“They’ve done it!’ Harry yelled in exultation. “Those wonderful bastards.”
Emily poked her head into the lounge room and asked, “What are you yelling about now?”
“The government just approved the bill. Come September 1st those stupid fucks are going to have to prove that they are competent enough to breed.”
“September? That means they have the rest of the month to get busy,” Emily said and approached the back of the couch.
“Yeah, but most of the people dumb enough to think like that are probably pregnant already,” Harry said and suddenly leapt up and then knelt on the couch so he was face to face with Emily. “Oh, we have got to take this test.”
“But we aren’t planning on having kids yet. Especially now. We need to wait a year or two so all the dumb kids are slightly older and won’t be in our kids’ classes.”
“Come on, just for fun. I want to see how hard they’re making it.”
“Why don’t you just do it and tell me all about it.”
“No way, it’ll be funnier if we both do it.” Emily looked at Harry uncertainly as he pouted and flashed his puppy dog eyes. Finally she relented and returned to the kitchen.
“I’ll jump on the net and book us in for Friday afternoon. You’ve still got that off, yeah?”
“Okay, wow that was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Harry said, laughing as he returned to the foyer and found Emily sitting alone near the back wall. “They clearly want to stop a lot more people from producing than I thought.” He stood in front of Emily expecting her to respond or get up, but she just sat there with her head slouched.
Emily was squeezing a piece of paper in both of her hands so hard that her knuckles were completely white.
“What is that?” he asked uncertainly and when she didn’t lift her head but whimpered he prompted her again.
Slowly her head came up and the heartbreak in her usually beautiful eyes that were always full of life told him everything he needed to know.
Oh fuck! he thought and reached forward to take the paper away from her. “Give me that.”
Emily was unwilling to hand it over, but eventually relinquished her grip and let it slip away with an audible cry of pain.
Harry held the note in front of him and closed his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath in and out. He didn’t want to open it and read the words inside. He already knew what it was going to say. The testers had told him he didn’t need anything to say he would pass only that he would be given advice if he had failed. Whatever it said, all that really mattered was that he would never be a father. At least for as long as he was with Emily. Perhaps she wasn’t the one after all. No, he couldn’t think like that. They had sworn to be there for each other through the thick and thin. Well it didn’t get any thicker than this. He could feel that thickness like he was swimming through molasses as he opened his eyes with shaking hands unfolded the paper.
Thank you for undertaking a Parental Suitability Test (PST).
Unfortunately you have not been successful in meeting the standards required to produce further offspring.
Representatives from the PST Center are available to discuss your results; Or to assist you in pursuing one of the many available options for achieving parenthood.
Harry screwed up the notice without reading the rest, his rage boiling over at the coldness of the typical government document. He spun to face the receptionist and threw the paper ball at her head. It fell well short of her without managing to draw her attention away from the computer screen. That just pissed him off more and he lashed out at the closest chair, kicking it over with a loud clatter in the otherwise silent room. Shocked eyes spun towards him until they realised what was happening and they quickly shied away, returning to their own business.
“This is fucking bullshit Emily! What happened?”
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed and tried to say something else but couldn’t seem to form the words.
“Don’t you apologise. It’s not your fault. These assholes clearly did something. I bet everyone in the government has rigged this whole thing so that they’re the only ones who pass the test. We shouldn’t have come together and we might have gone unnoticed.”
“Harry-” Emily tried to interrupt.
“-Hmm but how would they stop single people from just hooking up with anyone else who passes the test. There must be something I’m missing.”
“Harry stop it!” Emily yelled and all of the eyes once again turned towards them, but the heads didn’t turn with them.
Harry stopped his babbling and presented a questioning look.
“There’s not a conspiracy Harry, I…” she paused for too long and Harry got it as soon as she started to talk again. “I-”
“-Don’t you say it. Do not tell me that you meant to do this.”
“I’m sorry Harry. I can’t lie to you. I just can’t…”
That was it, the cord that had tied them together so strongly through their entire relationship had snapped. Her motherly instincts and desire to want kids as much as he did was one of her best qualities. Clearly he had misread her all along. What else was a lie.
Emily stood up and brushed by Harry snapping him out of his self destructive thoughts and making him realise what truly mattered. He caught her by the arm and spun her back towards him, pressing her into his chest. Lifting her chin he kissed her and then held her cheeks in both hands. “I love you. I don’t need to know your reasons. Having you is enough.”
Emily grabbed one of Harry’s hands and kissed his palm and then snuggled into his chest. Harry rested his chin on the top of her head and forgot just for a moment about the future.