Only Chance

June 22, 2011

Like clockwork, Drew appeared in the doorway at eight o'clock holding the morning paper and two cups of coffee. He came outside to join me on the patio where I sat working on a Sudoku puzzle.

“Good morning,” he said, as he placed one of the mugs on the table in front of me and bent
down to kiss me lightly on the forehead. He placed his free hand on my not yet protruding belly for a
moment, as if saying good morning to the baby as well, before taking his seat across from me. A
troubled smile played at the corners of my lips, but that was all I could give him. I covered my face
so he wouldn't notice, by bringing the cup of coffee to meet my lips and drew in a long, slow sip.

I had woken up in the middle of the night to a dull, consistent ache in the small of my back. All
the possibilities of what it could be ran through my mind and disrupted my dreams until I could sleep
no more. I just laid in bed and let myself worry until the sun came up and I made my way over to the
restaurant to start my day early. Though I'd been up for hours, the same thoughts still flooded my mind
as I tried, uselessly, to fill in the remaining numbers on the grid in front of me.

Usually, I would tell Drew about something like this. Let him comfort me, hold me in his arms
and lighten the mood with something like, “You need to stop using WebMD.” But I didn't want him to
worry. Not until I knew if this was something to worry about. I made a mental note to go to the clinic in
the afternoon, but for now, I decided to keep my worries to myself and try to direct my attention
elsewhere, into the mathematics of Sudoku.

When I was little I used to sit on my dad's knee and watch him fill in the puzzles in the
morning paper. Sudoku was always my favourite. For the fifteen minutes it took me to solve it, I would
tune out everything but the numbers in front of me. It became almost therapeutic as I got older and my
mom became sicker. I would race out to the end of the driveway in the morning to beat my dad to it,
and for the short time that it took me to solve the problem, I didn't worry about anything. But now, as I
sat out on the patio working on one, I couldn't drown out the thought that something horrible was
happening.

“So, who do you want to tell first?” Drew asked. It took me a minute to realize that he was
referring to the nearing end of our baby's first trimester. As the doctor had told us to, we didn't tell anyone about the pregnancy at first. Just in case... he had said, because I'm 41, and there are risks associated with carrying a baby to full term at my age.

“Well my dad, and your parents, first of all,” I told him. “And then there's Ryan and Maya...”
My voice trailed off as I came to the end of my list. Drew didn't say anything. I knew he was waiting for me to mention my sister, Jade, but I pretended to turn my attention back to my Sudoku. Really, though, my full attention was on the ache still in my back.

“How about tomorrow, we close the restaurant early and have them over for dinner, tell them
the news then?” he suggested. But I didn't answer- the pain in my back had migrated to my abdomen, and gotten worse. My arms clutched at my stomach, begged the pain to go away. The blood drained from my face as I felt the bottom of my shirt. It was wet.

“Carmen?” Drew asked, his voice shaking. He knew something was wrong. I stood up to go to
the bathroom, and I heard him gasp. I looked down at myself. There was blood everywhere. I didn't need a doctor to tell me what I knew was happening. I began to tremble. A sob rose up in my throat; barely made it out before Drew had his arms around me. He reached for the car keys and said that maybe if we could make it to the doctor in time, the baby would make it. But all I could think was, that was our only chance.

This is sort of a prequel to "A House is Not a Home."