“Wake up, hon.” Maxine nudged her gently. “We’ve got
A bedraggled, middle-aged woman stood at the reception desk. Behind her, a
small, graying man stood, cap in hand.
“I’m Charlene Grimes. This is my husband Thomas.” The woman
clutched her worn leather purse tightly in front of her and swallowed hard. “We need to see the doctor… about
“We’re too old to have one.” The little man was so serious,
Macie almost laughed out loud.
“Do you have an appointment?” She searched the pages of the calendar
for “Grimes” but it wasn’t there.
“No. We just found out, and if we don’t do it right away, the
abortion, I mean, we’ll back out. We’ve got grown kids. What would we do with a baby?” Mrs. Grimes reached
for her husband’s hand.
“How far along do you think you are, Mrs. Grimes?” Macie asked.
“I don’t know. I’m not…” she glanced at her
husband, “regular anymore.”
“Well, we haven’t had any cancellations today, but if you’ll
take a seat and fill out some papers for me, we’ll try to work you in for an exam.”
Mrs. Grimes’ grip visibly tightened on her husband’s hand. The
couple stood looking at the floor. Macie could feel they were communicating, though; maybe through that thing long-married
couples develop. That closeness. After an uneasy moment, Macie spoke again.
“Well, there are other options. Here’s a pamphlet Social Services
leaves for adoption services. We can do an exam today, then I can make you an appointment for. . . ” Macie sensed the
Grimes’ ambivalence. She turned the page in the appointment book twice, scanning the times. “Two-thirty, March
fifth. That’s two weeks. Okay?”
The couple exchanged glances, then Mrs. Grimes nodded slowly. Macie wrote
them in, knowing they wouldn’t be back. Those grown kids would have a big surprise, maybe around. . . Thanksgiving.
What a lovely time to have a baby.
After several check-ups, a bone density scan, and a yeast infection, the appointment
book said they were done. The last patient left the clinic at . Maxine filed the rest of Dr. Sorkin’s dictated charts and Macie shut down the computer and
unplugged the coffeepot. Dr. Sorkin left before they finished. The day was uneventful, Macie thought gratefully. No protests,
not even one picketer with a sign.
“See you tomorrow, hon.” Maxine pulled the door open, held it
with her hip as she turned to maneuver her tote bag, purse and her other hip through the door.
“Have a good night, Maxine.”
Macie was glad for the fresh air outside. There was a pharmacy in the building
next to the clinic, but she drove to the ValuRite several blocks away. The parking lot was nearly empty. Two and a half weeks
late; maybe it’s just stress. But what if it isn’t? What if I am pregnant? Phil’s job’s secure. I
can afford to take time off, but Phil planned to open his own office in another year. Now he might have to wait. And it’s
just been the two of us for so long. Macie’s hand cramped and she realized she’d been squeezing the door handle.
She stepped out of the car, glancing at the empty Lincoln in the next parking space. There’d be no luxury cars in their immediate
She looked up at the aisle signs waving in the current from the store’s
forced air furnace. Feminine Supplies. Picking through the brightly colored boxes, Macie selected a brand and started to the
checkout. Then she went back, picked up another one just to “be sure.”
When Phil came home at , she was. The empty boxes
lay hidden under some paper in the wastebasket. Macie’s heart fluttered. She wiped her moist palms on her pants leg
“Honey, how would you feel about maybe expanding the office into another
Phil put down his briefcase. “What, no ‘Hi, Honey’? What’s
with the remodeling questions. You been watching that home improvement TV channel?”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t wait. Well. . . ?”
“Could we make the office into a bedroom?”
“Is your mother coming to stay for a while? Because if she is, you two
can have the bedroom and I’ll stay at a motel.” Phil took his tie off, picked up the pile of mail and leafed through
Macie was silent. She waited until he turned to face her again. “That
wasn’t funny. I’m serious, Phil. This is a serious question. ”
He sat in his overstuffed chair and pulled Macie down onto his lap. “Okay.
What’s this all about?”
“I’ve messed everything up. I wanted to do this like in the movies.
A nice dinner, candle light, you know. But I couldn’t wait. I’m too excited.”
“Wait for what?” Phil tilted his head, peering at her over his
“I’m pregnant.” Macie watched for his reaction.
At first there was none. Then, a wide grin spread over his face. “Really?”
“I think, about three weeks. Are you excited?”
Phil tightened his arms around her. “We’ve waited a long time
for this.” They put their heads together and sat quietly for what seemed an hour. Finally Phil sat up and turned his
wife’s face to his. “You had me scared there.”
Macie smiled at him through tears and a runny nose. “Why’s that?”
“I really thought your mother was coming to stay.”
Later, over dinner, they planned. There was the room to fix, of course, but
that could wait. The immediate problem was her work.
“But I’ll feel so uncomfortable with the situation. Maybe I’ll
ask Dr. Sorkin if I can do some of the computer work at home. It takes Maxine forever to enter the records and, without me,
she would have to be back in the examining room with the patients most of the time. . . ”
“You do what you think is best. The money is okay, even if you want
to quit and be a stay-at-home mom. Unless, of course, you intend to make a pre-natal application to an exclusive preschool.
Then we may want to think about getting you a second job on top of the clinic.” Phil was having too much fun.
“I’ll talk to Dr. Sorkin. He may just want me to quit.”
“Or he may just not see anything wrong with you staying at the clinic.
Anyway, it’s up to you. As long as you don’t get too tired or stressed.”
“Yeah. That’s something we haven’t had enough of lately,
isn’t it? Stress, I mean. I don’t know what to do.” Macie stood to take their stacked plates to the kitchen.
“I just don’t think I can work there and be pregnant.”
Are we talking about Sorkin’s reaction here, or yours? Phil followed
her with the rest of their dishes and put them down on the counter.
Macie felt the all-too-familiar queasiness and bit her lip against the morning
Phil faced her, his hands on her shoulders. “Is it starting to get to
“What?” She couldn’t meet his gaze.
“Mace, you know I really don’t have any hard objections to abortion.
I just think people should make up their minds. You have to know what you believe to understand who you are. Otherwise, we
build up resentments against people and things and we can’t figure out why. It can make us sick.”
Macie kept her head down. Tears slid down her cheeks.
“It can make us think people are against us…imagine threats
where there aren’t any….”