4) “Quest for Perfection“*
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those are my own personal notations and mean nothing to you all. What follows is what I’ve added. I would love to hear
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It took everything in Marlee’s power not to reach out and strangle Beth. The way she sipped her latte was borderline gluttonous. Marlee’d had those lattes before. They weren’t the best thing in the world, but the fact that Beth had them every single time they visited Garrett, coupled with her pregnancy preventing her from having one, made Marlee extremely jealous and slightly angry.
“So how long have you, um…have you tried to enhance your perfection?” Beth had worked out her routine to a finely-honed science. Interviews had become like second nature to her: ask question, tilt head to the left so Garrett could admire her cute little beauty mark, listen intently, write down his answer, pause to look like she was reflecting on his comment, take big sip of latte to recharge for the next question.
“Beth! I swear I will take that latte out of your hand and flatten it with my foot!” Okay, make that more than slightly angry.
Beth retracted and blinked a few times. “Sorry, Marl. Was it something I asked?”
Immediately, Marlee felt remorseful. “No. It’s just that the last slurp you took was just a little too much. I miss coffee.”
Garrett shook his head in disbelief. “With all the advances they’ve made with humanity, they haven’t found a way for women to have caffeine during pregnancy?”
“Sadly, no. They haven’t taken care of the whole morning sickness thing, either. I’m beginning to think that maybe you were the smart one, Beth.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Beth replied, though she secretly agreed. “Remember? They haven’t actually found anything better to replace the natural pregnancy process. Our bodies are interesting things. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I ‘spose.”
“Well, my insides feel pretty broke right now, and it needs a fix of coffee.” Marlee pouted.
“You know, tomorrow’s the big three-month mark,” Beth reminded her. “If you really wanted, you could fix it so you could have coffee again.”
Garrett cleared his throat. “Ladies? If I may interject, I have to remind Beth that she didn’t get her answer yet.”
Beth’s gaze shot straight back to him. “Right. I knew that. Yeah. So, time’s ticking, Garrett. Stop avoiding the question,” Beth started.
He chuckled softly. “Do I have to remind you that I was the one who had to get us back on topic?”
“Shut up and answer the question.”
“Gladly. But only because it was my idea.” He smiled inwardly as he watched Beth’s face turn red from frustration. Why do I enjoy that so much? He let himself ponder that until his head hurt, then he noticed Beth was tapping her toe with impatience.
“For someone who wants to answer the question so much, you sure are taking your sweet time,” Beth countered.
“I like to pause because it pisses you off. Anyway, I have to say I wasn’t always like this. At first, I took my perfection and ran with it. And then, for some reason I haven’t figured out yet, one of my partners decided to visit me. She brought our son, which I didn’t have a problem with. I was always interested to see what kind of prodigy my sons had become.
But what she told me took me completely off-guard. She was angry with me. Turns out that the son was not the chosen male supplier, that he wasn’t perfect enough to be.”
Marlee gasped, but let Garrett continue.
“Apparently he’d left the retirement home to seek out his mother. He wanted to know what was wrong with him that he wasn’t perfect. For some reason the mother was originally told that he was to be the male supplier, but after she gave birth, the doctors deemed the boy’s genes not to be as perfect as they originally thought. The mother was distraught and immediately sent the boy into retirement. She couldn’t deal with him. Of course, this was about ten years ago, and they’ve fine-tuned that process since then.
So when our son came to her doorstep, she didn’t have an answer. She came over to my mansion and placed all the blame on me. The look of anger and disappointment in that boy’s face…that’s something I couldn’t get out of my mind.” Garrett paused, closed his eyes, and shook his head like he was trying to get the image out of his mind.
“Ever since that moment, I did everything in my power to make myself even more perfect. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to anyone else. I don’t think I could’ve handled anyone else looking at me the way that child did. I didn’t want to be responsible for…for anyone else to be so utterly rejected and unloved. I mean, I didn’t see anything wrong with that boy. He looked healthy and handsome—every bit as perfect-looking as me, if not more so. To think that this specimen was considered anything less than perfect just triggered something inside me. I refused to feel like a failure again. Guess that worked out well, didn’t it?” He finished sarcastically.
Marlee let Garrett’s answer sink in for a bit. Ever since she decided to accompany Beth in her trips to the retirement home, Marlee thought it was just to satisfy her hunger for history and that going would be her contribution to a new chapter for the books. She’d wanted to show her support for Beth. When Annalisa and Claire just rolled their eyes, thinking that it was just Beth being Beth, Marlee had decided that this was a wonderful new discovery that Beth was embarking on.
If she were honest with herself, though, Marlee realized she had gone because she wanted a glimpse into the future of her child if she decided to keep him. She was looking for a sign to tell her which way she should go. Listening to Garrett’s private struggles for the past two months, she had started to solidify her decision, but his last confession from him really made up her mind. She reached for the phone in her purse, determination on her face.
“Marlee? You okay, hon?” Beth’s pen had stopped mid-scribble.
“I’m great. But I think I’m going to step outside, if you guys don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
Marlee made a move for the door, then hesitated. “Actually, I think this is something you guys should be here for.”
Beth gasped. “Wait, are you calling the doctor to…”
Marlee motioned for Beth to be silent while she dialed. “Hello, Doctor Lynn? Yes, this is Marlee. I’ve made my decision.”
Immediately, Beth went to hold Marlee’s hand. Garrett followed, looking a little dejected.
“I’m absolutely sure, but thank you for asking.”
Beth and Garrett heard something inaudible from the other line as the doctor started speaking.
“No, you don’t understand, doctor. I’m keeping him. And that’s my final decision.”
She hung up the phone matter-of-factly, then turned to the new friend she’d made in the last several weeks. “I don’t care if he’s not the most perfect person in this colony,” she began. “When I was told he was perfectly healthy, that should’ve been enough. And it is. This perfectly healthy boy will grow up believing he’s just as good as anyone else and not feel ashamed for a damn thing, if I have any say in it. Thank you, Garrett, for making me finally realize that.”
When Marlee saw the hope in Garrett’s face as she shook his hand, she knew her choice was worth it…
“That’s wonderful, Marlee! I’m so happy for you!” Beth took a celebratory slurp of her latte.
…even if it did take all the willpower in the universe.
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