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What to Expect

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“This doesn’t make any sense. It’s stupid,” Rey argued, her left arm still wrapped around the toilet bowl she was effectively arguing with, since Ben hadn’t contradicted her once in the past hour. Indeed, his initial response to her latest salvo was a sort of low humming sound that conveyed uncomplicated agreement and then she felt one of his enormous hands flat against her lower back. The other was imperceptibly holding a neatly folded cool washcloth against the back of her neck where loose strands of hair from her bun were straggly with sweat.

“Any better?” he asked. He’d brought the same attention to details he employed making cassoulet and giving her multiple orgasms to the creation and maintenance of the toweling compress. The temperature was cool without chilling her and there wasn’t one rivulet of water running down her chest. It was a pity she couldn’t give him the answer he wanted.

“No, but it’s not worse. It’s nice, I just still feel disgusting and—” Once again, retching interrupted her, her own retching with the most pathetic little urp of vomit at the end. She wished she had food poisoning.

“M’sorry, sweetheart,” she heard Ben say, as if he were far away and not crouching behind her in their white-tiled bathroom. She’d wanted him to wallpaper it with old newspaper like Kaydel had suggested, to have something entertaining if she forgot her cell, but she was glad he’d refused and just kept it looking like a bathroom on an ice-planet, all pale grey paint and brushed nickel fixtures, acres of white porcelain.

“Not you fault. I mean, I guess it is, kind of, but it’s not all your fault. What the fuck though, it said it’s an orange seed now, that fucking website,” Rey muttered. She had rapidly discovered that repeated retching and vomiting predisposed her to muttering, with cursing. And grousing, groaning, not attractively, and the occasional, also less-that-appealing whimpering.

“Oranges have pips,” Ben countered. She managed to look over her shoulder at him and glare, which must have been what he intended, because he only gave her a smile in return, one of his for-Rey’s-eyes-only ones, made up of three parts adoration, one part sweetness, and a dash of proprietary pride she would ordinarily take offense at.

“I can’t do this for another thirty-five weeks for an orange pip,” Rey said.

“Morning sickness is only supposed to last until the second trimester. So, more like eight weeks,” Ben said, rationally enough. He wasn’t vomiting up his gizzards on a daily basis. She wasn’t going to bring up how Duchess Kate had had hyperemesis or how she was a Duchess and not a Princess. She focused on the white rim of the bowl, the white tile, she imagined white fields of snow and tried to breathe through the nausea.

“That might as well be infinity,” Rey said darkly.

“Do you want to try a cracker again? Leia keeps texting me about them,” Ben said. Rey imagined the pantry, which seemed like a squintillion miles away at the moment, the custom shelves with their wire-mesh baskets. There were at least six different types of bland, flat carbohydrate wafers in unsealed sleeves—water crackers, rice crackers, salted and unsalted saltines, brand-name and generic, though Rey had also argued that generic unsalted saltines were basically nothing. There was also unseeded Wasa bread, which Ben actually bought before all this insane, let’s create a new life with your eyes and my nose and definitely your hair, Ben, but we can put it in those little wispy pigtails project had begun, back when it just meant a lot of fucking and Ben whispering in her ear I’m putting my baby in you Baby as he rutted against her. Very effectively, as it turned out, since there had only been about six weeks of said fucking with the new version of dirty talk before two cheap dollar store tests and one fancy-pants digital one all agreed she was pregnant. P R E G N A N T. They’d called right away but the OB didn’t want to see her until she was ten weeks, though the nurse had sounded positively merry, telling her they didn’t schedule ultrasounds before ten weeks unless there was infertility treatment involved.

“I don’t want a cracker. I don’t want to chew anything, I don’t want to throw up partially chewed crackers, saltines, those rice things you got from the Korean market. I’m gross and this is endless and it makes no sense that I feel this bad from a fucking orange seed. Pardon me, a pip. Pip,” Rey rambled.

“I have flat Coke on the counter. Rose said to try it. And there’s Sprite and Canada Dry in the fridge,” Ben said. Dimly, Rey registered he’d just listed three brand-name sodas, which she knew he considered chemical syrup monstrosities based on previous rants. Also, that she had gone a good five minutes without another wave of nausea, a barky retch or bowl-clutching. The bathmats were very nice, but she could still feel the tile hard against her knees.

“Coke. In bed. And Voyager,” she said. He’d usually challenge and try to get her to watch the rebooted Galactica or Next Generation after the second season but she liked Janeway best. She began to heave herself up, every part of her heavier, as if a stronger gravity was also being created by her placenta; Ben interceded, his hands at her elbows and then his arm around her waist, gentle, strong, serious.

“Whatever you want,” he said, helping her shuffle out of the bathroom. Everything, his voice, his touch, the prospect of lukewarm Coke in a huge travel mug with a lid and a straw says he means it and that settles her in a way she couldn’t (despite ongoing therapy) have articulated she both wanted and needed. Pip, she silently murmured to herself internal-monologue style, I got you the best father. The best daddy.

“A plain bagel from Zabar’s for breakfast? Toasted, hold the Nova?” she said, going for broke. She felt him kiss the top of her sweaty head.

“Not even a schmear?”

“I mean, let’s not go crazy,” Rey answered.