He had lain awake for most of the night, chewing on it, on her accusation, on the probability of a baby no matter what he did. Abortion was a possibility, but one discouraged by both custom and the First Protocol, and anyway, he knew her desire for a child was right. They had talked about it many times, made it a pleasant joke, making them closer, but they had always put it off because they believed they had so much to do. Rita had done her share of the colony’s scut work – five years of child care for other people, five years on the Home Guard (perhaps what the people of the Century of War had called the police or the guardia or some such, five years when she had had martial arts forced on her and had come to love it, thought sometimes of teaching it, still practiced every day– and it was her right now to have a child because she’d paid her dues. Two or even three, in fact. But he still smarted from her saying or at least implying that he was doing the reenactment for himself. Outlanders didn’t do things for themselves. Prode, fame admiration had been left on earth; single eminence in any field raised the possibility of demigoguery, single rulers making decisions for millions – like waging a war, or sending nuclear bombs to murder the darker-skinned people trying to escape the dessication and chaos of Africa .Yes, he understood all that, but…He thought those things over and over, resented her criticisms of his choice of New York, pushed aside her sneer that it would all be a party. Then he would sleep a little, wake from a bad dream he couldn’t remember, a foul taste in his mouth. At last, he slept for almost two hours, and woke to a decision he had made while asleep that now brought him peace.
He got p, brushed his teeth, and went looking for her. He found her on a reclining chair in the skene room, a decorative weaving pulled over her. She snored lightly, tried to recover the weaving without waking where it had slipped off, revealing a shoulder and part of a breast.
The dawn was beginning, enough light to see her; he was touched by what he saw. This the woman he had experienced first love with, then something deeper that had metamorphosed into a profound companionship despite their absences, an acceptance of each other as the norm of living. He said, “Rita, You’re right.” Her eyes opened. She stared t him without knowing him, then saw him, saw the first dawn behind him, and she smiled. He said, “Welcome to parenthood. I was stupid. And proud.”
She moved under the weaving, making room for him. He slid in next to her, felt himself embraced. She said, “You weren’t proud. You were caught off guard – too much all at once. “It was wrong of me to insult your project.”
You were angry.”
“I was afraid.”
“I’ll tell the Labor Commission I want a five-year childbirth posting. There may be ructions, but they really can’t refuse. They’re probably as caught up in the idea that the project is mine and can’t be done by anybody else as I am. Or was.”
They lay front to front, not enough room on the recliner. A long silence – he thought she had fallen back asleep – and she said, “No regrets?”
He waited, said at last, “It would have been fun.”