Cycling

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Chapter Fifteen

“I can’t make it to lunch,” Paige said softly.

Her voice was so low that I could barely hear her over the phone. There was a slight echo to her words.

“What do you mean? And where are you?”

“I’m in the bathroom.”

“Are you using the bathroom?”

“No. I came here for privacy to make this call.”

“Why aren’t you coming to lunch? Is everything okay? Nothing’s wrong with the baby, is there?”

“No, he’s fine. Jake and I have an appointment. We’re going to, uh, a marriage counselor.”

“Seriously? What’s going on?”

“It’s the baby, I think. I think he’s upset that he’s not technically the father.”

I almost dropped my phone. It was basically the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. Genetics don’t make a parent, and he still had months to get used to the idea. No need to jump the gun or anything.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“I think it’ll resolve itself,” Paige replied. “It’s cold feet. I’m sure it’s that we’ve been waiting for so long to have a baby, and now we’re so close and he’s a little scared. It’ll be okay. He needs some time.”

“All right,” I said cautiously. “If you’re okay.”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. I’ll catch up with you and Julianne next week or something.”

I was still a little bit skeptical, but agreed to see her next week and hung up. Maybe it was nerves. Plenty of soon-to-be parents freaked out a little as the baby became closer to a reality. I was certainly a bundle of nerves. Still, I was worried for Paige and her future. I must have still looked upset when I arrived at lunch, because Julianne immediately grabbed my arm.

“Are you okay? The baby?”

“We’re fine,” I replied. “Paige isn’t coming. She and Jake are going to marriage counseling.”

“What for?”

“I guess he’s been acting weird about the baby.”

Julianne rolled her eyes. “Oh, good Lord. You know, I’m not going to have a biological child either, but that won’t make me less of a mother.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” I said. “Everything’s still normal. Ben’s been working on the nursery, so I’m starting to think I should get to nesting before too long.”

“Any names picked out?”

I shrugged. “We talk about it, but we can’t seem to agree. It’ll probably be a while yet before we decide.”

“You’ve had years to figure this out, you know.”

“I know. I also haven’t ever really let myself think about names. Not after we lost Daniel.”

“Well, there are a lot of good ones out there.”

“We don’t want anything too popular. And nothing too…complicated. Something pretty and classic.

“Katherine.”

“That has certainly come up.”

“Julie or Julia. Both good. Oh, if only you were having twins!”

I laughed. “Sorry, no.”

“I’m sure that when the time comes, you’ll have it figured out.”

“I’m sure.” I sighed. “I’m worried for Paige.”

“I know. Me too.”

“What if Jake leaves her?”

“That won’t happen. There’s no way. I’ll give you that they might need to be in counseling for a while, but they’ll be okay. He’ll see that baby, and fall right in love. How could he not?”

“I hope you’re right.”

When I got home from work that night, Ben was nowhere to be seen. His car was in the driveway, so I knew he was home, and yet I couldn’t seem to locate him. Not in the living room, not the kitchen.

“Ben?” I called out.

I heard a door shut upstairs. Oh, he was up there. Out of the ordinary, sure, since he was usually fixing dinner when I got home.

“I’ll be right down,” Ben’s voice came from the second floor.

I waited for him at the bottom of the staircase. When he reached me, Ben gave me a kiss, holding his hands away from me.

“Sorry, dirty hands,” he said when I gave him a look. “Be right back.”

I followed him into the kitchen, where he set to scrubbing his hands. They seemed stubbornly dirty.

“What were you doing?” I asked.

“Painting.”

“Painting what?”

“The nursery.”

Oh, right. That. It was amazing how easily I forgot that I was pregnant, even if I’d been talking about it an hour earlier.

“How’s the nursery coming along?”

“Pretty good. I think the paint’s done. I’ll have to check tomorrow, once it’s dry, in case I need to do some touch ups, but otherwise I’m pretty much done.”

“What color did you paint it?”

“Pink. I’m a huge fan of clichés.”

“How pink?”

“Neon.” I involuntarily pulled a face. “Oh, so you do care what the nursery looks like,” Ben teased.

“Well, I mean, I have to live in the house with it.”

“It’s a super pale pink. Like, one notch pinker than white.”

I paused, thinking. “Can I see it?”

“Of course you can. You live here. You’re an adult, you make your own choices.”

I nodded, but realized that I hadn’t been asking Ben, I’d been asking myself. I wasn’t sure that I could go look at our daughter’s room. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.

Oh, what the hell, I decided. Let’s do this.

I went upstairs to the room next to ours, the room we’d long designated as a space for a future baby. The door was closed, as usual. I’d shut the door after we’d lost Daniel, and I hadn’t looked inside since. I put my hand tentatively on the doorknob, bracing myself. I felt ridiculous, honestly. This was no big deal, I knew, even as I hesitated to turn the knob.

Deep breath.

The color really was the softest, palest pink, the faintest blush on the walls. The white crib we’d over-enthusiastically bought when I’d been pregnant with Daniel was under a drop cloth in the middle of the room. I pulled the cloth off, wanting to see the whole picture. Then I stood in the center of the room, staring at our daughter’s nursery, taking it in. It needed curtains, and art, and a dresser, I thought as I looked around. I realized that I was jumping into this whole nursery thing with both feet. Which meant I was in on this whole baby thing.

Oh, God. I was in on this baby thing. I was attached. I wanted her with all of my being.

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