Ashleigh looked down at her salad and her stomach lurched. This flu, or whatever it was, was lasting way too long to ignore. As soon as she got off shift, she decided, she would talk to one of the doctors.
She drank her orange juice and threw the empty bottle into the recycling bin. At least she could enjoy juice. This thought brought up a whisper of a memory, but she couldn’t quite catch it. Probably nothing, she thought, and walked back into the hospital.
Her work completely engrossed every thought for the next few hours, and she pushed past the nausea.
She was pleased to see Lin Lee come on shift and waited until changeover was complete before she went to talk to her friend who was an excellent doctor. But Lin didn’t know what to make of her symptoms either.
“Have you done a pregnancy test?” Lin said, eyebrows raised.
“What? No!” Ashleigh said.
“Do it,” Lin said. “I’ll get you one.”
Ashleigh stood in the hallway, silent, taking shallow breaths. It wasn’t that. She told herself, and she’d do the test to show Lin she was wrong and they could move on to other, better possibilities.
Lin came back with the test and pushed Ashleigh in the direction of the toilet. Ashleigh reluctantly shut herself in the stall and unwrapped the test. Her mind was blank as she peed on the stick and waited for the result.
She’d had glandular fever eight years ago, this was just a relapse or a flu that the relapse was piggybacking on. Not pregnant, not pregnant, not pregnant.
The pee crept up the stick and two pink lines appeared, changing Ashleigh’s life forever.
She grabbed her phone out of her pocket and started to call Ryan. Then she cancelled the call. This was best dealt with in person. Dealt with. That was how she felt about this situation, it was something that somehow had to be dealt with.
She stood up and pulled her knickers up without remembering to wipe herself. She didn’t notice the wetness. She didn’t flush. She washed her hands and walked out into the hallway, looking for Lin.
Lin could tell the result by looking at Ashleigh’s pale face. She jogged down to her and took her hand, directing her to a chair. Ashleigh sat down plop and almost dropped the phone and the test.
“I’ll call Ryan,” Lin said, taking Ashleigh’s phone.
“No!” Ashleigh said. “I’m going home now. He’s picking me up in ten minutes. I’m fine.”
“Like hell you are,” Lin said. “I’ll just tell them I’m walking you down. Wait here a minute for me.”
The walk from the ward to the carpark was shorter than Ashleigh remembered it being. Maybe it was the shame, regret and fear boiling around in her gut that brought her faster to the moment she was dreading.
There he was, driving up early, waving to her, and she was about to explode his world, upend his universe.
“Good luck,” Lin said as Ashleigh opened the passenger door and got into the car. She waved to Ryan and went back to the ward. She’d have loved to have been a fly in that car about now.
“Hey gorgeous,” Ryan said. “What’s that? Someone’s pregnancy test? Now you really are bringing your work home.”
Ashleigh said nothing. She stared through the windscreen at nothing. She felt absolutely nothing.
“Babe,” Ryan said. “What’s up?”
She turned to look at him. She felt like this was a last look somehow, the last time she’d look at him before she told him the news they had both never wanted, never anticipated. Ever.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, a nervous habit of his. He drove them through the city traffic, to their home. He held her hand as they walked to the door and he let them inside.
“Now, what’s up?”
Ashleigh looked at him, took a breath and held up the test.
“This is mine,” she said. Simple as that. “Ours.”
“What?” He said, putting his keys in the pretty ceramic dish on the table beside the front door. They’d bought the dish on one of their adventures overseas.
“Baby,” Ashleigh said, simply. “Ours.”
Ryan looked into her eyes without saying a word. The puppy had heard them come in the door, and she was whining to be let out of the laundry where she stayed while they were at work.
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