“Oh my god,” Johnny groaned, “I can hardly move.”
“I did tell you not to have that dessert,” Lily smirked. “I know you, Jonathan Lewis Seward, and a four course man you are not.”
“We only had three courses,” he argued, rubbing at his stomach pitifully as they strolled down the street hand in hand.
Lily snorted, “Except you ate the entire bread basket as well, so I’m counting that.”
Johnny groaned again, coming to a halt and throwing back his head for dramatic effect, “But the balsamic vinegar and ciabatta combo was so good, I couldn’t help it.”
His wife giggled, pulling his hand gently to coax him back into movement. They’d been to their favourite Italian restaurant, Moretti’s, for the first time in about a year. It had been their Friday night haunt once - before things had become so strained between them that date nights were out of the question - and they were keen to make it so once again. Their fertility clinic appointment was creeping ever closer, but they’d both forcefully pushed it to the back of their minds, determined to enjoy each other’s company in the wait. Salvatore Moretti had been so pleased to see his favourite customers that he’d offered them a bottle of wine and a bread basket on the house – an offer Johnny had taken him up on and then indulged in with a determination to enjoy every last drop and crumb of the gift.
“Tonight was great,” Johnny sighed, pulling his hand from Lily’s to wrap his arm around her shoulders affectionately. He dipped his head down to whisper in her ear, “And you look outstandingly sexy, might I add.” He straightened up and raised his voice, “I’m going to take you home and fuck your brains out.”
“Johnny,” she laughed, blushing furiously as she looked around to make sure the street was empty. “What if someone heard that?”
“I don’t care if the whole world knows,” he declared proudly, grinning at her with mischief.
Lily couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her face as she shook her head, “I’m not sure if that’s romantic or not.”
“Oh, come on, Lil,” he smirked, making no effort to lower his tone, eager to fluster her further. “When have you ever wanted romance? You’re a freak between the sheets, especially when I do that thing where I lick-”
“Shut up,” she laughed, shoving him away. “You’re trying to embarrass me, and it’s not going to work.”
Johnny cackled, “Now that sounds like a challenge, and it’s one I’ll happily rise to. You’ll never stop me-”
She cut him off by grabbing at his collar and pulling him in for a deep kiss that effectively silenced him. As they broke apart, with Johnny’s cheeks now flushed also, Lily gazed up at him with a twinkle in her eye.
“You’re all talk tonight, Seward,” she teased, still holding on to his collar. “Why don’t take me home and make good on your promise?”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he answered breathlessly, a sly smile pulling at his lips.
They fell apart breathlessly, each wearing a satisfied smile. The sheets were a tangled mess around them, the cool air that breezed in through the open window trailing lazily over their glowing skin. Johnny set his hands behind his head with a contented sigh as Lily curled up under his arm, resting her head on his chest. He wiggled his nose as her dark curls tickled his face.
“You’ve got too much hair,” he complained, teasing a ringlet out and watching it bounce back.
“I could shave it off if you like, go for that Sinead O’Connor look?”
“God, no,” he laughed. “It’s mildly inconvenient at times like this, but it’s beautiful. Imagine our baby having these beautiful curls.”
“Our baby?” she asked, her breath catching in her throat. She rolled onto her front, leaning across his chest as she frowned at him in confusion.
Johnny took a deep breath, “I was thinking that maybe we could start trying again after our appointment.”
Lily took a moment to absorb his proposal, unsure of how to feel. Her heart swelled at the idea of reuniting with her husband on their adventure into parenthood, but she also felt a sense of impending doom at the prospect. The pressure that had borne down on them in the last year had not been sorely missed in the last couple of months, but the desire had lingered in the back of both of their minds quietly, and without the fights and militant routine to stifle it, it had undeniably become more attractive again.
Sensing her hesitation, he quickly brushed off his idea. “You know what? That was a stupid suggestion. Ignore me,” he laughed awkwardly, “I’m just caught up in the moment.”
“No,” Lily cut him off, shaking her head. “It’s just that I’m honestly scared. I know what a horrible person I turned into, and I don’t want to be that again. I don’t know how to go forward from here without getting sucked into that again.”
Johnny grimaced, a deep sigh escaping his lips, “Fuck, I ruined the mood.”
Lily snickered and snuggled back down into him, “No you haven’t, just maybe stop talking. I prefer you a mindless slave with no opinions of your own.”
“Oh right, of course. I mean yes mistress,” he retorted with a jovial laugh. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly until they both fell into a somewhat restless sleep, his suggestion clinging on in the corners of their minds.
“Have we got everything?” Lily asked, frantically stuffing her phone and keys into her purse.
“Did we need anything?” Johnny asked, looking over the letter that was clutched between his fingers. They’d attended their initial appointment a couple of weeks ago. It had been a run of the mill introductory meeting with many boring questions of medical history and lifestyle, followed by a collection of samples for testing – something Johnny had found to be a far more embarrassing experience than Lily had. They now faced the day of the results, and over the past week, Lily’s stress levels had crept up leaving her constantly on edge and difficult to live with. They’d not argued at all, but she’d been a little short with him and the house was sparkling – a sure sign that she was attempting to work her worries out via mop and bucket. “Don’t stress yourself, babe,” he smiled, pulling her into a comforting embrace.
She melted into him, grateful for the reassurance. “Sorry,” she mumbled, “you’re right. I need to try and chill out.”
“It’s a big day,” he acknowledged, kissing the top of her head, “but we’re facing it together.”
They piled themselves into his pristine car for a short but tense ride, both thankful to finally reach the clinic. Johnny made small talk as they sat in the waiting room, and Lily nodded in all the right places while not really listening, until they both froze up as someone approached them.
“Mr and Mrs Seward?” smiled the woman, garnering their attention. “Would you like to follow me?”
They glanced at each other nervously as they stood, each one questioning whether they were the problem and guessing at the solution. Johnny closed his fingers around Lily’s dainty hand in an affectionate display of unity, for nothing mattered to him more than she did. They followed the receptionist down the corridor, where they were shown to a cosy room inhabited by a rounded, raven-haired lady who sat at a desk framed by the large window.
“Hello again, Mr and Mrs Seward,” she smiled. “I’m Dr Singh. We met briefly at your consultation a few weeks ago. How are you both today?”
“Good, thank you,” Lily lied, wringing her hands as she smiled anxiously.
She gestured to the chairs in front of her desk, “Why don’t you both have a seat, and we’ll discuss the results of your fertility testing?”
Johnny and Lily did as they were told, both feeling as though they were weighted down with stones in their pockets, as Dr Singh’s fingers tapped against the computer keys.
She cleared her throat and looked up at the expectant pair of eyes opposite her, “So, I’ve looked over everything and we’ve found the cause for your difficulty with conceiving. Mrs Seward, everything appears to be fine and in working order with yourself which is good news…”
“But?” Lily asked, leaning forward in her seat. Johnny shifted uncomfortably beside her, now aware that it was he that was the problem.
“Mr Seward,” the doctor began delicately, “the sample you provided us with indicated a low sperm count and poor motility. In layman’s terms, there aren’t many sperm cells and they don’t swim well, lowering the chance that they can fertilise the egg cell.”
Johnny swallowed uncomfortably, “So what does that mean?”
“It means that your chances of conceiving naturally are very slim,” Dr Singh replied gently. “I’m sorry., but there are treatments available for couples like yourselves though. Some have success with IVF, but it can be an expensive endeavour.”
“How much?” Lily asked without hesitation.
“A round of IVF treatment at our clinic starts at $13,495. You’ll also require treatments alongside the IVF, to increase the success rate, and those medications can cost up to $2000. Your insurance may cover some costs, but it’s a big commitment for yourselves to make, emotionally and financially. And of course, you have to be aware that the rate of women who become pregnant and go on to have a live birth is around 57% for our clinic,” she added.”
Johnny frowned at her, “That’s not very high.”
“Pregnancy is complicated, Mr Seward,” she explained. “Even in a naturally conceived pregnancy, there is a chance that the mother may not carry the fetus to full term. We can help you with conception, but after that, I’m afraid it’s in nature’s hands.”
“I’m sorry, babe,” Johnny apologised, wrapping his arms around her tightly as she sobbed in the parking lot.
She shook her head fiercely, “Don’t be silly. You can’t help it, John. It’s not like you can control it. I just hate hearing that our best option is something we’ll never afford.”
“Hey,” he interjected, “of course we’ll afford it, Lil. We’ll start saving right away, and the band is starting to gain traction so hopefully we’ll have some more cash coming in soon. I promise you we’ll get there one day.”
She leaned into him, gathering fistfuls of his tee into her fingers and holding on tightly. “Or maybe this is the universe telling us it’s not meant to be,” she replied quietly, her voice wavering.
“What?” Johnny exclaimed, “No way, Lily. You’d be an amazing mother, I know you would. This is just an obstacle to get over to get there. I swear to you right now that I’m going to work my fucking ass off for as long as I need to until there’s a perfect baby in our arms.”
The beautiful brunette wiped at her damp lashes with her sleeve and looked up at him with adoration, “I don’t deserve you.”
“No one deserves me, I’m a god amongst men,” he teased, delicately tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“More like a clown,” Lily snorted, rolling her eyes, and though she secretly agreed that he was more of the divine being ilk, she'd never let that one go to his head.
“There she is,” he snickered at her quip, giving her a last squeeze before turning the key in the ignition. “Let’s get you home, my queen. I’ll even buy you a pint of buttered pecan on the way back.”
She sniffled, admiring him with gratitude as he shifted the car into reverse. “You always know how to make a girl smile, Mr Seward. Take me home.”