Four minutes.

My future, cradled in the hands of the universe, will be revealed in the next 240 seconds.

The brass knob on the door—cold, old, and tarnished. I twist it slowly while gripping my purchase from the local pharmacy. A purchase that provoked an uncomfortable double take from the cashier as I handed her the money.

The simple flick of a light switch coerces a deep grunt. My shoulders slump forward and I utter, “What a mess.”

White porcelain sink, covered in blobs resembling the shape of the green ghost from the movie Ghostbusters. Mountains of soiled tissues in the garbage. My daughter’s new neon pink bikini, wet and draped across our gray and white shower curtain. Unequivocally providing my neutral bathroom with a modern pop of color. 

Stained tile around the toilet proves neither of my sons can aim. At 9 and 16 years old, one would imagine they would have mastered a skill learned as toddlers. Maybe it’s their lack of athleticism due to my husband being more of a gear head? Most likely though, it was carelessness, a trait they clearly inherited from me.

I scan for directions on the box. Why are these much smaller than I remember? I anxiously grab my reading glasses from the window ledge and slide them onto the bridge of my nose and secure them over my ears.

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Ceramic tile feels much colder under my bare feet when I’m nervous. A sharp chill races up my spine as I slide my middle finger under the corner fold of the cellophane wrapping. My hand moves across the box, and I catch the sight of crepey skin. My stomach turns.

I snatch a pair of small shears out of my mirrored medicine cabinet, stab the side of the box as if it were my victim, and pry out the test. 

My index finger swipes the clock app on my phone and I set the timer. In the next four minutes, I will know if an additional pop of color will adorn my shower curtain or if I will be cleaning up more misfires. 

I tear at the wrapping of the test itself revealing the wretched fate stick. Without a second thought, I toss the wrappers on top of the garbage mountains and grant them a peak.

Four minutes. It’s not a lot of time, yet it’s just enough time to completely change someone’s life—this time, mine. 

It’s all his fault. We got in a fight about something stupid. All of our fights are brainless. It wasn’t even the ignorance of the fight, it’s how he ended it. Standing close to my face, his breath warm against my mouth, staring deep into my eyes. The smell of his cologne was intoxicating—I’m a sucker for a musky scent. He kissed me and all logic went out the window.

I should be happy after 18 years of marriage, still ending our fights with fiery passion, but this was heedless and I should know better. 

So now, his electrifying gaze and seductive scent might be the reason I won’t be sleeping for the next three to five years. I’ll smell like baby vomit, all my clothes will be stained. My boobs will have to come out of retirement—I hope they still work. 

I hold the blue side of the stick and steady it with the tips of my fingers, underneath my bottom. Exhaling, I release, and the test catches my stream. As I gaze between my open legs, I can already see the liquid infiltrating the test window.

I squeeze my eyes shut and place it on top of the edge of the sink, next to one of the crusty green globs of toothpaste. 

Still sitting with my pants around my ankles, I thrust my face into the palms of my hands. I feel my eyes swell up and tears begin to stream down my cheeks. Beads of sweat form on my temples as I remember the stench of a dirty diaper, sanitizing bottles. Rocking, bouncing, and swaddling—I never did learn how to do that right. 

The apparatuses. Ugh! So many. The stroller, bouncer, car seat, wagon. Toys in every corner of our house. 

My tears begin to gather into tiny puddles on each of my thighs as I remember teaching each and every basic life skill. Walking, talking, potty training—which apparently, I do poorly. 

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I drop my head, run my hands through my hair. It feels coarse and desperately in need of a root touch-up. Grays show no mercy these days. I pull it back tight as I reminisce searching for the most anticipated gift on their birthday. Taking long walks for afternoon naps in the stroller. Holding their hand on the first day of school.  

Pushing them on the swings. Dressing them up in their special outfits every holiday. Entering their rooms in the morning, finding them smiling with their little arms raised out for me waiting to pick them up out of the crib. 

The corners of my mouth raise a little, and my heart skips a beat.

Lifting my head, I wipe the tears from my eyes as I remember embracing their tiny bottoms in my hand as they snuggled their squishy little bodies into my neck and shoulder while I rocked them to sleep.

I giggle.

Open-mouth baby kisses. Pressing my nose up against their bald little heads and inhaling their own unique scent mixed with that yellow baby shampoo. 

Ring, ring, ring. 

Time’s up. 

I stretch my neck up over the sink ledge and turn my head. 

Negative. 

Dana Storino

Dana Storino is an emerging neurodiverse writer. She has been published in Wrytimes and a guest blogger for ADDitude.com. Her most recent children’s story was published in Glittery Literary’s Cherished Children’s Stories available on Amazon. Dana received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She works full-time for Chicago Public Schools as a SECA (special education classroom assistant). Her middle-grade book “The Golden Bee'' is currently represented by Max Dobson of Maximus Literary. You can read some of her personal experiences with ADHD and life in general in her WordPress blog, “Oh Look, a Squirrel.” She’s a married mother of three humans, a spunky Dalmatian named Dolly, and a cool cat, Bean.