I woke up and stretched. There was that half a second when everything seemed alright with the world, until I remembered our specialist’s voice saying, ‘Many couples have very happy lives without children. It can make couples become closer.’
Dan and I had agreed to give IVF one more try. We did, and it did not work so that was that. We also agreed that we were not going to be one of those couples whose whole happiness depended on something they could not have.
I smelt the coffee Dan was making. He always pampered me on Sunday mornings. Was this how it was going to be? Would we grow closer? I didn’t think we could get any closer. We always knew what the other was thinking, we did not always need words. Sometimes Dan would hand me the thing I needed without saying anything. Was it a tiny bit of relief?
I’d visited my sister on Sunday. The house was strewn with toys – so many you barely noticed she hadn’t vacuumed for three weeks. The baby refused to sleep and both Sarah and Gareth looked permanently exhausted. I couldn’t remember the last time they had a night out, and I’d noticed the terse replies, the pursed lips, the irritating cracks widening into valleys. The two older boys scrapped all the time and the domestic atmosphere was riven with cries of, ‘Muuum . . . He hit me.’ ‘He started it!’ and the snappish response, ‘I don’t care who started it. You can both go to separate rooms . . .’ If this was the future denied us, then I reckoned we could definitely make coupledom work.
Dan appeared at the bedroom door, looking a little anxious. ‘I just looked in my diary and we booked that photographer’s appointment at 10. It’s 9:15 now.’
I’d completely forgotten! We’d booked a wedding anniversary portrait session at the old studio in the village. The morning went in to overdrive.
Hastily applying lipstick as we pulled up outside studio with a couple of minutes to spare, I noticed a child hanging about outside the door. He was of mixed race, about nine years old, and he grinned broadly as he approached us.
‘Spare a pound for the guy?’ he asked, cheekily.
‘But it’s only September,’ Dan challenged him. ‘Aren’t you a bit early?’ The boy scuffed at the ground with one shoe, twisting his hips as he tried to come up with a response. ‘And where’s your guy?’ Dan added.
‘That’s what the pound’s for,’ the boy said, finding the answer to his dilemma in Dan’s words.
His skin was beautiful, golden and smooth, and his dark eyes shone with the confidence of youth. Dan grinned back at him. ‘Maybe later,’ he said as he pushed the studio door open.
‘I see you’ve met my grandson.’ The photographer was smiling as he held out his hand in greeting. ‘Did he try his “penny for the guy” con on you?’
Fearing that Dan was going to mention the inflation in the boy’s demand, I spoke. ‘He’s a cheeky boy, that’s for sure. Is he staying with you?’
‘No. He’s my . . . well, my ward, I suppose. His parents died when he was very little and my wife and I took him in. But she died earlier this year and he’s a bit too much of a handful for me, as you can tell.’
I looked at Dan: his face bore the same expression as mine but neither of us dared to speak, yet . . .