“Toby? It’s Donna.”
“Donnatella! What a surprise!”
He transparently didn’t mean that at all. She hesitated.
“And congratulations, my dear. I’m so happy for you guys. You’re going to do great.”
Now his tone was sincere, but she was even more confused.
“Thank you, Toby, really, but how did you…?”
“Josh called CJ.”
Now her voice was almost a squeak and he rushed to his friend’s defense, disregarding for a moment whether he thought he deserved it or not.
“He didn’t tell her, Donna. He asked her forty minutes worth of questions about when she was pregnant and Tommy was born, and then gave her a non-denial denial and told her to call you very, very soon.”
She couldn’t help but laugh, it was so typical Josh.
“So CJ called you.”
“Danny did. CJ is going along with the pretence and apparently not doing a very good job, so I think you’d better put her out of her misery quickly. But Danny is on the side of the fathers, Donna, and we are circling the wagons.”
“Circling the wagons, Toby?”
“Or something. Danny said Josh seemed to be freaking out. Is that why you called?”
Her voice was suddenly very small, and Toby chastised himself for being so flippant and leaned into the phone as though he could reach her through it.
“He’s going to be great, Donna. Wonderful, even. He’s an absolute natural.”
He would have said so anyway, but when it came to Josh he actually knew this was the case. He hadn’t expected the Deputy Chief of Staff of all people to be supportive and understanding when he and Andy had made their last ditch attempt at parenthood, but to his astonishment Josh had called it even before Toby had said anything, and been almost unfailingly enthusiastic about the kids, and Toby taking time to be with the kids, ever since.
“He’s talking about quitting, Toby.”
She sounded absolutely wretched. Toby took a deep breath. He was torn between his instinct to comfort her and his lately renewed commitment to being nothing but completely honest with the people he loved. Figuring that as Donna was calling him basically because her husband seemed to want to devote his entire life to taking care of her and their family, she would eventually find comfort elsewhere, he gave voice to a thought he’d never allowed himself to examine too closely.
“That might not be such a bad idea, actually.”
The stunned silence on the line told him everything he needed to know.
“Donna, don’t you go freaking out on me now.”
“I… uh, I’ll try, Toby, but… do you really believe that?”
“Donna, it’s OK. I only know this now because of what happened then.”
Donna’s eyes grew wider. Next to her, Andy Wyatt stared at the phone like it had sprouted legs and started to dance. The two women clutched hands as the gruff voice on the speakerphone continued.
“He’d spend all his time at work worrying that he wasn’t spending enough time with his kids…. And, to be frank, some of the time with his kids, worrying that he’s not spending enough time at work.”
His use of the plural wasn’t lost on anyone.
“Things are easier now, Toby. Matt and Helen have young kids. The hours aren’t as crazy.”
The fact that she’d just referred to the first couple by their given names was a clear indication that she was correct in her assessment – things were startlingly different.
“I’d heard as much, and that’s really good... Listen, I’m not saying that if he stays at work, he’s going to do anything less than great. But… it’s not just about putting in the hours, although goodness knows I should have done more of that…”
Andy’s fingers tightened around Donna’s. She’d spent a lot of time in Josh and Donna’s new apartment since seeing straight through Donna’s casual enquiries about OB-GYNs a few months previously. She’d surprised herself at her lack of bitterness at how easily the younger woman had conceived, at Josh’s constant presence and support, or the – largely - uncomplicated joy they’d started to share with a few trusted friends without the need for any explanations.
Donna opened her mouth and then closed it again. They heard him sigh, and then Toby spoke again.
“He should enjoy it. Make the most of it… savor it. Own it, if you will.”
The chuckle at the end of his pronouncement was anything but mirthful, but his tone brightened as he continued.
“And so should you, Donna. You’re going to love it, being a Mom. It‘ll suit you. Rules for everyone.”
She giggled, and he let out a silent sigh of relief.
“I don’t know if I want to stay home full time, though.”
“You and Andy, poster daughters for the working women’s movement.”
Andy gave up.
“Watch yourself, Toby.”
“I’m sorry, Toby. Andy’s been my go to how-to-be-pregnant-and-work-full-time-in-politics-in-DC girl. I was just calling to ask you to talk to Josh, I didn’t think…”
“That I was going to spill my guts to you?” He paused. “I guess that was a fair assumption. Good morning, Andrea.”
“I meant it, you know.”
“I know you did.”
Donna made to get up and give them a minute to talk, but Andy tugged her back down.
“Toby, there’s still time.”
His voice dropped to just above a whisper.
Andy pressed a hand to her face for a moment, and took a long breath.
“Come for Thanksgiving. You can see the twins, you can talk to Josh, and we can make some plans.”
“Now talk to Donna some more.”
“You staying there?”
“Of course I am.”
“Good. Donna, basically just listen to Andy. She’s… she’s been… she’s amazing at this. All of it.”
“She has. And she’s been a huge help already.”
She smiled at her friend, and could practically hear Toby switching gears.
“You’re not having twins, are you?”
The two women raised their eyebrows at each other.
“We don’t know, but I doubt it.”
“Damn. Twins are the best.”
They both shook their heads in exasperation. Andy cut in again.
“Toby, I swear, if you and Josh and Danny get into some sort of who-is-the-best-at-procreating manliness contest, I’m taking CJ and Donna on vacation somewhere really far away with no cell phones right when one of the babies starts teething.”
He laughed appreciatively.
“That actually sounds like an idea worth remembering. We owe you ladies big, you know.”
“Damn right you do.”
“And Josh will figure this out, Donna. He was always going to be really, really overprotective. If it turns out not to be the right time for him to walk away, you guys have plenty of people who will happily pitch in, but seriously, I think it could work.”
“It’s certainly an interesting notion.”
“Get Josh to talk to Sam. That’s going to be a big part of it.”
“He’s coming to dinner tonight.”
“Tell him hi for me, would you?”
“You should call him, Toby. He always asks about you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Does he get to be godfather?”
“Kids can have more than one godfather, Toby.”
“Anytime, Donnatella. I mean that.”
“I love you guys.”
And he hung up before they could respond. And they knew he meant all of them – Andy and the twins, Josh, Donna, and their sweet little secret, Sam, CJ, Danny and tiny Tommy. All of them.
Donna reached for the handset and dialed the Cregg-Concannon home number from memory. Andy slipped off the couch and stepped over the open window, reaching for her own phone to call her parents and change their Thanksgiving plans.