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** Abigail **

I drummed my fingers against my thighs in anticipation. I couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long. After all, I had taken a total of eight pregnancy tests and they had all come back positive. There was no possible way that the one I had just taken had shown anything different; especially, considering the fact that I had taken the eighth at-home test less than an hour before I had walked into the clinic.

My phone pinged with an incoming text message, and I hastily swiped my finger across the screen; happy for the distraction. I laughed softly to myself as I read the message from Kevin. The man was going to give himself heart-failure if he didn’t stop trying to micro-manage every single aspect of the guys’ lives. The Christmas holiday had apparently done nothing to slow down his thought process. Judging by his overuse of the panicked faced emoji, he was now quite clearly losing his mind over the fact that the production crew was refusing to go ahead with the required set changes without one of the guys officially signing off on the altered set-list document.

My laughter faded away as I hastily fired back a response indicating that I would look into the situation after I was finished with my current appointment. Aside from Dr. Hoeg, I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant. It was still way too early to make an official announcement to my family and friends, and I definitely didn’t need my coworkers thinking that I was no longer up to the challenge of running the Backstreet Boys’ residency simply because I was pregnant. My growing baby was a blessing, and I didn’t want anyone convincing me otherwise.

Flipping to my email application, I quickly scrolled through the series of unopened messages. I mentally cursed myself as I clicked on the message that Bill had sent to me close to six hours earlier. The subject line said it all; ‘Signature Required – Cannot Proceed’. My heart started to beat faster. This was a critical piece of information that I shouldn’t have missed.

Maybe the pregnancy was going to turn out to be a bit of a burden. After calling Dr. Hoeg to inform her of my positive test results, and learning that I needed to come into the clinic as soon as I hit the five week mark for my first follow-up appointment, I hadn’t been able to properly focus on anything else. Despite reassuring my boss, Mike, that I would be gone for less than seventy-two hours and that I could easily manage all of my responsibilities remotely, I had swiftly dropped the ball on one of the most important aspects of the guys’ residency.

My stomach churned as I skimmed through the rest of the email. I needed to deliver a hard-copy of the revised set-list signed by one of the guys to the production department before tomorrow at midnight. Bill had been pretty explicit in his email; if I didn’t meet the deadline, there was a good chance that the custom-fit elements of the stage set-up wouldn’t be ready for opening night. I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. This was not the end of the world. I could fix this.

“Ms. Lukas?”

I almost dropped my phone as the door to the exam room swung open. Dr. Hoeg stepped into the room, followed closely by another woman in a white lab coat. I could feel the anxiety pulling at the corners of my mouth as I hurried to stuff my phone back into my purse. Both of the women were sporting smiles that seemed even more forced than my own. The general feeling in the room was one of overall discomfort.

“Is something wrong?”

I could barely get the words out. Surely, my lab results had revealed something strange. Why else would Dr. Hoeg have made me wait so long only to reappear with another doctor for reinforcement?

“Is – is the test negative?”

“No.” Dr. Hoeg took her own noticeably deep breath. She sat down on one of the small stools and motioned for the other woman to do the same. “The test that you took here is also positive. You are, indeed, pregnant.”

“Oh – oh good!” I breathed; my eyes darting back and forth between the two female doctors. Neither one of them appeared to be genuinely happy for me. “So, what’s the problem? Is there something wrong with the baby? Did my blood work show something strange?”

“Ms. Lukas, I’m Dr. Bridgewater.” The blonde doctor finally introduced herself. She leaned forward on her stool as if she were stealing herself to tell me something terrible. “I’m afraid that we – that I made a horrible mistake in relation to your insemination procedure and; subsequently, to your current pregnancy.”

“A mistake? What kind of a mistake?” I turned to Dr. Hoeg. “I don’t understand. You were the one who performed my procedure.”

“Yes, but I was the one who confused the sperm samples.” Dr. Bridgewater was noticeably sweating by this point. “Ms. Lukas, I’m so very sorry to tell you that you were inseminated with the wrong sperm. The baby that you’re carrying is not a product of you and your late husband.”

I blinked once, twice. My mouth fell open. “What!?”

“You were accidentally inseminated with another man’s sperm.” Dr. Bridgewater repeated her admission; her voice shaking. “I’m so sorry ...”

“So, this baby is not Brayden’s?!” I jabbed at my stomach. The bile was rising in my throat. I was starting to feel lightheaded. “Whose baby is it?!”

“We actually aren’t at liberty to tell you that.” Dr. Hoeg inserted herself into the conversation. She reached out and gave her fellow doctor’s arm a reassuring squeeze. “This has never happened before ...”

“Wait a minute!” I held up my hand for silence. “You’re telling me that you accidentally pumped me full of some random guy’s sperm, got me pregnant, and now you can’t tell me who the father is?! I trusted you! Brayden trusted you! What the fuck am I supposed to do now?! What even happened to Brayden’s sample? Is some other random woman pregnant with my husband’s child?!”

“Your late husband’s sperm was inadvertently used as part of an implantation procedure that turned out to be unsuccessful.” Dr. Hoeg let out a small sigh. “I’m afraid that we can’t really tell you anything more than that.”

I stared at the two women in disbelief. “So, you’re saying that Brayden’s one and only sample is gone?”

Dr. Bridgewater nodded; tears in her eyes. “I’m so very sorry, Ms. Lukas.”

I leaned back in my chair. There were so many things that I wanted to say, but it was impossible for me to think clearly. I wanted to yell. I wanted to cry. I wanted to physically destroy the two women sitting in front of me. But, I did nothing. I said nothing. I just sat there; stunned. Brayden’s sample was gone forever. I would never be pregnant with his child.

“There are still many options available to you.” Dr. Hoeg pressed several pamphlets into my clammy fingers. “You should take some time; think things over.”

I shook my head ever-so-slightly to clear some of the fog away from brain. “What about the father of my baby? Doesn’t he have a right to know about what’s happened?”

“He does.” Dr. Bridgewater acknowledged. “He and his wife are scheduled to come into the clinic tomorrow afternoon to discuss the situation.”

“And then what?” I pressed. My disbelief was slowly giving away to anger. “You already said that you can’t tell me his name.”

“If you’re both in agreement, we can arrange for the two of you to be able to contact each other anonymously. We can route your initial correspondence through a third-party email system that would allow the two of you to communicate without revealing any of your personal information. If, at a later date, the two of you decide to exchange more detailed information that would be entirely up to you.” Dr. Hoeg quickly jumped in to pacify my growing hostility.

“But, if I agree to the initial correspondence and the baby’s father doesn’t then I’ll never know who he is?” I pushed for clarification. “Right?”

“That’s correct.” Dr. Hoeg confirmed. “Either one of you will be able to initiate the first conversation, but you both have to agree to allow us to connect you. If you’re interested, I can bring you the consent form that you have to sign.”

I bit at my lower lip and looked down at the pamphlets in my hands; quickly turning them over as I caught sight of the word ‘abortion’. The bile was still simmering in my throat. “Go ahead and bring me the form.” I choked. “My baby has a right to know who their father is.”

My brain was still fuzzy as I walked out of the clinic. I was tempted to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming, but I knew that the nightmare that I was currently living was real. I tossed the abortion and adoption related pamphlets into the trash as I zipped up my jacket and headed for the parking lot. Even if Brayden wasn’t the father, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to continue with the pregnancy. All I could do now was pray that the actual father signed his ‘Consent to Contact’ form. Even if, after speaking to me, he decided that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with me or with the baby, I would at least be able to provide my child with the name of their biological father when he or she became old enough to start asking questions.

My phone started to ring just as I reached my rental car, and I struggled to pull it and my keys out of my purse at the same time. I accepted the call without looking at the display and greeted the caller on autopilot.

“Planet Hollywood events; you’ve reached Abigail Lukas.”

“So formal ...” Kevin’s deep southern drawl invaded my ear. “I thought that we had moved past the formal stage.”

“Kevin, hi! Sorry! I didn’t look at the display.” I babbled, still fumbling with my keys. All of my work-related problems rushed back into my brain as I finally managed to open the driver’s side door and slide into the car. “My appointment ran late ...”

“This appointment didn’t have anything to do with me or the fellas, did it?” Kevin’s tone remained jovial, but I could still detect a hint of stress behind his words. “I know that we can sometimes be a bit of a hassle.”

“No, no, it had nothing to do with any of you.” I reassured him. “I’m actually in Atlanta taking care of some – some personal stuff. I’m flying back to Vegas tomorrow morning ...”

I abruptly trailed off as the solution to the stage production problem smacked me in the face; Brian lived in Georgia. He could sign off on the required paperwork, and I could hand-deliver it to Bill as soon as I stepped back into the venue tomorrow afternoon. Well, Brian could sign the papers provided that he was actually at home and provided that his cousin was willing to tell me how to find him.

“Sorry, did you say that you’re in Atlanta?” Kevin repeated. “My youngest son just decided to start screaming for no apparent reason and drowned you out.”

“Yes, yes I am in Atlanta.” I hurriedly replied so that Kevin wouldn’t ask me any pressing questions. “Actually, I was hoping that I would be able to meet up with Brian while I’m here in Georgia. Bill just needs one of you guys to sign off on the revised set-list documents; he doesn’t care which one of you that is.”

“Yeah, sure, let me just get you Brian’s number. Or, do you have it already?” Kevin drawled. “He lives about an hour outside of Atlanta, but I’ll leave it for you guys to figure out how you want to connect.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.” I parroted. “You better give me his number. I can’t remember if I have it in my phone. I do know for a fact that I’ve never texted him or anything though.”

I leaned my head back against the seat and resisted the urge to breathe a sigh of relief as I waited for Kevin to rhyme off his cousin’s phone number. At least I had managed to avert one major crisis.

I absently rubbed my free hand across my stomach and blinked back the tears that were finally threatening to fall. Tomorrow afternoon, some random man was going to learn that he was going to be a father. Tomorrow afternoon, another person’s life was going to be forever linked to mine, and there was a pretty good chance that I would never even get to learn his name.
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