Carolyn and John Ch. 05byJohnFranks©
Carolyn had never felt so low. Her whole world seemed to be collapsing around her.
Ever since the night almost a week ago, when John had stormed out of the hotel room and out of her life, everything had ceased to have any meaning for her. She ate, dressed, worked and slept like a zombie. She picked up books only to throw them down again minutes later. She had no interest in television or music. Her mind was numb. Her body ached. She caught herself crying for no reason. Everything was bleak and pointless. She felt bereaved, as if something inside her had broken that could never be mended.
If her husband noticed anything he didn't comment about it much. Either he didn't care or he simply accepted her explanation that she had a summer virus and was feeling under the weather.
In her mind, every waking moment, was that last meeting with John. The look on his face when she told him that she was barren, infertile. The slamming of the hotel room door echoed in her head like the slamming of the casket lid on her dead hopes and joys. She replayed the evening again and again in her memory. Could she have done or said anything different? Could she have simply not told him? Deceived him? Withheld the fact that she was sterile? No! To have lied to him or tried to fool him would have been something she could never have forgiven herself for. But her honesty had lost him.
Early on Friday afternoon, as she sat at her desk, her cell phone chirped that a text message was incoming. Barely interested, she glanced at the screen and her heart turned over in her chest as she saw that it was from him. For a moment her head swam and she picked up the phone in a trembling hand, not daring to access the message, and yet knowing that she had to sooner or later. Quickly she got up and almost ran to the ladies washroom, gaining some rather worried looks from fellow workers who had noticed her low mood and were concerned about her.
Locking herself in a cubicle, she held the phone as if it was a snake about to bite her, then summoning ever bit of determination, her heart pounding in her chest, she pressed the keys to read the message.
TONIGHT. SAME HOTEL, SAME ROOM. WE NEED TO TALK. PLEASE SAY YES.
The words blurred as she read them, burning themselves onto her retinas. He wanted to talk! But why? To say what? No matter how many times she read them, the twelve words gave no clue as to his state of mind or his intentions.
Her hand shaking so badly that it took her several attempts, she typed her one word answer and sent it back to him.
For better or worse, she was committed.
She left work early, making the excuse that she felt unwell. It wasn't a total lie.
At home, her husband was hunched over his laptop as usual, charts and graphs flicking in quick succession across the screen. Hoping that she sounded sincere, she gave him her prepared story about a call from an old friend who was going through a bad break up and could use some company and moral support for the weekend. He dismissed her with a wave of his hand and "Sure. You go. See you when you get back."
Packing a small bag, she hesitated over what to take. She stroked the satin chemise that she had bought to wear for John, and that she'd worn when they made love, but that seemed a million years ago now. Maybe he simply wanted to finish with her in a more civilised way, that would be just like John, always the gentleman. Sadly she put the chemise back in the drawer and packed some pyjamas and a change of clothes.
The drive seemed endless. She had to keep forcing her concentration back onto the road, fighting down the butterflies in her stomach and the thoughts racing through her head and distracting her. Why did he want to see her? Why? Why? Why?
When she pulled into the car park of the hotel, she saw that John's car was already there. He was waiting for her, and she had no idea why. No alternative that she could conceive of seemed better than any other. If he wanted simply to say goodbye more gently, then she would have to survive without seeing him ever again. If he wanted her back, to kiss and make up, then she was condemning him to a life without children, and how could she do that to him if she loved him? She would have to let him go. Either way she had lost him.
Slowly and reluctantly she made her way to the room. Part of her wanted to turn and run, to escape from this awful situation, to let go and flee. She stopped at the door, staring at the wood as if she could bore through it with the intensity of her gaze and read the mind of the man inside. She gathered her determination. Raised her hand. Knocked.
He opened the door immediately, obviously waiting, he must have seen her car pull in. He was just as she remembered him, she found herself thinking, then "Stupid! Stupid! It's only been a week!" went through her head.
"Carolyn!" his face was serious "Please, come in. Thanks for coming. I was scared you wouldn't."
She entered the room, putting down her overnight bag. He ushered her to a chair, sat her down. "Drink?" he asked, indicating a bottle of wine on the table.
"No! Thank you." She looked up at him. "Why did you want me to come, John? Please, don't spin it out. I need to know what's going on in your head."
"OK." He toyed nervously with his wine glass "Carolyn, I want you to know I'm sorry for running out a week ago. I've had time to think, and I've come to terms with the fact that we won't have children. So I'm sorry, really sorry, and I'd like to try again please, if you are willing to."
Carolyn sat for a moment, saying nothing, then she rose to her feet. She pushed her face forward into his and began to speak, hissing the words out, her eyes blazing at him.
"You've come to terms with it? In a week? Really John! How noble of you! How very gracious of you to accept me with my faults!"
"What?" he rocked back on his heels.
"Come to terms with it?" Carolyn continued, her voice rising "Come to terms with it? I've had years....YEARS!...and I haven't come to terms with it! Every time I see a mother pushing a buggy, or I pass a school and see kids out playing, it's like someone has stuck a knife in right here!" She stabbed a finger at her chest "It hurts John! It hurts every single damned day! And you say that you've come to terms with it in one single lousy week! Well if you have John then either you're in denial or you never really seriously wanted kids in the first place! And if you do want them, John, then go and find yourself a nice fertile little lady to have them with. But don't you dare stand there and tell me that you've come to terms with it after a week you condescending bastard!"
John sat down heavily on the bed, his face white with shock at her rage and intensity. Carolyn stood over him, shaking, tears streaming down her cheeks, then she turned away and sobbed into her hands, her shoulders heaving with each cry. John looked up at her, his face a mask of grief and anguish, then he stood up and gently hugged her from behind. She stiffened but she didn't pull away.
"Carolyn, I am so very, very sorry. I am so damned selfish. I never even once thought about it from your side. And you're right. There's no way I've come to terms with it in a week, but I wanted you to believe that I had because I thought it was kinder than telling you the truth."
"And just what is the truth, John?" She asked quietly.
He turned her around, and lifted her tear streaked face so that their eyes met.
"The truth, Carolyn, is that it will always hurt me not to have children, just as it will always hurt you. And yes, sure, I could go and find someone else to have kids with, but she wouldn't be you Carolyn. She wouldn't be the one woman I really wanted to be with. And every time I held her hand, or kissed her, or made love to her, I would be thinking about you, and wishing that she was you. I would be living a lie."
He paused, collecting his thoughts, then he began to speak again, each word carefully spaced and chosen, like beads on a wire.
"Carolyn, everything in this world that is worth having comes with a price, and the more precious it is then the higher that price becomes. If you really want something, you have to decide whether or not you are willing to pay the cost. Well, you are the most precious thing in the world to me, and if the price I have to pay to be with you is childlessness, then I will pay it. I'm not going to pretend any more that it will be easy, because it won't be, but if you want me as much as I want you then we will have to face it. I love you Carolyn, completely, utterly, more than anything, more than life itself. Please, don't turn me away because you think it's for my own good, or because I lied to you to try and protect your feelings. Just accept me. We will never find what we have together with anyone else, of that I am convinced. And I swear to you, I will never lie to you again about anything, not ever."
Carolyn stood silently for a moment, then she stepped close into him, put her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest. Gently he pulled her to him, stroking her back and her hair. There was nothing more for either to say.
Eventually they did sit down together, in silence, and they drank the wine John had brought. They held each other a great deal, and stroked each other, but they said little more. Both felt that a chasm had been crossed, and in that there was a kind of relief, but before them was a strange and unknown land and they were both a little scared of what they might find there.
At last they went to bed together, and lay in each other's arms. Neither had wanted to make love, neither thought that it would happen, but as they lay together and tenderly stroked and kissed each other, the pull of the flesh overcame them, and gently they aroused each other and then became one. After John entered her, he was slow and gentle, until he came inside her with a low moan. Carolyn didn't climax, but it didn't matter. It had not been about sex. He had made love to her to show her that he still wanted her, and she had let him, to show him that she wanted him too. There was little passion in it, but there was warmth, and comfort, and love. Afterwards they drifted off to sleep, locked in each other's arms, the frontier of tomorrow waiting for them.
The next morning, Carolyn drove home with a deep sorrow in her heart, not for herself, or for John, but for the husband who she was about to leave for another man. To her surprise and relief, he took it well. He told her that he had been aware that she was unhappy for a long time, and had half expected her to go at some time. They agreed to make the divorce as painless as possible, and then she packed a bag and drove back to John at the hotel.
In the afternoon they went to bed together, and this time the union was more passionate, but there was a feeling of sadness and desperation in their coupling too, for they both knew that no matter how much they enjoyed this, it could never bear fruit.
Over the next few weeks, Carolyn gave up her job and moved to John's hometown, to live with him. She soon found work there, for she was determined that John would not keep her. They settled down easily into a routine, like the married couple they intended to be once their divorces were finalised, but always over them hung the shadow of a future without children. They asked about IVF treatment, but a sympathetic doctor told them sadly that Carolyn's womb had been damaged by the infection which had made her sterile years before, and that the chances of successful implantation were negligible. They made tentative enquiries about adoption, to be told by a stony faced social worker that it was very unlikely that a mixed race couple with a history of divorce would ever be seriously considered. Carolyn felt like murdering the stupid woman.
Surrogacy they discussed, but both rejected the idea. They were frightened that the surrogate mother may decide to keep the baby, and the heartbreak for them would be intolerable.
Months drifted by. Their divorces were finalised, and on a warm spring morning, with just a few friends and family around them, they married in a small registry office. Carolyn's brother, Paul, was there with his wife. Paul was a tall handsome black guy who worked as a teacher. His wife, Jenny, was a petite blonde white girl, very pretty, who worked in a bookshop, and both John and Carolyn liked her a great deal. The couple had a young son, Luke, only three years old, who was a totally delightful and his aunt Carolyn adored him, although fussing him always sent pangs of regret through her as it reminded her that she would never have a child of her own.
One hot summer evening, a year after they were married, John and Carolyn had Luke as a guest for the night. It was Paul and Jenny's wedding anniversary, and they planned a romantic meal in a restaurant followed by a theatre trip to see a popular musical, not getting home until late. Carolyn had insisted that she and John take Luke for the night rather than having him looked after by a baby sitter, and Jenny and Paul had gladly agreed.
Around 11 in the evening, with Luke already settled and asleep in the spare room, John and Carolyn were tidying up before bed when the doorbell rang. As John made his way down the passage he could already see a blue light flashing through the frosted glass of the door. Outside stood a grim faced police officer. He told John and Carolyn that there had been a traffic accident, a drunk driver had run a red light and smashed into another car, killing both occupants, and himself. The driver of the other car was black and his female companion was white. From his driving license and a list of addresses and phone numbers found in his wallet the police believed that it was Paul, Carolyn's brother. Carolyn collapsed in hysterics, sobbing wildly, refusing to believe that it could be true. John left her with a female police officer while he was driven to the local mortuary, where he confirmed that the bodies were indeed those of Paul and Jenny.
After the funerals, which took place together, and saw the couple laid side by side in a small shady cemetery, Carolyn and John took Luke into their home. They had known from the first night that they could do nothing other than that. They knew that he would need a lot of love and care to help him get over the death of his parents, but they were both willing to give that in plenty. In a sad, ironic way, they now had the child that they had always wanted, but if either could have turned the clock back they gladly would have, and been childless all their days, rather than have it come to this.
In the course of time, they applied to officially adopt Luke. There was no opposition from anyone, they were his closest family. He became their son, but they would never let him forget who his true parents had been. It is said that time is a great healer. This is not true, time does not heal, it simply buries the pain deeper and deeper until it can hardly be felt unless one really looks for it, but it is always there, it will never go away.
Carolyn and John had their love of each other, and of Luke, to help them. It would be a wonderful thing to say that they all lived happily ever after, but who is ever truly happy? We all play the cards that we are dealt. We can do nothing else. They had their lives, and in the end they had their child to complete things. That their parenthood was born out of tragedy rather than joy is a sad thing, but no two hearts ever beat together more closely, and the strength that they gave each other helped them through the dark. Over the years they found a kind of peace, a type of contentment, and who of us can ask for more?