If he looked at Maria, looked down into her eyes, he knew that it would be over. The worry in his face would show too clearly. So he continued to stroke her hair, continued to sit stock still with her head resting in his lap, listening to her cry softly and speaking soothingly to her. Her head was tilted back now and her teary eyes were looking into his, probing them for signs of emotion, trying to gauge how he felt. But he continued to look forward, avoided her gaze. Finally she had caught her breath and she began speaking to him.
"Mark? What do you think we should do? What can we do?"
He stroked her hair but didn’t reply. If he replied, if he made any deviation from his current course of silently stroking her hair it would be over, he felt sure. She twisted her head slightly to better see his face, to try and glean why he remained silent. He knew for certain she wanted to him to look into her eyes. Once he did, she would be angry and frightened at what she saw there. She would stand up suddenly, accuse him of making things worse, perhaps of not loving her. Then she would storm out of the apartment and he wouldn’t see her for a week. Somehow he knew all this instinctively. Yet he did love her; he wanted her to stay. He didn’t want her to face the terrible news that had jeopardized their happiness alone. He didn’t want to spend a week longing for her return, jumping at every sound near the door. So he continued to avoid her eyes. Instead he reached for her cigarettes and lighter from the table, stole a cigarette and raised the lighter to it.
"Hey, those are mine."
He made a noise in affirmation of this undeniable fact and continued to light the cigarette, puffing on it unnecessarily (he rarely smoked). After half a minute she held her hand up and he placed the cigarette between her fingers. She took a long drag and exhaled through her nose, kept the cigarette.
"Seriously, what should we do?"
He really didn’t know. They couldn’t go to his parents, that was for sure. Even with all their money this wasn’t something they could help him buy his way out of. And he didn’t want to talk to them; didn’t want them coming in, interrupting his and Maria’s shared struggle, monopolizing it. They always made things about themselves. Hers weren’t anywhere around to give advice. It sounded... almost sacrilegious, but he thought maybe they should just flip a coin. Let Fate decide. If he mentioned this to Maria though, she would freak. Finally the strain of staying silent was too much, even if he didn’t have anything useful to say.
"I don’t know, Maria. I just don’t know."
She had recovered, softened. He knew it was now safe; he looked down and met her eyes which were still intently studying his features. He continued to think it through. If they tried to go to a hospital there was a chance she could be deported. But her health could be in serious danger without proper medical diagnosis and care. Finally a thought struck him.
"Let’s try another clinic, get a second opinion. That doctor said she wasn’t one hundred percent sure. Let’s see what another one says. I think we can afford another visit and some more tests. Sometimes they drop the price once they know you don’t have insurance."
She nodded at this idea, which offered some hope. She gazed lovingly at him and then pouted her lips. He bent down to kiss them. It was a long shot, but the idea of doing something had eased a huge weight off of both of them, at least for the time being. They soon went to bed and were able to sleep through most of the night without waking in anxiety.