The Lavender Orchid
by Charles H. Keller
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This month's story brought to you by Dottye Tompkins.
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The blue of Lynn's eyes seemed almost fluorescent as they contrasted the bright redness of her face. The blush she had inherited from her father, Sean O'Macy, along with the temper which caused it.

Lynn and Jerry had laughed about that trait during calmer, happier times but now he was feeling the full wrath of her anger. They'd just had the worst fight of their six-year marriage. Storming out of the house, Jerry slammed the door just in time to avoid being beaned by the vase which shattered against it.

Exhaling strongly, Lynn listened to the screeching tires which accompanied Jerry's departure. Gradually her face returned to its normal shade. She slumped into the recliner and gazed at the legal papers which were scattered across the coffee table.

She hated this. It felt as if the world were crumbling around her at a time when everything should have been perfect.

It was incomprehensible that this could be happening. After all, they had a contract. They had paid the $15,000 and all the medical expenses. Today when they should be starting a new life with their son, Justin, the surrogate mother had changed her mind.

Jerry's expertise as an anesthesiologist had been thoroughly tested all night. The surgery team had nearly lost their patient twice. Retiring to his office to dictate some of the procedure for transcription, Jerry had been shocked by the phone call which announced the decision of the young mother who had originally agreed to artificial insemination and delivery of their baby.

Earlier that evening, the birth of a healthy 8 pound boy had been the happiest event of Jerry and Lynn's lives. Sharon, the surrogate mother, came through the delivery fine and said all was going to go as agreed. Suddenly, she was having second thoughts. How could this happen?

The explosive argument resulted from thoughtless comments from both sides caused by the stress of the moment and the exhaustion Lynn and Jerry were feeling.

"If you had been able to have a child, none of this would be happening!" he'd said without thinking.

Lynn stood speechless, staring at him as if he'd struck her. As the shock of his statement wore off, she felt the rush of blood to her face and lashed out with some irrational ramblings of her own.

"Maybe if you hadn't jumped at the first pretty face who showed up to answer our ad we could have found a responsible person who would have kept her word!"

They were like a cobra and a mongoose for almost 10 minutes, picking at each other with every petty moment of anger either could dredge from their memories. Finally, Jerry had stormed out.

Having regained her composure, Lynn, carried the broken pieces of the vase into the kitchen and threw them into the trash can. She put some water on for tea.

As the reality of the argument began to sink in, she put her hands over her face and drew them downward until they covered her mouth.

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she took a deep breath and let it out in short, trembling gasps.

The teapot whistled quietly. After wiping her eyes, Lynn lifted it to pour the steaming contents over the teabag in her cup. Looking over at the bookcase, she was drawn to an old photo album which she and Jerry called their dream book.

Walking slowly as she raised and lowered the teabag into the cup, Lynn removed the album from the shelf. Opening it as she took her first sip of tea, she saw something which took away all the anger in an instant. There, pressed between the cover and first page, a lavender orchid reminded her of another fight in the past. She couldn't recall what the fight had been about even though it had seemed so important at the time. The orchid had been Jerry's peace offering.

An index finger wiped away another tear attempting to escape from her eye.

Lynn finished her tea and reminisced as she turned the pages of the album. There were so many good memories. It had been nearly two hours since Jerry had left. All her anger was gone now and she began to worry about him. It was getting late.

Her hands shook a little as she poured another cup of tea. Returning to the coffee table, she organized the contracts in neat little stacks. If only it were that easy to pull their lives back together right now.

A cloud of steam drifted upward from the cup as she blew gently to cool the liquid. Taking a sip, she heard the car pulling into the driveway. The headlights cast shadows on the drapes then disappeared as Jerry turned them off. The car door closed and Lynn tried to determine whether it was an angry slamming or a remorseful shutting which caused the sound.

The doorbell rang. She looked through the peep hole. "Who is?" she stopped in mid sentence when she saw the hand holding a single orchid.

Opening the door, the two embraced.

"I'm so sorry, Honey. You know I didn't mean..."

Lynn's fingers touched his lips to silence him.

"Of course I know. Whatever it takes to get our son," she said, "we'll do it together. The important thing, no matter what happens, is for us to do it together.