Some things, they just never lose. At twenty-nine years old, Julie still wears her hair long, down to her waist, with sideswept bangs. Matt still answers every yes-or-no question with a ma’am or sir following his response, and still has never called her father anything other than ‘Coach’. Julie lost her accent early on (and Matt insists that she never had one to begin with), but somehow, someway, now that they’ve been living in Chicago for going on ten years now, Julie finds herself to be the football fan her father always wanted her to be.
Julie was ‘that engaged girl’ all through college and it kind of precluded her from making close girlfriends her own age during undergrad. But somehow in that time, with miles in between them, that gave her the time and space she needed to really become best friends with her mother. And Julie learned that...her mom was actually pretty cool. She remembers resenting Tyra a bit when they were teenagers- she seemed to relate to Mrs. T in a way that Julie never could with her own mother.
But there’s no one else that she wants to talk to right now, other than her mama.
Right after she tells Matt.
And it’s a surprise to him (it had been to her too); he doesn’t say anything for a few minutes, but even before he busts out with that smile of his, his eyes are crinkling in the corners and he’s pulling her close and murmuring, “Say it again, say it again...”
Julie laughs through her tears. “We’re having a baby, Matty.”
Gracie doesn’t let anyone call her Baby Girl or Gracie Belle any more. In typical fourteen-year-old fashion, Gracie has decided that she’s too old to be a ‘baby’ anything.
“That’s your darn name, you show your mother some respect now, you hear,” Eric will grunt when Gracie whines about this, his accent always getting thicker when he’s in Tough Dad mode. (Though it’s thicker still when he’s in Tough Coach mode, and thickest always when he’s whispering to his wife in the dark of their bedroom.)
“Come on, y’all, we’re trying to eat dinner here,” Tami says quietly. She’s tired, and it’s been a long day (big, big news) but she smiles at her crotchety old man of a husband and beautiful baby girl.
Eric exchanges a look with her from the other side of their daughter and gives her a little wink. This news is too good, they can’t tell her over dinner when she’s being bratty and begging to be excused so she can hop online (or go grab her phone, or wherever it is she wants to be at this exact moment). After supper, they’ll make some hot chocolate and call Julie and let their two girls talk.
Julie eyes Matt’s longneck beer bottle with longing. It’s been such a long week, and she’d like nothing more than a nice cool beer to go with her gooey, greasy pizza, but not for another few months yet. It’s been going by so fast. Way too fast.
They have made their studio loft work for the two of them for some time now, but soon enough...Julie’s been looking into Oak Park, and other suburbs. It will be a while yet before they can afford a house, but they’ve been saving. Still, in the meantime, Matt has done some work, taking one of the front corners and painting a jade green mural, of an enchanted forest with dark vines and leaves and mushrooms. It’s made to look like Neverland, and when they find out what this little Bean is going to be (Julie had coined the ‘Bean’ nickname at their first doctor’s appointment and it stuck), Matt’s going to add pirates or fairies, depending.
He’s pacing around the room, talking to her father on the phone, and she realizes he’s listening to stories of Daddy’s new quarterback, a sophomore kid who’s kind of short and scrawny and doesn’t seem to know how good he really is. They’ve been doing this a lot more lately, after Julie is through chit-chatting to her mom (and Gracie when she’s home), Matt grabs the phone with a hey, coach and they talk for a lot longer than Julie is used to either one of them being on the phone.
Julie rubs her hand over her belly, and listens to her husband’s voice, low and scratchy, late on a Friday night. He catches her eye from across the room and smiles, crooked like he did when he was sixteen.
She’s getting drowsy but she smiles back.
Tami’s head snaps up from the couch when she hears the front door slam. She glances at the clock- Gracie’s made her curfew by a good ten minutes, but she just isn’t able to stay up to wait for her the way she used to. It seems like forever ago when she had a teenager and a baby at the same time -- the thought of going through that again makes her hug her pillow and whimper a little.
“Mama? Are you still up?” Gracie tiptoes in front of the couch, carrying her boots in one hand. Her cheeks are ruddy from the cold outside and her hair is starting to come loose from the neat braid it was in when she left the house. Gracie has Julie’s long, thick blonde hair, and like her big sister, loves to give herself all kinds of fancy hair-do’s. Tami had been the same way, at that age.
Gracie has always called her mama, even though none of her friends call their mother that. It’s the one time Tami can hear a Texas twang in her baby girl’s voice and it never fails to make her smile.
“Yeah baby, I’m up,” Tami pushes herself off the sofa. She wipes up the ring her watered down wine glass made on the coffee table with her sleeve. “How was the movie?”
Gracie shifts to the side, looking down at the floor. “It was all right,” she mumbles, in a way that lets Tami know that she was not at the movies like she said she was. But she’s home now, and there’s no smell of alcohol, and other than the fact that she knows she’s lying, Gracie doesn’t seem all that troubled, so Tami decides to let it go. She’s home now, and that’s what’s important, and these days, Tami picks her battles carefully.
It’s five o’clock in the morning and Julie can’t sleep. She’s already been up for an hour, which is kind of hilarious to her, since she can’t seem to stay up past eight o’clock at night.
Wrapped up in a fluffy blanket and trying to find a comfortable position to sit with her laptop on her legs, she reads a seven paragraph email from her mom. It was sent at two am.
There is a battle brewing between her mother and her sister, a whopper. Gracie has been coming home later and later, hanging out with older kids who drive, and Mama isn’t always sure when Gracie’s telling the truth, which Julie understands is really the big problem. Julie can hear how weary her mother is when they’re talking on the phone, and Julie has to cringe. It all sounds a little too familiar.
She rubs her hands over her belly and listens to her husband softly snoring. “Oh baby,” she sighs.