Tiny arms are wrapped around my waist before I even stepped into my sister’s living room.
“Hey, Lucy!” I laugh and pick up my niece. “How’s my favorite girl?”
She accepts the invitation and wraps her arms around my neck, hugging me tight, and for a brief moment, I enjoy the closeness and Lucy’s happy giggling.
“I’m fantastic!” Lucy yells in my ear. “Are you coming to my birthday party? Uncle Will is coming too.” She loosens her grip on me and grins widely. “Mom said we’re gonna have a unicorn party!”
I laugh. ”Of course. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
“Lucy! Give your uncle a chance to breathe,” my sister Olivia says as she walks in behind me.
“Don’t worry, Liv. It’s fine,” I tell her as I sit down on the couch with Lucy on my lap.
“Yes, Mommy, it’s fine,” Lucy reassures her. She turns back to me. “Have you bought a present for me yet?”
“Lucy!” Liv scolds her again. “Stop. Now go to the kitchen and see if you can help Grandma with dinner, okay?”
Lucy rolls her eyes, and I chuckle because she totally is my sister’s mini-me. “Fine,” she sighs theatrically.
“How’s your shoulder?” I ask Liv once Lucy is gone.
She grimaces. “Could be better. It sucks that I can’t take stronger pain medication. I ice it most of the time.”
“Why aren’t you wearing a sling?”
“The doctor said it wasn’t necessary. They taped it, and I swear, I’m resting!” she declares solemnly. “Luckily, I won’t need surgery if it doesn’t happen again.”
“Well, this better doesn’t happen again!” I grunt and glare at her which makes her roll her eyes at me. I roll my eyes right back at her.
“And the baby is fine?” I ask in a low voice.
Liv nods. “Yes, all good.”
“Does Mom know?”
“Not yet, but Ethan and I are gonna tell her tonight.”
Ethan, my sister’s husband, had to go on a business trip for a couple of days. That’s why our mom came down from Boston.
“I’m glad that Mom was able to come,” Liv says. “Even though it’s not that easy to live under the same roof again, she is a great help.”
“How long is she staying?”
“Until after Lucy’s birthday. She’ll go back to Boston with Dad. Will is gonna stay a little longer though. So the three of us can go out to dinner sometime and catch up, okay?”
I smile at her. “Definitely.” It’s been way too long since I spent some time with my two siblings, and I’m looking forward to it.
Just then, my mom walks into the living room. “Jack, my boy! Why haven’t you said hello yet?” She gives me a scolding look before she wraps her arms around me in a big, warm, motherly hug, and this time it’s much harder to endure.
My mom thinks I’ve gotten over this whole no touching thing. I made her believe that I have because she was worried sick. And now that’s what I do. I play along and endure her hugs, for her sake.
“Well, Mom, I know better than to walk into the kitchen to talk to you when you’re cooking.” I try not to cringe when she gives me a peck on my cheek before she vanishes into the kitchen with a laugh. When I meet my sister’s knowing gaze, I roll my eyes. “I know, don’t say anything!” I groan.
And as usual, she doesn’t.
The next day, I’m on my way to an appointment at the hospital. The same hospital where Emma works.
It’s been almost two weeks since Paul’s birthday. I haven’t seen her since, and I tried hard not to think about her because Paul is still right. I can’t offer her what she needs and deserves. So I managed not to think about her too much, until today.
I wonder if I’ll meet her friend Rob that she told me about because my appointment today is on the maternity ward. They called the company I work for because they’re having a software problem with one of their ultrasound devices. Usually, I’m not responsible for this kind of work but the colleague,who is, called in sick today.
After I introduced myself at the reception desk, I was told to wait for someone who would get me and show me the way. And some minutes later, a nurse comes up to me, introduces herself, and tells me to follow her to the maternity ward.
We walk into an exam room where a doctor sits at a small desk looking at some pieces of paper.
“Oh, hey!” the nurse says. “The engineer guy is here.”
The doctor looks up and smiles at me. He gets up from his chair and walks up to me. He shakes my hand and points to the aforementioned ultrasound device. “Hello. Thanks for getting back to us so quickly. There seems to be some kind of software problem on this one.”
I nod, and my gaze falls on his name tag. Dr. Robert Jenkins.
Rob. Emma’s friend. I quickly eye him up and down and wonder if that is the type of guy Emma is into. Medium height, blonde, neatly-cut hair, no striking facial features, black-rimmed glasses. A boring nerd.
I internally roll my eyes at my stupid thoughts and try to focus on why I am here. “I’ll get right to it,” I say with a nod.
Rob sits back down and continues with what he was doing before, and I try this and that to fix the problem but have to acknowledge to myself that I can’t find its source. I clear my throat, and Rob looks up from his work. “It might not be a software problem after all,” I tell him. “Maybe it’s a hardware problem. I have to check.”
"Uhm, okay. Sure, go ahead.”
I wonder why he’s still here. Doesn’t he have patients to look at? Is he here to babysit me? Whatever it is, he’s starting to annoy me a little bit, but that might just be because he’s a good friend of Emma’s. Or maybe even more?
While I dismantle the ultrasound device, someone knocks on the door. I look up and see a middle-aged woman stick her head in the door. Judging from her clothes, she’s a doctor as well. “Hi Robert,” she says before she comes in. She hands him a file. “Emma’s results are in.”
“Uh, okay,” he responds.
I quickly avert my gaze, pretending that I didn’t just look at them after I heard the name Emma, but I saw that Rob quickly looked at me. That’s when the other doctor realizes I’m there. “Oh,” she says. “Sorry. Uhm, will you tell her?”
“I will. Thanks, Susan.”
The woman leaves the room, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Rob look at the file. I wonder if they were talking about that Emma, the one we both know. Because why would they call anyone else by her first name?
Dammit, I need to stop this shit! Even if they were talking about her, that’s none of my business, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with her.
That’s when it happens. I touch the wiring of the ultrasound device, and suddenly a strong and very unpleasant tingling sensation rushes through me. “Shit!” I yell.
“Are you okay? What happened?” Rob gets up and is by my side in no time.
I hold up my hand. “Don’t come too close. Could you just pull the plug?”
I point to the wall where, idiot that I am, I forgot to unplug the ultrasound device.
I groan. “Fucking stupid mistake.” I get up and shake my hand that is still pretty sore.
Rob eyes me intently. “Did you get an electric shock?”
“How are you feeling? That can sometimes affect the heart. Maybe you should go down to the ER, and they’ll perform an ECG, just in case.”
I know it’s not that bad. But going to the ER where Emma might be working right now? I seriously must be out of my fucking mind if I consider this.
“Hm. Yeah, maybe I should do that.”
It’s settled, I’ve gone crazy.
Two days after I told Rob about my pregnancy, I already feel a little better. Being pregnant still sucks, but at least now I have someone to share my worries and distress with. Rob and I talked long into the night. He reassured me over and over that I wasn’t the only woman who was pregnant and not too happy about it. Sometimes it would take a while, he said. And yesterday I saw Susan. She examined me, drew some blood, and also checked for STDs, and so far, everything looks perfectly fine.
I’ve just discharged a patient and want to go to the next when someone calls my name. I’m surprised to hear Rob’s voice behind me. I smile and turn around, but when I see who he’s with, my smile falters, and I stare at them with my mouth agape. “Hey, Rob. Uhm, hi – Jack.”
He just nods and doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t smile either. Okay, so we’re back to being grumpy.
Rob looks at us questioningly. “You know each other?”
“Yes,” I explain. “He’s a – friend.”
“Okay,” Rob says. “He got an electric shock. Could you please perform a quick ECG?”
My eyes widen in surprise. “Oh, what happened? Are you okay?” I ask Jack.
He just shrugs. “Hurt a little. Your friend thought it’d be better if I had my heart checked.” He points to Rob who nods.
“This won’t take long,” he says. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” He turns to Jack. “You’re in good hands.”
Jack briefly closes his eyes, and I wonder if that’s a good thing or not.
“Call me when you have a minute, okay?” Rob tells me before he takes off.
Jack still doesn’t smile or talk or show any kind of interest in social interaction when I lead him over to the ECG device.
“Please take off your shirt, shoes, and socks,” I tell him.
He nods briefly, apparently knowing how this thing works. He’s a mechanical device engineer after all.
Once he’s done as I asked and lies down on the exam table, I place four ECG-electrodes on his wrists and his ankles and the remaining six on his chest.
His beautifully defined chest. Damn, Emma, stop staring at his abs!
As I suspected that night he first came to the ER, the tattoo that adorns his upper arm covers his left pec as well.
Ugh, why does he have to be so hot but at the same time – as he put it – so insufferable? I’m having a tough time concentrating on what I’m supposed to be doing because I can only think of the former – how hot he is. Focus, Emma!
Before I once again start to mentally undress him, as half of the work is already done, I try my luck and start a conversation. “So how did this happen?”
Jack sighs. ”I was supposed to fix a broken ultrasound device on the maternity ward, and for some stupid reason, I forgot to pull the plug. Just not my day.”
"Aw, that sucks. But you know, you don’t have to get hurt every time you want to see me.”
OH MY GOSH! Did those words just leave my mouth?
“Duly noted,” is all he says. Okay, grumbles is more like it, and I feel a little stupid for having said that.
A little? No, make that a lot. What the fuck was I thinking? That he would finally put that pretty mouth of his to use and smile at me or even ask me out? Judging from his response, I should be glad if he talked to me at all after this. But why is he acting so different today? When we talked at Paul’s birthday party, he seemed so relaxed and even nice, but now he’s back to being sullen and brooding.
He doesn’t talk until I tell him he’s good to go after the doctor gave his okay, and he takes off with nothing more than a “Thanks, see you”.
I internally scold myself for reacting to him like that when he clearly isn’t interested at all. It’s just that he conveyed a different impression when we talked at the party.
But then I remember that it doesn’t matter if he’s interested or not. Jack hasn’t been on my mind a lot lately anyway. Something different has been.
The fact that I’m pregnant.