"You read it," I said, holding out the damp blue and white test stick, "I can't look."
Neeka took it from me and held it under the lights over the bathroom vanity. "Negative," she said.
"Crap!" I said, with feeling. "Crap! Crap! Crap!"
"Are you sure you peed on it long enough?" Neeka asked.
"I," I replied haughtily and with a slight hysterical tremor in my voice, "will have you know that by now I am an expert pee'er. I could probably hit one of those stupid things from three feet away."
"Please don't bother to demonstrate."
"Your loss. How many was that? I've lost count."
"Enough," she said with a sigh. "We've been doing this every morning for a week now. You're just not pregnant."
"Why not?" I asked plaintively. "What does it take to knock me up?"
"It wasn't for lack of trying. I will testify to that. You slept through a lot of it, but I watched the whole thing. Kirk tried his best. He put enough cum into you to give you sextuplets."
The knock at the door wasn't a completely unexpected interruption. It wasn't even poorly timed.
"Sam? Honey? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mom!" I called. "We'll be out in a minute." I knew as soon as I said it that I'd said it wrong.
"We?" came the voice from the other side of the door that I now knew wasn't going to go away without an explanation. I supposed she was due one. It was her house and therefore her bathroom door she was knocking on. "Is Monique in there with you?"
"Yes, Bambi. I'm here," Neeka confessed. She's one of three people who are allowed to call Mrs. Reynolds 'Bambi'. I'm not one of them. I call her 'Mom' because that's what she wants me to call her and because she legally adopted me. Well, OK. Not actually adopted. At 18, I'm technically an adult, but she had her will changed to include me in a way that puts me on par with her two sons. She gave me the room in her house that she'd intended to be for her daughter if she ever had one. She's going to put me through as much college as I can stand. She pays my credit card bill every month. And she loves me dearly. She's 'Mom' way more than my birth mother ever was.
The doorknob rattled.
"Honey? Why do you have the door locked? What's going on in there?"
There wasn't much the two of us could have been up to that she wouldn't have been welcome to join in, so locking the door had been an outright admission of guilt. A quick exchange of thoughts, then Neeka turned the latch and pulled the door open. Mom came in and closed it again behind her, implicitly joining whatever we were up to rather than disrupting it.
Even with three of us in there, the room wasn't crowded. Mom knew how to design a bathroom. She hadn't done too badly with the rest of the house either. The place had her signature on every room, from the spacious bathrooms to the cavernous closets to the private deck on the roof. In hindsight, trying to hide from her in her own house had been a poor decision.
"So," she said to the two of us, "What's going on?"
The silence of an awkward moment is the most painful quiet there is. It felt like the air in the room had suddenly been sucked out, leaving a vacuum that pulled on every part of me. If I'd opened my mouth, everything would have rushed out. I pressed my lips together to keep it in and held my breath for good measure.
Mom saw the box of test strips on the vanity by the sink. She looked at me, sitting on the toilet wearing just the sheer top to my shortie nightgown. Then she looked at Neeka, also in her PJs but more fully-dressed and still holding the latest test strip in her hand.
"Tell me you're not pregnant," Mom said. She sounded like she was trying to keep her voice firm, but had trouble masking notes of urgency and alarm.
"I'm not pregnant."
"Good!" She said, a bit more firmly and with an obvious degree of relief. "Then perhaps one of you young ladies would like to explain why you've just gone through a dozen pregnancy tests to establish that fact?"
"She wants to be," Neeka blabbed. I wasn't mad at her for it. Being ratted-out was better than being forced to confess.
"Wants to be what?"
"I see," Mom said. Her eyes darted back and forth between us as though deciding which one of us would be most likely to break under interrogation. Then she took a deep breath. "No, Monique, I don't see. Why does Sam want to be pregnant?"
"She thinks it will prove she's still human," Neeka explained.
"I'm right here," I said, starting to get annoyed at being talked-around even though I was also relieved that I wasn't the one being pressed for an explanation. Something about sitting bare-assed on the toilet puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to cross-examination. I pressed my knees together and tugged self-consciously at the hem of my nightgown.
"But maybe not all there," Mom said to me, meaning I was obviously crazy and so couldn't be expected to give a logical explanation for my behavior. Then she asked Neeka, "How long has this been going on?"
"A couple of weeks. It's been building for a while now. I think it started with the claws, then the scales, then the, uh..."
"Snout," I suggested.
"Snout?" Mom echoed, confused.
"Muzzle. Snoot. Snout. Whatever you want to call it. She grows one now ... when she Changes."
"I see. And she thinks this proves she is no longer human?"
"No, that's because she thinks she's immortal."
That silence was back. This time it was longer and more painful than before. I quit trying to make my nightgown longer and put my hands between my thighs.
At last Mom said, "Let me get this straight. Despite having been through some dangerous situations, you're alive; so you must be immortal. Is that your reasoning?"
"Gee, when you put it like that..." I said.
"And how would you put it?"
"Uh, I'm not dead?"
"Maybe between the ears," Neeka muttered. Her participation in my plan had always been reluctant. Now she saw her chance to defect, she was taking it.
"You hush," Mom told her. "I'm trying to find out why Sam thinks having a baby will help the situation."
"If I can get pregnant it will prove I'm still human, that this Dragon thing hasn't gone too far."
"I see. Does the baby get a vote?"
"This baby you're trying to conceive. Does it get any say in the matter? Have you considered how it will feel about this? That it's being cavalierly brought into this world just so you can disprove this absurd idea?"
"Uh?" She had me there. I hadn't looked at it that way at all.
"Does being unbelievably selfish count as evidence of your humanity? If so, I think you have all the proof you need."
"And what about me?" Mom asked, planting her fists on her hips and leaning over to address me. Now that she'd successfully ridiculed my plan she felt she was on a roll.
"Had it occurred to you that I'm too young to be a grandmother?"
Neeka and I didn't have to look at each other to read each other's thoughts, but we did anyway. Neither of us could tell if she was kidding or not. It didn't sound like it from her tone of voice.
"No?" I said meekly, not meaning it to come out as a question.
Even if she was pulling my leg about the grandmother thing, she still had a point. I hadn't been thinking of anyone but myself. I hadn't even thought past getting pregnant. How it would complicate more lives than just my own.
Mom straightened up and crossed her arms under her breasts, lifting them up and threatening to pop them out of her silk wrap-front blouse. It was something she did whenever she wanted to distract whoever she was talking to and it even worked on me, and my bust is bigger than hers.
"Breakfast will be ready in half an hour. I'm making omelets," she said and left me to think about what she'd said. And I don't mean the part about the omelets, although I wouldn't be able to keep from thinking about that very long. Mom's cooking would make a Cordon Bleu chef jealous. Her domesticity was late-blooming and her standards were higher because of the privileged life she'd led since marriage. She couldn't just scramble eggs; it had to be a production. I think she just loved the idea that she could go into any restaurant and sniff at their fare with an attitude of "I could do better" and know she could back it up. I'd overheard her instructing the caterer she used for parties, so I knew that she'd successfully terrorized at least one local restaurateur.
"I guess she's right," I said. "I am being selfish."
"Finally!" Neeka said. "That's what I've been saying! Why didn't you listen to me?"
"Because you never explained it in those terms."
"My butt is freezing. Let's get ready for breakfast."
Showering helped. Getting clean always made me feel better. Having help doing it made me feel loved. The telepathic link Neeka and I share makes us so close that even when we're skin-to-skin there aren't any flying elbows or accidental bumps. It's like we're one person washing four arms, four legs, and two torsos. When I suddenly felt I needed a hug, a pair of soapy arms was already around me.
"Sorry," I said through the water streaming over my mouth. "My head is all messed-up."
"Tell me about it. You've been getting more obsessed with this every day. You're like a hamster in a wheel, running faster and faster but not getting anywhere."
"I need a vacation," I said, my face in the hollow of her neck. The warm water streaming down masked my tears, but Neeka knew how I felt anyway.
.... There is more of this story ...