Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)
TITLE: A strange, perfect gift
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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The call was strange and left me breathless. Could you meet me at the office? There’s something I need to tell you and I know you’d like to hear it in person.
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to hear the bad news he has for us, not on a Christmas morning.
“We should go.” Abby says softly, looking paler than ever. Her eyes are sunken, bloodshot, heavy with the sleep she wasn’t able to get overnight.
“Can’t we wait till tomorrow?” For a brief moment, I imagine life without Abby. I see myself stumbling around in a black void. Shaking my head to clear it of the cobwebby thoughts, I aim a weak smile at my wife.
The unexplainable sickness descended without warning. Weight loss, insomnia, splitting headaches, food that wouldn’t stay down. For a crazy day, we thought she might be pregnant. But a quick visit to Dr. Forsythe’s office had sent our hopes to hell.
“If we decide to wait till tomorrow, you’d only be grumpy and it won’t be fun being around you. We should go.”
And so we go.
My heart ricochets against my ribcage, my head hurts, and my legs feel wobbly. But I paste a smile on my face, support my wife over the stairs, pick up her handbag when she drops it.
Dr. Forsythe has a strange smile on his face; halfway between triumphant and apologetic. I hear someone praying, Oh God no. Then I realize I am the one praying.
“Sorry I called and disturbed your Christmas plans.” He says as he helps Abby into a chair. The curtains are drawn and he seems to be the only one around.
“Yes. It’s just me.” He says as if he can hear me thinking. “I found the result yesterday night and debated if I should wait till after Christmas before calling, but thought you’d like to know as soon as possible. I hope I’m doing the right thing.”
A lump berths in my throat and presses down my Adam’s apple. Had he detected something strange from Abby’s blood work?
He retrieves two sheets of paper from a desk, and hands me the first one. I take it with quivering hands.
Mrs. A. Brawn was confirmed not pregnant on the eleventh of December. I swallow as confusion spreads over my face.
“So?” I ask, “We already have a copy of the results. We know she’s not pregnant.”
“Eh…” Forsythe clears his throat. “That’s where the mistake lies. Please check the name properly.”
“Mrs. A. Brawn…you misspelled the name. So what?”
“It wasn’t a case of misspelled name. It was one of giving the wrong result to the right person. The intern that handed Abby the result that day was new, and there was another woman here for a pregnancy test. Her name is Ashley Brawn.”
Abby springs to her feet. “There was another woman in the reception while I was here. The receptionist gave her her results before they gave me mine. She…she said she was pregnant…”
Forsythe clucks sympathetically. “That was Ashley Brawn, and she was given your result while you were given hers. This here is yours.”
We both grab the paper from Forsythe’s hands.
Mrs. A. Brown is confirmed pregnant.
Dr. Forsythe’s apology is ignored as joy sweeps through me. Abby is whooping and grabbing at my hands.
I hold my beautiful bride of six years in my arms and waltz from where we stand to the end of the room. Forsythe coughs to catch our attention.
“Perhaps you could take the celebration home. I’m expecting Mrs. Brawn and her husband. I thought it would only be nice to give them their news here.”
It suddenly dawns on me that our joy is someone else’s sorrow. Imagine being told that you’re pregnant, being ecstatic for two weeks, only to be told you’re not.
As we step out into the cold December morning, Abby’s cheeks seem to be suffused with color. I swing back my concentration to us. It is our baby after all and we do deserve to be happy.
“Merry Christmas, mommy.” I say as I drop a quick kiss on Abby’s cheek.
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