hadn’t really happened, but now this baby proved it had happened and it had very real consequences.
“So the dad is definitely out of the picture?” Blue asked hesitantly.
“Very much so,” Cleo responded in a voice that encouraged no further questions. But Blue had known her too long to be put off.
“Are you going to tell him about the baby?” she pushed.
“I don’t know. It depends on whether I decide to keep it or not.”
“But if you don’t want it, he might,” Blue pointed out. Cleo considered that for a moment before thinking about Dante’s jet-setting lifestyle and the constant stream of women parading through his life, and knew that the last thing he would want was a baby to cramp his style.
“He won’t want it,” Cleo said definitively.
“How do you know that?”
“Look, he and I may not have been serious, but I know him better than you do, Blue. He won’t want this baby.”
“So which decision are you leaning toward?”
“I don’t know,” Cleo admitted miserably. “I just don’t know.”
“You still have some time to think about it, Cleo,” Blue murmured. “You don’t have to decide right at this moment.”
“I feel so stupid.”
“It was an accident. These things happen.”
“To teenagers, not to grown women who should have their crap together by now. I’ve failed at everything else, Blue. Imagine how spectacularly I’d fail at motherhood. This poor baby doesn’t stand a chance with me as its mother.”
“That’s nonsense,” Blue dismissed, showing rare signs of anger. “You’re kind, considerate, loving, generous with your affection, and while things haven’t always gone your way, you found ways to cope. You have always bounced back and found a way forward. You’ll do the same this time.”
“I’ve been completely directionless since I stopped dancing,” Cleo confessed quietly. “I’ve felt so lost and I’ve tried to hide it, but even though it has been years, I still haven’t found anything to fill the void it left in my life. I’ve even considered becoming a dance instructor, but I don’t know if I can stand to teach others to do what I no longer can. How pathetic is that? To think that I could be jealous or resentful of some talented young dancer just because I lost my opportunity to be the best at it. It makes me feel petty and small and ugly. How could I ever be a good teacher if I don’t want my students to soar higher than I did?”