Alex’s pregnancy had been an accident. As with the few other missteps she’d ever made, her first reaction was to hide it, in this case by having an abortion. She couldn’t imagine that Drew would welcome the news any more than she did. He was in the fourth year of his residency and working around the clock; she was putting in just as many hours in hopes of being promoted to principal. They often went for days without seeing each other, and hurried phone calls and scribbled notes were the closest they came to conversation. On the rare occasions when they were home together, they were too exhausted to do more than open a bottle of wine, order takeout, swap condensed versions of complicated work lives they didn’t have the energy to explain to each other, and fall asleep. They rarely had sex, which was why Alex had gotten careless with her birth control pills, which was why she immediately knew when the baby had been conceived. It was Valentine’s Day, two months earlier.
Drew had told her he’d be at the hospital that night, that they’d celebrate over the weekend. She’d thought she was okay with the idea. But when the day came and her alarm clock went off at five, and the only traces of Drew in the cold dark of their West Village walkup were an empty cereal bowl and a banana peel, all she’d wanted to do was go back to bed. Shivering in the blue-and-green plaid of his bathrobe, she’d looked at the counter, its black granite bare except for the coffee pot. The knife block and the cutting board, the pots and pans and the spice rack, all were still hidden in the moving boxes that, after three months, they’d yet to open. Drew’s guitar case lay on top, a silent reminder of the music he never played anymore.
Once she got to work, Alex didn’t have time to think about Drew. It was 1989, and financial crises were the norm. The ’86 collapse of the mortgage markets, the ’87 stock market crash, the unfolding junk bond scandal, all had played out against the debilitating backdrop of the savings-and-loan crisis. More than one successful trader had blown up along the way, and Alex lived in fear that she would be next. But just as great a danger as blowing up was the danger of being laid off. The issuance of mortgage debt had slowed to a trickle, and the ranks of its traders had thinned accordingly. She knew the only way to survive was to keep making money, and the only way to do that in a shrinking market was to take risk. So even while all her inner alarms flashed red, Alex forced herself out on limbs that she hoped could hold her weight.
That week she was testing the strength of one of those limbs, trying to put together a deal for a recent issue of CMOs. Pricing them had been tricky, and selling them was even trickier. As she worked the phones and gazed at computer screens and spreadsheets, she had noticed an occasional blur of red, a vase of roses in transit to one of the administrative assistants’ desks (Alex was the only female trader), but with just a blink, she had made them disappear. It was only at the end of the day, after the markets closed and her male colleagues began to slip away at uncharacteristically civilized hours, that Alex remembered the empty apartment that awaited her.
“The doc cooking you a candlelight dinner tonight?” asked Sammy Schwartz, her trading floor neighbor, as he pulled on the wool jacket whose size, as big as it was, hadn’t kept up with the spread of his waistline.
“He’s on call. We’ll celebrate this weekend.” Blinking through the end-of-the-day haze of second-hand smoke, Alex smiled. She liked Sammy. In fact, despite his double chin and pouchy eyes, she found him attractive. He had a gentlemanly streak, chivalrous but not patronizing, that allowed her to feel feminine without bringing her competence into question. He also had an incredibly sexy voice.
Sammy reached into his pocket, then held out his huge hand. Resting in his palm was a small white box with a red bow. “Well, here. Sweets for the sweet.” The gentle sarcasm in his grainy baritone and the picture of his wife and two kids that never left his desk made it possible for Alex to accept the gift without embarrassment.
“Sammy, you shouldn’t have,” she demurred, taking immediate note of the Richart label that attested to the refinement so at odds with his appearance.
“Hey, it was a good day.”
Alex nodded. It had been a good day. That afternoon Sammy had succeeded where every other trader on the floor, including Alex, had failed. He had sold ninety million dollars’ worth of bonds in a property development company that Grady Cole was desperate to get off the books. This coup had triggered a raucous standing ovation on the floor and a personal visit from the head of trading operations.
“Hope your night is just as good.” Alex winked and squeezed his wrist. “And thanks, Sammy.” They waved their good-byes.
After Sammy’s departure, Alex opened the box and admired the stripes, swirls, and dots of the four meticulously crafted candies. Surveying the fast food bags and pizza boxes left behind by her omnivorous associates, she bit carefully into each of the chocolates, smiled at the subtle surprise of pistachio and grapefruit and cloves. And when she got ready to leave, she put the empty box and the red bow carefully in her briefcase.
By the time Alex walked out into the freezing cold of the evening, she had a plan. She had the black car drop her off at the Dean and DeLuca on Prince, where she encountered a desultory smattering of miserable-looking men, some staring at glass cases filled with candy, others fingering elegantly beribboned ballotins. She went straight to the wine section, where she bought a three hundred dollar bottle of Roederer Cristal along with a half-pound of smoked salmon. At a nearby minimart she picked up a bag of Fritos, then walked the remaining five blocks to the apartment, countering the icy wind with thoughts of the hot bubble bath she would sink into as soon as she’d put the champagne on ice and Tina Turner on the CD player. Once out of the tub, she planned to wash down Fritos and salmon with Cristal until she was pleasantly sloshed, then crawl into bed with the down comforter and the new novel Ellen had given her for Christmas. Her briefcase would remain unopened.
When she got to the gate of the townhouse’s tiny front yard, she was surprised to see lights on in the living room. She was sure they’d been off when she left early that morning. Then, as she fumbled with her keys at the front door, it opened. There stood Drew, shaved, showered, holding a glass of wine. “Surprise!” he said, his face bright, his green eyes agleam. He had on his favorite jeans, an old flannel shirt, and the belt buckle he’d won for calf-roping at the Oklahoma State Fair when he was sixteen (it was Drew who had introduced Alex to the bolo ties that became the hallmark of her business wardrobe). He looked more awake than he had in months.
Alex stared at him as if he were a stranger. “What are you doing here?”
“Let’s swap,” Drew said, holding the glass of wine toward Alex and reaching for her briefcase and bags. He guided her into the living room. The gas logs in the fireplace were lit, along with the big candles they’d bought before Christmas and never taken out of the box. Their one domestic splurge, a deep-hued oriental rug, was pulled in front of the fire, and the sofa was drawn close. Roseanne Cash’s voice drifted out of the speakers.
“Why aren’t you at the hospital?” Alex said, putting the wine down to take off her scarf and coat, busying herself with buttons while she tried to rein in an annoyance that felt very close to anger.
Drew stepped forward to help her out of her coat. “Preston wants off next weekend. He asked me last week if we could switch.”
As the coat slid off, Alex stepped away. “But why didn’t you tell me? What if I’d worked late?” Now she knew she was mad, and she was struggling to figure out why. Maybe it had something to do with the surprise party she’d planned for his thirtieth birthday, when everybody showed up except Drew, who was running late in the O.R. And then there was their last anniversary, when she spent hours cooking an elaborate dinner that she finally gave to the neighbors when one of Drew’s patients ended up in the ICU.
“Well, you’re here, aren’t you?”
The tiny hint of condescension in his voice, the suggestion of forced patience, might have been appropriate for a child resisting treatment for a broken arm but not for a wife who’d learned the hard way she couldn’t count on her husband’s presence but was finding her own taken for granted. “So just because it was convenient for you, you were sure I’d show up? You didn’t think I might have a deadline or an emergency or anything important to do?” Her voice crescendoed over the subtle entreaties of Roseanne Cash. “You didn’t think I might just have plans of my own?”
Drew put down her coat. “Ali,” he said as he stepped toward her. He was raising his arms, reaching for her shoulders, when his pager went off. In an instant, his eyes and hand were on it. But before he took it off his belt, he looked up at Alex.
In silence, she looked back. Her heart was kicking a hole in her chest.
As if it took effort, Drew pulled the pager off his belt. Still holding Alex’s gaze, he turned it off. He put it underneath the pile of medical journals that occupied a nearby chair. Then he took Alex’s hand and led her to the table in their small dining room that he’d set with the china and crystal that he must have just unpacked that afternoon. The smell of chili came from the kitchen. “Let’s eat,” he said. He pulled out her chair and held it for her as, slowly and warily, she sat down.
Six weeks later, when it was mid-March and Alex’s period was two weeks late and she couldn’t stand the smell, much less the taste, of the coffee that she usually mainlined in the morning, she bought a home pregnancy test. The result was positive. She tried a different brand, and then another. They all said the same thing.
As she sat in the bathroom studying the bold blue line of the third and final test stick, the queasiness she’d been feeling grew into nausea, and she threw up. She slid to the floor, closed the lid of the toilet, and laid her head on her folded arms. The following week she went to the doctor to discuss an abortion.
She couldn’t bring herself to tell Drew. Since Valentine’s Day, they’d retreated back into their separate lives with only an occasional moment that recalled the intimacy of that February evening. And when she tried to anticipate his reaction to its outcome, shock and guilt and regret were all that she could imagine.
Toward the end of March, a late winter storm hit the city, and Alex and Drew awoke on a Sunday morning when neither had to work to the blaze of sunlight on fresh snow. Drew opened the window, rubbed a handful of icy powder on his face. “Let’s go to the park,” he said. Even after four years in New York, he couldn’t get enough of the snow he’d rarely seen as a child.
All Alex wanted to do was stay in bed. But she was trying to act normal, so she got herself up, layered on the warmest clothes she could find, poured the cup of coffee Drew brought her down the bathroom sink, and joined him outside. There was no question as to how they’d get to the park. Alex and Drew were both exercise fanatics, and if she suggested anything other than walking, she would give herself away. Summoning all her will power and swallowing the saliva of morning sickness, she set off alongside her blissfully oblivious husband, who’d been transformed by a few inches of precipitation from a depressed, sleep-deprived automaton into an exuberant child.
They cut over to Fifth, where they found only a handful of the hundreds of people who usually filled the sidewalk, and headed north. The dazzle of the sun and the crispness of the air gave Alex a burst of energy, and for a while, she buried her gloom beneath the snow that had erased the city’s late winter drear. But as they neared the library, she started to fade.
“How about brunch at the Boathouse?” Drew said. Like the high-spirited outdoorsman he used to be, he threw a snowball at one of the stone lions that overlooked the avenue.
“Gre—” Alex began. Then she sank onto the library steps. They were still seventeen blocks from the park, and the Boathouse was a mile farther.
Drew reached for another handful of snow. “What’s wrong?”
Alex squinted at the worn knees of his jeans. “I’m pregnant.”
He stopped moving. “What?”
Alex looked up. Stretched wide, his eyes locked on hers. Slowly, she nodded. There was a second of stillness. And then he let out a whoop, tossed the snow in the air, and knelt on the steps in front of her. He reached for her arms. “Ali,” he said, and he repeated her name over and over again. At first, she thought he was shaking her, and then she realized he was shivering, and then she felt a ripple that moved from him to her and it carried a current that for the first time let her think not that she was pregnant but that she was going to have a baby. She put her face in the icy cold of her mittens and started to cry.
“I am so happy,” Drew said as he pushed back her stocking cap and pressed his face against her hair. “I am so goddam happy.”
“Me, too,” Alex whispered, to herself and to Drew and to whoever this new being might be.
Alex had thought the decision whether or not to keep the baby was the tough one. But as soon as it was resolved, she found herself struggling with another that was just as unexpected and just as difficult: whether or not to keep working. She was shocked that it was even an issue. Despite the grim state of affairs on Wall Street, it looked like her chances of being promoted to principal were excellent. In her six years at Grady Cole, she’d become not only the first female bond trader, but also one of the most successful, and had quickly earned promotions to associate and vice-president. “As much as these guys hate women, they’re not dumb,” her mentor, Max Snyder, had told her before he got fired in ‘87. “They know they’ve got to get some skirts in the business. And with you, they get the skirt and one hell of a trader. Keep at it, Al, and the sky’s the limit.” Max’s words had struck a chord, and Alex began consciously to think not just in terms of the next bonus or the next promotion but in terms of a higher goal, an ultimate prize. She knew there were no guarantees, and the obstacles facing any woman trying to make her way to the top on Wall Street were formidable. But one that she’d never imagined was an unplanned pregnancy. And she could never have foreseen how profoundly it would affect her.
The most immediate effects were physical. Along with the morning sickness, which for Alex was an all-day affair, came a dull ache in her lower back and a constant craving for sleep, all of which threatened to undo the years she had devoted to keeping herself in shape. Even more disruptive was the mental distraction, the sense that her body, which before had done more or less exactly what she told it to do, had suddenly developed a mind of its own. Alex had the odd feeling that she was being hijacked, and she couldn’t help but wonder where the mysterious new captain of her ship, hidden below deck like Ahab at the start of the Pequod’s voyage, was taking her. Trying to figure that out – and trying to gauge the implications for her career – threw her into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable state of confusion.
She talked her dilemma over with Drew, who did everything he could to be supportive. “It’s up to you, Ali,” he said. “You’re great at what you do, and it gives you something you need. I don’t know how happy you’d be without it.”
He was right. After Alex had started at Grady Cole, it had taken her a year or so to figure out what attracted her to a job of such relentless stress in a work place that was so hostile to women. It had finally come to her. No matter how exhausted she might be after working a sixteen-hour day and waking up at five the next morning to do it all over again, when she walked onto the trading floor, she felt like she did every time she lined up at the start of a race: scared to death but totally at the mercy of anything that could make her feel this good. It was hard to imagine that she would get the same thrill out of changing diapers and pushing a stroller. Likewise, it was hard to imagine that she could hand this being that had embedded itself in her body and wed its destiny to hers over to somebody else to raise. “It’s killing me,” Ellen had wailed when her ten-month-old son, Keith, had learned how to walk, and the nanny had been the one to witness his first steps.
For the time being, Alex resolved to keep the news of her pregnancy from her boss and colleagues. It wasn’t easy. On the trading floor, her desk was within arm’s reach of Sammy Schwartz’s, and he gave her odd looks when she started eating saltines all day. Heartburn was her excuse. “It’s all that chili Drew cooks,” she said. The increasingly frequent trips to the bathroom were harder to shrug off, but for that, she fell back on the female standby of a recurring urinary tract infection and kept a bottle of cranberry pills on her desk as proof.
Once the morning sickness began to taper off, weight gain became a problem. Alex had been fighting her figure all her life, and running, which she genuinely enjoyed, had been the perfect way to force her natural curves into submission. With the pregnancy, though, she found her appetite increasing even as her energy level waned. “I feel like such a slug,” she lamented to Drew one evening as she lay on the sofa with her feet in his lap. Even in the sweat suit she’d put on as soon as she got home from work, she could see the pooch of the stomach that only a month ago had been firm and flat. Drew looked up from his orthopedic journal. He set it aside and with surgeon-sure fingers pushed up the leg of her sweat pants. “You look delicious,” he said, and his lips caught on each other as they curved into a smile. Slowly, he began rubbing her calf. “You look simply delicious.”
One morning in mid-April, Alex’s boss, Harry, called her into his office. Despite the pregnancy, she had kept up her normal grueling pace at work, and no one, apart from Sammy, seemed to have guessed that anything was going on. Nevertheless, she walked into Harry’s office expecting the worst. She knew that he couldn’t fire her, and technically, he couldn’t even ask her outright if she was pregnant. But he’d never liked her – he gave her trading book special scrutiny and constantly questioned her judgment – and there were plenty of angles he could use to undermine her future with the firm.
Harry didn’t bother to stand up when Alex walked in, nor did he offer her a seat. She helped herself to a leather chair, ran her hands over the arms that had been gnawed by the fingernails of previous occupants. “I’ll make it quick,” Harry said and cracked his knuckles, a habit that Alex despised. “There’ll be more layoffs coming up in about a month.” He paused. She refused to blink or adjust the jacket that pulled slightly across her midsection. “We’ll lose about twenty traders.” Alex waited for him to add, “Including you.”
“Willis wants a meeting next week with me, you, and Schwartz to talk things over,” Harry continued, his face a sallow cipher.
Alex couldn’t help frowning. Why should Willis, the managing director in charge of trading, be involved? Was he going to do Harry’s dirty work for him?
“I’ll get back to you on the time. Any questions?”
Yeah, why are you such an SOB? Alex thought. “No,” she answered. When she got back to the floor she’d ask Sammy if he knew what was going on. She stood up and turned to leave.
“And by the way. You made principal.”
Alex closed her eyes. She let out a long silent “Oh.” Then she composed her face and turned around. “That’s great news, Harry. Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me,” he said with an emphatic crack of his knuckles.
Alex laughed, wondering who was more threatening to Harry, her or Sammy. “It won’t happen again,” she said, and she went out the door.
Alex realized that she was letting Grady Cole make her decision for her. But once she became a principal in the firm, she couldn’t bring herself to leave. Very few women had advanced that far, and a resignation would validate the argument most often used to hold them back: “They’re a waste of time and money. As soon as you get them up to speed, they get married, then they get pregnant, then they quit.”
She also didn’t want to let Max down. Before he was forced out of Grady Cole, he’d done everything he could to ensure Alex’s success, while Harry, who’d succeeded Max, had done the opposite. She wanted very much to prove the one right and the other wrong.
Most of all, Alex didn’t want to let herself down. Even in her current compromised physical condition, she felt a heady jolt of adrenaline at the announcement of her promotion. She was ready to step out onto this bigger stage and take on the competition. She was ready to move one step closer to the prize.
As her pregnancy progressed, Alex played wonder woman, scheduling doctor’s appointments before the markets opened or after they closed, taking on the increased social obligations of being a principal, accepting a position on the board of the Morgan Library. “Could you slow down just a little?” asked Drew one August evening as she collapsed in front of the blast of cold air from the wheezing window unit. She’d just gotten home from an after-work reception celebrating Grady Cole’s eightieth anniversary, and the four-block walk from the subway had left her dripping with sweat.
“Could you?” she said, studying the blurred exhaustion in his face. He’d just gotten home after thirty-six hours on duty at the hospital. She took the glass of ice water he offered her, pressed it against her face. To Alex’s great relief, the morning sickness had disappeared after the first trimester, and according to the doctor, she was as healthy as a horse. She was taking her prenatal vitamins plus an iron pill, and, for the most part, she was eating well. Sammy made sure she got decent lunches at the office, where he kept the refrigerator stocked with skim milk. Sure, she was tired, but that was to be expected. It was summertime, and she was over six months pregnant. “Don’t worry,” she said to Drew, squeezing the hand that he rested on her shoulder. “I’m fine.” She felt a reassuring kick in her pelvis. “Both of us are just fine.”
Toward the end of September, Alex was sitting at her desk, back-testing a new trading strategy, when she felt an odd tightness across her abdomen. By now, she was used to the baby’s frequent movements, but this feeling, like the stretching of a broad elastic band, was different. Reflexively, her hands dropped from the computer to her stomach.
“Anything wrong?” asked Sammy, glancing over from his Bloomberg terminal.
Alex described the sensation.
Sammy nodded sagely. “Fake contractions. Nothing to worry about. Leah had them all the time.”
Reassured, Alex turned back to her computer. But the contractions kept coming, and the next time she went to the bathroom, there was blood on her underpants. At the sight of it, she felt a prickling in her skin. By the time she got back to her desk, her hands were sweating. She tapped Sammy on the shoulder. He took one look at her. “Call your doctor,” he said. “I’ll get you a car.” Within an hour, she was lying on the examination table in Dr. McCarthy’s office, her knees bent and butterflied, her feet jammed in the cheery yellow stirrup covers that encouraged her to, “Scoot closer.” Terrified, she stared at the studied calm of Dr. McCarthy’s face as he poked and prodded, then withdrew his hand and snapped off his gloves. He patted her on the knee. “Get dressed, and we’ll talk.”
A few minutes later, Alex sat amidst the diplomas and certificates and gold seals of Dr. McCarthy’s office, learning that she had started premature labor. “It’s not uncommon,” he said, reaching for a pair of reading glasses.
“But why?” she made herself ask, sure that it was her fault, that she’d been pushing herself, and the baby, too hard.
Frowning, he flipped through her file. “In your case, it’s hard to say. And we’ll schedule an ultrasound tomorrow, just to be sure we’re not missing anything. But basically, you’re strong and healthy. Until now, there’s been nothing to worry about.”
Alex tried to slow her breathing. “So what do we do?”
“You’re not going to like it,” began Dr. McCarthy, taking off his glasses and tapping their arm pieces together. “Bed rest.”
Another contraction began. “How long?”
“Until your due date, unless things begin to progress.”
Alex shook her head. “Impossible. That’s six weeks.”
Dr. McCarthy kept tapping his glasses. “It’s not a proven treatment. But it’s our only option.”
Alex felt a nudge beneath her rib cage. An elbow, maybe, or a knee. She tightened her grip on the arms of the chair. As many times as she’d sat in it, she’d never left a mark on the chair in Harry’s office. But by the time she had finished talking with Dr. McCarthy, her fingernails had left little scars in the vinyl that they returned to every time she went back.
For three weeks, Alex lived on the sofa at home, her only escape being the weekly appointments with Dr. McCarthy, who assured her that the baby was fine. “There’s been no more bleeding, the contractions have stopped. The baby’s got a good strong heartbeat. Relax, and take it easy.” She talked on the phone at least three times a day to Sammy, who was covering for her on the trading floor and dropped off weekly updates on her trading book. Ellen called, brought food, and showered Alex with a steady stream of “surcees,” the small surprises that were part of her southern heritage. Drew wanted to take emergency leave, but Alex wouldn’t let him, insisting that there was no reason for both of them to go stir crazy. But she was glad he was able to change his schedule so that he was home in the evenings, which was when she ran out of ways to keep herself busy and started to feel scared. It was October, and the days were getting shorter, and when the sun started to set and the light got dim and shadows began to web the walls, she found herself drawn to the small nursery that she and Drew had made out of the storage closet. Neither of them had wanted to know the baby’s gender, so they’d stayed away from pinks and blues and painted the room a buttercup yellow. Squeezed in with the crib were a changing table and a small dresser filled with snap-up suits and blankets and burp cloths. Alex had sprinkled a tiny bit of baby powder in the drawers, just to give the room that smell. A Mother Goose lamp shed a warm glow over the Winnie the Pooh rug; a musical mobile played Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Diapers and wipes, Vaseline and Q-tips, everything, including Alex, was ready. All that was missing was a baby.
Three weeks before her due date, after an eight a.m. phone conference with Sammy, Alex settled on the sofa to look over her positions. She was only planning on taking two weeks of maternity leave, but that meant a total absence of two months, an eternity for a trader. As nervous as this made her, Sammy had done a terrific job of covering for her—“If I don’t get back soon, I’m going to be out of a job,” she’d said that morning—and she was hopeful it wouldn’t take her too long to get back in the game.
As the morning wore on, she realized that her stomach was unusually still. Her hand went to her belly, stretched tight as a tarp. The baby had woken her up during the night, she remembered, doing what felt like a tumbling routine. An exceptionally sharp jab had made her say ouch when Drew kissed her good-bye that morning. Since then… She waited thirty minutes before she called Drew.
“Call the doctor, then call me right back.”
“Probably nothing to worry about, but let’s take a look,” was Dr. McCarthy’s response.
“I’ll meet you there,” said Drew.
In the waiting room he greeted her with anxious eyes.
She shook her head. For four hours now she’d been willing the baby to move. She’d tried coughing, laughing, bouncing a little on the sofa. She’d drunk a half-cup of the coffee Drew had left in the pot that morning. She’d pushed hard against her stomach with her fingers. Nothing had pushed back.
Drew went with her to the examination room, his hand tightening on hers as Dr. McCarthy swapped one instrument for another, trying the stethoscope, then the Doppler, then a small scan machine, all in search of the heartbeat he couldn’t find. “Let me see if I can get somebody in radiology,” he said, running his fingers across the deep lines in his forehead. “There’s another scan that might tell us more.” Alex closed her eyes. Drew stroked her hair.
After the second scan, they met with Dr. McCarthy in his office. Instead of sitting behind his desk, he pulled up a chair close to theirs. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He looked from Alex to Drew, then down at his clasped hands. “I’ve been practicing medicine for twenty-six years now,” he began, each word a weight. “And this never gets any easier.” It might have had something to do with the placenta, he said. Or maybe the umbilical cord. At this point, there was no way of knowing. “But you can be sure,” he said, looking firmly at Alex, “that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything you did, or didn’t, do. You’ve been a model patient.” He paused. “And a model mother.”
It was then that Alex began to cry. Drew held her and Dr. McCarthy got a box of Kleenex and they both waited for the long minutes it took for her to be able to stop. Then Dr. McCarthy sat down again. “We’ll need to deliver the baby,” he said quietly.
After they were over, Alex never let herself think about the days that followed. She kept them walled off, sealed in a space where they couldn’t be seen or felt or heard. The only fragment that ever escaped was a brief flash of a black-haired baby girl with a mole poised at the corner of her mouth. When those flashes occurred, Alex would find, for a second, that she couldn’t breathe. And as she struggled to regain her composure and return the image to its exile, she would be reminded once again that there was no way of ever knowing the worst that could happen until it was too late.