Quite Short Story: Karen’s Little Secret

Karen stared at the wall in the examination room, its sickly-sweet paint scuffed grey along the baseboard. A jolly tap tap on the door jolted her, and she straightened in the chair.

“Hello!” said the nurse cheerily as she entered, dimples aglow. “What brings you to the clinic today?”

Karen swallowed hard, her tongue thick, almost gagging her. She stared at her hands.

“Any particular symptoms?” the nurse continued, fingers hovering patiently over the keyboard. Karen noticed the nurse’s fingernail polish matched the walls perfectly. Bubble-gum pink.

“Any particular symptoms?” the nurse asked again, offering Karen an encouraging smile.

“I…um, I think I think I might be pregnant,” Karen whispered.

The nurse handed her a miniature box of tissues. “It’s all right,” she said gently. “The doctor will be in shortly.”

Karen nodded and the nurse left, pulling the door closed behind her. Alone, she forced herself to take deep, measured breaths. Breathe in, breathe out…Breathe in, breathe out…

The doctor entered a short time later, long years weighing down the worn lapels of his labcoat. “So, Karen, the nurse tells me you think you’re pregnant.”

She nodded.

“When was your last menstrual cycle?”

“Seven weeks ago.”

“And you’re…42? Still regular?”

“Yes. And yes, still regular.”

“Have you taken a pregnancy test?”

“No.”

“Here,” he said, handing her a urine collection cup. “We’ll know in a minute.”

And she was, of course.

“Does your partner know?” he asked methodically.

“No. And he’s not my partner…not anymore.”

“I see,” he sighed. “Well, you have options.”

“I do want this baby,” she declared. “It’s just that I wanted it ten years ago. He’s the one who never wanted a baby.”

The doctor’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“My ex-husband,” Karen explained. “It’s his.”

“Your ex-husband?”

She felt the heat grow in her face. “Look,” she said defensively, “I found a box of his things in the attic and he came over to get them. We had some wine. A lot of wine. One thing led to another.”

“Perhaps you should tell him.”

“No. I can’t.”

“May I ask why?”

“Because he’s married to someone else! I’m going to say I went to a sperm bank. He’ll believe that. I threatened to do so many times!”

The doctor scribbled on his prescription pad. “Here’s one for a good prenatal vitamin. And I’ll arrange a referral to an obstetrician.”

“Thank you,” Karen said, sniffling with gratitude.

“You have support?” he asked. “Family and friends?”

“Some.”

“Well, you know where we are if you need us.”

“Yes, thank you,” she replied, quickly gathering her things. She held all evidence of a smile until she stepped outside.

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