Dear Ticker Tinkerer,

I never thought I'd be writing into an advice column, but here we are! I'm not totally sure how to do this, so I apologize if my writing isn't appropriate or clear.

Let me go ahead and get it out: My husband of six years broke the news to me several days ago that he doesn't want children. I suppose this wouldn't be a huge deal, if not for the fact that we had the "children" conversation a year into dating, and he told me at the time that he wanted four kids.

I feel blindsided and a bit betrayed, if I'm being honest. Children are really important to me, and I thought they were to him too.

So, where do I go from here? I want kids—I've always wanted kids, and he knew (and knows) that. I don't want to be rash, but should I consider leaving him and trying with someone else, or should I try to change his mind?

Please advise.

Sincerely,

Kid-Craver


Dear Kid-Craver,

Glad you reached out! Remember: There is no shame in asking for someone else's opinion, even if they're an anonymous individual who writes an advice column (we're all friends here, I promise, so no judgement).

As for your situation . . . Wow. I'm sorry; I can only imagine how confused and torn you must feel. Let's delve in and see if we can sort out those feelings and form a plan of action, shall we?

You have every right to feel caught off guard and betrayed. When someone we trust tells us important information such as their thoughts on children, we expect them to stick with their first opinions, especially if they know and respect ours. However, we have to remember that thoughts and feelings are subject to change, which is why honest communication between couples is so critical.

On your husband's part, it's clear that something's going on there. I don't condone telling your partner one thing and then going back on it later, but I suspect there's more to the story. Perhaps he's scared of being a bad father? (A bad past, maybe?) Or he's simply placed it into consideration and decided that he's not fond of children? Finances might also be a concern.

Whatever the reason, I don't think you should leave him—at least, not so quickly. Before doing something abrupt, sit down and have an open conversation with him. Wait until your feelings are under control, though. A topic as important as this one needs to be discussed without emotions getting in the way and making the situation worse, as hard as keeping it neutral may be.

See where you can compromise, too. Do you have to have children? Could becoming a foster family be a suitable "meet-in-the-middle," since it's not the same commitment but still provides parental roles? Are fur babies your only option? Questions along these lines might help set boundaries and clear up where you both stand on the subject.

If you can't find any common ground, you might want to step back and reevaluate your relationship. As you know, I never support breakups unless the relationship is unhealthy or shows no signs of working, and it sounds like you two have been together a long time. Is he the love of your life? Would you be alright having children if he's not in the picture, or do you only want them with him?

Think it over long and hard. Once you sort out your feelings, you can discuss both your and his thoughts before coming to a decision. It won't be easy, of course, but relationships hardly ever are.

Good luck, Kid-Craver, and I wish you the best!

XO,

The Ticker Tinkerer

Helen blew out a sigh and leaned back in her chair, running a hand through her hair and grimacing when it got snagged by the already-tangled curls. As much as she loved writing the advice column for the critically acclaimed lifestyle magazine Patchworking Lives, it was always a bit nerve-racking—what if her advice was useless or just made things worse?

She tried not to think too hard about such a thing happening, but she couldn't always help it.

"You got that column done yet?" She was pulled from her thoughts by the gravelly voice of the lead editor, Crosby Cannon Curtis—behind his back, she and other employees simply referred to him as "Triple C."

"Yes, sir," she replied, spinning in her chair to face him. He was, as usual, leaning against someone else's desk, and Tonya didn't appear to appreciate the intrusion, if the exasperated look she shot Helen was any indication.

It wasn't that they outright disliked Crosby; the man was actually a fine boss and was always willing to help out his employees if they were struggling with a project (to a certain extent). No, Crosby's boss abilities were fine, but he wasn't always the best at recognizing personal space or other social concepts.

During conversation, Crosby would often inch closer and closer, until he was mere inches from one's face. The habit wouldn't be quite so annoying, perhaps, if not for the fact that he was almost constantly smoking a cigarette and—when he wasn't—had a habit of spitting. And, although he would give time off for personal reasons, the single instance Helen had seen a coworker ask for time due to her mother's passing, Crosby had nodded and said, "Cool," before walking away as though one of his employees wasn't in tears and in desperate need of reassurance.

"Good," Crosby continued, pulling her eyes back to his lean, middle-aged features just as he took a drag of his cigarette and patted down what remained of his graying brown hair (really, his bald spot seemed to grow every day). "Geoff called in sick, so I need you to take over the interview with that health and wellness company." He pushed away from Tonya's desk (the other woman was clearly relieved that she could get back to work without his hovering) and stepped closer, towering above the still-seated Helen.

Cringing when she pushed her chair away from him only to hit her desk, Helen asked, "You mean KeepinWell?" She could vaguely recall Geoff complaining about his interviewee, a woman who had apparently told him over the phone that he sounded "a bit on the husky side."

Crosby snapped his fingers and pointed at her, almost poking her eye out because of how close he was. "That's the one," he agreed. "Interview's in thirty, but it's on the other side of town, so you'll have to hustle. Here," he whipped a folded piece of paper out of his plaid suit jacket and slapped it down on her desk. "Oh, and take that new intern with you." and then he was marching off to his next victim, and Helen shook her head at his retreating back before plucking up the scrap of paper.

Geoff's chicken scratch writing was all over the place, but it would have to do. Hopping up from her desk, she traded a look with Tonya and said, "I didn't get any spit—did you?"

Grimacing, Tonya held up her arm and displayed a spattering of dark, wet spots over her mustard-colored blouse.

"Gross," Helen sympathized, passing the other woman the community Kleenex. "Know where the intern is?"

Wiping the skin of her hand and sleeve as best she could, Tonya gestured with her chin to the other side of the trendily-redesigned, open-concept, single-floor that housed Patchworking Lives. "He's been shadowing Dahlia, so he's probably fetching her twelfth cup of coffee."

Snorting a laugh, Helen thanked her coworker and then darted off, weaving between the long, collapsible tables that housed four people each until she reached the break area. It wasn't in its own room, but its décor and set-up differed from the main room enough to create a false illusion of complete separation.

As she got closer, she wasn't surprised to find a young, somewhat chubby, college-aged boy mixing together a steaming cup of coffee. Dahlia was a good journalist, there was no doubt about that, but the woman used interns as coffee-runners and little else, meaning they didn't learn much when they were with her.

"You the intern?" Helen asked once she was closer, letting her eyes do a quick scan of his features. He was a bit on the short side but dressed well, possessed short, spiky brown hair, and looked at her with awed brown eyes when she got closer.

"You're Helena Fischer," he murmured, Dahlia's coffee forgotten behind him as he turned to face her entirely.

She passed him a wide grin. "That would be me."

He reached out a hand, still seeming a bit dazed, and shook hers enthusiastically. "I've been hoping to meet you," he admitted once he released her hand. "You're practically a legend at school."

Helen's smile widened. She'd been out of college for about six years, but it was nice to know that the many changes she'd made to the school's journalism program were still being implemented in her memory. "Can't say I'm anything special, but I certainly try."

"No way!" He protested quite vigorously, "You write the advice column, don't you? The "Patchworked Hearts Club"? That's one of the most well-known columns in the country; you've won tons of awards."

Well, her ego certainly didn't mind the sudden boost, but Helen bobbed forward slightly and whispered, "That may be, but let's not broadcast that info, alright? As far as anyone outside of this building—and even some of those inside—are concerned, the writer is anonymous and hopes to stay that way." She added a pointed look to complement her final words, and he caught on to the message.

"Oh, of course," he assured. "Sorry. I overheard you and Mr. Curtis discussing it one day in the break room, and I couldn't forget about it."

Helen laughed and waved him off, knowing he meant no harm. "No worries. What's your name?"

"Ivan."

"Ivan," she nodded to herself thoughtfully. "Great. You ready to go?"

His eyes widened comically. "Go? Go where?"

"With me," she huffed, setting her hands on her hips and eyeing him expectantly. "I'm off to conduct an interview and was told you might like to join. Unless you'd like to stay here and keep bringing Dahlia—"

"I'm ready!" he interrupted, his ears tinging pink when he realized how loud his voice was. "I'm ready now," he repeated, softer this time.

Helen clapped her hands together. "Excellent! Let us depart then, shall we? Onward!" she waved for him to follow, and he did, almost like an eager puppy as he trotted after her. She stopped at her desk first, snagging her bright purple tote and tucking Geoff's paper inside before continuing, waving goodbye to Tonya as she went.

Leading the younger man onto the bustling city sidewalks, Helen dug into her bag and whipped out her cell phone, fingers tapping away even as she listened to Ivan ask, "Why didn't we go out the back? Aren't all the company cars back there?"

"Yes," was all Helen said as she placed the phone to her ear.

It was picked up on the third ring, but she didn't even wait for a greeting before announcing, "I need to be picked up yesterday."

A male's exaggerated, rumbling sigh came crackling through the line. "You realize I have other customers, don't you?"

"You mean to say that the world doesn't revolve around me?" She joked. "I don't believe it. Now, come get me."

"Helena."

"What? I'm with an intern and I need," she dragged the word out, knowing he hated when she whined, "you. It's critical."

"What?" He parroted, no doubt knowing it would get on her nerves. "I'm with a customer and I need to do my job."

"Well, your job now is to come get me. So, come get me."

"Hel—"

"Thanks so much, dear."

"Helena, I already said—"

"I'll see you in five."

"Hele—!"

She hung up with a wicked smirk. Oh, how she adored torturing the man.

"Uh, Miss Fischer?"

Scowling, she threw her phone back into her bag and shot Ivan an unimpressed look. "Please, I'm begging you, call me Helen."

He nodded with an apologetic smile, and then tried again. "Sorry. Is there a reason we aren't taking a company car?"

There was, actually: Helen had a severe issue with driving. After a scarring experience during her high school years, she couldn't even handle sitting in the driver's seat without having a severe panic attack; she hadn't driven anywhere since she was seventeen, and she had no plans to change that fact anytime soon.

Typically, it was an easy thing to hide—many of the city's inhabitants didn't own a car, since walking was cheaper and sometimes faster. In moments like this one, however, it was a bit trickier to get around.

"I don't see a point in driving when I don't have to," she fibbed to Ivan. "Plus, I often use my time during the drive to interviews to go back over my notes and plan a form of attack; if I were the one driving, I couldn't do that."

Ivan seemed content with her response. "But you have a specific driver you like?"

Ah, she'd wondered if he would pick up on that.

The truth behind that was tied into her 'I can't handle driving' situation. It was the same reason she avoided the office carpool and riding on buses; she didn't trust her driving, and she didn't trust anyone else's either.

Or, she hadn't until she'd been forced into a tricky spot and had to use the drive-sharing app on her phone, only to discover that finding a favorite driver was totally a thing.

"Something like that," she replied vaguely, wrapping her arms around herself and snuggling into her cardigan when a crisp fall breeze drifted past. "When you find a good, reliable, safe driver, you don't want anyone else." Now that was true.

Ivan opened his mouth to respond, only to close it when a car horn began honking obnoxiously from further down the street. Helen was grinning for a whole different reason when a white SUV pulled to a stop by the curb.

"There's our ride!" she chirped, jogging to the passenger door and tugging on the handle. When it didn't budge, she shot the man behind the steering wheel a disgruntled look, frowning when she heard his muffled laughter.

"Open the door, a-hole!" There was a click, and she flung the door open before he could lock it again (he'd done it before, and she wasn't taking any chances). Clambering into the always-pristine leather seat, she set her bag down by her feet and then buckled up.

Hearing Ivan do the same behind her, she turned to the driver and asked, "I thought you were busy?"

His sunglasses hid his eyes, but she had no doubt that the blue orbs were passing her a droll stare. "We both know that you'd never let me hear the end of it if I didn't come get you."

She smiled smugly. "Damn straight. This is Ivan, by the way. Ivan, this is Patterson."

The man beside her shifted and nodded at the boy in the back seat before spinning back around and throwing the vehicle into drive. Peeking back at Ivan, Helen had to stifle a laugh at how startled the intern looked.

Not that she could blame him, though; her reaction had been similar when she first met Patterson. He was a huge man even sitting down, with wide shoulders and defined muscles that came from a combination of his previous service with the navy and his continued workout regime. His physique, coupled with his rough stubble, sunglass-covered eyes, crooked nose, scarred right cheek, and short-cropped sandy blonde hair gave him a bit of mysterious, dangerous air.

Helen, to her credit, had realized quite quickly that he wasn't scary at all.

"Where are we headed today?" he asked, stifling a yawn as he pulled back into the afternoon traffic.

"Know where KeepinWell is?" She returned, hunting through her bag once more and letting out a quiet cheer when she found Geoff's notes.

"Oh, God," Patterson groaned. "Really?"

She eyed him with confusion. "Yes, really. What's wrong? Old girlfriend that you're trying to avoid?"

The last question was intended as a joke, but he stiffened, and she could almost feel him scrutinizing her through his glasses. Seeming to see that she meant no harm, he chuckled lightly. "Worse: Bought their protein supplements and I'm still getting emails, even though I returned the nasty stuff and unsubscribed."

Helen snorted. "Oh, God forbid. What horrors!"

"Uh, Helen?" came the timid voice from the backseat, and she shifted in her seat to eye Ivan curiously.

"What's up?"

"Uh," his eyes darted to Patterson before sliding back to hers, and he leaned forward in his seat and dropped his voice. "May I look at the interview questions, please?"

Just as she moved to give him the paper, Patterson drawled, "You always this timid, kid?"

She rolled her eyes when Ivan swallowed audibly. "Uh, no, sir. Not always."

"Could've fooled me," the older man grumbled, and Helen cleared her throat and shot him a look that screamed, Behave!

"Of course you can look at them, Ivan," she soothed once she was sure Patterson had gotten the message. "Here." She passed him the questions and continued, "Have you ever been to an interview before?"

Ivan peeked up from the paper cautiously. "No, this is my first time. Is it hard?"

"Are you leading into a 'that's what she said' joke?" Patterson asked, his voice gruff. "Because I don't allow that shit in my car." Ivan grew so pale she worried he'd faint.

"Oh, please, Pat, you're scaring the poor boy," Helen dismissed him with a wave of her hand, and then addressed Ivan once more. "No, it's not hard at all. If you feel comfortable, I'll even let you ask some of the questions and record the responses; we can work on writing up the article once we get back to the office."

The proposal made him perk up considerably, and he nodded. "That sounds good."

"Perfect," she chirped. "Have a look at those questions and see what you think, alright?" Another nod, and she turned back around, noting in her peripheral vision that Patterson was passing her sideways glances.

"May I help you with something, Pat?"

He quirked a lopsided grin. "No, I'm good, Helena. I was just musing over how much of a mother you are."

"Oh, hush," she grumbled, slumping into her seat and watching as the many buildings crawled by. "I ought to be musing over how much of a slug-driver you are." Not that she minded, of course; his safe driving was the sole reason she kept coming back to him (plus, his company wasn't all that bad either).

"That's not even a thing, Helena."

"I just made it one."

"Nice try." He sighed, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel absently and asking, "What's the newest column post?"

"He knows?" Helen was almost startled by the sudden squawk from the backseat, and she glanced over her shoulder quickly, only to find Ivan staring at Patterson with a mixture of awe and horror. "I thought no one else knew?"

Patterson grunted. "I know a lot, kid. About everyone. Even you. Especially you."

"You are so full of crap!" Helen scoffed. "Are you trying to kill my intern, Patterson? And yes, Ivan, he knows; I told him a while ago." More like he'd picked her up after a rough day and she'd ranted about her frustrations with a sender's especially complicated issue.

"Are you sure you can trust him?" Ivan asked, though she was guessing the words had come out without his permission, if the horror in his expression was any indication.

"You want to ask that again?" Patterson goaded, dropping his voice another octave, until it resembled a chain-smoking bear. "You know how many bodies I've hidden, boy?"

"Holy shit," Ivan whispered, slouching back into his seat as though trying to disappear. "No, sir. Please don't kill me."

"Anyway," she reached over and poked Patterson in the ribs. "Had a person who wants children, and whose husband supposedly wanted kids but has since changed his mind."

Seeming to forget his previous mission of torturing the intern, her favorite driver winced. "Ouch. That sucks."

She hummed in agreement, brushing her curly raven hair out of her eyes and grinning when she saw KeepinWell's three-story building come into view. "We have arrived!" she announced, ignoring Patterson's grumble of, "No, really?"

"Alright, Ivan," she continued as the SUV came to a stop in front of the building, "Make sure—" the words died on her tongue when Ivan practically threw himself out of the car, his movements sloppy.

"See what you did?" Helen asked, whipping around to shoot Patterson an exasperated look. "He's terrified."

"Good," the man grunted, before shifting his sunglasses to the top of his head and passing her a wicked smirk. "Maybe it'll teach him some manners."

"He doesn't need manners, Pat; he's a nice kid. Now," she undid her own seatbelt, "we'll be done in two hours, so I'll see you then."

"You know I have other customers, right? And giving good service equates to a better rating and thus more money?"

"I always give you five stars, do I not?" she retorted snootily. "I'll see you in two hours." She clambered out of the car, closing the door on his last call of, "Helena!"

Helen waved over her shoulder and then marched to Ivan, giving him an apologetic smile when she was close enough. "Sorry about him; he's a bit of a pill. Ready?"

Knuckles white against the paper in his hands, Ivan nodded jerkily. "Sure. Yes. Alright."

"Then on we go!"


*pops out from behind bush and waves* Wattup, kiddos? Sorry it's been so long-I've been chugging away on this bad boy for quite a while, and I am soooooo excited to be sharing this story with you! I'll admit, it's a long one-the Word doc isn't even completed yet, and it's already at 120,000 words . . . I hope you're ready for a long ride, cause things might get crazy. (I can't wait!)

Okay, let's get intros out of the way! If this is your first time with me, here's what you need to know: Updates are every three days (unless otherwise noted), I support ice cream binging, author's notes are intended to be amusing, cliff is the best kind of hanger, and reviews/favorites/follows are much appreciated.

For those of you who have stuck with me before: It is so nice to see you again! How've you been? How's life? Good? Suh-weet. Miss me? No? Well then. *clears throat* Right.

For everyone: All of my work, including this story (especially this story), are created by me, meaning they are mine. So, if you would be so kind, please don't copy or use any of my writing without my permission. Capeesh? Great; I'm glad we agree. (Geez, trying to make disclaimers fun is hard . . .)

Drop a review and let me know who's joining me for another wild ride, will ya? And, hey, if you're here after reading I Like You a Latte, then I think you'll really enjoy this tale too . . .

So, without further ado, let's kick it!

Ziggles