“I know. It’s kind of taken me the last two years to get used to having all this money. I don’t need it. I told Paul that when we got divorced. I lead a simple life.” And her parents had left her enough to take care of the house on Cape Cod. “Sometimes I feel guilty having it,” she said honestly. “It seems kind of a waste.” He nodded, laughed, and said he wished he had her problem.
“I keep wanting to put money aside to restore the house, but it’s hard with a kid in college and houses all over the place. Or two anyway. One of these days I’ll really clean the place up.” She was dying to help him do it, but it was too soon for that too. They had been together for two months, which in the real world wasn’t a long time. Maybe in a few months, if all went well, he would let her help financially with restoring the house. She really wanted to do it.
After that, they walked in the Tuileries, went to the Louvre, and walked back to the Ritz for their last night. It had been a heavenly weekend, just like everything else they did together. They ordered room service and spent the night in bed, indulging in the luxury of the hotel. And in the morning, they took the train to London, and were back at his tiny house at noon. It warmed her heart to see it, and think of the shoot they had done there. As she had suspected at the time, they had gotten several wonderful photos out of it, and Finn had chosen one he loved for the book, when it was ready for publication. She had framed several others for him, and for herself.
She had her appointment at the Tate Modern Museum that afternoon, and Hope was startled to discover that Finn was annoyed about it, which didn’t make sense to her.
“What’s up?” she asked him, as they shared one of his terrific omelettes in his kitchen. “Are you mad about something?” He was visibly pouting at her over lunch.
“No, I just don’t know why you have to meet a curator today.”
“Because they want to give me a retrospective show next year,” she explained quietly. “That’s a big deal, Finn.”
“Can I come with you?” he asked, looking hopeful, and she looked apologetic, but shook her head.
“It wouldn’t look serious, if I brought someone along.”
“Tell them I’m your assistant.” He was still pouting.
“You don’t take assistants to meet with curators, only to shoots.” He shrugged in answer, and didn’t speak again until she was leaving the house. She had called for a cab.
“When will you be back?” he asked coldly.
“As soon as I can. I promise. If you want to walk around the museum while I talk to him, you can. It’s excellent.” He said nothing and shook his head, and a minute later she went out, feeling guilty for leaving him, which she knew was ridiculous. But he was trying to make her feel that way, and had succeeded. As a result, she rushed through the meeting, didn’t cover all the questions she wanted to ask, and was back at his house in two hours. He was sitting on the couch, reading a book and sulking. He looked up with a sullen expression when she walked in.
“Was that fast enough for you?” Now she sounded annoyed, because she had hurried through the meeting, to get back to him. He just shrugged. “Why are you being like this? You’re not four years old. Sometimes I have work to do. So do you. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“Why couldn’t you take me with you?” he said with a wounded expression.
“Because we’re two separate people, with separate lives and careers. I can’t always be part of yours either.”
“I want you to be. You’re always welcome to join me.”
“And most of the time, you are too. But I don’t know this curator, and I didn’t want him to think I’m a flake by mixing business with romance. It doesn’t look serious, Finn.”
“We’re together, aren’t we?” he questioned her with an injured look, which annoyed her even more. She had no reason to feel guilty, and resented what he was doing. And he had succeeded in making her feel bad. It didn’t seem fair. She loved him too, but he was acting like a two-year-old.
“Yes. But we’re not Siamese twins.” It was his fusion theory again, which she had never agreed with. He wanted to do everything together, and sometimes she just couldn’t. He couldn’t come to shoots either. And she couldn’t write a book with him. And however much he wanted it to be otherwise, they were not one person, they were two. She was very clear on that. He wasn’t. “That doesn’t mean I don’t love you,” she said gently, and he ignored her while he went on reading.
He didn’t respond for a long time, and then he surprised her again. He looked up at her and closed the book. “I made an appointment for you tomorrow. For us.”
“With whom?” She was puzzled. “What kind of appointment?”
“With a doctor. A fertility doctor who specializes in people our age who want to have babies.” They both knew that his age was not a problem, hers was. He was being kind in how he said it and she looked at him wide-eyed.
“Why didn’t you talk to me about it before you made the appointment?” It seemed a rather high-handed thing to do, and she had told him she wanted to wait, for a while at least.
“I got the name, and I thought it was a good idea to meet her while we were in London. At least we can hear what she has to say, and what she recommends. You might need to start preparing for it now, if we’re going to do it in a few months.” He was moving very quickly, just as he had with their relationship in the beginning. But this was a much bigger commitment and decision. A baby was forever. And she wasn’t sure yet if they were.
“Finn, we don’t even know if we want a baby yet. We’ve only been together for two months. That’s a big decision. A huge decision. For both of us to make, not just you.”
“Can’t you just listen to her?” He looked like he was about to cry and she felt like a monster, but she wasn’t ready and she felt panicked to be talking to a doctor about it already. “Will you talk to her?” His eyes pleaded with her, and she hated to hurt his feelings and turn him down.
Slowly, Hope nodded, but she wasn’t happy about it. “I will. But I don’t want to be rushed into this. I need time to make that decision. And I want to enjoy us first.” He smiled when she said that, and leaned over to kiss her.
“Thank you, that means a lot to me. I just don’t want us to miss out on having a baby of our own.” She was touched by what he said, but still upset that he had gone forward with it, without at least asking her first. She wondered if it was his way of getting even for not taking him to the museum meeting with her. But she knew it was more that he was desperate to have a baby with her. The problem was that it was too soon for her, and she had said that to him clearly since he first brought it up. He was very stubborn once he got an idea in his head. He seemed unfamiliar with the word “no.”
They went to Harry’s Bar again for dinner that night, and Hope was quiet, and then they came home and made love. But for the first time, she felt some distance from him. She didn’t want him making her decisions for her, particularly not big ones. Paul had never done that to her before the divorce. Before they had made all their big decisions jointly with lots of mutual consultation. It was what Hope expected of Finn, but he was much more forceful about his ideas. They were two very different men.
And she was even more upset the next day when they got to the doctor. It wasn’t an appointment for a consultation, it was a full workup for a fertility screening, with a battery of tests, some of them unpleasant, which she wasn’t prepared for. She balked when she discovered what was planned, and said something to the doctor about it, who seemed even more surprised that Hope didn’t know what the appointment would entail.
“I sent you a folder of information on it,” she said, looking at them with a confused expression. She was a very nice woman, and undoubtedly competent, but Hope was visibly unhappy at the news of what she was expected to do that day.
“I didn’t get the folder,” Hope said simply, looking at Finn. He was instantly sheepish. He had obviously gotten it when he made the appointment but not shared it with her. For the moment, this was his project, not hers. “I didn’t even know about this appointment until last night.”
“Do you want to do it?” the doctor asked her bluntly, and Hope felt as though she had her back to the wall. If she didn’t, Finn would be hurt, but she was going to be upset if she did. And the tests did not sound pleasant. She thought about it for a long moment, and out of love for him, decided to sacrifice herself.
“All right, I will. But we haven’t made a final decision yet about getting pregnant.”
“I have,” Finn said quickly, and both women laughed.
“Then you have the baby,” Hope said quickly.
“Have you ever been pregnant?” the doctor asked her, handing her a stack of forms to fill out, and two brochures about in vitro fertilization and donor eggs.
“Yes, once,” Hope said quietly, thinking of her daughter. “Twenty-three years ago.” She glanced at the brochure in her hand then. “Would we have to use donor eggs?” Hope didn’t like that idea at all. In that case, genetically, it would be Finn’s baby, but not hers. That didn’t sit well with her.
“Hopefully not, but it’s an option. We have a number of tests to run on you first, and we have to check the viability of your eggs. A younger egg is always a surer bet, of course. But yours may still be lively enough for us to use, with a little help.” She smiled, and Hope felt faintly sick. She hadn’t been ready for this process at all, and wasn’t sure if she ever would be. Finn wanted it so badly, he was overriding her. She knew he was doing it because he loved her. But it was a very big deal to her.
“Are we checking my eggs today?” Hope knew it wasn’t a small procedure, if that was the case.
“No, we can do that next time, if we need to. We’ll check your FSH levels today, and take it from there.” She handed Hope a list of the procedures they were going to do, which included a pelvic ultrasound, a pelvic exam, and a battery of blood tests to check her hormone levels. And they wanted a sperm sample from Finn.
For the next two hours, they ran through all the tests, and he made assorted whispered lewd remarks to Hope about helping him with the sperm sample, but she was in no mood for that. She told him to do it himself, which he did, and appeared with it proudly while they did her ultrasound. The doctor announced with pleasure that Hope was ovulating now, and everything looked good on the ultrasound so far. “You two could go home today and give it a try on your own,” she commented, “although I’d rather do artificial insemination with Mr. O’Neill’s sperm. You could come back and let us do that for you this afternoon, if you like,” she offered, with a helpful glance at Hope.
“I don’t want to do that,” Hope said in a strangled voice. She felt as though suddenly other people were running her life, mostly Finn. And he looked disappointed by what she had just said.
“Maybe we’ll try that next month,” the doctor said blandly, as she removed the ultrasound wand, wiped the gel off Hope’s stomach from the external part of the exam, and told her she could get up. Hope felt drained. She felt as though she were on an express train she hadn’t bought a ticket for, and didn’t want to be on, to a destination she hadn’t chosen in the first place. She had just been reading the travel brochures, and Finn was trying to make the decisions for her, about where they were going and when.
They met with the doctor in her office after all the tests, and she told them that so far everything looked good. They didn’t have Hope’s FSH count and estrogen levels yet, but her eggs looked good on the screen, Finn’s sperm count was high, and she thought that with artificial insemination, they might have a good chance. If that didn’t work in the first two months, they would put Hope on Clomid to release more eggs, which could result in multiple births, the doctor warned her, and if the Clomid hadn’t worked in four months, they would start with in vitro fertilization. And eventually, if necessary, donor eggs. The doctor handed Hope a tube of progesterone cream and told her how to use it every month from ovulation to menstruation, to stimulate implantation and discourage spontaneous abortion. And she told her to see the nurse on the way out for an ovulation predictor kit. By the time they left the office, Hope felt as though she had been shot out of a cannon or drafted into the Marines.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Finn said, smiling broadly at her, delighted with himself when they reached the sidewalk, and Hope burst into tears.
“Don’t you care what I think?” she asked him, sobbing. She didn’t know why, but it had made her feel as though she were betraying Mimi, replacing her with another child, and she wasn’t ready for that either. She couldn’t stop crying as he put his arms around her. And she was still crying when they got into a cab and he gave the driver his address.
“I’m sorry. I thought you’d be happy about it once we talked to her.” He looked crushed.
“I don’t even know if I want a baby, Finn. I already lost a child I loved. I haven’t gotten over it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. And it’s still too soon for us.”
“We don’t have time to fool around,” he said, pleading with her. He didn’t want to be rude and say that for Hope, at forty-four, time was running out.
“Then maybe we’ll have to be happy with just us,” she said, sounding anguished. “I’m not ready to make that decision yet, in a two-month-old romance.” She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she needed to be sure. Marriage was one thing eventually. But a baby was something else. “You have to listen to me, Finn. This is important.”
“It’s important to me too. And I want to have our baby, before we lose the chance.”
“Then you need a twenty-five-year-old woman, not someone my age. I’m not going to play Beat the Clock on a decision as important as this. We need time to figure it out.”
“I don’t,” he said stubbornly.
“Well, I do,” she said, sounding increasingly desperate. He was so insistent about it that she was feeling cornered and trying to make him back off. She knew how much he loved her, and she loved him too, but she didn’t want to be pushed.
“I’ve never wanted a baby with anyone before. Even Michael was an accident. That’s why I married his mother. And I want a baby with you,” he said with tears in his eyes as he looked at her in the back of the cab.
“Then you have to give me time to get used to the idea. I felt as though I was being railroaded in that doctor’s office. If we’d let her, she’d have gotten me pregnant today.”
“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me,” he said, as the cab pulled up to his address. And a moment later, Hope followed him inside, looking miserable and shaken. She was exhausted, and felt as though she’d been dragged behind a horse, holding on by her teeth. It had been a draining emotional experience for her. Finn didn’t say anything, and went to pour her a glass of wine. She looked as though she needed it. She started to turn it down, and then thought better of it. She drained it in a few minutes, and he filled it up again, and had a glass himself.
“I’m sorry, darling. I shouldn’t have pushed you into it. I was just so excited by the idea. I’m sorry,” he repeated gently, and kissed her. “Will you forgive me?”
“Maybe,” she said, smiling sadly at him. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience for her, to say the least. He poured her another glass of wine, and she drank that one too. She was seriously upset, but started to calm down after her third glass, and then started crying again, and Finn wrapped her in his arms and took her upstairs. He ran a warm bath for her, and she slipped gratefully into it, and closed her eyes. She lay there for a while, unwinding, trying to push the unpleasant doctor’s visit from her mind. Being in the warm bath helped, and when she opened her eyes again, Finn handed her a glass of champagne and a giant strawberry, and slipped into the bath with her. Hope started to giggle as he unwound his long frame into the bathtub with her, and he had a glass of champagne too.
“What are we celebrating?” She smiled at him. She was slightly tipsy, but not drunk. But she needed the wine to get over the afternoon, and as she finished the champagne in the flute he had handed her, he took the glass from her hand and set it down. He had emptied his glass too. And then as always happened when they bathed together, he began to make overtures that neither of them could resist. It happened before they knew it, and without thinking about it. He made love to her in the bathtub, and then they lay on the bathroom floor on the carpet and finished it. It was hot and passionate and desperate, with all the agony and turmoil she had felt that afternoon. All she knew as she lay there was how badly she wanted him, and he wanted her just as much. They couldn’t get enough of each other, it was hard and furious and quick, and after he came, he lay on top of her, and then gently got up and lifted her in his arms like a doll and laid her on his bed. He dried her gently with a towel, and tucked her into bed. She smiled at him with the slightly glazed eyes of someone who has had too much to drink. But there was love and tenderness there too, not just wine.
“I love you more than anything on earth,” he whispered to her.
“I love you too, Finn,” she said, as she drifted off to sleep and he held her close.
He was still holding her when they woke up in the morning, and Hope squinted at him. “I think I got drunk last night,” she said, slightly embarrassed. She remembered what had happened in the bathtub and after, and how great it had been. It always was with him. And then suddenly, with a jolt, she was wide awake. She remembered what the doctor had said about coming back that afternoon. She had been ovulating, and they had used no protection. She lay back against the pillow with a groan and then looked at Finn. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” She was angry at him, but it was her fault too, and she was furious with herself. How stupid was that? But maybe nothing would happen. At her age, getting pregnant could take a year or two, not one moment of passion on a bathroom floor, like a kid.
“What?” Finn asked her innocently.
“You know exactly what I mean,” she tried to sound cold, but couldn’t pull it off. She loved him too much, and suddenly she wondered if she had wanted it too, but didn’t want to take responsibility for the decision, so she got drunk and let him do it. She wasn’t innocent either. She was a grown woman and knew better. She felt totally confused. “I was ovulating yesterday. She told us both that. She even offered to do artificial insemination if we wanted her to.”
“What we did was much more fun. And this way it’s in God’s hands, not hers or ours. Probably nothing will come of it,” he said benignly, and she hoped that would be true. She sat up against the pillows and looked at Finn.
“What if I do get pregnant, Finn? What would we really do? Are we ready for that yet? At our age? That’s a hell of a commitment, at any age. Are we ready to take that on?”
“I would be the happiest man on earth,” he said proudly. “What about you?”
“I’d be scared shitless. Of the dangers, the implications, the pressure on us, the genetic risks at our age. And of…” She couldn’t say the rest, but she was terrified of losing another child she loved. She couldn’t go through it again.
“We’ll deal with it if it happens, I promise,” he said, kissing her, and holding her as though she were a piece of spun glass. “How soon will we know?”
“These days? I think in about two weeks. I haven’t been pregnant in years. It’s pretty simple to find out now, with a drugstore pregnancy kit.” She thought about it for a minute. “I’ll be back in New York by then. I’ll let you know.” At the thought of it, her blood ran cold, and a tiny little piece of her wanted it to happen, because she loved him, but her powers of reason didn’t, only her heart. It just didn’t make sense. She was totally confused.
“Maybe you shouldn’t go back,” he said, looking worried. “It might not be good to fly so soon.”
“I have to. I have three important shoots.”
“If you’re pregnant, that’s more important.” She felt suddenly insane. They were acting as though she were pregnant and they had planned this baby. But only one of them had. Finn. And she had let him do it.
“Let’s not go crazy yet. At my age, it’s about as likely as getting hit by a comet. You heard what she said. If we ever decide to do it, we’d probably need help.”
“Or maybe not. She wasn’t sure. I think it had to do with your FSH.”
“Let’s hope it’s high or low, or whatever it’s supposed not to be.” She got out of bed then and felt as though she’d been hit by a bus. Between the emotions of the day before, and the hangover she had from the wine and champagne, she felt like she’d spent two weeks riding broncos in a rodeo. “I feel like shit,” she said as she headed for the bathroom, and he smiled adoringly at her.
“Maybe you’re pregnant,” he said, looking hopeful.
“Oh, shut up,” she said, and slammed the bathroom door.
Neither of them said anything about it on the flight back to Ireland or for the next few days. She went back to waxing and polishing the wood paneling at his house, and he kept telling her to take it easy, which annoyed her more. She didn’t want to think about it. She’d had a great time with him in Paris, but she was upset about what had happened in London, both the doctor’s visit, and their escapade on the bathroom floor. And the day before she was leaving, the doctor called.
“Great news!” she announced. “Your FSH is as low as a twenty-year-old’s and your estrogen level is terrific.”
“What does that mean?” Hope asked, as her stomach turned over. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like what she was about to be told.
“It means that you should have an easy time getting pregnant on your own.” She thanked the doctor and hung up and said nothing to Finn. He was hopeful enough as it was. And if she had told him there was a serious chance she might have gotten pregnant, he wouldn’t let her go back to New York. He didn’t want her to go. He was already complaining about being lonely, and wanted to know how soon she would return. She had explained that she had work to do, and had to be in New York for three weeks. As always, it was like leaving a four-year-old.
They spent a peaceful last night together, and made love twice before she left. He looked mournful as they drove to the airport, and she realized that he had major abandonment issues. He couldn’t stand seeing her leave, and he was already depressed.
He kissed her goodbye at the airport, and made her promise to call him the moment she arrived. She smiled as she kissed him. It was sweet really, even if it was a little silly at their age, to be so upset about being apart for a few weeks. He was going to finish his book, and she was going to work on his house again when she got back. She reminded him to call the restorers to see when the pieces would be finished, and he handed her a small gift-wrapped box before she left. She was touched by the surprise.
“Open it on the plane,” he told her, kissed her one last time, and waved as she headed to the gate.
She followed his instructions and unwrapped it just as the plane took off toward New York. And then she laughed. She held it in her hand and shook her head with a rueful expression. It was a home pregnancy test. And it would be negative, she hoped. But she knew she had to wait another week before she found out. She put the box away and put it out of her mind as best she could.
Hope was busy almost every waking moment in New York. She did a fashion layout for Vogue , had a portrait sitting with the governor, and helped curate a gallery show of her work. She had lunch with Mark Webber, and told him about her romance with Finn. He was stunned, and warned her again that he was a wild man with women. He had a major reputation for it in New York, which she already knew. But she was sure that he was being faithful to her. He hardly let her out of his sight. She mentioned that to Mark, that Finn constantly talked about their “fusion” as a couple, and was jealous of other men. Even her lunch with her agent bothered him. They were the only two things about him that worried her. She’d never been with a jealous man. And he was very possessive of her. She still needed time on her own. Working in New York was doing her good. It revitalized her, and made her excited about seeing him again. She didn’t want to feel smothered by being chained to him, which was what he would have liked. Having a few weeks of her own life brought her perspective and independence again, which was important to her. He seemed to be extremely threatened by everyone she saw. And every time he called her, he wanted to know how soon she was coming back. Like a mother speaking to a child, she kept reminding him that she would be gone for two more weeks.
“Watch out for jealous guys,” Mark warned her. “Sometimes they come unhinged. I had a jealous girlfriend once. She came after me with a knife, when I broke up with her and took another girl to senior prom. Ever since then jealousy scares the shit out of me.” Hope laughed at the image.
“I think Finn is pretty sane. But he’s very needy in some ways. He hates being left. I’m going back in two weeks.” She had already been in New York for a week, and Finn was complaining about her absence every day. He sounded miserable and depressed every time they spoke.
“Do you think this is serious with him?” Mark asked, with a look of concern.
“Yes, I do,” she said quietly. Very serious. But she didn’t want Mark to worry about her, or her work. “I can commute from Dublin, whenever I have work here,” she reassured him. “Or fly places from there. It’s not that far away. He lives in a remarkable house. It’s more like a castle, although it needs to be restored.”
Mark was still astounded at what she had told him, but he was happy for her. “Have you told Paul?”
“It’s too soon,” she said, looking thoughtful. She planned to eventually, but not for a while. She had no idea how he’d react, or if he would be sad. She had spoken to him the day before. He was at Harvard for treatment, and he hadn’t sounded well at all, but he assured her he was doing fine. It saddened her, and she worried about him a great deal. He was sounding ever more frail.
Hope did some errands after she left Mark, and then she went home. She knew exactly what day it was, and so did Finn. He had already asked her twice. This was The Day. It was the first day the test would show if she was pregnant or not. She drew a long breath, and walked into the bathroom with the test he had given her. She was sure it was going to be fine, but it scared her anyway. She followed the directions to the letter, set it on the counter afterward, and walked away. The test took five full minutes, and it seemed like an eternity to her. She went to stare out the window, and then walked back to the bathroom, dreading what she would find, and telling herself that she wasn’t pregnant. It seemed too stupid to be worrying about this at her age. She hadn’t had a scare like this in years. Not since she was in her late twenties, and hadn’t wanted to be pregnant then either. Paul had only wanted one child, and Mimi was enough for her. As it turned out, she hadn’t been pregnant, and was surprised to find that she was more disappointed than relieved. And it had never happened again. They were always careful, and not as abandoned and passionate as she and Finn. She and Paul had made a careful, conscious joint decision to have Mimi and it didn’t happen on a bathroom floor.
She walked back to her bathroom counter as though she were approaching a snake. The test directions had been very clear as to how to read the test. One line you’re not pregnant, two you are. Anyone could have figured it out. From the distance, she saw one line, and heaved a sigh of relief. She approached and picked it up just to be sure, and was prepared to let out a scream of delight over the negative result, and then she saw it. The second line. Two lines, although the second one was fainter than the first, which the instructions had said still meant a positive result. Shit.
She stared at it in horror, set it down, and picked it up again. Still two lines. Her urine had done whatever it was supposed to under the white plastic holder. Two lines. She held it up to the light, and then just stood staring at it in shocked disbelief. Two lines. She was forty-four years old, and she was pregnant. She sat down on the edge of the tub shaking, with the test still in her hand, and then she threw it away. She thought about using the second one, but she knew she’d get the same result. She had been ignoring it, but her breasts had been sore for the last two days. She told herself that it meant she was getting her period. But she wasn’t. And now she had to tell Finn. He had won. He had gotten her drunk and tricked her and she had let him, and she wondered if somewhere deep within, she wanted this baby too. She loved him, but not even three months after she had met him, she was pregnant with his child. And in some hidden, distant part of her, she wanted it too. She felt panicked and confused. She needed time to absorb the idea, and decide how she felt about it.