Sophie Fordham never thought much about motherhood until her body forced her to. With the onset of early menopause, she knows if she wants to have a baby, it’s now or never. So what’s a single, financially-strapped girl to do? Go with what you know, of course.
Fox Monkhouse has been Sophie’s gorgeous best friend since preschool. This sun-kissed surfer boy has no shortage of ladies, but she’s hoping he’ll put that aside to help her out. As there’s never been anything romantic between the two, things get awkward when she asks him to put a bun in her oven—especially since it has to be done the old-fashioned, no-pants dance way.
When Fox agrees to do the deed, Sophie is ecstatic. But she soon realizes that this chance at a baby could cost her everything. Keeping sex and emotions separate is clearly not in her wheelhouse especially when her best friend is involved. If their relationship can’t evolve into something new, their unusual arrangement could destroy the friendship of a lifetime.
The Diagnosis: “It’s menopause.”
Laughing. All the laughing. Until Doctor Beaufort looks at me like I’ve cracked. I stop myself and swallow. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘it’s menopause’?”
“Sophie, your symptoms and test results point to perimenopause. Your estrogen levels have been a little all over the place, and with your erratic cycle, it’s extremely likely that early menopause has begun.”
I’m glad I’m not drinking or eating because I would have choked. Oh, scratch that—I’m choking on my own spit. It’s so great that I don’t even need to put anything in my mouth to choke.
The studio audience in my head reacts on cue, complete with cheering and lewd gestures.
“I’m sorry?” I ask, my throat on fire as I cough roughly. I sound like a veteran smoker. Or maybe even like I’ve moved past that into voice box territory.
My doctor finally notices my insta-panic and waves her hands in front of her face. “That is to say it could be.”
I gasp, hacking up a lung for good measure and in hoping I heard her wrong. “But… I’m twenty-eight.”
This is where the audience supports my outrage with a sharp gasp followed by a dead silence.
Doctor Beaufort smiles, her teeth blindingly white next to her dark skin, but it does not comfort me. “I’m aware of your age,” she says with humor. “But I’m pretty sure this is premature menopause. It can hit women as young as their early twenties, though it’s rare.”
I stare at her, my mouth agape but still trying to form a word or two. All that comes out, though, is “buh buh buh… buhhh.”
For all the erratic and weird symptoms for the past six, maybe eight months, I never even considered this a possibility. Ever since I dumped that life-suck Brett, I blamed everything—from cycle woes to crazy unusual mood swings and a bout or three of awful night sweats—on stress and the breakup. Though the first missed period caused a different kind of nightmare. Or as my best friend Nora put it, The Pregnancy Panic Heard ’Round the World.
Dr. Beaufort is talking, but my brain is white noise. I’m forced to shake my head a bit to tune back in.
“Twenty-eight is certainly not common either but it’s not unheard of,” she continues, oblivious to my dumbstruck noises—or maybe because of them. “And it’s not immediate. As you probably know, menopause itself is a process. It can take years to complete itself. So you may still have time to have a child if that’s in your life plan! Many women going through menopause have a ‘oops’ baby.”
“Baby?” I ask, and I sound like I’ve never heard of them. I flash back to The Scare and for a quick second, wonder if that wouldn’t have been a blessing. Jesus, no. Then I’d be attached to Brett forever. I shudder. My credit score is still in the toilet because of him. That’s more than enough of a legacy and intrusion on my life.
My resulting silence stretches out before the both of us, but not because I have nothing to say or ask. It’s mostly because I find that I cannot speak.
“Sophie?” Dr. B begins, and I think she asks me a question, but it sounds like I’m underwater.
I have sudden trouble focusing and feel my body sway. The room leans into a cartwheel and everything goes black.
When I wake, I’m happy to find I did not, in fact, fall off the “spread and swipe” table after all. However, a nurse holds my legs up toward the ceiling. Dr. Beaufort hands me a paper bag.
“I’m not hyperventilating, Dr. B,” I murmur, pushing the bag away. I sound drunk. Great. Maybe I had a stroke, too? That would be a tasty cherry on top of this shit sundae. “I choked and then I freaked out.”
I’m well aware of my dramatic tendencies. At times. Occasionally. When it suits me.
“You passed out,” she says simply, no judgment. “Do you feel light-headed?”
I do a mental check. “I’m good.” Sitting up slowly and with assistance, I notice the nurse is my oldest friend in the world, Fox Monkhouse.
“What the fuck?” I try to kick him, but it comes across like the death throes of an extremely long, uncoordinated fish. “I’m commando, Fox! Shouldn’t there be a female nurse in here?”
The attempted kick seems even more foolish now. I pull my hospital gown tight in the back and slap my thighs together to hide my cooter.
“Mr. Monkhouse was just outside when you fainted. And he has a master’s in nursing,” Dr. B adds, unaware that I’m familiar with his qualifications. Even so, that doesn’t mean I want him all up in my lady biz. “He’s a professional.”
“Yeah, but a professional what is debatable,” I say.
He breaks into a huge grin.
Jerk. “What are you even doing here? You work at Shoreline!”
Fox rubs the corner of his eye with his middle finger. “Same hospital network,” he says, faux professionalism oozing everywhere. “They needed a floater today.” He makes an incredibly immature face behind Dr. Beaufort’s back as I try desperately not to crack up at “floater.” His immaturity rubs off too often for my own good. A few instances of which flit through my mind. The facial expressions that result are likely horrifying. I’m glad I cannot see my face right now.
“Are you all right, Sophie?” she asks, looking at me with concern. “I take it you and Fox are friends.”
I fake a cough and clear my throat. “Fine. And yes, I guess you could say we’re friends.”
Fox snorts, tucking a stray sun-kissed curl behind his ear. The rest of his shoulder-length blond hair is tied back. “I’ve known Sophie since we were… I’m not sure, five?”
“Four,” I correct, just to be a bitch. He rolls his eyes, and I smile. “When my family moved in down the block, I hadn’t started preschool yet.”
“Oh, right. We bonded over the ice-cream man.”
“Ohh,” he moans, damn near orgasmically. Dr. Beaufort shoots him a look, but he’s not paying attention. “I loved those.”
“It’s basically frozen sugar and food coloring,” Dr. B throws in her two cents. “It’s—”
“Don’t crap on my childhood, Beaufort,” he snaps jokingly, but realizes his place with an “oh shit” expression. “I mean, yes, doctor. Sorry. Yes, of course. You are totally correct.”
The idiot pauses to clear his throat. I catch Dr. B minutely shake her head in what I assume is exasperation. I completely understand where she’s coming from. After an awkward beat, he picks up where he left off.
“Anyway, Sophie wouldn’t go to school unless I was in the same class. She needed me.”
“He was held back,” I add. “Started preschool at seven.”
Fox coughs, “Asshole!”
Dr. B rolls her eyes before looking at me. “I stand corrected on the professionalism. Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m good, Dr. B,” Fox says.
“I’m okay,” I say at the same time. At least, I’m okay where the fainting is concerned. The rest is still pretty sketchy.
“Good,” she says, eyeballing Fox with a sliver of a smile on her face. She pats me on the shoulder and tells me to get dressed. “We can chat more in my office before you go. Mr. Monkhouse, let the patient dress, please?”
“I will,” he says with a nod. She smiles as she walks out.
“Did you sleep with her? Or are you trying?” I ask him.
“I don’t shit where I eat,” he says.
“Oh, really?” My eyebrows jump for my hairline as my eyes drill into him my blatant disbelief.
“She’s twenty years older than me!”
I tilt my head, waiting. He’s holding out. He knows damn well he’s nailed a colleague or two well into their forties. Such as… “Rita?”
His mouth drops open, his dual-colored eyes going wide. Thanks to his scrubs, the green one shifts to blue-green or turquoise like the ocean and the hazel one looks golden. I still marvel at how strange yet beautiful they are.
“Wow, pulling out the stops,” he says. “Fine, I have cleaned up on the nurse aisle before, and a couple docs, but I’ve learned my lesson. It gets ugly.” He opens the door and stops. “Get dressed.”
I wait for him to close the door behind him before I peel off the gown and put on my clothes.
“Why’d you faint?” he asks when I get out into the hall. He’d clearly waited just outside.
I lightly punch his arm, noting a slight sunburn on his nose. Someone went surfing this morning and forgot his sunblock. “Don’t you have actual work to do, stalker?”
“Not at this very moment.” He looks around. “So what’s up? Are you okay?”
“Low blood sugar,” I lie. It feels gross, especially given his sincerity. I never lie to my best friends. “Forgot to eat this morning.”
“Forgetting to eat? That’s not like you.” Likely sensing my bullshit, he steps a little closer. “You’d tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?”
I’m warmed by his concern, but I’m not yet ready to discuss anything. Time to redirect.
“Are you calling me fat, Monkhouse?” I like giving him shit. Not to mention, I’m quite comfortable in my own skin. At five foot nine, I’m pretty lanky with the exception of a bit of a bubble butt that popped out when I was in college.
An elderly woman walks by at that very moment. She stops to spit at him and expresses her extreme outrage on my behalf. “Horrible man! You want me to crush his man business?” she asks me, holding up her cane, which has flames painted on it.
“Um,” I stammer. I pretend to think about it while Fox’s eyes grow wide.
He purses his lips as if to say, “be serious!”
I turn back to my savior. “That’s very tempting, thank you. But I’m okay.”
“You’re sure?” Harley Quinn’s grandma doesn’t buy it, and is clearly looking to dole out a beatdown. Maybe she got bad news today, too.
“Totally.” Leaning toward her, I cup a hand by my mouth to offer an aside. “I have it on excellent authority that his dangle isn’t exactly swinging in the breeze, if you know what I mean.”
She nods knowingly and threatens Fox with her badass cane one more time before walking away.
“Wow,” I say after she turns the corner. “That was like tenth grade all over again.”
In high school, I struggled to keep on weight because my metabolism was pretty high. Some incredibly rude people called me “Rexy,” so Fox would call me “Chubs” in protest. He got in loads of trouble because the perceptive teachers of Bodhi Beach High assumed I was, in fact, anorexic and Fox was bullying me. Since the actual name-callers were girls, that slipped right under their radar. Fox, however, was loud and proud about it. It was a hell of a mess, but in the end, it was just my friend sticking up for me in his own poorly thought-out, controversial way, as per usual.
“I’ve never been threatened with the official cane of the Hells Angels before,” he says, wiping the spit off his scrubs.
“Go back to work,” I say with a giggle. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“You coming to the barbecue this Saturday?” he calls after me. “It’s my birthday, you know.”
“Wouldn’t miss it, old timer. Is the bonfire going to be legal this time?” I wink. Fox’s house is on the beach. It was his grandpa’s and he inherited it, the lucky prick.
“Of course not!” He rethinks his volume. “I mean, yes. Yes, it is. Bring beer. Oh, and is your brother coming?” he asks.
“You know, I haven’t talked to Cameron in a few. Seems like he’s been a little incommunicado, according to my mom. I don’t see how he’d miss it though.”
Fox nods. “Well, I hope he can make it! Tell him to come in drag because I want to motorboat him again. I don’t know where he got those falsies, but they were super comfortable to stick my face in.”
I perform the expected eye-roll followed by an about-face toward Dr. Beaufort’s office. “See you then, perv,” I call.
“Takes one to know one!”
After a more in-depth conversation with Dr. B, I’m not very good anymore. I may only have one good year of fertility if I want to conceive a baby without assistance. Or I could have five years, maybe more, but even that’s hard to say. Menopause is not only hard to predict, but makes my cycle erratic, which heavily lends to the odds against me. I thought I wanted kids but I’m hella single at present. It’s been eight months since I dumped Brett, and after that debacle, the “do I want kids” question is, well, questionable. With my new and the-opposite-of-improved timeline, I’m forced to address an issue I should have had more than a decade to consider.
Freezing some eggs is supposedly a legit option as I’m otherwise healthy and a good candidate for it. “But I wouldn’t wait,” Dr. B had said, stressing the point that I might not have very long to decide. “Think about it. You have a little time, but don’t think too long. Before you know it, it could be too late.”
I told her I didn’t have to think. I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to plunk down on iced egg-os. Thanks to Brett’s bullshit and my stupid trusting heart, I loaned him the money to start his deejay business. I blame blind lust.
I ended up charging a bunch of stuff, which the imbecile sold for cash to blow at the bookie’s. Turned out, he didn’t want to start a business, just further a secret gambling habit. My credit took a nosedive along with our relationship. I’m still wading out of the debt he helped create and I have no money left to take out a hit. Where’s the justice?
I have my grandma’s 1967 Mustang convertible that’s worth a little money, but she’s not all original or in the greatest shape. I’d also need much deeper, unindebted pockets to pay for the work needed to make her a showstopper. I can’t imagine parting with it to pay shit off for my stupidity.
With all this on my shoulders, I sit in my not-very-cherry classic Mustang convertible in the parking garage and cry. And cry. And cry until I’m thoroughly dehydrated and have a mark from the steering wheel on my forehead. The setting sun is piercing directly through the structure when I come up for air.
It’s well past rush hour, and there shouldn’t be much in the way of gridlock left on the 405. So there’s that.
S.M. Lumetta was born in Detroit, MI, and now resides in NYC. Since she was small, she has adored storytelling in all its forms, especially books and films. Sooner and later, she figured out that since her love of words was overwhelming, she had no choice but to take the words in mind and share them. Romance is her favorite read, but horror and crime novels are a close second. She loves to travel and has a bucket list of places to visit long enough for several lifetimes. She also has a plethora of unnecessary t-shirts, a penchant for sarcasm, and a unholy love for the oxford comma.