Veronica Gibson stepped into the examining room to greet her last patient of the day.
She was eager to get to her own appointment, and then home to start unpacking her new place.
“Hello there,” she laughed as she got a face full of nippy kisses from Missy, a small and very naughty Yorkshire terrier. “I hear you’ve been eating play dough again,” she said.
Veronica lifted Missy into her arms and raised an eyebrow at Brett, Missy’s young guardian. According to his mom, Brett had been told to pick up his play dough repeatedly, and he hadn’t. So little Missy had taken full advatange of the situation... and not for the first time.
Brett hung his head, clearly remorseful. “She ate a whole container, Dr V.” He was eight and he and his mom Deb had been coming to her veterinarian clinic since Missy was a puppy.
Veronica always enjoyed seeing Missy, Brett and Deb. But today, their last minute visit felt like a good luck omen. Deb was a single mother, and even though she was sometimes frazzled, she always said she loving being a mother.
Brett bit his lip, “Is Missy going to be ok Dr V?”
Veronica gently plopped Missy back onto the examining table to palpate her belly. All good. To Brett she said, “She’s definitely going to be okay, little man.” Veronica met Brett’s eyes. She didn’t want to be too stern or too presumptuous, but she could tell these frequent vet visits were stressing Deb out. “But I’m gonna need you to help Missy avoid anything serious. When your mom asks you to pick up your stuff, think about Missy. She can’t make good decisions, so you have to do it for her.”
Veronica gave Brett a big, encouraging smile and he grinned back at her. “Okay, I promise,” he said.
Veronica handed Deb and Brett a very squirmy Missy, “Don’t worry,” she said. “This visit is on the house.”
As soon as the little family left the clinic, Claire, Veronica's receptionist and best friend, leapt into action.
“Alrighty, let’s do the run down real quick and get this show on the road,” Claire called from the reception desk.
Looking extremely business-like, despite teddy bear decorated scrubs, Claire raised a legal memo and popped a pencil behind her ear. “According to my plans, you need to get in your car and get to that sperm place in 15 minutes or less.” She made a disapproving face when she said ‘sperm’ and then continued. “I need to close this place out and grab those X-Rays from the hospital for tomorrow. Then, I’m shooting over to your new place to unpack.”
“I’ll get the pizza and beer on my way home,” Veronica said as she pulled on a black cardigan. A lot was happening in Veronica’s life post-divorce, and fast. Veronica was relieved Claire was organizing some of the details and keeping things on track. Baking, accounting and an uber organized life were Claire’s specialities.
Claire scrunched up her face. “Can you even drink beer now? What with the… sperm and all that?”
Veronica laughed as she kicked off her work clogs and slipped on beat up chucks. “Of course I can drink. We’re just starting the process, basically we’re in the payment phase. I pick the donor in a couple of weeks.”
Claire chuckled. “I still think you could save yourself a ton of cash if you just went on Tinder. Or better yet, do it with someone who cares about you.” She raised an eyebrow meaningfully.
Veronica pulled the messy bun out of her hair to let waves of chocolate brown hair fall free. She wasn’t going to take Claire’s bait. “Tinder is so not me.” Veronica stuffed her phone into her backpack and pulled out her car keys. “Do you think I can wear scrubs to the appointment? Is it unprofessional?”
Claire shrugged, “The scrubs aren’t the problem, so much as all the dog hair.”
“Occupational hazard. They’ll have to accept me as I am. See you in a bit.” Veronica pulled open the front door to her small but thriving veterinarian's office, All Creatures, and then turned back to Claire. “Thanks for doing this. For everything.... And thanks for keeping everything between us.”
Claire’s expression faltered for a moment; she ran a hand through her curly blonde hair. Then she smiled, wide and bright, “You bet,” she said.
Veronica swung into her new driveway and hopped out. The back of her Jeep was filled with boxes. But first things first, she grabbed the piping hot pizza and an icy six pack of beer to feed herself and Claire. “Lucy I’m home!!” she called out to Claire as she stepped through the front door.
Her new rental was a run down rancher in the older, working class section of town. But it was clean and there was a good vibe about the little house that made her feel surprisingly at home. Right now, it was full of boxes and random artefacts left over from her marriage to Chris.
“I’m in the kitchen,” Claire called. “You don’t have a whisk? I think that’s weird. Everyone needs a whisk.”
Veronica brought the food into the kitchen and set it onto the counter. “I don’t have a kitchen table either. But I do have three mismatched chairs.” She looked over at her melange of chairs, piled in the front window, looking more shabby than chic.
“Tables are overrated,” Claire said as she took a slice of gooey pizza.
Veronica tore off a chunk from her own slice. It was good, damn good. “God, I missed carbs.”
“I think you got too skinny on keto,” Claire said after gulping back some beer.
Veronica looked down at her blue scrubs, dotted with little pink flowers and nodded. She’d always been slender and Claire had always been the curvy one, but since the divorce and a wild notion that a diet would magically make everything better, she’d gone from a healthy size, to something she couldn’t maintain unless she remained depressed and hungry. And she had no plans on remaining depressed and hungry. “You’re right. As of now, I’m officially off keto.”
“Okay, don’t take this the wrong way, but: Thank God!!” Claire thumped her palm dramatically onto the counter. “You’re usually so stubborn, I was afraid to bring it up.” She handed Veronica a beer and continued, “I think this is major progress. All of it is. Good riddance Chris. Hello new place. And welcome back carbs.” Her soft brown eyes got watery, “Cheers girl.”
Veronica clinked bottles with Claire. Claire was right, this was progress. She wanted to savour the moment and tell Claire about the best part, the appointment at the fertility clinic, and, a surprise lead from the private investigator. But she hesitated.
The fertility clinic was the one part of the plan Claire wasn’t particularly keen on - Veronica using a sperm donor. Veronica decided to shrug it off and avoid that topic. As for the PI, well, she hadn’t quite wrapped her own head around the search, so she didn’t want to share anything about it just yet. The important thing was that the appointment had gone well and they’d set a timeline for doing the first insemination. Next month! The news that she was so close to having a child was too precious to taint with any concerns from Claire that Veronica was moving too fast and missing out on love.
Besides, it was easy for Claire to think that way - that love is abundant and people are essentially good. Claire came from a large, loving family. Claire’s parents were still together and they still looked at each other in a way that made Veronica’s heart melt. Like best friends.
It was the way life was supposed to be.
Veronica wanted to raise her child the same way - surrounded by the love she never got to experience. She knew it wouldn’t be easy. But she’d gotten herself through high school and then college without parents, then she’d started her own business, and now she’d survived a divorce and was starting on her own again. She could do this. She could be a mother to a child who would never know anything but a happy, settled childhood.
It was almost midnight when Claire collapsed onto the blow up twin mattress in Veronica’s new bedroom. “You do realize that if you were helping me move we’d still be unpacking the kitchen, right?” Claire shook her head. “I can’t believe we’re mostly done.”
“We did it,” Veronica sighed in exhaustion as she sat on the edge of the saggy mattress.
The rental was a far cry from the new home she’d previously shared with Chris. Their home had boasted over 3,000 square feet with walk-in closets as big as this room. But the new place came without Chris’s strings. And over time, she’d make it a home. Her home. Her child’s home.
She gripped Claire’s hand, “Thanks bud.”
Claire squeezed back then sat up and started to slip on her hoodie. “Anytime. I’m gonna take off for tonight. But, I wanted to ask…. How did it go. At the sperm place?”
“The doctor at the fertility clinic said my initial results came back great. After I choose a donor they can time it to my next cycle.”
Claire looked shocked. “Next month?”
“Are you sure? Have you thought about telling anyone else? Maybe... Kane?”
Veronica rolled her eyes and sighed good naturedly - determined not to answer Claire’s question. She stood up and offered a hand to Claire, who looked like she’d been devoured by the air mattress. “Come on up, I’ll walk you out. And don’t worry about coming in on time tomorrow. I’ve only got Mr. Whiskers in the morning.”
They headed outside. Claire laughed as she fished for her car keys. “Oh I know. I booked Mr. Whiskers. Are you sure you wanna handle him alone? That cat is straight up crazy.” Claire smiled dazzlingly and added, “He likes me though.” She popped open the car lock then hopped into her little red sports car. “I think you’re gonna need back-up with Whiskers.” With that she started the car up and pulled away. Veronica went back inside, dreading sleeping on the air mattress, but also excited to spend the first night in her new home.