Is Karen pregnant?
Karen sat in the doctor’s office. The air was warm and still.
‘What can we do for you, Mrs. Edwards?’ The doctor took a sip of his coffee and looked at her over the rim.
‘I think I may be pregnant,’ she said quickly, before she lost her nerve completely.
‘Well, that’s certainly good news. When was your last period?’ He jotted a note on the card in front of him.
‘I’m nearly four weeks overdue now,’ she said.
‘We’ll have to do a urine test.’ He stood and moved to the cabinet behind his desk. ‘Now, take this pot and do a specimen for me. Just give it to the receptionist on your way out and make another appointment for two weeks time.’
‘Two weeks?’ Karen had that sinking feeling inside. ‘I can’t find out before then?’
‘Well, we’re pretty sure you are pregnant already. The test is just to confirm it.’ He smiled. ‘I am so pleased for you. Well done. I’m sure your husband is delighted.’
‘He mustn’t know!’ Karen blurted. ‘You mustn’t tell him.’
The doctor looked startled. ‘But of course he must know,’ he said soothingly. ‘He’s your husband.’
‘I’ll tell him myself, when the time is right,’ she said. ‘I’ll wait to hear the results. Then I’ll tell him.’
‘Of course.’ He smiled again, jotting something else in her notes. ‘As soon as we know for certain, we’ll make you an appointment for the ante-natal clinic.’ He took another sip of coffee. ‘Now, if there’s anything else?’
Karen stood up and put the specimen jar in her bag.
‘There’s nothing else,’ she said.
‘Would you ask the next patient to come in then?’ he said.
The next two weeks dragged by like an endless nightmare. The time since her last period stretched out into an inevitable doom-filled future in her mind. She avoided Peter as much as possible and tried not to think about what she was going to do. When two weeks later the doctor confirmed that the test was positive, rather than the bottom dropping out of her world, she felt numb.
Karen made her way to work and was in the staff cloakroom again. When Linda came in she took a breath and turned to her.
‘I got the result this morning,’ Karen said. ‘It’s confirmed. I’m definitely pregnant. Eight weeks.’
‘Well, you knew that already, didn’t you.’ Linda said. ‘What are you gonna do?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Well, you can’t bury your head in the sand and pretend that nothing’s changed.’ She shook her head as Karen grimaced. ‘It’s time to make some decisions.’
‘I don’t know what to do,’ Karen repeated.
‘No!’ Karen was sure of one thing. She could never do that to herself, or to her unborn child.
‘Well, what then?’ Linda looked at herself in the mirror, smoothing her hair back off her face and clipping it in place with a hair-grip.
‘I need to think,’ Karen replied. ‘If it’s John’s, and it must be I suppose, then he needs to know first.’ She was hopeful that this may be her escape route from Peter, although until this moment she hadn’t even put it into words yet in her mind. ‘I’ll take it from there,’ she added.
‘I suppose you’re right,’ Linda grudgingly agreed. ‘But don’t hold your breath. He’s working this afternoon I think.’
‘I’ll ring him on the ward and ask him to meet me in his break.’ Karen opened the door. ‘Wish me luck.’ She walked to the office and picked up the phone.
‘I’ll be in the canteen in fifteen minutes,’ John said on the phone. ‘See you in a bit.’ His voice was light and warm. Karen’s heart skipped.
She was shaking when she entered the canteen. John was sitting at a table in the far corner. He smiled at her and waved. She pushed down the feeling of nausea, took a deep breath and smiled back, walking purposefully across the nearly empty room.
He leaned back in his chair and looked up at Karen. ‘Hi, Karen, how’s things?’
‘OK.’ She swallowed. ‘Only, I need to talk to you about something.’
‘Well you’d better sit down,’ he replied. ‘You having coffee?’
‘No thanks.’ Karen could feel the bile rising again at the thought.
‘What’s the problem, then?’ he prompted. ‘You look pretty serious.’
Karen hesitated a moment, then before she could think about it jumped straight in. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she blurted.
‘Oh.’ John sat up in his seat. ‘Am I supposed to congratulate you?’
‘It’s yours,’ Karen babbled. ‘You’re the only person I’ve been with for the last few months, and I’m eight weeks.’
‘You can’t be sure,’ he argued. ‘How do you know you’re pregnant?’
‘I’ve been to the doctor. It’s confirmed.’
‘You’re married,’ John looked uncomfortable. ‘You must have been with your husband, what’s his name?’
‘Peter.’ Karen felt hot. ‘We haven’t made love for at least three months. I can’t remember exactly how long, but I know it’s not his.’
‘I thought you said you were on the pill.’ His face suddenly was less than attractive.
‘I am, but I missed a couple of days,’ she said. ‘It was about the time we slept together.’ She paused. ‘Look John, I definitely am pregnant, and the baby is yours. It must be.’
John said nothing for a while and a strained silence grew between them. Eventually Karen spoke.
‘I’m not sure what to do,’ she said. ‘I just thought you should know.’
‘Have you told your... Peter?’ he asked. ‘What does he think you should do?’
‘He doesn’t know. I only found out this morning. I wanted to tell you first.’
‘Why would you do that?’
‘Because it’s yours.’ Karen was panicking now. ‘You’re the father!’
‘You can’t be completely sure of that though, can you?’ John asked.
‘I can,’ Karen said quietly. She looked away, hoping that he wouldn’t notice the tears trying to form in her eyes.
‘Well, you’re married,’ John reasoned. ‘Even if it wasn’t your husband’s, you could pass it off as his. If you wanted to keep it, that is.’
Karen swallowed. Her head was pounding. This was not going as she’d hoped.
‘Of course I want to keep it,’ she whispered.
‘What about your career?’ he asked.
‘I’m not sure,’ she hesitated. ‘I’ll work something out.’ She just wanted to get out of the room as quickly as possible. ‘Look, I’ve got to get back to work.’ She stood up.
‘Yeah, well, I’m sorry Karen, but you can’t expect me to just jump in and be responsible after only one fling with you.’ He leaned back in his chair. ‘You could have been with anyone, couldn’t you.’
Karen stared at him aghast.
‘Sorry, love,’ he went on. ‘But it’s true. You should have taken more care, shouldn’t you?’
‘Fuck you!’ Karen glared at him, then spun on her heel and marched from the room, the anger like a volcano erupting from within.