An hour later, while Francesca was pretending to read in bed, the floor creaked, and she looked up. The figure of Evan stood in the doorway, leaning on the frame.
Francesca kept a level gaze at him until he looked down. “So….I’ve been thinking about what you said. And I understand where you’re coming from.” He scuffed his foot across the carpet, clearing his throat. “It does seem a little…questionable to conceive a child as an afterthought. But I think that we’re great parents. Obviously, we’d love the kid, and in the long run, I just feel like it’s not going to be that big of a deal.”
“I know.” Francesca put down her book, and folded her hands in her lap. She examined a cracked nail. “But right now, the idea of even conceiving a child for the wrong reasons just doesn’t sit well with me. Living with the guilt of knowing that reason—”
“I understand, and I get what you’re saying. But when we have two healthy kids, it’s not going to matter, right? And really, I’m not sure we need to tell this child that this happened, until he’s a little older.”
“I mean—that’s getting a bit far in the future, but yes, I agree.” Francesca sighed as Evan sat on the edge of the bed.
“So you agree?” Evan sounded dangerously hopeful.
Francesca closed her eyes, and then looked him square in his. “I’m not promising anything, Evan. Let me think. Give me time.”
Evan stood up, walking out the door. “Like Dr. Singh said, you don’t really have that much time left.”
“I’m highly aware. You don’t need to remind me every hour,” Francesca snapped. Evan stormed out, his footsteps thundering down the stairs.
Dr. Singh opened the door, and sat down. “Hello there,” he said, curiosity piquing in his voice.
“Hi,” Francesca said breathlessly, adjusting herself in her seat, letting a protesting Jeff go play with the enticing Legos in the corner. “Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice.”
“Not a problem—I’m glad I had this morning free. The nurse didn’t give me much information— she just said you called this morning and wanted to meet with me. What can I do for you today?”
“Evan doesn’t know I’m here, just by the way,” Francesca traced a line on Dr. Singh’s desk. “I wanted to speak with you in private.”
“Patient confidentiality is something that I value highly.” He waited for her to begin.
“I don’t really know how to put this,” she laughed nervously.
“Are you informing me of your decision for Jeff’s treatment?” Dr. Singh asked her gently.
“Oh, no.” Francesca said, a little shocked. “I wanted to…I guess I wanted to discuss one particular option with you. Having another child...”
For the first time in all of their appointments, Dr. Singh averted his attentive green eyes from her face and gazed out the window.
“This has always been a divisive issue. I don’t want to give you my opinion of it, lest I taint your decision-making process. It is up to the patient to decide their course of action. However, I can give you a more scientific perspective, if that would help.”
Francesca sat back in her chair. “That’s fine. I’m not expecting any answers. I’m just worried that Evan and I will be conceiving a child for the wrong reasons. That the conception is first and foremost because we need his or her cord blood cells, and then the love of the child comes after. It just seems like we’re prioritizing our love for Jeff over this child, and I don’t want that to be the case.”
Dr. Singh merely nodded, willing her to continue.
“And I guess, as another question—I know that I definitely will love the child because it is my child, but when he or she finds out, don’t you think that at some level, they’d think that they were loved only because they could save Jeff?” Her eyes searched Dr. Singh’s face imploringly, whose kind green eyes were impartial.
Dr. Singh sat back in his chair, sighing. “I think that’s a very circular argument. And to address your concerns—they are all very valid, and definitely not something to be dismissed or to be judged by others. I can’t tell you much more than if we undergo this process, and a match is found—remember, it’s not always guaranteed that the embryos will prove to be viable matches for Jeff—then Jeff will be cured. I also wanted to add that this process is grueling for your body—“
Francesca waved her hand dismissively. “That doesn’t matter.”
Dr. Singh paused and nodded. “Like I was saying, this child will have nothing taken from it but the cord blood. As a physician, and from my professional training and experience, I can tell you that, while every disease progression is different, if Jeff doesn’t receive some sort of treatment within a year and a half, his odds of long-term survival are drastically reduced.”
He paused here, as if trying to gauge Francesca’s emotions, but she was expressionless. “Telling your child and dealing with his or her feelings about it comes much later, and if counseling is needed, your family is always welcomed back here.”
Francesca sighed. “I just can’t decide. Of course I want to save Jeff. But it’s just those little nagging doubts...” She stopped to look over at Jeff, tears coming to her eyes.
“I’m just not the type of person to jump into a decision before I’m one-hundred percent about it,” she said softly.
Dr. Singh’s green eyes seemed to smile, accentuating his premature lines around his forehead. “Everything you do is a little leap of faith. This gap is just bigger.”
The conversation with Dr. Singh reverberated in her head all afternoon. Today was Evan’s short day, so he would be home soon. She rose from the piano bench and made her way lightly up the stairs. Opening Jeff’s door slightly, she smiled as she saw the sunlight splashing over his smooth cheek, mercifully pinkish, his breaths coming in slow, short, sharp gasps. In this light, he seemed like any other normal child taking a late afternoon nap.
She tiptoed her way downstairs, back to the piano bench, where she drew her feet up to her chest. Still, she could not shake her doubts. It seemed like a betrayal of trust, of love—a betrayal, because children assume that their parents had them out of an innate love for who they are, their being and their existence. But to know that you probably wouldn’t have even been conceived if your older brother hadn’t needed your umbilical cord blood cells? That was a completely different matter. Wasn’t it?
Her body tensed as she heard the garage door opening, followed by the low growl of the car entering. The car door slammed, and the door to the garage opened.
She could see Evan taking off his shoes and ducking through the doorway out of the corner of her eye. Opening the door before taking off shoes always seemed completely illogical to Francesca, but he'd done that for as long as she could remember.
“Hi,” Evan said as he walked into the house, spotting Francesca in the kitchen.
No customary hug and kiss, just a “Hi.” She gave him a half-hearted smile. She missed Evan’s affections acutely, but his words from last night still stung bitterly in her ears.
“Haven’t thought about it much, eh?” Evan said under his breath, as he made his way up the stairs.
“Have you thought about it from my point of view?” Francesca folded her arms across her chest. He stopped, and turned around.
“Not when my son can’t breathe,” he shot at her.
“Evan! Try and think—if you were our child, what would you think if you discovered that the only reason you were ever conceived was because your sibling needed your cord blood?” Her voice trembled with emotion, but she held her ground, her chin raised levelly toward him.
Evan’s grey eyes had been hooded as she asked this question. Now, they kindled as they opened wide. He stepped down the stairs without breaking eye contact with her.
“I would think about how lucky I am to have been born into such a wonderful family. A dad who loves me, and a mom who would do anything for me—why, that’s just incredible. And as for my brother—he always has my back, and he’s my best friend. That’s what I would think.”
Francesca blinked, stunned. “I—I mean…” she stuttered.
“But that’s all theoretical, isn’t it?” he turned around, stomping back up the stairs to get Jeff.
Francesca fumed as she prepared the table for their dinner. Evan returned downstairs with Jeff on his hip, retrieving the pasta from the stove. She watched him, a low fury grumbling in the pit of her stomach.
“I can’t do this, Evan,” she said as she strode toward the jacket closet. “I refuse.”
Evan’s arms fell limply to his sides as he finished ladling spaghetti into Jeff’s bowl. “Where are you going?"
“Post office. Got to mail something to Mom.” Francesca picked up an already-wrapped package of books and chocolate that her mother wanted and let the door slam behind her.
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