ChapterOne -- In a Family Way
"We're looking for a sperm donor. One or both of you," Janice said. She'd finally gotten to the point after a nervous, staccato flow of words that just increased Keith's discomfort. He glanced at Aaron. His partner's expression was as attentive and noncommittal as if he were sizing up an opposing attorney in court.
The two couples -Keith and Aaron, Janice and Sonya - sat facing each other around an old, solid-oak dining table that served as the focal point of the women's living room. The women had put out cheese and crackers and offered cold beer in glasses rather than the cans the men would have made do with. Keith lifted his sweating glass from its coaster, as much to give himself something to do with his hands as from thirst.
Janice, the younger of the two women, was still talking, twisting a strand of shoulder-length blond hair around her fingers like a little girl. "We've been looking for a donor for months. We even put an ad in the Blade. Wait, I'll show you." She darted into an adjoining room that Keith figured had to be the bedroom and returned clutching a folded newspaper.
The paper, the Washington Blade - the gay weekly of the nation's capital - was from the previous month, August of 1987. Janice ran her finger down the column of Personals. "Here. This is ours."
The ad read: Stable lesbian couple seeking sperm donation from gay man/men for alternative insemination. Must be HIV-neg. No drugs, nonsmoker preferred.
"Why are you asking us then?" Keith said, the instant he lifted his eyes from the classifieds. "I mean, you've got the ad in. Why not just wait for replies?"
"That's what we've been doing," Janice said. "But it's been running a month already, and all we got were three calls. And those all sounded kind of weird."
"Running an ad wasn't the best idea we ever had," Sonya put in dryly. She had the kind of tall, busty figure that had been considered glamorous in the Fifties; in her midforties at least, Keith decided, judging by her salt-and-pepper hair.
"Only we couldn't think of anything else," Janice continued. "But then we met you guys, when we were stuffing envelopes last week-" It had been volunteer night at the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Aaron had dragged Keith along, arguing that, this close to the big gay rights march planned for October, they all needed to do their bit.
"When we all introduced ourselves, you mentioned you'd been together a good while," Sonya said.
"Since our freshman year in college," Aaron said smugly. "Fourteen years. Closer to fifteen, really."
"It'll be fifteen this December," Keith said. "Since we started going out, at any rate."
"So you'd be safe then. If you're monogamous, that is." Janice flushed and grabbed at her hair again.
"Well, yeah, we are." Keith felt a wave of corresponding embarrassment. You'd think Aaron could put a word in, instead of just sitting there. "But-"
"But you'd need to show us proof you've tested negative anyway," Sonya interrupted. She gave him a no-nonsense stare that put him in mind of the teaching nuns who'd been the bane of his existence through elementary school.
"Look," he told her, "we haven't even said we'd do it. I mean, you spring this on us, you're asking us to do you a favor, and then you start laying down conditions."
Sonya smiled. "Sorry. But it's just too important not to be absolutely certain."
"Well, yeah. But I mean-"
"Anyhow," Sonya said, cutting him off again, "we're not asking that much, really. We're not expecting you to get involved with the baby. We only need the-" She hesitated a second, "element to get it started."
Aaron set down his glass. "I think being a father involves a bit more than that."
"But we're not asking you to be, you know, like out of Father Knows Best," Janice said. "Like Sonya says, we don't want you to help bring up the baby." She gave him a smile, as if to take the sting out of her words. "See, it's gonna be our baby."