What is Mine
~ Four ~

If he had been paying more attention, the deserted road would have seemed like an endless corridor of trees. The bright headlights of his beloved Vanden Plas Jaguar were the only source of light along the road, and at times even those powerful beams were quickly swallowed up by the darkness ahead.

Doctor Robert Whelan , 42 years old and called Jack by his close friends, drove down the quiet little road with his mind a thousand miles away: four thousand three hundred six miles, to be more exact. Clear across the country to Sacramento where his wife Cassie was waiting at home to hear from him.

Despite all his hopes for the prospect of good news to share with her, it had not been the case this trip. Jack had met with the small non-profit organization early this morning. The nuns had listened sympathetically to his story, but in the end had given him very little positive news.

He and Cassie had not been on the list long enough, the nuns explained. Though the organization's waiting period was dramatically shorter than that of the normal adoption channels, there still existed a list of prospective parents who had all sought an available child long before he and his wife did.

Jack's heart ached. He felt like a failure. Once again he would return home to his young wife and dash away all the hope shining in her eyes.

In the three years that they had been married, Cassie had become Jack's single weakness in life. There was nothing he could deny her. His colleagues all smiled knowingly upon first meeting her. She was, after all, exactly twenty years younger than her brilliant and moody surgeon husband. No one was willing to believe that the great doctor Robert Whelan was capable of loving someone other than himself.

Not until Cassie's fertility problems came to light, that is.

After a year of trying to conceive naturally, Robert gently suggested to his young wife that they allow tests to be conducted at the hospital where he practiced. The staff marveled at such a decision, well aware that Jack and his wife would be the topic of break room whispers.

But Jack was unconcerned. His colleague's tests merely served to confirm what Jack's crude self-tests had already privately shown. The problem lay with Cassie.

After another futile year of trying, they were willing to consider adoption. Jack had heard that often the stress of trying to conceive was so relieved by the adoption of a child that couples became pregnant soon after. He could learn to care for a child that was not his if it meant he would gain a child that was.

You would think that his money or his growing reputation as a brilliant surgeon would count for something. Oh, he and Cassie weren't millionaires yet! But they had far more than enough to make some child happy and secure.

He wasn't ashamed to say that he had subtly worked his status as a premier surgeon into the conversation with the nuns earlier that day. Jack should have known that they, of all people, would not be swayed by such a thing. His attempts to use status as a criteria for worthiness was met by sympathetic forgiveness.

A loud crash somewhere ahead drew his attention back to the road before him. He lowered his window all the way and listened intently, but was met with only silence. Jack floored the car's accelerator and went hurtling down the dark road.