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** Brian **

“I thought you said that you just needed to sign something.” Leighanne’s interrogation began the moment that I sat down in the driver’s seat.

“I did.” I stuck my key in the ignition and started the engine; hoping that the radio would be enough to stop her questions.

“It took you over an hour to write your name?” Leighanne raised her eyebrows. She turned down the radio as I looked over my shoulder to check my blind-spot before swinging the car out into the flow of traffic headed through the downtown core.

“I guess so.” I tightened my hands on the steering wheel. “You said that it was going to take you an hour to get your hair done.” I paused and dared a quick look at Leighanne out of the corner of my eye; she still looked annoyed. “Your hair looks nice, by the way.”

Leighanne let out a grunt to which I couldn’t quite decipher the meaning. “What did you guys put in the job ad? If you’re over thirty, don’t bother applying?! That girl looks like a child!”

“Abigail works for Planet Hollywood, not for us! We had absolutely no role in hiring her!” I shot back. “I don’t know what criteria Planet Hollywood uses to select their employees, but seeing as how they’ve been in business for ages, I’m assuming that they tend to hire only those who are highly qualified.”

Leighanne grunted again. “She still looks like a child. How old is she?”

I let out a silent sigh of frustration through my nose. I was not going to get sucked in to this argument again. I was not going to spend the entire drive reassuring Leighanne that she was pretty. If she didn’t already know that I found her attractive then she wasn’t nearly as intelligent as I always gave her credit for. If my commitment to our relationship wasn’t enough to convince her that I wasn’t interested in looking at other women then she deserved to fall victim to her own unsubstantiated doubts.

“She’s probably around Nick’s age.” I made a random guess as to how old Abigail was as I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal to make it through a yellow light.

Leighanne grunted for a third time. “I’m sure Lauren is pleased.”

I rolled my eyes to the roof of the car; biting my tongue to keep my sarcasm to myself. Leighanne knew absolutely nothing about Nick and Lauren’s relationship. It probably would have sent her into heart failure to know how their marriage worked. Leighanne had no idea just how well-behaved I actually was. Any minor indiscretions that I may have secretly committed in the past were nothing compared to what all of the other guys had gotten up to with their respective wives’ knowledge.

“I’m sure that Lauren hasn’t even given a second thought as to who is running our residency. She’s busy. She has a baby to take care of, remember?” I pulled into the parking lot of the clinic and rammed the car into park with a satisfying jolt. “Are we ready to go in?”

Leighanne gave me cut-eye with her peripheral vision. She pushed open the passenger door and stepped out into Georgia’s pathetic excuse for a winter day without looking me properly in the face. I waited until she had slammed the door and had given herself a few steps of a head-start before I opened my own door. My stomach was already unsettled. I didn’t know why Dr. Bridgewater had asked us to come in, but I was absolutely positive that I wasn’t capable of digesting any more bad news.

Thanks to her head start. Leighanne was already speaking with the receptionist when I stepped into the clinic. The waiting room was crowded, and I felt my stomach surge with relief as the receptionist informed us that we didn’t have to wait. The middle-aged woman pulled a manila file folder off of the desk, and motioned for me and Leighanne to follow her down the short hallway to the same room where Dr. Bridgewater had administered Leighanne’s failed procedure. She ushered us into the room without a word and pulled the door closed; leaving Leighanne and I alone in our less than companionable silence.

Not even two agonizing minutes later, Dr. Bridgewater greeted us with a tight smile as she entered the exam room. “Mr. and Mrs. Littrell, thank you so much for coming in.” She gently placed her hand on the upper arm of the woman who walked in after her. “This is my colleague, Dr. Lisa Hoeg.”

“”It’s nice to meet you.” I extended a generic greeting to the new doctor on behalf of myself and Leighanne. My anxiety level was rapidly approaching the roof line, and Leighanne’s permanent scowl definitely wasn’t helping. “Is everything okay? Why have you asked us to come in?”

“We’re going to get straight to the point.” Dr. Bridgewater quickly sat down and motioned for Dr. Hoeg to do the same. “Mrs. Littrell, there’s been a little bit of a – of a complication with your implantation procedure.”

“What kind of a complication?” Leighanne spoke for the first time since the two of us had walked into the clinic. “Is there something wrong with me? Have you infected me with something?”

“No, no, nothing like that!” Dr. Hoeg hastily reassured us. “The problem is actually related to the sperm sample that was used in the embryo fertilization process.”

“What was wrong with my sample?” My stomach flipped. The notion that the procedure may have failed because of something to do with me was almost too much for me to handle.

“Nothing.” Dr. Hoeg sighed. “Actually, Mr. Littrell, your sample performed exceptionally well.”

“I used the wrong sperm sample during the fertilization process.” Dr. Bridgewater interjected herself back into the conversation before I could say anything else. “I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late.”

“Soooooo, what does that mean exactly?” Leighanne’s eyes were narrowed into the tiniest slits I had ever seen. “If you didn’t use it to fertilize my eggs than where did Brian’s stuff go?”

“Your husband’s sperm was accidentally used as part of another woman’s procedure.” Dr. Bridgewater looked as though she were on the verge of being sick herself. “And that woman is now approximately five weeks pregnant.”

I squeaked. I actually let out a sound that could only be described as a high-pitched moan; similar to that of a wounded bird. I gasped. It didn’t feel as though any air were reaching my lungs.

“I’m sorry, what?!” Leighanne’s voice had also become dangerously high-pitched. “So, what was used to fertilize my eggs?”

“The samples were swapped. So, the sperm that was supposed to be used for this other woman’s insemination procedure was mistakenly used to fertilize your eggs and vice versa.” Dr. Hoeg spelled it out for us. “We’ve already spoken with the other woman, with the women who received Mr. Littrell’s sperm sample, and she’s agreed that you can contact her anonymously if that’s what you both want to do.”

“This girl – this lady is keeping the baby?” I swallowed hard. “She’s keeping my baby?”

“We’ve discussed the other options that are available to her, but she has yet to tell us that she isn’t going to continue with the pregnancy.” Dr. Hoeg confirmed. “I’m so very sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Littrell ...”

“But she has no idea who the father is?” I interrupted; still struggling to wrap my head around the information that was being thrown at me. “She has no idea who I am?”

“That’s right. The only way that she will find out who you are is if you tell her yourself. But first, you have to agree to let me and Dr. Bridgewater connect the two of you anonymously.”

“Fine.” I agreed to sign the consent form at the exact same moment that Leighanne stated her outright refusal.

I stared at my wife in shock; fully aware of the fact that my mouth was hanging open in disbelief. Leighanne’s jaw was set. She looked ready to murder both of the women sitting before us.

“You’re not getting in touch with this woman.” Leighanne deadpanned. “If she finds out who you are, Brian, you’ll end up paying for this stupid baby for the rest of your life. Is that what you want? Besides, can you imagine what will happen if the media gets a hold of this information? No, we are having absolutely nothing to do with any of this. As far as I’m concerned, the two of us are going to walk out of here today and never look back. We’re never going to see or talk to any of the people associated with this clinic ever again.”

I was making fish sounds now; opening and closing my mouth in incredulity. “Yes, Leighanne, that is what I want. If I’m the father of someone’s baby then I want – no, I need – to know who that woman is. I don’t care if it costs me millions of fucking dollars!”

“You’re not signing that form, Brian.” Leighanne folded her arms across her chest. “I won’t let you.”

“Can she do that?” I turned my attention to the doctors. “Who needs to sign the form; just me or both of us?”

“Technically, we only need your signature, Mr. Littrell.” Dr. Bridgwater looked back and forth between me and Leighanne. She looked like she wanted to run from the room and hide. “It’s partially your baby, Mr. Littrell. Not your wife’s.”

“See!” I refocused my attention on Leighanne in triumph. “You can’t prevent me from doing anything.”

Leighanne didn’t even flinch. “Brian, if you sign that consent form, our marriage is over. I mean it. I will take Baylee and walk away from you the very second that you sign your name.”

I could feel the doctors’ eyes on me as I searched for a response. The heat was creeping up my neck; part anger, part shame, and part utter embarrassment. I couldn’t believe that Leighanne had actually threatened to end our marriage. The fact that she had issued the ultimatum in front of other people was completely unfathomable. Leighanne was always the first one to insist that our personal business needed to be kept private, but apparently that stipulation did not apply to our current situation.

My head was pounding. Part of me wanted to call Leighanne’s bluff and ask for the paperwork, but the other, more sensible, part of me wanted to keep quiet. What if I signed the form and Leighanne actually followed through on her threat? If she left, I would lose Baylee. My time with him was already limited due to my hectic schedule; there was no way that I would be granted primary custody if it came down to a court battle.

I also had to consider the fact that the woman who was currently walking around with my baby in her womb might want absolutely nothing to do with me. Even if she agreed to talk to me, there was no guarantee that she would want me to know her identity or to be a part of the baby’s life. For all I knew, she was happily married and this entire situation had angered her spouse as much as it had infuriated Leighanne. If I took the gamble and signed the paperwork, I could very well be left with absolutely nothing.

“Do I have to sign the papers today?” I cleared my throat in a useless attempt to disguise my emotion. “I think – I think that Leighanne and I need to talk about it.”

“You can sign the form at any time.” Dr. Hoeg reassured me. “I know that this has been a lot to take in.”

“There’s nothing to discuss.” Leighanne huffed. She got to her feet and hoisted her purse over her shoulder. “You can bet your ass that you won’t be seeing me or my husband again.” She paused as she reached the door to reconsider her words. “That is, unless we decide to launch a massive malpractice law suit against the two of you.”

I cringed as the threat left my wife’s mouth. I had absolutely no intention of taking any form of legal action against the clinic. At the moment, all I wanted to do was get out of the room before things got even worse. I flashed what I hoped was a reassuring smile at Dr. Hoeg and Dr. Bridgewater as I hurried to follow Leighanne out into the hallway.

“We’ll be in touch.” I lowered my voice to ensure that Leighanne wouldn’t overhear as I addressed the doctors. “Don’t get rid of the paperwork. I may – I may be back to sign the consent form. I just – I just need to convince my lovely wife to see things my way.”
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