11. Nervous

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As it turns out, I don’t really know what to chat with a four year old about. She’s a little ball of energy that can barely sit still long enough to eat. Vincent is practically begging her to stay in her chair and finish her food, but she’s unconcerned with his wants. I can tell she has him wrapped around her little finger.

“Ms. Evening, why is your car so messy?”

Well, a lot of that stuff I have to take to Goodwill. It’s a place where you take things you no longer need, and they are sold to people that do need them for a low price.

“I know that place. Daddy always says he’s going to take my toys there when I leave them in the middle of the floor, but he never does. Hehehehe!”

“She wouldn’t notice if I did. She has a million toys.”

“And I got a hundred more today!”

What’s your favorite toy, Davinder?

“My most favorite toy is my easy oven. I can make brownies and chocolate chip cookies!”

I had an Easy Bake Oven when I was a little girl too! I can’t believe they still make those things.  Hopefully the food has gotten better.

I don’t know whether or not they still make them. Seana had one that she got as a gift one year, but never opened. I just buy those cheap brownie and cookie mixes that only require water.”

Well at least she left her something. 

“Davinder, sit still and finish your food.”

“I am, Daddy. Stop saying that. It’s getting on my nervous.”

“Well you know it gets on my nerves, not nervous when you don’t eat your food.”

It’s taking everything in me to not burst into laughter.  I cannot believe she just told this man he’s getting on her nerves. I totally get it though. He’s been telling her to sit still every 2 minutes. Hell, he’s getting on my nerves too.

“I can tell you’re laughing on the inside, Eve. I told you she’s four going on fourteen with major attitude.”

In fairness to her, being told to sit still every couple of minutes would annoy me as well.

“She’ll be whining about being hungry in an hour if she doesn’t finish this food. One day you’ll understand why I have to keep getting on her nervous about eating.”

“You didn’t eat all of your food Daddy. Hope you’re not hungry, whiny in an hour.”

I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I burst into laughter, and so did Vincent. Davinder just smirked, and stuffed a chicken nugget in her mouth.

“I saw that, Eve.”

What did you see, Vincent?

“The moment you fell in love with my…our girl.”

10. Daddy Issues

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We decided to go into the CNN Center and sit at the food court to grab a quick bite to eat. You can tell a lot about a person by what they allow their kids eat. I anxiously waited to see if my baby’s daddy had any strange dietary restrictions for Davinder, but much to my delight he didn’t. He let her get chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. I’m so relieved to know he doesn’t have an agenda against processed foods. Davinder picked a table right beside a cluster of those gumball and toy machines full of choking hazards. Luckily for her, I have a wallet full of quarters, and once she realized I was willing to part with them, she was thrilled. She forgot all about her food and she’s camped out by those machines having a ball.

“Please don’t give her anymore quarters. She’s going to stay at those machines and ignore us all damn day.”

I hear what you’re saying, and I want to respect your wishes, but don’t rob me of this moment to give my daughter these little gifts that she so badly wants. I’ve got a lot of making up to do.

“That’s all in your mind. She doesn’t know you have anything to make up for, and technically you don’t.  It’s not like you were a deadbeat parent by choice. You’re not Seana.”

Does Davinder miss her?

“I don’t think so. Seana wasn’t very engaged while she was around, so I guess it was kind of easy for Davi to forget about her. She asked me about her once when she first left. Then, we just carried on without her.”

Wow. I can’t believe she just disappeared on you guys. My Dad essentially did the same thing and it kinda fucked me up for years. One might argue my daddy issues are very prevalent in my life considering the types of men I’m attracted to.

“What types of men are you attracted to?

Emotionally stunted, life of the party, never going to settle down alcoholics, Usually.

“Whoa… that’s um, interesting. If you’ve been able to pinpoint the problem with the men you choose, why don’t you just make a promise to yourself to not entertain men like that anymore? Like, the moment you find out he’s that type of person, you should end all communication. You know those things aren’t a recipe for a healthy relationship, so don’t allow yourself to get caught up with dudes like that.”

I don’t really have a good answer for why I don’t shut it down immediately. Men like that tend to also have some redeeming qualities.  The ones I’ve dealt with are always tall, handsome and funny. Those three things will get you in the door. Usually by the time I recognize the bad shit about them, enough time has passed that my feelings are involved and it’s not easy to just walk away.  I have a bleeding heart, and I always try to see the good in people.  Sometimes I let that go too far.  I guess there’s a part of me that is hopeful the next guy will be different. It hasn’t really worked out that way, so obviously I need to try something different. Although in fairness to me, I kinda did try to date a few guys I wouldn’t normally be attracted to.  It was a disaster each and every time, so I’m not sure where to go from there.

“How did your last relationship end?”

It was tragic. Cris fell asleep one night playing his XBOX and somehow he got tangled up in the cord and choked to death. And, as if that wasn’t enough… he had also left the water running in the bathroom sink and it overflowed and made it into the room and electrocuted him. It’s kinda unclear which one of those situations actually killed him.

“Seriously?”

Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I’ve healed and moved on from that though. I’m good.

“Are you?”

Absolutely! Anyway… Have you dated anyone since Seana left?

“I’ve not dated anyone seriously, but I’ve had a few women here and there to pass the time.”

Of course you have. Men always have a warm body available for those lonely nights.

“Haha! I don’t know anything about that. I’m just out here focusing on our daughter.  I don’t have time for anything serious. That little busy body heading this way needs way too much attention, and I’m more than happy to give it to her.”

“Look, Daddy! I got a hundred toys!!”

“Wow! Let me hold onto those for you. Please sit down and eat your food. Ms. Evening really wants to chat with you a little.”

“What do you wanna chat about Ms. Eeeeeeeeevening?”

This child of mine makes my heart smile.  I reach out and caress her little cheek…

I want to chat about everything.

 

9. My child thinks I’m a whore

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I’ve been sitting in this coffee shop staring at this picture of my child for over two hours.  I can’t believe how beautiful she is. I know every mother thinks their child is the most beautiful creature they’ve ever laid eyes on, but seriously; Davinder is gorgeous. I’m not just saying that because she’s the spitting image of me. She really is a vision. I should have gone to the park to see her. I just couldn’t bring myself to meet her today. What would I say? How would I even introduce myself? Vincent and I haven’t figured any of this out, and until we do, I probably shouldn’t meet her. Although in fairness, I don’t think the awkwardness of this situation can be avoided. I’m in my mid 30’s and I barely understand what’s happening. I can’t imagine what all of this information will do to a four year old.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I have butterflies in my stomach. I want to kiss her little cheeks so badly! I’m going to drive by the park to see if I can get a peek. You’d think the odds would be pretty slim considering where the fountains are situated in relation to Marietta Street. But, I just met my child’s father in a coffee shop. Anything is possible.

Marietta Street is calm today. There are the usual tourists hovering around the entrance to Centennial Park, snapping selfies and soaking up the sun, but other than that it’s pretty quiet. The one day I need traffic to be a little heavy so I can creep down the street while trying to spot my baby and baby’s daddy, everyone is just zooming by. A few people were nice enough to give me the middle finger as they angrily sped around me. Downtown Atlanta is not the place to be if you’re in a hurry. Just because you aren’t out here stalking someone doesn’t mean someone else isn’t. Just as I’m passing the Omni Hotel, I spot Vincent and Davinder. They’re both drenched, but Davinder has a small Doc McStuffins towel draped over her shoulders. Her hair is dripping wet and sitting right on the top of her head in a messy bun. That happens to be one of my favorite hairstyles. I’m so giddy I can barely stand it! They’re just about to cross Baker St. so I slowly turn and pull off to the side. Vincent looked up at me and cracked the biggest smile I’ve seen in a while. He’s annoyingly fine. He’s holding Davinder’s hand while she skips alongside him. As they approach my car, Davinder is jumping up and down pointing at me and laughing.  I hope Vincent hasn’t told her about me.  I think that’s something we should do together. Maybe she thinks I’m someone else.  I roll down my window to see if I can hear what she’s so excited about. She’s now right up on my window, we’re face to face. She has the biggest snaggletooth smile, and she yells out, “DADDY SHE’S A WHOOOOOOOOOOOORE! SHE’S A WHOOOOOOORE!”

In this moment, I am mortified and very pissed. What kind of man let’s a four year old think that it is okay to use such language? I knew Vincent was an awful person! We wouldn’t be in this situation if he weren’t. How does she even know what a whore is? Why does she assume I’m one is probably a better question. She must follow me on Instagram.

“Davi! What are you talking about? Who taught you that word? That’s a very, very bad word!”

“But, Daddy… she IS a whore. Look inside her car! She’s just like those people on that TV show you watch that don’t throw away their garbage.”

“Ohhhh, you mean she’s a hoarder. You’re such a silly little girl, Davi. Her car is very junky, but it doesn’t mean she’s a hoarder.”

I just got all the confirmation I need that she is my child.  I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.

 

8. How Did We Get Here?

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I’m standing outside the coffee shop wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. Why would I leave without talking to him? I’ve got to collect myself and go back in there and at the very least cuss his ass out.  He’s earned THAT! I walk back inside and he’s hunched over in his chair massaging his temples. I quietly retake the seat in front of him, and he looks up shocked, but he doesn’t speak. I feel like we’ve been sitting at this table staring at each other for hours, but it’s probably only been a minute or so. I think he’s waiting for me to say something. I desperately want to say something, but I can’t form words right now. When I get really angry, it’s almost impossible for me to speak, and right now, I’m angrier than I’ve ever been.  I want to yell at him, but I also want to storm out again. This is a tough spot for me. I’ve always been pretty judgmental toward people who make a scene in public, but in this moment, I finally understand how someone can be pushed to the point of acting a plum fool, as my Mom would say.

“Say something, please. Tell me what you’re thinking right now.”

You don’t want to know what I’m thinking right now, Vincent.

“I do want to know. I need to know. We have a lot of things to figure out, Eve.”

The only thing he needs to figure out is how he’s going to fair while he’s in prison. He’s very attractive. I can’t imagine that’s a good thing to be when you’re locked up.

Okay, I need you to help me understand why you thought it was okay to steal my eggs. Do you have any idea how difficult of a process it is to get to the point of freezing your fucking eggs? Do you even care?

“What? We didn’t steal your eggs! Dr. Halyard told us he was using donor eggs. He lied to us.”

You mean to tell me the Dr. who offered to secretly give you expensive fertility procedures at a discounted price is also a liar? Get the fuck outta here! That’s crazy!

“Look, I know it was wrong-ish, but I desperately wanted a child, and we just couldn’t afford to keep paying Windham.  I love Davinder with all my heart and I’d do it all over again if I had to. She is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. I’m not sorry she’s here, and believe it or not, I’m just as devastated as you are, albeit for different reasons.”

What in the hell do you have to be devastated about? You got to be there from the beginning. You got to see Davinder be born, cut her first tooth, say her first word, take her first step, and everything in between. There’s no fucking reason for you to be devastated! You have no idea how punchable your face looks right now. I missed the first 4 years of my child’s life! Our devastation level is NOT the same!

My blood is boiling. I wonder if there is steam coming out of my ears.

“I’m devastated because I could go to prison behind this. Imagine what that would do to Davinder. I know there’s nothing I can say that will make it up to you, but I didn’t do this to you on purpose.  I thought we were using the eggs of some young, fertile woman who was just looking to make some extra money by donating them. If I’m being honest, it felt like we were committing a victimless crime.”

There’s no such thing as a victimless crime, Vincent. That’s just what you told yourself so you wouldn’t feel bad about breaking the law. And, why do you keep speaking only about you? Where’s the woman Davinder knows as her Mother? Seana, is it?

“She never really wanted kids. She just went through the process because it’s what I wanted to do. Unfortunately she never really allowed herself to connect with Davinder. We officially divorced a couple of years ago, and I haven’t laid eyes on her since.”

Uh…sorry to hear that. I guess.

“How’s the air up there on that high horse of yours, Evening?”

Ugh, I cannot believe his nerve. How dare he sit in front of me and act like I’m being irrational about this situation?

Are you really going to act like I have no right to be upset? Is that really how you want to approach this?

“I’m not trying to minimize your feelings, but you’re not even trying to see this from my perspective.”

I don’t have to try to see this from your perspective. I’m the only person here who was truly wronged. And, aside from that, I just found out about this a few days ago. I haven’t had the luxury of time to get over the fact that I was fucked out of birthing my own child, who happens to be 4 years old, and also has NO IDEA I EVEN EXIST! So, don’t take this the wrong way, but fuck your perspective, Vincent!

He’s stunned into silence. I think I may have hurt his feelings. I don’t even care though. I’m pissed, and he’s being selfish. Maybe I’m being selfish too, but right now I can’t see past my anger.

“Well I can see where Davinder gets her attitude! Listen, I don’t know what else to say. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you have to calm down. This is a bad situation, and there’s no getting around that. But, we have to figure out how to move forward. We can’t dwell on how we got here. The bottom line is we’re here. What do we do now?”

I’m going to pretend he didn’t just tell me to calm down. I need to focus.

I don’t know what we should do now. I feel like my life is moving at light speed. I’m having a hard time keeping up, and it really feels like the universe is fucking with me.

“I kinda understand that feeling. I mean, obviously we’re on different sides of this, but my life has drastically changed over the past year as well. I need a resolution to this, preferably one that doesn’t involve me spending any time in prison. Look at me! I’m too pretty to be incarcerated.”

You probably should have thought about that before you started doing shady shit. What are they telling you? What kind of charges are you facing?

“Honestly, they haven’t really said much.  My lawyer is trying to work it out so that I don’t get into too much trouble. I might have to testify against Dr. Halyard one day, and I’ll gladly do so. I just want to be there for our daughter. She means the world to me.”

I have no doubt that he loves Davinder. I can see it in his eyes. I can’t let him off the hook so easily though. I’m still pissed, and it’s going to take more than a few heartfelt words for him to earn my forgiveness.

Where’s Davinder now? Is she in daycare?

“She’s at summer camp, and I have to get going soon because I told her I’d pick her up early and take her to Centennial Olympic Park to play in the water fountain. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but you should come by the park and meet her.”

I don’t think I’m ready for that right now.  Let me see the picture one more time.

He turns his screen around again, and I quickly snap a picture with my phone.

“I can send you as many pics as you want, Evening.”

This will do for now, but I think we should exchange numbers. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

“You’re right about that. I’ve gotta get going. If you change your mind about coming to the park, we should be there in about 45 minutes.”

I’ll think about it.

“All things considered, I’m happy to have met you like this, Eve. I can’t wait for you to meet our daughter. I think you two will hit it off.”

The sparkle has returned to his eyes, and suddenly I feel that flutter in my stomach again. Damn, he’s fine!  It’s too bad I’ve gotta make his life a living hell for the foreseeable future.

Get out of here, Vincent. I’ll text you if I decide to swing by.

7. Baby Mama Drama

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I usually have a hard time getting out of bed on Mondays, but today was different. I was really excited to get my day started. My appointment at Jackson’s Diagnostic Testing Center was a breeze. They swabbed my cheek, took a couple of vials of blood, and told me I would have the results of the DNA test no later than Wednesday.  I should probably go into the office, but I’m quite content people watching inside this coffee shop near my house.  There’s a very handsome man sitting a couple of tables over. He has a low haircut with really sharp lines. His skin is a beautiful caramel complexion, and his eyes are deep brown. He looks a bit disheveled for this time of day. It’s not even noon yet, but his sleeves are rolled to right beneath his elbow, and his tie is loosened. It looks like he’s had a hard day at work.

If I had a bit more courage, I’d go introduce myself, but I’ve never been good at that kind of thing.  I prefer subtle flirting, like brief eye contact or an accidental bump while walking by.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t looked up from his laptop so we haven’t been able to make incidental eye contact. I guess I’ll have to take the scenic route past his table and go get a refill.  This teal maxi dress I wore today is always a head turner. It hugs me in all the right places, and I’ve been told on more than one occasion that the color looks great on my dark skin. As I walk toward the front of the coffee shop, he briefly looks up at me and smiles. I tilt my head to the side a little, and smile back at him.

As I’m standing at the counter perfecting my cup of hazelnut coffee, I see him walking toward me out of the corner of my eye. This is my chance to be bold. Considering what I’ve been through the last three days, flirting with an attractive man should be easy.

“Could you pass me the raw sugar, please?”

I clumsily hand him the container full of raw sugar.  My hands are shaking, although I’m not sure why.

“How are you doing today?”

I’m doing okay. How’s your day going?

“It’s going pretty well, I suppose. I’ve never seen you before and I practically live here. You must not come here often.”

Well, I’m usually at work this time of day, but I took a little time off to handle some personal matters. How are you able to spend so much time in here? Do you own this place?

“Nah, I’m self-employed, and sometimes I feel like the walls are closing in on me when I’m at home or my office. I come to the coffee shop to people watch. It gets my creative juices flowing.”

My only mission while sitting in here today is to people watch.

“Oh, I know. I’ve seen you watching me for the past twenty minutes.”

I hope my face isn’t showing how flustered I am. I swear I didn’t notice him look up at me. How in the hell did he know I was checking him out? He probably thinks every woman is checking him out considering he’s so damn fine. He obviously doesn’t even pretend to not know it.

No way! I may have glanced at you once or twice, but the rest of the time I was looking at the plant behind you.

He’s laughing hysterically. His eyes are sparkling, and his teeth are perfect. I hope he doesn’t think I’m a creep.

“So you’ve got a thing for plants?”

As a matter of fact, I do. I have what one might describe as a green thumb. I’ve kept my artificial house plants in mint condition for years.

“Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Perhaps you should come join me at my table so you can get a closer look… at the plant.”

Are you sure I won’t be distracting you from work?

“You’ll definitely be a distraction, but I’m okay with that.”

I just felt a flutter in my stomach.  Not only is he fine, he’s also charming. That’s a combination that can low key ruin your life if you’re not careful.

I’d love to join you. I’m dying to get closer to that plant.

We walked back to his table, and as I’m standing there waiting for him to clear off some space for me, I notice his screen saver is a picture of a beautiful little brown skinned girl. She has thick curly hair, and the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen.  She is what I imagine Davinder looks like.

Is that your daughter?

“Yes, that’s my little sweet pea.  She’s the most amazing child ever, in my clearly unbiased opinion.”

She’s absolutely gorgeous. How old is she, if you don’t mind me asking?

“I don’t mind at all. She’s four going on fourteen.”

She’s Davinder’s age. Maybe I should ask for some parenting advice.

“What about you? Do you have any kids?”

Oh shit, I’m not sure how to answer that question.

Um, I think so.

“You think so? Do we need to take you on the Maury Povich show? Is some guy trying to trap you by claiming you’re his baby’s mama?”

He’s amused with himself, and I can’t help but laugh.

It’s a long, complicated story that’s a little heavy for coffee between strangers.

“I think strangers are the best people to lay your burdens on. They don’t know you, so they have no preconceived notions about what you should or shouldn’t do.  They might judge you, but hell you shouldn’t care since you’ll probably never see them again anyway.”

So you’re saying I should treat you as if I’ll never see you again?

“For the purpose of this conversation, you should absolutely treat me like you’ll never see me again. I’m very curious about you. I’ve never met a woman who didn’t know whether or not she has a child. I need answers. I promise I won’t judge you.”

He’s right. If a woman told me she “thinks” she has a child, I’d want an explanation too.

I’ll tell you, but you probably won’t believe me. It’s a really crazy situation, and there’s still a lot that I don’t know.

“Just tell me what you know.”

I’ll give you a very condensed version of my story. I was paying a clinic to store my frozen eggs, and one of their doctors illegally fertilized and implanted them into a surrogate for a young couple.  They had a little girl; she’s four years old now.  So, biologically I am a mother. I just found all of this out a few days ago, so that’s why I wasn’t sure how to answer your question.

He has a blank look on his face, and his eyes have suddenly stopped sparkling. He looks like a kid who just found out Santa Claus isn’t real. I knew this wasn’t an appropriate conversation for getting to know someone.

What’s wrong? You said you wouldn’t judge me, but I definitely feel judged. Your whole mood changed.

“I’m sorry. I just… that story really is unbelievable. Do you know anything about the couple that’s raising your child?”

Not really. I know they live in the Atlanta area, and I know their names are Vincent and Seana. I hope to find out more about them in the next few weeks.

Speaking of names, I just realized we haven’t formally introduced ourselves. My name is Evening, but most of my friends call me Eve.

“Is your last name Hammonds?”

How in the hell does he know my last name? I’m a little freaked out right now.

Yes, how do you know my last name? I don’t think we’ve ever met, because I never forget a face.

“I know your last name because I’m, uhhh your child’s father”

Suddenly I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m about to faint. Did he just say what I think he said? Did I really just accidentally meet Davinder’s dad? You have got to be fucking kidding me!

“Breathe, Eve.”

Let me see the picture of her again, please.

He turns his screen around, and suddenly all I see is this beautiful mini version of me.

“Say something, Eve.”

I stand up, gather my shit and head for the door. Just as I’m about to walk out, I turn around and yell to Vincent, “SEE YOU ON MAURY!”

6. Mom

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Standing in the kitchen after having slept almost 14 hours straight, I have a ridiculous headache at the thought of talking to my Mom. I know she’s going to have a million questions, and I probably won’t be able to answer most of them. It would be easier if I could wait another week or so, but I might literally have to kill Maria Hammonds if I don’t call her today.  I may need to have coffee spiked with Tequila before our conversation, but morning drinking is something only alcoholics do. I’m going to call her on her cell phone. She won’t answer because she never has that thing on her. She can whine and moan all she wants, but she won’t be able to dispute the fact that I cal… <BANG, BANG, BANG>

Oh, God! I know it’s my Mom on the other side of that door. The universe is so out to get me these days. Maybe I’ll just pretend I’m not home.

“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE, EVENING. OPEN UP!”

My coffee isn’t even finished brewing. She has a knack for showing up at the most inconvenient time.

HOLD ON, MOM. I HAVE TO PUT SOME PANTS ON!

“GET OVER YOURSELF, EVENING. THERE’S NOTHING ON YOU THAT I HAVEN’T SEEN BEFORE!”

She’s going to wake my neighbors with all of this unnecessary yelling, and then I’ll have to hear about it at our next monthly meeting.

I open the door and my Mother is standing there in a very elegant, over the top white suit with a humongous hat covering her curly tresses. She could be headed to church, or she could be headed to the grocery store. She doesn’t really believe in casual clothes, so you never know.
Good morning, Mom. These early, unannounced visits bring me an indescribable amount of joy.

“Well, it’s my understanding that you should be well rested. Didn’t you sleep until 2 p.m. yesterday?”

Yes, Mom, I did sleep in a bit yesterday. I have a lot going on.

“You can’t justify sleeping half the day away by saying you have a lot going on. That’s illogical, Evening. “If you got out of bed at a decent hour, maybe you wouldn’t have so much going on, dear.”

My Mom really has no patience for laziness. She’s up at the crack of dawn every day, and by 10:00 a.m. she’s usually accomplished more than I do in a full day.

Mom, have a seat please, we need to talk. Actually, I need to talk and you need to listen. Are you okay with that?

“Yes. Is everything okay, Eve?”

Yes and no. You’re going to have a lot of questions, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer all of them. There’s still a lot I don’t know.

“Are you sick? Are you dying? Dear lord… What’s wrong child? I can feel my blood pressure rising!”

Bring it down a notch, Viola Davis. I’m not dying! I’m going to let you read this letter I got from Dr. Salaam at Windham Fertility Center, and then we’ll discuss it.

I’m watching her scan the note and I kid you not, she turned into the heart eyes emoji right in front of me. She looks up at me all lovingly, but she’s speechless for the first time in her life.

Say something, Mom!

“I’M A GRANDMA!”

That is definitely not the reaction I was expecting. I just knew she’d have some snarky remarks about my decision to freeze my eggs in the first place.

“When do I get to meet my Granddaughter?”

I don’t know, Mom. I haven’t even met her yet. I just found out about her a couple of days ago. I’m not even sure what I’m gonna do.

“What do you mean you’re not sure what you’re going to do? You’re going to get this child and raise her, Evening!”

It’s not that simple. Her father still has rights too. I’m sure he’s not going to let her go without a fight.

“I’m not afraid to fight for your child, and you shouldn’t be afraid either!”

It’s not that I’m afraid. I just want to make sure I do what’s best for Davinder. This can’t be all about me. What if her dad is a good person, who did a bad thing? I can’t just rip her away from the only family she’s ever known.

I can’t even believe I just entertained the idea that Vincent might not be a piece of shit. Wow, so much growth, in so little time. I’m amazing.

“Evening, no matter what kind of person he is, or what kind of household he’s provided for her, you deserve to have a relationship with your child. I deserve to have a relationship with my granddaughter! What if you never have another child? You’re 35 and you haven’t had a decent relationship since Cris disappeared. This could be our last chance!”

You’re convinced I’m going to die with 20 cats, aren’t you?

“That’s preposterous! You don’t even like cats.”

Ugh, this is all such a mess, Mom. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have a child on my terms.

“Well unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. Let’s just focus on the situation at hand. I want to meet my granddaughter!”

Mom, calm down.  It could be a while before we get to meet her. There’s still a lot I don’t know.

“Well hurry up and figure this out, child! I need more information so I can go shopping for my granddaughter! I’m going to dress her like a princess!”

It’s good you’ve been able to identify what’s really important, Mom.

“Try to put yourself in my shoes, Eve. That brother of yours is probably never going to settle down long enough to have a child. And again, you’re not getting any younger. I have to take what I can get.”

I was ready and willing to give you a grandchild years ago. If only Cris hadn’t been eaten alive by fire ants because he fell asleep at the park one afternoon. My life would be so different.

“Sigh… Anyway, I’m quite confident we can provide a very nice life for her. It might be different than what she’s used to, but we have plenty of money. She’ll adjust.”

Mom is so optimistic. I don’t know why she has so much faith in me. I’ve never even had a pet. There’s a very real possibility I’m incapable of keeping a living, breathing creature alive.  Not to mention, I have no motherly instincts. None of my friends with kids have ever asked me to babysit. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

“I have to leave, my dear. I have a few errands to run and a lot of shopping to do for…What was her name again?”

Davinder.

“What a lovely name. I can’t wait to be able to place a face with it.”

She turns to leave, then stops and gives me the tightest hug ever.  She’s thrilled to be a Grandma.

I’ve never seen such joy in my Mom’s eyes. People always say your parents love your kids a little more than they love you.  She hasn’t even met Davinder yet, and I can pretty much confirm that’s true.

I think her enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. All of the angst I’ve felt up until this moment has washed away. Suddenly, I can’t wait to meet my daughter!

I’m going to email my boss and let him know I won’t be in at all this week. I’m sure he won’t be thrilled about it, but he’ll figure it out. As much as I’d love to believe the company will fall apart without me, I know that’s not true. I’m going to go in bright and early and give my DNA sample, and then maybe I’ll go buy a few things for Davinder myself.

5. Coffee and Questions

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Dr. Salaam agreed to meet me for coffee at this little spot around the corner from my condo to discuss all the shit I missed when I blacked out in her office.  I decided to write down some questions, so I don’t forget to find out the important things, like I did yesterday. I intend to leave this meeting knowing everything I need to know about my stolen eggs, and my daughter. I had about 50 questions when I started writing, somehow I managed to narrow it down to just a handful, but that’s subject to change as the conversation unfolds. I know she couldn’t possibly have answered all of those questions anyway, because some of them were silly. I was going to ask her if she knows what Davinder’s favorite food is. What does she eat for breakfast? Does she have a best friend?  But, how in the hell would Dr. Salaam know any of that? People love to say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I completely disagree with that. I’m going to try to act like I have some damn sense; however, given the circumstances, she should cut me some slack no matter how stupid my questions are. My stomach is in knots right now. I don’t know if it’s because I’m nervous, or just hungover.

Dr. Salaam is running late again. The last time she was late she gave me life-changing news. I hope that doesn’t happen again. I honestly don’t think I can handle anything else.

Here she comes bouncing down the sidewalk. She looks very chipper for someone who is indirectly responsible for the chaos in my life. I know it’s not technically her fault, but when the team loses, the best player gets all the blame. She was supposedly the best player on the Windham team, so this is on her. I still can’t understand how she could not know what was going on right under her nose. Obviously they did a terrible job of keeping inventory. Did they not have routine audits? Perhaps I’ll add that to my list of questions.

“Hi Ms. Hammonds, how are you doing today?”

I’m okay, all things considered. Thanks for meeting me on such short notice. I know you probably have a million things you’d rather be doing on a Saturday.

“Well, actually I have a lot of free time on my hands now.”

Yeah, about that… How in the hell did this happen? How did you all not know this was going on for years? Did you guys never take inventory? The office supply closet at my job is more secure than Windham Fertility Center. It’s appalling that a group of supposedly intelligent people could allow something like this to happen!

“I understand what you’re going through, Ms. Hammonds.”

Oh, shit! Were your eggs stolen and used to create a child for random strangers too? Tell me all about it!

“No, they weren’t. I just meant I understand why you’re so frustrated.”

Forgive me. I didn’t mean to give off the vibe that I’m frustrated. I meant to give off the vibe that I’m pissed.  My bad.

“I’m sorry about that, Ms. Hammonds. First things first, let’s see if I can answer some of your questions.”

How did you discover that all of this shit was happening?

“We found out because a patient came in to use the eggs she’d been storing only to find out her eggs were missing. Obviously we had to figure out what happened. We brought in a team of investigators, and they found out exactly what I told you yesterday.”

I don’t remember anything you said yesterday, so tell me again.

“One of my colleagues, Dr. Halyard was performing procedures for couples at a much more affordable rate. I can’t tell you too much because it’s still an ongoing investigation, and there are privacy laws, but that’s the most important thing you need to know.”

How long had he been doing these discounted procedures?

“He’d been doing them for at least 6 years, as far as we can tell. You’re not alone; there are several other victims, Ms. Hammonds.”

Is that supposed to make me feel better? Should I be thankful that I’m not alone in this shit show? Maybe I and the other women who have been violated can form a support group. We could have monthly meetings, or play dates with our new, children. Imagine it!

“Are you going to try to get custody of this child, Ms. Hammonds?”

Call me, Eve. I think we’ve been through enough that you don’t need to be so formal. I’m not sure. I can’t even think about that yet. I still have so many questions.

“I’m sorry. Please continue.”

How can you be so sure that Davinder is mine?

“As it turns out, even though Dr. Halyard was an unscrupulous son of a bitch, he was still very organized and detailed.  He kept immaculate records for the procedures he did, and I’ve seen her. She looks just like you! She has beautiful thick hair, and the same deep brown complexion. She even has a mole over her right eyelid, and big brown eyes exactly like you. You can always have a DNA test to ease your mind, but once you see her… you’ll know.

I definitely think that’s something I should do. I need to be absolutely sure.

“That’s understandable, Eve. This is a lot to process.”

That’s an understatement Dr. Salaam.

“Call me Staci.”

Do you know Davinder’s parents? Were they your clients, or patients, or whatever?

“Yes, I actually do know them. They were desperate to have a child, but I never would have guessed they’d do something like this. Believe it or not, they’re not bad people, Eve.”

I find that incredibly hard to believe. They’re thieves! What if those eggs were my only chance to conceive a child?  They didn’t think about me, or my desire to have a child of my own. Only callous, cold hearted people would do something like that. There’s nothing you can say to make me believe otherwise.

“Again, I understand why you’re frustrated.”

I guess you didn’t hear me the first time I said I’m pissed, not frustrated. Anyway, I read in your notes that the husband is the biological father. So no matter what, he has just as many rights as I have to her, doesn’t he?

“I can’t really speak to the legalities of this, but, that sounds about right”

Ugh, I can’t believe the father of my child is a liar, and he’s broke. I should have just had a child by Cris before he accidentally walked into the Grand Canyon while trying to record a video for Instagram.

“That’s awful, Eve! I didn’t realize you were going through all of that.”

Yeah, it’s unbelievable. Anyway, tell me more about Davinder’s broke ass daddy.

“As I was saying…He has some very good qualities. For instance, he’s really smart, and attractive. I can’t divulge too much of their information, because they were patients of mine, but I can tell you he probably did this for his wife. He really wanted to make her happy. It obviously didn’t work, because they’re divorced now, but that’s not important.”

He sounds like a real diamond in the rough, but I wish he could have found a way to fulfill his wife’s dreams without potentially shattering mine. Can you at least tell me their names?

“That’s confidential information, Eve.”

You owe me at least that much. I wouldn’t even be in this situation if not for the short comings of your center. Just tell me their goddamn names, Staci!

“Their names are Vincent and Seana. Eve, I know this is not an ideal situation, but don’t lose sight of the big picture. You have a daughter! It really sucks that you didn’t get to carry and birth her yourself, but she’s still your daughter. That’s an amazing thing! Please don’t think of her as a disaster. She doesn’t deserve that, and if you’re going to have a healthy relationship with her in the future, you have to stop looking at her like she’s a mistake.”

You’re right, Staci. She didn’t ask for any of this. I don’t mean to make it seem like I regret the fact that she’s alive. I just wish things could have been different. I didn’t get to experience Davinder as a baby. I’ve missed so much of her life. I know labor pains and sleepless nights don’t sound very appealing, but I wanted all of those things.

“Only a woman who has never been through labor pains and a screaming baby that won’t sleep would long for those things, but go on.”

 That’s part of the process of being a parent, and I didn’t get to experience any of it. They got to decide all the little things. I don’t know what kind of values these people have. They’re obviously okay with cutting corners and stealing. I don’t want a child of mine to grow up thinking that shit is okay. What if they’re super religious, or extremists, or survivalists, or vegans? What if they’ve been raising her to believe things that I vehemently disagree with? It’s not fair. I wanted to have a baby on my terms.

“What if they’re good people who didn’t think they’d be hurting anyone? I know you’re angry, but I know them. They’re not bad people; they just did a bad thing. Also, becoming a parent almost never works out how people think it will. You can plan, and plan, but babies always chart their own course for how they’re going to get here, and once they arrive…nothing is the same.”

I know. I already feel different, and I’ve never even met her.

“As I said yesterday, we hope to handle as much of this internally as we possibly can. I’ll make an open appointment for you at Jackson’s Diagnostic Testing Center so you can provide a DNA sample, and we can confirm that Davinder is your child. They’re located in the same building as our center, on the 4th floor.”

What happens now?

“Go get the DNA test, and when the results come back, we’ll meet again and figure out how to resolve this. Try to enjoy the rest of your weekend, Eve. Nothing is going to happen today.

After I returned home from coffee with Dr. Salaam, I had to respond to the 6 missed text messages from Ashley. She’s been texting me all day. Thankfully she went to get my car from the bar so it wouldn’t be towed.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.

I’m so glad she isn’t the type to overreact when I don’t respond to her text messages. I wish my Mom could show that kind of restraint.  I know I need to call her, but I definitely can’t talk to her until I know everything.  I don’t have it in me tonight. I’m going to text Ash, then go to sleep.

Hey, Ash.  Sorry I have been M.I.A. all day.  Thanks for getting my car. I’d completely forgotten about it. How are you?

“Heeeeeeeeeey, Eve! No problem. I know you’d do the same for me.  I’m good, just sitting home already deep into my Saturday night ritual of watching Netflix and eating popcorn. What have you been doing all day? Are you still hungover?”

No I actually slept it off. I went to meet Dr. Salaam for coffee this afternoon.

“How did that go?”

It went okay. She made an appointment for me to go have a DNA test to confirm Davi’s mine. She also tried to convince me that Davi’s father isn’t a bad person, and she said he’s fine.

“See, I told you! Maybe he just made a bad decision.”

Whatever. You know how I feel about that. My mind hasn’t changed.

“What else did she say?”

She said that I’m not the only person this happened to, and even though it’s not an ideal situation, I should be happy that I have a daughter.

“She’s right, Eve. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I think it’s a wonderful thing. You get to be a mother without having to go through all the weight gain, labor pains, and the sleepless nights. That part kinda sucks, but there’s still a lot of childhood left for Davinder. She’s only four years old, so you can still have a tremendous impact on her life. Also, don’t forget… she has your DNA! She’s probably as awesome as you are.”

I just hope she’s healthy and happy. That’s all that really matters. I think I’m going to lie down now. I know it’s early, but I’m exhausted. All of this is emotionally draining. Plus, I need to rest because I HAVE to call my Mom tomorrow. I can’t go the whole weekend without talking to her, she’ll have a fit. I’ll text you later.

4. The Morning After

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<BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!> “OPEN THE DOOR IF YOU’RE IN THERE, SIS!”

OH MY GOD! STOP BANGING ON MY DOOR, BRENT! WHERE IS YOUR FUCKING KEY?

“Hey, sis. Why all the hostility?  Do you know how many women would love for me to be banging on their door? You need to acknowledge how lucky you are.”

You need to acknowledge how lucky you are that I have a killer headache and I’m hung-over. Otherwise, I’d beat your ass for coming over here this early, loud, and unannounced!

“Early? It’s damn near 2 p.m., shawty.”

Shit… I can’t believe I slept that long.  I’ve wasted the whole day.

“Don’t beat yourself up about it, sis. Everybody knows old people need more sleep.”

Shut up!  Why are you over here getting on my damn nerves?

“I’m here because Mom was slightly worried about you.  She had been calling you all morning, and since you didn’t answer, I had to drop everything I was doing and rush over here to make sure you are okay.  I called and texted you to try to avoid coming here, but your drunk ass was knocked out, obviously.”

Mom is so dramatic. Hell, she lives closer to me than you. She could have checked on me herself.

“As I said, she was only slightly worried. If she had been really worried she would have called the police and had them do a welfare check, like the last time.”

Ugh, don’t remind me. I don’t have time for that kind of foolishness right now. I have too much going on.

“People that have “too much going on” don’t usually get pissy drunk and sleep until 2 in the afternoon, but whatever you say, Sis”

Go to hell, Brent! These last 24 hours have been crazy! You have no idea.

“Well fill me in, but be brief. I have a lot of shit to do today, and I’m already running late because of you.”

I could give you the short version, but you’re going to have a lot of questions.

“Don’t overestimate my interest in your life, Eve.”

Why are you such an ass? Here, read these notes from Dr. Salaam. They pretty much sum up my last 30 hours.

“HOLY SHIT! You’ve been paying someone to store your eggs? I know you’ve been kinda chilling since things ended with Cris, but I had no idea you were this desperate, Sis.”

I’m not desperate!  I just wanted to make sure I have options. Look at how things turned out. Who could have guessed Cris would die due to his hoverboard exploding? Life is funny sometimes. But, that is beside the point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me freezing my eggs.  Keep reading, jerk.

“Woooooooow! Is this for real, Evening? Is there really a child in this world that is biologically yours?”

Yes, it’s real. I’m a mother, or something.

“I can’t believe this. Mom might literally die when you tell her. I think she had resigned herself to you being a spinster with 15 cats.  Please make sure you’re near a hospital when you break this news.”

I haven’t even thought about telling Mom. I can’t even get into it with her until I’m absolutely sure about how I’m going to proceed. I might try to get custody of Davinder.

Hahaha! Do you really think it’s going to be your decision how you proceed after Mom finds out she has a granddaughter?  Bless your heart.

 Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a lot to deal with.  While I definitely would like input from the people I care about, I have to make sure I’m doing what’s best for Davinder and I.

“That name is interesting. I’m not sure how I feel about it.”

I actually really like it. It’s unique, and Davi is a great nickname. You know I’m a sucker for a great nickname.

“I wonder what she looks like. Do you know anything about her parents?”

Nope. I only know what’s in those notes.

“Why didn’t you get more information, Evening?”

I think I kind of blacked out, or entered an alternate universe. I literally don’t remember anything Dr. Salaam said after she told me I have a daughter.

“Well, you need to go see her and get some more information.  Don’t you think?”

Of course I need to see her again. I may call her later today. This is a lot to process; I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do here.

“The first thing you need to do is have a long conversation with the doctor. You can’t make a decision based off this half-assed information you have.”

Yeah, you’re right. I think I’ll call her and ask her to meet me for coffee. This is definitely a conversation we need to have face-to-face. I just don’t understand how my life has come to this.

“I don’t know what to tell you, shawty. I’d love to stay here and help you figure this out, but I have a lot of stuff to do, and you don’t know shit anyway.  I’ll let mom know you’re alive. I’m sure she’ll be relieved to know you’re just a drunk. Call me and let me know what the doctor says if you talk to her today.”

I’m going to call her as soon as you leave, so go away.

“Alright, I’m out of here. Let me know when, or if I’ll get to meet my niece.”

 

3. The Notes

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I’m sitting at Kat’s, my favorite bar waiting for Ash, trying desperately to replay this morning’s conversation with Dr. Salaam. I can’t really remember anything because I think I blacked out. Thankfully she jotted down some notes for me to read when I have a clearer mind. I have not reached that point of clarity yet.  I don’t remember anything that happened today after I heard the words, “Biologically you have a daughter. She’s four years old.” I know I went into work, but as God is my witness, I don’t recall anything that happened while I was there. Had Ash not sent me a text message reminding me about our date, I’d probably be at home on my couch with a bottle of wine trying to figure out what the fuck is happening in my life.  I’m a Mom, or something like that. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know what I feel. I can’t process this. I need to talk this over with someone. That someone is probably Dr. Salaam, but since my brain stopped working while I was in her office, I suppose Ash will have to do.

“Can I get you another drink on the house, ma’am? You look like you need it.”

You know what, bartender? I do need another drink. Today has been strange. I just found out I’m a mother.

I could tell by the look on his face, he thought I was a Goddamn lunatic. How could a woman not know she’s a mother?

“We’re going to let this be your last drink, ma’am.”

I’m not drunk, sir!

“I’m sure you aren’t. Just let me know when you’re ready to head home and I’ll call you a Lyft.”

You must be new here. What’s your name?

“My name is, Rico.”

Well Rico, I thought bartenders were supposed to lend a sympathetic ear.

“I do have a sympathetic ear, but it’s reserved for people who aren’t already drunk.”

I’m not drunk! Here, read these notes. They’re from my doctor at the Windham Fertility Center.

I’m watching his eyes scan the notes, and I see a smirk. This asshole is laughing at me.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry. I don’t even know what to say. If you want to get drunk, be my guest.  All of your drinks are on the house.”

Thank you! I’m actually waiting on a friend. Can she drink for free too?

“Sure.”

Speaking of Ash, I wonder what the hell is taking her so long.  I’m having a literal crisis and she’s nowhere to be found.  I mean, I might be parenting a child soon. I’m pretty sure I have some rights to this little girl. This whole situation is making my head hurt. I don’t think these shots I’m drinking will help, but I don’t know what else to do at the moment. I’m not sure anyone would know what to do.  Ashley has finally arrived. I swear you can see that bun sitting on top of her head from a mile away.

“Heeeeeeeeeeeeey, Eve! Sorry I’m late, traffic was hell! I see you started without me. What are you drinking?”

Tequila.  I’m not even bothering to have it in a margarita. I’m just taking straight shots.

“Yikes! You must have had a rough day. What in the hell happened at work that has you taking shots of Tequila?”

I wish this was a work problem, Ash. I can handle work problems. I’m an accountant, and there’s always an answer when you’re dealing with numbers. There’s always a resolution, I just have to find it.  I don’t know what the answer is in this situation.

Remember how I told you yesterday I got a letter from Windham about a security breach, so I was going to stop by there on the way to work?

“Yeah, I remember. What kind of breach was it?”

To make a long story short, I’m a mother.

“Wait, what? What are you talking about Evening? How many shots have you had?”

Why in the hell does everyone assume I’m drunk whenever I tell them I just found out I’m a mother?

Here, Ash. Read these notes Dr. Salaam gave me.  I still haven’t read them yet. I kind of blacked out while she was trying to explain what happened. Not literally blacked out, but I don’t remember anything she said after she told me that I have a daughter.  Will you read them aloud please?

“Sure, Evening.”

Things you need to know:

 

  1. One of our doctors was performing procedures for desperate families at a much discounted rate.
  2. The eggs you’ve been paying us to store were fertilized, and implanted into a surrogate.
  3. Biologically you have a four year old little girl named Davinder (Davi)

I’ll bet you any amount of money her father’s name is David.

“Her father’s name doesn’t really matter right now. Would you like me to finish reading the list?”

Yes, go ahead.

  1. A couple used your eggs, and the husband’s sperm, so he is her biological father.
  2. They divorced, and the father has sole custody of Davinder
  3. Windham Fertility Center will be reimbursing all of your annual fees for the past six years, plus an unspecified amount for our negligence.
  4. You do have rights to this child should you choose to exercise them.
  5. We were hoping to handle this internally, but investigators are involved, and they will likely contact you.
  6. Feel free to call me with any questions.

“Wow, Evening. I honestly don’t know what to say.”

I know you don’t, Ash. You keep calling me Evening, when you know I hate to be called by my full name.

“Well I think it’s a lovely name, but that’s beside the point.”

Shall we order you a shot? I let the bartender read the notes, so all of our drinks are on the house.

“Actually, Eve I don’t think I want a drink. I just need a moment to process this.  You should probably stop drinking so you can process this with a clear head.”

Sorry, hun. That ship sailed a long time ago.  I’m probably going to shut this place down tonight. The bartender offered to get me a Lyft, so if you choose to leave me to drown in my sorrows alone, it’s fine.

“Can you please stop being dramatic, girl? You know damn well I wouldn’t leave you drunk in a bar!”

I don’t know anything anymore, Ash. I mean, yesterday I was just a thriving, single, fabulous, Atlanta socialite working for a great accounting firm. Now, suddenly I’m on the verge of being a single parent to a four year old. Nothing makes sense anymore!

“Um, I think you might be exaggerating your social standing in Atlanta just a little, but I understand the point you’re trying to make.  Would you actually consider taking legal action to gain custody of this child, or at the very least visitation rights?”

I don’t know. I mean, she IS my daughter. I have no emotional attachment to her right now, but just knowing I have a child in this world changes everything. No matter what happens, my life will never be the same. Even if I let her stay with the shady asshole she knows as her father, I’ll never stop wondering about her. My life has been completely disrupted.

“Her father might actually be a good person that was just desperate to become a parent, Eve.”

That doesn’t make it okay for him and his ex-wife to steal someone’s eggs, Ash. If this was just about their desire to become parents, they could have legally adopted a child.  There’s no way you can make me believe their hearts were somehow in the right place. What he and his wife did was completely selfish, and I don’t know if I want my child to grow up with people who think that type of behavior is okay. They are trash!

“Well, when you put it like that, I have no choice but to agree with you. But, the father has rights too, no matter how illegal their actions were.  Try not to make any hasty decisions, especially while you’re drinking. Whatever you decide, I’ll support you.”

I know you will, and I appreciate that. I’m definitely going to take my time and try to do what’s right for Davinder. I have to make this decision with her best interests in mind. But, what if this is my only chance at parenting a child that’s biologically mine?

“Your feelings deserve consideration too. You can do what’s best for her, and what’s best for you too. There has to be some middle ground in there somewhere. Anyway, this is a lot to process. I really think you need to go home so you can figure things out without all this noise.”

You’re right, Ash. I definitely need to get out of here. I don’t want to have a meltdown in public.

“Are you going to be able to drive yourself home?”

Yes, I’m good.  Believe it or not I’ve only had 3 shots.

“I think I’ll drive you anyway, just to be on the safe side. Grab your purse.”

2. Windham Fertility Center

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The lobby at Windham Fertility Center is pretty empty considering there was an “egregious breach”. I thought for sure I’d have to wait forever since I decided to make an unannounced visit to get the details about how they didn’t fully protect my privacy. I’m sure this won’t take long considering I’m one of only 3 women in the waiting room. I should have plenty of time to stop and get breakfast before I head into the office. There are lots of young, fresh faced nurses standing around seemingly unbothered playing on their phones. That’s probably why there was a breach. These millennials are so damned easily distracted. One of those little assholes probably inadvertently tweeted out all of our information. Wow! I’m officially that old lady who is constantly wagging her disapproving finger at the youth?  One of them is bouncing toward me now. She’s awfully cheerful, so maybe the breach wasn’t that bad.

“Ms. Hammonds, Dr. Salaam will see you now.”

Finally! I can get this over with and go on about my day. I’m sure she’ll ramble on about how sorry they are and how much they value me as a patient, and blah, blah blah. Hopefully they’ll give a sista a discount on their annual fees. I make decent money, but I’d much rather not have to write a check for the full $7,000 next year. I’m definitely going to ask. The least they can do is knock a few dollars off for inconveniencing me.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still sitting in Dr. Salaam’s office and she’s nowhere to be found. I’m getting annoyed because I was really looking forward to getting breakfast this morning.  Also, I was led to believe she was in here waiting for me.  I can’t help but notice her office is damn near empty. There are no pictures of her children, her plaques are gone, and all of the photos of her former patients have disappeared too. Maybe they’re going to paint soon. This awful taupe color has needed to be updated for quite a while.

I have no clue why I’m in a factory reset version of my doctor’s office.  More importantly, I don’t know why almost twenty minutes have passed since the nurse declared Dr. Salaam would see me, and she still isn’t here. I’m not an impatient person, but I haven’t had my coffee yet. Something’s gotta give.

“Hi, Ms. Hammonds, Thank you for coming in today. How have you been?”

I’ve been well, I suppose. How have you been, and why is your office so empty?

“Well, Ms. Hammonds, that’s directly related to why we asked you to come in this week. An egregious crime was committed under my watch, so they decided I need to be replaced. I begged them to let me personally deliver the unsettling news to all of the patients that were affected by what happened.

Okay, I’m a little nervous now. What kind of crime are we talking about, here?

“There’s no easy way to say this, but the eggs you have been storing here over the past six years were illegally sold, fertilized, and implanted into a surrogate around 5 years ago. We recently discovered that one of our doctors was secretly performing certain procedures for ¼ of our normal fees. Apparently he has a bleeding heart for poor people. I’m sorry, I meant financially unstable people.

Is this a joke? This is a joke, right?

“I’m afraid not. I wish we could just harvest more eggs, and try to put this ugly mess behind us, but…”

But, what?

“Ms. Hammonds, the implantation was successful. Biologically you have a daughter. She’s four years old.”