Short Story: Three Minutes

“So, I just peed on a plastic stick.” Eric jumped off the sofa anxiously as I hit the bathroom light switch.

“What does it say?” he asked, desperately grabbing at it. (It always amazed me how people in this situation in sitcoms never seemed bothered that they were handling something that had been urinated on. Now I realised it happens in real life too.)

“It doesn’t say anything yet! You have to wait three minutes.” I snatched the white stick back from him and put it on the coffee table, making a mental note to anti-bac later. I went into the kitchen, put the microwave timer on for three minutes, and then went and sat on the sofa with my hands shoved under my legs. I refused to pace, or bite my nails, or anything so undignified. I just sat, and quietly freaked out in my head instead.

Eric wasn’t so insular about it; he began walking in circles around the sofa, looking frequently between the kitchen doorway, where he could just see the glowing green countdown, and the all important test nervously. He wrung his hands and seemed even to be muttering to himself. I tried to ignore him. I leaned back on the sofa, let out a huge breath of air, and attempted to clear my mind.

What did I want it to say? I knew children were something that I wanted someday, but someday and nine months from now were very different lapses of time. And I wanted kids – when I formed that thought in my head they were always school-aged, playing at the park – not babies. I tried to imagine myself with a baby. Something small and helpless. Something that couldn’t communicate except by gurgles and cries – something so fragile that occasionally they just died in their sleep for no reason. Something whose wellbeing and health and safety were solely my responsibility. Oh God, please let it be negative!

“I didn’t know that,” Eric said suddenly.

“Huh?” I grunted, my train of thought derailed. There were still two minutes to go.

“I didn’t know that, about the three minutes to wait. I-I don’t know anything about babies really.”

“We’ll…learn.” I reassured him tensely. “We’ll have to.”

“I don’t know how to change nappies, or-or what they eat or what-what I would do if they had a cough, or how to w-warm up a bottle or-or-or how they’re supposed to-to sleep, or any – or anything like that!” His voice got higher and faster as he indulged his panic.

“Neither do I. Well, I mean, I have a vauge idea, but not, you know… It’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.” I tried to give him an encouraging smile. He came over to join me on the sofa.

“We’ll be fine, Marie” he said shakily, taking my hand. “We can do this.”

“Yes we can.”

A pause. Then he asked: “What do you want it to say?”

Negative. Please, please; I would be a horrible Mother and Eric clearly wasn’t going to win any prizes for being confidant. We’d kill the poor thing! But I couldn’t let him know I was scared, just in case. “I…I don’t know…”

He started to rub my hand with his thumb, too quickly to be comforting. Then he looked at his watch, then at the test, and then he began to fidget. I let go of his hand, left the sofa and began to pace – I couldn’t bear sitting with him fretting like that.

One and a half minutes, glared the microwave. In less than 90 seconds, we would know. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. I mean, Eric was handsome, and had curly blonde hair. I had always wanted little boys with curly blonde hair. If it was a girl I supposed she might look a bit like me, though I hoped she’d get Eric’s big blue eyes. I could dress them up in little outfits, and it would be fun to buy baby shoes for once, instead of just cooing over them in the stores. I could almost see the baby now, reaching up for Mummy from its crib, with chubby arms and baby giggles. It would be nice to be needed and loved. Yes, now that I thought about it, I wanted a baby so badly it hurt.

“Would you want a boy or a girl?” Eric startled me again. I stopped pacing to consider.

“I don’t care, as long as it’s healthy. And I hope it has your hair and eyes.” I joined him on the sofa again, gazing lovingly at him with trust and fondness.

“Funny,” he said, returning my affection, “I was just thinking the same thing. I was picturing a pudgy happy baby, with tiny fingers and your adorable nose.”

“I hate my nose!” I kissed him cutely. I loved this man so much; I wanted to bear his children and raise them, something that was part of me but also part of him. I prayed the test would come out positive. Please, please; it might not be ideal timing, but we would make such a good family.

“What do you want it to be?” he whispered softly, resting his forehead on mine. Not wanting to appear broody, I answered: “I don’t know…”

I squeezed his hand tenderly, then went to check the timer. 30 seconds to go. I resisted the urge to check the test early, and just stood where I could see the clock without having to go into the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to find out I was pregnant.

What if it’s negative? I dreaded to think, now that I had gotten used to the idea. To pass the time, I began mentally re-decorating the study to accommodate the new arrival. I saw yellow and white wallpaper, with matching changing table and crib. Oh God, wait a minute, how much do cribs cost? And pushchairs and nappies and baby food and formula – oh God, should I feed formula or breast milk? Did it matter? Could we afford a baby, I mean really really afford it? And not just a baby, this was something that was going to be a part of the rest of our lives. We weren’t ready for this, not by a long shot. What had I been thinking? Why hadn’t we been more careful?

What if it was positive? Please don’t let it be positive! What if it was? Could I handle pregnancy? What would it do to my figure…how much would it hurt? I knew I could never get an abortion, but could we really deal with a baby…or a child? The late night feedings and the doctor’s appointments and the recitals and the football games and the birthday parties and the sicknesses… On the other hand, little girls in ballet outfits and little boys in shorts and knee high socks are very endearing. And I’m sure we’d pick it up as we went along. Oh, who was I kidding, we’d be terrible at it!

But what if, really, what if? Would it be so bad? Could we at least cope?

I was just beginning to pick out names, you know, just in case, when the microwave went off. I jumped, not outwardly, but deep down in my soul.

Eric picked up the white stick, but didn’t look closely at it. Instead he looked me right in the eyes and said: “This is it. W-what do you want it to be?”

I could only answer honestly. “I don’t know.”

“I love you,” he said, “either way.” I nodded. Then we both leaned in to learn our fate.