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Hannah leaned back in her seat and folded her arms across her chest. Chewing nervously on her bottom lip, she stared at the paternity test kit on the table in front of her. She couldn’t believe it had all been reduced to this. The months in New York – a blur of coffee dates, stolen kisses, and whispered promises in the dark of her bedroom as they lay together, their hearts still racing and their breaths short and ragged… And Jack, her beautiful, joyful boy… It was all reduced to four cotton tipped swabs, a consent form and two plastic envelopes.
“Hannah? Honey, do you want to get started?”
Her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts and Hannah straightened in her seat. Across the table, Jack sat on Mary Parker’s knee and pushed his yellow dump truck back and forth along the table. Hannah looked at him and felt the warm pressure of tears beginning to build.
“Hannah,” her mother said gently, seeing the pain in her daughter’s expression. “I know it’s hard, honey, but the sooner this is over with, the better… for everybody. For you and Jack as much as for Nick and Cassie.”
Hannah nodded silently as Jack pushed his toy too far and it fell noisily to the floor.
“Uh-oh, Momma! Crash!” he announced, his blue eyes twinkling as he grinned at her across the table.
“Yeah, crash!” she confirmed, getting to her feet to retrieve the toy. “You’re not a very good driver, Jacko.”
Handing the truck back to her son, she took a pair of scissors from the kitchen counter and snipped the bottom off the packet of surgical swabs. Pulling one carefully from the sterile wrapping, she smiled weakly at her mother who nodded in response.
“Hey, Jack, shall we show Grandma how many nice new teeth you’ve got? She’d love to see them. Open wide…”
Jack tilted his head back obediently and Hannah leaned forward, distracting her son with talk of strong, white teeth as she placed the tip of the swab against the inside of his cheek and rotated it slowly.
“Such nice, clean teeth, don’t you think, Grandma?”
“I sure do. Those are the cleanest teeth I’ve ever seen! You must be taking very good care of them, Jack.”
Jack looked at his grandmother and nodded earnestly.
“Brushing, brushing, brushing!” he replied, the word growing louder with every repetition.
Hannah smiled as she slipped the used swab into an envelope marked with Jack’s name and turned back to face her mother.
“One down, three to go.”

Bribed with his favourite fruit juice and promises of trips to the pet store, Jack had eventually opened his mouth long enough for the three remaining cheek cell samples to be taken. Now, as Hannah sat at the table filling in the consent form, her son lay sleeping soundly on the sofa.
“Do you want me to put him to bed before I go?”
“Huh?” Hannah asked, looking up from the form to see her mother pulling on her coat. “Oh… No, thanks, Mom. I can do it.”
“Okay. Well, I’d better get home and get your dad some supper before he calls for pizza. His cholesterol is the last thing he worries about and the first thing I do…”
“Sure, sounds great, Mom…”
“Honey, try not to let it worry you too much, okay?” Mary asked quietly, crossing the small kitchen and enveloping her daughter in a hug. “You know who his father is already.”
Hannah forced herself to smile, feeling the familiar swelling in her throat as the lump she had fought so often in the last few months took up residency again.
“I know, Mom. I’m okay. Really.”
Less than convinced, her mother looked at her questioningly but let Hannah’s words stand.
“Okay. You call me if you need anything. Anything at all.”
“I will, Mom. Thanks.”
Hannah continued to print carefully on the thin paper in front of her. She didn’t hear her mother leave.