"You look perfect today," Jack tells me at breakfast on Monday, and he's right.
At sixteen I wouldn't have thought it was possible for me to look better at twenty-nine than I did in high school. I naturally assumed I'd be beautiful always; Mom was beautiful always, like being a bitch might guarantee a great ass forever, and I looked just like her. But being better at twenty-nine than I was back then, no. I didn't realize then that one day I'd have nothing better to do than go to four-hour pilates classes and buy antique vases for the dining room.
That was when I had dreams, though. I was the one who wanted to be a lawyer, not that I think anyone would believe it of silly, dizzy me. But that role went to Kay. I got married instead, only nineteen and everything everyone wanted me to be in a voluminous princess dress and a diamond-studded tiara.
I love Jack, I do. I'm never sorry I married him. It's just sometimes I wonder how I got here.
"You're looking lovely this morning," Jack tells me at breakfast on Tuesday, and he's right.
It's a different story after he leaves for the office, though. I'm red-faced and my hair, restyled and highlighted every ten days, is plastered against my wet cheeks. This is the me no one is ever allowed to see. Not my husband, who loves me unconditionally. Not my little brother-in-law, who is so impossibly sweet he could rot my teeth. And not even Kay, my big brother, the ersatz hero of my childhood.
I don't want to look at myself either. But I do. I look in the mirror and force myself to stare at the Impressionistic painting that my smeared makeup has become, and then at the test in my hand. The fourteenth of the twenty stored in my walk-in beauty cupboard and also the fourteenth that has gifted me with one solid red line, negative. Yes, I am.
Jack is positive. He believes that Josh will come back from the edge, that my father will stop fucking every twenty-year-old that moves, that Johnny will grow a spine and stop wasting time helping everyone but himself. He also believes we will have a baby. Never mind that I am twenty-nine and have yet to respond to a single one of the three thousand attempts we've made over the last ten years, none of the treatments or regiments or the "put your legs up, honey." Next time, he keeps saying, but I am so sick of sex and vitamins it makes me want to join a convent.
Negative. Yes, I am.
"You're beautiful, baby," Jack tells me at breakfast on Wednesday morning, and he's right.
"It was negative." I tell him over egg whites and sunshine pouring through the breakfast nook what I couldn't tell him all the evening before. And I can see the effect it has, the way the protrusion of Jack's throat quivers a little before he swallows his bite, how he steels himself up to be optimistic and accepting before he answers me. Some perverse part of me enjoys this. Some part of me saves it for perfect mornings like this, a petty attempt at bringing Jack down to the shitty level I'm not allowed to admit being on. Maybe I'll hurt him like he hurts me in the midst of this obsession he has with propagating his sperm.
"Ah." He puts down his fork and pats his lips with his napkin. Buying more time. This gives me a sudden stab of panic; my husband is having to reach for it, looking harder than ever for that last ray of positive thinking. Did I do this? Jack gives me a normal smile and reaches across the table to take my hand. "Next time, huh?"
He put the vitamins on the table this morning. I stare at them and fight off causeless morning sickness.
"Hey, you look great," Jack tells me at breakfast on Thursday morning, and he's right. How could sixteen year old me have known how flat my stomach would be when I was twenty-nine?