Chapter 1: A'Tisket, A'Tasket
You'd think it would feel 'real' by this point, but still when I walk in to a waiting room full of pregnant women I feel like I'm the propeller hat or the crab on an episode of 'one of these things' from Sesame Street – I have to put a hand to my swollen belly to be sure I'm not an impostor. The receptionist smiles up at me from behind the desk, the same one I've seen at every appointment.
“Hello, Amelia. The technician is running a little behind, but so is Doctor Perkins so you won't miss out on seeing both. Have a seat.”
How on earth does she remember everyone's name? Did they take a picture without my knowledge? Does she just look at the schedule and take a stab? Initially I thought she remembered me because I was the one who was dragged by an excitable Chris Evans to my first appointment – he even answered all of the questions for me, I felt like telling him to go sit in the kiddie corner and chill out – but she addresses every single woman by name.
The last thing I feel like doing is sitting after being told to drink half a litre of water and keep my bladder full – this overachiever drank a whole litre and since I can't relieve the discomfort without emptying it completely I lower myself gently into the chair and hope to god the baby doesn't kick and start a tsunami. In spite of the painful over-inflated-balloon feeling in my lower abdomen it's still a fight to stay awake while I wait, even reading on my phone and reviewing some sample scans for an assessment my eyes are starting to droop.
“Amelia?” a familiar woman calls from the doorway to the imaging room.
I stand up with even more white-knuckling than I sat down with and waddle my way in while she's stopped by the receptionist who gives her a few quiet words before nodding and smiling.
“Hop up on the table, I just need to get a few things ready.”
I really want to grumble that they should be ready before making me get up there, but I don't because despite hormones and sleep deprivation turning me into a cranky bitch I was raised with impeccable manners. I groan in the process and she chuckles from the bench where she's flicking through my file.
“Yeah, just... you wanted a full bladder, right?”
“Are we talking painfully full?”
“I think if you apply pressure with the transducer I might explode.”
“Go use the restroom, darl. At 20 weeks we don't really need it to be full anyway. Go on, take your time.”
I have never in my life experienced relief like this; even when they first showed our little Butterflake was healthy and growing at 12 weeks, the heart fluttering away and little limbs moving on the screen. I think I might cry.
“Better?” she asks when I return.
“Much, thank you.” I laugh.
“Chris not with you today?” Just like that, my eyes well with tears. Fucking hormones have turned me into a leaky tap.
“No,” I say softly. “He wanted to be, but we just couldn't make it work. I'll make another appointment for an extra scan when he's back.”
“Not finding out the sex, then?”
“Not today, no.”
“All right, let's take some baby pictures.” She pulls up my shirt and stops. “Hold on, I just have to go grab some more gel.”
Again I have to hold back my frustration. I'm here, I'm ready, and I want this over with. I don't want any cutesy stuff, I want to know our baby is ok so I can enjoy the cutesy stuff at the next one, when Chris is here.
God I wish he was here.
I blink the tears away as she opens the door again, keeping my eyes squarely on the monitor beside me. A man clears his throat and for a moment I'm in one of those thrillers where a serial killer breaks in to the obstetrician's office because he has a fetish for big bellies or unborn children. He steps out from the shadows into the pool of light around the bed, and turns out to be my beautiful fiance with the long hair and a thick beard I adore, kissing me and holding my hand.
“What are you doing here?”
“I couldn't miss this. I just couldn't.”
“It doesn't matter, babe. I'm here. Let's see our baby.”
I'm glad we're getting the entire sonogram on disc because I've completely missed most of it even though the medical side fascinates me, I'm too busy watching Chris. His face is lit up like a kid at Christmas and every little thing is the most exciting ever; the tiny toes and fingers, the heart beating, the facial features, all elicit little squeaks and whimpers you'd never expect from a man who currently looks like he'd be at home in a snow covered log cabin with an axe.
“That's our baby's hand,” he says, taking mine and kissing my knuckles. “I just... it's amazing.”
“You want to know the sex?”
“Can we? Please?” he begs me.
“Yes,” I reply with a smile.
“It's a girl.”
Chris is now less lumberjack and more blubbering mess. “A girl? We're having a girl?”
She nods and points out the distinct lack of penis on the screen and Chris turns to me.
“We're having a girl, Doc.”
“I can't believe our Butterflake is a girl,” he says, looking at the picture in his hand while I sip my coffee.
It’s a nickname that came up when we first started talking about the little bun in my oven but he didn’t think the word ‘bun’ did it justice, and one day out of nowhere he came out with ‘Butterflake!’, promptly rushing me to the nearest bakery in horror when I said I’d never heard of one. If he hadn’t I’m sure my arse would be two sizes smaller – we sure didn't have those in Sydney, where I lived until I was offered a veterinary oncology residency here in New York. This summer Chris whisked me away to the Hamptons for a well-earned break and got down on one knee on the beach, only to have me step on his moment and blurt out that I was pregnant. When he walked in to my meditation class while filming in Sydney I had no idea who he was, or that we'd end up here a few years on.
A broad smile spreads across my face; it’s starting to sink in now. It isn’t that I’m not as excited as he is, or even that the human puppy opposite me wears his heart on his sleeve and his excitement all over his gorgeous face, it’s just that I’m reminded every time she kicks or moves around. When I eat something I love only to have heartburn so bad I vomit, or I have to order bigger scrubs, or I find myself rubbing circles on my belly and swaying side to side, my thoughts are on our baby and my heart swells. Chris has a lot more to occupy his thoughts and a lot less to remind him, he hasn’t even felt her kick yet because he’s been away for a month – the closest he got was being beside me in bed when I felt the first little bubbles and flutters inside my womb.
“How long do we have?” I almost don’t want to know but if I’ve learned anything it’s that I need time to prepare for his departure when it’s longer than a month, and according to his schedule in my calendar he’ll be away another eight weeks at best.
“I have to go back tonight, my flight leaves at six.”
“Oh.” I don’t want to cry again. Crying in a crowded cafe isn’t my style and I should just be grateful he got here. “But I have to go to work, I only had the morning off.”
“I’m sorry, babe. I’ll try to come home again before we wrap, for a weekend or something.”
We need to have a serious conversation about work and leave and living arrangements and we agreed to do it face to face, but I wasted the first trimester being in blissful denial that everything would somehow work out on its own and then Chris spent a few weeks back in Los Angeles before he left for Durban. Only last week it occurred to me that the baby could actually arrive before we’ve worked out the logistics of my residency and his filming commitments and it frightens the shit out of me. I’m so close to finishing, now – on her due date I’ll have ten months of residency remaining and they have agreed to award it even if I take some time off provided all of my assessments have been completed and I can demonstrate the same proficiency as my peers, but that means studying with a newborn, completing high-risk surgical procedures under huge amounts of pressure while heavily pregnant, and returning to full time caseload while my tiny daughter is cared for by a yet-to-be-determined someone.
“Hey,” Chris says gently, reaching across the table for my hand. “You ok?”
I can feel the colour is gone from my face and my heart is racing, my lungs won’t fill with air. This is exactly why we’ve both avoided talking about it, it’s an overwhelming prospect. The little girl cooking away in my belly is wholeheartedly wanted by us both, but that doesn’t mean the timing is ideal. And there’s the kick of guilt, because a part of me feels like I should just stop working and focus on starting our family properly even though I’ve worked myself ragged for three years and it will mean nothing if I don’t finish it.
“Yeah.” I smile.
“How long until you have to go to work?”
I look down at my watch. “An hour and a half.”
We exchange silent looks across the table and both stand up so fast Chris almost knocks his chair over.
In less than twenty minutes he has me naked in his arms, our hands and lips exploring every inch of each other to commit to memory once more. Chris rolls to his back and I straddle his hips, sinking down slowly and taking his length, guided by his strong hands. I lean over and kiss him while my hips roll back and forth in languid strokes. His hands are everywhere at once, caressing and kneading, pinching my nipples and toying with my swollen breasts, wordlessly echoing my own aching desire to just touch him and have our flesh pressed together as much and as long as possible.
When I make love to him I don't see Captain America or even Chris Evans the actor – he's my fiance, my 'Boston', my Chris. There are no careers, no life changing decisions, no long months of separation, I'm grounded and nothing exists but this moment. As a Buddhist I struggled for so long with the idea of attachment being a bad thing and trying to reconcile the heartbreak I felt when Chris left with the idea that I didn't need him to be whole and content. Now, while I miss him when he's away and look forward to being back in his arms, I accept that it's just the way our lives are. I could leave my career and go everywhere with him and there would be no harm in that but I choose not to, I choose it every day. It is what it is. That's what allows me to enjoy this moment and not waste it with tears – although apparently the hormones that rage around my veins very much want me to cry every damn day – I know it will end with another temporary goodbye.
That said, I'm human and as my Buddhist teacher Mark reminds me every time we discuss this topic I'm not Buddha himself. There will be attachment and hurt and tears, I'll miss him and second guess my decisions, throw the odd tantrum and want to give it all up.
I grind down on him and run light fingertips down his chest, admiring the flex of his muscles as he moves with me. His mouth falls open and his jaw sets firm as he starts to moan and force heavy breaths through his lips, his fingers finding my swollen bundle of nerves between us and rubbing gentle circles until my walls start to flutter and squeeze his cock.
“Oh... come with me, babe.”
His deep blue eyes watch mine as I rock faster over him and a climax washes over me, leaving me limp and smiling in its wake. Chris raises my hips and I fall forward, gripping his shoulders and biting his neck as he thrusts hard up to me and spills his warmth deep inside with a series of groans.
“Fuck...” he whispers. “I missed you so fucking much.”
As long as we can we lie in silence, tangled in each other and the sheets. He runs his fingers up and down my side and in circles on my belly, slowly lulling me into a light sleep with his head resting just above my bump.
“I can't wait to meet her,” he says quietly. “I wonder what she'll look like, who she'll grow up to be.”
“Mmm,” I say sleepily. “I hope she has her daddy's blue eyes and kind heart.”
“I think she'll be beautiful like her mother.” He's quiet for a few minutes. “I know you're worried about work after she's born. I'm going to sort out a year off.”
“You already have projects, though.”
“They're not as important as our daughter, there will be others. I want to do this, babe. Not because I want you to finish your residency but because I don't want to miss anything, I can't think of a better way to do that than be a stay at home dad.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” he says with a nod. “I can't think of a better way to spend a year. We'll stay in New York while we finish and after that if you want we can talk about relocating or we can stay here.” He rises to lean on his elbow and kiss my bump. “Honestly, I've been as anxious about it as you have and since a few days ago when I started talking to Josh about it all those worries have gone. It's the right thing for all of us, I'm sure of – What?” he cuts off and looks at me in alarm when I grab his hand and press it to the side of my belly, low near my hip.
The baby was kicking so hard a second ago I was sure he'd be able to feel it, she hasn't stopped moving the whole time he's been speaking. Of course now his hand is there it stops.
“Keep talking,” I whisper, keeping the pressure on his hand.
A smile lights up his face and he turns his lips toward my abdomen. “It's the right decision for our family, right little – ” His wide blue eyes look up at me. “Was that...?” She kicks again when I push his hand harder into my side and this time there's no doubt. “Oh my god that's amazing!” Tears glisten in his eyes.
“She's been really active while you were talking. I think she likes daddy's voice.”
“Well then hi little Butterflake, I'm your daddy.”
Right on cue she kicks again. She could be punching, hell she could be poking her head or her bum out for all I can tell, all that matters is Chris can finally feel it.
“I love you, baby,” he says, stroking my cheek and tucking my hair behind my ear. He leans down and presses a gentle, lingering kiss right over my shallow navel. “Both of you.”
Before he leaves again he makes a copy of the sonogram pictures and video and stops in for a quick goodbye at the hospital, catching me right in the middle of a consult. The owner of the beagle I'm examining doesn't seem to mind the interruption too much, though, and it forces me to keep it together.
“I'll see you in a few weeks,” he says, kissing my lips quickly. “Love you,” he whispers in my ear.
“Love you too,” I say into his neck as he wraps me in a tight hug. “Let me know when you've arrived safe.”
“Always.” He bends and plants a kiss on my belly. “Take care of mommy, little one.”
Chapter 2: Banbury Cross
I love watching Amelia work, I wish I could do it more often. The Animal Medical Center in New York is a long way from her little practice on Sydney's Northern Beaches and that's never more evident than today when I walk in and find another receptionist I haven't met before – I'm certain every single time I've visited over the last three years the person sitting at the front desk has been different from the time before. It isn't that they go through a lot of staff, more that they have so many I get a new one each time.
This one might well be new – she's young enough that she could be fresh out of school and likely has aspirations of veterinary medicine or nursing – and her double-take as I approach the reception desk definitely isn't because I don't have an animal with me.
“Good afternoon, Mister Evans. Are you looking for Doctor Harris?”
“Only if she's not busy.”
She smiles and picks up the phone in front of her. “She's with a regular patient right now, I'm sure it will be fine.” Then, lifting the handset to her ear and mouth. “Sorry to interrupt, is it all right if I send Mister Evans through?” She nods and sets it down.
“Please call me Chris,” I say with a smile.
“She's in consult room five, Chris,” she says, blushing. If teenage me could see that I've made a woman blush without completely embarrassing or exposing myself he'd never believe it. “Do you know where that is?”
“I do. Thank you, Emily.”
I deliberately decided to say goodbye here because her mind will be occupied and hopefully she won't completely break down like last time I left. We both know it's mostly hormones, we're both used to being separated enough that the reaction isn't usually so catastrophic, but it was difficult to watch and even worse was the tirade I copped when I called to say I'd arrived in Durban. I'm still not sure what the anger was about. This time she'll either keep it together because she's at work, or she won't and I'll be in for a much angrier phone call when I arrive. I can only hope it's the former.
When she opens the door a beagle comes rushing at me in a futile attempt at escape, only to be distracted by the scent of our dogs on my legs. Once he has his nose attached to my calf he follows me easily back in and Amelia closes the door behind me. After a quick farewell I bend and kiss her swollen belly, whispering to our daughter inside.
“Take care of mommy, little one.”
Flying didn't bother me until I met Amelia. I never loved it and turbulence has always made me a little queasy but it was just a necessary part of my life that wasn't worth worrying about. Now there's a very specific part of air travel that I detest so much I get anxious as soon as I'm in my seat: that fucking awful feeling as the wings take the weight of the plane and the wheels leave the ground. It's not the physical sensation of being held down in my seat or the drop in my stomach, it's not even the worry that we won't actually get airborne and we'll crash; it's the finality of leaving the ground. There's no turning back after that, and although I logically know I can't get off and change my mind before that either, every single time now when I'm dipped into my seat and we rise off the tarmac I break down.
It's a hundred times harder now that she's carrying my baby. Leaving her behind was never easy but we both had our work commitments to keep us occupied, now that she's so uncharacteristically emotional it's almost impossible. I guess that's how I know I'm making the right decision taking some extended time at home, there's no way I could leave her and our daughter behind for months on end and it's impossible for her to come with me. We'd discussed a nanny and that idea is still on the table as a back up option, but I want to be at home with my girls at least while she finishes her residency and decides on her next move.
We're having a daughter. The tiny thing we've nicknamed 'Butterflake' in my beautiful fiancee's womb is a girl.
I have the sonogram picture set as the wallpaper on my phone and as we take off I'm looking at it in awe through the blur of tears, it's as though I'd seen her in two dimensions up until now but the new pictures are in three, everything feels so much more real. At the risk of jinxing my entire life, the time since we met has been the best so far – even including the year we were apart – and I wouldn't change a second of it. This pregnancy wasn't planned but I am so excited it's all I can think about and the idea that I can ease Amelia's worries by doing something as amazing as being a stay at home dad just tops it off.
Durban is hot and this beard is itching all day every day, the only thing keeping me going is the pictures in my trailer and talking to Amelia on the phone every couple of days. She says Butterflake is kicking up a storm now and I'm reminded how it felt to feel those little pushes against my hand. I was a little jealous up until then that she got to feel movement all the time and I didn't, but it doesn't matter now that I have. That first kick is a moment I'll never forget as long as I live.
The weeks we're filming prove a perfect distraction and it feels like only days have passed before we receive confirmation that we'll be finishing up a couple of weeks early. While I'm up reading one night I get a call from Sebastian.
“Hey, buddy,” I answer. “What's happening?”
“She's here, Chris. Tulia and I had a baby girl yesterday.”
My heart swells in my chest. “That's fantastic news, I'm so happy for you both. Are they both okay? Does she have a name?”
“They're doing great, Tulia was amazing. Her name is Mihaela Abrielle and she's perfect. Michelle will bring Lachlan in tomorrow to meet his baby sister.”
Sebastian and Tulia have had a rough couple of years with their marriage breaking down and then her career taking a hit when she pressed sexual assault charges against a fellow crew member. To her credit she saw it through and took every blow on the chin and was starting to get some big jobs again when they found out she was expecting. On top of that Sebastian had his first child with another woman, and yet they've survived all of that and come out stronger for it. Now I know our girls will be very close in age and I'm excited all over again.
Amelia is still working in shifts and up all hours of the night despite needing more sleep now that she's passed half way. Both her doctor and I have told her she should rest while she can but she's surviving on about four hours a night most of the time with study and extra research, the plus side to this is that no matter what time I finish I can text her and she's usually awake. Then again it also means she calls some mornings without thinking.
“Hey, babe,” I croak just before 5am. “What's up?”
I don't have to be there to know she's looking at her watch, now, realising the sun isn't even up for me yet. “Fuck. I woke you.”
“Yeah... but it's okay, I never mind talking to you. How's work?”
“Busy.” She's silent for a few seconds while I yawn and sit up, rubbing my eyes.
“Doc? Is everything all right?”
“We lost... I lost a patient tonight.”
“Oh, babe. I'm sorry.” It's easy to assume that losing an animal patient is easier on her than it would be for a human doctor but it hits her hard every single time. Being an oncology specialist means it's a regular occurrence but I don't think it will ever be easy on Amelia. Or any vet, for that matter. “What happened?”
“She had py- an infection and it was just too far gone, she crashed right after I opened her up and we couldn't bring her back. Hardly any symptoms, the family had her booked in for spaying next week. They're devastated.”
“Are you all right?”
I'm immediately reminded of Rubi, the dog she took in when we first got together in Sydney. Rubi was a beautiful Aussie shepherd, small and sick and carrying a litter of pups when we met her. Amelia and I delivered the puppies together in her laundry – that's overstating it, I floundered about and did mostly as I was told while failing at staying out of the way – but then Rubi went down hill and died a few days later. Even though intellectually Amelia knew she couldn't have helped it or done anything differently she was a mess for a while.
“I'll be fine,” she says shakily. I can hear her guzzling from a bottle of water and sighing.
“Babe, does your head hurt?”
“A little. Not migraine hurt, just headache.”
“Get some Tylenol and a drink and go sit down for a bit. Please.”
“Yes, boss.” I can hear the slightest smile in her voice. “I'm sorry I woke you, go back to sleep.”
“I love you. You can wake me any time you like.”
“Love you too, Boston.”
I have mixed feelings about our last day of shooting – it seems to come around at lightning speed and with the urgency of a snail at the same time. I'll miss working, there's no point in denying it. I don't think it diminishes how strongly I feel about the decision to stop for a while to admit that it won't always be the easier option. And there's the niggling seed of doubt, that little voice that mocks my thinking it will just be a break and I'll come back, reminding me daily that there might not be any work left for me. Today as I'm packing up my trailer there's a sense of finality about it because this time I'm not moving on to the next job and another temporary living arrangement, I'm moving on to a whole new phase of my life.
The wrap party starts out as a stylish affair and inevitably gets a bit messy by the end. I'm not even going to pretend I don't love a good party with friends but I considered leaving early because... I can't recall why, something to do with behaving like a responsible adult or reliable father and husband. Somewhere along the way I must have talked myself into staying because at 3am I'm still there and a little worse for wear and the festivities have descended into beer pong and graphic explanations of childbirth and baby shit. By the time I stumble in to my hotel room the sun is coming up and I’m having rather poetic visions about the next chapter of our lives. My early afternoon flight is going to be a bitch.
“Guess who came to visit me today?” There's a definite chirp in Amelia's voice when I call to tell her I'm at the airport.
“Who?” Ordinarily I'd quip back something to make her laugh but I don't have it in me, every time I open my mouth I fear vomit might come out.
“Mihaela and Tulia. She's beautiful, Sebastian is over the moon. The whole time they were here her big dark eyes were open and looking around at everything. Oh, Chris. She's perfect.” Amelia isn't normally one to gush over babies so hearing this much cluck in her voice would be unnerving if she weren't pregnant.
“Won't be long we'll have our own little bundle of perfection. I have some promo stuff booked in over the next month but after that I'm all yours.”
“You're going to drive me crazy, aren't you?” she says with a laugh.
“Probably. I'll see you soon, babe.”
When they call my flight for boarding I'm daydreaming about building baby cribs and test-driving prams, finding the perfect rocking chair for the nursery and surprising her with it when she comes home from work. That's what it's like waiting for a baby to arrive, right?
When I surprised Amelia at the obstetrician's office it was a rare occurrence, usually the only time I can manage to sneak up on her is at work or in public. The reason is tap-dancing away on the other side of our apartment door right now, all twenty doggy feet excitedly trotting on the spot and spinning in circles with all five tails wagging so furiously there's a real risk they might take off – if she doesn't know I'm home something is seriously wrong. It's late and she's already in bed, sitting up surrounded by books and wearing my Patriots shirt. She has the good grace to look surprised when I come through the bedroom door and jumps up to throw her arms around my neck and kiss me before I've even set my bags down.
“I missed you,” she says when our lips part.
Dodger, being the tallest, gets his nose up to my chest and wiggles his body between us. “Yeah, I missed you guys, too.”
I kneel down on the floor and put my backpack by the closet, opening my arms so they can all lick and sniff me to within an inch of my life. First to leave are Nina and Olly – Amelia's French Bulldog and Spaniel – and they curl up at her feet with their tails still thumping against the floor. Next are Asha and Hela, the two miniature Australian Shepherds we kept from the litter we delivered together. Dodger would continue covering me in slurpy kisses for hours if I let him.
“How was your flight?” she asks. “Did you sleep off the hangover?”
I don't bother asking how she knows, I just laugh. “Yeah, I did. Drank a ton of water and slept between toilet stops. You studying?”
“Just keeping myself awake, otherwise I'd have dozed off waiting for you and been lying in a puddle of drool.”
Once I've put the dogs to bed and dried off from a hot shower that's almost exactly how I find her, although she hasn't had time to drool she is diagonal on the bed with her head on my pillow and eyes closed, tiny little snores coming from her parted lips. I chuckle as I switch off the lights and carefully place the books on the floor, sliding in behind her and curling my front around her back.
I don't want to wake her but I don't feel like sleeping, either. My hand wanders down her side, the palm lightly grazing over her skin where my shirt has ridden up to her waist. When I think about her body it's not her round tits or squeezable ass that fills my mind, it's the curves I love. The shallow wave between her waist and hip; the subtle curl between her ass and thigh and the crease of sensitive skin I love to sink my teeth into. As I trail back up there's the changing swell of her breasts; that beautiful point beneath where they meet her torso; and the new roundness of her abdomen as our baby grows inside. She's starting to wake up now as my fingers and the fabric of my shirt brush her skin, leaving a path of goosebumps and making her sigh. I guide it up and off her head and she resumes her position so I can trace down her spine, the shallow valley at its base making another of my favourite curves, particularly when she angles her hips back toward me and deepens it as she presses the flesh of her delicious ass against my groin.
My hand cups her breast and she moans immediately, her nipple hardening to a pebble against my palm as she arches her back to press more into my kneading fingers. One of my favourite effects of pregnancy is how sensitive and easily aroused she is right now, not because she’s always up for sex but for the way she just melts into me at the slightest touch and those little kitten mewls I love fall from her lips. I shift down to kiss her neck, brushing her hair back to expose her shoulder.
“So beautiful,” I whisper against her skin.
She reaches a hand back and threads it into my damp hair while I drag my hand down her spine and over her ass, squeezing gently until she rolls her top hip forward to give me access to her heat. Already her folds are wet and she pushes back into my hand, begging for my fingers as I spread her juices around and lightly circle her clit.
“Please, baby,” she sighs. “It’s been so long... I need you.”
Fisting my cock she glides her hand back and forth from behind my balls all the way to the tip and back again, covering it in precum as I thrust against her loose grip until I’m throbbing in her palm.
My teeth graze her shoulder and neck while I part her legs, pulling the top one back and over my thighs and shifting forward so my cock rests at her entrance. Her moan vibrates through my lips as I guide my length into her tight walls and I feel her muscles clench and twitch around me when I start to move slowly back and forth. Her long neck arches back and turns to kiss me, our tongues glide together while I thrust and pull long strokes, my balls pressing against her lips while her fingers pinch at her own nipples.
“Fuck I love when you touch yourself, baby girl. So hot,” I whisper between moans. I hook my elbow behind her thigh and my fingers find her clit, fluttering over it and listening to her breath hitch when I get the pressure right. “Come undone for me.”
As her climax approaches she reaches down and places her hand on top of mine, guiding my fingers just where she wants them and moving them frantically over her swollen bud until she cries out and spasms, clenching her quivering thighs together and pulling my hand away. I continue with slow, deep thrusts and kiss her mouth as she comes down, only stopping when she does that blissful contented sigh and flops her hand back onto the sheet beside her.
Amelia whines softly when I pull out and roll her to her back, kneeling between her open legs and gazing down at her flushed skin and dark eyes for a few seconds before shoving back inside. Her spine curves as she arches to push against me and I slide both hands under her back, laying my body over her and holding her tight against me as I make love to her, gradually picking up speed until I can hear the wet slap of my balls against her ass as I pound her tight cunt. I hardly notice her hand moving down between us until her fingertips are brushing my dick and her moans are loud in my ear, her fingers coaxing a second orgasm as I start to lose control.
“Ah, fuck! Oh, god... Amelia...”
Her body turns rigid and she falls silent as every muscle inside grips my dick, her strangled scream filling my ears a second later as a gush of fluid is forced from her pussy. My thrusts turn ragged and desperate against her slippery cunt as I look down, both of us dripping and glistening with her juices. Her face is contorted in a mixture of ecstasy and hyper-stimulation, her eyes squeezed shut as the breath heaves from her chest.
“Open... open your eyes,” I grind out. As soon as they lock on to mine I shove deep inside her one last time and erupt, throbbing as I fill her with warm cum and my body shakes.
She reaches behind my neck and pulls me into a kiss that’s all panting breath and teeth, sloppy and forceful. I bury my face in her neck and she giggles a little at the tickle of my beard, raking her nails over my scalp and the back of my neck until I turn to putty and relax into her.
Only for fear of squashing Butterflake I roll off onto my pillow and pull her into my arms, rubbing soft circles on her shoulder while she drifts off. I watch her angelic face for a while once she’s asleep, brushing the damp hair from her temples as a tiny smile curls her lips. We decided rather than rush the wedding we’d put it off until after the baby was born and right now I’m torn somewhere between ‘What does it matter, I’m already hers and I don’t need a ring or a piece of paper to prove it’; and ‘If I could say I do right here, naked in bed, I’d do it.’ I lift her hand to my lips and her engagement ring picks up the tiny shard of light from the window, reminding me of the best decision I ever made – putting a ring on it.
Chapter 3: Cobbler, Cobbler
I’ve never looked at the statistics but I’m certain if you tracked planned pregnancies between here and Australia you’d find a marked difference in the season they were conceived. Australian women dread being pregnant in summer because it’s so hot and humid, and mum tells me everything swells so much worse in a warm climate; whereas I’m constantly told in New York ‘Oh, it’s such a pain being heavily pregnant in winter, trying to cover the damn belly with a coat’. They’re both right. When I imagined being pregnant there were always beautiful dresses that just flowed over me and ‘the oven’ (when did I turn into one of those people who nicknames body parts? Is it part of the baby-making upgrade?) and I looked like a beautiful goddess who belonged on a fertility advertisement. Or I’d be in jeans and sneakers with one of those ‘I grow humans, what’s your superpower?’ T-shirts, perfectly fitted and fresh-faced glowing. And they’d be regular jeans that sit on my hips just right, same as I was wearing pre-surprise-conception, because my hips and arse wouldn’t have grown. I’d just have a nice hard, round, ‘bump’.
I feel so incredibly betrayed.
It’s not a ‘bump’. A bump is something you can drive over and it slows you down, whereas the belly that now protrudes from my lower torso is more like a nuclear-proof bunker complete with supplies enough for an entire extended family to survive a year before they have to start eating each other. The lovely Doctor Perkins says I’m just really good at producing amniotic fluid, as though it’s something to be proud of. And my jeans? Out of the question. I think I outgrew them the very second I saw the second pink line on the pregnancy test. Maternity jeans are funny things, with elastic around the top instead of the waistband, that theoretically should grow with your blossoming ‘bunker’, but instead just likes to fold over on itself at inopportune times and expose my tiger stripes to the world while I hike them back up. I don’t particularly feel like a tiger right now except that I’d like to roar occasionally, but my stomach kind of does look like I was shredded by a tiger’s claws... maybe it’s the medical training in me but I just can’t see them as anything but scars as the layers beneath stretch and tear. They’re not really bothering me although I seem to get new ones every day. Stretchy pants and potato sack tunics are now my staple wardrobe when I’m not in my very stylish maternity scrubs – which are actually so comfortable that if I had enough pairs I’d probably wear them at home, too.
Tonight Chris and I are attending a screening of the film he’d just finished when we found out Butterflake was coming, the last of his promotional duties for this project and until after she’s born. It will be my first time seeing it and the only event I’ve been able to accompany him to since we announced the pregnancy, and I’ll admit my nerves are starting to get the better of me. Since I moved in we’ve been to a lot of premieres and parties together, the vast majority of them we were able to sneak in unnoticed but there have been a few where the red carpet was mandatory and he wanted me by his side.
I don't love the celebrity side of these things but it makes me so proud of Chris – not only for the attention he receives but the way he handles the occasion when inside I know he's freaking out. In the car he reaches across and takes my hand, rubbing his thumb over my knuckles.
“You doing okay, babe?”
“Yeah.” I force a smile. “Piece of cake, right?”
I know he's worried about me having a panic attack because I can't take Valium while I'm pregnant. I only had it prescribed after our first red carpet experience as a couple, which didn't go well.
It was February and most of my life was still packed in boxes. I had taken a lot of convincing to go to the Oscars with Chris – I had to fly straight back the morning after while he remained in LA – but he wanted to introduce me and assured me that the ceremony was worth enduring for the after parties. With the move over there being so rushed I hadn't really had time to prepare like I always thought I might if I ever got the chance to go – like all of the magazines say the actresses do with their crash diets so they look perfect on the day – and he hurriedly introduced me to Ilaria, his stylist, over coffee the week before.
“What sort of style do you like? Any particular designers?”
“Er... “ I shrugged and laughed. “I honestly just pick what looks nice.”
“She likes ruffles. You wear a lot of ruffles,” Chris chimed in.
“Do I?” I cocked my head to the side. “Yeah, I guess.”
“I can work with that, Gucci is all about ruffles.”
“I'm sorry he roped you into this, Ilaria. You're used to dressing all those beautiful celebrities, and – ”
She held up a hand to cut me off. “I get to work with some gorgeous women, of which you are now one. You think I didn't hear all about you when he came back? I know how important you are to Chris and it's my job to make sure you're comfortable and feel like a million bucks. You have a lovely figure, Amelia, healthy and toned, and I already have a gown in mind that I think was just made for you. Stop worrying.” She elbowed Chris. “Wait til you see your tux, mister. Freakin perfection.”
She was right, his tux was gorgeous, but I couldn't stop looking at myself and twirling in the mirror. She'd brought a few gowns but the one she'd thought of first was the one we went with – a pink Gucci v-neck with ruffled layers for the skirt in deepening shades of pink with a silver satin bow around my waist. In the car I'd toyed with the soft fabric and watched my impeccably manicured nails as though they were someone else's, the light tan on my skin felt fraudulent after the snow I'd left behind in Manhattan, and I was still questioning the inadequacy of my own eyelashes after having an extra set glued to my eyelids. Suddenly I felt like I actually did belong on the red carpet at the Oscars, only it wasn't a pleasant or comforting feeling so much as one that made me wonder if Chris might like me better this way than what the 'real' me I'd left back at the hotel in jeans and a sweater. I felt a million bucks, but I felt as fake as the eyelashes that were beginning to irritate my eyes.
As soon as the car slowed into the queue I could hear the roar of people, and the flashes were already lighting up the inside of the car. I reached out for Chris's hand and he squeezed it reassuringly.
“I don't know if I can do this,” I whispered.
“I’m right here with you, babe. Say the word and we’ll just go inside, or we can skip it altogether and go in the back?”
“N-no,” I stuttered. “I want to do it for you. I just need a minute.”
“It will be at least five before we get out of this queue.” He took off his seatbelt and slid over so our bodies were pressed together. “Look at me. I’m right here and I won’t leave your side.”
“Isn’t that what I promised you?” I said with a tiny smile.
“Isn’t it perfect we can lean on each other?”
By the time the door opened he’d talked me through a very short calming meditation and I felt calm and mostly in control even though the noise was unbearable. The tinnitus in my left ear started up immediately and I knew I’d have to concentrate to make out any words for the rest of the night but I was determined to take in the atmosphere and if nothing else show off my dress. After the first interview it got easier, I worked out that if I kept to Chris’s right I could turn my head when the interviewer was speaking and it would just look like I was gazing into his blue eyes rather than turning my good ear to the conversation. He consistently corrected anyone that said I was lucky and even got a bit of a Boston grumble going at one poor blogger who suggested I’d moved to New York to be with Chris rather than for my own career. I’d just been completely star struck by being introduced to – and immediately hugged by – Robert Downey Jr when a light rig fell behind us and the noise was enough to shatter my composure, I gripped Chris’s arms so hard he had fingertip bruises in his biceps for three days.
“It’s okay, babe. You’re okay. You’re safe,” he whispered into my hair while encircling me in his arms.
I felt tears well in my eyes, I so desperately wanted to do this for him and now I felt like a frightened puppy crying for her mother.
“Look at me,” he said firmly, raising my face with a finger beneath my chin. “Kiss me.”
As I reached up to press our lips gently together he spoke against them. “We’re going straight inside now. I’ve got you.” And with a brief kiss he threaded his fingers into mine and strode purposefully past the rest of the crowd and inside the foyer, leading me to a small breakout room and locking the door behind us before sitting me on a velvet couch.
“Here.” He unscrewed the cap of a water bottle from the table and put it in my shaking hands, steadying them with his own. While I took a sip he smoothed his hands over my hair and kissed my forehead. “I’ll get a car to meet us at the back, we can hang out here until then.”
“No. I still want to go in, I just need a minute.”
“Babe – ”
I pressed a finger over his lips. “I did not get into this dress, have countless people make me Oscars-worthy, and get all the way inside to just leave. We’re going in.”
“Okay.” He smiled. “You know you were just perfect before, right? I couldn’t care less what you wear and I love your day-glo skin. In fact I prefer you without clothing and the only attention I pay to your fingernails is when they’re scratching me, so... I love you, Amelia. When you’re comfortable.”
“I love you, too. Are you trying to get me naked?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t, but... I mean the door is already locked...”
The rest of that story is very very private and for another time. When we left that little room and I straightened his satin bow tie and navy tux jacket we sat through most of the ceremony with our fingers toying with each other’s palms and wrists. The effort was worth it but I took myself to a good therapist that week and got a prescription for Valium, which I’ve taken before each event since.
Until tonight, because I can’t. The doctor said it would be okay occasionally if I need it, but in an event like this where I can leave any time I’m uncomfortable it’s not worth the risk.
It’s just a short thing, a couple of interviews before we go in and Chris is doing a Q and A after. It will be fine.
“Can we just go around the block and come back?” Chris asks his driver.
We pull back out into the traffic as Chris lays a hand on my belly. “Have I told you how beautiful you look. That colour is beautiful on you.”
“Thanks. Ilaria sent me to a shop that does some beautiful maternity wear and the woman grabbed this straight off the rack for me, it was perfect.”
It’s a simple wrap dress in plum with a fluted skirt, the top making a deep V between my breasts and pulling firm right beneath so I almost have a waist again. The hem is just above my knees and somehow flows over my belly without the illusion of a potato sack so much as conforming stretch, the thick tights and knee high boots keeping my legs toasty warm. I long ago gave up trying to find a coat that actually covers me and have gone for a short leather jacket fastened at the collar and open the rest of the way. Chris even decided to coordinate and is wearing a shirt in almost the same shade beneath his fitted grey suit.
“I don’t feel it, but thanks. You look pretty good yourself, daddy.”
“Say that again, it never gets old.”
“You’re. Going. To. Be. A. Daddy.” I punctuate each word with a kiss on his lips, deepening the last until he moans against my tongue.
“Pulling up now, Chris,” the driver interrupts.
“Ready?” he asks, stroking my cheek.
I nod. Chris exits first and helps me out which I manage with a reasonable amount of poise. The crowd isn’t huge but they erupt all the same and I kind of love this part, watching his fans interact and shower him with adoration, making him blush and smile. When he comes away he’ll be buzzing with energy, bordering on overwhelmed with it, fidgeting and bouncing on the balls of his feet like a small child on a sugar rush.
Once he's made it to the end of the line we head over to the gathered press. Their questions are run-of-the-mill about the film and the cast, more about the final Avengers film, the one mandatory invasive question about the pregnancy.
“Do you have any names chosen yet?” one asks.
Chris looks at me and smiles. “Haven't agreed on one yet but we will. Probably after she's born.” His eyes widen immediately when he realises what he said. “Or he.”
Great save, Chris. That is the exact reason I made sure we told all of our close family and friends as soon as we found out. Great actor does not always mean great liar.
We're laughing to ourselves about it on the way into the theatre and right as I cross the threshold everything swims for a moment. I grip Chris's arm with both hands to steady myself and he looks down at me in alarm.
“Nothing, I just...” I stop and blink a few times. “I was a bit dizzy. I'm good.”
I don't give it another thought after that, I'm too busy enjoying the film. I might be biased but Chris's performance is sublime and perfectly portrayed, by the end I'm falling in love with his character and dabbing at my eyes while trying not to ruin my mascara. With fresh tears threatening to spill over I reach up and stroke his cheek, pulling him down to kiss him. Words can not express how proud I am and how happy I am for him that his hard work has translated into a beautiful performance.
“So proud of you, Boston,” I say against his lips. “You should be, too.”
Most people wouldn't see how uncomfortable he is on the stage accepting praise and answering questions about himself, I don't know if it actually gets easier over the years so much as he's learned to cover it. As soon as its done he has a beer in his hand as he mingles with some friends from the cast and I slip away to find a bottle of water and some tylenol for the dull thudding in my head. Yawning as I stare out the window from a quiet corner, I startle at the familiar voice behind me.
“Are you feeling okay or is that niece of mine giving you grief?”
I turn and Scott envelopes me in a hug. “I'm fine, just a headache. How are you?”
“I'm pretty proud to be an Evans right now,” he says with a beaming smile. “Can I get you anything?”
“Really, Scott, I'm fine.” The truth is I'm exhausted, my shifts have been long and twice this week my sleep has been interrupted for an emergency surgery. My swollen feet and legs are throbbing in my heeled boots while the ache in my head steadily worsens behind my eyes. Chris works so hard and these nights are so few that I can't bear to cut it short. “Look at him, he's actually enjoying himself.”
“Apparently we're heading to the club next door after this.”
“Yeah? Cool.” I can only hope by 'we' he means him and anyone but me. The thought makes everything lurch again.
Scott laughs and squeezes my shoulder. “Darlin', would you let me take you home?”
I lay a hand on my chest dramatically. “But Scott, I'm marrying your brother. What if he finds out?”
“Very funny. You look like you need some rest and Chris can keep celebrating without worrying about you. C’mon, give me an excuse to skip the club, I’m not really up for it tonight.”
“Yeah, you're right.”
I sneak up beside Chris and slip my hand into his. “Can I talk to you?”
“What's up?” he asks, leading me away from the crowd.
“Scott is going to take me home so you can enjoy the rest of your night. You've earned this, baby. I want you to have fun and not worry about me, okay?”
He opens his mouth to protest but I lay a finger over his lips.
“No argument, unless you want me to stay.”
“I don't know what I did to deserve such an angel, but I'm glad I did it. I love you.”
“I love you, too. I'm so proud of you and I wish I could keep going but I can't. Give my apologies to everyone?”
“Of course. I won't be too late.”
“And I know better than to wait up.”
Chris's Patriots shirt isn't so oversized on me anymore, and where I could get away with no underwear before I feel the need to wear panties with it now. Scott has insisted on staying at least until Chris comes home even though I did my best to assure him I could take care of myself – apparently Chris had a word in his ear about me being a bit unsteady on my feet earlier and ordered him not to leave me alone. Before I go to sleep I sip a glass of ginger ale to try to calm the knot in my stomach but I'm not awake long enough to know if it works.
The ringing in my ears makes it impossible to know where the rest of the cracking shots come from, just that they're close. Burning pain sears through my head, blinding me and making everything spin, making my stomach contract and lurch so violently I think I might turn inside out.
And then I'm kneeling on the floor of the ensuite, fresh pain bringing tears to my eyes with every heave of my insides. A firm hand rubs my back while another holds my hair, and when my stomach is empty and I sit back on the cold tiles a soothing cloth wipes my face. Somehow I know it isn't Chris, maybe it's the cologne, but it's the next best thing.
“Amelia? What do you need, darlin'?” Scott asks gently.
My tongue is like lead in my mouth and when I speak the words don't want to come out in the right order. “Kitchen in the... the cabinet in... above the um...”
“In the medicine cabinet above the microwave?” Scott deciphers.
I nod. “Emet... anti... Fuck!” I ball my hand into a fist as though it will help the name come to me.
He hands me a glass of water. “Here, sip this and I'll go get the whole box.” A minute later he's sitting on the floor beside me again and I open my eyes to find the right meds.
Just the slit of white light sends me right back to the toilet and the hammer strikes my temples again. Without even asking he reaches up and flicks off the light switch, leaving us in only the glow from the hall light. “Better?”
I squint one eye open and nod, reaching over to squeeze his hand. “Thanks. Zof- Zofran. One.”
He sifts around in the plastic tub of boxes and bottles until he finds the right one and I hear him tear the foil before dropping a tiny tablet into my hand. I place it under my tongue, fighting another lurch from my stomach as it dissolves and the urge to vomit eases. We sit there for a while, my head resting back on the wall and my bum freezing on the tiled floor, until I'm sure I'm not going to be sick again and he helps me up.
“Chris is on his way back,” he says as he tucks me into bed and sits on the edge, wiping my face and letting the cool cloth rest on my forehead. “Can I get anything else?”
I shake my head. I want to say 'you didn't need to call him' and 'no, I just have to sleep it off' but I fear it would take an hour to form the words, so I just give him a weak smile and grab his hand again as I close my eyes. I've told Lisa many times how proud she should be of her boys, they're both instinctively thoughtful and caring, their default reaction is always kind and selfless. If I can't have Chris or my own mum, Scott really is the next best thing in a crisis. He's still there a few minutes later when Chris comes in and I hear them mumbling beside me before a light kiss is left on my cheek as he leaves, and then Chris is sliding in beside me and gathering me up in his arms, the room now in complete darkness.
“Sorry,” I sob against his chest.
“Shhhhhhh,” Chris whispers. “Sleep.”
Chapter 4: Doctor Foster
“She went to work,” I tell Scott when he calls the next morning.
“Is that a good idea?”
“I didn’t think so but she said she felt fine.”
“And that happens to her often?”
“I wouldn’t say often. Every few months I guess. Stress brings it on sometimes. I should have known when she got dizzy and taken her straight home.”
“Chris, I have trouble believing even you could talk Amelia into anything she didn’t want.” He laughs.
“True. Well she said she was all right and I’ll check on her in a couple of hours to be sure. Thanks for taking care of her, I appreciate it.”
I have to go out and pick up a few things so I plan to visit her at work but, that goes out the window when I call to see if she wants a coffee.
“Hey, I was about to call you,” she says, her voice weak and slow. “I got work… sick at work they made me come to hospital. I’m sure it’s just m… migraine…”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
When I arrive her room is dark and there’s a woman performing a sonogram on her belly. Amelia motions for me to come over beside the bed.
“Is everything okay?” I whisper.
“She’s perfectly happy in there, kicking and rolling around.”
Amelia is pretty zonked out on pain killers so I mostly just sit by her bed while we wait for her doctor to come and see us.
“Hi, Chris,” she whispers when she enters the darkened room. “How long has she been unwell?”
I tell her about the screening party and last night and then very sheepishly explain that I’ve been away. “Usually I can tell, though. She gets the ringing in her ear and can’t hear properly. She doesn’t hide that from me when I ask how she is and we spoke on the phone every day.”
“It can happen with the shift in hormones, but her blood pressure is a little concerning. Not enough to worry too much about at this stage but enough that we need to monitor it and she might need to slow down. What sort of hours is she working?”
I shake my head. “Too many. Technically she has two days off each week but even then if there’s an interesting case she’ll go in and she’s studying all the time.”
She nods and her smile is that of an obstetrician who is used to dealing with stubborn women. “She’s getting in to the third trimester now, Chris. She won’t like it but she’ll have to slow down.”
“Yeah,” I sigh. “I’m staying at home with her now so I’ll keep a better eye on her.”
“I want to keep her here until she’s recovered and monitor bub for a bit, just make sure there are no contractions or heart rate anomalies. Could you have the nurses page me when she’s awake and I’ll come back and speak with her?”
“Of course. Thanks, doctor.”
I wake when she groans and turns to face me, tugging her hand from my grasp to brush the hair back from her face.
“Hey, Doc. How are you feelin?”
“Mmm, better. Good drugs. Can we go home?”
I guide her back down when she tries to sit up. “Not so fast, babe. There’s a monitor on the baby – just to be sure you’re not having contractions or anything.”
“It was just a migraine, Chris. I’ve had them like this before.”
“Yes, but there’s a little extra load on your body, now. Your blood pressure is elevated, you’re going to have to slow down a bit.”
I was expecting an argument, so when she starts to sob I’m momentarily taken aback. “I can’t. I have lab hours to keep up and I need more surgeries.”
Moving up to sit on the edge of the bed I hold her hand and wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Hey, look at me. It will work out. You just have to cut back a bit, that’s all. Not stop altogether. Why don’t we go talk to them together and see what we can do?”
“But there’s not enough time! Just…” she draws a deep, shuddering breath and looks up at me. “Just give me one more month, and then I’ll back right off. I’ll rest and put my feet up.”
I sigh. “Amelia, come on. I know this little one wasn’t in our plans, but she’s coming, and I know it sucks and you’ve sacrificed a lot and I’ve been away… I don’t want to lose you.”
“This is serious, babe. You both could get really sick.”
“I know my limits.”
“Evidently you don’t or we wouldn’t be here.”
Silence falls over us both and I’d bet when the doctor returns she can feel the tension in the air. She sits down beside the bed while a nurse removes the strap and monitor from Amelia’s belly, handing her a print-out I can’t read.
“We need you back here in a week for a check-up, I need that blood pressure to stabilise. In the mean time if you experience any of these symptoms, call or come in immediately.”
“I’m sure it was just the migraine pushing it up today.”
“Or, your blood pressure triggered the migraine. It should have come back down and it hasn’t, which suggests to me the blood pressure came first.”
“Could stress have caused it? Anxiety?” I ask.
“The migraine, sure. Not that much of a rise in her BP, though.” She turns back to Amelia. “I also need you to cut back on work and get enough rest. You can’t work like you used to with the extra load on your system or you’ll end up in preterm labour.”
“I’m getting plenty of rest, I promise. I can’t just stop working, I’m almost finished a residency.”
“I understand, Amelia. I really do. I’m not saying you have to stop, just cut your hours back to a reasonable level.”
“I have a case load and if that patient needs a lot of attention then I have to be there. I can’t just say ‘sorry, reschedule Rover’s tumor re-section for next week, I’ve done my hours’!”
The doctor smiles. “I was a resident when I fell pregnant with my first. He was a pill baby just like your little one, a complete surprise. I thought it was all over, that I’d never get accepted again to finish my residency and be a doctor. Obviously I did, it just took a little longer. Now I know it’s more challenging for veterinary medicine, and I know you’re nearly finished, but this isn’t something we can mess around with. Try talking to them, I’m sure they’d extend you for a year?”
“They will, but I’m on a scholarship and it’s complicated.”
“I see. Well, I can’t force you, but I can tell you that if your blood pressure keeps rising you’ll be back here having a premature baby.”
“What if I start on methyldopa and promise not to work more than forty hours?”
The doctor laughs. “Let’s wait and see how it is next week before we talk about drugs?”
I’d assumed we’d go straight home but she insists on going back to work to collect things and speak to the head of oncology.
“Doc, can we just slow down for a second? This could wait until tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow I need to be working, I have surgeries scheduled already. I can’t just shuffle patients around because I’m pregnant.” She smiles at Emily behind the front desk. “Do you know where doctor Stevenson is?”
“He was consulting on a case a while ago but should be in his office now, would you like me to page him?”
“No, thanks. I’ll find him.”
He ushers us both inside and closes the door, a concerned frown on his kind, wrinkled face. “How are you feeling, Amelia?”
“I’m ok,” she says. “I do need to cut back my hours if possible, though. I know that’s not fair on the hospital, but I have to put my health first.”
I listen to them nutting out the details, totally confused as to why she was so reluctant to approach them. In the end she comes out with a halved caseload for surgery and a cut back for her oncology patients with more research and consulting from home than face to face time at the hospital. She seems satisfied with it all, cutting down to three days per week, but I still don’t feel like she’s relieved even when we’re home.
A week later her follow-up at the hospital isn’t much better but since her blood pressure hasn’t increased they decide to monitor weekly and see how it goes.
“That’s good, right?” I ask her over dinner.
“Not really, I could have not worried about work, cutting my hours hasn’t made any difference,” she snaps.
“It’s only been a week, babe.” I reach over and squeeze her shoulder. “So I was thinking we could go shopping on the weekend, get a nursery happening in the spare bedroom?”
“Okay, if you want.”
“Could you be any less enthusiastic?” I laugh.
“We can’t all just stop working, Chris.” She huffs and rubs her temple.
“What… Doc, I was joking.”
She doesn’t say anything, just keeps pushing food around her plate.
“Would you please talk to me?”
“Yes, we’ll go shopping.”
“I meant talk to me about what’s going on. You’re really stressed, are you worried about something?”
“Of course I am! Less hours at the hospital means I’m missing out on practising procedures I have to be confident in performing before I pass.”
“Don’t bite my head off, but have you spoken to – ”
“If that question is gonna end with any variation on ‘Margot’ or 'your therapist’, save it.”
That pretty well answers it, then. I’m trying to help her but I don’t know how, she just has to accept that this is how it is. If I could carry the baby for her, birth it and the whole nine yards, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The timing sucks, it wasn’t planned, but we agreed we’d go through with it together.
“Babe, look at me. Please?”
She sets her phone down beside her plate and shuts off the screen before looking up at me, her gaze verging on a rabbit that’s just been rounded up by our pack of dogs.
“Are you regretting your decision about…” I don’t even want to say it. “About having the baby?”
For a few anxious heartbeats she’s silent, her hands fidgeting in her lap. She looks down at the table while I watch her for some sort of indication and start to panic at the thought that she might say yes, because it’s far too late to change it. And then she sobs. There’s no watering eyes or quivering lip first, no tell-tale sniffle like she usually tries to wipe away with her hand, just a heartbroken sob that makes my chest feel like it’s caving in.
“Hey.” I kneel beside her and she turns toward me, burying her face in her hands. “It’s okay, we’ll work it out.”
“I d-don’t… I want the ba-baby.”
“Tell me what’s upsetting you, then.”
She shakes her head and looks up at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m s-so… sc-scared.”
“About being a mom?”
She nods and takes a few hiccoughing breaths. “What if I’m… What if I’m not a good mum?”
“Darlin’, there’s no way that will happen. You’ll be amazing, I know it.”
“But… I already don’t want to stop working. I’m letting you take all this time off so I can leave a tiny baby and go back to work!”
“That doesn’t make you a bad parent. All you have to do is love her, and you already do.” I take her hand and pull her over to the couch, cuddling her as tight as I can against me while she sniffles and sobs. “Is this what’s been bothering you all week?”
We stay there for at least an hour while I reassure her that she’ll be a great mom, though I’m not sure she’s entirely convinced. It’s only while I’m rubbing her back and kissing her temple I realise the crying has stopped and her breathing is soft and slow; she’s fallen asleep on my shoulder. I smile and breathe in the scent of her shampoo and she murmurs and shifts against me, bringing a hand up to my other shoulder before falling back to sleep. I wish I could make her see what I see, how amazing she’s going to be as a mother and that she doesn’t need to feel guilty about wanting a career as well. Now I think of it I’m fairly sure her own mother worked when Amelia was a child, and I know that’s where her ambition and drive comes from. Her parents are already planning to come over in a couple of months but I think she needs to talk to her mom sooner than that.
Not so long ago I’d have just put an arm under her legs and one beneath her arms and stood up, but now… I have to admit to being unsure I can lift her. The extra thirty pounds on top of her usual 120 shouldn’t be a problem but her shape is so different and all the extra is in the middle, the last thing I want to do is overbalance and drop her on the floor. My pride would never recover.
“Doc?” I whisper into her ear. “Wrap your arms around my neck and hold on.”
She complies with a faint murmur and I stand up with a much louder groan than I intended – thirty pounds is quite a bit more than I anticipated. I stumble a little on the threshold of our bedroom and she starts to giggle. “Put me down before you hurt yourself, Boston.”
“I stopped a helicopter with these arms, baby.”
“With a little help from CGI.”
“Hush, or I will drop you.”
She’s still smiling when I set her down on her side of the bed and kiss her softly. “I love you. I’m sorry I lost it on you before.”
“Don’t be, I’m glad to know what’s been bothering you. It will work out, you are going to be a fantastic mom. Trust me.”
“We’ll see,” she says as she tosses off her clothes and pulls on my t-shirt. “God damn it!”
Amelia turns side on, my shirt bunched at the top of her bump. “It won’t fit.”
I make a mental note to go back and buy her the maternity pajamas she said she didn’t need even though she admired them for ten minutes. “You’ll have to sleep naked,” I say with a shrug.
Lying in bed behind her I find my arms being pulled tighter around her as she places my hands on her, bringing one to her swollen breast and the other over her hip to her mound. “I need you, Chris.” She whimpers as I brush her nipple. “Please touch me.”
This past week I’ve probably treated her far more gently than I needed to, I was worried about getting her too worked up and it took a few days for her head to clear. I brush her hair aside and nibble the side of her neck as my hand weaves between her legs and into her warm folds, moisture immediately coating my fingertips as I tease up and down. It’s only a few minutes before she’s clutching at the pillow and bucking her hips against my hand while I alternate rubbing her clit and pumping my fingers in and out of her heat. As I kiss her neck her moans vibrate through my lips and her thighs clamp down on my hand as she reaches her climax, shaking and shuddering and gasping for breath.
I lift her top leg and glide my throbbing dick straight into her cunt, burying it and enjoying the spasms of her muscles before I start moving. My thrusts start out slow and leisurely and I make love to her as long as I can hold out while her fingers make circles around her clit. I feel her pace quicken as I start to moan and push into her harder and her muscles are squeezing my cock as she builds toward another orgasm.
“Oh, fuck… come with me, baby… I’m right there.”
As soon as her pussy grips my cock I grunt and spill into her, holding her back tight against my front as we both come down with heavy breaths. I’m fairly sure she’s asleep before I pull out and pull the covers over us, her incoherent murmur in reply to my 'I love you’ all but confirming it.
As the weeks wear on and her belly grows we slowly turn the empty room into a nursery with soft mauves and pinks around light timber furniture. With Christmas only two weeks away now I constantly have to bring myself out of the future, I’m already thinking about our daughter’s first Christmas next year and how we’ll decorate the nursery for the next baby. I hope to be back in Boston by then, or at least in a house rather than an apartment, where they can play outside and we don’t have to worry about lack of space. I’ve purposely not discussed that with her yet, I’d rather not add to the stress of impending labour and trying to wrap up at work. She promised to be done by 34 weeks but then she took on a new case last week that will take her to at least 36 and I can see that stretching all the way to 40 if she lets it.
On a particularly blustery morning I come home from a run to find her sniffling in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Nothing,” she chirps.
I rub my frozen nose into her neck until she laughs and tries to push me away. “Now tell me what’s wrong.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” I lean into her back and rub her hips the way she likes when they’re aching and she lets her head fall back against me.
“How did you know I needed that?”
“Because you’re in pain 90 percent of the time, it was a safe bet. C'mon. Spill it.”
“Mum yelled at me. I asked her if I was wrong to go back to work in May and she yelled at me.”
“Okay, but something else must have happened in between.”
“I said I felt like I was going to be a terrible mother because I want a career. She said of course not, she did the same and managed to have both, and I said she was an amazing mum. And then I said 'so it’s fine for me to keep working until the baby comes, right?'”
“And she said 'absolutely not, you have rising blood pressure and you need to listen to the doctor?'”
“Were you listening?”
I shake my head. “Another lucky guess. Babe, you’re already on medication and all it’s done is slow it down. It’s still rising every time you see the doctor. Remember she threatened to admit you?”
“But this is an oncology case, no surgery.”
“That’s not the point. I need you to hand it over to someone else. Please.”
“You gonna yell at me, too?” She eyes me sideways.
“I’d rather not, but I will if I have to.” I pick up the bottle of acetaminophen in front of her. “What’s this for?”
“It’s a painkiller, Chris,” she says dryly. She starts to roll her eyes and then sees the serious expression on my face. “My head. Not that every goddam inch of me isn’t aching as well.”
“You have a headache. Aren’t you supposed to call the hospital?”
“I’m supposed to take those first, sit down and check my blood pressure, and then call the hospital.”
“Well I took them and then you came home.”
“Is it gone?”
“It’s not any worse.”
“Babe, come on.” I swipe the coffee cup from her hand and grab her shoulders, guiding her into a chair and fetching the blood pressure machine from the kitchen bench. “When are you gonna take this shit seriously?”
“I am.” She slides the cuff onto her arm and presses the button. “I can’t just stop. I don’t know how.”
I sit down beside her and squeeze her neck. “I love you, Amelia, and I understand. Your mother yelled at you because we’re all just trying to get through and make sure you’re staying safe and doing what the doctor says. How can I help?”
“I don’t know.” She sighs and rubs her forehead. “I don’t wanna slow down and then have anxiety get the better of me. I’ve always coped better by staying busy.”
“All right.” I look down at the reading on the machine and hand her the coffee and her phone. “You need to call the hospital.”
While she’s doing that I make my own call to her supervisor, Doctor Stevenson. I know she’ll be mad. There will be tears and the dogs will all go and hide in their favourite dark corners while she tears me a new one, but it’s the right thing to do.
Fuck. I really hope it’s the right thing to do.