Staring down at my phone screen, I shake my head, confused and pissed off. Here I was thinking that my date last night had gone great and that I would be seeing this guy again, but this text proves otherwise. How had I completely misjudged him? I was pleasantly surprised when he picked me up. He was handsome. He planned a nice date, at one of the hipper restaurants in town, and there were no lulls in the conversation, no awkward pauses. He was funny and engaging. I thought I made a great impression, too. I dressed to the nines and had him laughing throughout dinner. When it came time for him to drop me off, we shared a romantic kiss at my front door. I could tell he wanted more but I pulled back. I wasn’t quite ready to go that far just yet. In my experience, sleeping with a guy on the first date never ends well. And it never hurts to leave them wanting a little more. He said he was fine with going slow. But this text, telling me he’s not interested in a second date and is just looking for something “casual,” clearly shows that he wasn’t serious about a relationship, he was just looking for a fuck buddy.
I drop my phone on my desk in frustration and sigh. I’m starting to think there is no such thing as a decent guy anymore.
This marks my fiftieth failed date this year, and it’s getting old. I just want to meet a guy I can relate to. Someone I can talk to, spend a lazy Saturday in bed with doing nothing but watching Netflix. And someone I have smoking hot chemistry with, so we could pass Saturday night rolling around in bed until we’re covered in sweat and exhausted. I want what my friends have. I see them all pairing off and having kids and I feel hopelessly left behind.
My blood is boiling, and the anger from that text is making me seethe. I need a distraction. Bringing up Google on my computer, I type in “cute babies” in the search bar. Seeing pictures of their little chubby faces always makes me feel better. Some people like cute animal videos. I like cute babies. I want a child of my own, but it seems like no one wants to be in a committed relationship in Los Angeles.
“What are you doing?” I voice behind me says. I startle, nearly jumping out of my seat.
Megan, my co-worker and best friend, stands behind me, her baby bump resting at my shoulder. She’s eight months pregnant and always bumping into me with that thing, and half the time I don’t think she realizes it. I’ve never seen a more vibrant pregnant woman. She has that soft glow everyone is always talking about that comes along with pregnancy. Her hair is thick and shiny, and she looks happy despite her constant complaints about swollen feet and hunger pains.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Want to go down to the hotdog cart with me …” Her words trail off when she sees all the baby pictures on my computer screen. I quickly click off of it, but it’s too late.
She smiles and gives me a funny look. “Come on. To your feet. The hot dog guy won’t wait forever, and you’re due for a little bestie TLC.”
We leave the building’s lobby and walk into the Los Angeles sunshine. It’s good to be outside with Megan. My head clears a little and my disappointment recedes. We wait our turn in line for Edward, the hot dog vendor and runner-up for Megan’s best friend these past eight months. Who knew that hot dogs were a pregnancy staple?
We step up to place our orders with Edward, and even though I’ve grabbed lunch down here with Megan for months now, my jaw still drops as I listen to her rattle off her requests. By the time she finishes listing the three condiments she wants on her hot dog, I tell Edward I’ll just take a diet Coke. We walk over to a table under a large shade tree. I feel pangs of jealousy, and then guilt, as I watch my goofy best friend maneuvering herself gently and ungracefully into the small seat, pushing out the table to make room for her swollen belly.
“Does someone have baby fever?” she asks me quietly, trying to maintain a bit of privacy while we’re surrounded by our colleagues.
I sigh. “Yeah, I think I do. You’re so lucky to have found Nathan. I keep dating assholes who are only looking for one thing. I’m sick of dating. I just want to meet a decent guy and start a family already,” I admit.
“So I take it last night’s date didn’t pan out the way you were hoping?” she asks. “I’m sorry, Kate. You know you deserve better.”
“I know I deserve better, but I don’t feel like I can wait much longer for Prince Charming to come along. I lived my entire life alone. Don’t get me wrong. I love you, Megan, but I want a real family, and when I think of holding a baby of my own, I just think…I don’t know…like I would finally feel complete.”
Megan’s face is all love and sympathy, but then something shifts, like she’s trying to figure out what to say next.
“You know, Kate, you don’t need a man to start a family. If you want a baby, you could just have one by yourself.”
“Like at a fertility clinic with a sperm donor? On my salary? Yeah right. As if I could ever afford something like that.”
“That isn’t the only way these days. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Don’t be mad that I haven’t been totally honest with you,” Megan says. She scans the tables around us, making sure no one can overhear our conversation. I can’t imagine what she’s about to tell me. “This baby, it isn’t Nathan’s.”
I look at her in total shock. I wasn’t expecting that. “You cheated on Nathan?”
She laughs. “No, I got pregnant before I met him. I was exactly where you are now right before he and I hooked up. Dating assholes left and right, my biological clock ticking louder and louder. I decided to make a go of it on my own because I didn’t think there were any good guys left out there.”
I’m stunned. My mouth hangs open and I realize I’m staring at her stupidly. There’s just one question ping-ponging around my head. “How?”
“A friend of mine told me about this place called the Baby-Makers club. It’s pretty exclusive. Invite only. They screen all the guys, make sure they’re STD-free and have mega strong sperm so you’re almost guaranteed to get pregnant—and better yet, they’re all hot and there are no test tubes or turkey basters involved.”
“Then how do they, er, do it?” I ask.
She winks at me. “The old fashioned way, of course.”
My jaw drops. “You had to have sex with some strange guy?”
Her smile fills her face, making her look even more radiant than before. “Yep, and it was kind of amazing. I would never tell Nathan that, of course. He knows this baby was conceived before he and I met. I had to be honest with him about that. But as far as he’s concerned, the only thing I know about this baby’s father is a serial number on a vile of frozen sperm. He doesn’t need to know the specifics. The dirty, sexy specifics.”
I’m blushing. I can’t believe what my best friend is telling me. She had sex with a total stranger, coordinated by some kinky baby-making club? I don’t think I could do that. (I didn’t think she could do that.) But I want what she has. To be radiant and glowing and to grow a precious life inside of me. And somewhere deep inside me, the idea of sleeping with an anonymous man is intriguing.
“I’m sure it costs a fortune.” Nothing about having a baby is cheap, and I can’t imagine a baby-making club being any less expensive than any other method of reproducing that isn’t the old fashioned way.
“The owner of the club is Mosaic, and she’s a wonderful and kind woman. If I can afford it with my shopping addiction, you definitely can. You’re far more responsible with money than I am.”
She’s right about that. For someone who works in the finance department, she’s terrible with money. She’s lucky Nathan has an amazing job and can afford her expensive tastes. I, on the other hand, grew up dirt-poor and like to save. Just in case. Growing up, I never knew where my next meal was coming from, so whenever I got any extra money, I would stash it away for emergencies. It was a lonely and stressful way to live, but the habit stuck.
“Just call her and talk to her,” Megan says. “I’m sure she’d be willing to work something out. You don’t have anything to lose.”
Megan slides me a business card. The card is simple. Discrete. All it says is ‘Mosaic’ on the front with an address and phone number. I take it and put it in my purse and don’t think much about it afterward.
When I get home from work, I kick off my shoes and throw on a pair of yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt and flop down on the couch. Some wine and a good book is what I need right now. I pick up the cozy mystery book I’ve been slogging through for the last few weeks. It doesn’t hold my attention, and I find my mind wandering back to my conversation with Megan earlier in the day.
The idea of having a baby on my own has planted itself in my brain. I’ve been jealous of my best friend for having it all—career, adoring husband, baby on the way. I thought she was so lucky. Now that I know how she conceived her baby, taking charge and getting it done on her own, I really admire her. And I’m also a little inspired by her. If she can do it, maybe I can too? I shake my head. There’s no way I’ll be able to afford a donor, no matter what Megan says, so I open my favorite dating app. Low and behold, I see the guy I went on a date with last night back on the hunt again so soon after dismissing me. Wow. The universe is really sending me a message tonight, loud and clear. I’m terribly lonely, my romantic prospects are bleak, and more than anything in this world, I want to be a mother.
Sighing, I put my phone down and fish out the business card Megan gave me. I’m so sick of dating assholes. I don’t need the stress in my life and none of these men lead to anything serious. I want a baby. I want to give a child the love I didn’t have growing up in foster care. I want to provide a life with security. I fantasize about big Christmas Eves, the kind I used to see on television when I was a kid. I imagine wrestling an enormous Christmas tree through the front door. Decorating the front lawn together with Rudolph and Santa. Building gingerbread houses together around the kitchen table. I want to experience all the things I missed as a child, and I want to have the joy of watching my own child live the life I always yearned for. I don’t imagine I’d stay in L.A. to raise my child. I’ll go somewhere in the mid-west, find one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody and all of your neighbors have your back. There will be football games, dance recitals, fieldtrips, and sleepovers. I’ll be the best mom there ever was.
And I don’t need a man to have it all. Not in this day and age. If there isn’t a single man in Los Angeles who can help me fulfill my dreams, well, maybe I’ll just have to go after those dreams alone. I shoot a quick email to Mosaic and ask for an appointment.
What am I getting myself into?
* * *
The next morning, I go to the address on the business card. It’s in a beautiful building in the swanky part of downtown Los Angeles. Inside is even more impressive than the outside. There is expensive art on the walls and furniture too pretty to sit on. It looks like a fancy day spa rather than a medical office. Looking around, I know there’s no way I can afford a service that comes out of this building. This is for the city’s elite, and that’s definitely not me. I turn to walk out, but the receptionist sees me and gives me a wide smile.
“How can I help you?” she says. She’s not your run of the mill receptionist. Her hair is a multi-colored weave, and it’s obvious it wasn’t done at the Kwik Kuts in the mall. Her nails are done in a stiletto style and bejeweled. For a secretary, she’s expensively dressed. I have somewhat of a shoe obsession, even though I don’t own any expensive shoes myself, but I know a pair of Marc Jacob heels when I see them. And I’m not talking of seasons past. The ones she’s wearing are in stores now. You can’t buy things like that on a secretary’s salary. Hell, I can’t afford that on my salary, and by Los Angeles standards, I make decent money for a single young woman.
“I’m Kate. Um, a friend told me about this place. She said Mosaic might be able to help me. I have an appointment this morning.”
“Absolutely. She helps a lot of people,” the woman says cheerily as she’s handing me papers to fill out.
After signing forms for anonymity and providing my health history, a nurse draws my blood in a pretty traditional examination room. She seems like a typical nurse I’d see at my doctor’s office, and by the time I’m waiting in the lobby for Mosaic, I have no idea what to expect from the rest of this visit. Where am I?
“Kate,” the receptionist calls, “Mosaic is ready to see you now.”
She leads me through a multitude of hallways until we reach an opulent office with a stunning view of the city. I’m served cucumber water and asked to wait until Mosaic arrives. I look around at all the expensive leather furniture and the crystal chandelier dangling over my head. On the walls are framed pictures of chubby, smiling babies. I assume those are Mosaic’s success stories. A little excitement brews inside me, but I try to tamp it down because I’m certain I can’t afford anything that they will offer me.
The door opens and a severe-looking woman walks through it. She’s older—in her fifties, maybe—with a blunt bob haircut and a gray striped skirt-suit. Her wrists and ears sparkle with diamonds and her heels have the trademark red soles of Christian Louboutin. She looks at me with a sharp, steady gaze and smiles.
With every step, her heels clack on the floor as she approaches me. It sounds like confidence.
Her smile is friendly enough, but I can tell she is the kind of woman who is all business. “Hello, Kate. I’m Mosaic. It’s nice to meet you.”
She shakes my hand with an iron grip. “Nice to meet you too,” I say.
She sits behind an imposing desk, and it’s the first time I notice she’s just a little thing. The air of confidence that envelops her makes her seem more formidable than she is.
“So, you’d like to have a baby,” she says, her voice much friendlier when she says this. “You’ve come to the right place. I’d like to explain some of our rules before we get into the rest of what we do here.”
She goes on to explain that the main condition of using her services is total anonymity. I can use an alias if I wish, or my real first name. The men can do the same. But under no circumstances should we use last names, or go looking for information about each other. If this rule is ever broken, I’ll be kicked out of the club. She also states that her team of lawyers won’t hesitate to sue me for breaching this contract.
I swallow hard. Not that I plan to break any of the rules, but just the threat of it makes my palms start to sweat.
She continues. “Now, this final rule is very important and must be heeded.” She pauses for emphasis. “You are absolutely never permitted to fall in love. And if, for someone reason that happens during the process, you are never to act on it. Your relationship with your donor is exclusive to this club. No outside contact.”
I giggle at that, because who could possibly fall in love with someone in such a clinical setting? It would be like getting turned on during a pap-smear. No. Not going to happen.
Mosaic doesn’t laugh, though. She doesn’t seem to think there is anything remotely entertaining about it.
I stifle my laughter and clear my throat.
“This club is for women who have shrugged off the constricting labels of what’s expected of them. They’re able to have children without the drama and stress of conventional relationships. This is isn’t a dating service or high-price escort company. These rules are important for my reputation and the future of this business model. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” I say.
I do understand and it sounds amazing. Exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve tried the old-fashioned way and look where it’s gotten me: single and alone. Mosaic is offering me a chance to have a baby. I wouldn’t ever betray her confidence.
“What do the men get out of it?” I ask.
Mosaic smiles. The first genuine smile I’ve seen from her yet. She leans back in her chair and looks relaxed for the first time as well. “Men are men. They get to fuck freely and have no repercussions. But trust me, we don’t let just anyone into our club. It’s elite. We’re very picky about that. They are vetted thoroughly. Their sperm is tested for vitality and numbers. Whichever man is chosen for you will no doubt give you the results you’re looking for.”
It all sounds so wonderfully perfect. But there’s just one thing …
I start to fidget, and Mosaic, with those sharp eyes, doesn’t miss a thing. “Is there something wrong?”
“No—well, not really. It’s just that I’m not a wealthy person. I have a good job, but all of this,” I say, waving my hand around at the expensive building and all its fancy furnishings, “might be out of my budget.”
“Don’t worry about that. You’ll find our service won’t break the bank like traditional fertility clinics. We also have very reasonable payment plans. It matters more to me that someone who wants to be a mom gets that chance.”
I’m so relieved by her words that I start to choke up. I swallow and stand when she does. She reaches a hand out to me and we shake. This time her grip is looser, less business, and more of a friendly gesture.
“Wait here and Nadia will be right with you to finish up with the paperwork. You’ll need to sign several NDAs before you leave.”
“NDAs?” I ask, confused.
“Oh, right, of course.” I feel like I’m becoming part of something special. A secret society. Which, I guess I sort of am.
“Once you’re finished with the paperwork, we’ll figure out when you’re fertile and schedule appointments for that window.”
“Thank you so much.”
My heart races. I’m so excited. To think, I’m going to be a mom. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.