January 31, 2017

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where Jeremy had eternity and a half to live. Where her Joanna would be born into the arms of two loving parents, looking forward with clear eyes towards a bright future. A world without the exigency of hospital bills that two 24 year olds were not yet grown up enough to know how to handle. Jessica could feel the silk of her child’s translucent pink cheeks, smell the subtle lavender scent radiating from her skin. She looked up and found Jeremy’s face, his expression like that of a young boy waking up to the year’s first snowfall. The wonder suited his soft features well, deep brown eyes twinkling and smooth peach skin flushed. In many ways, Jessica’s fiance was that young boy. He had never left Ohio, spent his free time playing Super Smash Brothers Melee with the friends he had had since high school, and his favorite food was his mom’s spaghetti. She quickly fell in love with his simplicity — to her it meant stability. In this dream world, that meaning rang true.

Jeremy will project his failed college baseball career onto his daughter during her prepubescent years on the youth association softball team, then blame himself for not practicing with her enough when she inevitably gives it up for the school newspaper in the tenth grade. He will help her beat difficult levels in her Legend of Zelda games. When the time comes, Jeremy will highly suggest Ohio State because of its superior business program, not because her other option is Penn State. He will be the run-of-the-mill, suburban Ohio dad. When Jessica comes home from her late night shift at the hospital, Jeremy will be dozing on the rocking chair besides Joanna’s crib. A kiss on the cheek will gently wake him, and the two will stare lovingly down at their creation before retiring to their room across the hall, door kept cracked open.

A hand on the shoulder woke Jessica up. She could tell its intention was to be gentle, but it felt uncomfortable and heavy. She looked up from her perch on the plastic waiting room chair and found her fiance’s face, deep brown eyes dull and smooth skin drained of its typical peach hue. The little boy from her dream had grown up and lost all his simplicity and false stability. As the two walked out of the hospital, clammy hand in clammy hand, she raised her free hand to her stomach. Joanna was still there, but the future Jessica had planned for her was gone.

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