Excerpt from Cut

Darius was already up and mostly dressed when Renata emerged from the bedroom.  He walked around the kitchen in his blue
uniform pants, a white t-shirt and black socks.  His stiff patent-leather shoes sat by the back door, freshly polished.  Renata knew he
would not put them on until he was ready to leave.  She looked up at the clock on the microwave; he only had fifteen minutes before
he’d have to leave.

“Coffee?” he asked her, lifting the pot off the machine.  He emptied most of the pot into his thermos, leaving just enough for one

“I shouldn’t,” she said.

Darius smiled.  “Right,” he said.  “I forgot already.  So, how are you feeling today?”

Renata patted her belly as she sat down at the breakfast table.  “I feel fine,” she said hopefully.  She was stretching the truth just a
bit.  Her stomach felt a little funny, and as she spotted Darius’s empty cereal bowl, the feeling got worse.  As Darius set a bowl of
Cheerios in front of Renata, she frowned.

“Did you want shredded wheat instead?” he asked.

“No,” Renata said.  “I’m just not very hungry this morning.”

“Maybe that’s a good sign,” said Darius as he took Renata’s cereal bowl away.  He attempted to pour the Cheerios back into the
box, but they ended up all over the counter instead.  He looked at the mess, then at the clock.  “I hate to do this to you, baby,”
Darius said, “but I’m going to be late if I don’t finish getting ready.  Would you mind?”

“I don’t mind,” she said.  She swept the spilled Cheerios into her hand as Darius disappeared down the hall.  

She threw the Cheerios down the garbage disposal, thinking that she really did not mind picking up after Darius.  She loved him,
especially in the morning when he was fresh out of the shower.  He looked so good with his short-cropped black hair and dark
eyes.  Renata had dark eyes, too.  She didn’t know whether the baby would have dad’s black hair or her own red hair.  If it was a
boy, she thought dreamily, he would certainly be red-headed.  Every man in Renata’s family had red hair, except Travis, but he was
only a relative by marriage anyway.  

Either way, Renata thought, she was never going to complain about picking up Cheerios, toys, Darius’s clothes . . . whatever.  She
knew she was going to love every moment of being a mother.  As much as she loved being a manager at the accounting firm, she
couldn’t wait to quit her job.  There was nothing more important to her than being Darius’s wife and somebody’s mom.
She could hear Darius putting on his bulletproof vest.  She knew the sound of the velcro straps.  Next he would put on his uniform
shirt.  He wore the short-sleeved one today, the department’s one concession to the ninety-degree heat of the July morning.  He
then put on his belt, the one with the holster and gun.  Ignoring the rising unease inside her, Renata thought of how proud her little
son or daughter would be of Daddy, going out every morning to protect people.

Darius gave Renata a hug and a kiss before sitting down in a kitchen chair to put his shoes on.  “Have a good day,” he said.  “I
want to hear good news when I get home.”

“You have a good day too,” she said.  “Be careful.”

“I will,” he said.  He added, “Try to eat something.  I’d make you some plain toast, but I really have to go.”

“I understand,” Renata said.  She gave him another kiss, and he went to work.  Renata decided to make herself a cup of herbal tea
without caffeine.  She put a teabag in the cup Darius got out for her and set the tea kettle on the stove.  She leaned against the
counter, thinking of all the things she had to do at the office, as the water boiled.  The kettle had just started to whistle when Renata
felt a familiar, uncomfortable sensation.  Her stomach twisted.  It felt like she’d eaten a handful of marbles.

“Please, no,” she said to herself as she went into the bathroom.  

She yanked her panties down and sat back on the toilet.  Taking a deep breath, she looked down at the panties.

Renata moaned.  She would have no good news for Darius.  She got up at looked at herself in the mirror.  She noticed the lines
around her eyes and lips.  “Come on,” she said to herself, “we’re not getting any younger here.  If we’re going to have a baby, we’d
better do it now.”  She scowled at her reflection, but the resulting face was so ugly, she quickly turned it into a smile.  

She undressed and took a shower.  Renata managed to eat a little toast before she had to be at work.  When she got to the office,
Renata’s secretary Donna already had a stack of messages for her.

“Your sister called,” said Donna, handing Renata a message sheet.

“How early did you get there this morning?” Renata responded, blinking into the enormous mug of coffee she’d bought in the
lobby.  Hey, since I’m not pregnant, I can have all the caffeine I want, she told herself.  I’m going to need it today.

Donna shrugged.  “I have to get my daughter to her babysitter’s by six so the sitter can take her own kids to school,” she said.  

That’s just peachy, thought Renata.  Everybody’s a mom except me.

“Did you hear me say that your sister called?” Donna repeated.

“Uh-huh.  Thank you,” said Renata, trying as gracefully as she could manage to shut her office door with Donna still standing at it.  

Donna quickly got the message and sat down at her own desk.

About an hour later, Renata took a break and decided to call her sister back.  She tried Monica’s office first, but Monica’s boss said
she wasn’t in.  Renata dialed her sister’s home number.  Monica picked up immediately.

“Hello?” said Monica.  There was excitement in her voice.

“Mon?  This is Renata.”

“Hi!” Monica said with all the enthusiasm of a varsity cheerleader (which she had been in college, only five years ago).  “Renata, I
have some great news.  But I don’t want to tell you over the phone.  Can you meet me for lunch today?”

“I think so,” said Renata.

“You sound like you’re in a bad mood,” said Monica.  “Is something wrong?  Did you and Darius get into a fight or something?”

“No,” said Renata.  “Everything’s fine.”  Everything better be fine, she thought.  You’d better not be about to tell me what I think
you’re about to tell me.

“Great.  Hey, can we go to that cute little restaurant over by your office, the one with the river view?  Keaton’s?”

“I’ll call and see if I can get reservations,” said Renata.  She did get reservations, and the sisters met at the restaurant just as the
lunch rush was dying down.  They were lucky to get one of the upstairs tables that faced the window.  They had a perfect view of
the river at the waterfall.  When there was a lull in the conversations of the other diners, they could even hear the water falling.  It
gave Renata a welcome sense of peace.

“I love this place,” said Monica as they studied the menu.  She was still in cheerleader mode, talking fast and excitedly.  “Did you
know that this second level used to be the choir loft of a church?  After they tore the church down, it sat in some guy’s barn for
years and years until the ‘70s.  Then one of the original owners of this building found the choir loft, bought it, and had it installed in
here.  The building itself used to be a factory of some sort; that’s why the ceiling is so high.  I think they used to make blue jeans
here.  But it makes a perfect restaurant, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” said Renata.  She unrolled the silverware from her cloth napkin and spread the napkin neatly over her skirt.  “I bring
accounting clients here sometimes.  I’ve only been here for dinner once, though.  That was when Darius got that commendation
from the mayor, and that was on the city’s dime.”

Monica took another look at the menu.  “I’d better have the salad,” she said.  “Some of these things look a little pricey.”

Along came the waitress.  “Wow,” she said, looking from Monica to Renata, “you two have to be sisters.  You have the same red
hair and everything.”

“Guess which one of us is older,” said Monica.

“Can’t tell,” said the waitress diplomatically.  Renata breathed a sigh of relief.

The waitress took their order.  As Renata had feared, Monica ordered a glass of milk with her salad.  Monica had never been a milk
drinker; this could only mean one thing.  Renata asked for a glass of white wine.
Renata drew a deep breath and went for it.  “So what’s your big news?”

“I’m pregnant!” said Monica.  Almost involuntarily, Renata got up from her chair and gave Monica a big hug.  Then the tears
started to fall down her cheeks.  “Are you crying?” Monica asked.

“Yes,” said Renata.  “I’m just so happy for you.”  She was happy, but she was also jealous and disappointed.  “So, when did you
find out?”

“In April,” said Monica.  “I’m already a few months along, and I’m going to have the baby right around Christmastime.  I was just
waiting to tell everyone, just in case.  Plus, I was kind of hoping you and Darius would have something to announce in the
meantime.” She looked in Renata’s eyes.

“No,” said Renata, holding back more tears.  “We haven’t been as lucky as you and Travis.  I got my period today, a matter of
fact.”  She threw herself back into her chair.

“Oh,” said Monica.  “That explains why you sounded so grumpy on the phone.”  She reached over and took Renata’s hand.  “Look,
I’m sure you and Darius and going to get pregnant really soon.  You’ve probably just psyched yourself up about it so much by now
that you can’t relax and enjoy the trying.”

“How long did you and Travis try before you got pregnant?” asked Renata.

Monica looked sheepish.  “We didn’t,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“We didn’t try at all,” said Monica.  “I was on the pill when it happened.  I was one of those one-in-ten-thousand women you read
about in magazines who uses the pill and gets pregnant anyway.  But even though it was sort of an accident– gosh, don’t ever tell
my son or daughter that I said that– I’m really excited.  And Travis is, too.  Oh, you and Darius and going to be a great aunt and
uncle, Renata.”

“I know,” said Renata.  She picked up her spoon and stirred the ice cubes around in her water glass.

“You’re going to be a great mom, too,” Monica added.  “Please don’t be upset with me.”

Renata gave her spoon a rest.  “Upset with you?” she said.  How could I be upset with you for doing something you didn’t even
mean to do?”

For the rest of the meal, Renata tried to be upbeat and pleasant.  The two glasses of wine she drank took some of the edge off the
pain.  She’d taken her period pills, but was still having cramps and feeling a bit bloated.  Every twinge in her belly reminded her that
she was not pregnant.

Not yet anyway, Renata kept telling herself.

From Chapter 18 of Cut.  Copyright 2015 by Erin O'Riordan

Tim watched Diana lying beside him.  The moonlight gave her almond-brown skin a warm glow.  She was smiling slightly, as if in the middle of a
good dream.  Her eyes were open, though, and shone like two black diamonds.  The quilt that covered them lay across her legs.  
He stared at her exposed breasts, amazed.  He went to touch her, but Diana quickly crossed her arms over her chest.  “Tim, please,” Diana said.  
“Let’s get some sleep now.  I promise that as soon as the alarm clock goes off, I’ll give you an eye-opener.”
He closed his fingers around the pendants that she still wore.  Jesus on the cross.  Kuan Yin.  “I like the sound of that,” he said.  He let go of the
pendants and laid his head back on the pillow.  
“You know,” he said softly, “if there is a God, God is a woman.”
Diana wrinkled up her mouth.  Tim thought her perplexed expression was adorable.  “Why?” she asked, sitting up.
“The whiptail lizard,” he said.  “Can I tell you about it in the morning?”  He yawned.
“No,” she said.  “You can’t just tell me that God is a woman because of a lizard and then roll over and go to sleep.”
He sat back up.  “Okay, okay. I’ll try to give you the short version.”  He yawned again, just to make sure she understood.  “First, you have to
grant me that when we’re talking about God, we’re talking about the creator.  A God who made the world and everything in it.”
“You mean like in the Bible,” she said.  “‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’”
“Right,” Tim said.  “The heavens, the earth, and all the living things.  Now, the living things, they come in basically two varieties.  Some of them
are little one-celled organisms that are asexual.  They don’t have a male and a female; they just reproduce by dividing.  And maybe those creatures
are created in God’s image: no male, no female, just one.  Then there’s the other variety.  Everything that’s not a one-celled organism, or maybe a
plant that’s asexual– aren’t some plants asexual?”
“I don’t know,” she said.  “It’s been so long since I’ve studied biology.  It was never one of my best subjects, anyway.  I’m more of a math
person.  That’s how I ended up in retail.  But go on.”
“Either way, everything that’s not asexual has two sexes, male and female.  Most of the time it takes one of each to reproduce.  Then there’s the
whiptail lizard.  This is a lizard that lives way the fuck out there in the middle of the desert, and sometimes it’s hard to find another lizard to mate
with out there.  So what the female whiptail can do is sort of make her eggs start dividing on their own.  She makes daughters, clones of herself.  It’
s called parthenogenesis.”
“Cool,” Diana said.  
“Yeah,” Tim continued.  “The female whiptail lizard can make babies without a male.  But nowhere in nature do you see a male than can
reproduce without a female.”
“Don’t male seahorses give birth?”
“They give birth, but they can’t make babies without the females’ eggs.  The point is that if we accept nature as God’s creation, then it’s
ridiculous to think that God could be a male without a female.  Asexual, yes.  But not a male.  It goes against our entire experience of life on Planet
Earth.  That is, if you think that God would’ve created nature in Her own image.”
Diana smiled.  “That’s really deep, Tim.  But you forgot about the other possibility. Maybe there’s a God and a Goddess, and they need each
other.  That’s what some Wiccans say.”
Across the room, her cell phone rang in her purse, which she’d left by the coat-closet door.  She got up to answer it, pulling the quilt off Tim and
wrapping it around herself.
“Who’s calling you this late at night?” Tim said, grabbing a sheet to cover himself.
Diana went into the entryway and groped for her purse in the dark.  She found it, unzipped it, and located the phone by its green glow.  She
looked at the number and frowned.  “It’s Jessamine,” she said to Tim through the open bedroom door.
“Is she a friend of yours?”
“No,” Diana said flatly.  “She’s my mother.”  She hit a key.  “Hello?”
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