Friends in Need

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Later, Amanda thought of it all, or the good parts at least, as starting at her wedding. The day she married Chris was one of the happiest of her life.

She and Chris had been seeing each other for some time, stealing moments here and there, finding time between her nursing school and his IT job. Both homebodies, they preferred time at home together, in each other’s arms, and beds, to time spent in the company of others. There were few exceptions to this rule, back then, but one of them was Chris’s friend Luke. Luke and Chris were strange friends to begin with; Chris was practical, tech-savvy, and goal-oriented, while Luke was much more involved with his music, writing, and women, but a combination of having been childhood friends and a mutual love of video games, cars, and “guy things” allowed them to keep a strong bond, even as their personalities moved apart.

On the day of her wedding, Amanda was dressing, with the ceremony just hours away, when her bridesmaids ran off to answer a knock at the door. When Jasmine returned, saying that Luke, Chris’s best man, was at the door and, with a giggle, was “looking good!” Amanda went to see him, despite being barely dressed. Over the years, she had done her best to grow close to him, as he was Chris’s best friend, and she embraced him like the dear friend he was, but noticed, not for the first time, how wonderful he smelled when she pulled in close.

She pulled back to examine him. “You look great!” she said, grinning. Luke’s broad shoulders and sandy blonde hair appeared well suited to the tuxedo, even if it was a dramatic change from his usual jeans and t-shirt attire. He smiled, his green eyes sparkling.

“You look radiant.” Luke answered. “You do. Chris is a lucky guy.” He leaned in and kissed her, sweetly, on the cheek, holding her hands. As he leaned in, Amanda turned her head slightly, to present the cheek that was not yet made up and the combination of their movements put Luke’s lips on hers. While Amanda couldn’t know Luke’s reaction, she knew hers: it was electric. Luke’s lips simply brushing against hers, so casually, sent a charge racing through her body. It might have been the stress and excitement of the wedding, or the glass of wine she’d had to steady her nerves, but Luke’s kiss was a jolt, like lightning from a clear sky. She gasped, and blinked, while Luke smiled and laughed.

“Sorry, there.” he said, “I was aiming for your cheek!”

They laughed, both of them, and Amanda thanked him, but his kiss lingered on her lips. It was forgotten, in her whirlwind day, in Chris’s eyes, in the butterflies in her stomach at the ceremony, and in the shower of rice as they left the church, but it was remembered at the reception, as Luke entertained nieces Amanda had forgotten the names of, cut a rug with grandmothers, and made her bridesmaids swoon. This wasn’t envy, or jealousy, but appreciation; she had her Chris, which was everything she’d wanted.

She shared a dance with Luke, which was tricky in and of itself, as his dance card was pretty full.

“Great party” he said, “You and Chris could not stop smiling up there, today.”

“No” Amanda laughed, “I guess I couldn’t. I’m a lucky woman.” She smiled at the memory of Chris’s smiling face, eyes wet with contained (and surely manly) tears as he said his vows, even as she felt Luke’s strong hands on her hips.

“Well, he’s an awfully lucky guy, too.” Luke said, smiling. “You’re one hell of a catch. And that dress shows you off wonderfully., he said, giving her a playful squeeze along the hip for emphasis.

That night was spent in Chris’s arms, and with him inside her, but even days later, the memory of Luke’s compliment and his firm hands, squeezing at her hips, would play over in Amanda’s mind, bringing a smile to her lips. She and Chris celebrated with a trip to California, although they mostly saw the inside of their hotel room, reveling in each other’s bodies, enjoying their wedded bliss.

The first three years of their marriage were perfect. Luke continued to enjoy time with Chris, and Amanda enjoyed having him around; the three of them were often all found together. It was only after making the decision to have a baby that things began to change.

They had been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive the “usual” way for nearly a year, and it was Amanda’s mother, with her burning desire to be a grandmother, which pushed the two into a consultation with a doctor. The first session went well; Dr. Lynne was a pleasant, smiling young blonde woman, who discussed things frankly. She ordered tests for both Amanda and Chris, although she called them a formality. The only problem the doctor saw here, she joked in that first session, was that “the baby wasn’t arriving on Grandmother’s schedule, but then, they rarely do, do they?”

Four weeks later, Amanda had practically put the tests out of her mind, when she heard Dr. Lynne’s voice on the answering machine, sounding far too somber and strained. Could şişli escort Chris call her office, it asked; it was important to call immediately, she stressed. Amanda was puzzled as to what on earth could be so urgent, that Chris would have to call right away, about a fertility test? She told Chris and made him promise to call as soon as the office was open in the morning.

They made love that night with hopes that it ‘worked’, that a baby would be on the way and that whatever Dr. Lynne had to say, it would obviously have been a mistake.

In stark contrast to Dr. Lynne’s office, which four weeks ago had seemed so warm and welcoming with its’ posters of smiling children and cartoon characters, Dr. Carter’s office had a cold, clinical feel; it was cool enough to be uncomfortable and for Amanda to draw her sweater tighter around her for warmth.

“Well, the good news, such as it is, is that we caught this thing early. That’s important. We have a chance to act, and, if we’re fortunate… Well, survival rates, with early detection and aggressive treatment, are quite good.” Dr. Carter reassured them.

Amanda fought to suppress a gasp. The few days before coming to Dr. Carter’s had been a blur. Something was off in Chris’s counts, they’d said, and they wanted a follow-up test right away. A cloud of worry had prevented her from eating and kept her awake at night, just watching her husband sleep. And now, here they were, in the Oncologist’s office, having a conversation about survival rates and aggressive treatments. They had been planning to have a baby….

“A-alright…” Chris coughed, “So, uh… aggressive… uhm, Dr. Carter, my wife and I, we were just… starting a family….”

Dr. Carter nodded. His face was grim, but his eyes were sympathetic. “Well,” he said, hesitantly, “while we have to act aggressively, there’s no reason we couldn’t take a sample of your sperm, for future use through in vitro fertilization. Now, we’d have to gender-select, or at least, I’d strongly suggest it; there’s a strong genetic susceptibility with the disease.”

Chris nodded, while Amanda looked confused. “Gender select … for girls? But the boys…”

“Well,” the doctor cleared his throat, “I’d … have to recommend, in the case of a male fetus… not carrying it to term.”

Amanda’s blood ran cold. The idea of in vitro fertilization in the first place made her uncomfortable, not to mention the cost, and combining that with the grizzly prospect of “gender-selecting”…

“No.” she said. Chris looked startled.

“What? Baby, I…” he began.

“No. I… I still have you. Chris, we can’t, we just can’t do… that. I can’t. The cost, Chris. And we’d have to do it over and over…”

Chris looked to the doctor, who reluctantly nodded. “It… can take several attempts. And when you’re gender-selecting, then even half of the successes…” he said, trailing off.

Amanda shook her head again. “No. I still have you. We still have each other.” she said, smiling. Chris smiled back, but his eyes told Amanda he was worried.

“But you’ve always wanted to be a Mom…” he said. “We’ve spent years and… and you always wanted…” he said, trailing off as she shook her head.

Amanda turned back to the doctor. “How… aggressive is this treatment?” she asked. “What sort of… timeline is involved?”

The doctor, in that meeting, laid out the next nine to twelve months of her and Chris’s lives. There was his initial surgery, he would have both testicles removed, recovery time, including beginning replacement hormone therapy, a round of chemotherapy, and still more recovery time.

The next year was an emotional roller-coaster for Amanda and Chris. Despite the hormone therapy, the chemo drained Chris of all his energy; he remained loving and affectionate, but, physically, Amanda was denied her husband. They would still lie together and they would stroke each other, staying close, but even when he was feeling stronger as the chemo ended, Chris’s hormone therapy presented other challenges, sometimes preventing him from fully engorging, and satisfying Amanda as he used to. It was alright, she would tell him; he was still quite talented in pleasing her in other ways. Their relationship had changed, but it had also matured and deepened, and the love they had for each other hadn’t diminished at all.

Through it all, there was Luke. When Amanda couldn’t get time off work for an appointment, Luke could. When Chris needed stress relief, Luke always had time for a video game or a movie. He dropped off groceries, helped with the home maintenance Chris now lacked the strength for, and was a confidant as well, more than once offering her (and Chris, she presumed) a strong and sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Their fifth wedding anniversary was also five months after Chris being declared cancer-free. They celebrated like the home-bodies they were: a bottle of red wine, a fine meal that Chris had cleverly arranged mecdiyeköy escort for delivery, a movie on the television, and cuddled beneath blankets, holding each other. It was there, with Amanda lying across his lap, her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, that Chris first brought up his idea.

“Baby,” he murmured, “you’ve been so wonderful to me.”

She giggled, and kissed his chest, smooth and hairless since the chemo. “No more than you’ve been to me. That cheesecake!” she joked.

Chris laughed. “No, really. You’ve been… amazing. You’ve been more than I could hope for.” She sighed and pulled herself closer to her husband, waiting; she knew Chris, and there was more he wanted to say, so she gave him time to find the words.

“Do… do you still want a family? Children, I mean?” he asked, his voice raw.

She mumbled, and kissed his chest again. “We can’t, baby; we can’t get pregnant.” she said.

“We can’t.” he agreed. And then, after a pause, continued, “…but you could.”

She brought her head up, in confusion, to look at him. She didn’t know what he could mean; had he had his sperm frozen, without her?

“What?” she asked. “What are you talking about?” She adjusted in spot, bringing herself up to look her husband in the eyes.

“Well…” he said, hesitantly, “Your body… your body is still perfect. You can still have kids. The… old-fashioned way.” he said, looking her in the eye.

She continued to look at him confused, as he continued, “All you’d need is … someone to … help.”

Her mind took an extra moment to register his words and her head began shaking. “What are you suggesting? That we leave each other, so that I can start a family? Chris, that’s crazy; the only family I’ve ever wanted is with you…”

“Same here, love.” Chris said, calmly. “I’m not talking about leaving each other. I’m talking about finding someone… to help.”

Amanda blinked, staring at him. Was he saying what she thought he was saying? “Am… am I hearing you right? ….another… man? To give me… to get me…” she said, struggling to find the words.

“To help us.” Chris said, stressing the ‘us’. “To help us have the baby we’ve always wanted; a baby who’s healthy and who we, you and I, raise together.”

“You mean…” Amanda said, still struggling with the idea, “Like, a sperm donor? Chris… that… that whole process… it’s so expensive, and…”

“No.” he said, “We don’t need to. Your body works wonderfully.” he said again, letting her take in his words.

She realized he could only mean what she’d been trying to avoid saying the entire time. “You… you want me to… sleep with… another man?” she asked.

“No!” Chris said, “No, no. I… I want to have a child with you. I want you to be a Mom. Heck, I want to be a Dad, now more than ever. I’m healthy again, in most ways, and I want to get on with my life, but there are… parts of that, parts of moving on that… my body isn’t able to do. Won’t be able to do. I… I think I’ve found a way around that.”

Amanda snorted. “So, we just… what? Go shopping online for baby daddies? Show me around like some…”

Chris interrupted with a finger on her lips, shaking his head. “No. No.” he said, kissing her cheek, “No, not at all. I don’t want to show you around and I don’t want to shop around. I know who I would want the… helper to be. And I think you know, too.”

Amanda looked at him, confused, and then she felt her eyes widen as she gasped; Luke. Who else? She wondered if her husband had discussed this crazy idea with him already, she wondered what on Earth Chris was thinking, and she wondered why she didn’t find the idea more objectionable.

To her surprise, the question that found its’ way out of her mouth first wasn’t “What are you thinking” but instead “Do you think he would?”

Chris hesitated, just a little, “Well, I don’t know for sure, obviously. This hasn’t really… come up. I didn’t mention it to him; I needed to talk to you, first, but you and he are close and he and I, well, Luke is my brother, if you ignore some technicalities.”

Amanda laughed at the oft-told joke, shared between the three of them. Her mind was racing, as possibilities she had shut herself off to opened again in her mind; a baby! Boy or girl? What would they name it? Would Chris coach little-league, as he’d always wanted to? How would they afford University? What would Chris’s mother say? And in the back of her mind, that electric kiss, that moment, five years ago, when Luke’s lips pressed against hers and when his hands squeezed, strong and confident, on her hips. She thought of that moment and felt herself stir, below the waist.

“How would it… work?” she asked.

“Well…” Chris said, sitting up. “I thought, you know, we’d… uhm… well, I don’t know. I guess we’d have Luke over and talk to him, I suppose, to find out what he thinks?” He smiled at Amanda. “That’s… not a no.”

She laughed, “No, no. It’s… it’s pretty far from a no. It might not be all the way to yes, just yet… but it’s not a no, either.” she said, smiling.

They kissed and there was a passion there, rekindled; a fire between two lovers. They held each other, stroking each other’s bodies, that night. Chris’s skilled hands worked at Amanda again and again, exhausting her until she passed out and dreamt of babies, little-league, horseback lessons… and of Luke and Chris, pressed against her, their lips on her skin….

For several days no more was said about the idea. They ate, worked, and slept as always and Luke dropped by, as usual. He must have wondered if Amanda had gone half crazy, though! She could remember looking at him as if seeing him for the first time and noticing how handsome he was, how he smiled, how he lived with such passion; she noticed his strong jaw, his excellent teeth, his good posture, and solid bone structure. She wondered how he didn’t notice her staring and, when he caught her eyeing him, and only smiled in response, she wondered if he and Chris had talked.

“So, how would it work?” she asked Chris that night, over dishes. “I mean, we’d… just raise, uh…”

“The baby?” Chris said. “Well, yeah. I mean, Luke wouldn’t be around any less. The baby would know ‘Uncle Luke’, for sure. Probably his favorite Uncle.”

Amanda chuckled at the thought. “True, but, would we… tell the child? Tell your mother? Tell my mother?”

Chris nodded, considering. “Tell the child? Definitely. Right up front. I’m Dad, but I was sick, so Uncle Luke helped your Mom and I make you. Tell our parents? Well… I might leave out details, but I don’t think we can be dishonest, or that we should be.”

Amanda nodded. Then, more hesitantly, she asked, “And what about… the, uh, rest, of it….?” as she felt blood rush to her cheeks… and a little bit head southward, too.

Chris chuckled and kissed her blushing cheek. “Well, that depends a lot on you, I’d think, and Luke. Probably not an intimate candlelit dinner…” he chuckled.

“Would you… er, want to…” she started, embarrassed. Chris looked at her in confusion. “Well!” she said, “You said he’d be… helping. So, I didn’t know if maybe…”

Chris blinked. Now it was his turn to be surprised. “…the three of us?” he asked. Amanda nodded, knowing her face was turning bright red, as she furiously scrubbed the pot. “Well,” Chris said, smiling, “I suppose… I probably should be there, right?”

Amanda’s eyes grew wide. They were actually talking about this; actually talking about a threesome, involving her, her husband, and another man. They were not only talking about it, she realized, they were planning it.

“Well,” she said, a little flustered, “We’ll have to talk to Luke.”

That night, Chris got the best thank you she could arrange, and he, graciously, thanked her right back. Now, when she had the dreams of Chris and Luke, pressed in against her, their lips on her skin, their hands on her body, she welcomed them and mentally took notes.

Luke’s reaction hadn’t been quite what she expected; Chris and she, holding hands, had explained that Chris was infertile since the operation, which Luke already knew; but, they added, they still wanted to start a family. “We opted against saving sperm because of the genetic component to the cancer, meaning… meaning, well, we need to seek out a donor. In vitro is so expensive, and…”

Luke interrupted, “Hey, anything Uncle Luke can do. Right? Is it money? I don’t have much, but I can…”

Amanda laughed, as Chris shook his head. “No, man. We… we’re looking for the right guy, is all; the right guy to help Amanda get pregnant.”

Luke nodded, as if seriously considering, and Amanda waited nervously for his reaction. “Well” he finally said, “I don’t know any doctors, but I can help you look…”

“Damn it, man!” Chris said with a laugh, as Amanda fought to resist giggling, in nervousness and amusement. “We want you. We want you to help Amanda get pregnant. The natural way!”

A pause hung in the room then. Luke’s look of confusion was burned into Amanda’s memories; she could replay, in her mind, Luke’s face transitioning from confused, to surprise, to understanding, to excitement. He looked at her and a smile spread quickly across his face, so quickly, neither she nor Chris could hold back their laughter any longer.

“For real?” he asked, and they only laughed louder for it. “No, but, seriously, guys: for real? That, uh… for real, me?”

Together they assured him they were serious. His questions were a repeat of Amanda’s: who would raise the child, what would the kid be told, and what would the grandparents be told? He kept glancing at Amanda through the conversation, as if afraid to hold her gaze; with Luke’s calm demeanor, Amanda wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him quite so agitated, but in a good way!

With Luke’s questions exhausted, Chris and Amanda sat in anticipation, nervous, excited, and uncertain. Amanda looked over to her husband and saw no hesitation, which reassured her they had made a solid choice.

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