Kate’s eyes flew open. Sitting up in bed, she clutched the covers to her chin. Her heart was pounding. She scanned the room; the bathroom doorway, the closet, the dresser. It was too dark. She had a nightlight at every outlet. She would buy more, put two per outlet, up the wattage. She looked at the clock. Three nineteen. An hour earlier than last night. The times were always different.
Every night. Every night he called her. Always calling. Four, five weeks now. When would it end? She was tired. So tired. The alarm clock would be ringing in another three hours and she would probably just be drifting off again. She’d be dozing at work again. Not a good thing when you were a high profile lawyer trying the biggest case of the . . .
The squeal caught in her throat.
He was standing at the side of the bed, close, an arm’s length away. She had completely missed him in her hasty scan. He seemed so small, his shoulders barely clearing the top of the mattress. Finally. Finally he’d come to her.
"I can’t sleep, Mommy," he said in his sweet little boy voice. "I’m too scared."
Kate tried to compose herself. He had frightened her terribly. She searched deep, deep into her heart for the right words. She didn’t want to frighten him. "Bad dreams?"
He nodded, his tiny face in shadow. She pictured him as if she could see him, pouty lips and sad, brown, puppy-dog eyes. The nightlight behind him was shining on his fine fair hair. She longed to stroke it. It would be silky soft.
"Come," she said, patting the bed beside her. She wondered if he would clamber up and snuggle down beside her.
He shook his head. "No," he sighed.
Kate felt her heart rip, felt the tears well. He was afraid of her. She didn’t blame him.
The small boy sighed. It was such a sad sound. "Do you love me, Mommy?"
Kate’s heart turned cold, her hands clammy. She felt her shoulders hitch as a sob lodged in her throat. She swallowed it back down. "Yes," she forced out. She knew what the next question would be. She dreaded it.
"Why did you let the man hurt me?"
Kate threw a hand to her mouth, trying to smother the sob that found its freedom at last. She fought to regain control. "Oh, Sweetie. I’m so sorry."
"He hurt me, Mommy."
Tears were streaming down her face, an endless flow. They called her Stone Mountain in the courtroom; cold, hard, heartless, unbreakable. It was a man’s world in that arena. There was no room for softness. It had taken years, years of schooling, years of struggling to make a name for herself, endless late night hours, a grinding, grueling schedule. She knew she wouldn’t make a good mother. Just knew it. There just wasn’t enough time.
"I’m sorry," she wept, unable to hide the tears any longer. "I was . . . I just . . . I thought it was the right thing."
She began to sob, loud, uninhibited sobs that shook the bed. She didn’t care if he heard. She wanted him to know, needed him to know.
"Don’t cry, Mommy," he said at last when her sobs had settled down to shuddering moans. "Don’t think of sad things. Think of good things and it makes the sad go away. Think of a good name for the baby, my baby brother. I like Jacob. Jacob is a nice name."
She put a hand to her stomach. No one knew. She was only five weeks.
"You won’t let the man hurt him, will you, Mommy?"
Kate fought for composure. She won, though barely. "No. No, sweetie."
"Oh, good," he said, his mood turning lighter at once. "Do you think that you will name him Jacob?"
Kate brushed at the tears that would not stop. "Jacob is a very special name. But . . . I think I would like to name him Christopher," she whispered. "Do you like Christopher?"
He nodded. "Oh, yes. I love Christopher. And I love you, Mommy," he sighed. "I wish I could stay with you forever."
She bit her bottom lip to keep from screaming. She couldn’t say the word, could only shake her head no.
"Because . . . the man hurt me?"
She could only nod.
He sighed one last time. It was not as sad this time. It was the sound of a warm summer’s breeze as it gently swayed the treetops, the sound of an ocean’s wave softly rolling to shore.
Closing her eyes, she lay back, pressing her weary head into the pillow. She needed to sleep. To hell with work. She was going to sleep for two weeks, maybe three. She needed to rest. For Christopher. She placed her hands on the flat of her belly, wondering what it would feel like to be big and round. "Good night, Christopher," she softly whispered. "Sweet dreams."
She breathed in deeply, grinning despite the tears that continued to fall, trailing to her ears. The room had turned suddenly warm. It was as if the sun was shining, shrouding her in brilliance. She basked in the warmth for a few moments before opening her eyes to the dark room.
He was gone. She knew he would be.
She spoke to him anyway. Perhaps he could still hear. "And sweet dreams to you, too . . . Jacob.
(Author's note: Life begins at conception.)