I just sit and stare at the two scariest things in my life right now, absently playing a beat on my cajon drum. On the left is the engagement ring I purchased for my unbelievably amazing girlfriend, on the right is my treatment plan for this new goddamn mystery illness that I have just discovered.
Four weeks ago, before Delphine, the aforementioned amazing girlfriend, had to leave for a business trip I had made up my mind. I would marry this woman. I think that she was thinking the same as we were planning our future lives on a romantic getaway, how many kids we wanted, agreeing on two, so we could each carry one, the idea of living in the suburbs versus the city, and so on. I was ready to take on whole Goddamn world with her.
Days later she left, for a six week world wide trip of DYAD facilities and I enlisted my adopted siblings, Sarah and Felix, to help find the perfect ring. They were less than helpful, but I wanted them to see that my cocky claim four years earlier of meeting my future wife over a microscope in my lab at work was going to be a reality. It was going to be official. Delphine was going to be mine for the rest of my life and I would be hers.
Two weeks ago, I went in for my mandatory yearly physical exam and the shear bliss that I was imagining for myself started to implode. The doctor heard a wheeze, and apparently not a normal wheeze. The perks of working in a world class medical research company meant that I was ushered to another room and prepped for an X-Ray then CT scan. By the end of the day, I had been told that I have polyps in a small portion of my left lung and plans were being made for a biopsy.
I should have called Delphine that day, I should have laid my heart bare, beg her to come home and support me, but I didn’t. I got scared, not for my health, but with the thought of scaring Delphine away. Will this new diagnosis change our plans for a life together? Will she run, afraid to take care of me with this unknown illness? Would the rest of my life with her be so much shorter than I had planned?
Last week, the biopsy had come back as benign, which of course was a huge relief, but I still had not told Delphine about any of it. Now, because I left it so long, I had no idea how to bring it up.
Our daily FaceTime conversations revolve around her excitement at being in a new city every few days, the advancements in that particular lab, and how much she misses me and wishes that I was with her. I try to be as enthusiastic as I normally am, and of course reassuring her that I miss her more than she will ever know. That always makes her smile and we usually end by counting down the days that we will see each other again.
As I speak to the doctors and plan how we will tackle things, I find myself cursing not knowing my family history. Is this genetic, did my mom have this? Did it kill my dad? Did it spontaneously go into remission?
Then it hit me, I don’t want to pass this on to my child. I won’t allow it.
Dr Nealon goes on and on about stem cells and possible surgical procedures that may be in my future, he didn’t notice the sadness that overtook me. Or maybe he did and thought I’m overwhelmed by all medical jargon that he is using (cause he’s an arrogant asshat like that). I think of the plan for two babies in my future, one that is to be carried by Delphine, and one to be carried by me. I found myself crying and sobbing, unable to pull myself together. Dr Nealon reminded me that the prognosis is quite good, that we have caught this early enough that we can monitor everything. I continued to sob and morn the child that I will never carry.
So now I sit here in our spare bedroom, turned music room, sitting on this damn drum staring at this ring that promises me the world, and this report, which has the potential to take it all away.
One week of preparation and the injection of experimental, genetically modified stem cells into those polyps. I can’t say that I feel better or worse than I did before this little discovery. I won’t know if the polyps are shrinking for at least a month according to my treatment plan, but I should be expecting blood to be coughed up, joy.....
I manage to space out so far that I am surprised when I hear my favourite voice behind me. “Cherie, I am supposed to be the moody European, you are supposed to be the....” Her voice trails off and I realize that she has seen the open box that holds the ring. Fuck, I was expecting at least another two weeks. As happy as I am to see her, I am not prepared to talk about everything that has happened in her absence. How the hell did she sneak up on me?
Without thinking I am on my feet and move to kiss her, my momentum pushes her against the doorframe. She responds, but I can feel her mind working, the battle of wanting to kiss me back versus trying to figure out what that little box means.
“You’re home early,” I mumble into her lips, trying not to break contact. Trying to delay the inevitable conversation. Delphine pulls back to look at my face, a genuine smile on her face as she looks at me. I can feel my eyes tearing up.
“ There was a small earthquake off the coast off Japan last week that resulted in some minor damage to the facilities there, and held up a few of the projects that I was to check in on, so it was decided that I would delay my trip there for a few more weeks,” she smiles at me. “ Are you alright, mon amour?”
An awkward laugh escapes my lips. I try to look away and mumble not really at her. She grabs my chin and guides me to look back at her, a gesture that usually makes me weak in the knees but this time is different kind of weakness and I feel the first tear fall. I take a deep breath and give her a quick kiss.
“Delphine, we need to talk,” I try to keep my voice light, to keep her from thinking that I want to have the scary we need to have a break kind of a talk. She bites her lip and weighs out how to reply.
“Will I be happy to have this talk?” She whispers and my heart breaks a bit with the unusual uncertainty in her voice.
“I doubt you will be happy with parts of it, other parts have the potential to make you happy,” I reply and look away. I’m surprised when suddenly she switches our positions with my back to the doorframe and is kissing me hard, her need to be in control takes over. It feels like she is trying to reclaim her possession of my heart, trying to tell me she loves me with this kiss. I let myself give into her demanding mouth. I have no idea what she is actually thinking, but I try to reassure her though the kiss. Convey that she hasn’t lost me. That she could never loose me.
When we finally part we both whisper I love you, though she goes with her native tongue, sending chills down my spine and all I want to do is take her to our bedroom and forget about the polyps in my lungs, but I can’t.
“Go have a shower and get into comfy clothes, babe. I’ll get wine and then I’ll tell you about what I’ve been up to while you where gone.” I grab a quick kiss again and send her out of the room. I gather the ring putting it in my hoodie’s pocket and the report tucking it under my arm and wander to the kitchen.
I start the kettle for me, as badly as I want to take several swigs from Fe’s stash of Jack Daniels in the cupboard, I need a clear head. I putter around, get Delphine a glass of wine and wait for her on the couch in the living room and try to pull myself together, plan what I am going to say.
I’m not sure how long I am in my little stress induced trance before Delphine emerges from the bedroom, wrapped in my fluffy bathrobe and linen pants. She looks tired and unsure, a very strange sight on her, but not totally unexpected. I hate that my inability to communicate is the cause. She settles beside me folding a leg under her and looks me in eyes. I blink away a few tears and lean in to give her a chaste kiss. I cradle her face with my hand as I pull away and sigh. No turning back now.
“ Delphine, I’m sorry that I have you stressed out, I love you, but I’m not sure how much you are gonna like me after this talk.”
“ No, let me speak. I haven’t done anything wrong, at least in the I am a terrible person kinda way. I’m just terrible at communicating....” I let out a sigh.
“ I’m pretty sure you saw that ring, and I know that you are smart enough to put together what that means. I’m so in love with you and I want to marry you. I don't want to be without you. Ever. Like, right after you left my search began for that ring and I was plotting some cheesy not-romantic proposal.” I reach into my pocket and pull out the little velvet box, “Once this ring was found and I had settled on what I was gonna do to make it all official, I found out that I had some weird growths in my lungs. I should have told you, but I couldn’t. I was worried that you would....” I trail off, she reaches for my hand to silently encourage me to continue. “ Actually, I don’t know what I was worried about, but I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t know how to...” I see a sad smile cross her lips, and the moisture in her eyes begins to fall, leaving little streaks on her cheeks.
“ I’ve started my treatments, and I can’t say that I have seen any change at all, but apparently, my prognosis is really good, I should be able to beat whatever this is.” I can feel myself rambling, I glance at the folder with my treatment plan and then I keep going. “ As this has all unfolded, I realized how important you are to me. I also realized that because I have no idea about my family history, I don't think I can be the mother to a baby. I can’t pass whatever this is on. I can’t run the risk.” And I finally break the fuck down, sobbing again. Delphine gathers me into her arms, reclines on the couch, pulling me with her and starts whispering in my ear, giving me gentle kisses, rubbing my back and soothing me as best she can.
God, this woman is amazing.
Eventually, I kiss her collarbone to tell her I’m settled enough to have our talk continue, but I can't make myself look at her face. I stay tucked under her chin as she speaks.
“Cherie, I love you. You know you can tell me anything so I don’t know why you are being so silly about not telling me. I do wish you had told me sooner, but I’m not angry with you. I am, however, worried. I have a feeling that if I open up that folder I will be reading the same file that was sent to me with an urgent notice for approval of treatment with the patient’s name redacted. I remember taking note of the patient’s height and weight, and how close to yours they were. Every call I started taking better note of your overall appearance as an indication to your health.” She pauses to kiss the top of my head. “ And ring or no ring, I am with you forever. I wouldn’t have spoken to you about the possibility of children if I wasn’t prepared to have you in my life for the rest of my days. As for you not being a mother, there are more ways to be a mother than carrying a child, as long as you still want to have children we will have children and you will be their mother, or mom, or mama.”
I grip her tightly as I feel my throat tighten and my eyes get that blurry with tears, I fell myself nodding dumbly. How have I gotten so lucky, this woman is absolutely amazing. She continues to rub my back and we sit in silence for a few minutes before I finally gather the courage to look at her. The concern on her face is clear, but she pulls me in for what might be the most gentle kiss that we have ever shared.
“God, I love you so much Delphine. You are amazing.” I lay back down resting my head over her heart as she gentle rubs my back.
We stay cuddled like that for around a half hour before her hands still, and I sense that she is asleep with the combination of jet lag and the stress of the day finally catching up to her. As much as I don't want to move, I know we would both regret a night on the couch.
She puts up a half hearted fight, but eventually hauls herself off of the couch and leans on me as I lead her to our bed. As I take off her bathrobe and help her into bed, and again I am struck by this realization of how lucky I am as she settles and murmurs a soft “I love you” .
I smile to myself and decide that I may as well make things official, Delphine did indeed say that she was in this for the long haul. I slip out to grab the ring off of the coffee table and out of it’s box. I stare at it for just a few moments and feel my heart race increase.
Sneaking back into our room, I notice that Delphine has been hunting for my body to wrap herself around. I crawl into bed and she nestles into me. My heart is still pounding as I slip the ring onto her left ring finger and kiss the back of her hand. I swear I catch her smile as she snuggles in closer to me.
I joked about a non-romantic proposal, and I think that I have found the ultimate non-romantic proposal. It feels so right and I am so happy.
I am ready to take on the whole Goddamn world with this woman at my side.