Chapter 20: Boy or Girl?
Juliet peeked into the guest room to check on Avery – she had been rather quiet ever since arriving that morning – and was a bit surprised to see that Avery wasn’t there. She found her down the hall in the nursery.
Avery was looking around curiously and then focused her attention on some framed photographs sitting on the dresser. One was a picture of Shawn and Juliet from around the time they started dating – they looked so happy, another was one of Juliet’s most recent sonograms, and the third was an old picture of an 8-year-old Juliet with her mom. Avery’s hand reached for the third picture, but she was startled by the sound of Juliet’s voice calling her name. She nearly knocked over the picture frame.
“Avery?” said Juliet, standing in the doorway.
“Oh…uh, I’m sorry Detective O’Hara. I was just looking.”
“It’s ok. You’re welcome to look. And please, call me Juliet.”
“Juliet…Is this your mom?” Avery asked shyly.
“Yeah. It’s one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. Hers too. She has the same one on her mantle at home.”
“She’s pretty,” said Avery.
“Thanks,” said Juliet, coming further into the room to look at the picture again for probably the 20,000th time. It didn’t matter how many times she looked at it, it always made her smile.
“So are you excited?” asked Avery looking around the half-finished room. “About being a mom, I mean?”
“More than I ever thought was possible,” answered Juliet with a smile that penetrated through her very being.
“Is your mom excited about being a grandma?”
“Well, she’s already a grandma. I have five nephews. But I’m her only daughter, so I guess she’s excited about her only daughter having a baby.”
“It’s nice that you still have your mom around…to experience this with you.”
Juliet saw some pain behind Avery’s eyes. “You miss your mom.”
Juliet continued cautiously, “Do you mind if I ask what happened to her?”
“No. It’s ok. She…uh…she died about a year ago. Breast cancer.” Avery turned back towards the photographs, pretending to look at them to hide her teary eyes. “That’s when I came to live with my dad. Until then, it was always just me and her.” A tear escaped her eye and trickled down her cheek. She wiped it away with the sleeve of sweatshirt. Juliet put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Tell me about your dad,” said Juliet.
“There’s not much to tell,” said Avery. “I feel like I hardly know him. He wasn’t around very much…he still isn’t. To be honest, I have no idea why he even took me in. It seems like he forgets that I’m there most of the time. I think he probably only lets me live with him out of obligation, like when I was little and he would come to my dance recital but then end up on his cell phone in the hallway the whole time…or, when he would tell me that he was going to take me to the zoo and then and he just wouldn’t show…it was always the same excuse…something more important came up. Why was I never more important?”
Juliet found herself tearing up during Avery’s description, possibly due to hormones, but more likely due to the fact that it sounded all too familiar. Avery noticed.
“You know what it feels like,” Avery said.
“You’re very perceptive,” said Juliet.
“My mom always said I was good at reading people. It’s a gift.”
“I know it hurts,” said Juliet. “I never want my child to have to feel like that.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” said Avery, confidently.
“How do you know?”
“Shawn loves you, and he loves that baby. He doesn’t want to miss anything. I can tell by the way he looks at you. I’m good a reading people, remember.”
Juliet finally understood the reason for the tough exterior that Avery put up on a day-to-day basis. On the inside she was just a little girl with a big heart that had been broken one too many times…who had been through way more than a 17-year-old should and was unfairly left with no one to care for her. She also saw a younger version of herself in Avery (minus the nose ring and pink hair) and desperately wanted to tell that little girl that everything was going to be ok.
She held Avery by the arms and looked her square in the eyes. “Avery, I just want you to know that you are not alone. You are never alone. You hear me!”
Avery’s tears started to fall rapidly and were accompanied by a tiny sob. Juliet pulled her into a hug that comforted herself as much as it did Avery.
“Just think, Jules, this time tomorrow we will know what color to paint the nursery. I’ll know whether I should buy the onesie that says ‘My heart belongs to John Stamos’ or ‘I live and breathe for Brooke Shields,’ and most importantly, we’ll know whether we need to buy our kid a My Buddy or Kid Sister.”
“I don’t think they make those dolls anymore, Shawn,” Juliet laughed.
“There’s always Ebay!”
“Yes. That’s very true.”
Juliet lay on the couch, her feet propped up on a pillow and her head on Shawn’s lap. Shawn was flipping through the channels trying to find some reruns of any of his favorite 80’s sitcoms, while Juliet was mesmerized with watching her baby moving underneath the tight skin on her growing belly.
“This is just unreal!” she said. Shawn turned his attention from the TV to Juliet’s abdomen. “There’s really a little person in there,” she continued. “Even though the baby is right here, we still don’t even really know who it is. We don’t even know if it’s a boy or girl…but somehow I already love this little person more than I could have ever imagined.”
Juliet tilted her head back so she could look Shawn in the eye. “Do you realize, tomorrow is going to be like the first day of getting to know our child? I mean...the first time I felt the baby move was the moment when this all started to become real…like it was really happening and not just going to happen, but even then it was still hard to grasp that there was someone in there. Tomorrow, we’ll know something about whoit is.”
Shawn leaned over and kissed Juliet on the forehead and put his still bandaged palm firmly on her stomach, trying to feel what she was feeling. Then he formed a fist and tapped her belly softly with it while making a knocking sound with his mouth.
“Hey little one in there,” he said “It’s daddy. Just so you know, your mommy and I are going to have a doctor look at your private parts tomorrow. But don’t worry. We are just trying to figure out whether we need to get you some He-man or She-ra bedsheets. In the meantime, maybe you can help us out with some other things we’d like to know about you. First, who do think is sweeter, The Talking Heads or Depeche Mode? Secondly, if you were stuck on a deserted island with the person of your choice and you could bring along one board game, which one would you choose? Personally, I’d go for Hungry Hungry Hippos. Finally, and most importantly, Red Vines or Twizzlers? Keep in mind, there is a right and wrong answer to that last one.”
Shawn waited a few moments as if listening for an answer. “You don’t have to answer now…it’s just something to start thinking about. I will want to hear those answers before your fifth birthday though, so don’t put it off for too long.”
Juliet giggled throughout the entirety of Shawn’s monologue. His goofy sense of humor was one of the things she loved most about him. She sat up and scooted herself onto his lap. Then lifted both arms up and over his head and kissed him on the lips. They shared a few passionate kisses and then Juliet turned back around leaning on him and placing her head on his shoulder. She felt perfectly content sitting there in his arms. Shawn wondered how he had been so lucky to get a girl as perfect as Juliet. Even at five months pregnant she managed to be irresistibly sexy. “Only she could pull that off,” he thought.
“Oh. Speaking of tomorrow,” said Shawn. “Would it be alright if I borrow your car in the morning? Avery needs a ride to school. I can take you to work and then pick you up at the station when it is time to go to the ultrasound.”
“Yeah, sure. That would be fine.”
“No problem. But, you know…it may be time to start thinking about trading in your two wheels for four.”
Shawn cringed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”