A magna cum laude graduate of UCLA, Cassandra Harte never took a test she couldn’t ace. So when her home pregnancy test comes back negative, she’s certain the kit’s defective. Failure has never been an option for Cassandra. She has a well-established career, a handsome husband (Nick), and a lovely home. But there’s one thing Cassandra desperately wants that she doesn’t have: A baby. After trying for months to get pregnant without success, she starts to wonder if she’s finally met a challenge she cannot conquer. Determined to conceive, she creates an ovulation calendar so she can seize that perfect 24-hour window. When that fails, she sends up fervent prayers. But it soon becomes apparent that her inability to become pregnant has nothing to do with timing or faith, and everything to do with Renee, her diabolical, thirteen-year-old stepdaughter.
I peer at the dipstick, hoping the test isn’t screwed. The directions were idiot-proof; leave it to me to complicate things. I was supposed to pee on this darn thing for five seconds, but after the first “Mississippi,” I got so preoccupied with trying to position the stick directly in the path of my urine, I forgot all about the five second rule. Now the dang thing is soaked, and I probably won’t get an accurate reading. I stare at the little round window anyway, waiting for the baby to appear. Well, not literally a baby, but a blue plus sign indicating that I’m pregnant. I love the sound of that word, and I’m dying to say, “I’m pregnant” or even better, “We’re pregnant.”
“Hi, I’m Cassandra Harte, and this is my husband, Nicolas Harte, and we’re nine months pregnant,” I announce, looking into my bathroom mirror. In just a few minutes, I could become an official, card-carrying member of the New Mom’s Club. Eyes closed, I take a deep breath and count to ten. A smile radiates across my face. I have a good feeling that this is it—that after three months of trying, I’m finally gonna realize my dream. I’ve got all the symptoms—a late period, tender breasts, and unusual fatigue (all three a first for me); there’s a good chance I’m with child. I open my eyes and let my gaze drop to the dipstick. Shutting them, I swallow hard, and open them again—slightly. I wipe the grin off of my face and vainly squash the empty feeling in my gut while I glare at the lone blue line: NEGATIVE. I take the dipstick off of the sink and jiggle it. Maybe I can shake a plus sign out of this lousy piece of plastic that I’ve given way too much power. I pause at the sound of the door creaking.
“What’s the verdict? Is there a baby in the window?”
“Negative,” I say, tossing the object of my disappointment into the wastebasket. I wash my hands while my husband relieves himself. Unlike me, he doesn’t have to hold a stick, or count off five seconds, or any of that crap. He can just let it mindlessly flow.
“I’m sorry,” he says, coming up behind me. I sigh when he wraps his arms around my waist while kissing me on the nape of my neck. “Don’t worry, you’re gonna get pregnant, and we’re gonna have the most beautiful baby in the world.”
I can’t help but beam at our image in the mirror.
“That’s my Sassy Cassy,” he says. “And if it’s a girl, she’s gonna have your pretty chestnut eyes and your honey brown complexion and—”
“No, if it’s a girl, I want her to have your big brown almond eyes and your long eyelashes,” I say.
“What’s if it’s a boy?” he asks.
“If it’s a boy, we’re gonna name him Nicolas James Harte, Jr., and he’s gonna be a computer geek like his dad.”
“I like the sound of that.” He gently pushes me away from the sink and washes his hands. “You know those tests aren’t always accurate. Maybe you should take another one.”
“I’m gonna wait a few days, and if my period doesn’t show up, I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Burns and get a blood test.”
“That’s a good idea. And babe, three months is not a long time.”
“I know. It just feels like it’s been forever. I mean . . . this . . . this is the first time I’ve had symptoms. I swore I wouldn’t start taking at home tests . . . but . . . I don’t know . . . I just.”
Nick puts the seat and lid down on the toilet. Sitting, he pulls me onto his lap. “Stop worrying. It’s gonna happen.”
“I guess I’m paranoid because of my mother’s history. You know it took her a long time to have me, and before she did, she miscarried my twin sisters.”
“Don’t think like that. You have to be positive. You’re only thirty-two, Cass. Your mother was in her forties when she had you.”
“I’m closer to thirty-three than thirty-two.”
“Stop it! We just started. And I don’t know about you, but I’m having a lot of fun trying.”
“You’re so nasty!” I say.
Nick, laughing, rises and sends me tumbling to the floor. “Woman, please. You know you still turn me on as much as you did the first time I laid eyes on you.” He grabs my hand and helps me up.
“Oh, really?” I say.
“Yes, really. You were wearing this purple top and this hot little skirt.”
“Where did we meet?” I ask.
“That’s easy. The Speakeasy.”
“February 2008. Three years and four months ago.”
“Dang! You are in love with me!”
“And don’t you ever doubt it,” he says, pulling me in close.
Our faces come together and I part my lips in anticipation of his long, hard tongue. I grab him around his neck. We kiss passionately while he lifts me up, my legs wrapping around him. Walking backwards he stumbles through the open door with me clinging to him. We fall onto the bed, kissing, grabbing, and devouring each other. Nick lifts my nightgown up over my head and slips out of his pajama bottoms. My eyes widen when his full package comes into view. He moves toward me and then comes to a dead stop.
“What . . . what’s wrong?” I ask.
“You . . . you . . . you’re . . . babe, your period’s here.”
“What the—?” I sit up, my mouth agape, glowering at the small red spot on our white silk sheets. I jump out of bed with my hands between my legs. “I’m sorry,” I say, running to the bathroom.