Michael heard hormones could be a strain on pregnant women but so far he’s had no cause to complain. Really, he was bracing himself for such hell and fury that he’s tempted to write a book to reassure future fathers called The Pregnancy Myth. Sara’s reaching the end of the first trimester and she’s not metamorphosed into a witch, she doesn’t raise her voice at him, she doesn’t break down in tears for no reason. If he’s to note any change at all, it’d be that malicious smile she has, looking at him, eying his prudence with faint amusement.
It’s the same woman he married and fell in love with. But for the slight bump of her stomach and swollen breasts, he might think they’re not having a baby at all.
Her first genuine ‘pregnancy episode’ sets off in the middle of the night. Michael wakes up to the shy prodding of her fingers between his ribs. He hears a muffled sound come out of his mouth. Sara’s hand rests on his hip now and he reaches for her clumsily, his palms finding her bare bottom and pressing her against him. It’s happened before, half-asleep love-making when they don’t fully remember who started it, and though usually in those cases he wakes up to her kissing him rather than prodding him, he’s not aware enough to tell the difference.
But then she talks, “I can’t sleep.”
Michael wills his eyelids apart and manages to get a blurry look at her face. Sure enough, there’s a pucker on her beautiful forehead and, though the trouble can’t be serious, he vows to do away with it. “What’s wrong?”
She shrugs, shuffles closer to him. He feels his member stiffen against her leg but she looks unawares. “Nothing. Just restless. You know those days when you’ve been working for fifteen hours but despite the exhaustion, your brain just won’t switch off?”
Michael wants to say yes but only hears himself utter a stifled: uh-ummph. Giving himself mental slaps, he manages a nod. Sara doesn’t seem to have noticed.
“That’s what it’s like for me, right now. Like my body’s making a baby and it won’t stop, and I just can’t disconnect from the idea.”
It feels unfair that it’s so much easier to stay awake when she’s urging him into her than when she’s saying beautiful things about their unborn child. But what can he do about it?
“I think it really just started hitting me,” she continues. “That every day, ever second, my body’s working on making a human being – Michael?”
“Present.” He stirs himself awake, props his body up on his elbows.
She chuckles. Did he really just say that? “It’s okay,” she kisses him on the forehead. Under the covers, her thigh brushes against his erection. “You should go back to sleep. You were up early –”
“No, no.” Suddenly, he feels like a deadbeat husband for allowing himself to sink into slumber in the first place. He sits up straight, lets the covers pool at his waist. “No,” he speaks softly, “we’re in this together, Sara. If you’re restless then I’m restless. We can talk. We can do whatever you like.”
He hopes the last part of his sentence didn’t sound too suggestive. But then she gets a smile at the corner of her lips and he starts thinking, soon, he’ll be thanking heaven she woke him.
“Whatever I like?” She bites her lip.
It isn’t like her to be coy, Michael reflects. Does she have something particular in mind? Some unrevealed kink they’ve not yet explored in their few months of marriage?
“Anything,” he answers, can’t help but looking serious when it comes to these things.
“Well, there is –” Then, she actually lowers her eyes. “No. I mean, it’s stupid.”
“Nothing’s stupid. You can tell me.”
When she meets his eyes, he can tell he’ll have what he wants. Or really, that she’ll have what she wants, which is coincidentally the same thing.
“Are you too tired to go for a drive?” She asks.
He’s not seen that coming. Flashes come through his brain, car windows wet with condensation, naked bodies embracing on a backseat.
She just says. “French fries and caramel ice cream.”
“Will you drive with me to the nearest McDonald? I’ve got a craving for French fries and caramel ice cream.”
Though it wasn’t what he was initially hoping for, Michael find there’s something pleasant, actually magical, in driving around town at three in the morning with his pregnant wife. Sara offered to drive but he said it’d keep him awake. Really, he’s a little paranoid about mixing driving and pregnancy – what if the baby kicks, what if stress triggers a miscarriage and his wife, his world, his life, ends up at the bottom of a river or crushed into a tree?
They try a couple of McDonalds but they don’t make caramel Sundays. And, Michael makes sure by casting a look at Sara, it has got to be a combination of French fries – not curly fries, not potatoes – and caramel Sunday, not chocolate or strawberry. No replacement will do.
By the time they finally get lucky, it’s a quarter to four, and they’re forty miles away from home. But is it worth it? As they roll away from the drive in, no other cars in sight, just the two of them locked in the bubble of their heated vehicle, it’s a little like they’re the last two people on the planet.
Michael keeps on driving as Sara fishes around the bag, thorough as a squirrel in the midst of serious work. It’s hard to keep his eyes on the road. The content look on her face as she selects a soft-yet-crispy fry and dips it in the white hill of ice cream with caramel topping. At the first taste, she lets out a sigh that’s a blend of serenity and pure bliss. He’s heard it before under different circumstances, and suddenly his jeans are tight around his crotch.
“As good as you dreamed it?” He can’t help but steal a quick glance towards her.
“Oh, yeah.” She licks her fingers. “You want some?”
It’s difficult to deny that, fresh out of sleep, with her red hair tied in a lazy bun, Sara is beautiful in a way that’s different though not superior to her daily-appearance. It’s a special sort of beauty, one that’s tied to a deep level of intimacy, comparable – but not similar – to when they’re making love.
“No,” he says, when he finally thinks of an answer. “No, I’m okay. You enjoy it. You’re eating for two.”
The road ahead of them is so lonesome Michael can’t resist staring a little, which Sara acknowledges by arching a suspicious brow. “What are you doing?”
“Am I guilty of admiring my beautiful wife?”
“Yes, when she’s having a greasy and dripping snack. Come on. Pregnancy is nothing glamorous.” Maybe glamorous isn’t the word, but he’s not unhooking his eyes from her yet. “Cut it off,” she chuckles, shoves him in the shoulder. “You want us to have an accident?”
That’s a fine argument. With a sigh, Michael looks at the road and Sara goes back to making pleased-squirrely eating noises. He seriously contemplates pulling over but, in the end, resists taking an unnecessary risk.
“You know,” she says, “I think that getting out of bed in the middle of the night to fulfill my bizarre food cravings indubitably makes you the perfect husband.”
He shrugs modestly. “Only trying to keep up with you.”
“Yeah, right. Well, all this sugar is sort of ruining my chances of sleeping tonight. Let me tell you what.” Her hand snakes up his thigh. “You get us home early enough, I might show you what makes me the perfect wife.”
Michael feels his foot press the accelerator. Desire takes the reins. As his wife’s laughter fills the car, smelling of French fries and caramel, Michael reflects on the taste of freedom and his horizon of unblemished happiness.