"Hisao?" Still he did not reply. Come on, Hisao, thought Lilly in a sudden bout of selfishness. This is stressing me out enough without this anxious... wait. Wait a second.

Lilly's sightless eyes widened as a thought struck her like a hammer blow. If this was stressing her out, it must be stressing Hisao out even more. And if Hisao was getting stressed out... oh God. I've been so stupid, she thought.

In a panic Lilly reached forward, her fingers feeling out Hisao's shoulders, her cane clattering to the ground. "Hisao?!" Her voice was overflowing with concern. "Are you okay?!"

"M... my heart..." came the strained reply.

Her worst fears confirmed, Lilly quickly rushed into action. She held Hisao in a gentle embrace, his head resting on her shoulder. He clumsily returned the embrace, as though clinging to her for dear life. She could feel his heartbeat against her own chest. Bump-bump. Bump-bump. Bump-bump. It was louder and quicker than it should be, but at least the sound was still there.

Lilly gently stroked Hisao's hair, trying to calm him down further. "It's going to be okay, Hisao," she reassured him. "Don't worry. Everything's going to be okay." She felt Hisao's head move against her shoulder as he nodded anxiously.

Gradually Hisao's heartbeat calmed, returning to its normal volume and speed. Bump-bump... bump-bump... bump-bump. Lilly breathed a sigh of relief. He was okay. He was going to be okay.

"I'm sorry, Hisao. This is my fault." The words were out of Lilly's mouth before she could stop herself. Then, the next thing she knew, tears were welling up in her eyes.

"Lilly? What do you mean? What's wrong?" She could hear the concern in Hisao's voice.

"Oh, Hisao... I've been so selfish." She shook her head furiously. "I should never have asked you to do this for me, I should have known it would be too much of a strain for you, and the whole time I was only worried about myself... I'm so sorry..."

She felt the warmth of Hisao's body as he held her close. It seemed it was now his turn to comfort her, as she had comforted him just moments ago, the difference being that Lilly was in no immediate danger of dying. Quite the opposite.

"It's okay, Lilly," said Hisao gently. "I've told you before, you worry too much about me. You're right, this was a real shock for me, especially since it happened so suddenly, but I don't mind helping you with things like this. That's what couples do. They work together. And we're gonna have to work together on this. Besides, you must be feeling pretty shocked about this yourself, right?"

Lilly nodded. Hisao was right. "I'm sorry," she said. "You're right. I... I don't know what's come over me." Lilly took a couple of slow, deep breaths to calm herself, then gently pulled away from Hisao, facing him with a slight smile. "Well? What did the test say?"

This time Hisao's answer was immediate. "Positive," he said. "It's positive. We're going to have a baby."

Lilly could hear the joy in Hisao's words as he held her again, but she wasn't sure if she could feel it herself. A maelstrom of thoughts and emotions started to swirl inside her, all centred around that one impossible concept: pregnant. I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby.

After a moment, Hisao pulled away, perhaps sensing Lilly's inner turmoil. "Are you okay, Lilly?" he said.

"It's alright, Hisao," Lilly heard herself say, in a voice that did not seem to be her own. "I should go. I have a lot to think about."

"We have a lot to think about," corrected Hisao, releasing Lilly. "It's our child. Like I said, this is something we should..."

But Lilly's legs were already mechanically bearing her in the direction of the apartment door. A child. Hisao and I can't support a child on our wages... oh no. My job.

"Lilly?" Hisao's voice seemed faint and distant, though he was still little more than ten feet behind her. "Are you okay? You seem to be taking this pretty hard."

I know of people who have returned from maternity leave to find their jobs have been given to others. "No, Hisao. I'm fine." A mechanical smile, although as she was facing away from him, he could not see it. The same could easily happen to me. My ambitions, my parents' ambitions, up in smoke.

"Well, if you insist. I'll see you later, then."

My parents.

"Goodbye, Hisao."

After an initial fumble for the door handle, Lilly opened the door and closed it behind her, leaving her alone in the corridor. My parents. Before she was aware of what she was doing, she had sunk to her knees, weeping openly into her hands, succumbing to one final tragic thought.

I don't want to be like my parents.