Tom Daley awoke with a start, still sitting upright – bathed in the bluish glow of multiple screens. He had fallen asleep watching looped footage of Adam Rippon while consuming his nightly combo of muscle relaxers and Chardonnay. A trick learned from Terry Gross after recording a particularly earnest segment with her a few years back. He had asked her how she handled her breakneck schedule. Scotch and Valium, she replied, nonchalantly tapping her paper coffee cup. The scotch at night, the Valium whenever.
“I need those adoption papers finalized YESTERDAY,” he snarled at his husband. Dustin said nothing, placing a double dark-roast espresso on Tom’s mahogany desk. Dustin knew Tom, like all obsessive control freaks, lived life on a constant slow burning fuse. But lately, since the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Tom had been having explosive moments of acuity; white searing apopleptic rage was apt to erupt from him without warning, with very little provocation.
Dustin weighed his words carefully. Any phrasing misstep might be likely to deepen his husband’s rage.
“The baby is due in July, love.” he said. “She’ll sign the papers minutes after her labor is complete, or she won’t get the substantial signing bonus.”
They had chosen a Vassar student (lower middle class) to be their surrogate, knowing she couldn’t afford not to sign the adoption papers. She desperately needed the 250,000 they would pay her for signing the child away.
“I’m confident she’ll sign. We can trust Lauren,” Tom’s Oscar winning husband said soothingly. But he wasn’t confident. Paying someone to give up their baby is criminal, and so there was no formal contract with their surrogate, Lauren – just a handshake agreement.
Dustin liked to joke that all Ivy League liberal arts girls were named Lauren, but a surprising number of the girls they had interviewed had indeed borne the name Lauren – including the candidate Tom had eventually selected. A straight haired honey blond Lauren in a black-watch plaid wool skirt. She possessed an icy blue Nicole Kidman-esque deadness behind her eyes, which Tom LOVED, and just had to have in his child. But, even after all their lunches together, and a trip into Manhattan to see Hamilton, where they all three bonded over kobe beef at Le Cirque – Dustin and Tom both knew perfectly well that Lauren could change her mind at any time, including the very day she went into labor.
Dustin stood in the broken silence of their extremely well lit morning. Highlights flashed in his husband’s tousled hair. Morning light traced Tom’s cheekbones, danced down his nose, kissed his chin.
He had married a man with a terrible, precise beauty.
Tom smiled, shrugged, and sipped his coffee – seemingly easing off his earlier wellspring of rage. He said something non-committal, like, if you say so, and Dustin shuffled off into their living room, plopping down in front of his 24 inch iMac. It was the third Monday of February. Time to renew their monthly donation to support Oprah’s African school for girls.
Sure, Tom thought to himself, brooding in his office. Easy for him to say. He can keep writing scripts forever. But me? There’s a ticking clock on MY social relevance. Tom swiveled his chair back to his screens, gulping down the rest of his espresso and refreshing his Olympic news feeds.
He hovered his cursor over the YouTube compilation of Adam Rippon performances and interviews. He could see his own reflection in the screen, behind the brighter image of graceful, perfect Adam.
He had two years to plan his next move.
He clenched his teeth, set his jaw, and breathed out all the breath in his lungs. He held himself absolutely still for several pregnant moments.
He moved the cursor in a slow circle around Adam’s perfect face.
He clicked play.