She reads her magazine. She does not watch the door. When the doctor comes in to call her she will lift her head at the last moment. He will see she is calm.
This morning Aaron tried to hedge her panic. Told her not to think too much about it. This wasn’t really the hard part. She accepted his gentle kiss. She did not break the orange juice glass in her hands on the floor at his feet. She did not bare her teeth and scrape the skin off his forearms with her fingernail.
“Stefanie Roth?” The doctor’s face is crawling with wrinkles. She drops her magazine on the floor. The exam and blood test take only a few minutes.
“The nurse will phone with the results this afternoon.” He looks up from his paperwork. Not unkindly. “There’s nothing to be so nervous about.”
“I’m not so nervous. Really.” He should know this about her. He should remember her temperament more clearly after the half-dozen times they have performed this ritual.
The receptionist pats Stefanie’s shoulder as she slides through the heavy door.
In the park she watches some mothers and their children. Several of the little girls are crying, their faces have gone lumpy and red. Their lips glisten with spit.
She knows what the nurse will tell her later. “Positive, Mrs. Roth.” And she will ask Stefanie to call back in two weeks for her first check-up. She will tell her to stay off her feet as much as possible. Just in case. This is the procedure they have all agreed upon. Because Stefanie is always pregnant. She is always four weeks pregnant. Once she was almost five weeks pregnant.
The little girls are still crying, insisting their mothers soothe away their imagined hurts. They cling to the women’s knees, their little fists welded in anger.
Stefanie’s own fist is clenched, she forces it open.
The doctor has asked her not to use the word miscarriage. They have never been able to detect a fetal heartbeat. That would take six or seven weeks, and Stefanie’s uterus has never been so generous.
But right now, sitting on this bench in this park, she is carrying. And in a few days, she won’t be anymore. How else can she call it? He once used the word chemical pregnancy with her. As if her body, the cell cluster and the related hormones were not working toward a single, shared goal.
The mothers have gathered their little girls into their arms and the park is now again peaceful. They sit snugly on a bench, a mother and a child, a second mother and a child, the margins of their bodies blurred in the intensity of each embrace.
Stefanie looks past them toward the long city street, its expanse and opportunity. She gets up from the bench, walking too fast, tripping a little, rushing, until she is safely a few blocks away, mixed in with other walkers, carried forward farther and farther still until she is finally able to lift her head.