Day 1: Thursday
The drugs come in a big parcel which holds the same promise as a Christmas present. She unpacks it eagerly, lining all the little boxes on the kitchen table in front of her. They are white with their names in brightly coloured typeface, as if trying to impart encouragement: we’re here to help! We’re on your side!
She rips open a bag of syringes and takes one out. Removes the little orange cap and pushes her finger against it. Her skin resists against the point of the needle.
She likes the order of it all. The yellow sharps bin, the little blue bag to lug her drugs around the country, the tiny glass bottles portioned out to the exact measurement required over the course of the protocol. It’s the same satisfaction she gets when her cupboards are fully stocked after her grocery shop. She’s ready to go.
Day 1, she thinks. Day 21 in her natural cycle, day 1 in her new cycle. This is the fork in her road, where something becomes possible or not, where she catches the sliding doors or not. She always hated that movie. There are no alternative paths in life: there’s only taking responsibility for the choices made along the way.
The little silver lid pops off the tiny glass bottle with a pleasing flick. Scully draws the syringe out, flicking the bubbles away. Outside the trees dance, the February evening breeze a howling accompaniment. She bunches her soft, pliable stomach with one hand, and the syringe glides in with the other. The liquid burns as it enters her body, and her stomach itches once the needle is removed.
Day 5: Monday
‘Walk-ins?’ Skinner removes his glasses and holds the bridge of his nose. ‘Agent Mulder, I am really very sorry for your personal loss as an unexpected by-product of this case. I can only imagine what you must be going through.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’ Mulder says loosely, Skinner’s sincerity slipping straight off him. She knows he doesn’t want to own anyone’s pity.
‘However, I cannot present this theory to the La-Pierres as credible confirmation that the body of Amber Lynn is in that mass grave. We will need to wait for forensics. Which is when, Agent Scully?’
‘We should hear by tomorrow, Sir.’ Warmth spreads across Scully’s face as she realises her error.
‘Ok. So we wait until then. Except,’ Skinner rests his elbows on the desk and puts his fingertips together, ‘Agent Mulder, you should take five days compassionate leave. I don’t want to see your face around here until next Monday.’
‘Sir, I really don’t think –‘ Mulder starts, edging towards to the end of his seat.
‘I don’t want to hear it. Don’t make me pull rank.’
Mulder exhales, petulant. As they stand to leave, Skinner calls Scully back at the last minute.
‘How’s he doing?’ Skinner nods towards the closed door.
‘I would say he’s doing as well as can be expected, given the circumstances.’ The warmth flushes to Scully’s neck under scrutiny. ‘I don’t think his judgement has been impaired in this case.’
‘Agent Scully, I know Mulder isn’t the most conventional investigator. He’s spent so long on the other side of the line that he couldn’t identify it if he tripped over it. In fact, many would say you’ve been given a raw deal in constantly having to reel him in.’ Skinner says, picking up the report and dropping it back on his desk. ‘But you’re an exceptional agent, and to be honest I expected more from you than this. At least to have had the foresight to wait for tomorrow’s forensics before turning in the final report.’
Scully burns with indignation and pride, and she knows the heat rash will creep to her chest. She had missed that particular detail. It was human error, an innocent oversight. Yet she can’t bring herself to admit it to her boss. They maintain eye contact in the ensuing silence. He underlines what he’s just said, and she expresses what she doesn’t say. She always enjoys this small power struggle with Skinner. They both know she’s being ever so slightly subordinate, and her eyes challenge him to push her on it. He never does. Today he breaks first, which she takes as her cue to leave.
Negotiating the busy hall, she holds the back of her neck to wipe away the sheen of sweat. Her collar sits too close to her neck. It crowds her hairline. Her throat tightens and her lips purse. She is, she realises in horror, about to cry. She finds the nearest bathroom and locks herself in a stall. Her fingers push into her eyes squeezing the tears out. It feels like they bubble directly out of her chest; her frustration and embarrassment sliding down her cheeks. Her fist slams against the door, and the sharp pain from accidentally hitting the lock distracts her.
‘What did Skinner want?’ Mulder asks. He stands behind his desk, sorting a large pile of files into two smaller ones. His suit jacket is neglected on the back of his chair, shirt sleeves are rolled up and tie removed. Scully knows he’s not going anywhere.
‘Just to confirm when we can turn in an updated report.’
Mulder continues to sort the files. He is quick and lithe, and she imagines shockwaves expanding from his activity. He is the pebble that disturbs the surface of the lake. Occasionally he reassesses his initial judgement and moves a file to the other pile. She has no idea what he is doing.
‘You know Mulder, Skinner’s right. You should get out of here for a few days.’
‘Ah, what’s going to happen between now and next Monday anyway?’ Mulder takes the smaller pile to the back of the office so he has to shout. ‘You think next week I’ll be over this and ready to leave the basement? That this is case closed? Go back to natural lighting, and take on cases that don’t involve, oh I don’t know, a tulpa that looks like a guy fucked Mrs Butterworth?’
Scully raises her eyebrow, a still counterbalance to his frantic energy.
‘As an example, Scully.’
‘No, of course I don’t think that. But Mulder…’ Her reticence makes Mulder pause. ‘I could actually use a few days away from this place. I think these hormones are doing a bit of a number on me.’
‘Yeah?’ He sits on the desk in front of her, and she eyes the haphazard pile of remaining files. ‘Are you feeling ok?’
‘It’s odd. I just… I don’t know if my emotions right now are actually me, or if they’re a side effect from the drugs. It’s very unnerving to not trust my own instincts.’ She pushes the corners of the files into a tower of perfect right angles. ‘I just cried in the bathroom, Mulder. I cried. I’m not sure of exactly who I am right now, and I’m not comfortable responding to departmental memos or doing a round with local law enforcement until I’m better acquainted.’
‘Well, ok then.’ Mulder says gently, squeezing her shoulder. ‘Let’s take a few days.’
He starts to pack his briefcase. She wonders if she would have made such an admission six days earlier.
Day 10: Saturday
There is blood. For once, the angry red smear is a good sign. Scully sighs with relief.
This is the kind of impregnation she likes. Not that the other kind isn’t, well, fun. Or awakening. Or the perfect distraction during a five-day absence from work. No, it’s not that. It’s the method that helps: inject, bleed, inject, scan. And so on. Just follow the method
Day 12: Monday
The basement is hot and stuffy, a thick contrast to the clean, frost-spiked air outside. Scully thinks of pea soup, of London buses shrouded in smog. Mulder looks up and spits his sunflower seed shells into the bin. He misses. Anger blooms in her chest, vibrant against the dull lethargy of the office. As if sensing the mood change, Mulder looks up again and sees her clenched jaw.
‘What? Is everything ok?’
‘Everything would be much better,’ Scully strides around to the bin and sets abruptly it onto the desk, ‘if you didn’t leave your damn seeds everywhere. God Mulder, you’re not a child.’
Mulder says nothing, and carefully places the bin on the floor. Her words bounce around the room, for right now, Mulder is in fact very much a child missing his mother. She is being unreasonable. Yet, in an uncomfortably strong case of cognitive dissonance, she also believes her spite is justified: she feels her anger increase at his carelessness. She sees red hot in a room of grey. Her anger fades as quickly as it erupted, leaving them with a tension in the room of her own creation. Never one to back away, she sits and picks up her highlighter, hoping distraction will move them along.
‘Shall we go to the Indian place tonight? I feel like something spicy.’
‘Scully,’ Mulder asks pointedly. ‘Is everything ok?’
‘I’m fine, Mulder. I just wish you would clean up after yourself.’ She looks at her paperwork to avoid his face.
‘Whatever you feel like,’ he says slowly. ‘Indian sounds fine.’
In the three weeks since she opened up his mother, Mulder has been casting about, desperately trying to hook himself into her so that he’s not adrift. He forgets meals. He chases sleep each night like an addict desperate for the next fix. For all his bravado, he has not assigned them a case since they returned from Sacramento; not even cancer had grounded them like this. Right now, she can’t adequately wade through the swamp of her own emotions to also support him in his. The timing of everything feels incredibly unfair. More than anything, Scully wishes she could leave the office right now and run fast until the cold air scorches her throat.
Day 15: Thursday
The antibacterial smell of the clinic immediately makes Scully anxious, a by-product of coming around in so many strange hospitals. She closes her eyes as they insert the wand. Her insides recognise this feeling: there is muscle memory she can’t explain. Her stomach churns as she briefly considers the implications of this. The low lighting and the curtain create wave patterns on the ceiling, and she tries to imagine walking in the hard, damp sand by the ocean but instead imagines a too-bright room with strangers in face masks.
‘Look at that lining, Dana’ the nurse says as she swings the wand to the other side. It feels like someone is pushing against her insides to escape. ‘Very thin, just how we like it.’
‘Yeah?’ She asks, focussing for the first time on the screen as the nurse points out the small grey line on the screen. Her Achilles heel in med school was reading ultrasound scans. Fluid is black, tissue is grey. Fine. But identifying an arm from a leg, or a small cyst in a dappled blanket was never her strong suit. She is averse to the margin of error, preferring absolutes over interpretation. Scans, quite literally, involve too much grey.
‘Your ovaries are nice and quiet, see there?’
‘Ok.’ Scully watches her record the measurement of the lining. She feels exposed, and puts her arm across her chest. ‘Where do we go from here?’
‘Well, let’s see what your blood tests say, but I think you’re good to start oestrogen from this evening.’ The nurse withdraws the wand, and Scully feels the vacuum left behind. ‘We’ve seen a slightly faster reaction if you insert them vaginally rather than orally - are you ok with that?’
‘Yes, of course,’ Scully retrieves her mental memo of questions. ‘I’m on oestrogen for around two weeks, right? When would you expect to need the sperm sample?’
‘It’s too early to say. Yes, you’ll be on oestrogen for around two weeks. We’ll scan you to make sure that lining is thickening up, and from there you can start to take progesterone and we will book a date for the embryologists to try and fertilise.’
‘So, we’re looking at just over two weeks.'
‘I would say so.’ The nurse pulls the curtain around her. ‘Why don’t you get dressed, and we’ll book your next scan? This is a good start, Dana.’
By the time Scully leaves the clinic, the rain has stopped, leaving behind fresh, damp air which cleanses her face. Step three, on its way. A good start, the nurse had said. She shivers in the breeze and dodges the puddles, squinting in the bright sunshine.
Day 18: Sunday
‘Wine, Dana?’ her mother asks, holding the bottle of red over her glass. Since Mulder has buried his own mother, they seem to be in the habit of spending Sunday evening with Maggie. Scully acquiesced when Maggie reasoned she just wanted to make sure they started the week full. Mulder seems to enjoy it: Maggie offers him seconds of dessert and delegates the washing up to his large and careful hands, and Scully suspects he comes away feeling both useful and cared for. She finds she is slightly jealous that she can’t offer that combination in quite the same way.
‘No thanks, Mom, I’m the designated driver.’ She reaches for soda water.
‘So, you know what that means, Maggie,’ Mulder steers the bottle neck towards his glass. ‘Hit me.’
Scully squeezes his thigh under the table, he knocks his knee gently against hers. Her stomach is swollen with gas, and she shifts awkwardly in the chair to soothe it. There’s extra weight on her face, and extra tears in her eyes. She hates it.
‘I can’t believe you two are in Cops tonight,’ Maggie mutters as she sits down to eat. ‘Of all the shows. Oprah, for heaven’s sake! Can you imagine? But no. It’s Cops.’
‘Mom, why would Oprah want to talk to us?’
‘Well, why did the producers of Cops want to talk to you?’
‘You know, that is a very good point. I’m still trying to work that one out.’
At eight o’clock, she excuses herself from the table. Under the dull light of the bathroom, she takes her bag of drugs from her purse. The process requires two drugs: one to keep her natural system quiet, and the second to encourage her endometrium to thicken up, making a cosy sleeping bag to entice any blastocysts to stick around. She imagines the drugs as superheroes, little soldiers helping her body battle against nature. So different to her cancer treatment, and yet. Both have life as the ultimate goal.
Suddenly the door bumps open, and Scully curses herself for not locking the door. Maggie’s hand flies to her chest as she spots the bottles and needles.
‘Dana, what is this?’ She asks, working to conceal her panic. Scully loves her for this small attempt to meet Scully in her calm and collected comfort zone. ‘Is it the cancer?’
Scully sighs and sits on the edge of the bathtub. She holds her hand out to her mom, who sits next to her.
‘No, Mom, it’s not cancer.’ She threads her fingers through Maggie’s sandpaper fingers, calloused from years of prepping vegetables and playing guitar. In the Scully family, rough edges feel like home. ‘They’re drugs to help with IVF. I’m currently undergoing treatment to try and… well, to see if it works.’
‘Oh Dana, that’s wonderful.’ Scully can’t tell if her mom is relieved that it’s not cancer, or because Scully has a chance at parenthood.
‘It is,’ Scully agrees, ‘or it will be. Hopefully. Right now, it’s just expensive.’
Maggie laughs and Scully rests her head on her shoulder.
‘Do you need help? I have some money, and I’d much rather use it to help you now than have it sitting an account.’
‘Mom, that’s really kind of you. But I’m ok, I don’t need any money.’
Maggie kisses Scully’s hair. ‘What’s going to happen? When will you know if it works?’
‘Well,’ Scully studies the posies of flowers on the bathroom wallpaper. They remind her of the calico dresses Ma Ingalls would make for her girls in the Little House on the Prairie books. ‘It looks like the embryologists will try to create any embryos in just over a week. If successful, they will put them back a few days later. Then it’s a matter of waiting to do a pregnancy test.’
‘Ok. So, there are a few more steps.’
‘Is this procedure safe?’ Maggie’s voice always holds a tense undercurrent when it comes to her daughter, and Scully pictures a version of life when a phone call to Maggie isn’t answered with immediate and justified fear. She wishes she could have provided at least this for her mom in this life.
‘It’s safe, Mom.’ Scully kisses Maggie’s hands. ‘In fact, what I’m doing is much less complex than other forms of IVF. We just have to keep our fingers crossed that each stage progresses as it should.’
‘Oh honey. Is there anything I can do?’
Dana turns to look at her mother face on and is hit with sheer ferocity her mother’s love for her. Suddenly envious, Scully wants to be the one directing this love towards her own child, not the passive recipient. That she may never get the chance makes her want to wound.
‘You can give me time,’ she says, her voice cool and detached. ‘I will keep you updated where needed, but I can’t be at your beck and call every time you have a question. I need to focus on the process right now.’
‘Understood.’ Maggie nods curtly, breaking Dana’s grasp with the slightest flick of her hand. Scully knows Maggie will never show her hurt beyond this, she will never ask Dana to take responsibility: another gesture of her maternal love. Scully fiddles with her necklace, feeling shame like a truculent teenager, as Maggie tidies herself in the mirror. ‘I’d better check on Fox anyway. I left him alone with the chocolate pie, which might just be the worst decision of the evening.’
Scully mixes the hormones, watching the powder dissolve immediately into liquid. She finds a rare peachy clean spot and sticks the needle in. Her stomach is yellow and purple, a tender patchwork to contrast her grey and black innards from her scans. The needle is slim and glides easily, but the release of liquid always hurts. She’s sure the veins catch when she removes the needle, and to her frustration she can’t work out the best technique. Blood flows this time too, appearing like the stamen of a flower.
Afterwards, Scully stands at the top of the stairs for a minute, trying to listen to her mother and Mulder. She’s sure there have been some urgent whispers, and she pushes her guilt so far down that it joins her bruises, spreading thinly across her stomach.
Day 22: Monday
Scully opens her eyes in darkness as sleep slides away. Heat radiates from her legs, which are tangled tightly in the bed sheet. Sweat trickles down from the crease under her breasts, and her t-shirt is cold and sticky.
Mulder’s side is cool and empty.
She stands out of her pajama pants, leaving them crumpled on the floor. Her feet are muted piano keys padding across the hardwood. Mulder sits on his couch, elbows on knees, head bent as if in prayer. Samantha’s journal is open on the coffee table in front of him.
‘How long have you been out here?’ Leaning on the arm of the couch, Scully rubs her hand up and down his sinewy back. He doesn’t answer, and Scully closes her eyes in the cocoon of his silence. Her legs are cooler now and she is tired.
‘She died not knowing,’ Mulder’s voice crackles, electric energy in the dark. ‘I wish I could have told her about Samantha. Maybe she could have moved on, just a little, maybe –‘
Her arm aches from rubbing Mulder’s back while he loses himself in realities he would never see. She hopes he’s tethered to her rhythm.
‘She loved you Mulder,’ Scully offers eventually. ‘In her own, hurt way. You kept her upright all these years. You were a good son.’
‘It wasn’t enough. I could have… ’ His forehead sinks into his hands. ‘Go to bed Scully.’
She sits with him until he repeats himself. She pushes a long and heavy kiss onto his head, hoping that the weight will remind him of what he still has in this reality. Peeling her t-shirt off, she gets into his cold, dry side of the bed.
She is sweaty with tangled legs once more when she wakes, but this time they are tangled in his. In slumber, he wraps himself around her back as if clinging to a rock, waiting for the storm to pass.
Day 24: Thursday
She feels only fifty percent present. Half of her floats intangibly in the space where possibility resides. Everything is potential and nothing is kinetic. She fades out of conversation, eyes unfocussed. Though her mind is blank it is also running, running, running behind her vacant stare. She is preparing for the outcome.
The days are getting slowly longer, the sun facing down the dark to stay out a little more each day. Soon there will be birdsong in the evening. She feels an upside-down nesting instinct: take care of yourself. Tuck in your wings, close to your side, so they don’t hurt when you try to fly.
That evening, Mulder gets tomato sauce in the corner of his mouth as he shovels his pasta. He wipes his mouth and misses it. He licks his lips, but it remains. He eats garlic bread, and a fleck of parsley joins the sauce. Happy butterflies spread across her chest and she grasps his hand. It’s awkward; their fingers don’t align. He looks up in surprise, his tomato still present.
‘Thank you, Mulder,’ she smiles while looking at the corner of his mouth, ‘for everything. I don’t say it enough.’
Day 25: Friday
She lies on the bed, legs akimbo, unable to stop her mind from playing a slideshow of burning bridges, frost bitten cheeks, forest bug bites and bullets seeping into her stomach like leeches. She shivers when the wand is inserted.
‘I think we’re ready, Dana,’ the nurse calls her back to the room. ‘Look at this lovely lining! It’s measuring at 12mm.’
Scully sees a line in the middle of the screen surrounded by monochrome confetti, celebrating her progress. The nurse removes the wand.
‘Ok,’ she says, relief making her legs feel weak. Another step forwards, and with each step she climbs further towards the probability of success.
‘I’d like you to start doing the progesterone pessaries. You need to do one in the morning and one at night, and these should also be inserted vaginally.’
‘Yeah,’ Scully continues to look at the photo of the grey dash comprising of three distinct layers on the screen. She hears the nurse’s instructions but can’t fully believe that they’re discussing it. She dares herself to forecast a possible due date: late November. What a thing to be thankful for.
‘I need to go over some things with you now.’ The nurse turns the screen off, and Scully’s eyes wander back to the ceiling as she lies back. ‘We will thaw the eggs tonight and see how they’re looking. As you know, there is a chance that some, or perhaps all, might not survive this. We will call you in the morning to confirm, and then your donor will need to come in to make his deposit early afternoon.’
‘The embryologists will perform ICSI – we’ve covered this in the consent meeting – where the sperm is injected directly into the egg. We won’t know whether the eggs will fertilise until the next day, and we’ll call you before 10am on Sunday to update you.’
‘Ok.’ Scully blinks and tears pool in her eyes. It’s too much information. She wishes she hadn’t calculated a due date; everything is still just beyond her grasp. She is strong, but also just delicate enough that she might unfold with the wrong touch. An origami Scully.
‘Dana?’ Scully drags her eyes from the ceiling to meet those of the nurse. ‘This is good news. You’re almost there.’
‘Ok.’ She nods, and the tears slip down her temples.
Driving home, Scully finally allows herself to articulate the possibility of a baby, spurred on by the nurse’s encouragement. She imagines a small, wrinkled face peering up at her from the protection of its blanket. It doesn’t have a name, or a gender, or even a body really. In fact, she knows she’s picturing the new-born baby from Look Who’s Talking, but for now it’s her baby and she knows its head fits so nicely into the crook of her arm.
Day 26: Saturday
She wakes early, just as the dark blanket of the night lifts into cleansing yellow, when the only other people awake are shift workers and parents. She wishes it was a weekday and she could go into work, and her kitchen cupboards are the lucky recipients of her pent-up energy. She scrubs until she can see her furrowed brow in the reflection of her shiny sink. She checks Mulder’s paperwork three times before he appears in the doorway of her bedroom, fresh from his shower.
‘They’ll disintegrate if you handle them anymore,’ he says as he towels his back. It’s lame, but she smiles in spite of herself.
‘I’m sorry.’ She walks over to him for a hug, slotting her head in its usual place under his chin. He smells of peppermint. She sighs as oxytocin flows through her. ‘I’ve not been very much fun recently, have I?’
‘Let’s just say I’ve seen more of Mr Hyde than Dr Scully recently.’
‘Oh god, I’ve been a nightmare.’
Mulder runs his hands up and down her back. ‘Yeah, but you’re definitely worth it.’
They call her at 9am to confirm her eggs are suitable, and she relaxes a little. Mulder is due there at 1pm. Before he leaves, Mulder brings her tea, a sandwich and her book. He fusses when she pours the milk, leaving milky stepping-stones across the coffee table as he grabs the carton from her before she’s done. He’s nervous too, she realises. He wants to perform well. She sees him glancing at her with uncertainty out of the corner of her eye. He dances around her, always in her way but never in reach.
‘Will you please just go?’ She swats him with a magazine.
‘All right.’ He swipes some of her sandwich as he walks past. ‘I’ll be back soon. After I do my duty for the future population, I have to swing by the hardware store.’
Stillness cloaks the apartment once he closes the door. Their reactant gone, all the molecules in her apartment settle down. She rests her head against the back of the sofa letting it wash over her, this stillness, and thinks about the lab. The scientists who will work on her process today with clinical detachment, aiming to get the best possible results with the material at hand. They wouldn’t take into account the hopes and dreams of the women and men waiting for news, they wouldn’t consider the implications of blastocysts or no blastocysts. When she performs autopsies, Scully only sees the riddle in front of her waiting to be solved with her expertise. That’s how she helps. She can’t picture the families waiting to learn the outcome. There’s no room for sentimentality or the job couldn’t get done. Certain cases hit her harder than others: Kevin Cryder, Alfred Fellig, Clyde Bruckman – all instances where the victim was alive and waiting to be saved. Cases where her particular pathology skills weren’t as necessary, and she relied instead on her empathy, leaving her raw and vulnerable.
Her little baby floats into her mind. She sees its crinkly eyes staring up to her face, trying to figure her out. I’m your mama. I’m your mommy. I’m your mother. She strokes its fat cheek, the skin a little dry from adjusting to life outside. It mews and she tucks her little finger in its mouth for it to suck. She feels the tight rhythm on her pinkie. The way its head weighs heavily on her elbow, her heartbeat soothing it to sleep. It’s wrapped in a little yellow blanket: a gift from her mother, the first gift the baby received. She’s meeting Mulder for lunch in the café near work. Sam, the café owner, fusses over the baby and offers her lunch on the house to celebrate the new arrival. She’s pushing the pram among the budding leaves and blossom in the park, spending hours outside in yoga pants and a baseball cap so her baby gets plenty of fresh air. The baby lies on a rug on the grass, kicking its legs under the freckled light between the trees.
She is brought back to her living room by someone stroking her hand. The only light comes from the last of the red, February sun, and her windowpanes look like tree branch silhouettes against its glow. She turns her head and sees Mulder beside her; his small smile warms her insides.
‘Hey,’ he is calm and soft. ‘How are you?’
‘What time is it?’
‘It’s a just after 4:30.’ She rights herself from where she had slumped against the armrest in sleep.
‘I can’t believe I slept that long. I didn’t even get to do any reading.’ She looks at him quizzically. ‘How was it?’
‘Oh, you know me,’ he gives her knowing side glance. ‘I’ve never needed any help in that department.’
‘I hope you did us proud,’ she smirks.
‘Saved my best swimmers for the occasion.’
‘I’m honoured.’ She yawns and rests her head on his shoulder.
‘Don’t get me wrong, a clinic cubicle with second-hand stimulation is one of the strangest places it’s ever happened.’ His candour makes her uncomfortable. She moves to stand but he holds her still. ‘But I’m happy to step up to the plate. Someone’s gotta do it, you know?’
‘Oh, you’re a real hero.’
‘I think so.’
They sit in silence, watching the glow of sun fade to black.
Day 31: Thursday
The first, brave daffodil buds sprout up on the banks, their yellow flowers peeping out ready to welcome the new season. Scully drives herself to the clinic, cheered by their sunshine faces lining the roadside. A very simple procedure today: they will insert her two precious blastocysts using a catheter. Her only shot. She should be back in the car in thirty minutes, to start the long two-week wait until she can test.
She had never noticed how many people are pushing children in strollers until she had found out she couldn’t have her own. Since then, she only sees parents: the happy, the sad, the tired, the playful, all seeming to mock her simply by living their lives. She knows this is solipsistic. Turning a corner, she drives past Tudor Place. A group of women are pushing their prams into the gardens. One of them drops her coffee and gives a carefree laugh as she wipes down her jacket.
Mulder has a new case for them: he is at home packing their bags. They are back to California to investigate the mysterious death of a gamer. This case seems different: very limited location, virtual setting. One might think it was a perfect compromise for someone carrying an embryo. It irks her, but it’s not as if Mulder has been desperate to get out into the field. Maybe this case is a compromise for them both.
Distraction is Mulder’s modus operandi. His interest in the activity of her uterus reached peak levels yesterday when she found him making his own cleaning spray from lemon juice, soap and water so she wouldn’t have to touch bleach. This kid glove treatment tested her patience, but it wasn’t all about her. Samantha’s journal may have found a home in his desk drawers, but sleep is still Mulder’s white whale.
She pulls up outside the clinic. She pictures once more the little face of her baby. She imagines its weight, its talcum powder smell and its little cry. Running her hand over the top of its furry, wrinkled head. Its warmth as she holds it against her, the rhythm of its little sparrow breaths. Her arms tingle as if she’s just put it down for a nap, feeling both full and empty at the same time. She feels lucky to have its company.
This is enough, she tells herself. If it doesn’t work, at least I’ve had this. It has to be enough.