It all started when they opened the door to leave the doctor’s office for the last time.
The heavy metal doors slammed behind them. The echo in the cold, empty hallway amplified the sound which reverberated in their minds like a bad dream. It sounded like a jail cell closing. It felt that way too as Berjes and Gracelyn Rodiek embraced in the desolate hallway. For a moment, they felt trapped and couldn’t see their way out to their happiness. Every six months, they went through the same thing. But the last time was different. There wasn’t going to be another six months to try again. It was final.
Berjes and Gracelyn had been trying to conceive ever since they got married 17 years ago. After the first five years of failed attempts, a friend of Gracelyn’s advised her to see Dr. Powell after raving about her successful fertility treatment. Gracelyn found herself in his office the next week. At first, he told her to try losing weight. “Your blood pressure and cholesterol are both quite high. Diet and exercise can bring them both down and get you healthier to conceive.”
She began working out immediately, but other health concerns made it difficult, and she didn’t get the results she needed.
Two more years went by.
She tried this and that here and there and nothing worked. That’s when Dr. Powell recommended the fertility treatments. She began two weeks later, and every six months for two years she left Dr. Powell’s office defeated.
The Rodieks took another two years off to grieve their dream deferred. But, Gracelyn was naturally cheerful and optimistic and eventually found the courage and confidence to continue with the treatments. After telling Dr. Powell their plans, she combed over her life trying to see if there was something else she could do to help the situation. She was writer for a fast paced company and knew that high stress could make conception difficult. She also wrote books in her free time, and the royalties had long since surpassed her salary. After discussing it with her husband, she quit her job. With the biggest stressor in her life gone, she could concentrate on being stress free. Each day, she went to the spa to receive a fertility massage followed by relaxing in the sauna. After another year without a baby, she added yoga and meditation to her routine. She was determined and would stop at nothing to get pregnant.
Every six months for the next three years was the same thing. They sat in Dr. Powell’s office and looked at all of the fancy degrees on his wall and wondered if he was really as good as those pieces of paper purported; they were meaningless to the Rodieks. Year after year, they listened to him talk about test results and probability. Somewhere along the way there was always an apology. Gracelyn would tell Dr. Powell that she wanted to try again, he agreed, and the couple would leave the office with long faces.
But not the last time.
Dr. Powell apologized to them for the last time. “It is highly unusual for the treatments not to work, and I’ve never had a patient go this long without success. I’m afraid of what the long-term use has done to your body. I cannot recommend that you continue it. I’m very sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Rodiek. Perhaps it’s time you start thinking of alternative means.”
So, there they were sobbing together in the hallway with crushed dreams.
They grieved hard.
Without another six months to look forward to, life no longer made sense. At first, they tried to take measures into their own hands. They thought Dr. Powell was a jerk and didn’t know what he was talking about and got second and third opinions. However, the other doctors agreed with Dr. Powell because he wasn’t a jerk and did know what he was talking about.
When the reality of their situation set in, they became very angry. Gracelyn somehow began to believe that Berjes blamed her and became defensive. She put words in his mouth, and they were frustrated with each other. At one point, Berjes even considered leaving, but she begged him not to go and promised that she wouldn’t be angry anymore. He stayed, and she wasn’t angry; she wasn’t happy either. That’s when he knew she was depressed. There was nothing he could say or do to make her smile despite her cheerful trait. He tried to get help for her, but everyone said that she would come out of it on her own and what she was going through was normal.
They were right.
Eventually, she accepted the fact that she wouldn’t be able to carry her own child and began to learn how to cope with it. That was when they began the discussion of alternatives. They toyed around with the idea of surrogacy, and that caused them to take a serious look at their lives. They were almost 50 years old by then and decided that an infant might not be the best idea. At last, they settled on adoption.
The Rodieks spent a few nights on the adoption website reading all the profiles of the children. There was a 9-year-old named Jarret who was abandoned on the mean streets of Sim City at age three. There was something about him that melted both their hearts, and they decided he was the one. They filled out the application, paid the fees, and five weeks later the representative from social services visited their home. They were assured that it was standard procedure for them to inspect the home before making the adoption final.
They had to be sure they were placing the child in a safe and loving environment, and she–Ms. Johnstone–found the Rodiek’s home to be very safe and loving. After the inspection, Ms. Johnstone commenced an intense interview, asking questions about their personal pasts, family histories, hobbies, cultural influences from Berjes’ background, values, and even their woo hoo life. She had to be sure there were no skeletons in their closet before allowing Jarret to call this place home. Ms. Johnstone’s visit ended two hours later, and she had a very good feeling. “Mr. and Mrs. Rodiek, thank you for your time today! I don’t feel there should be anything that would slow down the finalization process, so look to hear from me within a few days.”
To their surprise, Ms. Johnstone called the very next day.
“…I have some excellent news! My office has reviewed your case, and we all agree there’s no reason to delay the process any longer. We can have Jarret at your home as early as tonight!”
Gracelyn was preparing dinner at the time and dropped a spatula on the floor. “T-t-tonight?” She couldn’t believe her ears. Seventeen years she waited for a child to love, and that night her dream potentially would come true.
Ms. Johnstone sensed some hesitation. “I can understand if it’s too soon–”
“No! No, not at all. Tonight would be wonderful!” The tears were forming as they finished the conversation. It took everything in her to finish preparing dinner as one could imagine her emotional tank was overflowing. Naturally, when Berjes arrived home, she shared the news, and he too was overjoyed. But, suddenly, Gracelyn’s excitement turned into concern as doubt crept into her mind. “What if he doesn’t like us?”
“What if…what if he’s…bad? Do we really know how to raise a child? What if we don’t like him?”
Berjes gently placed his hand on her shoulder. “My Gracie…do not worry about such things. We already has the gray hairs from years of worry. The Watcher always knows. We must trust in Watcher. Everything will be fine.”
The doorbell rang, and Gracelyn’s heart stopped. “It’s him! He’s here!”
They got up from the table and headed straight for the door. Ms. Johnstone was sitting in the car waiting for them to come out before she left; she liked giving the parents privacy when they first met their new child. The Rodieks waved at her signaling that everything was fine and she could go. At last, their own child was standing on the porch in front of them. “Welcome home, Jarret,” Gracelyn said.
He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. He stood that way for what felt like an eternity. Oh no, she thought. I’ve offended him! What did I say?
Suddenly his expression changed, and he asked one simple question. “You guys have ice cream?”
This was written for the September short-story contest on The Sims forums. The story had to begin with “It all started when I opened…”