The pain started the night before her first shift at the hospital was to start. It felt like regular period cramps, only sharper and there was no blood, only a strange discharge.
Harriet tried to ignore the pain. She took a couple pills out of her newly stocked bathroom and went back to bed. When that failed to stop the pain, she stood up and wrapped herself in her pink robe and put on her slippers and walked around the house.
She understood why the house was so uninviting and unlived in now and that’s because it was. Jacob usually had early morning shifts as a general physician, then Chris would go fulfill his role as senior resident in general surgery, then Martin would go in for an afternoon and night shift. With the busy schedules and being on call even when they were home, the house basically served as a bunker and a place to change clothes and eat on occasion. They didn’t care about the fancy art and empty rooms.
Harriet understood, she truly did, but at the same time, she couldn’t help but think of what a lousy reason it was. As children, they had laughed and played together and were rarely even inside. In fact, she had a hard time even remembering the inside of the house.
Maybe it had always looked a bit like an Ikea showroom.
The pain suddenly wrapped around her entire middle and Harriet cried out as her knees buckled and she hit the floor. The pain only grew sharper and she gasped at the warmness trickling over her ankle that was stuck underneath her. Things began to swim before her blurring vision, but she was able to make out the sound of an opening door and head peeking out.
Vaguely she heard someone say her name and felt a hand touch her shoulder. The person standing beside her shouted something and banged on the wall across from where she slumped in what felt like puddle of warm oil.
When the second door opened, her vision and hearing and logic began to make their way back to her. Chris, the one who’d touched her shoulder, was moving aside so Jacob could move in. He had shaggy black hair that was unkempt solely because he was too busy to get it cut and blue eyes that looked tired even when he wasn’t. Jacob was her father’s nephew where Chris and Martin were second and third cousins respectively.
“Harriet, can you hear me?” Jacob asked and knelt beside her, taking in the slow pooling liquid. She nodded, but felt too weak to use words. “Can you tell me where it’s hurting?”
She moved the hand that was already on her stomach in a slow, choppy circle.
“How badly?” He asked as he checked her pulse. She flinched as Chris found a light switch and the brightness of a thousand suns assaulted her eyes. She tried to speak again, but found herself unable, so instead she held up her hand and clenched her index finger and thumb together, the ASL sign for the number nine. She wanted to say ten, twenty, a thousand—but she was a doctor and she had seen people in far worse pain than she was in now. Nine might have been too much, but she wasn’t thinking straight.
“Chris, call in.” Jacob told him, undoing her robe and lightly squeezing her abdomen. “I think she’s having a miscarriage.”
Chris was already on his way, turning sharply on his heels and rushing into the library and to the phone on the desk.
Harriet hardly knew what was happening around her, but she did know one thing. As they loaded her up into the ambulance, she reached out and tugged at Jacob’s sleeve as he pulled the doors shut and moved to sit beside her.
“Jako,” She said weakly, using his childhood hood nickname. “I’m not even pregnant.”
She woke up in the hospital she was supposed to be working in a couple hours later. It was a hospital room, but with the sort of high class look that could only be found in rich towns. The hospital bed was made to look as much like a bed as possible and the little remote control had way more buttons than it needed to. The waiting chairs were plush and yellow and the walls were ivory suede that shimmered softly in the sunlight filtering in through the window.
Harriet didn’t like it any more than she liked the house. She missed her own home with her own bed and wallpaper and the way the house always smelled like vanilla and argon oil. She should have never left home.
“Harriet?” A voice said from the other side of the door before it opened up. It was Jacob in light blue scrubs that told her he was on duty. “Good, you’re awake.”
Harriet looked around. “What happened?”
Jacob sighed and came to sit on the edge of the bed, breaking doctor-patient code. But right now, doctor that he was, he was also her cousin. None the less, he looked at the clipboard that was at the foot of her bed and went over it for a few seconds. He did it in a way that told Harriet he already knew everything that was on it, had maybe even put it there himself.
“Jacob.” She said. She could still hear his voice saying something in that hallway, but she couldn’t remember what it was.
He put the clipboard down and turned toward her. His face was wane and he had a shadow of a beard clouding his jawline. “You had a miscarriage.”
“I’m not—I wasn’t—pregnant.” She told him, looking him dead in the eyes. “I’m not.”
“You’re telling me,” He said. “That there’s absolutely no possible way you could have conceived a child because you’ve refrained from sexual intercourse for at least nine months?”
“No, but—” A flipping pain rolled inside her chest. “I’m on birth control. I use condoms.”
Most of the time. There had been a couple times where they’d run out or they weren’t near any and the moment hit them too strong and too quickly to ignore. When that happened, they didn’t worry because she was on…
“You’re a doctor Harriet.” He said, standing up. “You know as well as I that you could take every precaution in the world and, aside from complete abstinence, there is always a possibility.”
“No.” Her voice broke. “No I—no.”
“I’m sorry Harriet.” He gave her a sad look. “I left Uncle Arthur a message telling him you were here, but I didn’t say why. I figured that should be the one to tell him. He hasn’t called back, but he should probably be off his shift soon and see the message.”
Oh god. She could just see the look on her dad’s face when she told him. When she told him of what had happened and how it had happened. He spent years bringing home tales of women who weren’t cautious about sex. STD’s through the roof, permanent emotional damage, unplanned and…and uncared for pregnancies. Harriet didn’t drink or smoke or partake in any especially physically straining activities, but she hadn’t taken care of it. Hadn’t taken care of the thing growing inside her.
“How…How could I not have known?” She asked Jacob, asked herself. “I’ve been training as a doctor my entire life and yet somehow I missed the signs of something so simple as a pregnancy?”
No, no she hadn’t. She hadn’t missed her periods, but the last two had been spotty. And her breasts were especially sore and she had gained weight and thrown up on the plane. She had also had a decrease in appetite and an unusually heightened sex drive. She’d chalked that part up to the stress of leaving and the knowledge that she wasn’t going to be getting any sort of sexual satisfaction until Andrew flew out. But still, she hadn’t…
“Pregnancy is hardly simple Harriet, you know that. Creating another life is amazing and wonderful and hard on the body. And—”
“And I failed.” She said shortly.
“Harriet.” Jacob looked as if he didn’t know just what he was supposed to do. She was his patient, but also cousin and childhood play mate. “You know it’s not your fault. These things happen. We’re going to do some testing when you’re feeling better to be sure it’s not a faulty uterus or a fibroid or polyps. It could very well have just been a chromosomal anomaly and won’t happen again. Still, we’d like to be sure so you still have a fair chance for conception. Later.”
He said that because as doctor-type and logical as the Thatchers were, they still believed in the sanctity of marriage and a settled career before starting a family. Although they’d been together a year, she and Andrew had never really discussed marriage or children. Moving in together, yes, but… They’d said simple things like “I would never name my child that” or had discussions of what Harriet would or wouldn’t like in a wedding dress as Andrew worked on one for a customer. But they had never discussed anything in detail or as a couple. We would never name our child that. I would love that for our wedding.
“Oh, god.” She whispered.
“What is it?” Jacob asked as his doctor side began to take over and he started looking over all the machines and various monitors.
“Nothing.” She said immediately. “Jako?”
“You can’t tell anyone okay?” She said.
“Please.” She grabbed his wrist when he went to check her pupils.
He sighed. “We all know at the house. Martin cleaned it up.”
She felt herself pale. “Was it that much?” She had felt as if she had bled out on that hall floor.
“No, not really, but it smeared.”
Harriet had to swallow twice. “I didn’t…”
“It happens Hattie.” Jacob said, his voice turning soft as he pulled his wrist away. His face twisted in a way that made Harriet certain there was something else. She just watched him “There’s…we’re going to have to give you a dose of oxytocin because the—”
“Because the fetus is still inside me.” She said as a form of dismissal.
Jacob just shook his head. “I’m sorry. But you really should tell your family at home. At least the baby’s father.”
She gave Jacob a smile as he left the room. “I’ll tell them what they need to know.”
And she would tell them what they needed to know.
Which was absolutely nothing.