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Authors: Tracy L Carbone

Hope House

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HOPE HOUSE

 

First published August 2013

by Shadowridge Press

 

Copyrigh
[email protected]
Tracy L. Carbone

All rights reserved.

No aspect of this book

may be reproduced without

consent of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters,

organizations, and imagined events portrayed in

this novel are either products of the author's imagination

or are used fictitiously.

 

E Book ISBN
-
978-0-9897796-1-6

 

www.shadowridgepress.com

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

I’d like to thank the following people for their various contributions

that made the idea of Hope House a reality. Cadiz Clerge, whose

knowledge in all things Haitian breathed life into Martine Jean
-

Baptiste.  Kurt X, the owner of an adoption agency I called at

random. He guided me through the process of international and

domestic adoptions and answered what he must have perceived as

some very peculiar questions. Also, the Customs Agents at the Key

West Airport (who shall remain nameless) who played along when

I told them the scenario I had in mind. Instead of arresting me, they

were kind enough to nod their heads in fascination and help me with

my research
.

 

My beta readers, Lisa Northrop and Julie Milo-Magee who

soothed my insecurities
.

 

And finally, Dannielle Romeo, who tore through the manuscript

with editorial vigor, and scrubbed out everything that didn’t belong
.

 

Once again, to

Abby
and
Robert

The ones who matter most.

 

 

 

Hope House

by Tracy L. Carbone

 

Prologue

 

Gloria Hanes Carpenter bit back tears as she waited for her husband to arrive for their appointment. She checked her watch.
Tommy, where are you?
A taxi screeched up to the curb and she sighed relief until she realized it wasn’t Tommy rushing out of the cab. Instead an enormously pregnant woman and her doting but nervous husband appeared.  The woman was in obvious pain but smiled as she took her husband’s arm for balance. “Hurry Jack, hurry.”

The two brushed past Gloria and disappeared into the th
rong of the ER. Gloria yelled, “Congratulations,” but the couple was long gone. Gloria rubbed her own less- impressive baby bump. “You’re gonna be just fine. Don’t you worry.” She glanced at her watch again and shook her head in frustration.

Just then, Gloria’s husband Tommy Carpenter appeared around the corner. He was perfectly coiffed as if he were heading to a photo shoot for
GQ
.  “Sorry I’m late,” he said. His contrived sincerity connived jurors all day long, but Gloria saw through it.

“We’re late,” she complained. She brushed a curly lock of blond hair from her  worried face, and then clenched his hand. Together they entered the elevator that would take them to the obstetrics ward of New York Hospital.

“You’ve got to hold yourself together. It’ll be okay.” Tommy pressed the button for the fifth floor.

“What if it’s not?” Gloria said. “Doctor Boucher wants to discuss the results of the amniocentesis. Something must be wrong for him to ask to see both of us.” Gloria struggled to rein in tears.

As the door opened, Tommy held her shoulders and turned her to face him. “Gloria, listen, let’s just see what the doctor has to say, okay?” Gloria could tell from the catch in his voice that he feared the worst as well. They both knew why they had been summoned. It was Down’s syndrome, or cystic fibrosis, or any of a number of horrific genetic birth defects that had fueled her nightmares for months.

Damn it. I’m only twenty-eight. Too young to have problems
. Tommy had wanted to wait to have a baby until he made partner at the law firm, but Gloria had insisted they do it now. “Less of a chance of having complications,” she had argued. The publishing firm where she worked as junior editor had accepted her plan: She’d go back to work part-time twelve weeks after the birth, at which time she’d pay for a top-notch daycare. She’d work from home two days a week, reading and editing while the baby slept. She’d promised Tommy that the baby wouldn’t hinder his career . . .

But now, well—

“Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter,” Dr. Tad Boucher said when he spotted them in the hall.  He was a pale young man with a receding brown hairline, rimless glasses, and the apologetic stride of an abused dog. “You’re a little late, and I was worried you might not make it.” 

“Is my baby all right?” Gloria blurted out. The other expectant mo
thers in the waiting room glanced up from their parenting magazines.

He didn’t answer, just leaned toward the counter
and spoke to the receptionist, and then to Gloria and Tommy. “Come with me please. We’ll discuss this in my office.”

Tommy held Gloria’s hand tight as they walked into Dr. Boucher’s office.

She had vowed not to cry.
Have to hold it together. Have to demonstrate grace under pressure
. If she had learned nothing else from all the beauty pageants in her past, it was that. She took a deep breath and held her chin up, pretending to be back on the runway.
We can do this. Whatever it is, we can handle it. Together.

Dr. Boucher sat down and gestured for them to do the same. His hands trembled as he opened Gloria’s chart.

She looked to her husband, the man she had known since childhood, the towheaded boy who had grown up to resemble Brad Pitt. He looked away.

“I’m sorry,” Dr. Boucher muttered. He stared at the chart. “This is abrupt but there’s no good way to say it. Your fetus has simply died.”

“What?” She’d never expected—

Dr. Boucher’s eyes met hers. “When we did the amniocentesis, we discovered that the fetus was dead.”

“Why didn’t you tell me then?” Her chest tightened and her breath came in short staggered jabs. “I didn’t even want the amnio. You said I needed it.”

He shook his head.  “I wanted to confirm it with another doctor, make sure before I told you.”

“No, my baby can’t be dead. I don’t trust your results.
She
can’t be dead. I felt her move just a few minutes ago.”

Dr. Boucher blinked hard a couple of times. “That’s impossible, I’m afraid. It’s probably your uterus preparing to abort the fetus.”

Tommy faced the window, saying nothing to argue the point, no attempt to fix this horrible error. Where was the obnoxious litigator when she needed him? He finally turned back to face her.

“Gloria, I’m sorry this happened, but we’re young and we’ll try for another baby as soon as you’ve healed. Do you think there would be a problem next time, Tad?”

“I don’t foresee any reason to think this would recur. You can try again in a couple of months. I’m very sorry, Mrs. Carpenter.”

“Hanes-Carpenter,” she corrected him.  “Why are we talking to you?  Why isn’t my regular OB GYN here?”

“He’s on an emergency,” the doctor answered. “Since I saw you the last time I thought I should be the one—”

She turned to Tommy. “Did you
just call him Tad? Do you two know each other? From somewhere besides here?”

Tommy and the doctor looked at each other. Tommy shook his head.

“You called him Tad,” she said, voice rising in volume.

Tommy reached for her hand but she resisted. “His breastplate, Hon. It’s on his chest.”

“Right. Right, I’m sorry, I—” She dropped her gaze and began to cry. “Why is this happening?”

“Gloria, it was my baby, too.  Jesus, you’re n
ot the only one impacted here! And none of this is my fault!”

His reaction was a slap in the face.  Not his fault.
Her
fault then?  “I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe she’s dead.” A quiet confession.

“I’ll have a grief counselor come in and talk to you.” Dr. Boucher rose. “We need to do an emergency dilation and evacuation because of—”

“No. Not now. I want an ultrasound.”

“What?”

  “An ultrasound. I want you to show me that my baby’s heart isn’t beating, because I don’t believe it. Your test must be wrong.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. Witnessing your lifeless fetus will be damaging to you emotionally.”

Gloria felt her head begin to throb. A tension headache began and there was no stopping it.  She pinched her eyes shut and tried to tuck away the pain but to no avail. She glared at Dr. Boucher, desperation getting the best of her.  “What will be damaging to me is if my baby’s alive, and-and I let you cut her up and vacuum her out.”

“Why would I do that?” He looked hurt, insulted. Beads of sweat covered Dr. Boucher’s face. He wiped at his brow.

“Please, just get me the ultrasound.  I demand it.”

“Of course. But please know that I don’t advise it.”

“Noted.”

Dr. Boucher got up and left her behind with the wordless Tommy. “Aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked. She dug through her purse until her fingers found her indispensable bottle of Tylenol. She lined up the arrows on the cover, popped it off, and tossed two extra strength caplets into her mouth.

Her throat was drier than she’d realized. Gloria turned on the faucet in the examining room, cupped her hands together, and drank some water to wash the pills down.

After drying her hands on a paper towel, she looked to Tommy once more. “Well?”

He again reached for her hand. She squeezed his now sweaty palm, sad to see that his eyes had filled with tears. “I don’t want to see an ultrasound of our baby. I trust that the doctor is telling the truth.”


But Tommy—”

“The man said he had
another
physician verify the findings. I think we need to just put it behind us.”

“We found out five minutes ago and you’re already putting it behind
us?” She jerked her hand away. “Aren’t you the strong one? Fine, you stay here, and I’ll go look at it. At
her.”

The pounding in her head increased, but she had more important things to worry about than pain. She walked into the hallway and heard Dr. Boucher arguing with someone. She followed the noise to one of the examining rooms. He lowered his voice so she put her ear to the door. The anger permeated in muffled shouts. She didn’t give a damn if anyone saw her.

“I don’t feel good about this. No damn it. It was supposed to take care of things; I don’t know why it didn’t. I don’t know if there is a way to convince—” Silence. Then, “How much? You’ll give me that much? I don’t know. Oh give me a break. There are better ways to make a name for myself, and there’s no way in hell this will land me in a medical journal.”

“What are you doing?” A hand grabbed her arm, causing Gloria to jump and gasp.

“Damn it, Tommy, don’t sneak up on people.”

“What are you doing out here with your ear to the door? You can’t listen in on private medical consultations.”

“It’s Doctor Boucher,” she said, her voice quiet. “He’s on the phone. I think he’s talking about me. About my baby.”

“Our baby. And no, I’m sure he’s not. Come on; let’s get back to his office.”

She yanked her arm free from his grasp and stomped down the hall with Tommy following.

Gloria
and Tommy waited without speaking to each other until Dr. Boucher returned. She knew she was in denial, that she’d chosen to be angry instead of crushed. Choosing to pin all her hopes on the fact that she’d have the ultrasound, and her angelic baby would appear just as she had at the sixteen-week visit, with her little face, and tiny fingers waving in the amniotic sac. And Dr. Boucher would apologize, and she’d hug Tommy, and they’d cry tears of joy, and then she’d hotfoot it to a new physician.

“Come with me, please,” was all he said when he opened the door a few minutes later. No more
I’m sorry, Mr. And Mrs. Carpenter.

“Come on, Tommy,” she said.

“No.” He sat firmly in his chair. “I already told you I’m not going. I think it’s sick you want to see our dead baby on film. I don’t want any part of it.”

“Fine.” She followed Dr. Bo
ucher through the ward. 
This is something I’ll never forgive in Tommy. Coward. 

Within a few minutes she was on the table, her blouse unbuttoned and her maternity pants pulled down to expose her stomach. The doctor smeared her abdomen with jelly and moved the transducer around it. She watched the wand glide back and forth on her torso. No sound came from the monitor. None of the familiar whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the baby’s rapid heartbeat.

Dr. Boucher set down the transducer and pulled the keyboard toward him. He typed in data he read from a pad and then waited. He inserted a disk and then waited more. “All right, here it is.” He turned the screen toward her, and she jolted when she comprehended the image: a large gray shape suspended unmoving in fluid. No flinches or kicks. He turned the monitor away from her, removed the disk, and hit some more keys.

“I’m very sorry you had to see that. Do you believe me now?”

She nodded. “Could you get my husband please?”

She broke down in tears once Tommy walked into the room. He held her and said things would be all right, but she knew it was a lie, that the life she had known
no longer existed. Sadness and shock overtook her until she couldn’t speak or walk on her own. Without words, Tommy guided her down the hall.

“Please follow me,” Dr. Boucher said. He explained
the upcoming procedure to Tommy as they took the elevator to another floor. “The fetus is too large for a D and C so we have to perform what’s called a D and E. She’ll be asleep anyway, so your wife won’t know the difference, but I want to make you aware. At twenty-two weeks, it’s what we have to do.”

Gloria nodded
numbly though she knew he wasn’t addressing her. What Dr. Boucher did to her now didn’t matter. His voice droned on, and she leaned on Tommy, tears obscuring her view of the diamond pattern on the floor. “If we wait, when it naturally aborts there could be hemorrhaging. It’s safer this way.”

“Of
course,” Tommy said. Gloria shuffled along.

*

An hour later, Gloria lie in a bed, wearing a blue cloth hospital gown. An IV ran from her arm to a bag of saline on a pole. She was grateful that they’d given her a sedative. No point fighting. Nothing left to contest. When she awoke her stomach would be flat so she countered rest as long as possible.

Beside her, Tommy and Dr. Boucher talked to each other. They had stopped consulting her hours ago. It seemed like hours ago. She couldn’t be sure. So tired.

“What about the age of the baby? The law in this state says—” Tommy started.

“Twenty weeks, I know,” Dr. Boucher continued for him. “If I state the real age we’d have to report it.  There would be a death certificate and burial. We’ll
state the age as younger. On top of everything else, we don’t need to put Gloria through a funeral. We’ll just list it as a spontaneous abortion, a miscarriage, as opposed to a stillbirth. I’ll write it up for sixteen weeks.”

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