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Authors: Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to Dance

BOOK: Pretending to Dance
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For my sister, Joann Lopresti Scanlon,
my inspiration and dearest friend

 

2014

1

San Diego

I'm a good liar.

I take comfort in that fact as Aidan and I sit next to each other on our leather sectional, so close together that our thighs touch. I wonder if that's too close. Patti, the social worker sitting on the other wing of our sectional, writes something in her notes, and with every scribble of her pen, I worry her words will cost us our baby. I imagine she's writing
The couple appears to be codependent to an unhealthy degree
. As if picking up on my nervousness, Aidan takes my hand, squeezing it against his warm palm. How can he be so calm?

“You're both thirty-eight, is that right?” Patti asks.

We nod in unison.

Patti isn't at all what I expected. In my mind I've dubbed her “Perky Patti.” I'd expected someone dour, older, judgmental. She's a licensed social worker, but she can't be any older than twenty-five. Her blond hair is in a ponytail, her blue eyes are huge, and her eyelashes look like something out of an advertisement in
Vogue.
She has a quick smile and bubbly enthusiasm. Yet, still, Perky Patti holds our future in her hands, and despite her youth and bubbly charm, she intimidates me.

Patti looks up from her notes. “How did you meet?” she asks.

“At a law conference,” I say. “In 2003.”

“It was love at first sight for me,” Aidan says. I know he means it. He's told me often enough.
It was your freckles,
he'd say, touching his finger to the bridge of my nose. Right now, I feel the warmth of his gaze on me.

“We hit it off right away.” I smile at Aidan, remembering the first time I saw him. The workshop was on immigration law, which would later become Aidan's specialization. He'd come in late, backpack slung over one shoulder, bicycle helmet dangling from his hand, blond hair jutting up in all directions. His gray T-shirt was damp with sweat and he was out of breath. Our workshop leader, a humorless woman with a stiff-looking black bob, glared at him but he gave her that endearing smile of his, his big brown eyes apologetic behind his glasses. His smile said,
I know I'm late and I'm sorry, but I'll make you happy that I'm in your workshop.
I watched her melt, her features softening as she nodded toward an empty chair in the center of the room. I'd been a wounded soul back then. I'd sworn off men a couple of years earlier after a soul-searing broken engagement to my longtime boyfriend Jordan, but I knew in that moment that I wanted to get to know this particular man, Aidan James, and I introduced myself to him during the break. I was smitten. Aidan was playful, sexy, and brainy, an irresistible combination. Eleven years later, I still can't resist him.

“You're in immigration law, is that right?” Patti looks at Aidan.

“Yes. I'm teaching at the University of San Diego right now.”

“And you're family law?” She looks at me and I nod.

“How long did you date before you got married?” she asks.

“About a year,” Aidan says. It had only been eight months, but I knew he thought a year sounded better.

“Did you try to have children right away?”

“No,” I say. “We wanted to focus on our careers first. We never realized we'd have a problem when we finally started trying.”

“And why are you unable to have children of your own?”

“Well, initially it was just that we couldn't get pregnant,” Aidan says. “We tried for two years before going to a specialist.”

I remember those years all too well. I'd cry every time I'd get my period. Every single time.

“When I finally did get pregnant,” I say, “I lost the baby at twenty weeks and had to have a hysterectomy.” The words sound dry as they leave my mouth, no hint of the agony behind them. Our lost daughter, Sara. Our lost dreams.

“I'm sorry,” Patti says.

“It was a nightmare,” Adam adds.

“How did you cope?”

“We talked a lot,” I say. Aidan still holds my hand, and I tighten my grip on him. “We talked with a counselor a few times, too, but mostly to each other.”

“That's the way we always cope,” Aidan says. “We don't keep things bottled up around here, and we're good listeners. It's easy when you love each other.”

I think he's laying it on a little thick, but I know he believes he's telling the truth. We congratulate ourselves often for the way we communicate in our marriage and, usually, we do a good job of it. Right now, though, with my lies between us, I squirm at his words.

“Do you have some anger over losing your baby?” Patti directs her question to me.

I think back to a year ago. The emergency surgery. The end of any chance to have another child. I don't remember anger. “I think I was too devastated to be angry,” I say.

“We regrouped,” Aidan says. “When we were finally able to think straight, we knew we still wanted … still want … a family, and we began researching open adoption.” He makes it sound like the decision to pursue adoption was easy. I guess for him it was.

“Why
open
adoption?” Patti asks.

“Because we don't want any secrets from our child,” I say with a little too much force, but I feel passionately about this. I know all about secrets and the damage they do to a child. “We don't want him—or her—to wonder about his birth parents or why he was placed for adoption.” I sound so strong and firm. Inside, my stomach turns itself into a knot. Aidan and I are not in total agreement over what our open adoption will look like.

“Are you willing to give the birth parents updates on your child? Share pictures? Perhaps even allow your child to have a relationship with them, if that's what the birth parents would like?”

“Absolutely,” Aidan says and I nod. Now is not the time to talk about my reservations. Although I already feel love for the nameless, faceless people who would entrust their child to us, I'm not sure to what degree I want them in our lives.

Patti shifts on the sectional and gives a little tug on her ponytail. “How would you describe your lifestyle?” she asks in a sudden change of topic, and I have to give my head a shake to clear it of the image of those selfless birth parents. “How will a child fit into your lives?” she adds.

“Well, right now we're both working full-time,” Aidan says, “but Molly can easily go to half-time.”

“And I can take six weeks off if we get a baby.”

“When.”
Aidan squeezes my hand. “Be an optimist.”

I smile at him. To be honest, I wouldn't mind quitting my job altogether. I'm tired of divorce after divorce after divorce. The longer I practice law, the more I dislike it. But that is for another conversation.

“We're pretty active,” I tell Patti. “We hike and camp and bike. We spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer. We both surf.”

“It'd be fun to share all that with a kid,” Aidan says. I imagine I feel excitement in his hand where it presses against mine.

Patti turns a page in her notebook. “Tell me about your families,” she says. “How were you raised? How do they feel about your decision to adopt?”

Here is where this interview falls apart,
I think.
Here is where my lies begin.
I'm relieved when Aidan goes first.

“My family's totally on board,” he says. “I grew up right here in San Diego. Dad is also a lawyer.”

“Lawyers coming out of the woodwork around here.” Patti smiles.

“Well, Mom is a retired teacher and my sister, Laurie, is a chef,” Aidan says. “They're already buying things for the baby.” His family sounds perfect. They
are
perfect. I love them—his brilliant father, his gentle mother, his creative, nurturing sister and her little twin boys. Over the years, they've become my family, too.

“How would you describe your parents' parenting style?” Patti asks Aidan.

“Laid-back,” Aidan says, and even his body seems to relax as the words leave his mouth. “They provided good values and then encouraged Laurie and me to make our own decisions. We both turned out fine.”

“How did they handle discipline?”

“Took away privileges, for the most part,” Aidan says. “No corporal punishment. I would never spank a child.”

“How about discipline in your family, Molly?” Patti asks, and I think,
Oh thank God,
because she skipped right over the “tell me about your family” question.

“Everything was talked to death.” I smile. “My father was a therapist, so if I did something wrong, I had to talk it out.” There were times I would have preferred a spanking.

“Did your mother work outside the home as well?” Patti asks.

“She was a pharmacist,” I say. She might
still
be a pharmacist, for all I know. Nora would be in her mid to late sixties now.

“Are your parents local, too?” Patti asks.

“No. They died,” I say, the first real lie out of my mouth during this interview. I have the feeling it won't be the last.

BOOK: Pretending to Dance
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