My head was spinning and I felt a vice around my throat. Maybe this was all a dream. No, not a dream-- a nightmare. It was a nightmare and one of the twins was suffocating me with my own pillow. Maybe I was hyperventilating. Was that dangerous while pregnant?
Reminding myself of what lied within my stomach, growing every second I was freaking out, caused me to have even more trouble breathing. I’m pretty sure my face was purple and that I had lost my sense of hearing and sight with the lack of oxygen. I couldn’t hear my rapid and panicked breathing. Nor could hear Alex calling my name and Syll murmuring softly.
I could feel, though. My chest was heavy with every breath, my abdominable muscles contracted, my chest rose and fell harshly. I was quivering like a leaf. Alex’s thin hands on my shoulders were the only things keeping me grounded. I felt his warm breath, so close to my face, and I started to relax as Syll ran her fingers through my hair in an attempt to soothe me. I was petrified.
Everything became sharper after I finally calmed down. My body was shaking with exhaustion instead of fear and I slumped against the lockers. Syll continued to run her hand through my hair and she was humming softly. Alex had stood up and took out his phone. He checked something before turning to Syll.
“I’m going to check us out and get her home. You okay with staying and getting notes?”
His voice was smooth and collected. I couldn’t remember a time when I had been more grateful to have someone so calm around. Syll paused in her soothing ministrations. Behind her blue eyes, I could see the gears turning as she thought.
“Yeah, that can be done. Take ’er home. Make her some mac ‘n’ cheese. And none of that box stuff! She needs homemade comfort food! I’ll come over later with notes and muffins.”
Syll’s voice was cheerful despite the circumstances. Alex headed down the hall and to the office. Meanwhile, Syll helped me gather up my things. We started to walk towards the doors at the end of the hallway. We had to walk past a few people, thankfully, not many because cold and flu season had arrived. No one had paid attention to my panic attack either, which was good.
Alex showed up right around the time we reached the doors. He grabbed my bag and swung it up onto his unoccupied shoulder.
“We’re all set. I told them that we had food poisoning. Later, Syll.”
“Mhmm. Bye, Syll,” my voice was weak and softer than normal.
Syll just gave me a look of sympathy, or was it pity?, before wrapping me in a hug. It wasn’t a long hug but it made me remember that I wasn’t alone.
“Bye, darling. Now, you take care of her ’til I get there,” she gave Alex a sharp look and peck on the cheek before letting us go.
I didn’t fall apart in the car or when we got home. I stayed strong when Alex told me that he would always be there for me, after he fixed me amazing homemade macaroni and cheese. When Syll came over with my favorite muffins and they let me choose the movies we would watch, I didn’t shed a tear. As they told me that they would help me get everything I needed, I almost broke. I waited, though, until they were asleep and I was taking a bubble bath. It was silent tears and they didn’t stop until I was out of my bathroom.
I had put on my favorite pajamas and I was looking at myself in my full length mirror. I could already see little changes in my body. My stomach was gaining a rounder appearance, my boobs were slightly larger, and my face was fuller. I don’t know how no one had noticed. Perhaps they thought it was Syll’s baking and Alex’s cooking. It would make sense and everyone knew they had amazing skills in the kitchen.
After mentally photographing all my changes, I crawled over Syll’s body to get in the middle of the two. Their arms automatically wrapped around me. It was a cuddle cage. It sounds terrifying, but trust me, it was comforting waking up with your best friends right there, keeping you safe.
Syll was the first one awake. She woke Alex and I up around noon to tell us that my mom and the girls went to the mall while Jacob was still home. Alex and I were instantly on edge. Then Syll made a wonderful suggestion.
“Let’s go get your prenatal vitamins and go set up an ultrasound appointment. And get baby name books. And look for affordable and adorable baby stores!”
“Food,” Alex quietly made his request.
Syll and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Alex would always prefer food over shopping. And he looked adorable saying it right then with his hair stuck out everywhere and rubbing his eyes with the sleeves of his too long shirt. We went downstairs to grab something to eat, hoping to avoid Jacob. Our hopes were for naught.
Jacob looked up at us from his coffee and bills. His eyes bore into each of us, as if telling us that we should confess for any sins we had ever committed. Alex brushed it off as he was used to it. Syll twitched before going to fix Alex and I some coffee and tea. I was very uncomfortable when Jacob’s hazel eyes settled on me. I felt like he could see through my stomach and look at the baby growing there. For a moment, it seemed like he knew everything. That moment passed when Alex spoke.
“We’re going shopping today. We’ll call if we won’t be back in time for dinner.” His voice was husky and he didn’t look away from the eggs he was cooking.
“Fine. Don’t come asking me for money if you spend all of your’s.” His voice was loud in the mostly quiet room.
My stepfather picked up his papers and drink and moved to the living room.When he left, so did the tension. We ate quickly without talking and hurried off to get ready. I decided to wear a loose sundress with a cardigan and leggings. All of that and boots would keep me warm and still fit me. My jeans and shorts had been getting a little tight. Syll decided to wear jeans and a simple blue shirt. We finished getting ready before Alex, so we went to meet him in the hall. We waited for a few minutes before he came out trying to tie his hair back.
Syll looked up from her phone to watch him.
“Are you going to cut it when it gets longer? It’s already brushing your shoulders. It looks good but I think any longer and it might not suit you.”
He tied it back before answering, "I think I’ll keep it at this length. Anyway, where are we going first?”
They directed their gazes to me. After thinking over it, the best way to keep myself and my baby healthy was to get everything for my prenatal care.
“Let’s get my vitamins. Then we can go to a clothing store. Then we can visit a store with furniture and stuff.”
My voice was quiet but controlled.
“Alright,” Alex grabbed his keys. “Let’s go.”
A quick stop at my doctor’s provided me with information about my prenatal vitamins, a recommendation for an OB, and my complete test results. We drove for about thirty minutes afterwards to a boutique that Syll went to a lot when her mom was pregnant with her brother. It was an hour away from the mall and close to the office. I could go there after my appointments.
The boutique wasn't exactly small but it wasn't huge either. It was cute and seemed to have a lot of stuff just in the windows. Cherubs was the name of the store. We walked in and Syll seemed to know exactly where to go.
"We need to get a baby name book, first. You'll need to look for names for both genders. Now, Alex, you go find the baby name book. We'll go look in the maternity clothes section. And then we'll meet you in the baby clothes."
Alex was looking around in awe, as was I. This was completely foreign for us. Mom was pregnant with the twins when we were still a bit young. We had always been busy whenever she did this kind of thing. Syll, luckily, had a better home life.
"Yeah, sure, dear." Alex walked in the direction Syll was pointing to. I just followed her.
"You need to look at these and find a few loose things. Sweaters, jackets, pants, and pajamas would be a good start."
I nodded sheepishly as she looked at me. I started to browse and seriously consider some of the clothes. There was a cute burgundy sweater, a wool jacket, a nice pair of silky pajamas, some cute cat pajama pants, and several pairs of yoga pants and jeans.
Syll had me try on a few things and I was really happy with them. The burgundy sweater and a pair of jeans went great together and Syll thought it looked nice.
I really wanted to buy them, but then I saw the prices. Alex joined us by the time we were putting away the clothes I hadn't tried on.
"I found several books. This one seemed nice. And you can afford it right now."
He held out a light green book and I carefully took it. He was right, I could afford it. But just barely. We looked around a bit more and I found several things I would need and several things I wanted. I would have to come back.
We checked out and were heading to the car when Syll said she forgot something. She ran back in while we kept going to the car. She came back out five minutes later with a business card and an order catalog for the store.
"I knew you liked it all, so here."
She handed the stuff to me from the front seat and I leaned forward to give her a hug. She was the best friend a girl could ask for. And Alex of course. He bought us Popeye's Chicken on the way back.
I didn't look at the book, but I knew I would have to soon. I would have to start by hiding everything to do with my pregnancy. And then I would work from there.