Laurel had never intended to cheat on Dennis when they married. She had loved him with every fiber of her being eight years ago. She would never have done anything to jeopardize their relationship. But time changed her, and life slowly slipped between them, causing an irreparable rift. Dennis worked seven days a week at the hospital, spending all of his energy fixing other people and leaving nothing left over for her. She missed the passionate relationship they'd had when they were younger. The love they'd shared. She felt like she hardly even knew Dennis anymore.

On the occasion that he was home, it was as though she didn't exist. Of course, she was there. They spoke to one another, shared the habitual kisses of a married couple, but there was nothing behind his eyes when he looked at her. He was empty. She saw the way he picked up the moment their daughter Penny entered the room, swinging her around like a rag doll as she screamed with laughter, letting her climb all over him like a little monkey. He didn't have time for Laurel anymore – there was work, and there was Penny, and at the end of the day he just didn't have anything left over for her. To say it didn't smart would be a lie. It had the sting of a thousand whips. Laurel hadn't thought it possible to hurt so much.

When she met Tobin Jacobsen, something changed. She saw the way he looked at her, a look that had been vacant from her marriage for years, and she found herself liking it. It didn't take long for their relationship to progress, and Laurel's guilt over cheating on her husband grew stronger every day. She loved Dennis, she did. She just didn't love him the way she used to. She wasn't in love with him.

When Penny was three, and their marital unrest had just become noticeable, Laurel had suggested another baby. She'd always wanted a few children. She argued that it would be good for Penny to have a little brother or sister. Dennis wouldn't budge from his firm 'no'. He was happy spoiling Penny, and told Laurel that maybe if he got a significant pay raise, it might be considerable. He just didn't see how it was possible at the time. He told her that they just couldn't afford another child on his salary. Laurel saw through his words, though. He didn't want another child. He didn't have the time a baby necessitated. He didn't want to make time. It put a stake through Laurel's heart to know that her husband was so attached to his work that he couldn't find time for only two children.

Laying in bed with Tobin late one night, she had told him the story of how she had proposed a second child to Dennis. He had pulled her close to him, snuggling his mouth to the back of her neck, and told her that, were she married to him, they would have as many children as her heart desired. Laurel was all Tobin wanted, and he had been willing to give her anything just to see her smile. It wasn't fair to either of them, or to Dennis, that she was sneaking around like this. Tears had begun to leak from her blue eyes, and she rolled over to nestle her head in Tobin's chest, hoping that come morning everything would be better. It wasn't.

Laurel had thought nothing of it when she started throwing up. She'd been feeling nauseous, but had put it up to the bug Penny had brought home from school earlier that week. She had assumed that she had caught whatever it was her daughter had had, so she'd snuggled up on the couch with a big cozy blanket and a bucket, spending the day watching TV. She hadn't recognized it as the morning sickness that it was. It happened too infrequently for her it to register in her mind. One afternoon, chatting with the other mothers outside the elementary school, Maya McKinnon announced proudly that she and her husband were having a baby – their fourth. She was only a few months along, but she was ecstatic. Time seemed to slow the moment the words came out of her mouth. Laurel's mind flew.


It couldn't be.

It just wasn't possible.

Except that it was possible. Laurel backtracked in her mind to her last period. Over two months ago. Her heart was racing.

This couldn't be happening. Laurel's periods had never been particularly regular, but the only time she'd actually missed two months was when she was pregnant with Penny.

Moments later, cutting through the mindless chatter of the swarm of soccer moms, the bell rang and the children poured out of the building like an avalanche. Penny sprinted out of the front door and down the steps, her pink Powerpuff Girls backpack bumping up and down on her back with every leap. She hurtled into her mother, nearly knocking Laurel over with the power of her hug.

"Hi Mommy!" she yelled, her cheeks pink with exhilaration.

"Hey baby," Laurel said, returning Penny's hug without any thought. Color returned to her pale face as she did so.

"Mommy, can I go on the swings?" Penny asked, her angelic face innocent and beautiful. Her hair had begun to fall out of the pigtails Laurel had fastened it in that morning, but instead of looking disheveled she just looked endearing.

"Not today. We can play on the swings for a whole half hour tomorrow though, okay?" Laurel promised, taking Penny by the hand and leading her through the parking lot to her blue station wagon. Their car stood out slightly in the sea of minivans and SUVs, but Dennis loved that car. He wasn't the one who had to drive the beat-up piece of junk, but he refused to part with it nonetheless. Instead, it was arranged that Laurel would drive the station wagon and Dennis would take the shiny silver Volkswagen that they'd bought only a few years earlier. Laurel was insanely jealous.

Laurel hurried her daughter into the backseat of the car (she was a firm believer in the benefits of children riding in the back of the car. Safety, and all that) and climbed into the driver's seat. Turning the key in the ignition, she pushed all thoughts of pro-creation, whether intentional or non, from her mind. She had better things to think about. Namely, Penny. Baby or no baby, she had a daughter whom she loved. She was not going to screw that up.