The bright studio lights beat down on her from above. The tastefully done makeup felt like it was caked onto her face. As she traditionally did, she knocked on the top of the wooden news desk for luck.
In her childhood, Lathal Hamel had never given much thought to what she wanted to be when she grew up. She didn't know why she didn't think about what profession she'd like to pursue when she became an adult -- perhaps she thought she could just be a child forever.
She'd never been a good student in her early elementary school years. Her teachers constantly spoke to her parents how she never concentrated on her school work. She was lazy in her youth and she'd barely do enough book reports to get a C in English.
Everything changed in fifth grade -- she discovered she had a love of reading. She devoured Nancy Drew mysteries; she decided she wanted to be a detective.
There was one problem. She'd never been good at math. She was heartbroken when she learned being good in math was required to become a detective.
So once again she was in limbo in regard to a future job -- until her father, who was an Army nurse, was stationed in Germany. Like lightning she decided to become a writer.
She worked for her high school paper her freshman year but she was a terrible journalist. She didn't have the opportunity to continue with the paper because it was discontinued for many years.
Her senior year a new teacher came to the school and reinstated the school paper. Because she had such good scores every year in the reading comprehension, spelling and English sections of the yearly school assessment tests, her high school guidance counselor told her, journalism would be right up her alley. And she'd been in journalism ever since.
She settled herself into her comfy cushioned news desk chair she sat in regularly. I've probably left my butt permanently tattooed like a footprint on Hollywood's walk of fame on this chair's cushion.
She turned to her longtime colleague and co-anchor Kurt Blackenridge. He smoothed his tie and calmly clipped the microphone to the lapel of his navy blazer as he took his chair on my right.
She'd sat next to Kurt on many a night. They were often in cohoots. They had done a lot of journalistic stints together and separately since college.
She knew Kurt very well. He was a good journalist, friend and guy was always the professional -- and a constant preppie.
With his personality, it was hard to picture Kurt as a father, but he and his Rachelle had a rambunctious daughter on the verge of her terrible twos at home. He recently told her that Rachelle had sprung the news they were expecting another child.
Hearing this grated on her nerves because she and her husband, Malan, were childless. After being married for five years, she and Malan wondered why they hadn't had been able to conceive a child. Like her parents had in the past, perhaps they were using the natural family planning method a bit too well.
They went to see their family physican and learned that they would never conceive a child. Malan had a rare medical condition that affected the hormones that enabled his sperm to be potent enough to fertilize the egg.
The news had hit them hard. It nearly tore them apart. Both of them went to counseling to help them cope with this situation.
Malan had been almost unconsolable. He felt like he was less of a man, but then he realized his inability wasn't his fault. He figured not having a child was probably a good a good thing. He feared he would be a bad father. His father had not been a good man.
Although it wasn't possible for her and Malan to have children, she'd went on the pill. Actually she was thankful they couldn't have children. She was selfish. She didn't want motherhood to interfere with her profession or writing. Since they didn't have children, she had Malan all to herself and that's the way she liked it.
For some weird reason, the studio lights seemed hotter that evening. She felt tempted to claw at the silky, satiny, white blouse that seemed to be clinging to her chest. The drops of sweat clung to the pieces of hair on the back of her neck.
A wave of panic hit her. She feared that the audience would see the woman they turned to for credible, objective news and information sweating. It wasn't good for your audience to see their trusted, dependable journalist cracking under the pressure.
I was only imagining the beaded sweat that threatened to roll down my face, wasn't I? I was only imagining that this room, which was temperature controlled for comfort, was unbearably hot and stiffling. I was only imaging the nauseous and queasy feelings churning in the pit of my stomach spreading slowly throughout my whole body.
Where had this unexpected and sudden sickness come from? I thought worriedly. Where had this unexpected and unwanted occurrence come from?
"Five, four, three…" The floor director droned dramatically and then silently waved two fingers in the air.
She didn't have time to think or worry about what was wrong with her now. She had a job to do.
Two. One. They on the air.
Somehow she managed to make it flawlessly without any incidents through the nightly 30-minute newscast. She was surprised she survived unscathed. She was glad she hadn't lost her composure or lunch all over the news desk.
An uneasy feeling hovered around her; a wave of grave concern crashed over her heart. Something was wrong with her, and she didn't know what. She didn't like this feeling this way. She disliked knowing something was amiss and not being able to pinpoint the problem. Not knowing scared her the most.
Having unannounced, unscheduled and varied spells of nausea, sickness, drastic mood swings and other changes weren't nothing new for her. They'd been going on for awhile.
She didn't remember when these changes had began. She didn't know for sure how long these strange signs and symptoms had been going on.
She'd been extraordinarily busy. When you're the best there is in your business then everyone wants you.
She'd been so busy that she'd don't how she'd managed to have time to do anything. She didn't even know how she found time to sleep, eat or spend time alone with her husband.
She'd been so busy she had barely noticed that her breasts seemed to be getting larger. They appeared to be more taunt, fuller, than they normally were.
She'd barely had time to notice that my ankles had been swollen. So swollen that some of her shoes wouldn't fit, and she'd had to buy new ones.
Because of her busy schedule and life, she didn't remember the last time she'd had her period. She'd been under a lot of stress, which explained why she might have missed a period.
She shifted in her news desk chair, shaking myself out of my reverie. She unclipped the microphone on her blouse's lapel. All she had done is sit behind this desk and report the news, and she felt drained. She didn't understand nor know why I'd been more tired of late.
Kurt turned toward her. "Just another walk through the park, eh, Lathal?"
"Yeah. It's another day another dollar, Kurt."
He chuckled. "We actually make a dollar?"
"Hard to believe, I know."
"Well, at least you got your wish, Lathal."
"You're the one who said she wanted to be a starving writer and journalist."
She laughed, "I'm not exactly starving."
He looked at her concerned. "Lathal, you didn't look so good earlier. Is everything OK?"
She knew her colleague well enough to know the remark reflected his friendly concern nothing more. Although in the past, he had overstepped his boundaries and gotten involved in situations that he shouldn't have. Matters that were none of his business nor concern.
His worried voice conjuled her out of my private thoughts, "Lathal, are you feeling OK?"
"Sure, I'm fine," she said reassuringly.
He nodded. He didn't believe her but he didn't tell her that.
To be perfectly honest she wasn't even sure she was OK. She felt kind of guilty -- she felt like she'd lied to her colleague.
On her way home, to what she knew would be an empty house since Malan was performing at the playhouse, she stopped at the grocery store.
Many people in High University City knew her. They'd seen her covering stories in the community -- or as a normal citizen.
Considering she was such a recognizable personality, she strolled down the aisles trying to avoid being seen in the section that had the item she planned to purchase. An early pregnant test clear up this weirdness she'd been experiencing lately.
She didn't know why she was so embarrassed about buying such a thing. She obviously felt she needed it.
There are three items women feel uncomfortable about buying in a store: Maxi pads or tampons depending on which one that particular woman uses; condoms -- safe sex is important but buying condoms or any kind of birth control is a clear admission of guilty behavior; and early pregnancy tests -- pregnancy was supposedly a wonderful and joyous thing, but everyone treated you differently when you're knocked up. Somehow having a baby put you in the company of social outcasts or those who had some sort of deadly, incurable disease, and I didn't like those feelings.
She slinked down the personal hygiene aisle past the douches, thermometers, diapers and condoms, creeping up to the EPT display like a thief in the night. She glanced around to make sure no one was watching her. The coast was clear. She snatched an early quickly without caring what brand it was or how much it cost. She covered it up with her purse and hurriedly made her way to the checkout.
She kept her distance from the lone early pregnancy test riding down the express lane's conveyor belt. The cashier didn't say anything. The young man, who was more than likely a college student at High University, wordlessly fanned the bar code on the bottom of the EPT box over the scanning device.
It wouldn't scan. The young man entered the numbers on the bar code on the bottom of the early pregnancy test but .
"Guess it's free, eh?" she smiled wistfully trying to joke about her situation.
Ignoring her, the cashier was all business. "Do you know how much that is?"
"No, I didn't look at the price."
He searched the lists taped around his register for the brand of the product and a price. When he didn't find what he was looking for, he picked up the courtesy phone beside his register.
A loud beep resounded throughout the store as the kid's voice was broadcast over the store's intercom. "Price check on an EPT on aisle 5."
She cringed. My cheeks flushed in hot embarrassment. She didn't want it announced to the whole world that she thought she might be pregnant. That kind of information was personal and something she preferred to keep private.
She looked around furtively, hoping that no one who would recognize her was shopping in the store. It was late at night, around 11 p.m., and only a few senior citizens and young riffraff pushed their carts through the aisles nearby the cash registers.
A man wearing a white jacket from the pharmacy came up behind the checker. The young man showed him the item. "How much?"
The pharmacist stroked his chin with his right hand. He didn't pay her any attention. To the clerk, he said. "Six - ninety five."
"Thanks," the clerk said; the pharmacist nodded and then returned to the pharmacy.
The young clerk entered the numbers from the box's bar code into his register and a department number, which gave him the price. He put the EPT into a small brown paper bag and then handed it to her. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, ma'am."
Still embarrassed, she said quietly, "It's all right."
"Thanks for shopping with us. Come back again, and have a nice night."
"Thanks," she murmured, fleeing hurriedly from the store.
She raced home like some mad woman who was trying to escape evil demons chasing after me in hot pursuit.
She booked through the door into the house like a space ship traveling at lightspeed. She threw down her purse onto the dining room table. Still clutching the brown bag she'd carried in the house with her, she stormed into the bathroom.
She closed the door and locked it. She stood there looking at herself in the mirror. She stared at the reflection and wondered if she still recognized herelf because she was beginning to think she was seriously losing it.
She didn't have much time. If she was going to do this without her husband finding out, she was going to have to do it and get rid of the evidence before he got home. That meant she had to do it now because he was going to be home very shortly.
She tore open the box and quickly read the instructions, following them to the letter. After she'd done my business, she set the EPT indicator on top of the toilet bowl cover. According to the instructions she had to wait 10 minutes for the results.
That 10 minutes seemed like the longest 10 minutes of her life. The time ticked by slowly; she prayed that all her concerns were for nothing. She hoped that she'd just was overacted like she frequently did.
She glanced at her watch -- her minutes were up. The moment of truth had arrived, but she was afraid to look at it. She scolded herself for being such a worry wart but throughout her life she'd worried needlessly about everything.
She took a deep breath, summoning her strength and steeling her nerves. Slowly she drew the EPT toward her. She looked at the results and blinked.
Blue. Blue? It couldn't be blue. That meant one thing --Pregnant. Pregnant? No way!!!!! It wasn't possible.
The EPT had to be wrong; the disclaimer on the box claimed that the test was 98 percent accurate.
So, there was a small probability of a mistake. Maybe the test was bogus. Perhaps she had taken the test incorrectly.
But, what if the test was right?
I am not pregnant!!!!!
All of this was wrong. It was all a dream, one created by my overactive imagination, and she refused to believe it was true .
All she had to do was wait a few days for her period to show up then she'd be laughing at myself for Her ridiculously swift flights into fantasy and insanity.
On the verge of tears, she was tempted to violently throw the indicator across the bathroom for lying to her. But she knew she had to get rid of this falsehood. Especially before her husband found it and made false assumptions.
Shoving the indicator inside its plastic wrapper, she placing it back inside the box. She planned to take this lying piece of crap and discard it in the dumpster a few houses down.
She unlocked the door. She heard the familar sounds of her husband's convertible roll into their driveway and froze.
Oh, shit! Malan was home!!!!! He couldn't be home. She still was holding the evidence in her red handed hands.
She returned to the bathroom, locking the door behind me. She looked around frantically, wondering where she could hide this fiction until it she got rid of it. She'd have to hide it somewhere her husband wouldn't think to look. Somewhere where he'd never find it -- ever.
She listened as his familiar footsteps crunched the leaves that scattered the brick walkway to their home. She prayed he hadn't seen her Saturn, the car he'd bought to replace the Aspire that had been totaled in a car accident two years ago, parked in the driveway.
Maybe, if she was really lucky, her husband didn't know she was home. Then she could slip out underneath his nose and dispose of the EPT without arousing his suspicion or curiosity. His keys shook in the lock before the door softly creaked as it swished open. She quickly switched off the bathroom light. As the darkness blanketed her, she held her breath, listening to the rhythmic thudding of his familiar footsteps across the carpet.
"Lathal?" his gentle, familiar voice called, breaking into the stillness."Lathal, are you home?"
Only silence answered him.
There was one thing she knew as she stood deathly still in the dark silence of the bathroom. She was busted.
She could have stayed hidden in the bathroom all night. Except for one small problem -- Malan might need to use the bathroom then he'd wonder why the doors were locked, and he couldn't get in. Then it would be obvious someone was in here.
Her circumstances hadn't improved at all. Since she was between a rock and a hard place, she had to do something fast before she lost all the dignity and credibility she had. She had no idea where to hide what she wanted to keep secret -- then a wild, crazy idea hit her like a lightning bolt.
She wrapped the indicator inside the plastic wrapper in toilet paper, sliding it inside her bra. Then she folded the box and hid it inside her underwear.
Satisfied that she still was in control, she flipped on the light inside the medicine cabinet and straightened out mher appearance. She took a deep breath to regain her composure. Then she turned off the light, unlocked the door and quietly exited the bathroom.
With the pots and pans clanging in the kitchen, she figured her husband was going to make them a late night meal. But he hadn't heard her. He had no idea she was home.
Gods be praised. I still was alive. I still was innocent. I could still make a break for it and get off scott free.
Her clothes quietly rustled as she carefully tiptoed through the hallway. Despite her cautious steps, the floor boards groaned noisely.
There was no denying that noise. The tremor had been too obvious. The sounds echoed through the house like a steam train roaring through a lazy, laid back and quiet farm village in Kansas. Her husband would have been deaf not to hear that noise.
"Lathal?" His disembodied voice said hopefully.
Run!! Flee quickly!!! She silently advised myself. But she couldn't run. Her legs wouldn't cooperate. She just stood there frozen in place like an idiot.
"Lathal, is that you?" he said, moving from the kitchen into the den.
"Yes, it's me," she smiled softly at him.
"I didn't hear you come in," he said casually. "How long have you been here?"
"Not long," she said telling him a white lie.
"Oh," he said easily, adding teasingly. "Why are you sneaking around here real quiet like?"
"Well, I didn't want to disturb you while you were in the kitchen whipping up one of your culinary masterpieces," she teased.
"You were worried about disturbing me," he grinned mischievously.
"Hey, I didn't want to be blamed for distracting you," she bantered back affectionately.
He laughed appreciatively. "A distraction like you is definitely worth it."
She gazed at him invitingly. He gently pulled her into his embrace, and they kissed passionately over and over. So deep and much in love, they were filled with the longings, desires, passions and love they shared with each other.
Although she wanted to go all the way, she couldn't let this go too far. She couldn't let her emotions take control of her while she still had something to hide.
"Lathal," he murmured, his voice laced with longing, desire and love as he kissed her. "I missed you."
Throwing a bucket of ice cold water like a damper onto the tender moment, she said, "How was your performance tonight, Malan?"
Getting the message, he regretfully disengaged himself from me. "It was OK."
"Yeah, the same ol', same ol, ya know," he said. "I haven't see you at one of my performances in a long time."
She nodded. Her busy schedule hadn't allowed her to see him in a play in God knows how long. Shereally missed seeing him act. She enjoyed going to his performances and watching him on stage.
"I know," she murmured.
He caressed her arms, "I know I haven't done very good job of rescuing from work lately either."
"Yeah, I miss that. And I really miss catching your performances at the theater."
"So have I," he agreed. "What does your schedule look like for let's say tomorrow?"
"Why?" She teased. "Are you planning to ask me on a date?"
He grinned sloppily. "I'd love to. We haven't gone out on a date since -- goodness, I don't know."
"I can come to your performance tomorrow evening -- unless it's sold out."
"I happen to have some tickets I scrounged up somewhere," he joked, adding shyly. "Would you have dinner with me after the play?"
"Hmm, let me think -- is it a good idea to go out with actors? I'm not so sure it's a good idea to date actors."
He lowered his voice to a husky whisper. "Getting laid -- making love to a talented, beautiful and sexy journalist isn't bad at all and probably wouldn't hurt my career any."
She laughed. "Don't you have any scruples at all?"
"No, I need all the help I can get."
He raised his eyebrows inquisitively. "So what do you say?"
"I'll think about it."
He laughed appreciatively. "Playin' hard to get, eh?"
"Maybe?" He teased, pulling her closer to him, brushing his lips temptingly against hers.
Once again she found her lips locked with his; they exchanged passionate kisses and gentle caresses.
"Malan," she murmured tenderly.
"Hmm?" He murmured.
"I can never say no to you," she said, regretfully disengaging herself from him.
"Oh, Lathal," he beamed pleased like he did every time she said yes to him.
"Now, slave, go make me my dinner," she said, playfully shooing him away.
He laughed. "Will you help me in the kitchen?"
"Boy, you're cruising for trouble, aren't you?" She teased. "Don't you know that if you play with fire you're going to get burnt?"
"Was I supposed to learn somewhere?" he grinned mischievously.
"You're hopeless!" She tossed him a wry look.
"So, sue me," He winked. "Are you going to help me in the kitchen?"
"I need a few minutes, but then I'll come to help you in the kitchen, I promise."
"I'm going to hold you to that." He kissed her quickly before returning to the kitchen.
Once she was sure he was gone, she made her exit. She ran as fast as she could, given that running too fast caused her right leg, which had a metal rod that had been surgically placed inside after her car accident two years ago, to the dumpster a few houses down. She hid behind it so she could have some privacy to remove the offending objects from her person. Then she chucked them unceremoniously into the garbage.
She shook off the twinges of guilt she felt. There was nothing for her to worry or feel guilty about since she'd just made a mountain out of a mole hill. Nobody would ever know or find out about what the lying EPT test she'd taken. She could put the whole thing behind her. She could forget about it. It was gone.
She casually re-entered the house and made her way toward the kitchen where jer husband was busily cooking his best and favorite dish, din sum.
At that point, he didn't really need her help. She thought he just wanted to enjoy the pleasure of her company in the kitchen. He claimed he didn't like to be in the kitchen alone. Over the past five years of their marriage he'd gotten use to sharins the kitchen with her..
"Didn't leave me much to do, did you?" She teased.
He grinned. "You could make salad."
"That's really hard."
A mischievous grin spread broadly across his lips. "I don't think I trust you to make anything difficult."
"Ouch," she laughed, adding. "Did you really want salad?"
"Not really, but I'll eat it if you wanted it."
"Hmm. I'm not really in the mood for salad, but I'm craving something sweet."
"Yes!" He crowed, his eyes dancing in delight.
She knew what that childlike look of pleasure meant. He wanted her to make his favorite dessert, one she had a reputation for baking: Pumpkin bars.
She frowned mildly, "Those aren't that good when I make it with canned pumpkin."
"I know," he said quietly, the pleading look still twinkling in his eyes.
"But, you still want pumpkin bars anyway?"
He teased. "Now that's a really dumb question."
"You are hopeless."
He laughed. "So, sue me."
"Well, I hate to disappoint you, but I don't have all the ingredients to make pumpkin bars." A disappointed look crossed his face. "But I can do something else to make this a little more special."
"I'm not telling you. It'd ruin the surprise."
"Surprise?" He looked at her with interest.
"Yeah, a surprise, one that's for me to know, and you to find out," she said tauntingly.
"This could be interesting," he murmured affectionately, watching her disappear from the kitchen.
The candle lit and love ballads playing on the stereo created the romantic mood that greeted him as he entered the dining room to serve their dinner. She appeared in a sexy smile that matched the negligee she wore. He waited until she took her seat across from him before joining her at the table.
"Now when was the last time we did this?" he said quietly.
"I can't really recall," she said honestly.
They flirted with each other as they enjoyed their meal. They finished eating close to midnight. Usually they didn't stay up that because they both respected that they needed their rest with their busy work schedules.
They took the dishes to the kitchen, and then arranged them in the dishwasher. Usually she washed dishes by hand but she didn't feel up to the chore tonight.
She eaned over and kissed him softly, "I have to turn in."
"What is it, Lathal?"
He'd sensed her mood as always. Even though he had an ability for picking up her moods, it still amazed her.
"My thoughts have been straying to some memories. Things you and I use to do but never seem to find the time to do anymore."
"Hmm," he murmured thoughtfully, pulling her close to him. "Perhaps you'd discuss those thoughts with me if I join you in bed."
"Malan," she chided him gently. "Don't you have lines you have to review?"
"It can wait," He said, kissing her passionately.
They drifted, kissing and caressing each other like they were engaged in an intimate slow dance to their bedroom. Their clothing quickly became discarded before they tumbled into their bed.
"So, Lathal, what were these things you were thinking about that you and I used to do but haven't lately due to lack of time," he said huskily, kissing her."Like taking a shower together."
The suggestion made him recall their time in London in college when they'd first made love to each other. That past memory seemed like it had been the last time they'd showered together.
"I wouldn't mind that," he said quietly, indicating that request could be filled even at that late of an hour.
"Nor would I," she quietly confessed, regretfully looking at him. "Will you give me a rain check on that?"
A look of disappointment flickered briefly in his eyes, but he understood. "Sure."
She kissed him lovingly to show him how much she appreciated how he was always so supportive and understanding. That kiss only managed to fuel the fires already existent between them, fueling the longings, desires, wants and needs they had. Before long they found ourselves gently making love to each other until they were both satisfied and complete.
She totally forgot about the possibility of being pregnant as she fell asleep, locked in the safety and warmth of her husband's loving embrace.