August 18th, 2012
On Saturday, Ennis and Jack had decided to take a long walk together through the park and talk about everything that was going on with their lives now. Lureen would be arriving in just three days and they were trying to work out how to ask her to be the mother of their child. It wasn't an easy question to ask and they knew it, considering that it would involve her giving up the baby and all her parental rights, but they hoped that they could work it all out with her.
Jack's mother would be having dinner with them at their place now that she was back from her trip, and Jack knew that she was looking forward to being a grandmother. He wished more than ever that his father could still be alive to share this with them, but this was how the dice had rolled. He knew that they would all be okay.
It was another gorgeous day and they took their walk slowly, wandering down the path from the nearest entrance after making their way up there from where they lived. Ennis thought it was better for them to live out of Manhattan; it was somewhat quieter there. Not only that, but there were emergency rooms and hospitals quite close to where they lived and that had been the selling point for him; he'd always wanted Jack to be close to medical help in case he needed it.
"So, this whole thing about asking Lureen," Jack started as they walked. "How are we gonna ask her to do this?"
"Well, I've been thinking about it," Ennis admitted as they spotted a bench and sat down. "We could tell her that we wanna have a kid and that we want her to be the mother. Then we just somehow have to make sure she knows that she can have as much contact as she wants. I reckon she should know that we realise it's a lot to ask, and that she can say no if she can't put herself through that."
Jack nodded. "Sounds fair. We can't just demand that she plays by our rules; we have to give her the chance to think about it. She'll be here for a week and from what I can remember about her, she's usually sure about the decisions she makes. She's really strong as well; I'm sure that she'll cope with having to give up the baby when it's born. And it's not as if she'll have to go back right away after the birth; she can stay as long as she needs to, right?"
"Definitely. It'll be hard for her and we know that. So when should we ask her?"
"I reckon the first day she's here, otherwise we'll just be drawing it out and that'll make it harder. She'll know that something's up anyway. We should do it that first day, over dinner or something."
"We don't want her to feel like she's being pressured into it," Ennis reasoned. "Do you think that'll happen if we ask her the first day?"
Jack bit his lip. "I hope not...but it might. We can't pretend that everything's the same, though. She'll see right through that." He sighed. "I don't know...but I reckon we can ask my mom later if she knows the best way of doing it. Women tend to know these things, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. Anyway...are you okay after the other night? With your throat?" Ennis asked, looking at him closely. Jack squeezed his hand.
"I am, I promise. Remember, John said it's a side effect of one of the meds. Nothing to worry about."
Ennis nodded, hoping that this was right. "I just worry about you, bud. You know that."
"I do, sweetheart...but I'm really okay." Jack leaned in and kissed him, warm and tender. It amazed him sometimes how they could be so gentle with each other yet also fierce when they were in bed together. He sometimes felt as if there were two sides to Ennis; one that was sweet and tender but also one that could make his toes curl and drive him crazy. He loved how he knew both sides so well and how they seemed to co-exist peacefully within his husband. "I love you," he murmured when they pulled apart. "You know that, right?"
"How could I not?" Ennis asked with a grin. "You tell me at least three times a day." He nuzzled their noses together. "But I like hearing it."
"Good, 'cos I'm never gonna stop telling you," Jack replied, kissing him again. He then pulled Ennis's head down to rest on his shoulder, which was an unusual position for them.
"Hey...you're usually the one doing this," Ennis observed, getting used to it and finding that he liked it. Jack often said that Ennis made him feel safe, and now Ennis could understand why. It did feel good to be resting on Jack like this.
"I know...but you're not the only one who can take care of someone," Jack said to him, kissing his temple. "I can do it too...and I want to. I know that I probably need it more, with being positive, but...I like taking care of you too."
Ennis smiled and squeezed his fingers. "Well...it does feel good. Not weird or anything. But I won't stop wanting to look after you," he added, and Jack grinned.
"I can live with that." They sat there for a while until they grew hungry, and decided to have lunch in a little café in the park. On the way there, they passed the boathouse and the lawn where they had gotten married just a few months before, the memories precious for both of them. Ennis could remember everything, especially how it had felt to make a legal commitment to Jack in front of their friends. He wished that his parents could have accepted it and been there, but there was nothing he could do about that, at least not right now.
A few hours later, Jack's mother Karen came over from Long Island to have dinner with them. They liked to get together with her now and then, not least because she was the only parental figure they had right now. Ennis often wished that his own parents could be more like her, but he was also happy that Jack had her.
She tried to help them with dinner but they shooed her away to the living area, insisting that she was a guest and that they would do everything. Karen looked around their apartment; she'd been here before but it always struck her just how well they were doing. They weren't rich but she could tell that Ennis was taking care of Jack just like he'd promised, and she slept well at night knowing that her son would be safe with his chosen partner.
As they worked in the kitchen, she could hear them talking to each other. Mostly it was about preparing the meal, but occasionally their voices lowered and she could tell that they were saying more private things to each other. She was very happy for Jack that he had found someone who could love him and was grateful to Ennis.
"You think we should ask her?" Ennis murmured to Jack as they worked. "I mean, she could give us advice for how to talk to Lureen, like we said earlier."
"I reckon so," Jack replied, nodding. "I've always trusted her advice before; no reason not to with this."
Ennis made a sound of agreement and grabbed the oven mitts, reaching into the oven. They had always liked cooking together; it was a nice domestic task that had always made them feel like a real couple even when they hadn't been living together. They had made a home and they couldn't wait to bring a child into it.
Jack went to set the table while Ennis got the food ready; they had bought a chicken because it was Karen's favourite, along with all the trimmings. Ennis was very aware of which foods didn't sit well with Jack and thus avoided them completely. He was alright with mild spicy food, but not the stronger ones. Ennis simply didn't want anything to happen to Jack.
When they were ready, they sat down to their meal and Karen looked around the table. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble," she said, knowing that they didn't usually when they were on their own. Jack shook his head.
"You're a guest and we wanted to treat you," he told her, Ennis nodding in agreement. "Besides...I bet you don't go all out now you're on your own..."
"You've got me there, Jack. Well, I sure appreciate this anyway." She smiled at them both. "And I want you to know that I'm very proud of both of you for everything you've accomplished. And now you're creating a family..."
"Yeah," Ennis replied, glancing at Jack. "Um...there was something we wanted to talk to you about with that."
"Right," Jack agreed, sitting up as they ate. "Well, we wanna ask Lureen to be the mother. We'd be doing it through artificial insemination, with Ennis as the father. Only thing is...we're not sure how to ask her. It would mean her giving up the baby once it's born, but also giving up her parental rights. You know that we'd let her be as involved as she wants, but she lives on the other side of the country. It'd be hard for her and we're not sure how to make it easier."
Karen nodded. "Well...you just have to be tactful. Remember how difficult it will be for her to do that once the baby is born. Even though she'll know right from the start that you two will bring up the baby, nine months is a long time. She will bond with the child no matter what because it'll be part of her. It won't be easy for her. You hear all the time about women doing this for their friends and then finding that they can't let go; you don't want that to happen."
"We don't; that's why we thought we'd ask you for advice."
"Just make sure she knows she can be involved afterwards and be respectful of her feelings when the time comes to let the baby go. Give her as much time as she needs to say goodbye and don't rush it, no matter how much you're looking forward to bringing the child home."
Ennis and Jack nodded; they had pretty much expected this kind of advice and it did make a lot of sense. "Well, there was something else we wanted to ask...but we understand if you can't help with this one."
"What is it?" she asked, clearly wanting to help.
"Well...our doctor told us that doing this...it's gonna cost us about four thousand dollars. We've got money but we're not really rich, and we don't know if Lureen can take instalments or if the cost might even go up..." Jack bit his lip, hoping that he didn't sound too desperate. He was a grown man now and ought to support himself, but he just didn't know how they could do this on their own.
Karen smiled; she had kind of expected this and was willing to help. "Tell you what. If Lureen says yes and it's all sorted, I can give you half. Would that help?"
Relief crossed Jack's face. "That would be great, mom. That'll help a lot, thank you." She nodded and they resumed eating, both men feeling a little lighter than before. They would never forget this and knew that they had to make every effort if it was going to happen. Now all they had to do was ask Lureen when she came to visit them; that would be the hardest part for all of them, because there was just no telling how things would be in nine months. They just had to have faith that it would all work out.
August 21st, 2012
On Tuesday, Ennis and Jack were picking Lureen up from JFK airport. They hadn't seen her for over a month because she'd been so busy with work, but they were looking forward to it. She would be staying in their spare room, which they hoped one day they could convert into a nursery, and they were working out how to ask her their request.
They were waiting at the gate for her, hands clasped between them as they talked. Ever since their talk with Karen, they had been practicing what they were going to say to Lureen and they hoped that it would work. But at the same time, they had reminded themselves that she might have to turn them down. Perhaps she was seeing someone and it just wouldn't work, or maybe she didn't want to have a child that she didn't see often. If that happened, they would have to re-evaluate their options.
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Ennis said to Jack, squeezing his fingers. Jack nodded.
"Yeah, but I'm still nervous. I reckon we should ask her today at dinner...not sure I can hold it in much longer than that."
"I know." Just then, people started walking through the gate and they kept their eyes peeled for her auburn hair; it had always been so distinctive.
Jack grinned when he saw her and waited for her to spot them. She looked the same as ever, but they could also see that she was better off than before; probably due to her promotion and pay rise. "Lureen!"
"Hey," she greeted, throwing her arms around both of them in a group hug. She had always been a great friend to both of them, and Ennis was particularly grateful to her for getting Jack to the hospital in time when he'd had pancreatitis. She had persuaded Jack to spend the evening with her when he'd been depressed about their break-up, and she had been there when he'd collapsed so had been able to save his life. Ennis would never forget that. "How are you both? You look great!"
"We're doing good," Jack told her as they broke apart. "Doing really well...what about you?"
"I'm happy," she told them as they headed for baggage claim. "That promotion has done me a lot of good...feel like I'm getting somewhere now. What about you two? Enjoying married life, I bet," she said with a grin. They both smiled back.
"Yeah, it...it's something else," Ennis agreed, looking at Jack affectionately. "Better than anything I could've imagined." Jack squeezed his hand.
Lureen's smile dropped slightly as she thought of what she wanted to ask next. "What about...that guy? Daniel Waters? Anything I should know about?"
Jack shook his head. "Still locked up. They'll let me know if he escapes or is released early, and I hope they never have to."
She nodded. "Good. So, how's work?" They talked to her about their jobs while they waited for her suitcase to appear, Jack telling her about his talks and how they were all praising his honesty.
"I mean...I like that they're interested in hearing what I've got to say. And I like that I can talk about my own experiences. But the honesty thing? I've always felt that it's the best way and I can't see why those drug companies can't do the same thing. They make people think that all they've gotta do is pop a pill and they'll feel great, that they can do anything. I'm all for giving people hope but I think they should be honest about it."
Lureen nodded. "I know how you feel...but remember, that's just the way the media works. They highlight all the good things and leave out the bad things because they want to make sales. Not much we can do about that." Her suitcase appeared and they headed out for the cabs, looking for one that would take them home. Ennis and Jack didn't have a car; there wasn't much point while living in New York. They either used cabs, took the bus or maybe hired a rental if they were going further afield, such as when they went to visit Jack's mother.
When they found one, they piled in and were soon on their way home. Lureen was looking forward to spending time with them; she had missed them when they moved here even though she knew it had been the best thing for them. They had wanted to get married and New York had just legalised same-sex marriage; it all fit together for them and they had done what they needed to. California still hadn't followed suit so there was no way they could have stayed.
They got Lureen back to their apartment and set about making lunch while she unpacked, keeping their voices low so she couldn't hear them.
"Now...we're gonna ask her at dinner, right?" Ennis whispered to Jack, who nodded.
"Yep. We'll just come out and say it, ask her to be the mother and make sure she knows that we understand what we're asking of her. I know it won't be easy, but I'm sure we can do it."
"Right." Ennis looked over at Jack and kissed him on the cheek, giving him a surprised look.
"What was that for?" he asked with a grin. Ennis shrugged.
"Just...felt like it. Don't need a reason to kiss you, do I?" Jack shook his head.
"No, 'course not." He returned the favour and soon they were making out against the counter, just as Lureen came back into the room.
"Get a room, you two," she said to them, looking both exasperated and amused. "Can't you go five minutes without going at each other?"
"We're still newlyweds," Jack told her, hanging onto Ennis's shoulders as he felt Ennis's arms squeeze his waist. "Well...more or less. That's our excuse, anyway." He kissed Ennis again and they let go of each other, knowing that Lureen was laughing to herself. Some things never changed.
Ennis and Jack were nervous throughout the day, preparing to ask Lureen their request. Luckily, Lureen wanted to go shopping so they left her to it, while they stayed at home and went over what they were going to say. They knew it wouldn't be easy, but Jack had a good feeling that she would accept.
Lureen could tell that something was on their minds; she knew them very well by now and was sure that they would ask her in their own time. She had to wonder what was going on; she'd never seen them this nervous.
When Lureen came back she found them preparing dinner together and had to smile at how well they worked together. She would always remember those few days when Ennis and Jack had broken up, and how hurt Jack had been. She was very glad that they were back together; they were just better that way.
"Careful, you don't wanna burn it," Ennis was saying. Jack gave him a look.
"I've never burnt anything in my life," he retorted, drawing a smirk from his partner.
"You keep telling yourself that, bud," he replied. Lureen smiled at their banter, putting her bags down.
"Hey, guys," she greeted them, and they smiled over at her.
"Hey. You get everything you wanted?" Jack asked her, and she nodded.
"Yeah, I think so. I'm gonna put all of this in my room...how long until dinner?"
"Um...about half an hour," Jack replied, and she nodded before grabbing the bags and heading off. Jack watched her go, feeling more nervous than ever.
"We've gotta do it today, Ennis. At dinner...I can't hold it off any longer..." he said, and Ennis came up to him. He slid his arms around Jack's waist from behind and gave him a squeeze.
"I know, darlin'. We'll just have to get through it. Worst thing that can happen is her saying no...and if she does, then we'll just have to deal with it. We'll think of something else."
Jack nodded, covering Ennis's arms with his own. "Yeah. We'll have a kid one way or another."
At last, it was time for dinner and they were setting everything down on the table, Ennis and Jack exchanging glances while Lureen pretended not to notice. When they were all finally sat down, they ate for a few minutes until Jack couldn't take it any longer.
"Um..." he started, looking at Ennis. "Lureen?"
"Yeah?" she asked. "I can tell that something's on your mind...what's going on with you guys? You've been acting weird all day."
Jack looked sheepish. "Yeah...there's something we wanted to talk to you about. Never could hide anything from you, could I?" She shook her head. "Um..."
"Lureen," Ennis started, seeing that Jack was struggling. "Me and Jack...we've been talking about having a kid together, some way."
Her face split into a wide grin. "Oh, guys...that's incredible! Congratulations."
They smiled back at her. "Yeah, we figured it was a good time. We've only been married for a few months, but it would've been longer if we'd been allowed to do it back in California." Jack shrugged. "So we agreed it would be a good idea."
Lureen nodded. "Well, that's great. Is there anything I can do to help with that?" They glanced at each other.
"Actually, there is," Ennis replied. "We, um...we've decided to go with artificial insemination. Obviously, I'm gonna be the biological dad because of Jack's HIV. So all we need is someone to be the mother, and..."
She saw the nervous glances they were giving her, and it soon added up. "Oh," she replied, seeing what they were asking. "I, um...right..."
"We know it's a lot to ask," Jack told her. "And we've spoken to our lawyer; he helped us understand how it would all work if you say yes."
"It would mean you giving up the baby to us once it's born," Ennis said quietly. "And giving up your parental rights. We know that'd be hard for you, so...we understand if you can't do it."
"And we'll give you whatever you need," Jack added. "You can be as involved as you want, I promise."
She nodded. "Well, um...that is a lot to think about. I mean, I wanted to have kids one day, but I always figured they'd be mine, you know? I've gotta say, I never expected this." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Can you give me some time to think it over?" she asked, and they nodded.
"Yeah, of course we can. There's no rush," Jack told her. She nodded and they returned to dinner, all three of them thinking. Lureen was mulling over her choice; she wasn't seeing anybody right now and could afford to take time off nearer the birth. Ennis and Jack wanted to have a family and they had asked her out of trust. They had considered her the best candidate for the mother of their baby, and she had to admit that she was humbled by their request.
They didn't speak much for the remainder of the meal, but when Ennis and Jack were clearing the dishes away she came up to them. "I wanna do it," she said to them, and they looked surprised. "I wanna help you guys have a baby. I know it won't be easy, but...I'm sure."
Jack grinned. "Lureen...thank you..." He hugged her tightly, now even more grateful to have her in his life. "God, thank you..." Ennis hugged her too and they smiled at each other; they would be creating a family together.
"Tell you what...you guys wanna go for a drink and celebrate?" she asked, and they nodded. "I've got loads of questions and it would be good to get started on this, right?"
"Yeah, sure," Jack replied. He grasped her hand. "We're really grateful about this, Lu. I hope we can work out all the details easily enough."
With their decision made, the three of them were already starting to look forward to it. They would make a family that involved the three of them, and they knew the child would be loved.
There was a bar near where Ennis and Jack lived, so they took Lureen there after they'd finished clearing up. She wouldn't be able to drink once she got pregnant, and they figured that she might as well make the most of it.
Both of them knew that Lureen would have a lot of questions about what they were going to do, and they were happy to give her as much information as she needed; what they were asking her to do was a huge thing that would change her life.
They sat down in a booth in the corner with their drinks; Ennis and Jack had brought along the notes they had made from talking with their lawyer for her benefit. It was simply the easiest way.
"Okay..." Jack started as they sat down. "Well, obviously this could take some time; more than just the nine months of pregnancy. I mean, you might not get pregnant the first time we try; it could take more than one try."
She nodded. "Fair enough. How would we do it?"
"Well, um...I would help Ennis make his donation," Jack replied, grinning widely. Ennis rolled his eyes. "He'd jerk off into a cup or something, then you would somehow...you know." He shifted uncomfortably; that was definitely not his area. Lureen nodded.
"Okay...that shouldn't be too hard. Then hopefully I would get pregnant, right?"
"That's the theory. Like I said, it could take more than one try. It might be hard on you if it doesn't happen the first time. You might...I dunno...feel like you're letting us down. But we won't think that." He smiled at her, trying to be reassuring.
"Alright," she replied, looking over the notes. "What about the costs?"
This was the part that Jack had been dreading. "Well, we asked our doctor. If we do it all ourselves away from any clinics, then it won't cost so much. But still, we'd have to pay you. It'll be around four thousand dollars. My mom said she'll help if we need her to; she can give us half. We just wanted to know what you thought. Maybe we could pay you in instalments or something?"
"Of course," she replied, nodding. She knew that Ennis and Jack were doing well but were not rich. "Sure, you can pay me the rest when you can; it's no problem. And I've got my own money anyway; I can take care of myself."
Ennis and Jack both breathed a sigh of relief; everything would work out. "Again...thank you, Lureen," Jack said to her. "So...when you get pregnant, we'll give you half from my mom. And then we'll pay you some every month until the birth. I think...that's just over two hundred dollars a month, right? We can have it transferred to your bank account."
Lureen nodded. "Great. Was there anything else?"
"Um, yeah...the parental rights. Obviously, you'd have to sign them over to me after the birth," Jack told her. "I would then adopt the baby and we would be its parents." He took her hand. "But you can have as much contact as you want."
"Right," Ennis added. "You can have an input on the name, how we decorate the nursery, even where the kid goes to school and college, one day. You'll be the baby's mother even though we're gonna raise it. We'll make sure that he or she knows who you are and why you don't live with us."
Lureen smiled at them both; they were being very accommodating. "Guys...I can't think of two better parents for a baby than you. I'm glad that you're so willing to give me so much access, and I accept it. I think we'll be a great team...and I can't wait to do this." She sighed. "Well...better make the most of this," she added, raising her glass. "To us and our new family," she said, and they joined her toast.
They got back about an hour later, all three of them tired after this eventful day. They had a few slices of toast together in front of the TV and then headed to bed.
"Get some sleep; we've got a lot to do. We need to call our doctor and lawyer and make appointments for you to come and see them. Maybe you should call yours too," Jack said to Lureen outside her bedroom door.
"Right. I'm glad I can do this for you, Jack. You know I used to worry about you and wondered if you were happy. Before you met Ennis, I mean. You were alone and just needed someone who would love you as you are. When you came to San Francisco, I felt protective of you. So when you started seeing Ennis and I could see how happy you were, I knew it would be okay."
"Even though we broke up for a few days?" he asked her, smiling slightly; the memories didn't pain him so much now. She nodded.
"That was hard for all of us. But you got back together and stuck together. So when you guys decided to move here, I knew you'd be just fine; I knew he would take care of you." She smiled at him. "I'm really happy for you, Jack. Both of you. And that's why I want to do this for you. I just want to make you guys happy." She kissed his cheek and went into her room, leaving him with plenty to think about. He really was very lucky to have Ennis.
He entered their own room to find Ennis waiting for him, clearly naked under the covers. "Hmm...you look like you're wanting something," Jack said to him as he undressed. He could see Ennis's eyes roaming his body and knew that he was in for it tonight. "You sure you wanna with Lureen here?"
"She'll probably try listening in...but I don't care," Ennis replied as Jack got into bed. "Just got you...right where I want you."
Jack grinned and leaned in, pausing before their lips met. "Same here, baby."