“Hey, bestie,” Heidi giggled, her eyes twinkling as she pulled Lily into a hug. “And how are you on this fine day?”
“I’m okay,” Lily shrugged, giving her friend an unconvincing smile and a squeeze in return.
Heidi pulled back, eyeing Lily with suspicion. “I’m sorry, did you just say you were ‘okay’? You never say that. What’s wrong with you?” she asked jokingly, an impish smile still plastered across her face. Noticing Lily’s unusually quiet demeanour, she studied her more closely with concern, “Are you okay, babe?”
Lily sighed, and shook her head, “Can we go inside?”
“Sure,” Heidi nodded, standing aside to let her friend into her home.
The Haners had a beautiful house. They’d bought a wreck shortly after getting married and had slowly worked on transforming it into the kingdom it was today. Heidi, normally so fussy about her hair and nails, had donned boiler suits and taken messy buns in her stride to work beside Brian as they painted, papered and tiled their way to their perfect home.
The two women settled themselves in the sleek kitchen; Lily planting herself at the table as Heidi busied herself with mugs and coffee.
“Here,” Heidi offered, holding out the steaming mug to her friend. As Lily accepted it from her, she raised her eyebrows, “So, are you going to tell me what’s up?”
Lily frowned, staring down at her coffee so she didn’t have to make eye contact with Heidi, who was insistently staring at her. “How come you and Brian never had a baby?” she asked, finally daring to look up.
“Oh,” Heidi uttered, taken aback by her friend’s bluntness. She dipped into the fridge as she fumbled her way through her answer, “Uh, I guess neither of us are really into the idea of being parents right now. After we got married we were busy with the house, then we decided just to wait for a bit. We haven’t spoken about it since. Why?” She looked closely at her friend, a hint of excitement dancing in her eyes as she set a plate of fruit salad between them, “Are you guys thinking about having a baby?!”
Lily gave a short, awkward laugh as she picked up a strawberry and shook her head. “Kind of the opposite,” she sighed, pursing her lips. “We’ve been thinking about it – and trying; my god have we been trying – but it’s not happening, so now we just decided to wait for a bit.”
Heidi’s mouth dropped open, “You never told me!”
“I know,” Lily replied, casting her an apologetic glance. “At first we just wanted to keep it quiet, but then it went on and on. It seemed stupid to tell people when nothing was happening anyway.”
“Well, it can take time,” Heidi answered, trying to reassure her friend. “How long have you been trying? It can take months.”
“We’re going on a year and half now,” Lily revealed, cramming the strawberry in and adding a spoon of sugar to her coffee. “And it was getting stressful. I turned into a monster, Heidi,” she whined through her mouthful.
“No way,” Heidi argued in disbelief, “I refuse to believe that you could be anything close to a monster, Lil.”
“No, I was,” Lily insisted with a grimace. “We were arguing all the time, and I made Johnny sleep on the sofa more than once,” she admitted sheepishly.
Heidi’s eyebrows shot into her fringe, “Oh… yikes.”
Lily nodded, “Yeah…”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Heidi asked, reaching a comforting hand over. “I could have… well, I don’t know what I could have done, but I could have supported you.”
Lily groaned, “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter anyway. The bottom line is we’re giving up for a bit and, to be completely honest, even though it’s a relief not to fight about it anymore, I’m devastated.”
“Aww, Lil,” Heidi sighed, squeezing her arm.
“I know a weight has been lifted from us, and I’m actually spending time with Johnny without wanting to punch him in the face, but it was all I wanted, Heidi,” the brunette confessed, her lip wobbling as she began to sniffle. “Is that selfish of me?”
“What?” Heidi scoffed, pulling her friend across the table awkwardly to hug her. “Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous, babe. I can’t pretend to know how you feel, but it’s not like it doesn’t make sense. There’s always later though, right? You guys haven’t called it off forever?”
“No, no,” Lily shook her head, still ensnared in Heidi’s death grip of a hug. “Not forever, just for now. Until we get back to a better place, I guess.”
Brian sauntered in, giving the women a look of amusement as he pulled open the fridge door causing Heidi to scramble out of the embrace as quickly as she could.
“Don’t you dare, Haner,” she warned, wagging her finger at him aggressively. “I have spent way too long slaving my ass off making dinner for you to snack now and ruin your appetite. I asked you earlier if you wanted anything.”
“And I wasn’t hungry then, but now I am,” he retorted, pouting at her for good measure. “Hey, you’ve got food,” he noted accusingly, raising his eyebrows at the plate between the women.
“Because I can refrain from eating the whole lot right before dinner,” Heidi replied smartly.
Brian snorted, giving her the finger before eyeing the tearful brunette sat opposite his wife. “What’s up with you, Lil?” he asked, tilting his head with a hint of concern.
Lily shrugged, “Oh, just bullshit, you know?”
“Bullshit like your spouse starving you, or…?” he trailed off, expertly dodging the flying mango that whizzed his way. “That’s childish,” he grinned as Heidi scowled at him.
“You’re childish,” she retorted playfully, narrowing her eyes. “It’s like being married to a teenager. Get your dramatic ass out of the kitchen.”
“Alright, alright,” he relented, holding up his palms in mock surrender. “I’ll just go back upstairs and starve, and when you call me, I won’t come down because all I’ll be is a pile of bones.”
“Great, maybe I’d get a break from your complaining,” Heidi muttered under her breath.
“I heard that,” Brian called over his shoulder as he departed, “and as punishment, I’m going to pretend I don’t like your cooking later in the most obnoxious manner I’m capable of.”
Heidi raised an eyebrow as he strolled away, laughing to himself, but was relieved to see that Brian’s smartass remarks had put a smile on Lily’s face.
“I don’t know how you put up with him,” the brunette giggled. “He’s a pain in the ass.”
Heidi rolled her eyes, “You should try living with him full time. Honestly, he never matured past seventeen. A week ago, he came in to do his hair while I was in the shower and wrote ‘Heidi’s a loooser’ with three ‘o’s in the condensation on the mirror. I forgot to clean it and now whenever I shower, it appears on the mirror and taunts me. He thinks it’s hilarious.”
Lily picked up her mug, trying to conceal her growing smirk as Heidi ranted on. It had been a while since her and Johnny had done anything like that, but she knew exactly what she’d be doing when she got home.
Lily jammed her key into the lock half-heartedly, finding returning home today as daunting as Johnny had so often found it. Despite the brief respite that visiting Heidi had given her, the cloud of her troubled relationship still hung over her. As she plodded down the corridor despondently, she found Johnny slouching at the table in the dim kitchen, the last rays of light from the sun illuminating his hunched figure.
“Johnny? Everything okay?” she asked, approaching him slowly. Looking over his shoulder, she noted the tattered envelope which he’d opened in his usual devil-may-care manner (which had always irked her – what if he tore the letter inside?) and the official looking letter beside it. “What’s that?” she questioned, leaning in to get a better view.
“It’s an appointment,” he answered, the words lingering on his lips as he made his way through them in a painfully slow manner. “It’s for the fertility clinic.”
“Oh,” she replied, finding little else to say. The letter evoked prickles along her nerves - of excitement or anxiety she wasn’t sure - and she reached over to get a better look at it. It was poorly timed, considering they’d just put the kibosh on having children, and all it served to do was spark a longing in her. It trembled ever so slightly in her hands as she skimmed over it.
LTF Fertility are pleased to offer you an introductory appointment at our clinic in Huntington Beach at 2.45pm on the 23rd June. At this appointment we will arrange for fertility testing for both parties and provide you with the opportunity to discuss and review the range of fertility treatments we have available.
She bit her lip, “What do we do with this?”
“I don’t know,” Johnny shrugged, “I thought we were taking a break for a bit?”
“We were… but if we put it off, we might have to wait ages for another appointment,” Lily mumbled, frowning at the letter as she sat herself on his lap. Why did this have to happen now, of all the times they could have had appointments available? “I don’t really know what to do.”
Johnny wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head against her shoulder, “Well, the appointment’s not for a couple of months, Lil. Why don’t we just wait and see how we go? Maybe by that time, with the pressure off of our shoulders, we’ll be thinking in a different light.”
“Yeah. Okay, yeah. That’s sensible advice,” she nodded, relaxing into him. “You’re so good at keeping calm. I knew I married you for a reason.”
“Not for my dashing good looks?” he quipped, giving her a devilish smile.
She giggled, giving him a playful shove, “Maybe it’s the way you tower over me.”
“Hey, I get enough of that from the guys,” he protested, sliding her off of his lap and standing. Giving her a comforting smile, he planted a soft kiss on her lips. “Come on,” he nudged her, “try and forget about this for now. Let’s watch a film together or something. You want a glass of wine?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her as he made for the cupboard.
Feeling a tingle of anxiety at the offer, Lily bit her lip. They’d been under her strict order for a few months to drink nothing – lest they further hinder their chances of conceiving – and the idea still prickled under her skin a little. Pushing the worry back down where it had risen up from, she tried to relax and nodded at him as he reached for a couple of glasses. “Yeah, sure. Rosé, please.”
“Pussy,” he snickered, rolling his eyes at her choice. “I knew you’d choose the worst one.”
She grinned, knowing exactly how she’d get him back for that remark. She turned away, calling over her shoulder, “Fuck you, Seward!”
“You’re a Seward too,” he reminded her with a devilish cackle. “Hey, you wanna choose something to watch?” he shouted after her as she made her way out of the kitchen.
“Yeah, just give me a sec,” she called back, heading for the stairs. She jogged up the steps with a smirk, making a beeline for the bathroom. She had a date with the mirror first…