John plodded to the car, his mind in turmoil. How could she go through that without telling him? What hell was she going through now?
Last night, his world changed. It started so well. Supper was over; Jane, Jimmy and Luke were in bed and he and Barbara were cuddled on the sofa. Soft music floated, in undulating waves, across the room and the scent of pine trees wafted through the open window.
Barbara rested on his chest and said, dreamily, "I saw a lovely ad for Hawaii today. It looked so idyllic."
"Honey, you know how we're battling after my retrenchment. You know we can't afford to go there."
She felt the moment slipping. "I didn't say I wanted to go there. I said it looked idyllic."
John tensed, his voice sharp. "Well, if you don't want to go there, why mention the ad?"
Barbara pushed herself up from his chest, her face flushed. She locked his eyes on hers. "Don't you think I know we're struggling? Do you think I'm telling you I want us to go to Hawaii? Just because I said it looked so good?" Her voice rose. "Money, money, money. That's all I hear. Can't you forget about it for half an hour and dream? Can't you window shop? Enjoy imagining?"
John snorted and pulled away. "You have no idea how serious it is, do you? No idea how we need to sacrifice."
Barbara's eyes blazed, but there was a catch in her throat. "I've no idea, have I? Do you know the sacrifices I've made? Have you any idea?" She was on her feet now and tears rolled down her cheeks. "Do you know where I was last Wednesday while you were tramping the streets? Have you any idea?" She was shaking, the words coming out of a tight throat. "Let me tell you. I was at Planned Parenthood, getting rid of a financial burden. Not a baby -- a financial burden. That's how much I care for our predicament." The corners of her mouth turned down and her voice came in sobs. "It wasn't a baby, John. It was a pregnancy which was a financial burden. I asked the doctor. That's what he told me. I got it straight from the horse's mouth. No baby."
She stood immobile, looking at him with tear-filled eyes. In the silence it seemed all creation stopped.
Then, with an agonised cry, "No baby!" she fled the room.
John sat stock-still. He heard her pack, the suitcase wheels along the passage, the garage door open, the car drive off.
And he didn't move.
He was still on the sofa as the doves in the pine trees cooed in the dawn. In a daze, he woke the children and readied them for school. Mommy's gone away for a little while, but she'll be back.
Now he walked slowly from the school gates to his car. No baby indeed! I've seen enough pictures of babies in the womb to recognise a new creation -- MY creation. MY baby. "Straight from the horses mouth!" More like the mouth of a serpent. He drove to Planned Parenthood in a cold fury. He'd make them pay!
He parked and walked to the entrance. But wait. Who were those across the street? Some were singing. Others were carrying placards saying "CHOOSE LIFE." "JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN"
He crossed over to them and as they welcomed him, the tears and wrenching sobs burst the floodgates.
Four hours later, he phoned Barbara. There was no answer. At the bleep, he left a message. "My darling, it's John. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. I know what's important now. I know you never believed the doctor, but I've found a place where we can get healing. I've found real treasure, no matter how we struggle. I'm ready to dream. Please come home."
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