I made sure to call Julianne extra early the next morning. If she was hung over, I was going to make it worse. It was what she deserved for nearly ruining my party.
“I was so sure you were going to pretend you didn’t know me,” she said.
I was surprised how good she sounded. Definitely not one hundred percent, but not like she was lying on the floor of the bathroom.
“You did kind of make an ass out of yourself,” I replied.
“Please tell me that I didn’t really announce to everyone that Jake shoots blanks. At least let me have used better terminology.”
“Oh, no, you said blanks. You’d think you’d know better than that. What with the barrenness.”
Julianne laughed. “Oh, my God, you did not say that to me.”
“I totally did.”
“Do you think Paige will ever speak to me again?”
“I know her husband won’t.”
“Oh, well, he’s a stick in the mud. I can’t believe he doesn’t want me talking about his junk at the dinner table. What’s up with that?”
“You do know that it was wildly inappropriate, yes?”
“Oh, yes, I definitely know that.”
“I’m really sorry it didn’t work out for you.”
“Me too,” Julianne said softly. “I wish this whole thing was over, you know?”
“And then I go around alienating people who are trying to be my friends. I worry that I didn’t do a very good job of being myself.”
“I think you were very much yourself last night. Except that I don’t think you’re really that much of a lush.”
“Oh, no, I definitely am that much of a lush.”
“That explains why you don’t seem to have much of a hangover.”
“Seriously, are you okay?”
“I will be. You know, it takes some time. You get this feeling like this will be the time, and then it isn’t. I mean, I was sort of pregnant, just not pregnant enough for it to count. There’s all this disappointment and frustration, and you want to give up, but that means losing so much that you really, really wanted.”
“I’m so tired of this. Why can’t I be one of those women who think it would be so nice to have a baby in the fall, so I start having sex in December and nine months later it all works out like I’d planned?”
“Because then I wouldn’t have met you,” I said. “Also, I’d hate you. Plus, then you’d be huge in the summer. You don’t want a fall baby. Spring it where it’s at.”
“Late spring,” Julianne agreed. “I should write that down, and only cycle in July.”
“Yeah, that’ll increase your odds of getting pregnant right there, only trying once a year.”
“The way things are going for me, it couldn’t hurt either.”
“Do you want to get coffee this afternoon?”
“I would love to. Please invite Paige with my apologies.”
“I can do that. See you at two?”
“You’re lucky Jake even let me come,” Paige said as we settled into what I already thought of as our usual spot at the coffee shop near the clinic. The three armchairs arranged around a table were clearly meant for us.
“Let you?” Julianne asked. “Jake lets you do things?”
“I mean, after you made that comment at dinner… Can you blame him for not wanting me around you?”
“No, I mean you have to have permission from your husband to have coffee with friends?”
“Friends who embarrass him, sure. He doesn’t really want me to hang out with you anymore.”
“First of all, I’m sorry I was such an ass. It’s not a good excuse, but I was drinking Secondly, he needs to get over that.”
“You were out of line,” I said.
“Well, of course I was. But don’t act like you’ve never said something you shouldn’t have. Especially if you’ve been drinking.”
“Well, sure I have,” Paige replied. “I’m only human. But seriously, how would you have felt if he had called you barren?”
“I’m not exactly barren. I’ve been pregnant three times.”
“All right, I’m sorry I hurt his feelings and embarrassed him. I get it. I don’t see why you’d let him tell you not to hang out with me anymore. I’m not a bad influence or anything.”
“Oh, I think you’re a terrible influence,” I said.
“Not terrible,” Paige said. “But definitely…bad.”
“Like I’m trying to talk you into sneaking a cigarette in the girls’ bathroom before third period?”
“Exactly. That’s exactly the kind of thing I see you doing,” I said.
“I’ve never been a smoker.”
“Oh, well, clearly I misjudged you.”
“As long as we’re being Judgey McJudgersons, how do you not know how to cook?”
“I never had to learn. Ben and I met while I was an undergrad and he was in grad school. So he was used to being on his own and taking care of himself. When I graduated, I moved in with him. Straight from the dorms to his place. Since he was used to doing the cooking, he kept it up. He said it was a nice break after a long day.”
“So he’s older than you?” Paige asked.
“Two years. Barely noticeable.”
“How long have you been together?”
“Hmm…twelve years? Married for six, I know that much.”
“So you guys are the old married couple of the group,” Julianne said.
“But you’re older than us!”
“Yeah, but I’ve barely been married longer than Paige.”
I shook my head. “That doesn’t add up. You’ve been trying for four years.”
“I’ve been undergoing fertility treatments for four years. Trying for six. I don’t know if you know this, but people who aren’t married are allowed to have babies.” She sighed. “Getting married was never a big deal to us. Then we couldn’t get pregnant, and then we couldn’t stay pregnant. I started thinking that I was being punished. You know, for living in sin or whatever.”
“So you got married to try to appease an angry god?”
“Basically. And it didn’t even work! Totally not worth it.”
“That’s not true,” Paige said. “At least now you get to be with Greg forever.”
“I was going to be with him forever anyway. That’s why I was willing to try to have a child with him without being married. Having a child with someone is far more of a commitment than saying some magic words.”
“Well, at least you got free pots and pans and towels and stuff out of it, right?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got more housewares than a department store.”
“So that balances things out a bit.”
“I’d rather have a kid, but being able to eat off of fancy matching dishes is nice. Plenty of people get both though.”
“What’s your next move on the baby front?” I asked.
“Frozen embryo transfer, I think. We had a bunch of embryos leftover, so we put them on ice. Assuming they thaw out okay, we’ll pop a couple of them in and see if they stick.”
“Paige, what’s on your agenda?”
“We’re waiting on some blood test results, and then maybe a scan of my insides or something.”
“A scan of your insides,” Julianne repeated. “You see, this is why your husband was so upset that I called him out for bad sperm.”
“Well, I don’t need to be shouting vagina or uterus in a coffee shop,” Paige replied, noticeably dropping her voice on the “dirty words.”
“Fair enough. Elise, what are you up to next? I mean, something, right?”
“I guess we have to figure out our protocol and order a big old box of meds.”
“I wonder if the delivery people know what’s in those boxes. Like, all those drugs and needles and stuff. They would think we’re crazy ordering all that.”
“Who says we aren’t crazy?”