All That Matters

 

by

 

S X Meagher

sx_meagher@yahoo.com

 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Honey, this isn’t an orthopedist’s office.”

“What?”

“If you squeeze my hand any harder you’re going to break it, and I’m not sure these doctors know much about repairing broken bones.”

Her joking comment pulled David Spencer from his anxious state and made him chuckle mildly. “I bet they know plenty about boners,” he said just as the door opened, making him jump.

“Good morning.” A pleasant-looking, middle-aged man stuck his hand out towards David. “Jonathan Greene.” He snuck a very quick look at the chart in his hand and asked, “Mr. and Mrs. Spencer?”

“Yes,” David said. “I’m David and this is my wife, Blair.”

The doctor shook Blair’s offered hand and sat down behind his desk, now looking at the chart more carefully. “Let’s see now … you’ve been working with a Doctor Coughlin.”

"She's my gynecologist," Blair said.

He looked at the pair and commented, “Not to turn away a patient, but why are you here? You’re less than halfway through the usual screening tests for infertility.”

David started to speak, but Blair placed her hand on his arm and said, “My husband is the prototypical ‘A-type’ personality, Doctor Greene. When he learned that his sperm count was a little low, he couldn’t rest until we called out the big guns.”

“We don’t have any time to waste!” her husband said, eyes wide. “Her eggs are almost thirty-five!”

She indulgently patted him again, discretely rolling her eyes at the doctor, then speaking quietly, acting as if her husband couldn't hear her. “Sometimes I hate the Internet. David's been researching every infertility site imaginable, and he's learned that it’s much harder to conceive once the woman’s past thirty-five. He seems to think that on my thirty-fifth birthday my eggs are going to seize up and refuse to have anything to do with sperm again.”

The doctor smiled warmly, having heard every permutation of genuine and overblown fear over his many years of practice. “It's true that it becomes more difficult to conceive naturally as our bodies age. But there’s no firm cut-off date, David. Let’s not let other people’s experiences color our perceptions too much, okay?”

He nodded briefly. “All right. I just want to make sure that we don’t waste another minute. We really want to have a child, and I don’t want to look back in three years and feel like we let the chance pass us by.”

Doctor Greene nodded. “We'll do our best to not let that happen.” Looking at his notes he asked, “It says you’ve been trying to conceive for a year. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Blair said. “I stopped taking the pill last August. After we didn’t get pregnant right away we started being a little more deliberate about it. I started taking my basal body temperature to make sure we were having intercourse around the time that I ovulated.”

“So you’ve been having well-timed intercourse for how long?”

“About six months,” she said.

“Well …” He leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s not a very long time. Most doctors recommend waiting a year before you consider seeing an infertility specialist.”

“We’re not most people,” Blair said, casting a side-long look at her husband. “We’re results oriented.” She gave the doctor such a charming smile that he couldn’t help but mimic it.

“I can see that,” he said. “Well, in that case, let’s see if we can give you a little help.” Reading the specifics in their chart he commented, “Your sperm count is low, David, but not remarkably so. We generally consider twenty parts per million low, and you’re at twenty-one parts per million.” He smiled at him and said, “Remember, only one of them needs to meet its match.”

“I know that,” he said, “and I’d generally love those odds. But we’ve been trying for months now."

“Yes, I realize that,” Dr. Greene said. “But all we know at this point is that your count is borderline low. We don’t really know much about Blair’s reproductive capacity. I’d feel much more comfortable going forward if you have the routine tests done.”

“We had the post-coital test done, and the cervical mucus test,” she said. “But I was reticent to have the more invasive tests done quite yet. I think we’re jumping the gun since we’ve only been trying for six months.”

“But your eggs —" David said.

“If you call my eggs old one more time, I can assure you that your sperm won’t have the opportunity to visit them … ever.” Blair’s expression was just as calm and loving as it had been a minute earlier, but the doctor got the impression that she meant every word of her threat. David just nodded, properly chided.

Turning to the doctor, she said, “I know it’s premature to see you. But my gynecologist hasn’t been able to convince David that there are some simple things he could do to increase his fertility. I thought that a reproductive endocrinologist might be able to convince him that some lifestyle changes might be all we have to do.”

“I assume you have some changes in mind?” the doctor asked, having a feeling that Blair had an agenda.

“Well, I’ve done a fair amount of Internet searching myself,” she said, “and I think that David could win the ‘How to lower your sperm count’ competition. He smokes, he drinks, he wears briefs, he sits in a hot tub, he’s under a tremendous amount of stress, and he drinks more caffeine than any man on earth.” Patting her husband’s thigh she smiled and said, “I know caffeine is more of a fertility inhibitor for women than men — I just want him to quit caffeine so he’s not so crazy!”

“You make me sound like a chain-smoking, drunken, head case,” David mumbled.

Tilting her chin, she regarded him with deep affection clearly visible in her green eyes. Her shoulders shrugged slightly as her smile grew wider. “I still love you, sweetie.”

The doctor couldn’t help but chuckle at the look on Blair’s face. David was obviously unable to resist her charms, since he smiled back at her and took her hand. Looking back at the doctor he nodded and said, “I don’t think I drink to excess, but my beloved wife doesn’t agree with me. I do, however, chain-smoke, and I suppose all of her other claims are valid, too. But I read on the Internet that lifestyle factors don’t really have that big of an impact.”

“I disagree,” Doctor Greene said. “In a case like yours, where your count is marginally low, stopping smoking and cutting down on your drinking could really have an effect.”

“Look doc,” David said. “I work in a very stressful job. The only way I can sleep at night is to have a few Scotches when I get home. I sit in the hot tub and relax every night, and I just don’t think I can stop that.”

“That’s up to you, David,” Doctor Greene said, “but if having a baby means a lot to you, you might want to consider doing whatever you can to increase your odds.”

David turned to his wife and offered, “I’ll make you a deal. If you’ll have the other tests I’ll start wearing boxers, and I’ll stay out of the hot tub.”

Blair narrowed her eyes and thought for a moment. “No dice. I’ll only do it if you cut down to one drink a night. You’re up to three, David, and it’s starting to worry me.”

He gave the doctor a helpless shrug and said, “Five years and I haven’t won an argument yet.” Extending his hand, he and Blair shook on the deal.

Blair looked at the doctor and said, “I suppose I should just go back to my gynecologist for the remaining tests?”

“That makes sense,” he agreed. “You already have a relationship with her. Once we see how your tests come out we can chat again and determine if it makes sense for you to return here, or continue on with Doctor Coughlin.”

“Sounds good to me,” Blair said. “If we come back, will we see you again? Doctor Coughlin said that all of the doctors here work together.”

“That’s true,” he said. “Each of us has an area we specialize in, so before we come up with a treatment plan we all meet and discuss the details of a case. That lets everyone have a voice — so you get four specialists for the price of one. As long as you’re here, why don’t I see if the other doctors can pop in to meet you.”

“Great,” Blair said, but David looked decidedly uncomfortable. Blair leaned over and whispered something to him, and he eventually nodded his head and took her hand, looking like he was waiting for the firing squad.

Doctor Greene pressed the intercom button and asked, “Marcella? See if you can round up Doctors Martini, Novachek and Mackenzie and have them pop into my office to meet some new patients, okay?” He released the button and said, “I think they’re all in the office this morning. We usually consult about new cases over lunch on Mondays. Just for background, I specialize in male infertility, Peter Martini specializes in all forms of in-vitro fertilization, Thad Novachek works primarily with artificial insemination cases, and Doctor Mackenzie is a reproductive surgeon.”

“I hope we don’t have to work with him,” Blair said, her eyes growing wide.

A gentle knock on the door accompanied Doctor Greene’s reply. He stopped mid-sentence to say, “Well, here she is now.”

A woman poked her head in the door, gave Doctor Greene a wide smile and asked, “Does somebody need a doctor?”

“Come on in,” he said, “Mrs. Spencer was just saying that she hopes she never has to meet you.”

“Well!” The woman perched on the edge of Doctor Greene’s desk and looked at Blair for a moment. “People generally don’t start disliking me until we’ve met. Is it the name? Are you anti-Scottish? Were you frightened by plaid at a young age?”

“No,” Blair said, laughing. “I just don’t want to have to go under the knife. Anybody’s knife.” She reached out and offered her hand. “I’m Blair Spencer — knife phobic.”

“I don’t blame you, Blair.” Doctor Mackenzie smiled warmly. “I only like the blunt end of the scalpel myself.”

“Well, we’re a long way from discussing a surgical option,” Doctor Greene said. “The Spencer’s haven’t even completed all of the standard screening tests.”

“Impatient sorts, eh?” Doctor Mackenzie said. “Me too. I can play a minute waltz in fifty-two seconds.”

Blair regarded the woman, taking in her long, lean frame, the black, slightly wavy chin-length hair, and the incredibly warm smile that settled onto her face as though it were her most natural expression. But what really set the woman off was the easy, relaxed self-confidence that seemed to exude from her very pores. There’s something vaguely familiar about her, she thought. I wonder if I’ve ever seen her at an open house.

In short order, Doctors Martini and Novachek entered and the four doctors chatted with the Spencers for a few minutes. Doctor Greene stood and shook both of their hands, then the other doctors did the same. “Make those few changes we talked about, and I think there’s a good chance we won’t have to meet again,” Doctor Greene said. “But if we do work together, I’m confident that we can help you two have the baby you want.”

Blair took David’s hand and said, “The baby I want is delivered to the house with my dry-cleaning. But I’m willing to do it the hard way for David.” Once again, her warm smile and teasing tone belied the fact that her words were, in fact, deadly serious, and Doctor Greene wondered if the Spencer’s were equally committed to the long process that likely awaited them.

 

G

 

The next afternoon, Blair came dashing into the house, shopping bag in hand. “I just have a moment, sweetie,” she said. “I’m meeting a client at my office at 5:00, and then I’m going to a play in NoHo.”

“North Hollywood will always be North Hollywood — no matter how artsy you try to make it sound,” he said, chuckling softly. “What have you got in the bag?”

“Your new underwear,” she said, dumping the contents of the bag onto his lap. She dug into her large black leather carryall and produced a few pieces of paper. “This is your membership to Clank — the only gym on the Westside that doesn’t have a hot tub, and this is a certificate that entitles you to a dozen massages at that cool spa on San Vicente … the one that supermodel you like goes to.”

“I don’t like her,” he said. “I just mentioned that a guy at the office saw her being wrapped in seaweed there.”

“Yes, dear,” she said. “And there was no other reason for your wanting to go there that weekend for your very own seaweed wrap.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “By the way — straight guys don’t get wrapped — in anything.”

He gave her a wry smirk and looked at the cards she’d handed him. “So, is it gay to get a massage? I don’t want to give the supermodels the wrong idea.”

“It’s massively straight,” she said. “And I just know your little guys will thank you for finding an new way to calm down in the evening. I don’t want to see you and the fellas in the tub until we get pregnant.”

Looking down at his lap, now covered with packages of boxer shorts, he commented, “Hear that guys? No more hot tubs.” He snaked his arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her onto his lap, causing her to let out a little yelp when she slid over the arm of his chair. “The guys were just thinking they’d like to visit. Spare a half hour?” He started to nuzzle his face into her shoulder-length, strawberry blonde hair, sniffing delicately to take in the scent. “How do you manage to still smell so great at the end of the day?”

“Well, selling real estate isn’t akin to tarring roofs, sweetie,” she said. “And since I didn’t get out of my jammies until noon, it’s hardly the end of a long day.”

“I envy you,” he said. “It must be nice to stay up like an adult and get to watch David Letterman.”

“I don’t watch David Letterman,” she reminded him, “but I have to agree with you. I could never switch schedules with you. Going to bed at 9:00 and getting up at 4:30 would make me lose my mind.”

“It just makes it hard to get to perform my stud service,” he said. “I’ve gotta catch you when you’re in heat.”

“Well, I’m not in heat today, so you and the boys rest up.” She clambered off his lap and adjusted her clothing. “Maybe we’ll get lucky this month and I’ll be ovulating on the weekend.”

“We can dream.” David smiled wistfully. “Of course, we can still only have sex every other day. Damn, this scheduling crap takes all the spontaneity out of it!”

“True,” she agreed. “But we can always adopt, David, and never have to worry about any of this stuff again.” She leaned over and slipped her hand behind his head, drawing it forward until his face met her breasts. Shaking her shoulders, she nuzzled his face into her chest. “These would stay perky a lot longer, too, sweetie.”

He pulled back just a few inches and placed his hands on the sides of her breasts, compressing them slightly. “I do love them just like they are now. But I don’t mind sharing them with David junior.”

“Have it your way,” she said, patting his hands. “But don’t fall in love with that David junior thing. Not gonna happen.” She kissed him gently and said, “I’ll do my best not to wake you tonight. Your boys need their rest to build their ranks.”

He reached behind her and palmed her ass. “Feel free to wake us if you’re in the mood to …” He gave her a sexy look and twitched an eyebrow.

“Will do,” she said. “It’s always cute to see how quickly I can make you go from sound asleep to ready for action.”

“I’m putty in your hands, baby. And I’d give up sleep any night of the week for you.”

 

G

 

Blair stood close to a stone wall, her view that of the entire west side of Los Angeles. A strong, moist breeze ruffled her hair in the warm evening, and the hint of ocean breeze that snaked up to the top of the Santa Monica Mountains near the Sepulveda Pass was very welcome. A handsome blond man appeared next to her, nodding his head towards the sea, clearly visible as the sun sank into it. “Can you imagine how horrible a place this would be without the ocean?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve been to Phoenix,” she said, not taking her eyes from the magnificent vista.

“There you are.”

Blair heard a woman’s voice from over her shoulder. Turning, she cocked her head and thought for a moment, finally deciding that she did recognize both the voice and the woman. “Uhm … Doctor …?”

The warm smiled bloomed on the woman’s face, and she handed one of the drinks she carried to the man, so that she could shake Blair’s hand. “Mackenzie. I remember meeting you, but names are just not my forte.”

“Blair Spencer,” she said. Suddenly, the man was gone, Blair not having seen him depart. She looked around and asked, “Where did —?"

“Oh, Nick makes himself scarce whenever I run into a patient. He’s a psychologist, and is more paranoid than I am about revealing confidential information.”

“Well, I’m not really a patient,” she reminded her. “And luckily, I won’t ever be your patient.”

“I really do good work,” the doctor insisted. “You might want to have me take something out or move something around just for kicks.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Blair said, smiling at the doctor's easy familiarity.

“I take it that there’s some reason behind your determination not to let me see your internal organs?”

“Well, many reasons, actually. But there’s one overriding one. I don’t know how much of our situation you’re aware of —”

“I don't normally admit to this, but I don't know a thing,” the doctor said, adding a wink. “I didn’t even glance at your chart.”

“Oh. Well, my husband’s sperm count is a little low, and the concentration is on the low side, as well. I just finished all of my tests, and it looks like I check out fine.” She gave her a wry smile and added, “I had that perfectly delightful endometrial biopsy and the equally pleasant hystero-bla-bla-bla.”

“Hysterosalpingogram,” the doctor corrected.

“Gesundheit,” Blair said. “Anyway, all systems are go for me, so we’re going to keep trying.”

“Excellent,” Doctor Mackenzie said, her smile nearly blinding. “I hope it works for you.”

“So do I,” Blair said, sighing a little. “I’m dreading going any further than this.” She twitched her head towards the shining white buildings of the Getty Museum and asked, “What brings you here tonight?”

“The chamber music recital,” the doctor replied. “How about you?”

“The same. I’m up here every Thursday evening during the summer. I love the variety of the programs.”

“Are you a big fan of the arts? I ask because you seem very familiar to me. I thought so when we met at the office.”

“I thought the same thing,” Blair said. “I assumed I’d shown you a house. I’m a real estate broker.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” the doctor said. “I haven’t been in the market for a house for a very long time. Do you go to many plays?”

“Constantly,” Blair said, rolling her eyes. “My husband says I’m a thespian wanna-be.”

“Were you by any chance at a Bertholt Brecht play at the Odyssey Theatre not long ago?”

Blair’s eyes widened. “I was! That’s why I recognized you! I think the play was just a day or two before we met at your office.” She started to laugh and said, “How many people were there? Ten?”

“Yeah, about ten before the curtain went up, but only six managed to hang in there until the bitter end. Nick was ready to leave, and he likes everything!

“I envy you,” Blair said. “I have to go to most plays alone. My husband would rather walk on hot coals.”

Seeing her companion lurking about, Doctor Mackenzie twitched her head, asking him to come over to them. “Nick, this is Blair Spencer. She’s happily not a patient so you can meet her,” she said, laughing a little. “Blair, this is Nick Scott, normally a big Brecht fan, but even he has his limits.”

“That’s why you looked familiar,” Nick said. “You were at that water torture at the Odyssey. But the end of the play I was studying the other patrons, trying to figure out why they were still there. I assumed they were homeless!”

“It was like watching a car wreck,” Blair said. “You knew you shouldn’t look, but you couldn’t turn away!”

“Apt … very apt,” Nick agreed. He checked his watch and said, “The concert should be starting soon. We should go find seats.”

“Blair’s here for the concert, too,” the doctor said. Looking at Blair, she asked, “Would you like to sit with us?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind. I usually spend the intermission calling clients. It might be nice to chat with people I can see.” She looked at Nick and said, “I just mentioned to Doctor Mackenzie that I sell real estate. My cell phone is my lifeline.”

“Kylie,” the doctor said, giving her that warm smile. “You can only join us if you call me Kylie.”

“I think I can manage,” Blair said. “Kylie it is.”

 

G

 

“So, Blair, does your husband really not mind your hanging out with the artistic set?” Nick asked during the intermission.

“No, he doesn’t mind. He knew all of my quirks before he married me. Besides, he goes to bed by nine every night. If I followed his schedule the only cultural event we’d go to is the Easter Sunrise service at the Hollywood Bowl.”

Nick's brows furrowed and he said, “Nine o’clock? What is he, a dairy farmer?”

“No,” she said, chuckling. “He’s an industry analyst for Fortune Funds. He’s the guy who decides what banking and financial services stocks the fund should buy.”

“And he lives in California?” Kylie asked. “Has he noticed that there aren't any major banks headquartered in the entire state?”

“He has,” Blair said. “He travels quite a bit, but his firm is headquartered in L.A., so this is where they prefer he work.”

“Could be worse,” Nick reminded her. “Your accent suggests you’re not a native, so I assume you’re a transplant?”

“I am,” she said. “I’m from Chicago.”

His pager went off as she spoke, and he reached for his waistband to grasp it. “I'll go return my call. I have a feeling the litany of Chicago wonders is about to begin.”

Looking to Kylie, Blair cocked her head. “Northern suburbs,” the doctor said. “You?”

“Near North. Close to Lincoln Park.”

“You grew up in the city?” Kylie asked, rather wide eyed. “I’ve never met anyone who said they were from Chicago who actually was!”

“I’ve never spent a night in a Chicago suburb,” Blair said. “But I know most of them. Which one spawned you?”

“Lake Forest,” she said, and rolled her eyes when Blair made a face. “We lived in a perfectly modest home,” Kylie insisted. “We were practically on food stamps.”

“Uh-huh,” Blair nodded agreeably. “The wealthiest suburb in all of Lake County. What did your father do, only run a Fortune 1000 company?”

“He's a doctor,” Kylie said. “A pediatrician. But I don’t think he made his first million until he was 50!”

“Oh, my God! Did the town run a food drive for you? Were you on the free lunch program?”

“No, but I really was pitied in high school. I was the only kid in my social circle who didn’t have her own car. My dad obviously made a good salary, but I was the baby of seven, and we didn’t have the money to live very luxuriously. Education was where our money went.”

“Wow, seven kids! Your parents obviously didn’t have a problem with fertility.”

“No, I’d guess not. Although, who knows? Maybe they wanted to have ten kids,” she said, chuckling. “How about you? Any siblings?”

Blair shook her head. “No, I’m an only child. Actually, my parents were infertile. I’m adopted.”

“Oh.” Kylie waited for a minute, looking to see if Blair would provide further information.

“My birth mother didn’t have any trouble popping ‘em out, though. She had four.”

“So, you’ve met?”

“Uh-huh. I was her second child, and she had me when she was barely seventeen.” She rolled her eyes and said, “She was obviously very much in favor of sex, and very much opposed to birth control. My biological grandmother agreed to raise the first child, my older brother, but she put her foot down when I arrived and I was put up for adoption. Lucky for me,” she said with a smile. “My birth mother had two more kids by the time she was twenty, and not long after that her mother died, leaving her to raise three kids. She didn’t do very well, and they were all eventually taken away by the state.”

“Wow,” Kylie said, wide eyed. “Have you met them?”

“No, they were eventually adopted by three different families, and my birth mother is only in contact with my older brother, Morrison."

"Morrison? That's a unique name."

Blair rolled her eyes. "She named him after Jim Morrison. I get the impression that mom was more than fond of sex, drugs and rock and roll. It's amazing I don't have three legs or fins."

Kylie looked at her and felt a wave of compassion for this self-confident woman who was obviously still deeply wounded from being rejected by her birth mother.

"What about your other two sibs. Have you met?"

"No. I don’t really care to,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “My bio-mom doesn't know where they are, and I'm not interested enough to spend the money to find them. I grew up as an only child, and I’m happy to keep it that way. Actually, I didn’t want to meet my birth mother, but my mom really encouraged me to do so. I guess I’m glad that I met her, just so I could get some medical information and things like that. But I think of her as egg donor. She’s not my mom.”

Kylie was nodding enthusiastically. “Your mom is the woman who loved you and changed your diapers. That has nothing to do with genetics.”

“That’s what I’ve been telling a certain someone,” she said. Nick came back just as Kylie was going to ask her to elaborate, so she chose not to pursue her question.

 

G

 

After the concert, Kylie asked, “You mentioned the Hollywood Bowl earlier. How would you like to go to the closing concert next week? Nick can’t make it, and I’m really a sucker for the fireworks. It’s not as much fun to "ooo" and "ahh" all alone.”

“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” Blair drawled. “Tchaikovsky, maybe a little Irving Berlin, John Phillip Sousa?”

“Ditch the Sousa, and you hit it,” Kylie agreed. “Too low-brow for you?”

“No, I’d like to go,” she said. “I’ve always said that a symphony is missing something if there aren’t a few Roman candles thrown in.”

 

G

 

On the following Wednesday afternoon, Blair was driving down San Vicente Boulevard, going to visit a new client. The broad, six-lane road was one of the few in Santa Monica that was bisected by a wide greensward, making it the most popular jogging venue in the area — despite the steady stream of cars that zipped past, spewing pollutants. Since the 45 mile per hour speed limit was blatantly ignored, it seemed as though everyone was in a terrific hurry to get somewhere, either by foot or car. Her cell phone rang as she pulled up to one of the infrequent stoplights. "Blair Spencer," she announced through the phone mike clipped to her blouse.

"Hi, Blair, it's Kylie Mackenzie. Still on for tonight?"

She replied by singing the well-known and concussive strains of the "1812 Overture," adding a thumping "boom-boom" to represent the cannons. "You bet. Want me to stop and buy some food?"

"Uhm … yeah, that'd be great." The doctor cleared her throat and got to the point of her call. "I have something to tell you. I don't think this is a big deal, but I wanted to bring it up just so everything's out in the open."

Blair heard the slight discomfort that colored the woman's voice. "What is it?" she asked.

"Since I didn't look at your chart or examine you, I don't consider that you were ever my patient," she said, "but if you feel that you were, then perhaps we —"

"Oh, don't worry about that," Blair said. "You didn't get your scalpel anywhere near me. I've had more intimate connections with the guy who fixes my car."

The doctor's tone lightened immediately, taking on what Blair was beginning to understand was her typical jocularity. "Oh, so you trust a guy with a wrench to look under your hood, but you won't even let me have a peek inside."

"Kylie, you're never going to see what lies beneath my skin. Get over it."

"I know when I'm fighting a losing battle," the doctor said. "There's one more thing though …"

"Yes?" Blair drawled.

"This isn't a big deal either, but I thought you should know that I'm a lesbian."

There was a period of stark silence, then Blair asked quietly, her concern evident, "Does Nick know?"

"Huh?" Kylie let the question sink in, then started to laugh heartily. "Yeah, he knows. Though he wouldn't be interested in me even if I weren't gay. Actually, you're more his type. He's a sucker for blondes."

"No dice. I like 'em tall, dark and handsome. Rich doesn't hurt, either," she added.

"If my memory serves me well, I'd say that you've done pretty well for yourself. Your husband is taller than I am and could pass for a young Omar Shariff."

Blair laughed, then stepped on the gas when the impatient man behind her honked to get her to clear the passing lane. "You know, with a moustache …"

"Yeah! That's all that was missing."

"Well, David is half Armenian, so he's a little on the swarthy side. He's just started to gray at the temples, and I think it's incredibly sexy." She paused and added, "But you wouldn't have noticed that — being a lesbian and all." She could hear the doctor squawk in complaint, then said, "Gotcha!"

"Okay, okay, you got me. You know, I never do this. I hate to make my sexuality a big deal. But I've been in situations where a woman has been uncomfortable with me once she finds out I'm a lesbian, so I try to go for full disclosure."

"Well, let me reciprocate," Blair said. "The only kind of person I don't like to associate with is one who's closed-minded or too full of herself. Though I'm pretty sure you're not closed-minded …"

"Hey! I'm not … well … okay, I guess I am a little full of myself," she said. "But just a little — really. It's an occupational hazard, Blair. You've gotta be pretty cocky to be a good surgeon."

"Then you must be a great one," Blair said, laughing. "I'll pick you up at 7:00, Doc. Speak now if there's anything you won't eat."

"I'm more partial to vegetables than meat, but I'm pretty easy to please," she said.

"I doubt that, but we'll just have to see," Blair said, switching off with a silly grin on her face. Gotta love a woman you can be a smart-ass with.

 

G

 

Kylie's seats at the Hollywood Bowl were in the highly-coveted garden boxes, located right next to the orchestra. The pair made their way down the narrow aisle, and Kylie hefted the picnic basket Blair had brought over the railing. They had to maneuver a bit to enter the stunningly small box, but they managed. Sitting on the tiny, folding café chair, Blair commented, "It's hard to believe they get away with providing such uncomfortable seats!"

"It's a joke," Kylie agreed. "Especially when you have long legs, like I do." They managed to eat the small assortment of crudités and cold appetizers that Blair had provided, but they had to put each course on the tiny table separately. As soon as they'd finished eating, they moved all the way to the top of the huge bowl, so they could continue to talk during the concert. "You know, I really prefer the cheap seats," the doctor commented when they were settled. "Do you know these seats only cost a dollar for most performances? Best deal in town."

Blair looked around, noting that each section of the amphitheatre grew less crowded as the price dropped. "Typical L.A. People only want to go to things that cost a lot. If they raised the price for these and said there was a waiting list, there'd be a line to get the tickets."

"Most likely," Kylie agreed.

They were quiet for a while, listening to the orchestra as it launched into "Stars and Stripes Forever." Kylie leaned back against the wooden bench and tilted her head back to stare into the star-filled night. "I can't believe how beautiful it is here," she said. "I could come here every night."

Blair nodded, a happy smile on her face. She looked out at the steep, dark hills that surrounded the Bowl, taking in the faint smell of dry chaparral, dust and smog that was the distinctive perfume of Los Angeles. A few homes were visible in the distance, their lights golden and glowing. There was just enough light to detect a single redtail hawk circling overhead, probably wondering what caused such a large crowd to flock together. "You know, you could sit up here all the time and stretch out. Why pay the big bucks like all of the other conspicuous consumers?"

Kylie jutted her chin out while narrowing her eyes. The air she adopted was definitely upper-crust, the transformation so dramatic from her usual mien that Blair couldn't help but smile. "Well, I'm a fairly well-known Westside surgeon, doncha know. I can't afford to look like the common rabble."

Blair cocked her finger, indicating that Kylie should come close. The doctor's soft hair brushed Blair's lips and she whispered, "How do you think it looks to not only be with the common rabble, but to sneak into their seats?"

The doctor leaned back and gave her companion a slightly baffled look. "Huh. I never thought of that." After a moment, Kylie snapped her fingers and said, "I could always claim that Nick made me do it. We share these tickets, you know."

"What's the deal with you and Nick? Not that you're not a charming companion, but wouldn't he rather bring a date to these events? He couldn't possibly find it hard to hook up."

Kylie started to nod, then her expression turned to one of outrage. "Hey! Are you implying that I can't get a date?"

Blair shrugged, smiling at the doctor. "You tell me."

"I could get a date if I had to," Kylie said. "I might have to call an escort service, but I could get one." Blair patted her leg, sympathizing at her obvious exaggeration. "But Nick's my best friend, and we both like to make sure we have a good time when we go to a play or a concert."

"You don't have to sell me on that idea. I coerced David into going to a few museums when we first started to date. I quickly decided it was more fun to go alone than to have him looking at his watch."

"Hmm … museums, plays, concerts. You're quite the aesthete, Ms. Spencer. How did you develop your appreciation of the arts?"

"My parents," Blair said. "Both of them love to spend the day at the Art Institute and they started taking me when I was barely able to walk. As for music, my dad plays the cello, so he helped me develop my musical tastes. My theatre jones comes from my mom. She's a dramaturge."

Kylie blinked, then shook her head and said, "I've met a lot of people in my life, but I've never, ever met the child of a dramaturge."

Blair smiled back at her. "I've never met anyone in L.A. who knew what a dramaturge was." Narrowing her eyes, she queried, "You do know, don't you? This isn't just one of those 'I'm a surgeon, and I can't admit to not knowing something' things, is it?"

Acting as though she was reading from a dictionary, Kylie cleared her throat and said, "A dramaturge might be responsible for any number of things in a theatrical setting. She might choose the productions, get the script in shape, translate a script from another language, and write notes on the production for the audience. The list can be endless, depending on the needs of the theatre company and her talents." Wrinkling her nose, she asked, "How'd I do?"

"Not bad," Blair decided. "Not bad at all. You get an 'A' as a matter of fact. So how did you develop your taste for culture? You're obviously not a poser."

"I came to it fairly late. I went to the U. of C.," she said, referring to the University of Chicago by the shorthand that a fellow Chicagoan would undoubtedly recognize, "and I had a very high-brow friend who I was dying to impress."

Blair's eyebrow lifted. "Impress?"

"Have sex with," Kylie corrected amiably. "Anyway, I threw myself into every possible artistic pursuit. We went to plays and the opera and the symphony. I read up on all of them just to impress her. Alas, she was always more interested in culture than she was in me. She had an affair with a grad student in the classics department and broke my little heart."

"Poor baby," Blair said.

"Nah. It was just as well. If she'd succumbed to my charms early on, I never would have taken the time to learn about drama and music. Her hotshot grad student didn't last half a term, but I've had a lifetime of pleasure from the things I learned."

"Ahh … so you knew you were gay in college. Is that when you figured it out?"

"A little earlier than that," Kylie said. "I was a senior in high school, just about to graduate, when it finally clicked for me. I was on a date with a guy that the entire female population of my school was hot for, but while we were making out, I kept angling him so I could get a good look at the woman being pawed in the back seat. I used that poor guy as a shield so I could fantasize about committing all sorts of lewd acts with her." She shrugged and said, "That's when my powers of denial were finally overcome."

"When did you finally … what's the term?" Blair asked.

"For what?"

"Don't be coy, Doc."

Blinking her eyes ingenuously, Kylie supplied, "Have sex?"

"No … I mean, yes," Blair said, shaking her head. "I'm not sure how lesbians refer to having sex for the first time. Do you call it losing your virginity?"

"If you do it right, you can," Kylie said, grinning wickedly. At Blair's quizzical look she said, "I'm just teasing. I've never heard it called losing your virginity." She looked puzzled and said, "Actually, I don't think we have a term for it. But whatever you call it, shortly after I decided I was gay, I was no longer a chaste woman."

"Please go on," Blair said, seeing that Kylie didn't mind opening up.

"I was a counselor at a science camp that summer, and I fell in love."

"No one who goes to science camp has sex, Doctor Mackenzie. You must be mistaken."

"No, no, I'm pretty sure it was sex. I took a course on sex in medical school, and I'm certain we met all of the requirements."

"Well, well, that's quite an accomplishment for a science nerd. How long did the romance last?" Blair asked.

"Until we both went to college in the fall. She didn't really want to be gay, so she tried to date guys. I lost track of her after that."

"So lesbian relationships don't have a better success rate than straight ones, huh?" Blair asked.

"Not if you use me as the example. My longest is three years."

Blair's expression showed her surprise at this revelation. "Huh … I never would have guessed that. Something about you says that you'd be a good partner."

Her even teeth gleamed brightly in the moonlight when Kylie smiled. "Why, thank you. I like to think I am. I just haven't found anyone who fits … ya know?"

"I do," Blair nodded. "If I hadn't met David when I was twenty-five, I'm sure I'd be single now."

"Don't remind me," Kylie moaned. "The older I get, the harder it is for me. I haven't had a date that means anything since I broke up with my ex, Stacey, two years ago."

"If you don't mind my asking, why did you break up?"

"I don't mind," Kylie said. "I suppose it was mostly because we didn't share the same goals. She was a fitness nut. She maintained a strict vegan diet — never touched alcohol or sugar, either. We went to Italy on a trip that I'd been looking forward to for years," she said. "I wanted to hit every art gallery, visit every notable church, eat as much as I could handle and make love until I was cross-eyed." She smirked wryly and said, "She wanted to make love, which was great, but she wanted it to be after hiking up the nearest peak. She honestly wanted to rent bikes and ride from one end of Italy to the other." Her eyes grew wide as she said, "That's why they have trains!

"We were sitting in a café one afternoon after I'd persuaded her to go to St. Peter's with me. I remember how antsy she was after doing nothing more energetic than looking at art and architecture all day. She was sipping her plain, steamed skim milk, while I was drinking this marvelous concoction of sparkling wine, peach nectar and fresh peaches, and it finally hit me. I didn't want to share the rest of my life with an ascetic! I wanted to be with a woman who wanted to experience life, not regulate it. I mean, she had a fantastic body, and that was because she worked at it so hard, but how does that fill your soul?" she asked. Shaking her head she said, "We broke up right after we got home."

"I'm so sorry to hear that," Blair said, her empathy showing in her eyes. "I hope you find someone, Kylie."

"I'm happy with my life. I love my work, I have great friends, a huge family with more nieces and nephews than I can count, and I have enough money to go to every cultural event that interests me. All that I don't get is sex." Shrugging, she added, "It's a trade off that I've been willing to make. I'd rather be celibate than give up the things that touch me emotionally."

"There has to be a smart, cute, cultured lesbian out there just waiting for you," Blair insisted.

"Well, the minute you find her, send her my way. There's a significant finder's fee involved."

"I can really hustle for the right commission," Blair said. "You'll be married by the end of the year."

"It's September. I don't like to rush into anything."

"Okay, then next year," Blair said, amending her offer. "You'll be happily married within fifteen months."

Extending their hands, Kylie and Blair shook on the deal.

"You can be my matron of honor. I hope you'll be pregnant and look just awful in the dress I make you wear."

 

G

 

"Bad news." Blair dropped her bag and collapsed into a chair.

"What's wrong?" David asked. He looked up from the magazine he was reading and gave his wife a quizzical look.

"I got my period," she said.

With a resigned sigh, he looked back to his magazine.

"No comment?" she asked, her hormones making her ready for a fight.

He put his magazine down and stared at their mantle, saying, "I don't want to argue."

The image in Blair's head was of David as a small child, crossing his arms and saying 'no' to his mother. Normally she didn't like to argue either, but she couldn't stop herself from responding. "About what?" she asked, her tone a little harsher than she'd intended.

He sighed again and shook his head, still not looking at her. "I'm not sure you're having orgasms."

"Pardon me?"

The tone of her voice showed that she was ready to take up arms, but he continued. "You don't act like you used to in bed. I've been thinking that you might be faking orgasms just to make me think you're trying to get pregnant."

She looked at him for a moment and felt all of the fight drain from her body. Wearily she said, "This isn't right, David. It's just not right." Leaning her head back, she muttered, "We don't even think of it as making love anymore. We're 'trying.'" She got up, walked over to his chair and sat on the arm. "I don't want to 'try' any more. I want to express my love for you, and that's what I want you to do, too. If we have a baby from that union, fine. But if we don't … then we don't!"

He took her hands in his, and she looked into his brown eyes. "I thought we'd agreed," he said quietly. "Don't you want children, Blair?"

"Yes," she said. "I do want children. I just don't care how we get them or who they look like or how old they are. I want a child to love and nurture, David — any child."

"I know that's true for you, but I don't feel that way. It really means something to me to have a baby that I'm related to. I know it's selfish." His eyes closed as he admitted it. "But I've got to be honest. Having a child of our own … is worth a lot."

She started to remind him that any child would be theirs, so long as they lavished their love on him or her, but she'd made the point many times before to no avail. She clambered onto his lap and rested her head upon his chest, then sighed and tucked her arms around him. "I know it is," she said. "We'll keep trying."

 

G

 

To reciprocate for Kylie's taking her to the Bowl, Blair offered tickets to a performance of the Kodo drummers at U.C.L.A. Kylie accepted enthusiastically, and they agreed to meet at Royce Hall on the following Sunday.

When she approached the building, Blair found Kylie sitting on a low wall, her head thrown back as she gazed up at the bright blue afternoon sky. "Contemplating your place in the universe?" she asked quietly.

The usual smile quickly took its place on the doctor's face. "A little. I was trying to remember back eighteen years to when I first set foot on this campus. It seems like a very, very long time ago."

"You went to school here?" Blair asked. "I assumed you stayed in Chicago for med school."

"Nope. U.C.L.A. has one of the top training programs, and quite frankly, I wanted to strike out on my own. I have two older brothers who are doctors, too, and I wanted to go someplace where no one had ever heard of the many Doctors Mackenzie."

"Makes sense." Blair nodded. "Is that why you stayed in L.A.?"

"Nope," she said, grinning. "Once I got here, I realized that I never wanted to hear the words 'lake effect snow' again."

"Amen!" Blair agreed.

 

G

 

Their ears were still ringing when they emerged from the auditorium. "That was intense!" Blair decided. "I really liked it, though."

"Oh, I did, too!" Kylie enthused. "Maybe I should get one of those to relieve stress."

Gazing at her curiously, Blair said, "Maybe it's just an act, but you don't seem like the type who stresses much. Do you?"

"Honestly? No. I've always been pretty easy going, and I wanted to make sure I stayed that way. That's why I chose the field I did."

"Being a surgeon is a low-stress job? Since when?"

"Hey, how about some ice cream? The student union's right over there."

"I'm game," Blair said.

They walked across the quad, and Kylie said, "I'm an odd mix. I'm very goal driven, and I love to challenge myself and win. But I'm also very placid emotionally. So I decided to do something where I had to be at my very best, but for a limited amount of time each day. The kind of surgery that I do is just perfect for my personality. The women and men I work with aren't ill. They have a functional problem that I believe I can correct. When I'm right, and the surgery works, they have the ability to have a baby." She grinned and said, "It's not strictly a matter of life and death, though in another sense, it is. I can help a woman to create life when she would have had no chance without intervention."

Blair mirrored her smile. "That must feel wonderful."

"It does. Now, granted, a lot of people never conceive. I fail much more often than I succeed, but I do my best to give my patients every possible chance."

"That means everything to some people, doesn't it?" Blair asked, her eyes clouding over with what Kylie thought was sadness.

"It does," she said. They reached the student union and wound through the halls to find the ice cream, then paused in deep concentration before determining their preferred flavors. Taking their cones, they went back outside to enjoy them. After taking a few long, slow swipes with her tongue, Kylie looked at her new friend and asked, "Having a child doesn't mean everything to you, does it, Blair?"

Her head shook, red-blonde hair flowing gently across her shoulders. "No, it doesn't. It does to David, though."

In a calm, non-judgmental tone, Kylie asked, "Do you want to have children at all?"

"Yes, very much so," Blair said, "but I'd be just as happy to adopt. David, for reasons I don't comprehend and he can't explain, doesn't feel that way, though. It means a lot to him to have the child be genetically related to both of us."

"That's not at all uncommon," Kylie said. "Of course, my sample self-selects for people who feel that's important."

"We took statistics at Northwestern, too," Blair said.

"Northwestern?" Kylie asked, eyes wide. "Maybe you shouldn't have a baby. That's the shallow end of the gene pool up in Evanston, you know."

"If you didn't have on such a pretty dress, I'd drop this cone in your lap," Blair said, wagging a finger. "And don't think I wouldn't."

"I don't doubt that in the least," Kylie said. Turning serious, she said, "How about talking to Nick?"

"About …?"

"I'm sure I mentioned he's a psychologist." Blair nodded, and Kylie continued, "He could help you with a referral so that you could get some of these things out in the open."

"I don't think so, Kylie. David's not a therapy fan."

"It can be very helpful, Blair. As a matter of fact, that's how I met Nick. I worked with a couple who'd been seeing him, and after I noticed how helpful he was, I started referring more and more patients to him. We finally met and hit it off right away." She paused a moment to catch up with her cone and added, "By the time people get to me, they've usually exhausted quite a few other options. It's a rare couple that doesn't have problems with their relationship somewhere along the way. Trying to overcome infertility can be very, very hard on a marriage and if you're not both equally committed, it makes it that much worse."

"I agree," she said, nodding energetically. "This is the first major thing that we can't seem to agree on. If we don't get pregnant, I'm sure he's going to want to have in vitro fertilization, and I'm not going to do that."

"You don't sound like you're willing to budge on that issue," Kylie said.

"I'm not," she said, her gaze assured. "There are too many things that can go wrong, there are too many side effects for me and the chance of success isn't high enough to risk it. Besides, it seems so self-involved to spend over $50,000 just to have a genetic copy of yourself. I can see that it makes sense for some couples, but not for us. We're young enough to adopt, and we should be able to get a child fairly soon, especially if we're not adamant about having an infant."

"I don't want to offer unwanted advice," Kylie said, "but I urge you to reach an accord about this before you get much deeper. I've seen women change their minds thirty seconds before the anesthesiologist starts to put them under. And believe me, that's not a fun talk to have with an anxious husband in the waiting room. Once it gets to a certain point, it's hard to pull back."

"I appreciate your advice, Kylie." She nudged her with her shoulder and said, "Once again, I'm glad you never got your scalpel-wielding hands on me. If you had, we couldn't be friends."

"That's only if I operate on you professionally," Kylie said. "If we're just goofing around in my rec room, nobody need be the wiser."

Giving her a warm smile, Blair said, "You have a very unique sense of humor."

"Pray that you never meet my entire family," she said. "I'm the most normal one in the whole bunch."

"It'd be interesting to hear your siblings' take on that point," Blair decided.

"Well, now that you mention it, they might see it the other way around," she allowed, grinning.

 

G

 

By Christmas, Blair and David were still practicing "well-timed intercourse," and both were beginning to give up hope. "It's been a year, honey," he reminded her when she got her period just before the new year. "You're thirty-five; I'm forty. I don't think we can wait any longer."

She was lying in bed, a heating pad under her back. She wasn't sure if it was psychological or physical, but her formerly mild cramps were now painful enough to knock her out for an entire day — reminding her on a monthly basis that she was, once again, not pregnant. "One more month," she begged. "This time let's give it our all. We'll wait four days before we have sex. I'll lie on my back with my hips elevated for an hour. I'll have two orgasms after you come, just to give the boys a boost."

"I know you must talk about this with your doctor buddy," he said. "What does she think our chances are?"

"Well, she hasn't offered an opinion on us, but she did say that if it hadn't happened after a year, the odds weren't good for its happening without assistance."

"I think it's time to see the gynecologist again, Blair. I think we should try a few rounds of artificial insemination."

She nodded, feeling sick to her stomach. "I'll call and make an appointment. It'll take a while to get in, so we can try the usual way in January." Rolling over onto her belly to try to ease the cramps, she let her worry have its voice. This is as far as you're willing to go. And that's why you're so afraid to take this step. If this doesn't work, it's either no children or adoption.

 

G

 

Blair got her period right on time in January, and after a few days of stalling, she called the doctor to make an appointment for an artificial insemination. "Let's see …" the receptionist said, "the doctor can see you at 8:00 a.m. on Friday. Your husband will have to be here early enough to provide a sample — so you can come anytime after 7:30 when we open."

"Can't he do that at home?" Blair asked.

"No, it has to be fresh."

"Oh, he's not going to like this," Blair said, imagining the argument that would ensue.

"No one does," the woman agreed. "Tell him that men come in here every week to do this. He's not gonna stand out in the crowd. We have magazines to look at, and you can be with him if that helps."

"Thanks," Blair said. She hung up, feeling the all-too-familiar knot in her stomach which accompanied every step down this slippery slope.

 

G

 

That night Blair made one of David's favorite dinners and plied him with Cabernet before she mentioned the matter. "Honey, I got us an appointment with the gynecologist for Friday morning. We're gonna see the doctor at 8:00, so we have to be there early enough for you to …" Her eyebrows twitched a little, and she looked pointedly at his lap.

His eyes closed for just a second, and she could see the tense set of his mouth. She was fully prepared for a laundry list of complaints, but he just said, "Right." David got up and poured another glass of wine, drank it without pause, then walked by her on the way to the bedroom. "I'm turning in. See you tomorrow." He gave her shoulder a quick squeeze, obviously a substitute for his usual kiss.

 

G

 

On Friday morning, Blair accompanied David into a small room at the gynecologist’s office. “Are you sure you want me here?” she asked. “I think I'd need privacy.”

“You’re not me,” he said, giving her a strained smile. Unzipping his slacks, he removed them, folded them neatly and then took off his boxers.

“You get undressed? I’d think you’d just —"

“Hey …. a guy’s got a routine. This isn’t the day to screw with it.”

“But your routine doesn’t usually include me,” she reminded him, sparing a teasing smile. “I thought all bets were off.”

“Are you gonna help me or not?”

“Of course. Name it.”

He looked around the room, seeing nothing but a table with some well-worn “men's” magazines and a molded plastic chair. “Maybe we should have gone to a sperm bank. They have videos." He was in a sour mood, and Blair could see how tense he was. He'd smoked four cigarettes in the car on the way over, and the doctor's office was only fifteen minutes away. "Well, I guess we should start kissing. That never hurts.”

It was difficult for either of them to find the atmosphere conducive to arousal, but Blair gave it her all. She wasn't fond of David's smoking, but the smell didn't normally bother her much when they were being intimate. Today, when the whole set-up was not only clinical, but contrived, the odor was all she could think of. Nonetheless, she kissed her husband lasciviously, trying to block out everything but his body and the softness of his lips.

David was the best kisser she'd ever experienced, and she let his technique help her to crank up the heat. Despite her best efforts, David's penis knew this was a command performance, and it was experiencing stage fright. After a long time, she pulled away, noting that very little was happening.

"Why don't you let me give you a hand, honey?" she asked, wrapping her fingers around him.

He shrugged his agreement, then looked around the room again. "I need lotion or lube."

She did a double take. "You do?"

"I'm a lube guy. Can't do it dry."

"Boy, we've been having sex for ten years, and I had no idea."

With a thin smile, he said, "I'm a man of mystery."

It was clear that David didn't want to chat, so Blair looked around for supplies, quickly seeing there were none to be had. "I'll go ask for some K-Y Jelly. They always have that in a gynecologist's office."

"No!" He grabbed her by the arm. "They'll know why you need it!"

"Uh-huh." She nodded slowly, not understanding his point.

"Everybody will know that I'm having trouble," he said in a stage whisper. "This is embarrassing enough!"

The knot in her stomach returned with a vengeance. Giving David a look that she hoped was filled with understanding, she went to her oversized bag and rooted through it for a moment. With a flourish, she pulled out a small bottle of hand lotion. "How's this?"

He took it and made a face. "Lavender? I'm gonna smell like lavender?"

This'll never work. Let's get it over with right now. Giving him as sexy a look as she could manage, she sat on the chair, grasped him again and pulled him to herself. Bending over a little, she heard him groan when she took him into her mouth. Her efforts were almost immediately rewarded, but she couldn’t stay focused. Her mind began to wander while she worked. Yes, son, your conception was a beautiful thing. I took your daddy into a room the size of a phone booth and blew him, he shot into a little cup and the doctor had all of the boys washed to get rid of the poor performers. Then she put a few million of your brothers and sisters into a long syringe and injected it all the way up into Mommy’s uterus. That’s past the vagina, son, through the cervix … up, up, up there. Then Mommy got to lie on a table with her hips elevated for an hour, just so your sweet little sperm self got to meet one of Mommy's eggs. It was so moving, son. True poetry.Not a dry eye in the place.

 

G

 

An hour later, the doctor came in and gave them the okay to leave. David had been reading some articles he’d brought, and Blair had been lying on her back, making calls to clients. She felt as emotionally invested in the whole procedure as she did when she had her teeth cleaned. When they got home, David was late for work, so he didn't bother going into the house. Blair kissed him on the cheek and said, "We'll forget all about this when we have our baby, honey. I guarantee it."

His mouth twitched, turning into a reasonably warm smile. "Thanks," he said. "I know this isn't how you want it."

"I want to have a baby with you, David. That's what I want. The details aren't important."

"You're being a damn good sport," he said. "You know, I've always had a little nurse fantasy. If we have to do this again, will you wear a uniform?"

"With a garter belt and a push-up bra if that trips your trigger."

His smile grew brighter, and he reached out of the window and gave her a one-armed hug. "Thanks. See you tonight."

 

G

 

As soon as Blair entered the house, she put in a call to her mother. “Mom?” she asked, when the phone at the office of the North Side Repertory Theatre was answered.

“Blair, I thought you might call today. Did you see the doctor yet, honey?”

“Yeah, we just finished. This is so strange, Mom,” she sighed. “Statistically, I have the best chance of getting pregnant that I’ve ever had. Within forty-eight hours, I might be carrying a child, but it feels so sterile and mechanical. This isn’t what I’ve dreamed of.”

“Oh, sweetheart, try not to feel that way. I guarantee that once you get pregnant, all of these details will fade right out of your mind. Don’t let the circumstances ruin this for you.”

“That's what I just told David," she said. “But I'm not sure I believe it. I just wish we could go back to making love.”

"Honey, there's no reason you can't. You can go back to normal. You can only be inseminated once a month, right? The worst that can happen is that you get pregnant by mistake."

Pausing a moment, Blair decided to be completely frank with her mother. “We don't normally talk about things like this, Mom, but would it upset you to hear some pretty personal details?"

"Well … no, honey, not if you need to talk about something."

"I do," Blair said. "I wish I didn't, but I do. The thing is … David doesn’t have much interest in making love any more. If we’re not doing it on a scheduled day, he doesn’t seem to care.”

“Is this a big change, honey?"

"Yeah. Very big. We're … we're as into each other as we were when we met, Mom. This really has me worried."

"Oh, honey, try not to worry so much. This is hard for you both. Don’t let the stress make you see things that aren’t there. David's a fine husband, and I know he’ll be a fine father, too. Once you get past this rough patch, I guarantee things will get back to normal.”

“I hope you’re right, Mom, 'cause I want a husband more than I want a baby.”

 

G

 

She didn't have a meeting scheduled until 11:00, so Blair sat down to read the paper and listen to Brahms’ Symphony Number 4,” hoping that it would calm her and improve her mood. The first movement had barely finished when the phone rang. "Hello?"

"Blair? It's Sadie."

Fuck me! I could kill David for telling his mother about this! She took a breath to hide the rancor that was starting to bubble up inside. "Hi, Sadie. How are things?"

"You're the one who has things to tell! So, tell!"

"Well, it wasn't fun, but it's over. Nothing out of the ordinary. Do you want me to have David call you?"

"No, you know how men are. He never tells me anything."

He tells you more than he should! "There really isn't much to say, Sadie. I'm sure you've been surfing the Web. It was just like the sites say."

"Did David have any trouble? I don't think Bruce could have performed in a doctor's office, God rest his soul."

Jesus! Why couldn't I have a mother-in-law who’d blush at the mere idea of her son kissing a girl? "No, David's very … versatile," she said, not quite knowing what adjective to use. "Everything went just fine."

"Are you lying down? The sites I read say you should lie down to make sure the sperm get to your uterus."

"Yes, I'm lying down," Blair said as she scooted around and dropped onto the couch. "I want to make sure this works, Sadie."

"This is very, very important, Blair. This is our last chance to continue the Hagopian line ¾ even if we can't continue the name."

Don't snap at her … you'll be paying for it for years. "But your sister Alice has a son. Michael's not even married yet. He can carry on the line, too."

The older woman's voice lowered into a conspiratorial whisper. "Don't tell anyone you know, but Michael's adopted. He's not Armenian."

"David never mentioned that," Blair said, ignoring the hurtful part of the message.

"Oh, he doesn't know. Alice and Lou didn't want anyone to know. Michael doesn't even know. They thought it'd be better for him if he thought he was really theirs."

Blair nearly bit through her lip to avoid lashing out at her mother-in-law's insensitivity. Even greater than her anger was an overwhelming sense of empathy for her husband. Oh, baby, I'm starting to understand why adopting is gonna be hard for you. I hope to God it doesn't come to that.

 

G

 

In early February, Kylie called Blair just after the blonde had learned that the artificial insemination hadn't worked. “David’s out of town this weekend, right?”

“Yeah, he is, but you still can’t come over and operate on me.”

“You're such a stick-in-the-mud,” Kylie said. “One day you’re gonna beg me to fillet you like a salmon, but it’s gonna be too late. I’m not gonna leave this offer open forever.”

“Did you want something other than to harass me? I’m busy not being pregnant right now.”

There was a fairly long silence, then Blair said, "Sorry. I don't mean to sound like a jerk. It just comes naturally."

"Hey, you're disappointed. I'd be pissed, too."

"Well, that still doesn't give me the right to snap at you. I don't know you well enough to let you see my evil side."

"No, and I don't think I want to," the doctor said, "so before Evil Blair comes out again, I'll get to the point. I want to buy a house, and I thought this weekend would be the perfect time to start looking.” She paused and asked, “You can still be my friend if we work together, can’t you?”

“If that’s what we are, I can,” she said, her joke sounding harsher than she'd intended. Trying hard to inject a happy timbre to her tone, she said, "We're good friends, Kylie, and I'd love to work with you. What do you have in mind? Another condo?”

“We just got the numbers from our accountants,” Kylie said, her excitement obvious. “We had a wonderful year, and I'm gonna buy a big-ass house! And since I am, by your description, a conspicuous consumer, I refuse to look at anything south of Montana.”

“Kylie,” she said, “I know you’re trying to cheer me up, but you don’t have to focus on the most expensive neighborhood in Santa Monica.”

“I love ya, Blair, but I’m not buying a house north of Montana to snag the Mother Teresa award. This is for me, baby! Me! Me! Me! You’re just along for the ride.”

“And the commission,” Blair reminded her.

“And the commission,” Kylie agreed.

 

G

 

On Sunday they spent over eight hours looking at every property that fit Kylie's geographic demands. But the pair decided that none of the listings were quite right for the doctor's needs. "I'm hungry and bored," Kylie said. "Let's have an early dinner."

"Okay. Wanna go out or eat in?"

"In. I wanna take off my shoes and relax."

"Done. "

They stopped at the market, and as soon as they got to Blair's place, Kylie said, "I volunteer to be in charge of everything that involves slicing, dicing or filleting.”

“You don’t have a scalpel on you, do you?”

Smiling, Kylie shrugged her shoulders and said, “As a matter of fact, I do. I’ve got a few in the bag in my car. But a chef’s knife works better on most vegetables.”

“Do you cook for yourself?” Blair asked while she organized the ingredients.

“Yep. I’m actually pretty good at it, too. I like to pamper myself with a great meal."

“I cook, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy it,” Blair said. “It’s more of a necessity than anything.”

“Then you just sit on that chair,” Kylie ordered. “Put your feet up and relax while I cook for you. Where’s your stereo?”

“You don’t have to do this,” Blair insisted, but Kylie guided her right back to the chair and held her in place until she sat.

“Doctor’s orders. Want a glass of wine?”

“I shouldn’t,” she grumbled. “I quit drinking over a year ago when we started trying to get pregnant.”

“A glass or two won’t hurt you,” Kylie said, “especially since you can’t be inseminated for a couple of weeks.”

“All right,” Blair agreed. “Set me up.”

“First, I need that music,” Kylie said. Blair pointed to the living room, and a few moments later heard the doctor comment, “Got enough CD’s of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? This must be their whole catalog!”

“It is,” Blair called back. “Part of the perks.”

“Of?” Kylie asked, popping her head around Blair’s shoulder, startling her.

“Of having your father be a member of the CSO,” she said. “He sends me a CD every time they put one out — which seems to be weekly.”

“You didn’t tell me your father was in the Chicago Symphony!” Kylie’s eyes were nearly bulging from her head.

“I’m sure I told you he was a cellist,” Blair insisted.

“I thought you meant he played the cello like I play the piano! You know, like in his spare time."

"Nope. He's a pro. He started playing when he was just a tyke."

"Damn! I’ve never known anyone connected to a major symphony orchestra. That’s so cool!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this excited about anything,” Blair said.

“It’s just so cool,” Kylie repeated. “You and I were probably both at a bunch of their performances when I was in college. I wish I’d known you then.”

“That would have been nice,” Blair said. “I never had anyone in my life who understood what music meant to me. I would’ve loved a friend I could’ve shared that with.”

Leaning over her slightly, Kylie gave her a warm hug, holding on for a few moments. “You have one now,” she said.

As Kylie pulled away, she squeezed Blair's shoulder, and the blonde realized that she'd quickly become comfortable with Kylie's affectionate nature. "You know, for a Chicagoan, you're pretty tactile. Have the Californians influenced you?"

"No, no, I love to touch." A slightly troubled expression crossed her face. "Doesn't bother you, does it?"

"Bother me? I've gotten used to hugging nearly everyone I meet. The guy who cuts my hair hugged me and kissed me the first time we met. I'm getting comfortable with being more affectionate. One more good thing about California," she said. "Lowers your physical barriers." Blair took a sip of her wine, savoring the bouquet. "Damn, I miss a good glass of wine. One of life's small pleasures." She brought the glass to her nose and inhaled deeply. "Nice, very nice."

"You sound like you're going to seduce that poor glass," Kylie said. "You've got that 'Do you come here often?' voice."

Blair nearly did a spit take with her wine, and her shoulders shook with laughter. "Oh, that's good," she said. "I haven't laughed in two days."

Concentrating on preparing the vegetables they'd bought, Kylie said, "Let's have a purely fun night ¾ nothing depressing or upsetting."

"Deal, Doc." Blair felt some of the tension start to leave her body while she watched the surgeon operate on a red pepper. Kylie's hands were sure and competent, moving with an effortless grace that was mesmerizing to watch. Blair was so enthralled that she barely heard her friend when she spoke. "Huh?"

"Dozing on me?"

"No, no, I was just watching your hands. You cook like a surgeon."

"Mmm … you ought to see me hem a pair of slacks. I could make a living as a tailor if my nerves ever go."

"I know you said something before, but I missed it."

"Oh. I was just wondering if you play an instrument. I'd think your father would have bought you a tiny cello when you were in diapers."

Blair shook her head, took another small sip of her wine and set the glass down on the marble counter. "No." She stretched, getting the kinks out of her back. "He wasn't that kind of dad. Neither of my parents pushed me to do anything that didn't capture my interest."

"You weren't interested?"

"I love music, Kylie, but I saw how professional musicians live. My dad’s been playing for over sixty years, but he still practices every day. He plays in a chamber music group, too, so he's working or practicing all the time. I decided that I wanted to appreciate music — not live for it."

"Huh." The doctor was quiet for a few minutes, her knife nearly a blur as she diced an onion. "I can see that. I always wonder what makes people choose their professions."

"That's easy for me," Blair said. "I thought I'd be a good salesperson, but I didn't want to sit in an office all day. Selling real estate is perfect for me. I'm my own boss, and I can make a lot of money if I'm willing to work hard."

"Seeing you in action today showed me that you're good at what you do," Kylie said. "You seem to enjoy it, too."

"I do. Oh, clients can be a pain in the ass, and every once in a while I want to commit homicide when a seller acts like he owns Versailles, but I really do like it."

"You know, people always complain about getting older, but it's so nice to feel confident and settled in your career. I really like the way my life is going — except for the celibacy thing," she added.

"Celibacy and I wouldn't get along," Blair said, laughing. "I love being married. I'm independent, but it's so nice to have a person to come home to at night, especially when he's ready and willing to have sex at the drop of a hat. Any hat. Any hat anywhere in the world. When a hat drops in China — "

“Got the picture!” Kylie said, laughing.

Blair shifted in her chair and set her glass down on the counter. She reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, a gesture Kylie had seen her make when something was troubling her. Quietly, Blair said, "That was the old David. Now he's much more interested in my basal body temperature than he is in the rest of the neighborhood."

"I understand," Kylie said. "But things will go back to normal."

Letting a thin smile show, Blair said, "I know I shouldn't complain. He's a great guy, and just the kind of guy that I need. It took me a while to find him, and I'm gonna keep him. Being married is good for me, even when things aren't going well. I hated dating. Ya know?"

"I do," Kylie said. "I'm sure I could have hooked up by now if I went on every blind date my friends try to arrange — but I hate spending the evening with a dud. I'd rather cook myself a nice dinner, put on something classical and read a book."

“You can wear something classical?”

“Oh, har dee har har,” Kylie moaned.

"How long has it been since you've had sex?" Blair asked. "'Cause you might have forgotten how much better it can be than a book."

Kylie looked at her and let her mouth slide into a slow smile. "Oh, I remember. Besides, I didn't say what kind of books I read."

"Ooo … bodice rippers?"

"No; no bodices in the things I read. I don't think I'd pick up a book that had Favio on the cover, anyway. I like tanned blondes, but I like them with breasts and a nice curve to their waists."

"Oh, right." Blair looked at her and said, "You know, sometimes I forget that you're a lesbian."

"Don't you dare forget that," Kylie said. "I want you to keep me in mind every time you meet a single woman. You don't mind asking every woman you meet if she'd like to hook up with a surgeon, do you?"

"Does she need to be a lesbian?"

"Mmm … no, but she'd better be at least bi-curious. I don't want to have to start from scratch."

"Got it," Blair said. "I'll keep my ear to the ground."

Kylie started to roughly chop some Roma tomatoes, and Blair noticed that she didn't seem to have the capacity to work and talk at the same time. She waited until the doctor finished and said, "You seem to enjoy doing this. I don't mean the cooking … I mean … doing something nice for me. I think you have a big heart, Kylie … Mackenzie. I was gonna use your middle name, but I don't know it."

The taller woman gave her an adorably shy smile, looking like she was going to say “Aw, shucks.” "I do like to do things for my friends. I'm not very self-absorbed, to be honest. I get a lot out of giving rather than taking. And, for the record, I don't have a middle name. My parents thought fourteen letters were enough for anyone." She cocked her head. "I don't know your full name. As a matter of fact, I've always been a bit surprised that you took David's last name. You seem like the type of woman who would want to keep her own."

"I would have," Blair said. "I was already starting to build a reputation when we married, but I think I would have changed my name no matter what David's was."

"Really? How bad was yours?"

"Bad. Very bad. Brace yourself … Schneidhorst."

Kylie snorted. "Schneidhorst? Really?"

"Yes. Blair Schneidhorst. Stop laughing, please. It wouldn't have been so bad if my parents had named me Helga or Elke. Then I'd just sound like a German national. But giving me a WASP name like Blair just ruined the flow."

Kylie was obviously at a loss for words. "God. Schneidhorst." Looking mildly frightened, she asked, "Do you have a middle name?"

"Yeah. It's nice, though. Anne."

"Blair Anne Schneidhorst. My parents would say you were over the reasonable letter allotment."

"No argument. I love David, but I might have married him just for the name."

"No one would have blamed you, Blair. No one at all."

 

G

 

After her third failed artificial insemination, Blair lay in bed, curled up in David’s arms. She’d been crying for a long while and had felt his tears on her cheek, merging with hers. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” she sobbed. “I'm so sorry.”

“Blair, it isn’t your fault,” he said. “You’re not the one with the defective sperm.”

“Your sperm isn’t defective,” she said, pulling away to focus. She wiped at her tears and said, “Please, David, can’t we drop the whole thing and go back to how it used to be? Every time makes me feel like a failure.”

“I’m the failure,” he said softly. “I didn’t tell you this, but I went back in and had them do another sperm count. It’s even lower than it was before. The doctor says it’s probably from stress, but I don’t know how to calm down!”

“Sweetheart,” she soothed, “this is starting to hurt our marriage. There's nothing wrong with either one of us, David. We just haven’t gotten pregnant yet. There’s no shame in that!”

“I want you to be inseminated with donor sperm,” he said quietly, not looking her in the eye.

“What?” Blair sat up. “Why would you want to try that so soon?”

“Because this isn’t going to work. I want to have a baby soon, and if we keep wasting time, it delays the whole timetable.”

“David, if we’re not going to use your sperm, there’s really no reason not to adopt!”

“Sure there is,” he said. “If the baby can’t be ours, I want it to at least be yours. I’m worried about taking a baby when we don’t know the mother, honey. What if she was using drugs or drinking or smoking? We’d have no way of knowing that. I want to do everything we can to make sure we have a healthy baby, and having you bear it will do that.”

“David, there aren't any guarantees. I know nothing about my biological father’s genetic profile. He might have been a drug-crazed psycho killer! Hell, knowing my birth mother, it's likely!”

“I know you don’t see it this way, Blair, but I want to be part of the entire process. I want to see your body change. I want to be there when you give birth. I can’t do that if we adopt. I’m really afraid that I’ll feel like a complete outsider if we don’t give birth to the child.”

“Can’t we try a few more cycles with your sperm?” she asked.

His head shook decisively. “I’d really rather not, honey. I know you’ll say that I shouldn’t feel this way, but I don’t want to have a child with my sperm. I’m afraid of how he'll turn out.”

She wrapped her arms around his shaking body and soothed him as best she could. “All right, David, all right. We’ll try it and see what happens.”

 

G

 

Since she knew her mother woke with the sun, Blair snuck out of bed at 4:00 a.m., not having slept more than twenty minutes at a time. After relating the events of the previous evening, Blair asked, “Do you think this is the right thing to do, Mom?”

“Honey, I can’t tell you that. This is your business.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” she said, sighing. “Maybe you should put Dad on; he’s never afraid to give me advice.”

“You never take it,” her mother reminded her. “That’s why it’s safe for him.”

Laughing softly, Blair said, “I wish I lived closer. I really need to see you.”

“I'd tell you to come home for a few days, but you need to be with David now.”

“I know,” she said. “This has been so hard on him, Mom. He honestly feels like less of a man just because I haven't gotten pregnant.”

“It’s your job to support him through this, Blair. This is a critical point in your marriage. You’ve got to let him know that you still rely on him.”

“I do,” she insisted. She ran her hand through her hair and said, “I hope I don’t live to regret this, but I’m going to go ahead and use donor sperm. There’s a part of me that believes he really needs to parent at this point in his life, and that he’ll resent me if he doesn't. Once the baby gets here, he might be able to put this all aside and just focus on what we have, rather than what he doesn’t have.”

“That’s the spirit, honey,” her mother urged. “I think you’re making the right decision.”

“You always say that after I make it,” Blair chided her. “Is that in the mother’s handbook?”

“It is. And I promise to send you a copy as soon as you get pregnant.”

 

G

Continued in Chapter 2

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