Chapter Ten: Sometimes the Hard Choice…

Bryce looked at the GroBag in the semi-darkness that night. His baby was growing inside it. No matter how hard he tried to think of it as "a baby" or "the baby", he simply couldn't. It was "his baby". He was the child's mother. He'd worked hard to splice the two cells and create the life that had formed from them.

And now everyone wanted him to give the baby to somebody else.

It made him feel ill. His head hurt from trying to keep his tears at bay. He'd released them earlier, and felt embarrassed about it. He rarely let his emotions get the better of him.

He wasn't sure when he fell asleep, but he was awakened by a knock on the door the following morning.

Getting out of bed, he went to the door. Theora was there with her brother Shawn and his wife Winnie.

Winnie was holding a baby in her arms.

"Bryce, you remember Shawn from the report Edison did on Raking," Theora said.

"Yes," Bryce agreed. "Never actually met him, but he was quite a sportsman. Good moves."

"Thanks," Shawn grinned. "Of course I'm retired these days. I just wait on tables."

"This is Winnie, and her little girl Carolyne."

"Nice to meet you both," Bryce said. "But I really don't want to give up my child. I know you mean well. But…"

"Let's talk," Shawn said, taking Bryce aside. "Bryce. It is Bryce, right?"

"Bryce Lynch," Bryce confirmed.

"Bryce," Shawn resumed, "I have been a dad for almost two years. I can personally tell you that it is not an easy path. Even for geniuses like us. I had to drop out of college and get a job at a restaurant."

"I already have a job," Bryce explained.

"Had a job," Shawn corrected him. "According to my sister, you gave that up when you came here. Your credits aren't going to last forever. What will you do then? If you reveal yourself here and ask for a job, you won't only be refused, you may cost your friend her job as well."

"I don't want Larissa to lose her job," Bryce said. "I just don't want to give my baby away. It would be like abandoning the poor kid."

"Bryce," Shawn said. "You would be doing the child a kindness. And I promise you, Winnie and I will treat her or him as our own. And you can visit whenever you like. I won't shut you out of the baby's life. I promise."

Bryce looked over at the GroBag. He had wanted to raise the baby himself. To take care of the little boy or girl. Maybe even send the child to the academy if it was as smart as he was.

"Bryce," Shawn said, "Let me show you my monthly expenses for Carolyne."

He sat down at a table and pulled out his credit ledger.

"This," he said, pointing at each expense as he spoke, "is what I pay for diapers, clothing, food, and toys. And that doesn't even include medical expenses. If you were working your insurance might cover some of the baby's medical. But most don't cover all of it. They don't pay for gum soothers for when the baby starts teething. And they don't pay for ointments and powders that prevent diaper rash. And speaking of teething, when that happens, the baby will be crying all day and all night. That hurts. And you won't be able to do anything but hold the poor kid and put a little soothing gel on his or her gums."

"And you have to keep doing it," Winnie added. "Day and night. You don't get to take a vacation or put the baby in its crib and forget about it until you're interested again. If you do that, the baby will die. Babies need constant attention."

Bryce looked at the young couple and their child. They weren't like Edison or the others. They knew what they were talking about. The child in Winnie's arms looked like she was a little over a year old. So they had some experience in the matter.

"Is it really such a hard thing to do?" he asked Winnie.

"Harder than you can possibly imagine," she told him. "It is also very rewarding. But right now, for you, the stress would outweigh the rewards. You wouldn't be able to truly enjoy them. Some day you will have a family of your own. But you aren't ready yet. I promise we'll do everything we can to give the baby the best life possible."

"I wish I could ask the baby what he or she wants," Bryce said.

"If you could," Winnie said, "I bet the baby would say 'I want to be happy'. Now think. What would make the baby happy? Being raised by a single parent who could only give his attention sporadically. Or being raised by a couple who could give their attention regularly. Plus the baby would have a big sister to play with."

Bryce suddenly burst into tears. He hadn't cried that hard since he had broken his arm in third grade when he'd fallen off the jungle gym.

"You… you promise you'll take good care of the baby?" he asked.

"We promise, Bryce," Winnie told him. "You're doing the right thing by giving the baby to us. We will give her the best we can. Or him."

"It feels too weird to say thank you," Bryce told them. "But…"

"I understand," Winnie said. "Anyhow, I should be thanking you. I know it's not a gift you want to give. And the fact that it is so hard for you to part with this child makes the gift so precious to me. Because I know it is also precious to you."

Larissa walked over to Bryce. "I'll be here for you for the next few months."

"We all will," Theora added. "We know this isn't easy for you. We'll help you through it."

"Thanks," Bryce said, gratefully. He felt defeated, and downcast. But he also felt a slight sense of relief. He wondered why he felt that way. Did some part of him know he had truly made the correct choice?

"Do you want us to leave now?" Edison asked. "I know this was a tough choice for you to make. If you need to be alone…"

"Not completely alone," Bryce decided. "Larissa. Would you stay?"

"Of course," Larissa told him, smiling warmly at him.

"I'll tell Cheviot that you want to return to Network 23 in a few months." Murray told him.

"I'm sure we can just have Max fill in for you until you get back." Edison added.

"Feel free to call me for advice if you need it," Bryce told them.

"We will," Theora said as the adults departed leaving the two teenage geniuses alone.

"You did the right thing, Bryce," Larissa said. "I know it's hard, but think of how happy that child is going to be."

"I am," Bryce replied.

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