Everything After by Jill Santopolo

1





As she walked down Astor Place toward her office, Emily Gold rested her hand on her abdomen, trying to figure out if it felt different. If there was something new in there, a constellation of cells that would grow as she did, would end up as a tiny person with deep brown eyes like Ezra or wavy auburn hair like her.

            Emily hadn’t known she wanted a baby until she met Ezra. Then the idea of creating a child with him, of having another person living in this world who had his intelligence, his compassion running through their veins—it seemed like something she would have to do, the way she had to breathe, to blink, to swallow. And once she wanted it, once she knew it had to happen, she became immediately afraid that it wouldn’t. That she couldn’t. The fact that they’d put it off for a couple of years didn’t help—Ezra had wanted to get a promotion first, a raise, an apartment, to make sure they’d be able to give this child everything they possibly could. Now the time was right. They’d been trying for seven months—months of hope and anticipation and disappointment. And now she was late. Only by a day, but still.

            Every hour made it feel more real, more possible.

            “Dr. Gold.”

            Emily had been walking up the steps to NYU’s School of Global Public Health, and turned her head as she swiped her card key through the lock on the front of the building.

            “Tessa,” she said to the student looking up at her. “It’s good to see you. I hadn’t realized you were back.”

            Tessa smiled. Her eyes looked tired, but the grin was genuine. “I’ve been meaning to come by, but there was a lot to get settled.”

            “How’s the baby?” Emily asked her.

            “Zoe,” Tessa said. “She’s good. Mostly sleeps through the night now, which is awesome. My mom helped out a lot over the summer—Zoe and I went to Ohio while Chris was starting his new job here. But now we’re back and it’s just me and him and Zo. We’ve made it through our first week. I found a couple of freshmen who are up for babysitting while I’m at class. So far, so good.”

            Emily stepped aside so her friend Priya, another psychologist at the mental health center, could walk through the door. “I’m so glad, Tessa,” she said. “If you need to talk, you know I’m here. I’m glad things are going well with you and Chris.”

            Emily didn’t trust Chris, not after the way he’d initially reacted, not after the hours Tessa had spent in her office in tears. He’d seemed self-absorbed, not understanding what a pregnancy would mean for Tessa, not fully accepting his part in it. If Emily were Tessa’s friend, she would’ve had some choice words to say about Chris. But as her therapist, she kept her mouth shut and helped Tessa with her side of the relationship, figuring out what she needed and how to communicate that. Something had worked, because Chris had come through in the end.

            Tessa smiled again. “I’m glad, too.” She laughed. “And happy I ran into you. But now it’s time for Statistics for Social Research.”

            “Oof,” Emily said. “You didn’t give yourself a break with that one.”

            Tessa shrugged. “I figure it’ll help with law school.”

            Tessa’s dream was to be a human rights lawyer. She wore socks with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face on them and had spent half a session once telling Emily about Amal Clooney’s life story. Emily had enjoyed hearing it.

            Two students walked into the building and Emily recognized one of them as her nine a.m.

            “I should go,” Emily said. “But I’m so glad to see you. Bring Zoe by some time.”

            Tessa hiked up her backpack. “I will,” she said before she turned away.