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A Tiger Flower Blooming Magenta for One Day

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Angie manages to nurse a sense of anger at Kate for twelve hours after Kate leaves her at the Marriott. She stubbornly ignores the overwhelming guilt that keeps rising up, and instead keeps replaying the memory of Kate saying “I am certain that I am better than you” and “She’s an ignorant, white-trash woman that I paid to carry my kid” to keep her anger burning bright.

She binges on junk food just to spite Kate, filling up on soda and TastyKakes and candy, but by the next morning her stomach has started protesting, and when she tries to drink a Red Bull for breakfast, she ends up vomiting everything up again. She sits on the floor of the hotel bathroom, hunched over the toilet, and she finally lets herself admit that this whole thing is her fault.

That’s when her tears start, and they don’t stop again until hours later, when she finally passes out from exhaustion.

The next day, she stops by Kate’s apartment when she knows Kate will be at work and packs up all her stuff. She does her best to make it look like she was never in the apartment in the first place, even taking the time to try to scrape the gum off the bottom of the coffee table.

Oscar carries her bag down to the cab for her, and makes her promise that she’ll let the bellhop at the hotel get it for her at the other end. Angie hugs him, and even though she wants to tell him to take care of Kate, she doesn’t say anything but goodbye.

When Kate comes home to find all traces of Angie removed from her apartment, she breathes a deep sigh of relief. Finally, her home feels like her own again.

She pours herself a glass of wine and turns on the TV to watch the news, but when the screen comes alive that stupid karaoke game is there, with Angie’s name listed again and again in the high scores. Kate knows that the logical thing to do would be to just throw the disk away, but instead she finds herself playing for hours, methodically holding each note for exactly the right amount of time until she has overwritten all of Angie’s scores one by one.

The only score she isn’t able to beat, even though she spends all evening trying, is the one that they posted together.

Now that she’s on her own, Angie pays way more attention to the pregnancy stuff that Kate was always trying to get her to do. It’s not really like she has anything else to do, now that she isn’t spending all that time trying to get Kate to loosen up even the littlest bit.

She takes the vitamins, and doesn’t dye her hair, and she only eats that nasty organic shit that Kate kept insisting on. The first week that the front desk had delivered a box of groceries from Kate, Angie thought for a minute that maybe Kate had forgiven her, but then she found the note that said, “Remember that until we know for sure that the baby isn’t mine, you’re still under contract with me, so please choose your diet accordingly.”

The note had served as a reminder that she’d pretty much screwed up any chance of Kate ever thinking of her as anything except a baby incubator, so Angie focuses all her energy on growing the healthiest baby she can. She figures she owes Kate that much, at least.

Kate is so busy with the opening of the new store that it takes her a few weeks to notice that Oscar doesn’t really talk to her anymore. He still opens the door for her, and carries bags up to the apartment, and he’s very polite, but there’s no depth to their conversation. He leaves her groceries on the counter and heads right back to his post in front of the building, and he hasn’t joked with her or given her unsolicited life-advice since…well, since the day of the baby shower.

It hurts, a little, because she had counted Oscar as a friend, and she almost says something to him a dozen different times, but every time she is stopped by the memory of him stepping up to Angie’s side while Angie stood there and calmly accepted the abuse that Kate was hurling at her.

She can’t talk to Oscar without talking about Angie, and she doesn’t want to talk about Angie, so…

She tells herself that she’ll be able to straighten things out with Oscar once this whole baby business is settled one way or another.

As soon as the pregnancy is far enough along to do DNA testing, Chaffee Bicknell contacts Angie to set up a doctor’s appointment to get the test done. Angie has watched enough TV that she’s expecting to know the results by the time she leaves the doctor’s office, or at the very least by the next day. When she finds out that it’ll actually take a few weeks for the results to come back from the lab, she thinks that the waiting might lead to a nervous breakdown.

During the weeks of waiting, Angie starts spending a lot of time in playgrounds all over the city, watching the kids and their parents. She rests her hands on her stomach and thinks about the baby inside someday running around and playing in the sandbox and climbing on the jungle gym, and god, she wants that so much.

She thinks about Kate, who has wanted that same thing for so long now, and she starts to cry a little. Stupid hormones.

Kate doesn’t pack up all the baby stuff, because she refuses to give up hope, but she does take off some of the baby proofing, because really, it is kind of annoying to have to figure out how to open the lid of the toilet when you’re half-asleep in the morning and really need to pee. She thinks about Angie, squatting in the sink peeing, and for the first time can see a certain level of humor in the situation.

The new Round Earth store finally opens, and Kate watches the crowds come in on the first day with a sense of deep satisfaction. This store is hers, something that she brought into being, something that she was capable of creating herself, without needing to use someone else’s body to get the job done. (She ignores the fact that she didn’t actually build the store with her own hands, because then the metaphor doesn’t work.)

Rob comes to the grand opening, and it’s good to see him again, but when he asks if she’d like to get together for coffee sometime, she politely declines. The time that she spent with him is too entwined in her mind with the whole Angie situation, and she doesn’t want to go back there.

Oscar calls to tell Angie that Carl has been hanging around Kate’s building looking for her, and she doesn’t want Kate to have to deal with that, so she calls Carl and arranges to meet him for lunch. He wants to meet at a bar, but she insists on a deli that she’s discovered a few blocks from the hotel, that has organic lunchmeat.

Carl hasn’t changed in the slightest, and when she brings up the idea that has been turning around in her head for the past few weeks, he’s only interested in whether or not he can get paid for it. He spends the whole lunch alternately ogling the girl behind the counter and trying to convince Angie to have a quickie with him in the deli bathroom.

She goes back to the hotel to try to nap after lunch, but she can’t get her mind to quiet down. She replays all the years she spent with Carl, all that wasted time, and she thinks about the look on Kate’s face when she had said that the baby was Carl’s. Eventually, she gives up on trying to sleep and goes out for a walk instead, walking all the way down to Old City.

She’s sitting by the river, her thumb hovering over the Speed Dial 2 on her phone, which is still programmed to call Kate, when she feels the first twinge deep in her abdomen. The twinge is followed closely by a twisting, tearing pain that terrifies Angie, because she’s not even close to her due date yet.

She breathes through the pain, and once she’s fairly certain that she can speak again, she calls 911.

When the paramedics ask her if there’s anyone that they can call to meet her at the hospital, she thinks about giving them Kate’s number, but in the end she has them call Oscar instead.

Kate stands in front of her refrigerator for a long time, staring at the healthy options in front of her, before she finally shuts the door and orders a pizza.

The pizza guy calls her to come down to the front door and let him in, and she wonders where Oscar is, but she doesn’t give it a whole lot of thought. She takes the pizza back up to her apartment and is just finishing her third slice when there’s a knock on her door. When she looks through the peephole, she sees Oscar standing in the hall, looking exhausted.

She expects him to have a package or something to give her when she opens the door, because that’s the only reason he’s knocked on her door in months, but when she steps into the hallway his hands are empty.

He looks at her for a long time, and then finally he says, “You need to go see Angie.” She bristles a little at that, but before she can say anything, he adds, “She was in the hospital today. She’s ok, and the baby is ok, but just—you should go see her.”

The speed with which her emotions flash from anger to terror to relief leaves Kate a little dizzy. She grabs her coat and her purse, and is headed for the door before Oscar can say anything more.

She bypasses the front desk at the Marriott and heads right for the elevators. It’s not like she needs them to tell her which room Angie is in—she’s still paying for it, after all. The elevator doors open onto the fourth floor, and she’s down the hall and banging on Angie’s door before she can even think about it.

When the door swings open to reveal Angie, Kate is taken aback. Angie’s stomach has ballooned in the weeks since she’s seen her, and she looks exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes. One hand is holding the door open, and the other one reaches around to her back, rubbing it as if it’s bothering her.

She looks horrible, but Kate is so overwhelmingly jealous that instead of asking Angie if she’s ok, she ends up lashing out instead. “What the hell happened?”

Angie sighs, and steps back to let Kate into the room.

“The doctor said it was just bad Braxton-Hicks contractions, probably brought on by stress.”

“What in the world could you possibly have to be stressed about? You’re living in a four-star hotel with no job and all of your living expenses paid.”

Angie curls into herself a little at that.

“I met Carl for lunch today. It didn’t go well.”

“God, you really are a fuck-up, aren’t you? Still trying to make it work with that dickhead.”

For the first time, Kate sees a bit of a spark return to Angie’s eyes. “Actually, I was trying to—you know what, never mind.” The spark has faded before it’s even really there, and Angie suddenly won’t look Kate in the eye anymore. “You’re right, seeing Carl was a stupid idea, I should have known better.”

Kate’s anger fades slightly, and when she sees a single tear roll down Angie’s cheek she takes a step towards her, but Angie turns away and brushes at her face angrily.

“I should probably get ready for bed,” she tells Kate, still facing away. “I’m pretty tired.”

“Yeah, ok,” Kate responds. “I’ll see you next week for the test results. Take care of yourself.”

She hopes that maybe Angie will turn around and say goodbye, but when Angie doesn’t move, she lets herself out of the room.

Angie does her best not to cry once Kate leaves, but it’s a losing battle. She had been expecting Kate to show up, had figured that Oscar would tell her about Angie’s trip to the ER, but she hadn’t been ready for what it would be like to be around Kate again. It was like a punch in the gut to see how much she still hates her.

She takes deep breaths through the tears, trying to slow down her heart rate, because the last thing she wants is to end up in the hospital twice in one day, but it takes her a while to calm down.

She wonders if she should have told Kate about why she’d wanted to see Carl in the first place, to try to convince him to sign away his parental rights even if the baby was theirs so that Kate could have her baby after all. But Carl is still holding out for a payday, and there’s no way Angie will be asking Kate to pay to adopt their baby, and she doesn’t know yet if she’ll be able to pull together enough cash to satisfy Carl. And she’s not going to dangle the idea of a baby in front of Kate if she isn’t completely certain that she can deliver. She won’t do that to her twice.

Every time her phone rings over the next week, Kate has a mild panic attack thinking that something else has gone wrong with the baby. (She doesn’t let herself admit that she’s equally concerned about something being wrong with Angie.)

She replays the conversation in Angie’s hotel room over and over, her mind helpfully pointing out the details that she had only registered subconsciously at the time—the bottles of vitamins on the dresser, the well-worn pregnancy books on the bedside table, the bowl of fresh fruit on the table by the window. She feels a spiral of shame rise up from her gut at her assumption that Angie wouldn’t be taking care of the baby.

She doesn’t sleep the night before the maternity hearing, instead sitting up on the couch all night, clutching a teddy bear that someone had given to her at the baby shower and watching old episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos that are still on her TiVo.

In the morning she dresses in her most professional outfit, stares at herself in the mirror, then changes into something slightly more casual, an outfit that she thinks makes her look softer, and more like a mom.

Angie is already sitting at one of the tables in the front of the courtroom when Kate arrives. Despite her swollen abdomen, she looks small sitting there alone at the big table.

Kate sits down at the other table, and waits for the hearing to begin.

The judge takes his seat, but before he can open the envelope with the DNA results, there’s a commotion from the back of the courtroom, and Carl appears, insisting that he wants joint custody of the fetus. Angie looks like she might faint at the sight of him, but she answers the judge’s questions about who Carl is and why he’s here in a steady voice. Once the judge sorts out what is going on, he essentially tells Carl to sit down and shut up, and Kate sends Angie a small smile.

Then the judge is opening up the envelope and scanning the results, and Kate can barely hear it past the buzzing in her ears when he announces that she is, indeed, the biological mother. After the emotional rollercoaster of the past few months (hell, the past few years) Kate has trouble fully comprehending that she’s really, officially going to be a mother.

Caroline had come into the courtroom at some point, and now she wraps Kate up in a hug. Over her shoulder, Kate sees Angie still sitting at the other table, her body limp, though Kate can’t tell if it’s with relief or defeat. She raises her head and sees Kate looking at her, though, so she slowly levers herself up out of the chair and comes over to speak to her.

Caroline bristles behind her, clearly still suspicious of Angie, but Kate blocks her out and focuses on the woman in front of her.

“Congratulations,” Angie tells her, and Kate still can’t tell how she feels about the results.

“How are you feeling?”

“Tired, bloated, achy. I’ve had some more Braxton-Hicks, but nothing too bad, and the doctor says it’s completely normal.”

“Good, that’s good.” Kate feels like she should say something more, but she doesn’t know what else to say.

Angie gives her a tired, tentative smile. “I’ll let you know how things are going,” she promises, then turns to leave.

Kate watches her until she slips out the door at the back of the courtroom and disappears.

Angie wants to keep her promise to keep Kate in the loop, but she can’t quite get up the nerve to call, so she settles for sending a few texts throughout each day. Kate’s responses don’t sound like she’s still angry, though it’s so hard to tell with a text. But things all worked out with the DNA testing, so maybe she’s not angry any more. Angie knows better than to think that means she’s forgiven, though.

When she wakes up in the middle of the night to the sharp pain of a contraction and a puddle in the bed where her water has broken, all she can think is that she still has a few weeks before her due date, and she’s so scared that she has somehow still managed to screw this all up. She’s terrified to call Kate, but she forces herself to do it once the contraction passes.

“Angie? Are you ok?” Kate’s voice is rough with sleep when she answers.

“My water broke. I’m in labor.”

“Oh my God, I’m coming to get you. No wait, that’ll take to long, call an ambulance. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

“Kate, I’m really scared. It’s too soon.”

“Hey, it’s going to be fine. It’s early, but you’re at thirty-two weeks, so the baby should be ok. You just need to take a few deep breaths, calm down, and then call an ambulance to get you to the hospital. Can you do that?”

Angie breathes in and out once before she answers. “Yeah.”

“Call me back once the ambulance is on the way, I’ll stay on the line with you until we’re at the hospital.”

The next few hours are a blur of pain and drugs and pushing, but through it all, Angie’s constant is Kate’s voice in her ear, and then Kate’s hand in hers. Kate only lets go when one final push brings the baby into the world, and the doctor asks her if she wants to cut the cord.

The nurse tries to lay the newborn on Angie’s chest, but Angie twists away. “No, give her to Kate,” she insists. The baby is wrapped in a blanket and handed to Kate, and Angie closes her eyes so that she doesn’t have to see. She feels hollow and empty, and her arms ache to hold the baby, but she tells herself firmly that it’s not her child.

The nurse takes the baby away to be cleaned and weighed, and Kate comes back to Angie’s side.

“You should hold her,” she says.

Angie turns her head away. “I think it’s probably better if I don’t,” she insists. Kate looks like she might argue with her about it, so Angie adds, “I’m really tired.”

“Ok, I’ll let you sleep.” Kate reaches out and takes Angie’s hand again. “Thank you, Angie. She’s beautiful.”

Angie doesn’t respond, and eventually Kate leaves her alone.

Kate comes back later, when Angie has been moved to a regular room, but Angie pretends to be asleep. Kate stands there for a minute before she finally puts something on the bedside table and leaves.

Angie waits until she’s sure that Kate is gone, then rolls over to find an envelope with her name on it. Inside is a beautiful card, with a message from Kate that says, “I wouldn’t have her without you, Angie. Thank you.”

Tucked into the card are two things: a check for the full amount of the surrogacy fee, and a photograph of the baby. On the back of the photograph, written in Kate’s careful handwriting, is an inscription: “Elizabeth Angela Holbrook, born December 10th, 2008.”

The first two months of Lizzie’s life fly by. Kate takes maternity leave from work, and spends the time getting to know her daughter and adjusting to motherhood. It’s amazing and exhausting and difficult and wonderful, and Kate loves it.

At Christmas, Kate’s mother buys dozens of presents for Lizzie and only makes three comments about her unconventional journey into the world. Kate rolls her eyes at Caroline, and counts that as a success.

As January passes, Lizzie’s baby-blue eyes darken to match Kate’s, and Kate finds that she’s actually a little disappointed. While she knew, intellectually, that Lizzie’s eyes were unlikely to stay blue, given her genetics, she had thought it was kind of fitting that Lizzie had Angie’s eyes.

Kate thinks about Angie, a lot. Not just when she looking at her daughter, but at the strangest times, like when she comes across one of those stupid reality shows that Angie had always watched, or when her hand runs across the dress she’d worn clubbing when she stands in front of her closet in the morning trying to decide what to wear.

She doesn’t know where Angie is now—she’d checked out of the Marriott the day after she’d been released from the hospital, and Kate hasn’t heard from her since. She still has Angie’s number programmed into her phone, and she considers calling her sometimes, but she isn’t sure if Angie would answer if she saw Kate’s number pop up on the screen.

She’s heading out to take Lizzie to the park one afternoon when she notices that Oscar is wearing a new vest and tie under his uniform jacket.

“Angie sent it to me,” he says proudly when she comments on it. “It was one of her very first assignments at school.”

Kate puts together the pieces immediately, and in her rush out the door, she almost forgets to say goodbye to Oscar. She hails a cab at the corner, and directs the cabbie to head to the Philadelphia University campus out in Germantown.

When she gets to the campus, it only takes her a few minutes to find the School of Textiles, and a helpful undergraduate directs her towards the Fashion Department. She arrives just as a class period is ending, and the hallways flood with students. Kate steers Lizzie’s stroller out of the flow of traffic, then scans the crowd for the familiar flash of blond hair.

The hallways have started to empty out again as students head to their next class, and Kate is starting to feel a little foolish for coming here on a whim, when she finally spots Angie coming down the hall, deep in discussion with a professor. Kate steps away from the wall, but before she can say anything, Angie looks up and sees her, and comes to a sudden halt.

They stare at each other from opposite ends of the hallway for a minute, then Angie turns and makes her excuses to the professor she was talking with and comes down the hall towards Kate and Lizzie. Kate sees her eyeing Lizzie’s stroller cautiously, and she suddenly remembers Angie’s refusal to hold to baby in the hospital. God, she wishes she’d thought this plan through a little better.

Angie comes to a stop a few feet away, and stands there waiting for Kate to start the conversation.

Kate flounders for what to say, and ends up blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. “You didn’t cash the check.”

“I’m not going to.”

“But tuition, and rent—"

“I qualified for a scholarship, and I found a job.”


“I don’t think I really deserve the money, after what I put you through.”

Angie’s voice is heavy with guilt, and Kate gapes at her. Even when she'd been angry at Angie, she’d always known on some level that Angie regretted what had happened. But she had never really thought about Angie continuing to beat herself up about it, even after everything had worked out and the baby had been born.

“I don’t think I ever really said I’m sorry,” Angie continues. “And I am sorry, Kate. That was probably the worst thing I’ve ever done, lying to you like that.”

“I’m sorry too, for some of the things I said to you.”

Angie shrugs. “You were angry.”

“Yeah, I was. But I still said some things I didn’t mean.”

Someone opens the door at the end of the hall, and a shaft of late-afternoon sunlight illuminates Angie from behind. For just a moment, Kate is reminded of the first afternoon she met Angie, and she smiles as she imagines that the sunlight is Angie’s aura.

“Would you like to meet Lizzie?” she asks. Angie’s gaze turns towards the stroller, where Lizzie is making cooing noises and inspecting her own hand. Angie doesn’t make any move, though, so Kate adds, “I’d really like her to know you.”

Angie turns wide, hesitant eyes on Kate. “You’re sure?”

Kate reaches out and takes Angie’s hand, pulling her towards the stroller. “I’m sure.”

They go out for coffee. Angie can’t take her eyes off Lizzie at first, enchanted with the baby.

“I’m glad she ended up being yours,” she tells Kate.

Kate starts to say something, then bites it back, then finally says what’s on her mind. “When you thought the baby was yours—were you happy?”

“I was…a lot of different things. I was terrified, mostly, about what was going to happen when I got up the nerve to tell you, and about what kind of mother I would be.”

“I think you would have been a good mother,” Kate says softly.

“Maybe,” Angie says, prying Lizzie’s grasp away from the handful of hair that she’d found, and offering her a finger to hold onto instead. “But not as good as you.” She takes a deep breath, and then releases the one last secret she’s been holding on to. “I was trying to convince Carl to give up parental rights, before the DNA test came back, so that you could still adopt the baby even if it turned out to be ours.”

She keeps her gaze on Lizzie, afraid to look up and see Kate’s reaction. She hears a strangled sob coming from Kate, and then the other woman’s arms are reaching around her and enfolding her and the baby in a hug. A few tears escape from Angie’s eyes as well, and she wishes that she could stay in this moment forever, but Lizzie starts to squirm between them, and they pulls back with an embarrassed laugh, wiping at their eyes.

Kate changes the topic then, pulling them back from emotional territory, and asks Angie about her classes. Angie feels herself light up as she talks about school, and Kate beams back at her happily.

“Where are you staying?” Kate asks. “Are you…back with Carl?”

Angie wants to laugh at how very hard Kate is trying not to sound judgmental.

“Hell no. He and I are done for good. I’m crashing with some friends for right now, and I have a lead on a sublet that’ll open up next month.”

“Come stay with me.”

Angie isn’t sure who is more surprised by this offer, her or Kate.

Kate’s eyes widen slightly as she realizes what she just said, but then it’s like her brain catches up with her mouth, and she relaxes. “My maternity leave is almost over, and I’ve been looking at daycares and nannies, but none of them felt quite right, but if you were staying with me—I mean, I’d pay you of course, I wouldn’t expect you to babysit for free, but I bet I could rearrange my work schedule to fit with your class schedule, and Caroline or my mom or Oscar could probably help out if both of us were busy.”

“Kate—" Angie starts to say, but Kate cuts her off.

“I wouldn’t have Lizzie if it weren’t for you. And…as much as it pains me to say this, I have actually started watching those stupid reality shows that you like so much, and I still have that karaoke game tucked away in a drawer somewhere, and—I just miss having you there, sometimes, I guess.”

Kate trails off. She’s staring at her hands intently, and doesn’t look up to meet Angie’s shocked stare. Lizzie tugs on Angie’s hair again, pulling her from her reverie.

“You’d have to let me keep at least some junk food in the house.”

Kate looks up, then, a smile spreading slowly over her face.

“Absolutely no peeing in the sink, for any reason. Or anywhere else besides the toilet.”

“No freaking out if I forget to use a coaster.”

“No giving Lizzie Red Bull.”

“At least once a month, we leave Lizzie with Oscar and go out clubbing.”

“You cash the check.”

The deal hangs in the air between them, tenuous and fragile, depending on Angie agreeing to that one last demand. Kate holds her gaze, and in her eyes Angie sees the forgiveness that she had never expected to receive. All that is left is for her to forgive herself.

Finally, she reaches out her hand to Kate and says, “Deal.”

Kate puts her hand in Angie’s to shake, and Angie thinks that she can almost see the threads stretching between them, some of them frayed, some of them broken, but also some that are new and fresh. Lizzie coos from her spot on Angie’s lap, and a thousand more threads spring into being, shimmering and glittering gold.

It’s way the fuck cooler than any aura Angie has ever seen.