The Serendipity of X, Y, and Z

Women Touching Pregnant Belly in Knitted Sweater

‘You can’t have this baby Rae, you know that.’ Addi looked past the midwife to her sister. The midwife was silent. They were in a small clinic on the outskirts of The Dome. A clinic that officially had shut down a decade ago. There was a small window above the desk that let in a shred of dust filtered light, old wallpaper struggling to keep its grip on the wall, and the old midwife sitting quietly in the corner. 

Rae’s fingers came to her mouth, her skin bleeding as she bit into the side of her worn down nails. 

‘I can’t believe you would do this,’ Addi was saying. ‘How. I just can’t get my head around how you  could do something so stupid and so dangerous.’

‘I shouldn't have come here,’ Rae stood, straightening her dress to hide her emerging bump. ‘I’m sorry I’ve brought you both into this. It wasn't fair of me.’

‘Yeah, no fucking kidding.’

‘I’ll go,’ Rae started to make for the door.

‘Wait,’ the midwife said. She stood slowly, and with her withered frame moved towards Rae, putting a hand on her shoulder. ‘I don't know what your options are. I can’t help you once you leave this room. But while you’re here, I can tell you if your baby is healthy.’ 

Rae hesitated. She looked from the frail old woman and over to her sister and saw the rage and fear seeping out of her every pore. She hated that she had put her sister through this.

‘You can't let her do that,’ Addi interjected. ‘You can't ask her to treat you. The fact you even came here. The fact you put her life at risk with this. Mine, fine. But let's leave the old woman out of it.’ Sweat lined her brow. 

Rae nodded. ‘I agree. Thank you, but you’ve already done enough. I didn't think things through. I shouldn’t have put you at risk like this.’ 

The midwife locked the door. ‘You can't undo coming here now. It’s done. You may as well leave with the information you seek. Sit.’ 

The firm tone helped Rae, and she quickly found herself moving towards the ultrasound equipment.  

‘Rae,’ Addi’s voice was begging now. 

‘What further harm could it do?’ Rae asked. 

‘Are you kidding me?’ Addi peered out of the dusty window at the old street outside. Being this far from The Center unsettled her, seeing that some people lived like this. The midwife sighed. ‘Just sit,’ she motioned to a reclined chair as she set up the equipment. ‘We’ll just check the heart and take a look to see if development is normal.’ 

‘Does that old thing even work?’ Addi snapped. 

‘Old things work just fine if you take good care of them. Thank you very much,’ the midwife retorted. ‘Good thing I’ve still got them running, else you two would be in quite a pickle wouldn’t you?’ 

‘Yes, I’m very grateful. Thank you,’ Rae said.  

‘There are not many options for women in situations such as yourself,’ the midwife reminded her. 

‘Yes, I know.’ Rae admitted.  

The midwife smiled at her kindly. ‘Well, never you mind about all the mess out there at the minute. Come now, let’s take a look.’ 

‘Why?’ Addi spun around. The two of them were now acting as if this was entirely normal. As if the next step would be sending out the baby shower invites.  ‘What are you even going to do with the baby? You cannot carry this baby to term Rae. You will be exiled. Or killed,’ her voice cracked. ‘You know better than this.’ 

‘I can see you’re angry,’ Rae was in the chair, raising her clothing to expose her swelling belly. The midwife squeezed jelly out of an ancient looking tube and began smearing it across Rae’s skin. 

‘Angry doesn't even begin to cover it,’ Addi said. ‘How could you risk all of us like this? What about my family. Did you even think about them? They’re involved now. I’m involved now. I could be killed too, Rae.’ 

‘Of course, I thought of them,’ Rae choked. ‘How could I not think of them?’ 

‘Well, it must have been a short thought, as you clearly don't care if we’re put away forever.’ 

Rae’s voice went calm. ’Addi, no one needs to know you were even here.’ 

‘I’m your sister. They’ll suspect me regardless. They’ll know that I helped you.’ 

The hollow echo of an infants heartbeat filled the room as the midwife adjusted her instruments, pushing into Rae’s flesh. The swooshing noise of the ultrasound overtook, and everything seemed to melt away for a single moment.  

Addi paused, and her eye’s met Rae’s for a second before she forced herself to look away once more.  

‘Listen Addi. Can you hear that?’ Tears stung painfully in Addi’s eyes. ‘What? The impending sound of your doom?’ Rae swallowed. ’No. The sound of your niece.’ 

Addi dared to look at her sister. They stared at one another. ‘Rae, how could this be worth it? What if I never get to see you again?’ 

Rae didn’t have an answer. She looked beseechingly at her sister, her hand protectively cradling the side of her belly. The tiny grey image of her child flickering on the monitor next to her. It was surreal. All of this planning. All of this thought and worry. None of it mattered now. Her baby, her baby, was real. Nothing could undo that. And nothing could make her abandon this child. This was her baby.  

‘Rae,’ the midwife spoke. She pulled her vision from the monitor. Her voice was heavy and thick, the light in the small office seemed to dim further as she spoke. ‘Rae, how did you get pregnant with this child?’ her voice had become hoarse. 

With a bolt of dread, Rae sat upright. ‘Something is wrong with the baby,’ the words fell out of her mouth sounding stupid given the enormity of the broader situation. She felt a surge of panic. Was the baby not healthy? Was the baby deformed? Perhaps she had done something wrong. She should have asked someone to help. Maybe she got the sequence wrong, had the timing off. Had she harmed her child? 

‘You need to leave with this child right now,’ the midwife turned off the screen and quickly started packing up her instruments. ‘Addi, you too. You need to get to your home now and pretend you were never here. Do you hear me? We need to leave this room immediately. No one can know we saw this,’ the midwife turned to Rae. ‘Do you understand what I am saying to you?’ 

Rae blinked, the midwife continued. ‘You cannot be in The Dome. You need to leave. Now.’[Text Wrapping Break]Rae’s eyes were wide, but she nodded her agreement. ‘I have a few things here,’ she said motioning to a bag.  

‘You have food? And something warm? A blanket? A coat?’ The midwife was flustered, afraid.  

Rae nodded again. 

‘You already know then. Good,’ the midwife said moving towards the door. ‘It’s time, you need to leave now.’ 

‘Ok,’ Rae moved towards the door. ‘No wait, I need to know. Is my baby Ok?’ 

The midwife froze. ‘The baby is healthy, yes. But you really have to go,’ she was shaking. 

Addi moved towards her sister. ‘Wait slow down. What is happening? I don't understand. Where will you go?’ 

‘I can't be here,’ Rae said calmly. ‘They will kill the baby and me if I stay. And you were right, I would be putting you and your family at risk.’ 

‘You didn't seem too concerned about that fifteen minutes ago,’ Addi said, she started pacing, inching closer to her sister. 

‘It wasn't as bad as this fifteen minutes ago,’ the midwife said. ‘You should have checked Rae, you could have checked.’ 

Rae shook her head. ‘I couldn't check. It was my only chance. There was no time.’ She picked up her bag. ’I’m sorry Addi, I really am.’  

‘Wait, please. I’m lost,’ Addi grabbed Rae’s sleeve as she tried for the door handle. ‘What is happening? You obviously broke the law, I get that. You’re somehow walking around here pregnant without permission so that part is clear. I just don’t understand how.’ 

The midwife interrupted. ‘She stole the sample.’ 

There was a pause. ’You what?’ Addi backed away. There was a clamour as she toppled a tray of instruments to the floor.  

Rae looked down. 

‘Rae,’ Addi was in tears. ‘That’s treason.’ 

‘I know,’ Rae said. She tried to reach for her sister, but Addi only moved further back. Rae smiled sadly at her. Her little sister. She might never see her again. This might be it. The last moment she had with her family as everything would change now, all of this was gone for her. ‘I knew the law. I did it anyway. They will have me killed Addi. I need to go.’ 

‘Then why all this? Why bring me here?’ Addi’s voice was raised. ‘You could have just run off then and never risked me getting into trouble with you. You made me find this tiny office in the middle of nowhere and pull an old woman from retirement. If they walked in now all three of us would be shot. Why go to this length if you already knew you were going to run?’ Her whole body was shaking as she spoke.  

Rae looked at her. She had no words as grief and fear consumed her. And panic. She needed to move fast, to get away.  

‘She needed to be sure,’ the midwife said. ‘Of what?’ Addi asked. Rae shook her head. 

‘Rae?’ 

‘She needed to know if it was a son or a daughter,’ the midwife said. 

‘A son?’ Addi choked. ‘That’s not possible.’ 

‘It seemed so improbable,’ Rae muttered. Her hands now resting on her belly.  

‘She stole the sample,’ the midwife repeated. 

‘That’s still not possible,’ Addi’s head shook as she tried to piece the puzzle together.  ‘I stole it from the database. I stole it, and implanted it myself,’ Rae explained. ‘But it’s not possible. There are only X’s Rae. What you’re saying, it just isn't possible.’ 

‘Addi I took it from the historical samples.’ Rae reached for her sister and touched her face, trying to dry some of the tears. ‘I have to go.’ Addi took a step forwards. ‘This is real?’ she asked. ‘This is real.’ 

‘Oh Rae,’ Addi pulled her sister’s body towards her. She grappled at her pulling her as close as she could as sobs began to wrack her body.   Rae squeezed her back, trying to remember the sensation and scent of her sibling. ‘There’s nowhere to go where they won't find you,’ Addi wept.  

The midwife opened the door, and fading light of the sun filled the room. ‘She will go to the outskirts.’ 

Addi looked desperately between the old woman and her sister. ‘You can’t survive out there. The baby can't survive out there.’ 

‘I’m sorry Addi. I need to leave this place. I need to give my son a chance to live. I need to try.’