Joan's eyes stared blankly down at the small plastic stick in her hands. The tile floor felt cold under her feet, and she felt the icy chill travel up her legs and into her chest.
"Joan, honey, it's okay. It could be a… a false negative."
She turned and looked at her husband coldly. "This is the third one I've taken this week." She sighed angrily and dropped it to the floor, standing up and walking back into the bedroom. Arthur got up to follow her, and saw her standing at the window, looking into the backyard.
He put his hand on her shoulder and stood behind her quietly, giving her time to process.
"I'm sorry that I'm being a bitch," Joan whispered. Her eyes filled with tears. "I just wanted it so badly…"
"Shh, I know," Arthur said, pushing her hair to the side and kissing her neck. "But we can try again."
"We've been trying for almost three years, Arthur. I'm starting to lose hope."
Arthur turned Joan to face him, cupping her face in his hands.
"Don't do that. Never give up, never lose hope. That's not the Joan Campbell I know."
"Maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother," Joan said sadly, taking Arthur's hand off of her face gently. She turned back to the window, looking into their backyard. "I always wanted kids, you know? Always imagined I'd have at least two, maybe even three. And when we bought this house, I thought the backyard was perfect for kids to run around in… we could put a play structure in the back right corner, and on weekend evenings, I could sit on the porch and watch the kids play while drinking iced tea and reading a book while you made dinner on the grill."
She let the curtain fall back, hiding the empty backyard. Arthur's heart ached. He had always wanted kids too, and from the moment he and Joan got married, he imagined them with children. It just felt right, like it never had with Gina.
Joan sat on the bed, and Arthur gave her space, staying by the window. She pulled her knees up to her chest, and in that moment, Arthur swore that he had never seen her more sad. In his black t-shirt with the American flag on it and pink polka dot pajama pants, she looked so small.
"Maybe it's my fault," she said quietly, looking up at him. "I abused drugs, I got in some pretty nasty fights as an operative. Maybe I fucked up my body."
"No, do not blame this on yourself," Arthur said firmly, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I won't sit here and let you blame yourself, because it could be my fault as much as yours."
"I'm older than you are, maybe my stuff isn't as good as it was." He smiled softly. "You married an old man."
Joan almost laughed, stretching her arm across the bed to take his hand.
"I love you for trying to cheer me up."
Arthur crawled across the bed and pulled Joan into his arms.
"We'll try again. And again, and again, if we have to," he said softly, kissing her hair. "I'll never give up on this, and I won't let you give up either."
Joan smiled. Maybe it would all work out, maybe they could have a family. Arthur Campbell always kept her believing in a happy ending.
Two months and five more negative tests later, Joan finally went to her doctor. She had avoided it for as long as possible, but there was no point in waiting any longer.
She got home after Arthur that night, and it was almost midnight.
Arthur emerged from his study, wearing his glasses and an eager look. "What did the doctor say, baby?"
Joan just pushed past him and ran up the stairs. He followed her, and when he arrive at their room, he saw her purse and coat on the bed and her heels on the floor. The closet door was closed, and he sighed.
"Joan, are you in there?," he asked, kneeling next to the closet door?
"No," came the muffled response. He frowned and opened the door to see her sitting against the wall in the back of the closet in her teal blouse and gray pants, with her wavy blonde hair and pinned back bangs looked slightly messy. Her eyes were red and teary.
"I can't have children," she choked out, looking absolutely distraught. "Some women just can't conceive, and I guess I'm one of them."
Arthur sat down in front of her. "The doctor didn't actually say that, did she?"
Joan shook her head and wiped some tears away with her sleeve. "No… I don't remember how she said it. Some medical terms or something. All that matters is that no matter if I wanted to give up or not, my body has decided for me."
"We can adopt," Arthur offered. Joan sighed.
"I doubt we'll pass the background checks. Plus, it's too much work and lying, and that whole process is something we can't balance with the Agency right now."
"Arthur, I know what you're doing, but I don't want to have this talk right now. I just found out that my body is inhospitable for a baby, I'm not feeling the best."
"Okay, I understand," Arthur said, leaning forward to kiss her forehead. "We'll stop talking about it. What do you want for dinner?"
"Nothing," she mumbled. "I'm just gonna get in bed."
"No." She held her hand up as if to stop him, and stood up, looking at him with sad, empty eyes. "Just… give me some time, okay?"
"Alright," he said sadly, watching her walk over to the bed and unbutton her blouse.
"I'll be downstairs, working… I'll come to bed soon."
"Okay," Joan said, continued to undress. Arthur looked at her one last time, but she refused to make eye contact. He left, and she sat down on the bed in her bra and unbuttoned pants, letting her face fall into her hands.
Once again, she had ruined something. The ice queen, shutting out people who try to help her, because she thinks she doesn't need anyone.