A woman makes a choice that will change much more than her body.
No one had ever bothered to tell her about this part.
Everyone was drifting away from her. Her parents were off RVing across the country, which was more of a blessing than not. Most of her school friends had moved away. Her local friends were all raising children, some alongside careers. Even Jack had drifted away from her, since they started fighting about having kids.
Why he thought she would suddenly change her mind about having kids, she didn’t know. They were on the same page when they got married. Career, nice house, vacations. Nieces and nephews to spoil. But nobody she could break with her thoroughly un-maternal mind. There were enough scarred people in the world.
Sara was spending her Sunday afternoon shopping in town. The drizzle gave the downtown a hushed feeling, warding off the crowds. The antique stores and gift shops were a great way to relax, with pretty things everywhere and people to serve her. She did just as she pleased with no one hanging off of her, demanding a juice box or a diaper change or whatever else the little tyrants wanted. She saw those moms in the stores, at the checkout, harassed and harried, with their strident little ones whining for one thing or another.
She sailed through her shopping, then stopped at the coffee shop for a latte. She was perched at a bistro table, her meticulous makeup checked, scrolling through Twitter, when someone sat across from her.
“Katy!” Sara said as she put the phone down. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”
The woman across from her was beautiful, poised. Her tastes leaned toward hippie, but high-end hippie, ombre broomstick skirt and tailored jacket. Katy did what she wanted, when she wanted. She was the kind of career woman Sara wanted to be. Educated, confident, in control. Nothing holding her back.
“Sara, it has been a while. How have you been?” Katy settled her phone and coffee on the table as she sat.
Sara waved her hand, “Same old. Work and more work. You look well.”
“I am well. I’ve had the most delicious spa weekend. I feel all fresh and rested.”
“I was just thinking how moms always looks so tired.”
Katy nodded. “That’s the trade off, you get little mini yous, but then you have to keep feeding them and such. Just the thought exhausts me.”
“I never did want kids. It’s just not in me.”
“Well that’s your choice to make. Are you not comfortable in that?”
“Jack seems to suddenly think he wants kids. I was just about ready for sterilization, and he changed his mind,” Sara said.
“Well. Your body, your choice.”
Katie shook her head. “You would think so. But I’m married. It isn’t just my decision.”
“Life is much easier when you’re single. Half as many decisions to make, with half as many people.”
“I’ve always been open about not wanting kids. I don’t understand why he’s changing his mind. Mid-life crisis incoming, maybe,” Sara said.
“I didn’t think you were old enough for that.”
“I’m not. He is. I’m tempted to just get the sterilization. He’s started trying to bully me into having kids. That’s not acceptable to me. Plus, he’s not actually going to be involved, if I do have kids. He says he will, but it will just be like everything else. Empty promises and then me doing everything.”
“Well that sounds like he’s trying to get the best of both worlds, and stick you with the worst. But have you told him all this?” Katie asked.
“Oh sure, all we do is fight about it lately. I’ll leave him before I have kids. But he seems to think he’s too old to start over, so he has to make me do it. I don’t see that as a healthy place to raise children.”
“But what can he do?”
Sara tucked her freshly-cut hair back and shook her head. “Well he makes more than me, and most things are in his name. He handles the money and the bills. I can spend what I make, but I don’t have any savings to speak of. I don’t really have any resources of my own. It would be painful, if it came down to it.”
“No, we were both making about the same when we got married, I thought we were on equal footing. I never imagined we would get to this point.”
“If you saw it coming, you’d protect yourself,” Katie said.
Katy glanced around the empty coffee shop, quiet on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. “I might have an option for you.”
Katy leaned in. “Well, it’s something you can’t tell anyone about. It’s very selective. And a little weird.”
Sara scooted forward. “I’m listening.”
“Ok, it’s a lot weird. There are these, um, people. They are looking for healthy females who haven’t had children. You’re a surrogate for their child. No one can tell. Once you have the baby you are sterilized and they give you a pile of money.”
Sara shook her head, “Katy, you were right about the weird part, you kidder. And I just told you, I don’t want to have kids. Why would I want to be a surrogate? And how would I explain that to Jack?”
“It’s not like that. These aren’t human children.”
“Shhh. It’s not that big a deal. I did it,” Katy said.
“Sure. If you pass their screening they sterilize you, to remove any, um, human imperfections. They insert their offspring, hand you a wad of cash, a month later it comes out. No more depending on Jack, you’ll have more money than him. How did you think I put myself through college with no family to speak of?”
“Holy crap,” Sara said.
“So you did this a while ago. And you’re fine? It’s safe?”
Katy leaned back. “Safe as safe can be. Except to any future children you might be planning, they might not like it.”
“How can it be safe? That’s a major medical procedure. Having a baby is one of the most traumatic experiences a woman’s body will go through.”
“It’s not like that, I told you it’s not a human baby.”
“Then what the heck is it?” Sara asked.
“You can’t freak out. Or tell anybody.”
“I make no promises.”
“Fine then, I’ll be on my way. Forget I said anything.” Katy started to get up from the table.
Sara held out a hand. “Wait, wait. I’m – vaguely – interested.”
“I’m not kidding. You can’t tell anyone. Bad things will happen.”
“I’m still interested.”
Katy sat back down. “Ok. I’m not actually sure. You don’t see them. They use computers and robots to process everything. But I suspect it might be aliens.”
“Shhh. I don’t know what else it could be. If it were humans they wouldn’t worry so much about us seeing them.”
“So you birthed the young of some unknown species and somehow that is ok?” Sara asked.
“I couldn’t even tell it was in there, and I didn’t know when it came out. Whatever it was, it was small and it didn’t even give me heartburn.”
“Oh that’s so freaky. How much money are we talking about?”
Sara choked on her latte. “EIGHT?”
“Well they are very selective. And they can only use you once. And then you can never have kids. Plus the whole alien being in your body problem. So I guess they want to give you a good incentive.”
“You haven’t had any physical problems? Didn’t your doctor notice that you suddenly changed down there?”
“I told them I went to a clinic. Refused to transfer the records,” Katie said.
“You were single, though. That would be an awful betrayal of Jack. Even if I don’t like him very much right now, I’m not sure I could do that.”
“Bottom line, your body, your choice.”
“I’d have to think about it,” Sara said.
Katy stood. “Sure, think about it. But don’t wait too long, you’re not getting any younger.”
Sara arrived home to a quiet house. Jack was in his office, typing away with a headset on.
She pulled dinner from the freezer. The cook had written instructions on the foil and Sara set it to bake.
Jack came downstairs. He had a business-like air and a folder in his hands. He put the folder down, leaned against the counter, and crossed his arms. “I need to talk to you.”
“Sure,” Sara said.
“It is very important to me that I have children before it’s too late. I’ve seen a fertility specialist and I’m good to go now, but that may not be true in a few years. I want you to have children with me. I understand that this was not our original plan. But plans change.”
“I’m sorry, Jack, but I still don’t want kids.”
Jack closed his eyes for a second, a puff of angry air coming from his nose. “Very well.” He picked up the folder and waved it at her. “I want a divorce. Here is the paperwork. I need to get this done so I can find someone more in line with my goals.”
“What? Jack, can’t we talk about this?” Sara shook her head, refusing to take the folder.
“We’ve been talking about this. I can’t wait around while we argue in circles. I’ve decided that this is the most important thing to me right now, and you are impeding me. I want a divorce. If you sign the papers we can both get on with our lives. You need to find somewhere else to stay. I already withdrew my money from our joint account. Which doesn’t leave you much, by the way. If you fight this I will seek damages, based on your refusal to have children, which is a perfectly legitimate reason to seek a divorce.
You can have a moving truck come during the workweek to pick up your things.”
Jack turned and left the kitchen, the front door slamming as he left the house.
The folder sat on the counter. She inched over and flipped it open. There it was, in black and white. This had taken time to prepare. It was all set up, he was taking the bulk of everything. There were even two versions of the paperwork, one settlement that she could get by on, if she bowed out with grace. Another where he made her life miserable, if she tried to fight it. She would have to get her lawyer to look it over, but she was pretty sure it was smarter to take the settlement.
She didn’t have anyone to call, or anywhere to go. She barely had enough savings to get a rental truck, she always spent money as fast as she could make it. Sara sat on a stool and stared at the shiny marble countertop as the smell of lasagna wafted around the kitchen.
The oven timer roused her. She jumped into action. She pulled dinner out.She could spend the night at her parent’s house while she figured the rest out. She left a message for her lawyer. Then she called Katy.
They would never know what she had done.
This is a 2-hour-session flash fiction, based on a prompt from Terrible Minds.
Title: The Limits Of Our Imperfection
First line: No one had ever bothered to tell her about this part.
Last line: They would never know what she had done.