– Two Years Later –
She lounged on the patio, one leg stretched over to rest on top of the table and the other leg tucked underneath. She held a book in her hands, with it gently resting on the small bump forming at her belly button. He was fascinated by how quickly that bump would change in the coming months. It had already been half the time and she was only just beginning to show. The life within her would grow so much more before she came to term. Or, perhaps it wasn’t any faster in these final months, it just seemed that way because the child had started so incomprehensibly small? A smile tugged at his lips while he studied her and she, perhaps sensing his gaze, peered over the top of the book. Her eyes met his and they burned with intensity. Mischief. Love. Hope. There were many facets to Veronica and Charles loved them all.
She wasn’t really Veronica anymore though, just as he wasn’t Charles. The people they had been before were long gone in more than just name. Veronica was now Ana. Charles was now Henry. They were friends with their neighbors. They both had jobs. They were a part of this new community they had been moved to. Their lives had become even more tangled. Their new identifications had stood up to the scrutiny of getting married, a civil ceremony six months before, and with each passing day Charles and Veronica were further and further lost and Henry and Ana were more and more solid.
When he’d asked her if she would marry him, Ana had said, “As Veronica I would have said no. She distrusted such things. She was known. As Ana, however, in this new beginning we have together, I will say yes. My distrust in the world has not changed but I do trust you and that’s reason enough.”
Henry had been surprised and happy that she’d agreed and had booked them an appointment at the court house two weeks later. They hadn’t discussed doing it any other way. While they had their new friends, having only that small group at a wedding just would have led to questions of where their families were and where the rest of their friends were. Those were easy questions to deflect away from in normal conversations but at a wedding they would need answers. Besides, while they were friendly with their neighbors and coworkers they weren’t so close that they’d want to share their special moment with them. There was something poetic about two former loners not sharing their wedding as well. It suited them.
The pregnancy had been decided on, though. No accident there. Once they were married their conversations had turned towards children quickly. At first they had agreed that it would be a mistake to bring a child into their messed up lives. It wouldn’t have a name that wasn’t real. It’s parents were living a lie. It would be at a disadvantage to every other child. That view softened though as their conversations continued. Henry and Ana had seen some of the worst society could throw at them and had come through it and their child would benefit from their experience. And it would be loved. Perhaps that was the only thing that really mattered. So, they had changed from their initial positions and decided to get pregnant.
Now halfway through term, they were slowly changing things around in their home to prepare it for one more life. It would be a challenge but they knew they had years to figure it all out. When they child was small it wouldn’t care that its parents were living under false names. Since their marriage hadn’t raised any flags they had little concern that having a child would be a problem either. Their neighbors and coworkers were all excited for them. Everything seemed like it was falling into place and would be okay.
It had been so long since they had heard from the system that they had half-forgotten about it. It would have been impossible to completely push it from their minds of course. Their two years of bliss together could not overwrite the years they had lived before or the harrowing weeks of their journey to freedom.
Henry and Ana had initially made a habit of taking turns going to sit in the car for a few minutes at a time once a day. That became once a week and then only as they thought of it and then not at all. They still used the car to get around town, run errands, go to the movie theatre, and so on. They no longer sat in it while at home to see if the system had any news for them. Henry hadn’t asked Ana but he no longer cared to get his old life back. He wouldn’t turn down the chance to drop the charade and become Charles again but he wouldn’t pick up stakes and move back to his old home and he was sure she felt much the same. Thinking of the future, once the baby came Henry doubted he would even care about getting his old name back. Once he held his son or daughter in his arms, Charles would cease to exist entirely. There would only be Henry, Ana and the baby.