It was supposed to be a romantic evening in: a candle-lit dinner, followed by some slow dancing in front of the phonograph, then a sensual soak in the tub together that would hopefully lead to more amorous activities in bed. It was supposed to be the perfect celebration of their anniversary; it was supposed to be a blessed moment alone at their country estate, out of the eye of the ever-following press.
Dinner had just been served- Roy had cooked it himself: roasted tsing-tsing chicken, Xingese style green beans, stir fried rice with vegetables and plum wine. The candles were flickering softly and casting Riza’s smiling face in a golden glow…
And then she doubled over in pain.
Roy was just about to put his napkin in his lap. Instead, it fell to the floor as he rushed to her side. She couldn’t breathe, the pain was so intense. He didn’t want to leave her side, but he had to call for an ambulance. She urged him to hurry, and he dashed away to the phone in the kitchen, the closest to where she was agonizing.
The operator seemed so nonchalant that Roy gave her a few colorful words as she dispatched an ambulance to the house. He ran to the front door and flung it wide open, then dashed back to Riza, now on the floor in a fetal position, and blood spotting the back of her dress.
He wished he’d spoken to Dr. Marcoh more about medical alchemy.
Riza cried as he tried to comfort her, tried to get her to concentrate on breathing instead of begging him to shoot her or knock her out. In between denying her requests to be put out of her misery, he watched the clock on the sideboard. He was going to curse the emergency team to the seventh level of hell when they arrived for taking their sweet time. He was the Führer of Amestris and the First Lady was having a medical emergency- what was taking so long!?
Once they arrived, he was all but shoved out of the way. Riza was given a shot for her pain. Then she was given a second. The third one knocked her out and Roy accused them of killing his wife before one of the security guards assured him it was only a strong pain reliever.
“But she’s pregnant!” he screamed. “What about the baby!?”
At the hospital, reporters and cameramen swarmed the emergency entrance. The entire ER department had to be roped off. The doctors wouldn’t speak to him until after they’d had time to do a thorough examination on Riza. Unfortunately, being Führer didn’t make lab tests come back any sooner or X-rays develop any quicker. After what felt like hours, he was brought into a small office to meet with the medical team.
Miscarriage. Early labor. They’d had to scrape the entirety of her uterus and cauterize the bleeds. The baby was malformed, too small to even discern sex or any other features. As for Riza, there was nothing wrong with her. Her body seemed to recognize the pregnancy wasn’t viable, but a physical examination and bloodwork didn’t reveal any further cause for concern. They could try to conceive again in about six weeks.
Their baby was gone. Their baby was gone…
He wanted to be taken to Riza’s side, right away. The doctors agreed and had a nurse show him to her room. His wife lay on her side, staring at the wall, her arm resting in the curve of her hip and her hand pressed to her now empty belly.
He hit his knees beside the bed, held her cheek in one hand and squeezed her arm with the other before burying his face into her shoulder and just holding her awkwardly. He’d only seen her cry a handful of times, but he didn’t need to see her face to feel the warmth of her tears against the palm holding her face.
The next day, Riza was released from the hospital, and she still hadn’t said much. Roy asked if she wanted to return to the mansion in Central or remain at the country house, and she shrugged with indifference. He told the driver to take them back to the country house, because the property was heavily wooded and was harder for nosy reporters to bother them.
When they returned, Riza went immediately to bed. Roy wandered to the dining room, where burnt-out candles sat on the table with an untouched meal around them… When the table had been set, he was still going to be a father. When the candles were burning, Riza was still going to be a mother. The cold food and dark stumps of wax in the silver holders looked as miserable as he imagined Riza felt.
He picked up the chair that Riza had toppled in her effort to find relief from the pain. The seat was stained a dark red. He threw it against the wall and broke it, then stuffed the pieces into the fireplace and set it alight. He called for the dogs and sat the plates in the floor, then went to his bedroom and crawled in with Riza.
He wrapped his arms around her, holding her as close as he could. After a long time, her hands rested on his and she spoke quietly.
“It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m sorry.”
He kissed her shoulder. “It’s not your fault. We’ll try again when you feel ready.” He didn’t repeat what the doctor had said that afternoon before they left the hospital, about miscarriage in the first trimester being fairly common, even among healthy women. He didn’t repeat what he’d said about most couples going on to have a successful pregnancy immediately following a miscarriage. She knew the same as he did that this wasn’t the end of the line in their endeavor to have children. It was merely a roadblock that they would have to clear when the time was right.
“I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone,” she whispered. “It’s like being in Ishval again, except it’s my own child I shot.”
Roy squeezed her gently. “I wish I could make you feel better. Please tell me if there’s anything I can do.”
She was quiet for a long time, and Roy wondered if she’d fallen asleep. But then she turned over to face him.
“I want to name it. Somehow give it a funeral, just a service for you and me. I can’t accept that something I know was in my body is now suddenly gone- that I’m supposed to just make another life and pretend the first one didn’t exist.”
Roy agreed. They needed closure, and if that’s what it took to make them feel better, then that’s what they’d do.
The next day, Roy made a small marker out of some landscaping stones in the garden. He also made a small wooden box that he and Riza had filled with memories of the baby, like when they first found out they were expecting, the reactions of others when they found out about it, and so on. They sealed the box and buried it under a rose bush, the stone marker bearing the name they’d decided on: Arin.
Their baby existed, now they had a permanent reminder that it did; now they could heal and move on.
The following year, the Mustang family returned to celebrate their second wedding anniversary. This time there was a tiny baby with them, and the first order of business was to lay a bouquet of lilies beside the small memorial stone.