Neither was asleep. The pillow by her face was damp, her brown eyes glittering with slowly trickling tears; the man, thin and hard-muscled with black hair touched by silver at the temples, sighed. It was a long deep sorrowful expulsion of breath that spoke of grief, wordless and knife-sharp.
“Maybe we can—” he began to say.
“No,” she cut in. “I can't...I just can't go through that again.” She shook her head gently.
“Well, maybe we can just wait a few months, and then when we—when you—feel ready, we can try again.”
The woman rolled over to face him, laid a thin delicate long-fingered hand on his chest, familiar and loving. “No. I'm sorry. I...I just can't.” Her face was like her hands, thin, delicate, beautiful in a fragile, angular way. “Please try to understand, Mark. I've wanted this more than anything, to be able to give you this. I know how much it means to you. I love you, so much. I just...couldn't bear to lose another one.”
He reached his free hand up and pinched the bridge of his nose, wiped his face as if trying to scrub the riot of emotions away. “Melanie...” He turned his head to look at her, hard sad features softening. “I know. I shouldn't even ask you to. I couldn't bear to lose another one either. I feel like something has been torn out of me. Like I was given my deepest desire and had it snatched away again.” His composure crumpled abruptly and he rolled away from her, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes, almost savagely.
Melanie shifted closer to him, pressing herself against the length of him, wrapping an arm around him. “I feel the same way, believe me. More so, if anything.”
“I know,” he said, heaving another deep shuddering sigh. “I know. It's just not fair. Why us? When there's so many people out there who don't even appreciate what they've been given? They take it for granted, like it's so easy.”
There was silence for a long time, then. Finally, Mark rolled over to his back once more and she laid her head on his chest. “So that's it then,” he said slowly. “I feel like I'm saying goodbye to someone, you know? Someone I've never met...never will, now.”
“Please...don't talk like that. It's not fair. You know all too well how to get me all twisted around, talking me into things, arguing and turning things upside down, and making it all so...dramatic and...final, I guess.”
“Isn't it though? Dramatic? And final?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. I just feel like when you talk like that that you're trying to persuade me into trying again, without sounding like you are.”
“I'm not, I promise. I'm not gonna lie though. I do wish we could try again, but I know, in practical terms, that neither of us can emotionally endure all this again...the joy at first, the hope, the excitement of the plans and buying tiny little clothes in blue or pink, and cribs and diaper bags and...and then the agony when you lose it...him...or her...that unbearable, wrenching pain of loss...”
“Oh Mark...” she sobbed against him, shoulders shaking.
“I’m sorry, I have to get this out, Melanie,” he said, his voice low and heavy, barely controlled, tremors and trembles at the edges. “I'm the last of my family, you know? Dad died last year, Mom when I was a kid...they were both only children, and their parents were gone before they even met each other...I have no one but you...I just want to leave a legacy...a baby to carry on some part of me...it doesn't even have to carry on my name, I just want some portion of myself to go out into the world. I feel like if I die some spark will be extinguished. You have your brothers and sisters, and nephews and nieces, and your mom and dad and everyone...but you're all I have. I can't risk you again, I can't...there was so much blood this time, I thought I was gonna lose you and I couldn't survive that...If I lost you I'd just stop breathing, heart-broken and dead inside. But I've wanted a baby for so long...”
“I know you have...and I've tried so hard to give a baby to you. We've tried everything Mark...and we've lost them all. This time was the worst, making it to twenty weeks...And it gets worse every time for me, physically.”
“I'm not blaming you. How could I? I know you want this as much as I do. I guess I'm just grieving, because I know we just have to give up.” He groaned, a ragged growl of heartache. He didn't say anything for a long time.
“I'm saying goodbye,” Mark said, finally. Melanie couldn't respond, she could only clutch harder to him, kiss him through her tears. Outside, the sun had fully risen, welcoming a new day. The loft was quiet then, filled with a farewell silence.