Seven months and four tries later, Willow has lost all enthusiasm for insemination. At breakfast one morning, she can't help complaining.
"Maybe I'm never going to become pregnant," she bemoans Tara, who shakes her head impatiently.
"You're not going to fall pregnant with that way of thinking," the blonde advises, buttering a piece of toast.
Willow shrugs. "Seriously, Tare, what if it's not going to work? It's possible that my vagina just doesn't accept sperm. Maybe in my constitution there's some blatant rule. There is to be no semen allowed inside the premises; all semen, please stay outside the gate. Sorry for any inconvenience."
Tara washes the dishes, Willow dries. They stand side by side in silence, both deep in contemplation. When they're done, Tara puts her hand on Willow's neck, drawing her in for a kiss. "There's nothing wrong with you, baby. You'll get pregnant. We need to be patient, that's all."
Her cell phone begins to ring and, with an apologetic look, Tara leaves for work.
When Willow arrives at her firm, Jennifer, the receptionist, greets her with a warm smile. "You're looking good today, Mrs Rosenberg."
She walks into the office and hands a file to a young clerk, Cary. He's a month shy of fourteen, too young to be working at all, but his father has begged the bosses to take him for a week of school break. "He needs to learn some responsibility," the man had explained, even offering to pay the firm for the favor. He was sick of the large internet bills his son seemed to drum up with his data transfers.
Cary grins at her. "So, R-Berg, are you hoping it's a boy or a girl?" He has a habit of making nicknames out of last names, which annoys some of her colleagues but doesn't bother Willow.
Everyone in the office knows that she's expecting. Expecting pregnancy, not expecting a baby, Willow thinks resentfully.
"I don't really mind, to tell you the truth," she answers. "At this rate, I don't care what it is."
"Keep it cool, R-Berg," he says, with an appraising look. "It's on its way. And if you want a girl, don't you go saying you don't care what gender you get. My mom did that and now she has six boys. It makes her crazy."
Willow accepts this advice with a smile, and continues on to her office.
When she gets there, her boss, Lia Davey, is sitting on her desk.
Her boss is only a few years her senior. She is wearing a gray suit and dark brown lipstick. "Willow," she says, "can we talk?"
Willow raises her eyebrows. "Sure," she says, and leans into her swivel chair.
Lia lifts her Starbucks coffee to her lips, making sure not to smudge her lipstick. "I'm in a bit of a predicament. As you know, things are busy at the moment. Any time now you're going to be leaving us to have the baby."
"Sure." Willow tries not to roll her eyes. Lia is more accurate than she seems to realize. Any time? It could be years.
"So," Lia continues, "we have two options. Either we find someone to replace you. Temporarily, of course," she smiles. "In this case, you could stop working whenever you wanted to. We'd put an advertisement out for a temporary contract, say 12 months, and when you're ready to come back, you do so." She puts her coffee on Willow's desk. "Or, you work through the pregnancy. Until you're, say, seven months pregnant, then take time off until your baby is about two months old." She looks up at Willow. "At that point, Tara could take over."
Willow is surprised. "I thought we'd decided on the latter. The first isn't really an option."
Lia bites her lip. "Willow, we didn't reach an agreement on this. From the firm's perspective, the first option is the most appropriate." Her eyes don't meet Willow's. "Would you be willing to start your leave as soon as you fall pregnant?"
Willow's eyes narrow. "It doesn't seem like there's that much of a choice." She looks down at Lia's lap and sees her fidgeting with a folder.
Lia notices where she is looking and hesitantly opens the folder. "This is a template for a job advertisement."
Willow scans it, checking for the word 'temporary'. She sees that the salary being offered is almost identical to her own.
"Can I have a think about this? I need to speak to Tara before giving you my decision."
The brunette stands up, nodding. "Of course, Willow. Remember, we are on your side. This is what we do." She smiles and walks out of the office.
"Shit," Willow says aloud, and grabs her cell phone.
Tara is interviewing a 13-year-old feminist for a feature article she's writing on the changing face of California.
"So, Lisa, would you say that your views are welcomed by society?" Tara asks.
The girl brushes a piece of hair from her eyes. "I'd say so, yes," she begins. "I've received invitations to speak to debutantes and graduating classes. I'm asked to talk about how females are treated by society, especially at school. What do I tell them? That instead of females being rewarded for their brains and personality, they are rewarded for having hip clothes and the sexiest body, or for forming the cutest couple with their boyfriend. It needs to be the other way 'round."
Tara smiles at the girl. "How did you get involved in this?"
Lisa's face darkens. "I was kicked out of a school. Not because my scores were low, not because I underachieved in sports and drama. It was because I refused to wear a dress to the winter dance."
Tara raises a brow. "That must have been hard. Does your current work make you feel better about that?"
The girl stares at her feet. "Are you asking if this is about revenge?" She laughs. "Well, maybe a little. But mostly, I just feel it is what I should be doing."
Tara feels the familiar vibration of her cell phone against her hip. "Would you excuse me for a moment, Lisa?"
The girl nods, taking the opportunity to eat her lunch.
"What is it, Will?"
"Hi, baby. I've just got some crappy news."
Tara's mouth tightens. "What?"
"My work wants me to take leave sooner than we planned. Like, now. They want to get a temporary replacement for the whole time I'm on leave. Oh, and they want that time to be a year." Willow winces, anticipating her wife's response.
"Honey, did you remind them what the original plan was?"
Willow nods at the phone. "Yes, but they don't seem to like the original plan so much."
Tara sighs, her eyes drawn to her 'To Do' list in front of her. "Will, I'm kinda busy. Can I call you later?"
"Don't worry about it. We'll discuss it tonight."
"K. Don't stress too much. I love you."
"I love you, too."
Tara puts her phone in her bag and returns to Lisa.
"Sorry," she says, and continues the interview.
Willow finishes work early and decides to walk home and surprise Tara.
She's cold, and wraps her coat over her shoulders as she walks down the main street. She stops at a gas station and buys an oversized block of chocolate, which she unwraps and begins to eat on her way home.
Tara is sitting at the table, her eyes lost in a document on their computer.
"Hey," Willow calls as she enters.
Tara looks up. "Hey sweetie. I've been researching this work thing for you."
"Oh?" Willow yawns. She peers at the document and sees that it is a copy of the contract she signed when she was given her job. "What about it?"
"Well, they don't really have the right to dictate what sort of leave period you take. That's entirely your choice."
Willow nods. "Yeah. Thanks for looking, sweetie, but I am trained in law. I know my rights."
Tara stands, stung. "I just wanted to help."
Willow pushes her gently back into her chair. "Hey," she leans forward and kisses the soft lips, savoring the taste of her wife. "I appreciate it, I do. But I'm not sure I want to fight them on this."
The blond blinks. "Did you just eat chocolate?"
Willow nods guiltily.
"But you hate chocolate. Do you have your period?"
"Nope. Hey, Maclay, is it wrong for a woman to satisfy her progesteronal cravings?"
Tara shakes her head, still confused. "So what are you saying, you want to quit work and be a lady of leisure for the next year?"
Willow gives her a winning smile. "Maybe."
A week passes and Willow still hasn't given Lia a response. She knows what she wants, but is worried that it isn't what Tara wants.
They lie together on their hammock, the May sunshine lighting their faces.
Tara reads the newspaper and Willow watches Tara read. She examines her closely, admiring her full lips and perfectly sculpted nose.
"You're beautiful," she says aloud.
Tara smiles, distracted, but continues to read.
"I love your nose."
"Thanks." Tara turns a page of the newspaper, trying not to laugh.
"Your ears are so cute."
"Are they?" Tara leans forward, as though fascinated with the article.
"So is the rest of you." Willow runs a careless hand over her wife's body, making her breathe in sharply.
Tara puts down the newspaper. "Will," she says quietly, "what do you want to do?"
Willow wants to joke but knows her wife is serious. "Well," she says, "it depends. How would you feel about me taking all that time off?"
Tara looks earnestly at her. "If it's want you want, do it. We can afford it. Do you want that?"
Willow nods, hesitant. "I do."
"Stop the sham marriages," a brunette cried.
"Save our families," an elderly man beside her added. He held up a sign with a logo and the words 'Campaign for California Families'.
We didn't hear any of it.
When a friend of ours, Diana, shouted out that she and her partner Sue had been together for 20 years, and applause swept through the crowd, I could only see my Willow. All I could hear was her question.
We had gone out for Japanese food in a downtown restaurant. It was not a special celebration; we had been dating for four and a half years and had a traditional 'date night' once a week. As we lifted salty fish to our mouths and sipped Sake in the quiet restaurant, we were startled when a group of men rushed into the restaurant.
One of them could barely restrain himself. "David," he called out to a man twirling chopsticks in a wide bowl.
David, clearly startled, pushed back his chair and approached the men.
The man that had called to him began to speak, and his voice trembled. "On Friday, San Francisco will let gay couples marry at City Hall."
David just stared at him.
His boyfriend whispered into his ear and I saw something change on David's face.
I watched as the two men wrapped themselves together, fingers locking their hands and tears moistening their cheeks.
I felt Willow's hand on my arm and I jumped. My own eyes were wet and I could feel my heart beating fast.
"Baby," she whispered, and I stopped looking at the men and instead put my eyes on the person I would have sacrificed everything for.
Her eyes didn't leave mine, not as she began to speak, not as her hand delved into her pocket and emerged with a ring, an old wooden ring, one that we had bought for a dollar at a flea market and that Willow carried around for good luck.
There's a cliché of the moment when your world stops, so for this moment I will have to choose other words. The world fell away. It was as though it were a canvas and a troubled painter had thrown white paint directly at it, until the people and colors and objects were reduced to fragments, spots and stripes.
Willow took my hand and sheltered it with her own. "Tara," she said, and I saw her dark eyes fill. "Would you be my wife?"
They were the only words she said. We didn't need a billboard announcement, a fancy diamond or even eloquence. All we had, and all we needed, was Willow, me, five monosyllabic words and a cheap ring that we had almost decided not to buy.