Out of Ashes
It had been two weeks. Two weeks that were simultaneously fast and slow, some days a blur and others a tedious drag. Everything was so completely upside down that Bill struggled for any of it to make sense.
The thought of being a family of four was an absolute dream. The idea of watching Hillary grow and nourish their baby gave him goosebumps. But then reality knocked at the door and John Kerry was all he could think about. The very real possibility that she was carrying another man’s baby made anger rush through his veins.
But now, right now, looking at her from across the room made his heart swell and tears sting his eyes. He didn’t know if she was aware of the changes in her body yet, but he was. He drank in the sight of her standing at the small desk in their bedroom. The slight widening of her hips, the glow of her skin, the swell of her breasts pushed tightly against her camisole, and the slight curve of her lower abdomen peeking thru the gap of her top and pajama bottoms.
“Come here.” he reached his hand out to her.
Hillary looked up from her task of sorting thru papers on the desk. “What?” she asked, he had barely spoken to her the past three days and now he was calling for her, his hand extended as he sat in front of the roaring fire in their master bedroom, tumbler of what she assumed to be bourbon in his hand.
He placed his now empty tumbler down on the table next to the open decanter and continued to hold his hand out as an offering to her. “Come here, darlin’.”
Hillary swallowed hard and conquered her fear before moving across the room to him. “Yes?”
Bill’s hand gripped hers. “You’re so incredibly beautiful.” he spoke softly, looking up at her. “I’m sorry that I ever took you for granted.”
A small and genuine smile appeared. “Thank you, Bill.”
His eyes traveled from her face down her body, landing on the small gap of fabric that allowed the peak of pale flesh to show through. “I hope the baby is mine.”
Tears stung her eyes and all she could manage to do was nod. Because, God, she hoped so too. But the more time that passed the more Bill’s words about John’s probability of being the father sunk in. They haunted her. Woke her up a night. Taunted her throughout the day. And she couldn’t stop obsessing over the real possibility that this wasn’t their baby. Cheating was one thing but having it lead to pregnancy was something entirely different.
“We should think about making an announcement,” his thumb stroked the back of her hand. “Keep ahead of the game. The last thing we need is for the press to find out and make a huge mess of this.”
“I’m not ready for everyone to know, Bill.”
He tugged on her hand and pulled her down beside him. “I know I said I couldn’t do this. And I’m still not sure that I can, but you deserve support, and the American people will support you, I know they will.”
“You’re giving half of the country more credit than they deserve,” she replied, softly. “This is going to look like some sort of stunt to them.”
“You’re underestimating the fact that everybody loves babies. And this is the first baby in the White House in forever. The news will be well received.”
“It’s not just that,” she confessed, not being able to hold his gaze any longer. “I hate what this is doing to us. I’m not sure if I can continue to go through with the pregnancy, Bill.”
Bill swallowed down his stupidity. Even planting the seed of doubt in her head was something he regretted immediately. “I don’t think that’s necessary, Hillary. Like you said, both you and the baby are healthy. The baby will be well provided for. There is no reason to have an abortion.”
He seemed to be ignoring the elephant in the room and she wasn’t about to remind him of its presence. Especially not when they seemed to finally be connecting after the news of her pregnancy. “I’ll think about it.”
“Good,” he smiled. “Have you told John?”
Now they were back to square one. “No, Bill, I haven’t.” she told him. “I really don’t think it’s any of his concern.”
“You need to tell him; he deserves to know.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” she rationalized. “Like you said before, there’s a lot at stake here. I’m not even sure I can carry this baby safely.”
“You’re almost fourteen weeks,” he pointed out. “That’s the second trimester. The odds are greatly in your favor of carrying and delivering a healthy baby.”
Hillary shrugged. “I’m not so sure this is what I want, Bill,” she confessed. “I hate what this is doing to us. I don’t want to lose what we have, what we’ve built, because I had a huge lapse in judgement.”
He took her hand in his. “I am in no way going to tell you what to do with your own body,” he began. “My thoughts and my feelings should have no bearing on your decision.”
“I’m going to lose you.”
Bill shook his head ardently. “I never said that.”
Tears swam in her eyes. “You didn’t have to,” she whispered. “After everything that’s happened between us, I never expected my…infidelity…to be the reason we didn’t make it.”
“It wasn’t so much you being unfaithful as it is…”
“The baby,” she supplied. “There’s no way to know if this baby is definitely yours for a few more weeks. It’s an invasive procedure, there’s a risk of complications…”
“It’s your body.”
Hillary looked away from him, hot tears trickling down her face. “Please stop saying that,” she choked out. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue this, Bill. It’s eating me alive.”
“You need to think things through, Hillary. We all need to sit down and talk about this. Get everything out in the open.”
She stared down at the patterns in the rug. “Teresa doesn’t know.”
Bill nodded, taking everything in. “I perhaps it’s time to bring her up to speed.”
“I can’t do that…to her.”
“You already have.”
“When did you get so goddamn pious, Bill Clinton?” she asked, raising her head up to meet his gaze.
“I’m not being pious I’m pointing out solid facts. Therapy has helped me,” he said, honestly. “It’s hard as hell but I wish I would have done this years ago. For me, for us, for our family.”
“God, Bill, I can’t do this anymore,” she confessed. “My mind is completely fucked. I just want it all to stop. Please make it stop.”
“I don’t know.” she sighed as she slouched back against the sofa.
“I don’t know anything anymore. I just want everything to go back to the way it was before. Before…the baby and John and your stupid fucking intern. I’m just so tired of all of it, Bill. I think I want a divorce.”
Bill leaned back against the bathroom sink, mostly for support because her words absolutely floored him. “A divorce?” That wasn’t even in the realm of possibility for him.
“Yes,” she said, weakly. “I want a divorce. This isn’t working. We’re not working. We need to let each other go.”
“That was never part of the plan, Hillary. We took vows.”
“Vows you’ve broken more times than I can count. Our marriage vows were nothing more than empty promises. Just words that didn’t mean a damn thing.”
“So that’s it?” he asked.
“You can’t support this pregnancy and I can’t go through it without you. I’ve known the decision I was going to have to make all along. It was foolish of me to ever think otherwise. Keep the baby and lose you or keep you and lose the baby. Those were always going to be the outcomes.”
“You’re not losing me, Hillary,” he tried to assure her.
“I’m lose you a little more every day, Bill. I know because I’ve been on the flip side of this. Everything you’re doing…I’ve done. You’re angry, you’re pulling away, you’re weighing your options. I know that you are. Unless you chose to forgive me, truly forgive, then there is no path forward for us.”
Tears filled his eyes. “I cannot ask you to end your pregnancy,” he sobbed, “I also cannot raise another man’s child. I can’t do that. It would be unfair to me and to the child, and to John.”
“Then I guess I have my answer.”
“What answer would that be?”
“I’m going to have an abortion.”
“And if it’s our baby?” he asked. “If you go thru with terminating and it turns out that the baby was ours, you’re going to carry that guilt the rest of your life. You’re going to resent me and we’re going to be right back at square one, or even worse.”
“Then what do you suggest I do, Bill?” she asked, defeated. “Have the amino at sixteen weeks and then decide rather I carry this baby any further or not? It takes three full weeks to get all the test results back. I’m growing more attached to this baby every single day. The thought of continuing this pregnancy another month and then having to end it is more heartbreaking than just doing it now and getting it over with.”
Bill took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. None of this was easy. There was no right answer. He was a facts and figures guy but when it came down to it, down to his wife the rationality was forgone. She wanted the baby, had told him as much, and there was absolutely no reason for her not to have it.
“No abortion,” he repeated, again. “We’ll make it work.”
“Like civilized adults. First, we tell John and then we go from there,” he suggested. “There has to be a starting point and it’s the Kerry’s.”