"Ellen said you are planning to abort," the doctor squinted at the screen as he moved the transducer across her stomach. Riley released her breath and stared straight up at the ceiling. She had never felt more exposed than she had at this moment.
"Yes," she answered curtly. The more she answered this question, the more she sensed judgment radiating from every single practitioner. The sooner she could get this over with, the better.
"That's a shame. You have quite a healthy child," the doctor swiveled the screen toward her. Riley turned her head to see a small face with closed eyes. The child raised a hand with five little fingers outstretched. The sound of a pattering heart beat sounded with the lines on the monitor. Riley could feel the color draining from her cheeks.
"What is it doing?" she breathed. The doctor returned his eyes to the monitor and smiled at the moving arms and neck.
"She's stretching her muscles. And look, she has a smile for you."
Riley swallowed in an attempt to stifle the tears that welled in her sapphire blue eyes and spilled across the bridge of her nose. "Did you say 'she'?"
"No one could say for certain," the doctor squinted at the screen, "but you appear to be pregnant with a healthy and expressive baby girl."
I have a healthy and expressive baby girl. Riley watched the child curl up her arms again and tuck her head down, as though she was going to sleep.
"Would you like to schedule—?"
"No," Riley interrupted. "I have to go home."
"I believe you have made a wise decision," the doctor said with a nod. But Riley scarcely heard a word she said until she reached her car outside and dropped into the driver's seat. Fresh tears sprang to her eyes as she gripped the steering wheel with both hands.
"I'm so sorry," she managed in between sobs. She knew now that she wasn't alone and never would be again. An overwhelming wave of responsibility crashed over her, and she pressed her forehead to the steering wheel. How could she possibly make a good mother for this child when, until today, she barely believed she even had a child? And Alasdair – she planned to never marry, but this was his child.
The drive home was a roller coaster of inexpressible love toward the child she carried and sheer terror at the idea of articulating what she learned today to Alasdair and her family. But when she came into the kitchen and listened to the voice mail on her cell phone, she smiled.
Alasdair had made a dinner reservation that night.
She spent close to twenty minutes running a brush down her lengthy golden hair, mind set on the daughter she never imagined she would have. I suppose you're coming with me on my date tonight, lass.
She imagined what her daughter might be doing at that moment. The possibilities must have been endless, she realized, if the girl could already smile and stretch out upon awakening. But she knew the girl would accompany her that night, and somehow, there seemed to be consolation in that.
"Riley," Alasdair wrapped his arms around her shoulders the moment she stepped inside the restaurant he mentioned over the phone. She pursed her lips in a vain attempt not to cry. "We should have a table within five minutes."
But even as he spoke, a waitress appeared to show them to a candle lit table in the middle of the restaurant. As they slid into each side of the booth, the waitress asked what drinks she could serve.
"Perhaps the Merlot—" Alasdair started, but Riley raised a hand and shook her head with a smile.
"I'm sorry. I'm not in the mood for wine today."
"All right," Alasdair smiled with a curious spark in his eye. "Water, please."
As the waitress left, Alasdair spread the red cloth napkin across his lap. Riley stared down at the table. Alasdair leaned his arms on the table, something his mother would have swatted him for. Riley pressed a hand against her stomach and breathed a deep, rattling breath to speak.
"I'm pregnant, Alasdair."
The room swam as tears welled in her eyes again. She blinked them away to observe Alasdair, who was sitting straight with his mouth open. She sensed her heart beating more and more rapidly. By the time her head started pulsing, she began to panic. But suddenly, he broke into a smile.
"This is amazing. I'm going to be a—"
"I was going to abort her," Riley admitted as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
A shadow of surprise crossed his ashen face. "You were going to have an abortion without telling me about the child?"
She pressed her lips together. "Yes. But I saw her today, and she's so beautiful, Alasdair—"
"You saw her? What week are you at?"
Riley studied his eyes. Scrutiny narrowed them and made his frame straighter than usual. "Twelve weeks."
Alasdair rose abruptly and slammed his napkin against the table. With another severe glance in her direction, he stormed back across the restaurant and toward the door. Riley called after him once, but realized it was no use. You are making me cry way too much, little one. She pressed her head against the table, completely aware of the dozens of eyes staring at her but completely unaware that Alasdair pressed his back against the outside wall with a hand plunged deep into his pocket.