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Nucleus

Laurence Klavan

They had always known it was possible that they might hear from the donor, though it had been controversial at the time, the government had made the names available to all who entered the program, when the transfers (mitochondrial? Amos always had trouble saying the word) began to be more common and the modifications more acceptable. And even though the donor was only providing mitochondrial DNA (again, hard to say) which was a tiny amount—the part of Sheila’s that was defective—still, it meant that there had always been three people involved, three parents, in a sense, and they had known that. And how fair was it that this small part of DNA was also the most powerful? Sheila asked in tears, before they agreed to the procedure. Not fair, but life wasn’t fair, Amos told her, comforting neither of them, but not knowing what else to say. Yet even though they knew it was possible, they never thought it would actually happen, her contacting them, her coming there, Sheila pointing out that the woman—Yolanda whatever; she had folded over the letter as soon as she saw the name—would have too much pride to track down her, what was it, point two percent of her DNA? So now, while Sheila tried to stay even-keeled, it took an effort.

“Well, what does she want?” she asked, turning back, paler than when she’d turned away, as if the air had wiped off a layer of her pigmentation in the two turns. She should have just stayed still.

“To meet Randa,” Amos said, his own discomfort making him stammer a little (he hadn’t since childhood).

“Did you tell her she isn’t here?” Sheila said, making it sound as if she meant, “did you tell her she's an idiot?”

“Yes,” Amos replied, “and then she said she wanted to meet us.”

For a weirdly long time, Sheila made an exasperated face. “I can’t believe it.”

Amos didn’t answer. He didn’t know why he always had to smooth the edges for Sheila when he himself was not all that okay with them. But that was their relationship, that was their arrangement, every marriage was one, at least emotionally. Sheila openly expressed her anxiety while he buried his own, ashamed of feeling anxious. It worked, it seemed to have worked, anyway, for more than twenty years.

Then Sheila nodded, very slowly, and Amos was reminded of an oil rig going into the earth, reemerging, except that Sheila went the opposite way, up and then down, so the analogy made no sense. “Tell her she can come,” she said.

"What? Really?”

“Yes.”

“But—”

"Please.” She softened her tone, perhaps remembering to be reasonable, that she wasn’t in this alone and was glad of it. “I mean, if it’s okay with you.”

Amos was silent, implying that it was, and that the exchange was over. He didn’t admit that he had already told Yolanda yes, again secretly knowing when to keep things to himself.

*  *  *

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