I open my door and stumble out. “Text me when you get home?” It sounds needy, but I want to make sure he gets home safely.

Beck smiles and blows me a kiss. “Anything you want. See you in the morning, Lia.”

I make it across the yard and into the house, glad that my dad and Jean are in the den in the back of the house instead of the living room up front. Both are wrapped up in a television show and eating popcorn, not noticing me. My stomach churns at the smell, and my mouth salivates as I try to squeak out the words that I’m home. I run through the house to the bathroom, and I fall to my knees as the appetizers I’d nibbled on at the gallery all come rushing up.

Sweat beads up on my face as I heave, and I flush the toilet before crawling to the sink. I’m glad I keep the bathrooms clean as part of my chores. I don’t even bother standing up as I reach for a paper cup of water and grab a hand towel from the stack beneath the sink. The dizziness I felt earlier has gotten worse with my vomiting. Panic sets in as my stomach protests even the smallest sip of water. Everything tastes like the awful smell of microwave popcorn.

The signs add up, and I try not to think of what they could mean. It was seven weeks since my last period. Pills are not one hundred percent effective, I know. Panicking, I quickly wash my face and then slip into the kitchen. I leave Dad and Jean a note that I am running out for just a few minutes, grab Dad’s keys, and take his car.

The pharmacy is two miles away, and I’m in a fog as I stumble up and down the aisles until I find what I’m looking for. I head for the bathroom as soon as the cashier hands me my receipt. I can’t wait to get home. I need to know now. Dizzy and emotionally exhausted, I can hardly focus on the test, fumbling with the cap as I open it.

I follow the instructions and continue to sit there on the toilet as the test strip color blooms into view. First one line in the control box to let me know it’s working, almost cranberry in the overhead light. Then, even as I’m praying to be wrong, a second line darkens.

I’m pregnant.

If my stomach weren’t empty already, I would probably throw up again.

My hands shake as the panic sets in. How can I go to work and see Beck again, knowing I’m pregnant? I told him I was on the pill. He trusted me. He’ll think I did this on purpose. He’ll hate me.

I barely make it to my desk on time, and I can see by the lights on that Beck is already at work. Sleep eluded me except for a few fitful hours, and I don’t know how to act around him today. Do I tell him? Do I keep it secret for now and figure out what to do? I just don’t know. There are so many things to worry about. I couldn’t take care of a gallery on my own; how will I take care of myself and a baby?

Jess, one of the kitchen staff, wheels a cart out of Beck’s office. “Good morning, lovely Lia. I hear your show was amazing.” He doesn’t wait for a response before going to the other side of the lobby where a few chairs and a couch are mostly there for effect. In my five weeks here, we have yet to have anyone but me sit on them. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Boss man has some meetings up here this morning and wants me to have a full coffee bar setup out here.

“There are already pastries and stuff on the table in back. I’m sure he won’t mind if you help yourself to a couple.”

Hearing that I’ve arrived, Beck calls me from his office. “Morning, Lia. Can you come join me in here?” He sounds way too chipper for the morning, like he’s a few pots of coffee into his day already. I hate to ruin that for him.

I drop my bag in my chair, take a deep breath, and walk into his office. Beck is in a black jacket and turquoise button-down, and he has his head turned to the side, looking over at the door to the roof. No… Looking at my art. My image is reflected to me in the mirrors of the piece I made in his garage.

He’s smiling as if he won the lottery. “The gallery delivered it this morning. I had to have it, Lia. I needed this piece of you and me.”

The words pierce my fragile shell, and the tears come rushing out of my eyes. I crumple to the floor in pained tears. He’s going to hate me. Why did he have to say that about wanting a piece of him and me? I have that inside me…

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