“She gave herself to a bomb in the hope of having a child. And when she took a DNA test, she was shocked to find out who the father was. Alice turned off her work computer and looked at her watch. It was almost eight in the evening, and she did not want to go home at all. There was a burning desire to get back to work, to sit here until midnight, and go home when her husband would sleep.
But remembering that she had done this once before and then strongly regretted it, she got to sleep only about three o’clock in the morning. She had to wake up at six o’clock, and the next day she felt like a wreck, unable to get any work done.
There was another option of not going home, to go to her parents’ house for the night. But even there, the questions would begin: Why are you here? What happened? What did Alex do to you? No, those were questions she did not want to answer in any case. Then followed the moralizing from the wise and live-together-happily-long parents who know this life better than their stupid and inexperienced daughter.
Alice touched the photo frame next to the computer monitor. In the photo, she and her husband were looking at each other with smiles on their faces. It was the wedding day that seemed magical to Alice, the happiest and most promising day of her life.
How many years had it been since that day? Only five, and it feels like decades of life together with Alex behind her. There’s also a slowly growing mountain of mutual misunderstanding, recriminations, arguments, examinations, and recriminations, and arguments again.
On the phone, Kim, a message from a friend. “Let’s go to a cafe. I have news.” Alice sighed, thinking about what news Emily might have for her. Probably a new car given to her by her married suitor, or maybe news about a new rich and married suitor who could now give not only a car but also an apartment.
Nevertheless, Alice accepted her friend’s offer. She just terribly did not want to go back to Alex, to an empty, filled with cold silence, complete ignoring of each other. And silence was probably worse than fighting and shouting. It hurts worse than breaking expensive dishes and insults rolled at each other. This was not the life the smiling bride had dreamed of five years ago.
Alice got in the car. It took her about 40 minutes to get to the cafe without any traffic. Of course, all the normal people who finished work at 6 PM had long been home, and only such lonely, unwanted ladies were wandering around the city, looking for reasons not to go home. Emily was already sitting in the cafe, and Alice noticed her car near the entrance. So it’s not about the new car, it’s about something else.
Emily waved her hand and shouted the name that made Alice cringe. Sometimes she was terribly annoyed by her friend’s excessive emotionality, though her suitors probably liked that very zest in her. After all, it was often confused with passion, brightness, crazy and memorable relationships.
“Sit down, my friend. I already ordered you a cappuccino and eclairs, just the way you like it,” said Emily.
“Thank you, darling. I’ll drink coffee, but eating sweets at nine o’clock at night is too much,” responded Alice.
“Your figure is not spoiled,” snorted her friend. All her life jealous of slimness Alice, while Emily herself is forever experimenting with diets and starvation and fitness training. “Eat, come on, sweets love your spirits. What makes you think I’m in a bad mood?”
“Yes, I can see by your face, sour as a lemon,” Emily responded, sipping coffee from the cup.
“And what am I going to tell you now will not improve it?” Alice shrugged, and the waiter took her order. The cappuccino was delicious, and Alice felt a little better.
“What was Emily’s news?” Well then, tell me, why did you bring me to the cafe in the middle of the work week?”
Emily looked intently at Alice and silently turned away, looking out the window. Emily, I do not like your behavior,” Alice felt that the news that she wanted to tell her friend was not pleasant.
“Well, my friend, the other day I saw your Alex with another woman,” Alice pushed aside her cup of coffee, now also looked out the window. She shrugged. “So it’s a crime to see a man in the company of a woman?”
“If only it were that simple, Alice. They weren’t just driving together or walking down the street. They weren’t even sitting in a cafe. They were kissing on a park bench, and they were doing it quite passionately and for a long time. He didn’t even notice me, so oblivious to the sensations,” Alice bit her lip.
“What news? Her husband making out in the park with another woman, where hundreds of familiar eyes can see him. Apparently, there’s quite a serious relationship there if Alex allows himself to do such a thing. He is quite reserved in his own right, and it is almost unreal to ask him to show any tenderness or caresses in front of people,” the coffee seemed tasteless, and the eclair made her nauseous.
“Thanks for the information, dear,” Alice said, trying to keep her voice from trembling, though she was trembling with resentment and rage inside. “I guess this is the logical conclusion to our not very pleasant relationship. Things haven’t been going well for you a long time, have they?”
Emily responded, putting her hand on her friend’s arm in a show of support. “He just acted like a common wimp, found an outlet, and at the same time, family problems.”
Emily, our problems are not solvable in principle. You know that our marriage was doomed from the day the doctor announced Alex’s diagnosis,” Alice said.
“But many families don’t have children,” Emily stood up for Alex. “I’m not even sure I want to have kids.”
“That’s your opinion, and I’m sure that I want children. You’re obsessing over it, and you’re obsessing over your man. That’s why he’s trying to somehow rehabilitate himself in the eyes of other women as a man,” Emily’s words sounded like an excuse for Alice’s husband, caught by this same friend in an unambiguous situation.
“Somehow, everything turns again towards the fact that everything is Alice’s own fault. How tired she is of living with this perpetual sense that she is bad and Alex is good. He who promised her a large family, proposing even though he already knew that he could not have children, and then had an affair on the side. He’s the good one, Alice is the bad one,” she thought.
“Stop making excuses for him. I’m tired of living with an angel in the flesh and being a creature in the eyes of others. And I hurt him, and I don’t appreciate him. So all negative, and he’s just a perfect man,” Alice got up from the table and picked up her purse.
“Will you tell him?” Emily asked.
“I don’t know yet. I need to think. It takes me about 30 minutes to get home. During this time, I’ll come to my senses and solve everything. I’ll pay the bill, you can go,” Emily was sympathetic to the words of Alice. “The main thing is not to make hasty decisions; they usually turn out to be a mistake,” Alice said nothing, nodded silently, and left the cafe.
Behind the wheel, she lowered her head and thought. She felt no desire to cry; probably, somewhere inside her, she even felt a sense of relief that everything had been solved like that. Weak, spineless Alex could not admit to her that he was having an affair on the side. After all, they had been living in a state of war for a year now, which bored both of them, and he had such a chance to make things right with just one confession.
Alice started the car and drove down the dark streets. She remembered how she had met Alex, how he courted her, how glad she was to have met a man who understood her. Half-heartedly, it had been more than seven years since they had met then.
Alice was a young, energetic, and confident career woman of 25, strictly following her plan: make a career first and then think about family. She was confident that the plan would come to fruition. She brushed off all men, just taking advantage of them and realizing that it was too soon to get married. First, she had to get to the position of manager, well, or at least to the position of Deputy Manager of a huge hotel complex generating enormous revenues. But then, Alex came into her life.
He was the simplest, no different from any other man. He simply made Alice lose her head from his words and actions. He was the one who brought her lunches when she was working in time-out mode. He was the one who took her to Bali for New Year’s Eve when she got off work and complained about how much she didn’t want to celebrate New Year’s at home. And he also promised her that they would have a big and strong family, which would get bigger and bigger every year.
“I’m just crazy about having a big family,” Alice confessed to him. “My parents have lived happily for more than 40 years. They have three children, two grandchildren, and looking at them, I see exactly the ideal family that I need.”
“And what about your career?” Alex laughed. “The hell with it. I got to the position of Head of Foreign Guest Services. That’s enough. I want peace, not work in the mode of running around the clock in a squirrel’s wheel.”
Then Alex proposed to Alice, and she immediately accepted because only with him, she suddenly felt really happy and a real woman. “Just let’s wait with children for a couple of years,” said Alex. “When I get to the position of Head of Operations, we’ll start a family.”
Alex laughed for five minutes, and Alice looked at him incomprehensively, struggling with her own laughter. “You are incorrigible,” she finally uttered.
Two years later, when Alice was already a Deputy Manager, as required by her plan, she turned to her husband with a reminder that it was time to have children. Even then, she noticed a glimpse of her husband’s face, a look of either panic or fright. But she thought it was a standard male reaction to serious events in a man’s life.
Attempts to get pregnant lasted a year, after which Alice’s doctor recommended that both spouses be examined. Alex objected, but Alice was unbreakable. “Either we get a checkup, or we stop trying and end up getting divorced.”
Alex humbly passed the examination, and the results stunned Alice. The doctor, who was looking at the results of the tests of both spouses, shook his head, bit his lip inside, which led Alice to think that all is lost on the female side.
“All is fine, Alice. You’re a healthy, fertile lady, which is at the peak of its fertility. And here, Alex…” Alice looked at her husband, who was sitting next to her with a green face. He looked like a wax figure from a museum because both the color of his face and his stillness said only that her husband was preparing to hear the terrible truth.
“Your cells are emotionless. That is, the probability that your wife could get pregnant from you is roughly zero. As you can see, there’s practically no chance. So I suggest you consider the options of pregnancy through IVF or the option of adopting a child,” the doctor explained.
Alice went cold. Her husband, with whom they wanted to have at least three children, could not have them in principle. When they walked out of the doctor’s office, their exit was done in utter silence. Alice, for some reason, turned to her husband with a question.
“You were married before me, and you didn’t have children either. You did not care about that?” Alex indefinitely shrugged his shoulders. “Now, really, we were young and did not want to have children.”
“And why did you divorce?” Alice asked for the first time in many years of knowing Alex. Never once had she dared to ask her husband about it, considering it a personal question that did not require her attention because she had found someone else. But this answer did not satisfy Alice.
She found Alex’s ex-wife on social media, who had been living in another country with her foreign husband for several years and had two children. Lily, which was the name of Alex’s first wife, did not take long to answer, neither did Alice herself, who, after a greeting and a few polite words, asked what the reason for their separation was.
In fact, Lily left Alex for another man, but not because she was bad, not because she betrayed or cheated, but because her husband was infertile. And Alex had known this since the very first time he was married, that is, for more than 10 years. He has promised to Alice of a large, strong family was nothing more than an empty phrase, just a throwaway phrase with no meaning whatsoever.
Since then, Alice’s attitude towards her husband had changed. She saw him as a real traitor, though she did not tell him about it, as she did not talk about the fact that she communicated with his ex-wife and learned the truth about his infertility without his knowledge. Inside herself, Alice felt the dirt and blackness that had built up toward her loving and beloved husband over the years.
It followed, and now, sitting in the car outside the house where Alex was waiting for her or maybe not waiting at all, Alice made the decision that it was time for a real separation. Alice entered the apartment and saw her husband sitting in the living room in front of the TV. He was silent, so was she, and this game of silence had been going on for days since their last quarrel.
In general, all the quarrels lately were silly and far-fetched. Their causes were the stupidest, trivial things that led to the same result: clarification of relationships that reached a dead end. But today, Alice broke the silence.
“I went out with Emily today,” Alex turned his gaze to his wife and looked at her in surprise. In his eyes read the question, “Is this a reason to break the proud silence?”
“A meeting with a friend,” Alex was silent, and Alice continued, “She saw you with another woman in the park. You kissed her passionately, letting everyone around you know that she is the limit of your dreams. What do you have to say to that?”
That’s what you’ve brought the conversation up to, right? Like all of our last conversations, ending the same way?” Alice nodded, gritting her teeth.
Alex didn’t even try to justify himself or explain himself. He just went to pack his things. That evening, he left, and Alice did not ask where he was going or for how long. She just saw her husband off and closed the door behind him. It was only after he left that she let the tears flow.
The first to know that Alex had left home were Alice’s parents. She went to them the first weekend and listened to her mother’s lectures for a long time. “It’s your choice, Alice. It’s not Alex’s fault that he can’t have children. It’s genetics, nature. What can you do?”
“Mom, but he could have told me this before he proposed to me. I told him explicitly that I wanted kids,” Alice replied.
Her mother nodded sympathetically. “He loves you, that’s why he’s trying to keep what you’re destroying. You should have tried IVF. I know tons of people who have had babies this way. You’re not the only unfortunate, childless one. You’re not even 40 years old yet, and you’re whining like a teenager.”
“Mom, what does this have to do with IVF? He cheated on me, he betrayed me. That’s it. The matter is closed,” Alice’s voice trembled with a mix of anger and sadness.
Her mother fell silent, and so did her father, who pretended to read the newspaper. Alice came to the conclusion that she was left without a husband and the possibility to have a baby. But at the age of approaching 40, if she tried donor cells, if she tried IVF, it would take a long time. Alice felt so alone, so abandoned, so needy.
“Get pregnant for yourself,” Emily suggested. “Otherwise, your constant thinking will drive you crazy. Find a man and just get pregnant.”
Alice’s eyes widened. “Well, where would I find such a man, ready to make me children?”
“Let’s go to the club on the weekend. There are a lot of people who want a quick and non-committal connection,” Emily suggested.
“But it’s dangerous to my health,” Alice denied, though she had already made up her mind inside that she had to try. She had no time to build a new family, to persuade a new husband who might be infertile again.
The next weekend, Alice was at a club with Emily. Her gaze fell on a young man devouring her with his eyes. A couple of cocktails, then a dance, and a few hours later, the stranger was at Alice’s house.
Waking up in the morning with a terrible headache, Alice turned her gaze to the young man lying next to her. “What’s your name?” Alice asked, wrinkling her forehead with a nagging pain.
“Lewis. Can I stay with you?” the boy responded carefully.
Alice looked at him. Yesterday, in the nightclub, he seemed older, and now he looked no more than 20. “What is it? Is this a hotel or something? Actually, how old are you?”
The guy, wearing only his underwear, continued to smile cheerfully. “I’m 22, and you must be about 40.”
Alice threw a pillow at him. “Get out of my house!”
The guy threw up his hands. “I have nowhere to go. I don’t have a home. My parents threw me out on the street a week ago, so I’m hanging around chicks’ houses.”
Alice grabbed her head, thinking about what a mistake she had made, grudging herself for such stupidity. She was angry and wanted to take her anger out on someone else, so she dialed Alex’s number.
“When are you going to pick up the rest of your things? They’re bothering me. Come on, I’m coming in a couple of days and take everything out,” she said.
“Okay,” Alex answered and hung up.
Alice was angry at herself, realizing that she had violated not only her life plan but all the boundaries of decency. She was depressed at the thought that now she was sleeping with unknown men in an attempt to get pregnant, while Alex had arranged his life well.
He arrived the next day, dry and business-like. Alice felt a longing growing in her heart. She did not want to admit to herself that she didn’t want him to leave. “Do you live with someone?” she asked Alex.
“No, I live with my mother. It’s strange she hasn’t called me. She doesn’t know that we broke up. I told her we had a fight,” Alex replied.
“Oh, you’re lying to your mother too?” Alice couldn’t help but say.
“Enough! I’m tired of you. I’m tired of you yelling, I’m tired of you reproaching me. I’m just tired of you. Let me go in peace,” Alex said, approaching his wife.
“Do not even kiss me goodbye,” Alice said, tears welling up in her eyes.
Alex begged for a farewell night as well. In the morning, he left, taking his things. Alice was left standing there with a mix of emotions, not understanding how everything had come to this.
Two weeks later, a pregnancy test showed two stripes. Looking at them, Alice, for some reason, had no feeling of joy or satisfaction. She was in a panic because she realized that she had achieved what she wanted. Did she want to get it this way? Who’s the father?” Emily asked when she came to see Alice and saw the two stripes on the test.
“Some bum from the club,” Alice replied. “Why a bum? Bums don’t go to clubs.”
“Because he said his parents kicked him out, so he sleeps over at one girl’s and another one’s. Oh, it’s Lewis, the migratory bird,” Alice said.
“Yeah, he called himself Lewis and said I was going through menopause,” Emily laughed. “He’s always making fun of girls. He takes girls out for drinks, sleeps over, and somebody pays him money for that. In short, he has as much fun as he can. His parents live in the country, and here he rents a room from an acquaintance of mine. While he’s young and handsome, he takes advantage of it.”
“How low I fell,” Alice sighed, feeling a mix of embarrassment and regret.
But Emily reassured her, “But you will have a long-awaited child. Will you tell that to Lewis?”
Alice waved her hands. “No, no way. I myself will give birth and raise men from now on. Lewis has no place in my life.”
Alice’s parents were sympathetic to her pregnancy because she said she had undergone IVF. Her mother lamented that Alice would have to raise the child alone. “Alex would have been a wonderful father.”
“Mom, let’s close the subject and not return to it,” Alice said firmly. She had already made up her mind that she was going to stay with Alex.
But anyway, when she received the cherished paper with the result, Alice’s hands trembled. She opened the result and did not immediately understand what it said. “With a probability of 99.9 percent, Alex…”
“I don’t understand. What does it say?” Alice asked, shocked.
“It says I’m the father of the child,” Alex replied, but how could this happen?” Alice asked, bewildered.
The doctor said, “With a 99.9 percent probability, the test results indicate that Alex is the biological father of the child.”
Alice felt a rush of conflicting emotions. She couldn’t comprehend how this could be possible after being told that Alex was infertile. The doctor explained that while the chances were extremely slim, there was still a small possibility of conception.
Shaken by the revelation, Alice’s mind raced with questions and doubts. She wondered if the test was accurate or if there had been a mistake. Deep down, though, a part of her wanted the results to be true. She wanted Alex to be the father of her child, despite everything that had happened between them.
With a mix of trepidation and hope, Alice reached out to Alex, informing him about the test results. He was stunned, just as she had been. They decided to meet and discuss the situation in person.
When they met, their emotions were a whirlwind of confusion, anger, and longing. Alex admitted that he had been devastated by his infertility diagnosis and didn’t know how to face the truth or share it with Alice. He had been torn between his love for her and his own insecurities.
Both Alice and Alex realized that their communication had broken down over the years. They had been living in a constant state of resentment and blame, never truly addressing their underlying issues. Now, faced with the possibility of parenthood together, they couldn’t ignore the need to confront their past and rebuild their relationship.
They decided to seek couples therapy, hoping to mend the fractures in their marriage and find a way forward. Through therapy, they explored their fears, insecurities, and the misunderstandings that had driven them apart.
As the therapy sessions progressed, Alice and Alex discovered that they still loved each other deeply. They acknowledged their mistakes and committed to rebuilding trust and open communication. They realized that their desire to have children had blinded them to the importance of nurturing their relationship.
With time, patience, and a renewed sense of purpose, Alice and Alex began to heal their wounds and rebuild their lives together. They embraced the impending arrival of their child as an opportunity for growth and a fresh start.
During Alice’s pregnancy, they created a supportive and loving environment for each other. They attended parenting classes, read books together, and prepared for the arrival of their daughter, Mary. They immersed themselves in the joy and anticipation of becoming parents, cherishing every moment of this precious time.
When Mary was born, both Alice and Alex experienced an overwhelming surge of love and gratitude. Holding their daughter in their arms, they marveled at the miracle of life and the newfound unity they had found in their journey.
Together, they embraced the challenges and joys of parenthood. They learned to navigate the ups and downs, supporting each other through sleepless nights, diaper changes, and endless baby giggles. The presence of their daughter brought them closer than ever before, reminding them of the depth of their love and their shared dreams.
As the years passed, Alice and Alex continued to work on their relationship, prioritizing open communication and maintaining a strong foundation of trust. They celebrated milestones together, treasuring the family they had created.
Their journey taught them that love, forgiveness, and understanding can overcome even the most challenging circumstances. They realized that the path to happiness and fulfillment lies not in perfection, but in embracing imperfections and growing together.
And so, Alice, Alex, and Mary embarked on a new chapter of their lives, filled with love, resilience, and the shared joy of being a family.
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