“Natalia, Dr. Jones is ready for you,” the secretary says, opening the door for Alex and I to go through. My aunt is standing in the exam room writing on a clipboard when we walk in.
“Hey, Aunt Emily,” I say and she smiles.
“Hey sweetie,” she says without turning around. “Just give me a moment, please,” I nod and sit myself up on the table. Alex stands next to me.
“Alright, sorry about that,” She turns towards us and her face goes sympathetic. “When did it start?” I laugh, startled.
“This morning,” I say with a grimace.
“That’s normal, darling, your timing is actually nearly perfect. This is your seventh week, so you’re pretty much on schedule. I just want to do an ultrasound and bloodwork to make sure everything is okay with you and the baby, so lean back and lift you shirt,” I do as I’m told and Alex grins at me nervously.
“This will be a little cold,” Aunt Emily says and swipes the clear gel on my stomach. “Okay, do you hear that?” She asks and I look at Alex, tears in my eyes. There is this distorted little thump-thump-thump sound filling the room. “That is your baby’s heart beat.”
“Alex,” I whisper and his eyes are shining, too.
“I know,” He whispers back and my heart is filled with joy.
“The heartbeat is perfectly normal,” Aunt Emily’s voice is happy and a tear falls down my cheek.
“My God,” I say, still listening the rhythmic beating and Alex wipes my tear away, but another follows. There is a human being growing inside of me. Holy shit.
“We just need to do bloodwork now and then you’re free to go,” Aunt Emily informs us and sure enough five minutes later, Alex is holding my hand and I’m nauseas from the needle being poked into my arm.
“Almost done, Nat,” Aunt Emily says and two seconds later the rubber tie is removed from my arm and she presses a cotton ball to the dot.
“Are you okay?” She asks me and I groan.
“Yeah, just dizzy, give me a second,” Alex squeezes my hand and places his other one on my shoulder. “Okay, I’m good, sorry,” The dots that were clouding my vision are gone when I open my eyes, so I feel safe to stand.
“Natalia, if you feel any abdominal pain, dizziness, extreme or excessive nausea, please, call me immediately,” Aunt Emily says and I nod.
“Okay, thank you Aunt Emily,” I hug her and she holds me back from leaving.
“Alex, can I speak to my niece alone for a moment?” She asks him with a kind smile, he looks to me and I nod.
“Of course, I’ll go get the car.” Emily waits until the door closes behind him before starting.
“Have you told your mom yet?” She asks me and I pull away from her completely.
“No, not yet, she’s obsessing with a case, and I don’t want to be the cause of an episode,” I say and Aunt Emily sighs.
“How bad is she?”
“She hasn’t called me in two weeks, I’ve been planning to go over, but with everything going on, I haven’t really had a chance.” A moment’s pause, before, “I don’t want to tell her yet,” I speak, feeling awful.
“I’ll go see her on Saturday, okay? Don’t worry about it,” I hug her again before I leave and when I get in the car with Alex, he doesn’t ask, just gives me a quizzical look before putting the car into drive.
“Hey, you missed the turn.”
“No, I didn’t,” He smiles sideways at me and continues to turn down the street that leads to who knows where. “We’re going to lunch,” He states nonchalantly and pulls into an unfamiliar parking garage.
“Alex, I have homework, I can eat at home,” I think of the two essays I have to write and the theories I need to study and all the sleep I’m not going to get. “Let me rephrase, we are having lunch with my parents,” I feel my blood drain from my face.
“I’m sorry. Did you say your parents?”
“I did,” He pulls into a parking spot, unclicks his seatbelt, and looks at me. “I’m sorry, Nat. They called before you came out of the doctor’s office. I didn’t know they were coming.”
“Wait, Alex, do they know?”
“No, not yet, I wanted to tell them in person. Apparently they’ll know after lunch,” I stare at him.
“Alex, your parents are going to hate me,” I tell him, now officially panicking.
“No, they won’t, because I have something for you,” he says and smiles nervously. My heart kind of melts; he’s really cute when he is nervous.
“What does that have to do with anything?” He undoes his seatbelt and reaches into the pocket of his leather jacket.
“You said you wanted a real wedding; something more than the courthouse. So, when you were texting me this morning, I was at a jewelry store and I bought you this,” he says and shows me a ring. I think my heart just stopped beating. It’s a simple silver band with a small, finely cut diamond in the middle; it’s perfect. “I know we’re untraditional, and I know we’ve got a long road ahead of us, but I figured I might as well try and stick to the script at least a little bit,” With this he grabs my hand and holds it lightly in his own.
“Will you, Natalia Rosalina Deveaux, do me the honor of marrying me?”
“I already said yes, Alex, but for the sake of the script,” I grin at him. “Yes,” He laughs and slips the ring onto my finger and holds onto my hand for a few seconds longer.
“I fully intend to fall in love with you,” He tells me seriously and I don’t know what to say, because if I’m honest, my heart is already in a free fall, I just have to trust that he’ll catch it before it’s too late.
“Okay, let’s go meet your parents,” I unbuckle my seatbelt and grab my purse before leaving the car and starting the two block walk with my fiancée towards a restaurant.
“Mom, Dad, this is my fiancée, Natalia,” Alex says and Alex’s mother, who was previously sitting with her husband at a table set for four, looks both proud and startled at the same time, clutching her husband’s hand. Both are standing now as introductions are being made. Jonathon looks shocked and Kelly looks confused.
“Excuse me if I’m being rude, but, I thought her name was Amber,” I cough slightly and stare at Alex. Please, God, tell me this isn’t happening.
“Actually, Amber and I didn’t end well, mom, she,” He clears his throat before continuing. “She cheated on me,” He says and looks down at the floor. I reach over and grab his hand because I know that it hurt him when he found out. We haven’t really talked about it, but if it’s mentioned he changes the subject immediately. Not that I blame him, I’m not rushing to discuss that particular subject with him.
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” Alex’s hand tightens on my own and he brings a grin to his face.
“I’ve got Natalia now, mom. How about we sit?” He pulls my chair out for me. I smile gratefully and lower myself to the seat, instinctively placing a hand on my lower stomach as I do so, Emily says that it’s a habit every mother-to-be gains.
“Oh, dear God, please tell me this isn’t happening,” Jonathon says and I feel my eyes widen. How could he have possibly have- right, he studied human behaviors as a college minor. Well, this is going well. I reach over and grab Alex’s hand again, this time for my own support. He gives it a reassuring squeeze.
“It’s okay, Nat,” he whispers to me, but my stress is back full force and I feel like I’m going to be sick.
“Kelly, Jonathon, Alex and I are having a baby,” my voice shakes and I’m not sure what to expect. It’s not, however, for Jonathon to get up and leave with only a muttered “excuse me”, not even looking back.
“Excuse us, we’ll be right back,” Kelly says, pushing her chair out. “I’m so sorry, Natalia,” she says before following after her husband. I look to Alex, eyes wide and feeling awful.
“They hate me,” I tell him, my voice betraying my emotions and he brings a hand up to my face. They’re warm and comforting as his thumb brushes away a tear.
“No, they just weren’t expecting-“
“Alex, your parents think I’m a slut,” I know I shouldn’t cry over it, but they are the grandparents to my baby. They can’t hate me. She or he is already down a maternal grandfather and God knows my mother isn’t receiving an award anytime soon.
“No, they were just caught off guard, they just need to get to know you,” he wipes another tear away and looks at something over my shoulder and removes his hands. “We can leave if you want,” He offers and I shake my head. Tempting as that sounds…
“No, they’ve come all this way,” I say just as his parents come back.
“I’m sorry, Natalia, you’ve just caught me off guard,” Jonathon says, so similar to what Alex said, that I can’t do anything but forgive him and nod. Kelly eyes my face and I stiffly wipe away the tear streaks that are obviously still there and clear my throat.
“It’s okay, we hadn’t meant for you to find out that way,” I say and Kelly smiles at us.
“How far along are you?” She asks, turning her cup of water slightly.
“I’m at seven weeks.”
“Are there any complications?” She asks, diverting my attention from the look on Jonathon’s face. He looks… awed, happy, even. Odd, given his prior reaction.
“As of right now, the baby and I are in perfect health,” I tell her and she smiles again.
“You aren’t marrying just for the baby, are you? I just, I mean, there are other options. Adoption, split custody, you’re so young and marriage is such a big step,” her aging hands bring the cup to her lips and she drinks.
“We’ve had many long talks about the subject and we feel that marriage is the best option. We want our baby to grow up with two loving parents, even if we aren’t in love,” Alex tells his parents and I continue with the conversation.
“I care about your son, ma’am. We aren’t going into this completely emotionless. Alex has become an important person in my life, so this isn’t just an arrangement,” I say and Jonathon speaks up finally.
“Alex? How do you feel about this, son?”
“It’s a different situation, but as Nat said, we’ve discussed this through and through and feel that we have chosen the best option. I trust her and I’m not going to go on with my life as if I’m not responsible for a life. I have feelings for Nat, and considering our circumstances, I know I will grow to love her, just as I love our baby,” his words, spoken softly, are filled with confidence and I smile lightly. The waitress comes to our table and of course, as if this lunch isn’t already full of drama, her perfume is vanilla lavender. I have to try really hard not to breathe and I feel Alex watching me. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, it is not even the morning!
“Nat, are you okay?”
“I think I need some air,” I say and push my chair back my stomach churning.
“I’ll come with you, sweetie,” Kelly says and I don’t answer, just allow her to lead me outside.
“Is there anything you need?” She inquires as I breathe in the cold air deeply.
“I’m sorry, it’s lavender,” I say with a small smile. Kelly looks confused. “I’ve recently been hit by morning sickness, like today, recently, and lavender seems to be a leading cause,” I explain and she nods.
“Oh! I’m sorry! I’ve never been pregnant, I’m not completely aware of the details,” she says and I shake my head, feeling slightly better.
“No, it’s okay Kelly,” I take one more deep breath through my nose. “We can go back in now. Thank you for coming out here with me,” I open the door for her, taking one more glance at the busy New York streets before walking in myself.
When we get back to the table, Alex pulls my chair out for me again and places his hand on my stomach, as if soothing both my and the baby, as he speaks.
“Are you feeling okay?” He asks, and I smile slightly.
“Yeah, it was her perfume,” I explain and he nods.
“I know; it was strong, I could smell it, too,” he explains. “We have a new waitress,” he informs me and I nearly choke.
“Oh, Alex, no, I don’t want to her to think-” He shakes his head.
“Dad told her what happened and she switched tables with a friend of hers,” he reassures me, soothing my tummy with is thumb.
“Oh, um, I’m not all that hungry anymore; can I call Avery to come get me?” I question, feeling bad, but not wanting to risk anymore surprises.
“Nat, you need to eat, you haven’t kept anything down all morning.”
“I’m not sure that I can keep anything down now,” I say honestly.
“Can you try? Something small, and then I’ll take you home,” his eyes are the reason I agree, so worried for me and the baby, so sincere, so I close mine briefly and nod.
“Okay, something small,” I agree and he smiles. Jonathon clears his throat and only then do I realize that Alex and I were in our own little private world as we spoke. Embarrassed, I turn my attention to them and Alex removes his hand from my stomach, almost reluctantly.
“What can I get you, today?” A waiter asks and I feel my cheeks blush and clear my throat. Kelly orders first, then Jonathon, me, and, next is Alex.
“Do you guys have any soups?” I inquire and he answers immediately.
“Our soup of the week is cream of mushroom, but we have classic chicken noodle with carrots, celery, and fresh chicken. Another option, which is personally my favorite, is the tomato basil soup which is served with garlic bread,” the guy says.
“Can I have the chicken noodle and another glass of ice water, please?” I smile slightly and he nods.
“Of course, ma’am. And you, sir?” Alex answers immediately.
“I’ll have the tomato basil soup and bread, please.”
The rest of the lunch goes without incident, thank God, and when we part from his parents, Kelly informs me that she is going to come out in two weeks when she has a few extra days off of work and take me and my mom shopping for maternity clothes. She’s also made me promise to keep her up to date about wedding details.
Jonathon, though not very talkative, hugged me before leaving and whispered another apology in my ear before we went our separate ways: them to their hotel and Alex and I to my apartment.
“See, they don’t hate you,” Alex says in the car and I smile at his smugness.
“I like your mom,” I say and he grins.
“She is pretty cool isn’t she?”
“She’s sweet, I’m actually looking forwards to going shopping with her,” I tell him and he goes quiet for a moment, and I let him sort through his thoughts, not pushing him to speak his thoughts. A block from my apartment he starts to talk.
“So, I know this is early and everything, but I’m curious, what kind of wedding did you want, because I’m not all that great in front of a lot of people.”
“I don’t want anything big, just a chapel wedding with close family and friends. For me that means seven people. Of course, you can invite whomever you please,” I say and he glances at me, startled.
“Only seven?” He asks, seeming shocked, and I nod, smiling sadly.
“When my dad disowned me, my family from his side did too. So I only have the girls, my mom, and Aunt Emily with her husband and son.”
“Well, for me it’ll be my parents, my grandma, my cousin Jenna, and Trey and Caleb,” Alex says as he pulls into the parking garage near my apartment. Trey and Jacob are two close friends of his.
“You don’t have to worry about a public appearance then, Alex. But you will be wearing a tux and I’m going to wear a dress,” I inform him sternly, remembering a conversation from a while ago about how much he hates dressing up. He grins at me.
“And you’ll look beautiful,” He tells me kindly, I shake my head.
“That depends on the date,” I say and he grins.
“You’ll still be beautiful, Natalia, even with our baby growing inside of you,” he pauses to reconsider. “Especially because of that,” I smile down at my hands before changing the subject.
“I’m going to go do my assignments and then see what I can do to throw together a small wedding for us. Can you call me when you get to your apartment?” I ask and he raises an eyebrow.
“Any particular reason why?” He asks and I smile sheepishly.
“As I told your parents, I care about you, and I’d like to make sure you get home safely,” I say and he grins back at me.
“You’re going to be a wonderful mother.” My heart races with the thought.
“I hope so, Alex, I hope so,” I grab my purse from the floorboard and open my door. “I’ll see you, later,” I say and shut the car door behind me as I go.
“What is that on your hand?” Cassie asks me. I’m sitting on my bed writing about Piaget and how his theory works with modern day teaching techniques versus historical techniques and the how the theories can be adapted to fit modern school environments. I look up at her innocently.
“What’s what on my hand?” I ask, but a grin spreads across my face and Cassie screams, like actually screams as if someone just stabbed her.
“No fucking way!” She yells just as the other two girls come running in, Avery holding the butcher knife and Sara a regular butter knife.
“Cassie! Language!” I admonish and rub my belly in a soothing circle.
“What’s going on?” Sara asks, looking around the room frantically, Avery lowers her knife and glares at us.
“I thought someone came in through the fire escape and was trying to kill you!” She glowers but Cassie is grinning from ear to ear, as if she were the one with the engagement ring!
“He got you a ring?!” She exclaims and Sara sets the knife down on my dresser and comes over with Avery. I nod, my own grin taking over.
“Yeah, he said we can have a real wedding,” I say and Sara grabs my hand and they all inspect the ring.
“Have you planned anything?” Cassie asks, excited.
“Alex gave me a month, and we both agreed nothing big, a small ceremony at a church. I’m thinking black and white,” I rest my free hand on my stomach. “We want what’s best for the baby,” I say, joy filling my heart. I love this child more than anything.