Coming of Age Romance Happy

"Only one more day to go," Thex says, rubbing a comforting hand on my shoulder. "You got this."

Looking up at him, I give a smile-but it's pained, stressful. Hovering over where I lay on the couch, he leans in, needle in hand. The last injection before our IVF retrieval. One of many such retrievals, a hope for the future we've dreamt of since we met as kids. Two weeks of injections, three years of trying. One would think I'm used to it by now, but maybe this is something I'll never get used to.

"This time, it'll be good," I murmur, more to myself.

Thex looks at me, a sparkle in his brown eyes. Eyes I fell in love with years ago. Eyes that hold me together when things threaten to fall apart.

"Whatever happens, Beautiful, you know I love you."

I know. I've always known. Smiling back at him, I close my eyes. There's a tiny prick and I find myself pleading silently. Please. We're almost there.

"Only one more day to go," Thex says, a hand rubbing my swollen belly.

I smile at him, only slightly pained this time. Our little girl doesn't sleep much, which means I don't either. But it's okay. It's a reminder that she's there and growing. Our little girl, finally on her way here after three years of struggling. A little flutter knocks against his hand, and the gentle smile on Thex's face transforms into one of pure wonder and elation. He lowers his head, brushing soft lips onto taut skin.

"You hear that, Thella? One more day. Then, we get to meet you."

Danathella likes the idea, because she kicks another kick-more forcible than before. Thex chuckles deeply, thumb moving gently over the spot her foot hit. I glance at the box of clothes in the corner of the room. Taken from the donation bin outside the fertility hospital. Part of me feels bad we can't offer more, but then I look at the joy on Thex's face. We may not have the most expensive stuff, but we've got plenty of love.

"Yeah, we're excited too."

I smile at him. One more day is repeated in my head like a mantra, as though chanting the words will make it come true. We're almost there.

"One more day to go!" Thex sings as he dances around the kitchen, Thella on his heels.

She giggles and claps as he shimmies from head to toe. Leaning on the counter, I smile, chin in hand. From day one, Thella's been Thex's shadow. Mirroring his frowns, his deep-belly laughs, his playful pranks. Our little girl-our miracle. A pink backpack hangs from thin shoulders, the image of a princess and her animal companion splashed across the front. Curly black hair bounces in her pigtails as she follows Thex to the front door, myself bringing up the rear. We practice loading up in the car, driving past the first-grade school. Thella waves at the building, blowing kisses as we disappear around the corner. She turns around, grinning ear from ear.

"I can't wait!" She squeals, displaying her missing front tooth.

I can, I think to myself, but I shake my head. She's growing up. That's what little kids do. It's natural. Beside me, Thex catches my hand as he drives, bringing it to his lips for a gentle kiss. I smile at him. The thought is heavy in my heart, but seeing Thella's excitement is enough to override it-almost. We're almost there.

"We're almost there, Thella, just hang on," Thex's voice is panicked over the phone.

She retches in the background, soft sobs coming through the speaker. My knuckles are white around Thex's hand, clinging it like it'll make everything okay. Lights of the city race past as we speed along on the highway, on our way to the seedy part of town where everyone knows kids get up to trouble.

"I'm sorry, mom, dad," Thella whispers.

"It's okay, darling, just stay on the phone with us," I tell her.

My voice is stronger than I feel. The buildings turn from glamorous skyscrapers to dark apartment complexes. Glass covers one side of the sidewalk, cardboard boxes in the window above. How did a high school kid without a license end up here?

"There," I whisper, eyeing the tiny form curled up next to the street lamp on the left.

Thex pulls over without hesitation, leaping from the car with keys still in the ignition. I follow on his heels, heart racing. Thella's tear-stained face looks up at us, a little bit of bile on her chin. With the hem of my shirt, I wipe it away.

"They said it was something everyone did," Thella whispers, arms around my neck.

I meet Thex's eyes over her shoulder, brows narrowed.

"It's okay, you're safe now. We'll always come for you, baby," Thex tells her when words fail me.

Because how could anyone think dragging a sixteen-year-old to this place was okay? My fingers dig into her shirt, holding her close. As though nothing has changed since she was born, Thex scoops her up in his arms and carries her to the car. He buckles her in with such tenderness, it squeezes my heart. I climb back into the car and he turns the ignition on. Behind us, Thella rolls down the window and hurls once more. Fighting back tears, I take her hand.

"We're almost home, Thella," I murmur. "Everything's okay."

One more day of high school. The graduation passes in a blur. Thella's beautiful, laughing face fills up the picture frames in the house, and then it's only one more day until she leaves for college. Then, she graduates with honors and it's one more day until she moves out west, taking some fancy job with a prestigious company. Everything's packed up, memories tucked away in boxes, her room nearly as bare as the day we started our journey with IVF. One more day until we move to be closer. Humming to myself, I pack the last-minute things, items forgotten until I opened Thella's closet. Old clothes dot the shelves, things she'd never gotten rid of or forgotten about before her big move. I lay the moving box on the ground. Picking up old clothes, her old favorites: A shirt with the words Straight out of the Freezer in bright pink, some old band t-shirt from a concert she'd forgotten about long ago. The I'm In Trouble t-shirt Thex made her wear when she was 'in trouble' with him-not that she could ever do wrong in his eyes. I smile, putting them in the box.

When it's full, I stand, bringing it with me back downstairs. Thex sits at the counter, looking over the plans for the house he had designed. He looks up at the sound of my feet in the hallway.

"Whatcha got there, Beautiful?" He asks.

The nickname has stuck all these years, despite the many changes. I smile.

"Old clothes of Thella's," I answer.

"She sure left a lotta things," he says, eyeing the bulky cardboard box.

"I know. I was thinking of donating it," I answer.

Thex pauses, looking up from the plans. He pushes up his wire-rimmed spectacles, eyeing me closely.

"You sure?" He asks.

I shrug.

"Someone else who's struggling will get more use out of it," I answer.

Struggling. The magic word. A callback to our struggling days. Thex's face splits into a soft smile.

"Well, then. I'd be happy to accompany you," he offers.

And so we take the old truck together, driving down the street with Thella's box in my hands. Beat up and rusty, the clothes donation bin next to the fertility hospital may be older than when we needed it, but it still sits proudly on the corner. With Thex's hand in mine, I walk up to the donation bin, pulling it open. Clothes drop into the bin, and I smile. I look up at Thex.

"One more day until we see Thella."

March 25, 2022 20:33

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Story Time
16:43 Apr 07, 2022

I thought this was such a difficult prompt and you knocked it out of the park. Well done.


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Kate Winchester
02:21 Apr 06, 2022

I really like how your story came full circle with the box of clothes, and how the MC knows what is was like to be the one in need. Great job!


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Michał Przywara
18:19 Apr 03, 2022

The story is nice, and I like the repeated "almost there" and "one more day," which tie the different periods of time together. This really gives the passage of time a weight.


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Cordy Ranald
03:23 Apr 03, 2022

"With the hem of my shirt, I wipe it away." Perfection. Everything the reader needed to know about the love of this woman for her daughter is in those ten words. The echoing of "one more day" and the final closing of the circle works wonderfully. Really love this one!


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Shelby B
12:21 Apr 02, 2022

this was a beautiful story. i love it


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