Katie Ganshert was born and raised in Iowa, where she currently resides with her husband, their nine month old son, and their black lab, Bubba. She keeps busy balancing her roles as wife, mother, 5th grade teacher, and writer. Although she fell in love with writing as a kid (her mother has crates of her stories stacked away in the basement), she didn’t start writing seriously until her son was born. She writes inspirational fiction, heavy on the romance. She is an active member of ACFW, dabbles in short stories, has completed three novels, and looks forward to writing more. You can find Katie at her website http://katieganshert.com/ or on her blog: www.katieganshert.blogspot.com
This was the moment. The apex of our relationship. The point I knew would come, but hoped to avoid. I imagined spreading my arms wide and letting myself fall. After I said the words, there would be no taking them back.
“Gavin.” Those two endearing syllables rolled off my tongue. I allowed them to linger in place, letting the flavor melt on my taste buds like the last few bites of a decadent cheese cake.
He tossed his delighted niece into the air. Lily’s golden curls flashed like sunbeams against the backdrop of azure sky. She dissolved into a fit of outrageous giggles. The kind I would have joined if my throat hadn’t squeezed together.
Did it have to be now? On the cusp of summer? With the sun shining like a glorious ball of fire amidst a smattering of puffy white clouds? Couldn’t I just wait until Mr. Sun wasn’t so eager to play?
I shook my head and dismissed the idea. Things were getting too serious. I had no more excuses for putting this off. No more excuses to prolong the unavoidable. I cleared my throat.
“Gavin,” I said, a little louder this time, cherishing the unexpected gift in the midst of my torment. His distraction had given me the excuse to say his name a second time.
He set Lily down and gave her rear a pat before she tore off toward the slide. The really high big-girl slide. The one she’d just learned to slide down two weeks ago. Gavin stood up and smiled over at me, his handsome features sending ripples of agony through the cavern in my chest. I had his attention. There would be no need to repeat his name again.
He brought his hand to his brow, shielding his sight from the glare of the afternoon sun, and looked at me expectantly.
The courage I’d worked so hard to gather swooshed away with dizzying speed. I broke our stare, and feigned interest in the group of children playing on the jungle gym. I spotted one woman pushing a twin-sized stroller, carting a chubby toddler on one hip while an older child tugged on the hem of her shirt. Her eyebrows pulled together in a look of exasperation. How could one woman be blessed with such fortune? And another be so cursed? I tasted the metallic warmth of blood and released my lip from its prison. I hadn’t even noticed I’d bitten it.
Gavin drew his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. The mingled scent of Old Spice and sun block tickled my nose. Another gift. A parting aroma to remember him by. He brought his lips to my hair.
I couldn’t help myself. I leaned into his embrace.
“You’re so quiet today,” he whispered.
It was a day of lasts. Our last morning walk. Our last ice cream cone. Our last trip to the park with his nieces and nephews. Our last kiss. Our last day as Gavin and Melodi. Talking only got in the way of treasuring every single last. I basked in his presence, silent but alert, trying my best to ignore the inevitable. It pressed down on me now like all the world’s gravity had collected and gathered on top of my shoulders.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
That was my cue. He’d unknowingly hurled me to my precipice. I stared down the face of the cliff and spread out my arms, praying for courage I didn’t have, and took the jump. It was time to share my secret. I stepped away and faced him.
“I can’t have children.” The words came out hollow. Disembodied. Unattached to a living, breathing human being. And I wished it were true. I wished they didn’t belong to me.
He took a step back, his hand shadowing his face. “I don’t understand.”
Was he really going to make me say it again?
I shut my eyes, denying any outlet for tears. When I opened them, I spied him staring at a gaggle of children swarming the swing set, then the merry-go-round, then the tall slide. His gaze followed Lily as she climbed the stairs, her father standing beneath her in case she slipped and fell. I would never be able to give him one of these.
“Why are you telling me this? Why now?”
I wrapped my arms around myself, as if warding off a nonexistent cold. “Because you deserve to know the truth.” I tightened my hold, afraid if I didn’t, my insides would spill out and I’d collapse into a puddle at his feet. “You deserve all the facts. Before you get in too deep.”
I watched him grapple with the knowledge I’d had over fifteen years to digest. I wanted to place my hand on his cheek and tell him it was no use. No matter how he spun it, there was no getting around the fact that I had no womb. It wasn’t just barren, it was nonexistent. I took a step away, the fissure in my chest cracking deeper as I prepared our goodbye.
Goodbye, Gavin. The farewell brushed against my soul. I allowed myself one last glimpse into his eyes, which swam in a gathering pool of shocked emotion. I took another step back, our gaze locked in place. Goodbye, Gavin. I love you.
He reached out his hand, as if to stop me. I gave him a sad, broken smile. Then turned, and walked away.