“Cleo, I love you, but sometimes you frustrate me so much,” Blue said. “I can’t talk to you when you’re in this mood. I can’t listen to you beat yourself up over things that are completely beyond your control. Eat your lunch and tell me how the living situation with Cal is going.”

Cleo grimaced, the change in subject adding to her depression.

“That bad, huh?”

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“Sometimes it’s so draining to have him around.” And it would be worse now with all this on her plate. His self-centeredness was so frustrating. He hadn’t even noticed how ill she’d been feeling recently. Cleo knew that she had once been as egocentric as Cal and was grateful that she had developed enough self-awareness to appreciate that the world did not revolve around her. Cal, at thirty-two, had still not come to that realization, and Cleo doubted he ever would.

“Have you considered asking him to move out?” Blue asked tactfully.

“He has nowhere else to go.”

“Cleo, sometimes you have to think of your own needs,” Blue pointed out, and Cleo scoffed.

“I spent most of my life being selfish and thinking of my own needs, to the detriment of others. When I look back on how I was, how much I took my grandparents and Luc and everything they sacrificed for me for granted, I’m so ashamed. When you met Luc, he was taking care of my grandparents 24-7, he only ever took time for his studies. He used to beg me to come home, to come and visit my grandparents.” Cleo kept her eyes downcast as she spoke. She knew that Blue had probably heard all of this from Luc, but knowing her brother, he had sugarcoated the facts, and right now, Cleo wanted her friend to hear the ugly, unadorned truth about her. “And I never did. I was always too busy, having too much fun, practicing too hard. I made excuses not to visit because I didn’t want to deal with their constant disapproval. I always felt like nothing I did was right.

“So I stayed away and left Luc to deal with it all, and only toward the end did I finally relent and visit them.” She choked back a sob. “And they were so old and so obviously dying, but they were so grateful.” Her voice broke on the word as tears seeped down her cheeks and dripped into her salad. “Just so grateful and happy that I’d come to visit them. There were no recriminations, only warmth and love and pure happiness. And I felt like such an imposter: their beautiful little ballerina who was so ugly on the inside. All those years I spent resenting them when all they ever wanted was my happiness. I can’t go back to being that awful person. Cal did a lot for me after my accident, and I won’t turn my back on him when he needs me.”

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Blue reached out to squeeze Cleo’s hands. They were silent for a while, Blue patiently waiting for Cleo to gather herself before changing the subject to her and Luc’s upcoming anniversary, and about the dress she was thinking of buying. It was a welcome change in topic, but it didn’t take Cleo’s mind completely off her problems.

After Cleo returned home, she went into her bedroom, pushed the pile of clothing off the bed, and curled up in the center of it, trying to make herself as small as possible. She placed her palm over the flat expanse of her abdomen and gently applied pressure, trying to feel this tiny presence, which had made such a huge impact on her life. She felt nothing and it was hard to imagine anything in there, yet it was there. It existed.

At nearly eight weeks—according to the literature Dr. Klein had given her—it was smaller than a kidney bean but was developing tiny little webbed fingers and toes and eyelids. It was alive and moving even if she couldn’t feel it. She lifted her hands to her face and found it wet with tears. Her baby was alive and it needed her. It depended on her for food, for oxygen, for its very existence, and she couldn’t make the decision to snuff out that tiny life.

And just like that, terminating the pregnancy was no longer an option.

If she were younger, who knows what her decision would have been. But she was twenty-seven and—despite all her dreams to the contrary—realistically speaking, she didn’t have a dance career to think of anymore, and she was no longer the same selfish Cleo she had been years ago. She still didn’t know if she would keep it or put it up for adoption, but now that the immediate decision of having or terminating had been taken care of, the pressure of making any other urgent decisions had been relieved a bit. She had time to figure that out. She still didn’t think she would make a good mother, but there were so many other women out there who would die for the opportunity to have a baby to love and take care of.

Cleo fell asleep clinging to that positive thought.

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When she woke up a couple of hours later, it was early evening, and the light was starting to go. Cleo immediately called Blue and told her that she planned to have the baby.

“I know it couldn’t have been an easy decision to make, but Luc, your friends, and I are all here for you.” Blue’s warm voice washed over her, soothing her and making her feel so much better about the choice she’d made.

“How do I tell Luc?” Cleo wondered miserably.

“Your brother will understand. He’s not entirely unreasonable, you know?” the other woman teased, and Cleo made a sound that was half laugh and half sob.

“He’ll be gutted.”

“He’ll get over it.”

“I’m coming to see you guys; I think it’s best to get this over and done with,” Cleo decided.

“No. We’ll come to you. I’d just feel better if you weren’t driving in these conditions while you’re so distracted,” Blue said firmly, and hung up before Cleo could protest.

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