Short Story: Tick, Tock

I first began working on this story in 2006. It is a little story that has been tweaked over the years and I am happy to share it today on my blog. Enjoy!

Tick, Tock

For one year, five months and three days she had been his wife.
She did not ask for much, worked hard, and barely complained. She had considered herself a happy newlywed, yet she had recently begun to feel as if something was missing.
When Joss proposed, she was on top of the moon and she never wanted to come down. After the ceremony, her pre-wedding glow gradually began to vanish. She tried planning romantic getaways, buying sex toys, and reading relationship books but she was still unfulfilled. Sex was not her issue; it just didn’t fill her emptiness.
One afternoon while tutoring students, she heard a tick in her head.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The ticking began to pick up the pace, almost like a cartoon bomb skittering across the floor. She tried hard to concentrate on the task at hand but the ticking grew more incessant and louder.
Tick. Tick. Tick. She massaged her temples and absently placed her hand on her stomach.
Tick. Tick. Tick. It was growing so loud; she had to physically read her student’s lips to understand what he was saying.
TICK, TICK, TICK! She shot out of the chair and diverted her attention to the common room, trying to locate that sound. One of the elderly patients had fallen asleep in front of the TV with the volume raised. Now the TV was blasting an advertisement for baby food. She ran towards the remote, and before she could switch the television off, was presented with a beautiful image of a baby. As she peered into the child’s big brown eyes, the ticking came to an abrupt stop.
The emptiness in the pit of her stomach dissipated. She now had a new purpose – pregnancy. She rushed home after work and told Joss about her big news. Overcome with excitement, she had did not immediately notice his timidness. As she served dinner, she realized the excitement was not shared.
“So, is this the point in the marriage where I find out that you really hate kids and just told me you wanted them to get into my pants?” she said her words laced with sarcasm. He thoughtfully chewed his salad and studied the back of the Italian dressing bottle.
“You still have a year left in school,” he said looking at her. “Do you think now is the time to have a child?”
“There never is a right time to have a child,” she said parroting the cliché. “I don’t want to get caught up in “what about school, what about work, what about money” I want a baby.”
Joss stared at her silently for a few seconds before finishing up his salad. He then quietly got up from the table. Without a further word or glance, Joss placed his plate in the dishwasher and proceeded to the bedroom to do what he always did when they had a “discussion”: sit in his overstuffed chair and take comfort in Sports Center.
**********************
It had been approximately two months and 25 days since she had made her decision. She had tried to talk to him several times after their conversations but ESPN and silence were usually all that met her. He did not know she had stopped taking the pill. She was no longer seeking his opinion or approval. She needed to fill the emptiness. She couldn’t bear to hear the ticking again.
The first month without the pill, she had still expected her period. I mean, who gets pregnant within the first month? The second month, it was still expected. Now, as she rounded out month three, she found herself getting anxious.
This week could potentially mark another period. She had begun to critique herself. Had her eating habits changed? Had she seemed more tired? She had been a little nauseated the past couple of days but she was trying not to get her hopes up. She had similar symptoms last month.
Joss came home. They had dinner as usual but now followed it with lacy underwear and lots of sex. Earlier in the week, he asked if he needed to pick up her birth control prescription on the way home. She tossed out her lie of the past couple of months, “No honey, I’ll just stop by the drugstore before class,” she said.
One week later, Aunt Flow still had not come. Her stomach began to rumble – not with emptiness but with excitement. Could this be it? Had it finally happened? Was she finally going to be complete?
Sitting in the library, her mind raced. She began to think of names: Christi for a girl or Jesse for a boy. What color would the nursery be? Would it be a boy or a girl? She was lost in her thoughts when one of her classmates, echoing her husband’s previous sentiments, broke into her baby dreams.
“Can you imagine getting pregnant this close to graduation?” Tess said flipping through her notes.
“I mean, Joanie found out she was pregnant in August and she can barely come to class because she’s so sick,” Tess continued. “I heard she’s probably dropping out and losing her internship. It’s a mess!”
“Yeah, it sounds like a mess,” she said slowly as her anger began to stem. “But maybe it’s just a mess for some people. I mean if you are focused you can do anything.”
They both were momentarily silent until Tess lightened the mood with a joke. They laughed and talked until it was time to leave for class. As she sat in the back of the lecture hall, she flipped through her binder. She stopped on a flyer about an Italian internship. One of her professors had suggested that she apply. It would be kind of hard to study abroad in Italy while carting around a newborn. She could hear Joss’ and Tess’ words clearly resonating in her head.
“Oh my God, what have I done,” she said sadly placing her head in her hands.
She raced home after class and found Joss sitting at the table.
“My period is a week late,” she said, her voice tinged with panic.
He stared at her, took a sip of water, and got up from the table. As he began to make strides toward the safety of television, she blocked his exit.
“Say something!” she said grabbing his shoulders. There was silence and then out of nowhere she heard the ticking. She stumbled backwards slightly wondering if she was in the middle of some sort of psychiatric problem.
Tick. Tick. Tick. She glanced around the room with her ears focused. She still heard the ticking, but she traced it back to the clock.
She exhaled and looked at Joss.
“You do understand what it means when a girl says she’s late, right?” she asked leaning against the wall.
Almost as the little bulb had just come on, he abruptly looked in her eyes.
“What? Wait, you think you may be pregnant? Have you taken a test, seen a doctor, how you know?” he said moving to take her hands.
“I’m a week late and, I don’t know, feeling weird,” she said not daring to reveal her birth control deception yet.
“Maybe it’s some funky birth control side effect,” he said rubbing her arm. “You know from taking it with your allergy medicine.”
“Maybe.” She said quietly.
He took her hand and led her to the sofa. As she sat .cuddled beside him, she was filled with regret. She wished she hadn’t spoken to Tess today. For months, she had managed to not only deceive her husband but herself as well. How could she have thought she could deal with school and pregnancy? How could she let herself become so self-absorbed?
An hour later, they got off the sofa. She headed to the bedroom, but Joss hung back.
“I think I’m going out for a minute, maybe fill up the car and clear my head,” he said.
She nodded. She wanted to volunteer to go with him but felt guilty since she currently was the cause of his stress. They walked over to the kitchen counter as he retrieved his keys. He then gently kissed her forehead, and walked out of the door.
She went to take a shower and put on pajamas for bed. No more lacy nighties for her! She dressed and got into bed falling asleep almost immediately.
She awoke the next morning to cramping in her abdomen. When she got up, she glanced down and noted the blood stains on the sheets. The crisis had been averted! She called Joss’ name but received no answer. She walked around the apartment and checked the parking area but he was nowhere to be found.
She grabbed her phone and noticed it was blinking.
She clicked the button to wake it up and clicked on the message icon.

Joss: I can’t do this. I’ll send for my things.

She sank to the floor.

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