Cindy looked at the plate of food and felt her stomach clench. There was nothing wrong with the food itself, nothing was gone off and it was food that she liked to eat, French toast with bacon, but still. The smell of it was too much, too strong, the greasy, salty smell of the bacon, the thick heady scent of the egg. The way the light shone on it, the puddles of grease. Her stomach clenched again. Cindy closed her eyes and took a slow breath, she needed to eat, it was a necessary evil. She picked up her knife and fork and began to cut into it. She could do this. She could. It was food she had eaten hundreds of times before, food she always enjoyed, it was only a mouthful. That was all she had to eat, just one mouthful and she’d start feeling better. She put the food in her mouth and started to chew slowly, methodically, trying to ignore the flavours and textures. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat, her mouth flooding with saliva. She scrunched her face and swallowed, the food moved down her throat slowly, almost sliding down against its will. Finally it hit her stomach and she opened her eyes, already the nausea was starting to recede. She sighed, it had been like this every morning for the past week and if anything it seemed to be getting worse rather than better. She continued to eat, doing so slowly, despite the ravenous hunger that the first bite had woken. She had learned from previous days that eating too quickly would only lead to vomiting. Every few bites she paused to sip from her glass of water, staying hydrated was important and seemed to help keep the nausea from returning while she ate.
When she finished her meal she cleaned up the dishes and went upstairs for a bath. She had never been a fan of baths before but now they were essential. She made the water as hot as she could stand, then sat in, sighing as she did so. The hot water started working immediately and she could feel the aches and pains in her muscles and joints receding. She lay back, closed her eyes and breathed deeply. The bath would keep all those pains at bay for at least five hours. When the time came she could always have another one. Showers were less than ideal, they worked, but the pain always returned much faster. She moved her hands over her stomach, feeling the bulge, she could feel it moving beneath her hands. She smiled and gently cradled her stomach.
Cindy stood from the bath and carefully stepped out, she dried herself off then started applying lotion to her stomach. The stretch marks were bad, but she had been warned that would be the case, after all she was the size of a beach ball already and it had only been three months. Her stomach grumbled sullenly as she applied the lotion, once she was done she dressed and went back to the kitchen, there she started on her mid morning snack. When she had finished assembling her sandwich she sat down at the table and started to eat, it was less of a snack and more of a meal, the sandwich itself had three slices of bread with plenty of meat, cheese, lettuce and sauce in between them, served with a large pickle and a bag of crisps. The pregnancy was taking a lot out of her, but that too was the be expected. Reducing the length of pregnancy from nine months to four would be exceedingly hard on the body, but those were the risks she accepted. Even though the child was not hers genetically she still felt a strong connection to it, she would never get to meet the child, not really. Once she gave birth it would be whisked away, off to wherever it was going to be raised. They didn’t tell her those things when she signed up, but now she wondered. She wanted to know that her child would be safe, that they would be raised by loving parents. She had suspicions as to where the child would be raised and none of them were pleasant. She tried to ignore those thoughts and instead imagine a bright, happy future.
She had been on the streets when they came to her. Cindy had been kicked out by Steven, her abusive ex husband. He had found someone else to latch onto, someone better than her and so she had been cast aside. She wasn’t surprised really, it was expected and he had warned her about it for years. It was her own fault for not listening. She had been on the streets for three weeks, too scared to go to shelters and not knowing where to even look for help when she was approached by a woman in a suit. The woman had been friendly and kind, had bought Cindy a hot meal and even a hotel room for a week, all just for talking to her. Cindy was useless, she knew that, she had no real skills after all, but she was healthy and still young and that’s all they were looking for. She didn’t know how they found her, or why they chose her, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was what they were going to give her, more money than she’d be able to spend in a lifetime, a house to live in. Once she had herself on her feet she could get a life again, maybe even go to college or learn enough to get a job somewhere. All they required was six months of her time. Two months for testing and preparation and four to carry the child to term, with the guarantee that if they pregnancy didn’t take she would still be paid handsomely for her efforts. It was the obvious choice.
After Cindy ate her snack it was time for another doctors visit. They were taking a sample of blood today, and then there were ultrasounds and a few other tests she could never remember. The ultrasounds were done daily, the blood tests were done weekly. They never gave her pictures from the ultrasounds, or let her see the TV, but she had caught a glimpse once, saw the tiny thing that was growing inside her, she held that image in her mind and every day she got to hear the babies heart beat, a strong, steady rhythm. She felt a sudden, jabbing pain in her side and sighed, perhaps if she was keeping the child all this pain would be worth it, but sometimes she did wonder. Cindy shook her head, no she wouldn’t think of that. She was doing something wonderful, something that would help all of mankind. She was the linchpin, without her their studies couldn’t continue, her name would be remembered for hundreds of years to come. Cindy placed her hands over her stomach protectively, what ever happened to the baby, she loved them, and she knew that that love would transcend distance, wherever the child ended up they would know that their mother loved them.