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Where the Heart Is

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I can’t believe how empty this house is without him. Standing here at the stove poaching eggs for myself seems so different now than when I knew Richard was upstairs. I keep catching myself listening for his footsteps on the stairs, the rattle of his keys, his voice coming through the sliding door to the back yard. It’s only been two weeks since he was deployed to Afghanistan, but it seems like it’s been two years already.

The eggs are bubbling happily in the water, and I hear the microwave beep with my slices of bacon in it. I walk across the kitchen and pop open the microwave door. A cloud of rancid stench envelopes me, and I turn around and run to the sink to throw up.

When I’m done I sink to the floor, the cold from the tile seeping through the thin fabric of my polka-dot pajama boxers and green tee-shirt. I hug my knees to my chest and shut my eyes on my knees, letting a few tears escape through the cracks before I pull myself together. Holding my nose, I turn the stove off, feed the bacon strips to the trash, and wash my puke down the sink.

My socks drag as I walk back up the hall and climb into bed, rolling onto Richard’s side and breathing in his smell from the pillow. I miss him so much. My mom says I need to grow up and be an adult about it, but she doesn’t understand the pain I wake up with in the morning when I realize I’m sleeping alone. It’s the worst part of the day.

I roll onto my stomach and hang my arm off the edge of the bed, my other one curled up under my chest. On Richard’s nightstand is a lamp identical to mine and some spy novel I have never read. I reach for the handle of the drawer and open it, but it looks empty. I know he had my favorite picture of us in college in it, but I guess he took it with him. I reached to the back and feel around in the corners, making sure that it hadn’t gotten pushed into the back. My fingers brushed on a square, flat, plastic package. I pull a condom out of the drawer and stare at it for a full ten seconds.


I thought I was pregnant once. It was October of my junior year at BU. I was all alone in my dorm room, staring at a box of tampons and desperately trying to count back the days since my last period. Had it been a month? A week? A day? Richard and I were having a fight, and school was stressing me out so much that I seriously did not have the energy to remember anything that didn’t have to do with biology or calculus. When my roommate Anna came back from her pre-med class, I told her everything. Always the rational one, told me to just wait it out. We would see in a few days. That wasn’t a good week for me.

Now, holding the package in my hand, I fly across the bed and wrench open my own bedside table drawer. Between the copy of Anna Karenina and a tiny bag of M&Ms is a slim box I’ve had since Richard and I got married. I grab it and run to the bathroom, wrestling with the cardboard to get to the plastic stick inside. I finally get it out, follow the directions, and wait. I wait for what seems like an eternity, but in reality it is only a minute or two. When I see the results, I run into the bedroom again and grab a sharpie, then write two words on the flap of the box I am getting read to send to Richard as a care package. When he gets it, I don’t know how he’ll react. When all you’re expecting to see is a box of rice crispy treats and fruit roll-ups, it would be a bit disconcerting to find out your wife is pregnant.



This package will be a little different from the others I’ve already sent him. For starters, he probably isn’t expecting to see the words I’m Pregnant! written in bold sharpie letters all over the flaps of the flat-rate box. I throw out the letter I was writing him before and write a new one, telling him how I was feeling and what the doctor said. March, I wrote, that’s when the baby’s due. I smiled. Your mother’s going to kill you.

Waiting had been the plan. Waiting until Richard was back, waiting for the right moment, waiting for...I don’t know...A sign, maybe? The point is, we were waiting. Well, not anymore. I licked the envelope and close it, gluing the flap shut. Placing it on top of the cookies and tunafish stuffed in the box, I tape the flaps closed over it and walk out to my red Land Rover. I guess it’s time to tell people. Driving to the post office, I try to compile a list of the people who will be expecting to be the first ones to know. My mom. Anna. Richard’s parents, though I really don’t want to be the one to tell Susanne. I’ll lay that one on Richard. They live four hours away anyway, they can’t really expect me to drive all the way up there. There is a phone call, I guess...ah...no. Richard.

I pull up to the post office and park next to a meter, sliding in a quarter and taking the package out of the passenger seat. The thing must weigh twenty pounds, and at only 5’ 2”, I have never been very well equipped to carry heavy, bulky things. Good thing the door is only four feet away from my car.

I hobble inside and plop the package down on the counter. The girl behind looks at me and smiles. “Same place?” she asks.

“Same place.”


The guys are all staring at me, waiting for me to react. No way, no how, is this happening. The table had gone silent after I froze midway through opening my care package. Actually, not even midway. I cracked open the flaps. Bryan walked up behind me from another table, carrying a roast beef sandwich and shoving half of it in his mouth. He glanced down at the box, “Kellie’s pregnant?”

After a second I clear my throat, “Um...yeah.”

Bryan swallows and nods. “Cool...well, congrats man!”

The other guys join him in congratulating me, and I just sit there, stunned. A million thoughts race through my head, every other one being: how in hell did this happen?

Of course, I technically knew. Sex Ed. in public school does a pretty good job of informing you with the facts, and there were some very vivid memories of three years in college dorms and a honeymoon in Maui, not to mention that night before I deployed, but I still didn’t see it. What about the plan? We did have a plan, didn’t we? I think back. Yeah, I was going to be home, my tour was going to be over, and Kellie was going to go down to part-time in the OB. I was going to get a job in the ER. The roof would be fixed. The kitchen and the bathroom would be retiled. There would be gas in the car and food in the fridge. Stuff would be fixed. There would be nothing for her to worry about. And I would be there. Talk about busting plans.



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