"Hisao?" Still he did not reply. Come on, Hisao, though 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, all this 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. "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. She gently stroked his hair in an attempt 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 her mouth before she could stop herself. And 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 mean, sure, this whole thing stressed me out, especially coming so suddenly, but I can't imagine how you've been feeling. I mean, you're the one carrying the-"

A faint clapping sound signalled Hisao clamping his hand over his mouth to silence himself, but too late; the revelation had been made. The abrupt silence that ensued echoed louder in Lilly's ears than Hisao's words had. Carrying a baby. The baby. She was carrying their baby. The test was positive. She was pregnant.

"I'm sorry." said Hisao suddenly. Lilly did not attempt to work out if he was apologizing for the actual pregnancy, or merely for having announced its existence in such a manner. Her thought process seemed to have shut down, consumed entirely by a sole prospect: Pregnant. I'm pregnant. I'm going to be a mother.

"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."

Lilly turned towards where she knew the door to be and her legs mechanically bore her towards it. 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."


"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. See. 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'll never see my child's own face. I'll never know how beautiful they are.