Two people talking
Hope in a Time of Dread
They were sprawled on the bed - she propped up against a heap of pillows, he with his head lying in her lap. The anemic lemon-colored sun tentatively crept through the barred window, casting its feeble light on his face and leaving her veiled in shadows.
"Have you ever thought about having children?" he asked lazily. She remained silent so long, he squinted up at her through his lashes.
Finally, she stroked her hand along his brow and answered, "Not if you're not going to be there to help raise them."
"Then you have thought about it?" He closed his eyes again and snuggled against her.
"Sure. I love you and that's one of the things women in love think about. Why bring it up now?"
He smiled faintly. "Waiting is a time for thinking about 'ifs'. What if this happened; what if I do that? I'm still amazed that you love me."
"Well, I do. And your children would be interesting, to say the least."
This time he laughed. "You're making too much of my not being there. Lots of kids are raised by just their mother, or just their father. Two parents are not the rule in this world and time and they're not necessary anyway."
She shook her head and refused to return the smile. "I don't care. I'm not the kind to want to keep little mementos of her love like letters in a perfumed box. I want the whole thing - you and the kids. I like the idea of collecting the complete set." With a sudden push, she shoved his head off her legs and stood up. "How much longer do you think it will be?"
"I don't know." He caught her hand and drew her back. "Stay with me. I want to talk. What if I were to be there?"
She dropped down on the edge of the bed and leaned over to look into his eyes, her body casting a shadow over his. "Are you telling me ...?"
"I'm saying this is the time for thinking about 'ifs'. There's nothing else to do but wait so why not amuse ourselves by thinking and talking?"
"I don't think the subject is amusing. You're cutting too close to my bone." She sniffed as she swung around, folding her legs under her and leaning her elbows on her knees.
He pulled himself upright and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, tilting her into his embrace. "Don't get pouty and all that. Surely we can talk about anything, particularly now. I never thought about children before. They were never in the picture until you came along."
"I guess they wouldn't be with you always on the edge." She was still not placated. "Damn it, why do I have to keep remembering that?"
"It's all right. Do you see them as boys or girls? Most men want a boy; I think I would rather have a girl - if she took after you."
"No, I like boys better. I never got along with girls and don't think I could handle one. I'd probably pinch her head off before she got big enough to fight back." She rubbed her chin against his shoulder.
He laughed without strain and hugged her more tightly to him before releasing his grip. "I never understood how it worked. Do the mothers get to choose the sex of the kid? Or is it a gamble?"
"There's supposed to be ways to get one or the other. Don't know if they work. Are you set on a girl?"
He looked into space with a gleam in his eye. "No. I'll settle for whatever comes. A boy might be nice. Wish I could have time to teach him to use a sword. But that'll work out. You can do it. You're as good with the blade as I am anyway."
"You know that's not true." She was getting lost in the game. "Hey! What if it turned out not to be a soldier? What if we had a child who wanted to be something else?" She sat up straighter, her hands on her knees, palms up as if in meditation.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe a priest or something."
"Not a priest." He said it with flat certainty. "I will not father a priest. You'll just have to take it back and trade it in."
She buried her face against his back and almost giggled. "Maybe I could keep it if I swore somebody else was the father."
He spun around and caught her by the shoulders, shaking her like a terrier with a vole. "You could not! I will not permit it. I have exclusive rights to your offspring and I will not cede them to anybody no matter how much you complain."
This time she burst into gales of laughter. "Getting pretty possessive, aren't you? What contract did I sign giving you these rights?" She butted him in the chest with her forehead.
"Want me to give you a contract?"
"I'd rather have the contact." This made them both laugh until they fell back against the stack of pillows. "What do you want to name them?"
"Suddenly it's them, is it? How many were you counting on?" He pinched her chin and brushed a light kiss across her lips.
"Knowing you and your habit of over-achieving, I thought I'd better think up names for a dozen at least." She flicked her tongue between his teeth.
"The first two will be called by our names with some sort of addition, OK?"
"OK. And the others?"
"I think we should wait til they grow up and we can see what sort of name will fit them. Until then, we can just call them One, Two and so forth."
She laughed until she was helplessly out of breath. "How can we laugh like this now?"
He tweaked her nose. "I told you waiting was when to play 'what if'. We've never had the time to be foolish before."
She rolled over and clutched him as though he might disappear if she did not weigh him down. "How much longer do you think it will be?"
"I don't know." He balanced her carefully, his breath mingling with hers. "But what if ...?"