“We need to talk.” Ben says taking a seat at the kitchen table.
He has some nerve deciding we need to talk now after months of him working 12- 16 hour days, if that is really what he’s been doing. Ben has been AWOL while I take our little angel for her appointments and treatments. He has been AWOL while I try and provide something like a normal home life for all three of our children. He has been AWOL while my parents and his sister Christa have stepped in to fill the yawning hole.
It was at out little girl’s third birthday party I first noticed symptoms. Ben was supportive through the first few weeks of appointments and tests that resulted in the c-word, cancer, being attached to our angel with a crown of golden curls. He was there through the first round of treatments that failed to cure our little angel but robbed her of her crown. We did decide to try a different treatment program but Ben also started spending more and more time away from home. He only reinserted himself into our lives today when we had the appointment to find out if the latest treatment was having any effect. It isn’t having the impact they would like but there is the possibility of getting our angel into a clinical trial for a new treatment that is showing promising results and is our angel’s last chance to see another birthday.
All I want to do right now is clean my kitchen from top to bottom. My mind flits from one thought to another. The boys need lunches made for school tomorrow. Do they have any homework I need to sign? It’s not like Ben will check to see if they have any homework requiring a parent’s signature. Bills need to be paid, at least the ones not set up for automatic payment. I really need to balance the checkbook. How long has it been? Two, three, it can’t be four months since I balanced it? If I can just clean my kitchen and have one thing in my life organized and under control.
I feel my jaw tighten as Ben taps on the table. I should let him wait just like I’ve waited for him to come home so many nights. Today has been a flaming dumpster fire. I don’t have anything more to give.
“Just say it.” I say slipping into the chair at the head of the table, the chair Ben used to occupy during our family meals. The chair Ben abandoned when he decided to spend all his waking hours at work. Even on Sunday, the only day he didn’t go to work, he didn’t sit at the head of the table, choosing instead to spend his time in our bedroom working at his desk.
“I don’t think we should enter the experimental drug program.” Ben says.
The table vibrates as I tighten my grip, my knuckles turning white. A chasm has opened and I’m falling through space while sitting still.
How could I have married a monster? This beast? Nothing in his features gave away the evil lurking below his skin. If anything Ben’s features are best described as mundane, forgettable even. We only met because that one drunk frat brother wouldn’t keep his hands off of me and Ben offered to walk me back to my dorm. On that walk Ben told me of his plans for the future. He had everything figured out, what job he wanted and what company he wanted to work for. He was so sure of his plans and there I was coasting along with a vague plan to become a teacher because I like kids. Me, barely able to look beyond the next test or paper that was due.
Is this his revenge because I didn’t follow his family plan? Before we married Ben said he thought two children would be perfect for us. He had spent time working out how much he expected to make balanced against how much it would cost to have the lifestyle he wanted for us and two kids was definitely the limit. It would be even better if we only had one child but two would be acceptable. Only after our second son’s birth did I realized I really wanted a daughter. It’s not like I tricked Ben into having a third child. We sat down and discussed my desire for a daughter and Ben agreed to let nature take its course for a third child but after that he would have a vasectomy.
Nature tested me. It took us over a year just to conceive and then the pregnancy was one complication after another, resulting in me being on bedrest for months. I wasn’t able to provide any support to Christa when she had to have a hysterectomy because of cancer. There I was carrying yet another baby and Christa had to face a future of never being a mother. She never complained or seemed to resent me. She just set out to be the best aunt she could to our brood. She was there for me when I went into labor and Ben was out of town. Christa was the one who first referred to our little girl as an angel.
“I think we should put our angel in stasis until they are able to find a cure.”
I look for something normal, something I recognize as Ben’s words sink in. The book bags at the other end of the table gaping open waiting for lunch boxes to be dropped in tomorrow morning before being zipped up and slipped onto the shoulders of two little boys on their way out to the bus stop. Would there only ever be two?
“What, like in those movies when they wake someone up decades later? That’s just make-believe, isn’t it?” What if it isn’t? What if that little angel has a chance to be cured of that disease that is destroying her bit-by-bit every day?
“I’ve been working on it and I’m able to revive the test subjects. Sorry I haven’t been around much.” Ben’s mouth curls up on the right side, his apology smile.
“We have no idea how long it will take. I can’t have my baby waking up with strangers around her.” As much as I don’t want to lower my baby into the cold ground at least I will know where she is and can watch over her until I join her.
“That’s why I’ve prepared two pods, one for our angel and one for you.” Tears threaten to spill from Ben’s eyes.
“What about the boys?” I ask even though the glow I’m feeling in my chest tells me I will be leaving them.
“I’ve thought about that. Christa can move in to the mother in law suite and help me raise the boys.“ Ben says. “I’ve gone over it in my mind and it seems the only reasonable solution.”
Yes, it is the only reasonable solution. Our angel will be waiting patiently for a cure to be found along with me ready to pick up the routine of appointments and treatments. Ben will raise the boys who have their own lives to live. Everett named after my father is the budding scientist even though he’s just started first grade. Robbie is our perpetual motion child when he’s awake, going back to his time in the womb. Last week we received a note that he is a smart child but has difficulty sitting in story circle in his kindergarten class.
“I’m more concerned with providing for you if I’m not able to be there when you are revived.” Ben’s features twist with emotion.
“When do we need to do it?” I ask hoping for weeks or months to gather a lifetime of memories since I probably won’t be there to see the boys mature. Maybe I could make some recordings for the milestones they will reach like graduations and marriages.
“Tomorrow night would be best.”
I lose my sight for a second like when you stub your baby toe so hard you wouldn’t be surprised if you had actually tore it from your foot.
“The longer we wait the sicker our angel will get.” Ben says. “My company isn’t exactly approving this either. They are already encouraging me to take some time off so, if we are going to make it happen it needs to be soon, very soon.”
“Can’t they just revive us once they find out?” I feel a stabbing pain in my chest seeing this hope being ripped away from us.
“They won’t be happy of course. They may even consider firing me but that would risk me going to another company. They won’t want the publicity of experimenting on human subjects especially a little girl with a terminal illness. No, they will make the safe play of keeping me employed and you two stable.”
“Tomorrow night then.” I say placing my hand over my husband’s.
I huddle closer to our angel in the trunk of my husband’s car. I’m thankful she is such a deep sleeper. Even when she was a baby, once we got her to sleep we didn’t have to worry about waking her up with noise. While we had to tiptoe around for her brothers, we could have torn the house down around her and she would have slept right through the demolition.
“Another late night Dr. Faulkner?”
I don’t recognize the voice. We must finally be at Ben’s workplace.
“No rest for the weary.” Ben responds casually. I had no idea Ben could hide his emotions like that
We make our way over three speed bumps without waking our angel and wind around for an eternity before Ben turns the engine off. When loading us into the trunk Ben said it would take a few minutes before he would pop the trunk. He wants to make sure the security camera he managed to angle away from his parking space hasn’t been moved back. He couldn’t disarm the cameras but he could buy us enough time before security could stop us. Only when I exhale at the sound of the trunk being popped do I realize I have been holding my breath.
Ben pulls me from the trunk and then scoops our angel up. He turns and heads for the stairway door without closing the trunk. I need to speed walk to keep up with him. We pass through doors using Ben’s identity badge and wind our way through hallways before stopping before a door labelled cryogenics lab. These doors also open to a wave of Ben’s badge.
“Hold her please.” Ben says as he hands our angel to me knowing I’m there and not taking the time to look and make sure. We move quickly to the door at the far side of the room. At this door Ben pushes the four buttons in a pattern and the door opens. “Quickly.” Ben says as he holds the door for us to pass.
“Unauthorized individuals are not allowed Dr. Faulkner. Please vacate the lab and report to the security desk,” a voice barks from somewhere.
“We need to hurry.” Ben says rushing to a panel and pressing a button. A pod opens.
“Let me do it,” Ben says retrieving our angel from my arms before rushing to the pod and placing our angel inside. I watch as Ben leans in and places a kiss on our angel’s forehead. I’m transported to his side and he stands back to allow me to deposit a kiss as well. The final kiss before we wake up.
“Your pod is over there.” Ben nods in the direction of the pod that is already opening.
“Stop what you are doing Dr. Faulkner and wait for the security unit to arrive.”
The commanding voice fills the room encouraging me to get to the pod. Ben helps me get in the pod and allows me to find a comfortable position. I hear someone banging on the door to the lab.
“I love you.” Ben whispers as he leans in to kiss me one last time. Ben’s lips linger a fraction longer than necessary setting off a swarm of butterflies in my stomach.
“I love you too.” I say tears blurring Ben’s face.
“No regrets.” Ben says before disappearing in the direction of the console.
The lid descends to complete the envelopment of the pod. I close my eyes as the lid clicks into place. My thoughts focus on my tingling lips waiting for sleep to envelope me. At least I’ll be well rested before the next round of appointments and treatments.