A woman stood in line at a café, with a small boy asleep at her shoulder. The woman in front of her turned with a smile when the boy began to giggle in his dreams. She was older than the woman with the boy – maybe in her forties.
“What a sweet little baby!”
The boy’s mother smirked affectionately. “Yes, I can see how he might give one that impression.”
The older woman laughed. “Oh – I can imagine!”
“Do you have children?”
“Well, you know,” The older woman’s face became serious as she leaned forward, her voice lowering a notch. “I’ve tried.”
The woman with the child nodded once, listening.
“I’ve had a frozen embryo in storage for nigh on 20 years, now.”
“Really!” The younger woman moved a hand to support her little boy’s head as she leaned in closer.
“Yes. I think about it, now and then. It’s a girl embryo, I think. Her name is Emily. She’s going to have red hair, like my uncle Peter, and not be able to roll her tongue.”
“And so…well, you really seem to have thought about it a lot. And are you planning to have her?”
“Oh, no, no,” the older woman shook her head. “No. I’m really not a mother. Where would I find the time? I’m a career woman – I wouldn’t know the first thing about growing little persons. Really, I’ve been hoping to find a woman like you,” she paused, looking significantly at the other woman’s child. “A real motherly-type who’s good at giving birth. Tell me – have you ever thought about becoming a surrogate?”
The younger woman’s mouth opened and her eye-whites showed.
“I’ll pay you, of course. I just don’t have the skills to have my own –”
“NO!” The younger woman recovered from her shock and started violently shaking her head. Several people in the coffee shop turned to stare, and the older woman was looking at her like she was being rude. “I’m sorry, but…just, no! Not for any amount of money! I’m not getting pregnant with someone else’s kid.”
“What if I let you keep the baby? And you can name her whatever you want. Really, I just don’t want my embryo to go to waste.”
“Go look on Craig’s list or something. I’m sorry, NO! I don’t need or want your embryo.”
“Well!” The older woman looked hurt. “I think you’ve made yourself quite clear.”
She turned again to face the right way in line. Behind her, the younger woman took a breath, and stood still, pretending like that conversation didn’t happen.