All That Matters

 

by

 

S X Meagher

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Two weeks later, Blair sat in Monique's waiting room, making calls and updating her Palm Pilot to pass the time until the doctor returned to the office from her morning’s delivery at the hospital. She normally refused to wait for a doctor who scheduled appointments poorly, but she understood that an obstetrician couldn't plan her day as carefully as many others could.

She was so tired that she considered stretching out on the all-too-comfortable leather loveseat and taking a nap. She started to fantasize about sleep, feeling her eyes close once again. Oh, that's bad. Now I'm feeling a sexual tingle when I think of a big, fluffy bed. Times have changed. I used to have to imagine a big, hunky man in a bed to make my heart pound. Now the man's optional.

When Monique's nurse called her in, Blair put on a gown and waited impatiently. No sooner had the door opened than she started in on her main complaint. “Does the baby actually grow in my bladder? Should you take an x-ray or something just to check?”

Smiling at her hyperbole, Doctor Jackson said, “Hi, Blair. How are things?"

"Good, except I'm tired ¾ although that's not nearly a good enough word to describe my exhaustion ¾ and I have to pee every thirty seconds."

Monique nodded. "Besides the fact that I'm sure the baby's in the right place, x-rays aren't a good idea right now, Blair.” She patted her shoulder and reminded her, “This is perfectly normal, and regrettably, it'll get worse as your pregnancy progresses. There isn’t much you can do about it, since you really need all of the water that I’ve urged you to drink. This is one of those ‘only seven and a half more months’ kinda things.”

"This date thing is strange," Blair said. "I know the exact moment that I was inseminated. It's been four weeks. Why am I supposed to say I'm six weeks pregnant?"

"You can say anything you want," Monique teased. "You can say you're sixty-six weeks pregnant, but we always count from the first day of your last period."

"Doesn't make sense," the blonde insisted, her lips pursed. "I don't like it."

"Other than being unhappy with the nomenclature, and being in just a tiny bit of a bad mood, is everything else all right?”

Laughing, Blair said, “Yep. I actually feel wonderful. I still have that euphoria thing going, and I feel sexy all the time. Life is pretty sweet. Now, if I could just stay awake to enjoy it …”

"No more cramps after sex?"

"Every once in a while, but I'm not worried about it now. It just feels like the cramps I used to get with my period. I figure that if I'm not bleeding, there's nothing to worry about."

"You're pretty calm, aren't ya?"

"Not usually," Blair admitted, "but I'm happy, and I know the baby's perfectly fine. I don't know how I know, but I know."

"I'm glad to hear that," Monique said, patting her knee.

"It's funny. I must be growing less sensitive, because I feel less pregnant than I did at first."

"Oh, you're more pregnant. Your body's just adjusting to the increased hormone levels." Monique laughed and said, "Don't complain about not noticing you're pregnant. Some women have a lot of reminders throughout the day."

"No, not me. I'm just tired and have a pea-sized bladder."

"I'm sure you know that being tired is a universal complaint, but are you getting enough rest to be able to function?"

"Yeah. I can't stay asleep for the entire night because of the peeing thing, so I take naps a lot. A whole lot. I go to my car and take a twenty minute nap if I have to be in the office, and I fall asleep within five minutes of getting home at night. My husband has to throw me over his shoulder to get me into the dining room to have dinner."

"Any chance of your husband coming in soon? I'd like to meet him. "

Blair gave her an embarrassed smile and said, "He travels a lot, Monique. He wanted to come with me, but he's out of town again. He comes home tonight, but …"

"It's not a big deal, Blair. But if he's got questions or concerns, urge him to come with you next time. Coming to your regular appointments will help him feel like he’s involved."

 

ĄG

 

That night Blair stood in the kitchen, starting to prepare dinner for David. She was dreadfully tired, but she'd been slacking off so badly that she felt she needed to prepare a meal at least once a week. Just as she put some broccoli in the steamer, her stomach decided that the smell of the stuff was a very, very bad thing. She ran past David so quickly that his newspaper folded over from the air current. “Hey, where’s the fi ¾?” he started to ask, but his question was answered when he heard her begin to retch violently.

“Are you all right?” he asked quietly a minute later, barely sticking his head into their bathroom.

She was sprawled out on the floor, leaning heavily against the toilet, waiting for another attack. Evil Blair, as she had taken to calling her hormone-ravaged self, wanted to ask him if it was possible to come up with a stupider question, but she wisely bit her tongue. If you die, you'll need him to call your parents.Don’t piss him off. “I’ll be fine,” she mumbled. “Just a little morning sickness.”

“But it’s 6:00 p.m.,” he said reasonably, yelping as a forcefully thrown tube of toothpaste caught him square in the chest.

 

ĄG

 

“Hey, Kylie, it’s Blair. We need to get together and talk about getting your condo sold. Let me know what’s good for you. Oh, and would you mind hooking me up to an IV — ‘cause I’m never going to put another thing in my poor stomach, and I'm gonna need some form of nourishment.”

Kylie didn’t get back to her until nearly five o’clock. “Sorry for the delay,” she said, sounding exhausted. “I’ve been in surgery since 7:00 a.m.”

“Working on one person?”

“No, I had two procedures of my own, and I was ready to leave the hospital when I got called over to UCLA to assist on some poor soul who …” She paused and said, “Given the comment about an IV, I’m gonna assume you have morning sickness.”

Blair's tone sharpened, and she said, "That term is intentionally misleading and should be abandoned by all who fear for their lives, but, yes, I do. Why do you ask?”

“Because I just realized that you won’t want to hear how I spent my afternoon. Let’s change the subject, okay?”

“I’m not that fragile, Kylie.”

“Trust me on this one, Blair,” she said, her tone serious. “Anyway, all I’ve had to eat is a protein bar between procedures. I’m nearly faint from hunger. Wanna talk over dinner?”

“I can’t risk it, Kylie. The smell of food being cooked is lethal.”

“Okay, how about this? I’ll stop and pick something up, and you and I can walk down to the ocean and eat at a picnic table. You should start going for walks everyday anyway.”

“Are you sure? You could just stop and eat and then meet me later.”

“No, I’d rather make sure you have something in your stomach. I have a feeling you’re going to need to be closely monitored by a doctor during your pregnancy,” she joked. “Do you have casual shoes?”

“Sure do. I’m just doing paperwork today, so I’m in my jeans. I can’t button the top button, by the way, which makes me even grouchier.”

“I can handle you,” Kylie said. “Anything in particular you can’t bear the thought of?”

“The list of things I can tolerate is much shorter. So far that's only Animal Crackers.”

“Oh, you are going to need supervision. I’ll be there in an hour. Do you mind if I don’t stop to change?”

“Nope. Come as you are, Doc.”

 

ĄG

 

A little over an hour later, Kylie arrived, carrying a shopping bag, which Blair fervently hoped contained nothing but Animal Crackers. Taking a long look at the doctor, noting her indigo-blue scrubs, her haphazard hairstyle and the bluish smudges under her red-rimmed eyes, Blair commented, “I hope I don’t look as bad as you do.”

Giving her the same treatment, Kylie shook her head and said, “Hate to break it to you, but you look worse. You’re not wearing Kabuki makeup, are you?”

“That wasn't even close to being funny. I'll have you know that I looked fairly decent until I heard the local news on the radio. Seems that a team of doctors at UCLA surgically reattached a man’s penis this afternoon.” The words had no sooner left her mouth than she leapt to her feet and flew to the restroom, leaving Kylie to gaze after her sympathetically.

When Blair returned, looking even worse, Kylie said, “I told you it wasn’t something you’d want to hear.”

“Well, when you figure out how to filter the newscasts, let me know. I think I’m gonna start listening to one of the Spanish stations. At least I won't understand most of what they say.”

With a tired smile, Kylie asked, “Did they mention my name on the news? I’d love to be famous.”

“Not unless you’ve changed your name to ‘team of doctors.’” Giving Kylie a nervous glance, she asked, “Those aren’t the scrubs you wore while you were operating, are they?”

“God, no! Those were covered with … uhm … candy!” she said, grinning goofily. “I … uhm … had a big box of chocolate, and you know what a pig I am when I eat, and I ¾”

Blair placed her hand over her friend’s mouth and said, “I appreciate the attempt to avoid the word ‘blood,’ but you’re starting to sound like a fucking lunatic!” She took a portfolio from her desk and clipped her cell phone to her waistband. “Let’s go. I need some fresh air.” Once outside she asked, “Now that I have absolutely nothing in my stomach, tell me about your surgery.”

“No, really, Blair, it’s not something a woman with a balky tummy wants to hear about.”

Blair stopped walking and placed her hand on her friend’s arm. “The news report made this sound like a very big deal. I can’t imagine you’re not proud of what you did. I’d like to share that with you.”

Giving her a charmingly shy grin, Kylie said, “I am pretty excited. Do you really want to hear about it?”

“I do.”

“Okay,” she said. "The media makes a bigger deal of this kind of thing than it really is. In a city of this size, there are body parts reattached all the time. It's only when it's a child or a … particularly kinky injury that the news picks up on it."

Blair gave her friend a hip bump and ordered, "Stop deprecating your work and tell me what happened."

"Okay, okay." Blair watched Kylie's face transform rather remarkably as the fatigue disappeared, replaced by a wave of enthusiasm that threatened to burst from her. “This guy had partially severed his penis with a circular saw. Luckily, if you can ever call a guy who cuts his penis half off lucky, the cut was just behind the corona. He was fairly incoherent, but managed to say something about gym shorts and no underwear and … well, he was particularly gifted in the length department. I guess it just got in the way.” She gave Blair a careful look and asked, “How ya doing?”

“Good,” she said. “I’m focusing on your words and your excitement rather than the details.”

“Great! Well, he cut just halfway through, and it was a fairly clean cut. Regrettably, he severed his urethra, and that’s what they wanted me for.”

“You’re the go to guy in urethras?”

“Actually, there aren’t many of us in L.A. who do microsurgery on the reproductive tract. I work on a lot of penises, but not that many urethras, to be honest. I’m usually working to reverse vasectomies, not open up a urethra, 'cause that's not a common reason for infertility. Anyway, they had a couple of vascular surgeons and a plastic/reconstruction guy who’d been working for hours. The vascular guys could have done it, but they were toast by the time they called me in. So I stitched up the urethra with a bunch of guys looking over my shoulder.” She gave Blair a grin and added, “Surgeons love to kibitz behind your back while you’re working. What an annoying bunch of people we are.”

Blair was gazing at her with an expression bordering on awe. “I … I don’t have any idea of how you could possibly do something like that. How can you even see something so tiny?”

“With a microscope,” she said. “I use a special microscope that makes everything appear pretty darned big.”

“But it isn’t big,” Blair insisted, “it’s tiny, and you have to go in there and sew it up with what I assume must be tiny little instruments.”

Kylie laughed softly. “Well, it’s not like I use instruments from the Doctor Barbie collection. My tools have normal-sized handles. They just have really teeny blades. It’s pretty cool.”

They were waiting at a stoplight, and Blair took Kylie’s free hand and examined it curiously. “I know I tease you about what you do, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. These are such talented hands.” She released her and tucked her own hand around Kylie’s arm. “I’m proud to know you.”

Walking the rest of the way in silence, Kylie was obviously deep in thought. Just before they crossed Ocean Avenue, she said, “Every once in a while, I step back and consider what an impact my work can have on people. Like when a couple gets pregnant after years of trying, and they take the time to let me know. But, honestly, I don’t get a lot of feedback. I clean out a pair of fallopian tubes, and after a brief follow-up visit, I never see the woman again. Doing something like I did today is really rewarding.”

“You did good, Doc.” Blair smiled up at her friend. “You’re one hell of a team of doctors.”

 

ĄG

 

“You know, you did pretty well for yourself in picking this food,” Blair commented a while later. “How’d you get so smart?”

“Just an educated guess,” Kylie said. “When my stomach's queasy, I prefer cold foods to hot and vegetables and starches to animal products.”

“You eat pretty well most of the time, don’t you?” Blair noted. "I don't think I've ever seen you eat junk."

“Yeah, I do eat pretty healthily. Since I'm on my feet all day, I like to stay lean to put as little stress on my legs and feet as possible. I don’t exercise, so eating well is the only way to do it.”

“You don’t exercise? At all?”

“As little as possible,” she said. “That’s part of the reason I want a dog. If I get into the habit of walking a dog, I’ll at least get my heart pumping a little bit.”

“Well, we’d better get you into that house quickly! I want that heart to keep pumping.”

“I’m ready to go,” Kylie agreed. “Can you sell my condo?”

“Well, condos are a little beneath me,” she sniffed, “but I’ll make an exception for you. Actually, I think I have someone who’d like it.”

“Already? I don’t even know how much to ask for it.”

“I do,” Blair said, giving her a small scowl. “One of my team members sells condos, and she loves your building. She tells me that your unit is worth about $350,000.”

Kylie’s eyes widened. “I paid $150,000!”

“ One fifty, huh?” Blair’s eyebrows knit together briefly. “You bought it in … ’86 or ’87.”

“How did you know? My parents bought it for me when I came out to go to med school. I had to pay them back, of course, but they let me slide until I started to practice.”

“I sold condos when I started out. I know the market backwards and forwards.”

“So it would seem,” Kylie said.

“Here’s the straight scoop. I think Mandy is right, and your place is worth about $350,000. But that doesn’t mean that’s all you can sell it for. We might be able to squeeze a few thousand more out of it. If you want to, we’ll list it and have Sunday open houses and show it to every potential condo buyer on the Westside. I don’t mind doing the work, Kylie. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, Mandy will buy it for $350,000, if you can afford to carry a little paper.”

“How much is a little, and where do I have to carry it?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

Blair gave her a playful punch, something that she did often with the mischievous doctor. “She qualifies for a $300,000 loan. So if you could carry a $50,000 note for say, five years, she’d either be able to refinance to pay you off or sell the place. My guess is she’ll want to sell within five years anyway. She and her boyfriend are going to get married when he's finished with dental school, and they'll probably outgrow your condo.”

“I’d much prefer to get this over with,” Kylie decided. “I don’t want to have to keep the place pristine and clear out every time you want to show it. I can easily carry a $50,000 note. Actually, I can go higher if she needs it. I assume she’s a good risk?”

Scowling, Blair said, "Would I ask you to make her a loan if she weren't?"

"No. I'm a little slow today," Kylie said. "My brain's still back in the operating room."

“That makes sense," Blair said. "Not to worry. I have my broker’s license, and in the five years I’ve worked for this company, I’ve never asked them to let me broker a property on my own. So I told them that I wanted to broker yours. After a little moaning and whining, the owner of the company gave in. So you, my friend, are going to save six percent. No commission for you.”

“No way, Blair! I wouldn’t dream of taking advantage of you like that.”

“You wouldn’t be taking advantage of me, Kylie.” Her face grew serious as she said, “I don’t let people take advantage of me, and I sure as hell don’t volunteer for it.”

“But this is how you make your living. You deserve to be compensated for it.”

“I agree, Kylie, but I also don’t want to take advantage of you. On a $350,000 sale, the usual commission is $21,000. So far I’ve had two short conversations about this house ¾ one with Mandy and this one with you. Is that worth $21,000?”

“Yes,” she said decisively. “If that’s what you normally make when you sell a house of that value, then it most certainly is.”

“Look,” Blair patiently explained, “I want you to buy the new house. I want to make sure your old house is sold, because if you pull out of the deal, I stand to lose a lot more than $21,000. I’m not going to take your money, so if you won’t agree, I’ll just let the firm broker your condo. The owner will get $10,500 for doing nothing, and Mandy will get the rest. If you're gonna do that, you might as well drop the price of the place by ten K. It'll save Mandy money, since she won't have to pay income tax on it.” She shrugged and added, "Seems dumb to me, but that's the way to do it."

"I'm not comfortable with this," Kylie said. "I’m not even sure why, but it feels like someone's getting screwed."

Blair pursed her lips and thought for a minute. “Okay, how about this? Give Mandy your refrigerator and your stackable washer/dryer. That stackable will be wrong for your new house, and you have a built-in Sub-Zero refrigerator. In return for that, Mandy will do all of the paperwork, relieving me of doing anything at all.”

Giving her a warm, affectionate smile, Kylie shook her head briefly. “I've said it before, but I'll say it again ¾ you’re good at this.”

“Sure am.”

“I love hanging out with people who're good at what they do.”

“Me, too. And if I ever get my penis cut off in an industrial accident, you’re the first one I’ll call.”

 

ĄG

 

The next night, Blair curled up next to her husband on the couch. "You busy?" she asked.

"Not too busy for you." He put down the book he was reading, took a healthy sip of his scotch and gave her a warm smile. "What's up?"

"I wanna talk about ultrasound," she said.

"I don't think I have much to contribute to that topic, honey. I'm not even sure what an ultrasound is."

"You would if you'd read some of the books that Kylie gave us."

"I have to read so much for work," he complained. "I keep trying to read your books on the weekend, but the time …"

"I know," she said, "but that's not what I want to talk about. When I saw the doctor, she said that she'd be happy to perform an ultrasound during my next visit."

"Uh-huh," he said, nodding to encourage her to continue.

"I don't think I want one yet, but I'm willing to have one if you think I should."

"Me?" He looked at her like she was a complete stranger sitting next to him on a bus.

"Yeah, you. Who else should I discuss these things with?"

"Well … me, but I don't know what we're talking about, so how can I help?"

"An ultrasound is just a test where they bounce sound waves off my belly and get a grainy picture of the baby. I'm sure you've seen them before."

"Oh! Yeah, guys at work have had them. I know what you mean."

She tickled under his chin, making him giggle. "Such a smart boy." Sheclimbed onto his lap and tucked her arms around him, savoring the faint musky smell of his body. "Doctor Jackson wants to do one during the second trimester, but it's up to me if I want to have one earlier."

"Is it dangerous?"

"No, they don't think so, but it's a little inconvenient. Most doctors do them in the office, but Doctor Jackson uses a specialist for them. I'd have to have it done at the hospital."

"What's the purpose, honey?"

"At this point, I think they'd only be able to see if something was horribly wrong. The baby's still too small to be able to discern much detail."

He shifted around, wrapping his arms tightly around her body. "Are you worried?"

"No, not really. I'm not much of a worrier about things I can't control, and for some reason, I'm sure the baby's healthy. It's just a feeling I have."

"Your feelings are usually pretty accurate," David said. "I think you should stick to your first instinct and not have it done."

She looked a little embarrassed and admitted, "I know I'm being a little weird about this, but I don't want to disturb the baby."

"Disturb?" David asked, giving her a look that showed just how little he understood her point.

Wriggling a little on his lap, she said, "I told you it was weird, but I think the baby deserves privacy. I don't want to be bouncing sound waves off his or her house if I don't have to."

"I think that's cute," he said, giving her a fond smile. "Very cute."

"You won't mind having to wait to carry around a tiny, indistinguishable picture in your wallet?"

"I can wait," he said, kissing her on the lips. "You know what I can't wait for?"

"No, baby, what?"

"I can't wait to lie down next to you and touch you. You look so pretty tonight." He caressed her cheek with the tips of his fingers, smiling when she shivered. "You're so sensitive … so beautiful."

She drew his head forward and kissed him, lingering for a long time. Luckily, her newly sensitive nose barely noticed the smell of pepperoni pizza and scotch on his breath, but the lingering odor of his last cigarette made her stomach turn. "Honey," she said, looking him in the eyes, "you're gonna have to stop smoking. I can't bear the smell."

He looked like he wanted to argue, but after a pause he nodded. "I'm trying. I really am. But I've been smoking since I was sixteen."

"I know you're trying," she said, alternately stroking his cheek and outlining the dark stubble with her finger. "But you're gonna have to quit if you want to kiss me or sleep with me. I can smell it on your breath when you face me in bed."

"Okay," he said, blanching a little at the thought. "I'll stop on Monday morning so that I have one last weekend to indulge."

"All right," she said. "But don't even think of kissing me until you purge yourself of the smell."

"How about your neck?" he asked, kissing all over her sensitive skin.

She slapped at him, giggling the whole time. "You know that tickles!"

"I've gotta kiss you somewhere," he said.

"Top of my head?"

"Oh, that's sexy."

"Motivation, baby. You need the proper motivation. When the smell of smoke leaves, my lips come back."

"If anything will motivate me, that will," David said, kissing his wife on the top of her blonde hair.

 

ĄG

 

A week later, Kylie went to Blair's office around lunchtime to sign some papers concerning the sale of her condo. The always-perky receptionist smiled at her and held up a finger when the phone rang. "Potter, Higgins and Hale. Yes, he's in. I'll put you through." She smiled up at Kylie and said, "Blair's waiting for you. Go on back."

Kylie knocked softly and opened her friend's door, smiling when she saw Blair with her shoes off and her feet propped up on the open bottom drawer of her desk. "Close the door," the blonde said. "Clients are always walking by, and I don't want them to see my tootsies."

They took care of business quickly, and Kylie turned the conversation to personal matters. “You mentioned you’re alone all week. Where’s David?”

“I think he’s in Cincinnati … no, wait … Cleveland. Yeah. Cleveland … I think.”

“Has he always traveled so much?”

“Yep. His busiest times are April and May and again from October to December. Most financial institutions have a year-end in either June or December, so he hits the road to do a lot of legwork before they close the books. It’s good that he’s traveling now, since he can provide me with my fix.”

“What’s that? Tiny bags of peanuts?”

“Un-unh. Barf bags.”

“Are you serious?”

“Sure am. I told him not to bother coming home if he can’t steal me at least a dozen of ‘em.”

“But why would you want to use a bag?”

“Because I can’t spend the day cleaning the toilet at work,” she said, grimacing. “The mere thought of putting my face near the spot where everybody else has had his ass makes me retch. Plus, I drive around a lot during the day, and I’m not going to stick my head out of the window of my car. The last time I did that was in high school, when I had too much cheap wine.” She laughed. “David thinks I’m mad, but I make him clean the toilet every time he uses it. I caught him peeing in the bathroom sink last night, just so he didn’t have to get the scrub brush out again.”

“The thought of that makes me retch,” Kylie said, wrinkling her nose. “I’ll never use your bathroom again.”

“He’s been properly chastised,” Blair assured her. “He’s been banished to the guest bath.”

"Uhm … isn't that the bathroom I use when I visit?"

Blair nodded, trying to hide her smirk. “Better go at home."

"I think I will. So, how are things at home?”

Blair shrugged and said, “David's doing his best, so I’m trying to be patient with him. He’s clueless about pregnancy in general, and I have to explain every little thing. If I didn't know how bright he was, I would think I’d married a moron! Plus, my mood is all over the place. I'm either the happiest woman on earth, or I snap at him for tiny things. I’m really trying not to, but sometimes I can’t control myself. I don’t want to be one of those wives who bitches her husband out about everything, but I can see how you might get into that habit during pregnancy. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got a baby inside of me and another one sitting in a chair in the living room.

“What do you need from him? Is there anything I can do?”

Blair smiled and reached across the desk to pat her friend's arm. “No, it’s pretty husbandy stuff. For example, I’d like it if he’d make dinner, so I didn't have to smell it. But his response is that we should get carryouts."

Frowning, Kylie said, "Maybe he doesn't want to cook after a long day at the office."

"You're right, he doesn't," Blair agreed, "but I don’t want to eat pizza and burgers and all of that junk food. I'm not asking for a lot — I just want some wild rice or pasta or a baked potato. Nothing fancy.”

Giving her a very serious look, Kylie asked, “Are you eating right? ‘Cause if you’re not, I’m going to start bringing you dinner every night.”

“I think I am. I’m eating yogurt and fresh and dried fruits and some raw carrots during the day just to keep a little something in my stomach. Then I have starches and grains in the evening. I get sick in the evening more than the morning, and having a plain baked potato or something like that helps. Then I munch on dry cereal if I need something before bed.”

“That sounds okay if it’s all you can manage. You'll be fine if you just eat cereal for a few weeks, but you'd better be taking your pregnancy vitamins if you're not getting a balanced diet."

"Pregnancy vitamins," Blair scoffed. "Who invented those horse pills? They're huge!"

"I know, but you need some of those vitamins at this stage of your pregnancy. It's also a good idea to try to work in a little protein. Can you handle some cheese and crackers?”

“Maybe,” she said. “But cheese doesn’t sound very good these days.”

“Keep tinkering, Blair. I think you're doing pretty well for a woman who's having morning sickness.”

“Thanks for caring,” Blair said quietly.

Something about her tone made Kylie ask, “Do you think that David doesn’t care?”

She shook her head. “No, I’m sure that he does. He just isn’t showing it as much as I want him to. He never asks me what I’m eating.” She smiled wistfully and said, “I had this fantasy about how involved he’d be, and it’s not turning out that way. He doesn’t even get out of his chair when I’m in the bathroom retching my guts out. If I'm loud enough, he looks up from what he’s reading and asks, ‘You all right?’”

“Maybe he’s just not that kinda guy,” Kylie offered. “Some people are better at comforting than others.”

“But he used to be good at it,” Blair said. “That’s what has me stumped."

“You both have a lot of adjustments to make,” Kylie said, “but I’m concerned about you. When does he come home?”

“Friday.”

“Okay, for the next three nights, I’m either making dinner at your house, or you’re coming to mine. I’m confident I can tempt your tender taste buds.”

“Kylie, you don’t have to do that,” she said, making a face.

“I know I don’t. I want to. I have to make sure Baby Spencer has nice strong bones so we can play on my swing set together. I have completely selfish motives.”

“Don’t you have plans?”

“Just for Thursday. Nick and I are going to the symphony. But we don’t leave until 7:30, so I have plenty of time to get you fed.”

“Okay, I know when I’m beat. My house tonight?”

“It’s a deal. Just clean the bathroom sink before I get there — twice!”

 

ĄG

 

Late Friday afternoon, Blair came into the house not long after David had arrived. She was pleased to have him dash out of the bedroom clad only in his shirt and loosened tie, pants and jacket missing. “Is that you, baby?”

“Yeah,” she said, trying to sound perky. “Welcome home.”

He caught her as she was coming down the hall. While folding her into a hearty embrace, he kissed her head repeatedly. “I missed you so much. I was dreaming about you on the flight home.”

“Were you really?” she asked, delighted by his affection and interest.

“Sure was. In my dream, you were wearing fishnet stockings and a black bustier. Really hot,” he growled, wrestling with her a little.

“I don’t think I have a bustier. You didn’t buy me one at the airport, did you?” she asked, leaning back in David’s arms and tapping his chin with her finger.

“No, they don’t have those at the airport news stands. You have that black satin tank-toppy thing with the thong …”

“Eww, honey, that would look downright nasty. The tank top fits too snugly, and I’m completely losing my waist. The thong might still work, though. Wanna try it?”

As she spoke, his smile dimmed and changed until it began to look forced. “Sure. That’d be fun. Let’s go out and have some dinner first, though. I’m really famished.”

She started to ask why his obvious ardor had cooled so quickly, but she decided to let it pass, hoping she could tempt him after dinner.

They settled on a small restaurant close to their house. Livorno had a few outside tables tucked up onto a still-sunny deck, and they were there early enough to find one. To Blair’s delight, a helping of mashed potatoes went down and stayed down, and she was able to eat several bites from David’s roast chicken.

They talked about his trip and the weather in Cleveland and how nice his hotel had been. She told him about having Kylie come over to cook for her and a few details of the house she was in the process of listing. It felt good to have things be so normal, and she felt remarkably happy that David was home. After dinner they walked all the way to the ocean ¾ a distance of almost two miles ¾ while he told her of his travel plans for the remainder of the summer. They caught the sun just disappearing before turning for home.

On the way, Blair held onto David’s arm with both her hands, leaning against his shoulder. "I'm so happy to have you home. Actually, I'm just plain happy."

"I'm happy, too," he said, smiling at her. He stopped and placed a tender kiss on her lips, then said, "Let's go to bed and have a little welcome home party."

She looked at him for a moment, a smile on her face. “I don’t know … only non-smokers can party with me.”

“I don’t know if I’m a non-smoker,” he said. “That sounds like a permanent kinda thing. But I didn’t smoke when I was away. Not even one,” he said, waving a solo finger at her.

“Oh, sweetie, I’m so proud of you.” She hugged him tightly. “This means a lot to me, David. I know how hard this is for you.”

“Oh, I think it’s easier to quit smoking than it is to have to throw up half the day. I’m getting off easy.”

“Speaking of easy, I think you could have me tonight — if you wanted to,” she said, giving him her most overly dramatic sexy look.

“Let’s go,” he said, his smile bright. “I’ve missed you, and I can’t wait to see you naked. Very naked.”

"Sounds good to me. As usual, I'm as horny as a toad."

"You say that like it's a bad thing. I say, the more the better."

"Ooo … that's not gonna be true when it comes to buying new clothes." She made a face and said, "I did some window shopping online, and the things I'm gonna have to buy are just hideous! The thought of wearing those massive pregnancy panties turns my stomach. It's gonna be tough for you, Mr. Sexy Lingerie."

He just nodded, his attention fixed upon a house that was being renovated. When are you ever gonna learn that men don't care about clothes? You're wasting your time trying to get him to care about the yucky things you have to buy — especially when his inner construction worker gets tweaked.

When they arrived home, she was so tired, she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. He helped her get undressed and stood behind her, holding her up while she brushed her teeth and muttered how she hated being so tired. Tucking her into bed, he bent to kiss her, and she mumbled, “We didn’t get to play dress up.”

“No rush,” he said, smoothing her hair. “Plenty of time for that.”

She fell asleep as if she’d been clubbed, her last thoughts how patient and loving David had been, and how much she'd missed him.

 

ĄG

 

The next morning, David was up two hours before she was, and when she finally forced her eyes open, she called out, “David? Can you get me some Cheerios?”

“Sure, honey. Milk and sugar?”

“No. Just the box, please. I don’t even need a spoon.” He came into the bedroom wearing only a pair of briefs, carrying a box of Frosted Cheerios. “I need the plain ones, babe,” she said as patiently as possible. “Those are yours.”

“Oh.” He looked from her to the box, saying, “You sure you want the plain ones? These are really good.”

“I’m sure. Can you shake a leg, please? I can’t sit up until I have something to eat, David, and I’m about to wet the bed.”

He shrugged and went to get the proper box, returning with it moments later. Sitting next to her on the bed, he said, “I never thought you were going to get up. I was forced to make myself breakfast. I tried to make eggs like you do, but the first one had something weird sticking out of the yolk. Kinda like a tiny beak or something … honey? Are you okay?” he called to her fleeing form.

 

ĄG

 

She’d had to vomit into the wastebasket, since she knew she’d pee all over the floor if she delayed another second. Putting the plastic receptacle outside the door, she called out, “David, come get the wastebasket and throw it away, will you, please?” and closed the door again. She got into the shower and spent ten full minutes reminding herself that just because he wasn’t sensitive to her dietary phobias, didn’t mean that he was the spawn of Satan. Coming back into the bedroom, she saw him sitting on the bed, looking guilty. “Uhm … it was stupid to talk about the beaky eggs, wasn't it?”

With her eyes nearly popping from her head, she cried, “Don’t you dare do that again!” She grabbed the Cheerios box and started shoveling handfuls of the cereal into her mouth. After getting enough in to calm the storm in her stomach, she sat down next to him. “Have you ever had a really horrid hangover?”

“Yeah, sure. Dozens of ‘em.”

“What’s the worst one you ever had, and what were you drinking?”

“Senior year. Spring break. Rum punch,” he said, grimacing in memory.

“Have you had rum since?”

“Nope. Never will, either. The mere thought of it …” He nodded, getting her point.

“When my stomach's upset — which is most of the time ¾ almost any food is my equivalent of rum. I’m sorry to be such a baby, but this isn’t fun for me, either. It should pass within a month or so, but these next weeks are going to be challenging, and I need some help from you.”

“Okay,” he said, nodding soberly. “What can I do?”

“You can be in charge of dinner. If you don’t do it, Kylie will, and I don’t think you want that.”

“No,” he said, laughing. “I’d rather be alone with you in the evening. But I’m such a lousy cook, baby. Doesn’t it make more sense to get carry outs?”

“Yes, it makes sense, but, no, I don’t want that. You can bring home carry outs for yourself, David, but I need something blander than that most of the time. All I need for you to do is throw a package of wild rice in some boiling water, or stick a potato in the microwave. You don’t have to do a thing to it — just put it on a plate. I know it sounds crazy, but I can't be around food while it’s cooking.”

“But nobody wants to eat that,” he argued. “Don’t you need me to do something fancy to it? You used to make potatoes with that gooey cheese ¾” He clapped his hand over his mouth. “Shit, I almost did it again, didn’t I?” he asked when he saw her widening eyes.

“You were on the edge of the cliff,” she said, gobbling another scoop of cereal.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I don’t mean to be an idiot, but I don’t get sick very often, and I forget what it’s like.”

“I know,” she said, stroking his leg. “I know you’re trying to be supportive.”

“I need some remedial training,” he said, smiling at her. “Treat me like a dog that you’re trying to teach a new trick. Repetition is the key.”

“Damn,” she yawned, “I haven’t been up for an hour, and I need a nap. I'm gonna brush my teeth, pee an ounce and go back to sleep." When she was finished, she lay down, and he lay next to her, letting her cuddle up to his chest. “Just a quick nap,” she mumbled. “Don’t let me sleep all day.”

“Okay,” he said, kissing her forehead. “I promise.”

 

ĄG

 

She opened her eyes and blinked for a moment, then smiled when she saw David gazing at her. "You're so pretty when you sleep," he said. His fingers trailed along her cheek, then followed the planes of her face. "So pretty."

"C'mere, you handsome thing," she said. He placed a hand next to each of her shoulders and braced himself on his hands. They kissed for a long time, each of them trying to crank the heat up slowly. "I love Saturdays," she murmured.

He swept her hair away from her face and kissed her again. "Me, too. No rush, neither of us in a hurry to get up . Very, very nice."

Their eyes met, and she gazed at him for a long time. He looked at her with a question in his eyes, and she nodded slightly. His dark, soulful eyes blinked slowly, and she tilted her chin to be able to kiss his enviably long, black eyelashes. The late morning sun burnished his skin with golden hues, highlighting his olive coloring. She kissed the tip of his nose, thanking her lucky stars that he had inherited his father's straight, nicely shaped one. His eyes were deep set, and she liked to tickle around them with the tip of her tongue. The tiny cleft in his chin got the same attention, and he pulled back and smiled at her. "Love me?"

"Oh, yeah," she sighed. "I love you every day, but I love you best of all on the weekends. You're … more you when you haven't been at work."

"More me, huh? How would you like all of me … right now?"

"I can handle you, big talker. Let's see what you've got."

"Just lie there and let me have fun," he said. He started to undress her, rolling her onto one side and then the other. When he had her naked, he took his own clothes off, then put her on her side and got behind her. He lavished attention on her body, kissing her from the back of her neck all the way down her legs. "God, you've got a beautiful body," he mumbled. He continued to kiss and nibble on her pale skin, trying to elicit the soft moans that she always uttered when he hit a sensitive spot.

"Come inside me," she said. "I'm so ready for you."

He was more than ready and urged her onto her belly. She gasped in surprise when he pushed one of her legs up and went into her from the rear. "Mmm … nice," she purred after a few seconds. "You've been watching porn in your hotel again, haven't you?"

"Nope." He latched onto her neck, sucked in a bit of skin and bit lightly. "Don't need porn. Just need you."

 

ĄG

 

The following Thursday, Nick wasn’t able to make one of his regular Philharmonic dates with Kylie, so Blair stood in for him. “If I can swing it, I’d love to go with you guys next year,” she said as they traveled down the Santa Monica freeway in Kylie’s surprisingly ancient Honda Civic.

“Swing it?”

“Yeah. I’m not sure how we’ll handle babysitting duties.”

“If you’d don't mind a piece of unsolicited advice, it's important to do things that you like once the baby's here. It’s a big mistake to let him or her be the sole focus of your life.”

“I know that — conceptually at least. I’m just not sure how willing David is going to be to change his habits.” She stretched a bit within the confines of her seat belt and said, “Oh, well, we can afford a babysitter."

Kylie shot her a look. “You seem down today. Feeling puny?”

“No, I feel fine. I’m … I … oh, never mind. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing me complain by now.”

“Blair,” Kylie gently chided, “you don’t complain. We’re friends, and you share things that are bothering you. I do the same thing with you.”

“Not nearly as often,” she grumbled, making a pouty face.

“Things are going really well for me right now,” Kylie reminded her. “You should've heard me when Stacey and I were about to break up. Every day was some new revelation of how incompatible we were. Nick was about to charge me by the hour just for having to put up with me.”

“I doubt that, Kylie. You’re the most upbeat person I know.”

“Not when things in my personal life are upsetting me. I'm a regular depressive. Now tell me what’s bothering you — if you want to, that is.”

"Okay." She sighed and said, “Something's been bothering me, and today it dawned on me that David must think I’m having puppies instead of a baby.”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” Kylie said, “but if you do have puppies, I’ll take one.”

That comment earned her a rather sharp slap to her leg. “I’ll give you a puppy,” Blair grumbled.

“Come on, get to the point. I’ve never known you to beat around the bush.”

“I’m a little embarrassed,” she said quietly. “This is about sex, and I’m not sure how comfortable you are talking about it.”

“I love to talk about it,” Kylie said, grinning widely. “Lord knows I don’t have it, so I might as well talk about it.”

“Okay, but this is pretty personal.”

"I operate on people's reproductive organs, Blair. I'm not squeamish about sex. Really."

Blair sighed again. “All right. It's bothering me, so it might help to talk about it."

"’Atta girl," Kylie said, giving her a smile.

"Here goes." Blair took in a deep breath and said, "We only have sex doggy style ever since I started to show.”

Kylie's lower lip jutted out, and her expression grew thoughtful. Blair was afraid that she was seeing her friend’s discomfort, but soon realized that the doctor was merely giving the issue her full consideration. “That’s not uncommon. A lot of pregnant women prefer that position. As you get bigger, you might find that’s the only way he can even reach you. Side entry or rear entry are the only games in town in the third trimester.”

“It’s not my idea, Kylie. It’s his. I've never been a big fan."

Kylie shot her a look and blinked. "Oh, and you're not satisfied …"

Annoyed, Blair shook her head. "I knew this was gonna sound stupid. I am enjoying it. A lot. I get excited more easily now, and I reach orgasm more easily, too. I used to need to have a free hand, if you know what I mean, but I don't now."

Giving her a smile, Kylie said, “I'm the world's foremost expert in all of the intricacies of self-pleasuring. I know exactly what you mean.”

“It’s not that the position isn’t good,” Blair said, “and it isn't that I'm not satisfied. We've been having sex a lot, and we're enjoying it more than we have since before we started trying to get pregnant." She let out a final sigh and said, "One of the things that really connects us is sex. I hate to complain now that we're connecting again."

"But something's bothering you. What is it?"

"I don't think I'm imagining this, Kylie, although God knows it's easy to hurt my feelings now." She looked out the window, knowing she was on the verge of tears, and tried desperately to fight the urge. After biting on her lip for a moment, she said, "It feels like he doesn’t want to face me while we’re having sex.”

“Oh, Blair,” Kylie soothed, “that can't be true!"

She felt some of her anger well up, and she said, "This is a big change, Kylie, and it doesn't seem like a coincidence to me ."

"Maybe he’s in a little rut. Maybe you did it that way one day, and it felt so good, he doesn’t want to change.”

"Well, we did have a great time one day …" She shook her head and said, “No, that's not it. Damn it, he doesn’t touch the front of my body — even during foreplay. He gets behind me in bed and caresses my back and my butt and my thighs, but his hands never gravitate to my breasts or belly. And before now, he was most decidedly a breast man. You’d think he’d be all over them since they’re significantly bigger!”

“You'd think so,” Kylie said slowly, looking puzzled. “Jesus, that’s where I’d be living!” She paused for a moment, then her mouth dropped open and she quickly turned to Blair and back. “I can’t believe I said that! I didn’t mean it like it sounded!”

“Tell me how you meant it, and I’ll tell you how it sounded,” she said, giving her friend a puzzled scowl.

“I didn’t mean I’d be on yours,” she explained. “I just … I’m very … Okay, I guess I have to tell you more than you want to know to get myself out of this one.” She took in a deliberate breath. “I think pregnant women are incredibly hot, and if my partner were pregnant, she’d probably need to get a restraining order to keep me off her.” For the first time that Blair could recall, Kylie was blushing — a deep pink flush that colored her entire face and even took in the tips of her ears.

Blair giggled quietly, “Well, I guess we both revealed something personal tonight. Are you okay?”

“Uh-huh,” Kylie said, clearing her throat. “I just don’t want you to think that I think lewd thoughts about you, Blair. I swear I don’t.”

“At this point, I’d welcome your attention. I love to have my breasts played with, but even more than that, I wanna look him in the eyes!”

"Damn, I wish I could help you out," Kylie said, giving her a lascivious look. "We could both get our needs met."

"Funny." Blair slapped her thigh. "It's really nothing to laugh at. I don't feel attractive anymore, Kylie. David's always been so hot for my body. He's made me feel like the prettiest woman in the world. Now, I feel …" She slumped down in her seat and put her hand on her belly. "I feel fat and frumpy."

Kylie glanced at her, then nodded her head slightly as if she'd made a decision. “I wouldn't normally say this to a friend, but I have to be honest with you. From a purely objective standpoint, you’re an uncommonly beautiful woman, Blair. And you grow prettier each day.” She reached over and placed a hand on her passenger’s knee, giving it a squeeze. “I mean that sincerely. You’re prettier than the day I met you, and that’s no easy feat. I think the changes in your body have added to your appeal — tremendously,” she said, giving her friend a slightly embarrassed smile.

“Would you mind writing that down and giving it to David?” Blair asked softly. “I’d love to hear that from him, even if it wasn’t an original thought.”

"Are you sure that didn't offend you?" Kylie asked. "I'd never want to upset you."

"No, not at all. It'd make me uncomfortable if I thought I filled your fantasies, but I don't think that's true … is it?"

Kylie laughed, sounding relaxed and playful. "No, I'm complimenting you from a purely objective standpoint. I'm sure I could fantasize about you, but I'm pretty happy with my current stable of luscious beauties."

"You need to get a human girlfriend," Blair teased. "You'll never meet a woman as good as the ones in your fantasies."

"I'll make you a deal," Kylie said. "I'll stop fantasizing about gorgeous women when you get me a date."

"I'm working on it," Blair said. "Just be patient."

"Patience isn't my thing," Kylie said. "Get busy! If you don't get something going for me, I'm gonna have to start playing with your breasts."

"Promises, promises," Blair said, sticking her tongue out at her grinning friend.

 

ĄG

 

On the way home, Blair sat in the passenger seat, trying to control her temper. "I can't believe you let me do that!"

"I didn't ‘let’ you do anything," Kylie said, trying to keep the edge out of her voice. "We've been over this four times already. The woman didn't mind. We made eye contact, and she gave me a signal to tell me not to wake you."

"Kylie, I slept on a woman's shoulder during the performance. I drooled on her!"

"She had on cotton," Kylie said, wincing when she heard how weak it sounded.

Blair slapped the doctor on the leg and said, "Don't ever let me do that again! It was mortifying!"

"I'm sorry," Kylie said. "It just seemed like the prudent thing to do. She was a nice old lady. Heck, she said she'd had four kids of her own. She knew what it was like to be pregnant."

Taking in a deep breath, Blair tried to let her temper seep out. "I'm sorry for snapping at you. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm just lashing out." Giving her friend a contrite smile, she asked, "Forgive me?"

"You don't need to be forgiven. Remember, you get lots of leeway while you're pregnant. Just don't snap at me after the baby comes, or I'll cut you."

"And you could!" Blair said, a smile peeking out from her scowl.

 

ĄG

 

When they reached Blair's house, the blonde looked at Kylie and asked, "Wanna come in?"

Kylie turned in her seat and asked, "For?"

"Just to talk. I'm … kinda lonely."

"Is David out of town?"

"No, but he's in bed by now." She looked away and said, "It's no big deal. Forget it."

"No, no." Kylie gave her friend a concerned look. "Let's go in and talk."

"Really?"

Blair looked about ten years old. Kylie had never seen the woman look so vulnerable or unsure, and she found herself nodding enthusiastically. "Really. I don't have a tough day planned for tomorrow, so I can stay up late."

"I'm not usually like this, but I don't feel like being alone tonight. I want you to come in, but only if you're sure you want to," Blair said, looking for signs of indecision.

"I'm positive. Let's go."

They walked into the house, and Kylie noted that all of the lights were out. "David's asleep, huh?"

"Oh, yeah. He's never up this late."

Kylie looked at her watch. "Right. It's … gosh … almost 10:30." She smiled and asked, "How do you do it? It must have been quite an adjustment when he started going to bed so early."

"Want a drink?" Blair asked.

"Sure. Have any Scotch?"

"Uh-huh. That's David's drink. Single malt or blend?"

"I think I'll have a wee dram of your single malt. Neat."

Blair poured a couple of ounces of Glenmorangie into a rocks glass and handed it to the doctor. She led the way into the living room and immediately kicked off her shoes. "Now, you said something about having to adjust?"

Kylie took her shoes off as well, then sat on the couch, tucking her feet up under herself. "Yeah. Wasn't it hard when David went on this schedule?"

"No, not at all. It's always been this way."

Kylie looked more than a little surprised. "Really? How'd you date?"

"Oh. Well, he used to stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights, since he didn't have to work the next day. But we never saw each other during the week. I didn't mind."

"Huh." Kylie scratched her head, looking like she was going to speak, but she stared at her drink for a moment and took a sip. "Good. Very good. David has good taste."

"Something's on your mind, Doc. Spill it."

"Oh, it's nothing. Really. I was just thinking of how hard it would be for me to partner with someone if I didn't see her in the evenings."

Blair stuck her lower lip out and considered Kylie's comment. "I like having my own time. Always have. You're not like that?"

"God, no!" Kylie laughed at herself and said, "I'm a leach!"

"Oh, you are not." Blair said with a laugh. "You're very independent. I think you're a lot like me."

"Not by choice," Kylie said, then wished she could retract the comment when she saw her friend blink. "I mean, I'm not really very independent. I just have to entertain myself since I don't have anyone around much of the time. I don't like it, Blair."

"Wow. That was one of the reasons I was drawn to David. I think the same's true for him."

Kylie took another sip, then asked, "Why were you attracted to David, if you don't mind my asking. I always like to hear what brings people together."

Blair stretched like a cat, arching her back, then shivering. "Mmm … I was attracted to a lot of things. But what's kept us together is how well we get along. I don't think we've had three big fights since we've known each other. It's so nice to be with someone who doesn't irritate you very often."

Kylie blinked. "You never fight?"

"No. Not at all. Why would you fight with someone you loved?" Blair's expression showed her confusion.

"Damn. Stacey and I fought all the time. The emotion was so high." Wrinkling her forehead, she asked, "Don't you know what I mean?"

"Un-unh. It's never been like that for us."

"Not even at first?"

"No. It's kinda like my parents. They never fight, either."

"How long have they been married?"

"Oh … forty-two years, I think."

Kylie nodded, wondering why Blair didn't see the difference between a five-year and a forty-two-year marriage. "What else do you love about David?"

Blair's smile looked a little suggestive as she said, "There's the obvious. We've always had a great sex life."

"But doesn't that calm down after a few years?"

"Not for us," Blair said, a note of pride in her voice. "I'm just as hot for him as I was when we met. His actions show he feels the same … up until now, at least." She looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "I'm pleased that we've never become an ‘old married couple.’ I think part of the reason we have such a good sex life is because we don't spend a lot of time together. It always feels fresh."

"How much time do you spend together?" Kylie asked.

Blair thought over the question, counting on her fingers. "We see each other for two or three hours a day when he's in town, unless I have a client meeting. We always have our Saturday mornings together. That's our special time — no other plans allowed. But I work a lot of Saturday afternoons, so we don't count on that. We usually spend Sunday together, unless I have to work. But David watches sports all day, and I hate sports, so I usually read or listen to music while he watches his games."

Kylie sat patiently, waiting for more. When nothing more was forthcoming, she couldn't stop herself from asking, "That's it? You don't do anything together? No hobbies? No other interests that you share?"

"Un-unh. Why? Isn't that enough?"

"Well, it is if you like it that way, but that structure would never work for me. Gosh, when I first met Stacey I wanted to move in — to her body!"

"Ugh. I couldn't stand that," Blair said, the edges of her mouth pointing down. "I was so happy when I met a guy who didn't mind my having my own life. Guys are so needy!" She gave Kylie a guilty smile and said, "Of course, I practically begged you to come in tonight. I sounded like a guy who was completely desperate to get a woman into his apartment."

"Nah." Kylie smiled at her. "I like to be with you. It's never an imposition."

Blair stretched again, massaging her lower back with her hand. "So, what are you looking for, Doc? What's your dream girl like?"

“Mmm … I want to meet someone I'm rabidly attracted to and then proceed to study her … one inch at a time. I'd like to know someone inside and out, and have her feel like a little something was missing if she didn't see me that day."

"I was never like that," Blair said. "Not in college, not in high school."

"I was worse before," Kylie admitted. "I tended to suffocate my lovers."

"Did you have to put a pillow over their faces to stop them from screaming for help?" Blair was quite amused by her own joke, and Kylie nodded her acknowledgment, but her usual smile was absent.

"I mean it," the doctor said. "I'm learning that I have to back off a little bit, and I think being alone for the past two years has helped me. It was hard for me to find my equilibrium after investing three years with Stacey, but I hope my next lover benefits from my burgeoning independence."

"But you're so smart, so introspective, so interested in things. Why do you need someone to be with you all the time, Kylie? Isn't your own company enough for you?"

"I like to have people around me, Blair. I don't consider that a weakness. And it doesn't have to be all the time. I just want someone whose day brightens up when she sees me."

"Mine does," Blair said, smiling. "Does that count?"

"Of course it counts," Kylie said. "It doesn't get me laid, but it definitely counts."

"I'm gonna get you a date," Blair insisted. "I'm gonna find you a girlfriend just as good as the house I found for ya."

"You've got your work cut out for you, pal. That's one kick-ass house!"

 

ĄG

 

Blair spent all of the next day assuring herself that all couples had some sexual miscommunication during pregnancy — reminding herself that they could get through anything if they were able to talk about it honestly. Thinking that it was best to discuss the issue outside of bed, she decided to wait until they’d eaten dinner to allow time for her food to digest. It never had the chance to, though, and departed her belly not twenty minutes after she ate. When she was fairly sure her stomach was going to behave, she laced up her running shoes and said, “Let’s go for a walk, okay?”

David looked like he wanted to refuse, but he turned off the television and took her hand. They walked through the quiet, residential streets of their neighborhood, speaking little for quite a while. “David,” she began, “I’m worried about us.”

His hand tightened briefly, then he asked, “What about us?”

“I’m concerned about how we’re relating to one another. Especially in bed.”

“But we’ve been having sex all the time! I know I was a little reticent at first, but not now.”

“It’s not the frequency, David; it’s the way we’re being sexual. I don’t know if this is conscious or not, but we’re not treating each other like we used to.”

He stopped and jammed his hands into his pockets. “You keep saying we, but I know you mean me.”

She turned and put her hand on his chest. “Why do you already have an attitude about this? You used to like it when we talked about sex. You used to be concerned with how I experienced our lovemaking.”

“I still am, Blair. It’s just … it’s just hard for me. I have to concentrate so hard now.”

“Concentrate?”

“Yes, concentrate. I have to forget about the time that you had cramps. I have to try to ignore the fact that there’s a little, tiny baby trying to sleep just a few inches from the tip of my penis. I have to be careful not to squeeze your breasts because they’re so tender. I … I'm always afraid I'm going to do something wrong or hurt you.” He stared at the ground and kicked at a stick near his foot. “Sometimes that takes the spontaneity out of it. I feel like we've been having to do one thing or not do another for over a year now. I want things to be like they used to be.”

She felt her temper flare immediately, then a wave of sorrow swept over her. Not trusting herself to speak, she slipped her arms around his waist and hugged him as tightly as she could, hoping his embrace would ease the pain.

"I'm so sorry I said that," he mumbled. "I never want to hurt your feelings." He kissed the top of her head, saying, "It just doesn't feel like we're alone in bed anymore, honey. There's another person there, and it feels like he's watching."

"David, that's our baby! He's not watching!"

He released his hold on her, looking sheepish. "I know that intellectually. But sex isn't about intellect."

She knew she was asking a loaded question, but she did it anyway, needing to know the answer. "Do you like my pregnant body?" His eyes closed, and he waited so long that she knew the answer without his saying it. "That's what I thought." She turned her back to him and started to walk home, going as fast as she could.

"Blair!" He trotted after her and grabbed her hand. "I'm getting used to it. It's just taking me a little while."

"What did you think was going to happen? You're the one who wanted me to carry this baby! I specifically remember telling you that my body would change — permanently!"

"I know, I know, but I didn't know I would feel like this! Everything's different! Your whole body's changing, and I guess I didn't think it would be this noticeable this soon. Besides, Chet's wife had a baby last year, and he said they hardly ever had sex. I just thought …"

"You're saying you wish I didn't feel like having sex?"

"Well … no, I just thought that's how it'd be."

She was staring at him like he was an alien, finally asking, "Are you just turned off by pregnancy in general, or is it me?"

He shook his head briskly. "I don't know." He spent a moment thinking, knowing he was on very thin ice. "It feels really, really weird to have sex with a pregnant woman. It's … it … feels kinda wrong."

"Wrong?"

"I know that's stupid. But I can't help it! You don't seem like my hot wife anymore. You seem like somebody's mom!"

Once again, she felt her anger rise, but she tamped it down. Forcing herself to stay calm, she took in a breath and started to walk, putting her hand on her slightly protruding abdomen as she unconsciously did so often these days.

They walked home in silence, neither able to put these feelings into words. They were both sad, both shaken and both unable to think of a way to make things the way they used to be.

 

ĄG

 

On the weekend that followed David’s revelation, Blair was sitting out in their small backyard, reading a book and sipping a glass of lemonade. David had been watching the NBA playoffs, and he came out after watching the Laker victory, filling his wife in on all of the details while she did her best to appear interested. “What are you reading?” he asked.

“Just one of my many baby books,” she said. “I’m still only halfway through the ones Kylie gave me.”

“Oh.” He stood and started to walk back into the house, but she called him back.

“Guess what our baby has now?” she asked.

“Gosh …" He paused, looking guilty. "I have no idea.”

“It's been ten weeks since we conceived, and the baby is starting to look like a person.”

“Wow. Ten weeks, huh? I guess you’re right. It was in April, wasn’t it?”

“We did the pregnancy test on April the twentieth. But March the twenty-first was the first day of my last period. That's when we count from."

"That doesn't make much sense," he said.

"I agree, but it's the convention and they're not gonna change it for us. What I wanted to talk about was that the baby has sex organs now. If it's a girl, she has tiny labia and a clitoris. And if it's a boy, he has a penis and a scrotum. I think we can start making some plans.”

“Like?” He sat down in his usual chair, scooting it close so he could rest a foot on the arm of Blair's chair.

"We can start telling more people, for one thing. You can tell your work buddies."

"Okay," he said, giving her a strangely emotionless smile.

“I thought it would be a good time to start thinking about names, too. I’d like to have some ways of referring to him or her.”

“We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl,” he reminded her. “Let’s wait until we do.”

“I’m not sure I want to know, David. I'd prefer to be surprised. Do you want to know?"

"I guess it's not a big deal. If you don't want to know, that's okay with me."

"All right, Mr. Easy." She pinched his toes through his Topsiders. "It’s not that much trouble to come up with two names, is it?”

“I guess not,” he admitted.

“Actually, we only have to come up with one,” she said, a gentle smile forming on her face. “If it’s a boy, I want to call him David.” She got up and sat on the arm of her husband’s lounge chair. “He’ll be a lucky little guy if he takes after his daddy.

He gave her a look of total wonder. “But you always said there was no way you’d name a baby David junior.”

“That was before I was pregnant,” she reminded him. “Now that I am, I feel different about it.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said, shaking his head. “I, uhm … think that’s a burden on a kid. He should have his own identity.”

With difficulty, she controlled her voice, keeping the incredulity from it. “I know you, David, and you weren’t kidding when you told me you wanted your son to be a junior. Why have you changed your mind?”

“You changed yours. I changed mine. Things change, Blair. It’s no big deal. Let’s come up with a nice, unique name that'll be his alone.”

She stood and looked at him, then put her hand under his chin and forced him to look into her eyes. “Why don’t you want him to be called David? Tell me!”

He tried to control himself for a moment, his fists clenching and unclenching. His attempt to pull his chin away was unsuccessful. Blair had him in a death-grip, and she wasn't going to let him evade the question. His lips pursed together as he tried to force himself to stay silent, but eventually he lost the battle. “Because he’s not mine!” he spat, lunging to his feet and stumbling. He stood there and glared at her, his anger nearly uncontrollable. “You’re trying to create this fucking little fantasy world! Naming him after me says I had something to do with it! I didn’t, God damn it! It's … not … mine!”

She grabbed him by the shirt and leaned into him, shaking him with all of her might. "It is yours, God damn it! If this baby isn't yours, he isn't anyone's!"

"He's yours," he said, tears rolling down his cheeks. "He's your baby."

She shook him again, wishing she could smash his head on the stone patio where they stood. “Tell me you’re happy we’re having this baby! Tell me you want him!”

His eyes locked upon hers, and an eternity passed between them. She could hear the blood pounding in her ears, and she felt her fingers tighten on his shirt. Taking a steadying breath, he gasped, “I’m not. I’m so fucking sorry, Blair, but I’m not happy.”

Releasing him, she somehow found her way back to her chair and sat. She bent from the waist and held her head in her hands, moaning piteously. Her tears started to flow, accompanied by heaving sobs that broke David’s heart. Kneeling at her feet, he tried to get his arms around her, but she wrenched away from him and pushed him so hard he landed on his seat.

Blindly, she took a few lurching steps forward, stopped and vomited on the ground, then slowly sank onto a low garden wall. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she looked at him and asked, “What do you want, David? Do you want me to have an abortion? Is that it? Do you want me to kill our baby?”

“No,” he insisted, sitting next to her. “Of course not. I just … I just wish we hadn’t done this, Blair. I wish to God we hadn’t done this.”

She put her hand upon her belly and said, “This is a human growing in here, David! It’s not some appliance we thought we wanted and then decided we didn’t need!”

“I’m not asking you to have an abortion, Blair. That’s ridiculous! I’m just trying to explain why I’m not … into this yet. I have to get used to this. I need more time.”

“Into this? Into this?” she choked out incredulously. “You’ve had ten weeks! What do we do if you never get into this?”

“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “That’s what keeps me awake at night.” He put his arm around her shoulders and said, “I’m so sorry, Blair. I know that doesn’t help, but I realize this is all my fault. I go over it again and again in my head, and I know we wouldn’t be in this fix if I hadn’t insisted on going forward.”

She looked at him carefully, her mind unable to grasp the full weight of his words. He actually looked like a stranger to her, and she couldn’t bear to have him touch her. She got to her feet and waited for the slight bit of vertigo to settle, then went back to her chair. “So, what do you want to do? Give the baby up for adoption? Tell our families that it was stillborn?”

“I … I hadn’t considered that,” he said softly. “Could you do that?” He looked completely puzzled, but Blair immediately made her position clear.

She got up and went to him. Bending over so that they were nose to nose, she said, “If you had a loaded gun pointed at my head, you couldn’t get this baby away from me. It’s not a mistake … it’s not anything but the expression of our love.” Turning abruptly, she dashed into the house to let her empty stomach have its way again.

 

ĄG

 

He went into the house and saw that she was in the bathroom. Knocking softly, he asked, "Are you all right?"

"Go away! Just go away."

"No. We have to talk about this."

"What is there to talk about? You don't want our baby!"

"I didn't say that," he insisted. He tried the knob, knowing the door would be locked. He slid down the doorjamb, propping his feet against the opposite wall. "I said I wasn't happy. That's not the same as not wanting him."

"It is to me! It is to the baby, too!"

"Can I tell you why I wanted to have a baby with you?"

She didn't answer right away. He heard water running, and a few moments later, he heard her sneakers squeak when she must have climbed into the tub. Her voice echoed a little when she said, "If you must."

"I know this was stupid, but from the time my dad got sick, I was desperate to have a child. When Dad died, the urge got even stronger. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I've been thinking about this so much that it’s finally became clear."

"Go on," she said tiredly.

"I wanted someone who'd feel about me the same way I felt about my dad. I guess it didn't occur to me that I'd have mixed feelings about the baby … if it wasn't mine."

"If you say that one more time, I'm gonna bash your head in with the first heavy object I can find. I'm … not … kidding. I could easily kill you, David. Easily."

"I know." He tipped his head back against the jamb. "I don't blame you." He paused for a few moments, waiting for her to speak. When she didn't, he said, "I should have realized I had my head up my ass when I was so adamant about not adopting. I'm surprised you agreed to go forward when I said that."

Her voice was low and lethal-sounding. "If you so much as try to shift the blame ¾"

"No, no, really, baby. This is all … all my fault. I felt a void that I wanted to fill. I thought having a baby would do that."

She sighed so heavily that he heard her. "I should have said no when you refused to adopt. It's not all your fault."

"You're being very generous, and I don't deserve it," he said. "It is my fault."

"How do you feel about my being adopted? Do you think I'm my parents' child?"

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "I guess I do." She didn't say a word while she waited for him to think his way through this. "If I'm totally honest, I've always felt a little sorry for you. I hate the fact that you don't know and love your birth parents."

"Everyone should be as lucky as I am," she said, her voice cold and hard. "I'd take my parents over …" she paused, unwilling to bring his mother into the mêlée. "Anyone's."

"I know you love your parents, Blair. And I know how much they love you. But it's not … the same, is it?"

"David," she said, her voice thin and weary, "you don't know jack shit about being adopted. Don't even try to act like you do."

He was quiet for a moment, then said, "I, uhm know a little bit. I've never told you this, but my cousin Michael's adopted."

"Really?" she asked, not revealing that Sadie had already told her.

"Yeah. I was about five at the time, and I remember my mother telling my father that my Aunt Alice was crazy for adopting. I specifically remember her saying that it was like going to the pound to pick out a puppy. You never knew if the puppy would be vicious or sickly and would have to be put down. Not long after that, she finally allowed me to get a dog. We had to go to a breeder because she said you couldn't be too careful when you adopted a dog." He started to cry, and Blair closed her eyes against the pounding anger she felt towards her mother-in-law. "Every time I saw my cousin, I looked him over, trying to see if he was sick or mean. I was afraid he'd bite me." He was sobbing now, and in a matter of seconds, Blair came out of the bathroom and was at his side, torn between holding and strangling him.

They cried together, both of them terrified and desperately sad. "Michael knows he's adopted," he said when he could speak. "My aunt and uncle didn't tell him, though. He found his original birth certificate and his adoption papers. He's never felt like he belonged to anyone." David burrowed his face into his wife's neck, crying hard. She fought the urge to push him away, knowing that it would hurt him terribly to be rejected when he was so vulnerable. "I don't want our baby to feel like that — and now he will."

Blair pulled back and looked at him, seeing only the top of his dark, close-cropped hair. "That's not true! I don't feel like that. Your aunt and uncle should have told him, David. He just feels that way because it's such a fucking secret."

"We weren't gonna tell our baby about his sperm donor," he said, looking at her carefully.

"Jesus fucking Christ! We've been over this. There was no reason in the world the baby would have to know about that, but you blabbed to your mother, and that screwed everything up."

"It's still lying to him," he said.

"Yes, it is," Blair said, trying to calm herself, "but it's a lie that wouldn't harm the baby. The donor has a much healthier family than you do. It's not like there's some dangerous disease lurking in the background that he'll have to be tested for."

"It's still a lie," David said, not budging an inch.

"Fine, but it's a lie we're never going to have to worry about. I don't know why you agreed to lie before, but it hardly matters now. Your mother knows, and that's the same fucking thing as putting a banner headline in the L.A. Times." She shook her head so roughly that her eyes ached. "The only thing that really matters is that he knows he's loved."

He looked at her, his dark eyes filled with pain. "How can we be sure he'll feel loved? How can he feel like he's wanted when I'm not sure I want him?"

Her head dropped into her hands, and she let out a primitive wail. "How can you say that? How can you?"

"I don't know, baby. I just feel … disconnected." He leaned back and banged his head softly against the door frame. "The last time I spoke to my dad, before he went into the coma, he said he could let go because he knew I'd still be here — carrying on for him." He looked at Blair and said, "I have my dad in me, Blair. When I was little, I'd put my hand on his and dream about when I’d grow up and have hands like his. And now I do! I put my hand on his that day, and I almost fainted. My hands look just like his. He's inside me, Blair. I carry his blood."

"Jesus Christ, David, that's not why you loved him."

"It was part of it," he maintained. "I can carry on for him now that he's gone."

"What the fuck does that even mean?"

David looked sheepish and said, "I don't exactly know, but it was really important to him."

"I’m carrying a baby because of some deathbed nonsense that your father, in his morphine addled state, said to you? Was he some feudal lord who could only pass his title on to his rightful heir? Jesus, David, he was a mattress salesman!"

"I know that. But I can't stop feeling this way. Don't you think I've tried?"

She grabbed two handfuls of her own hair and yanked hard. "I'm insane! I'm the one who's crazy! How did I not know this about you? Have you always been this fucking shallow?"

"I guess so," he mumbled. "If feeling this way makes me shallow … then I guess I am."

"Great! You admit that you're shallow. How in the hell does that fix anything? We're having a baby, David. We're having it because you insisted that I carry it. You insisted that we use a sperm donor. You and your mother ganged up on me and talked me into using a donor I didn't really want. And now, now that we've created a human being, you decide that you don't think you can love him. I've never heard of anything so totally fucked up. So morally indefensible!"

"I know, I know," he said, sounding defeated. The whining tone of his voice made her sick, and she got up and ran to the toilet to throw up again, gagging bile because her stomach was so empty.

For a change, David was right at her side, stroking her back and pushing her damp hair off her forehead. "I'm so sorry, Blair. I'm so sorry."

She turned enough to be able to rest her back against the tub. She was pale and shaking, her skin clammy. "How does that help our baby?"

"It doesn't. I know it doesn't." He got up and wet a washcloth. Wiping her face and neck, he said, "I'll do anything, Blair, anything to make this right."

"I could hang myself," she muttered. "I can't believe I went through with this. How could I have been so stupid? This isn't like me!"

"Don't be so hard on yourself. You were trying to make me happy."

Bitterly, she spat out, "Are you happy, David? Did the experiment work?"

He hung his head, obviously ashamed. "No, it didn't."

"Do you have any idea how you're going to learn to love our baby? Any idea at all?"

"No. I've … run out of ideas."

Sighing, the weight of the world on her shoulders, Blair got to her knees, then stood. "I've got to be alone. I need some space."

He didn't say a word, just watched her walk into their room and close the door.

 

ĄG

 

A long time later, David entered their bedroom tentatively, expecting to find her crying her eyes out. Instead, he was treated to a display of Business Blair. She was placing neatly folded garments into a suitcase, and when she saw him, she said, “I’m going to stay at a hotel. It’s not good for me to be this upset, and I refuse to put the baby at risk while we settle this.” She took off her shorts and T-shirt and put on a blouse, jacket and slacks that she normally wore to work. “I’m not sure where I’ll stay, but you can reach me on my cell phone. If you want to save our relationship, you’d better think of a way to change your attitude, David. You’re this baby’s father, and until you believe that, we have nothing more to talk about.”

She ran a brush through her hair, added a touch of lipstick, gave him one final, incalculably sorrowful look, then walked out.

 

Continued in Chapter 4

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