This is the second scene in my first chapter, right after Gavin leaves. It's a flashback, and I've heard some bad things about doing this. Is this done well enough? Thanks for your time!
I undressed, slipping arms through paper sleeves, never bothering to tie paper strings into bows. I remember wanting to slap the phone from Gavin's hand; I needed him. Yet I also found comfort in his ability to disconnect.
The technician entered the room with a smile. I drew comfort from that too, looking for strength in all things. Even her name carried assurance: Hope. Yes, it was a sign; my plea had been heard.
In a dim room lit by an ultrasound monitor, the tube of jelly sputtered as she squeezed remaining drops onto my belly. Gavin putting his phone away frightened me. I was coming unraveled while his grip drained blood from my hand and fear passed between us. Hot anger filled my lungs, burning. I felt mislead, realizing he was scared too. Damn him, he had stayed calm for me.
The nurse searched for rapid swooshing, and I asked questions: what she saw, what was wrong, did she see anything? Through a vacant smile she said Dr. Shriver was better suited to answer our questions, left the room and took hope with her.
Gavin and I waited, no words exchanged between us, my hand still drained of feeling.
Returning, I scanned their faces, back and forth like a ping-pong ball. I got nothing. The doctor squeezed the same empty tube of jelly, determined to get something from it. I wanted scream, 'open another one, damn it!' He searched the monitor with furrowed brows; I remember the v shaped wrinkle between them.
In a composed bedside manner, Gavin and I received the results of our final exam. Either we would pass and move on to parenthood, or we would fail.
"I'm sorry to tell you this, there's no heartbeat."
It was that simple, we'd failed. I couldn't argue or deny; I'd seen it too. No heart fluttered, stillness in the aquarium she swam. I looked to Gavin for answers, he had none. Instead, he asked questions.
How can you be sure?
Are you certain?
That can't be right.
The depth of his feelings for our baby touched me.
Searching again, the doctor amused us, pointing to the organ no longer pumping life.
Like frost vanishing when sunshine reaches down and wipes the earth dry, she was gone. No time to locate tears, fears, disappoints or pain. I was induced and delivered a sleeping doll. Our love flawlessly woven together. I remember placing her little nose to my face, desperate to feel breath on my cheek. Nothing.
Gavin and I studied her features, counted fingers, holding her in arms not wanting to let go. But time ticked no matter the occasion and we handed our child over to science. I wish we'd held her longer. Instead we clung to each others desperation.
"Sometimes these things happen. We don't understand why,” the doctor offered. "You're both healthy, and I don’t see any reason why you can’t try again."
Try again? I didn't want another baby, I wanted her.
I was right about the days that followed; they were the darkest to find my way through. The day of the memorial service, I wore maternity clothes, and my breast swelled with milk. All this anguish, and I had nothing to carry outside of me, except a deflated belly and inflated breasts. A body betraying a heart.
I took the standard six-week maternity leave from work. Spent all of that stumbling through darkness. Days went by unnoticed, nights went by awake. Nothing mattered.
Gavin's way of coping was work. But I couldn't grasp anything substantial to pull me from the quicksand I was drowning in.
During those weeks, Gavin would come home and find me in the nursery. I hadn't moved all day. Being in that room brought peace, a sanctuary. My behavior terrified him.
A weekend away was his solution to snatch me from despair. I protested, but reluctantly gave in, trying to forget the pain, not bring it along like an extra piece of luggage. It got packed anyway. By the end of the weekend, I was drained from lugging it around, tired of acting. I'd never been so happy to see home. When Gavin was occupied, I snuck away to my favorite room, the closest I could get to the dream that almost came true.
Relief embraced me just from touching the knob. I opened the door ready to lay my luggage of sadness down. But things had changed while I was gone, this room had betrayed me. The walls were nauseating beige, and a greedy queen size bed occupied the floor. Her crib, the changing table, and my beloved rocking chair were gone, even clothes gently hung in the closet had vaporized. I was enraged, smothering in pain. The slate had been wiped clean. According to this room, she never existed.
He was out of breath, but reached me with controlled steps.
"I thought it would help. Get you past everything. If it stayed that way you can't get over it,” his words floated past.
"Get over it!" I remember the burn in my throat. "I don't want to get over it. We lost her, and I can’t forget. How can you?"
"I haven’t forgotten, Chloe. I just thought this would help."
"Where are my things, her things? What've you done with them?"
"It’s all in storage. I kept everything." My weeping turned into crying, and crying into sobbing. "I still have everything," he promised.
The next afternoon my pink rocking chair found its familiar spot in the corner of the room. I now trace my fingers along the patterns in the fabric.
It never dawned on me to ask who had helped with the makeover. Although, I pictured Mark, Lauren, and my mother quietly covering pink walls with beige only Lauren could pick and packing baby blankets in a box.