Nathalie sipped her water, as she sat with the team. She felt so strange, slightly achy, tired, queasy. It must be jet lag. She and Alain would be up to perform soon. It would be the last and she could rest. It was so bittersweet. The last twenty years of her life had been dedicated to skating competitively. And with one last big performance, that chapter of her life was over. It was scary. But she was looking forward to everything she and Alain had planned for the next chapter. They'd agreed to start trying for a baby after this. She'd been preparing for almost a year now. Making sure to take the right vitamins and give her body even better nutrition so that everything would be ready for a baby. She'd finally get to use the teaching degree she'd received for real. Not just filling in for teachers during the off seasons. And Alain would be full time running the rink they bought two and a half years ago.
"Are you okay?" Alain asked, his arm wrapping around her shoulders. He pressed a kiss to her cheek.
"Yeah. I'm just not shaking this jet lag. It's a good thing we're retiring. I'm obviously getting too old for this." She let out a small laugh, before kissing him back.
She watched her rivals skate their program half into it, half focusing on keeping her stomach settled. She slipped out of her jacket, handing it to their coach before she and Alain took their places by the entrance to the rink. The score was announced and plastered on the large screens around the rink stadium. The pair that had just finish was now in first place. Nathalie took a deep breath. She felt Alain squeeze her hand. She turned to look at him and smiled. They exchanged their usual mantra before making their way out to perform.
It was nice doing this with him. She couldn't believe they'd done this together the past nine years and how that friendship had led to their marriage three years ago. She didn't want this to end, but she knew she was ready. It would be even better for her and Alain being able to grow together. She didn't think she would have been able to stomach it if she was like some of the other ice dance and pair teams who were just friends. They'd go back to their lives and lose touch with someone they'd gotten so close to.
They finished the program, holding hands as they raised their hands in the air to wave. They had nailed this performance. Her stomach lurched suddenly. She could feel the bile coming up. She pulled away from Alain and rushed off the ice, barely making it to the trash can before heaving every bit of her lunch. She thanked her teammate who offered her a napkin and water. She joined Alain in the kiss and cry as they waited their scores. Her heart leapt for joy, tears springing to her eyes. They'd made their final gold.
She brushed off the incident. She just wanted to enjoy her last medal. Her last moment of glory. But she just felt so...off. She brushed the tears from her eyes as she waited for the ceremony. Nathalie could go back to the hotel and sleep after this. Part of her wanted to skip the ceremony, but this was the last time and she was damned if she was going to miss it. There'd be a small press conference and she and Alain would drift into retirement slowly losing their recognition, but also going down with the best in history.
Alain held her, letting her rest her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes. So many emotions were racing through her. She wanted it all to stop. She wanted to feel at peace with everything. She'd lived her dream more than once. She should be happy. So few people get to do that even once. So why was she so sad? They had planned this six months ago and she had felt so ready. She was about to be twenty-nine. She knew they were at their peak.
Finally the ceremony commenced and she climbed the podium with Alain at her side for the last time. All the years were finally coming to a close. She blinked back tears as the smile hurt her cheeks. They were given their medals. Flashes temporarily blinding them. The time had come.
The press conference was nothing special. She cried far more than she should have. It was so embarrassing, but she couldn't help it no matter how hard she fought. She and Alain thanked their families, friends, Canada, and all their fans worldwide for supporting them for so long. Their careers had come to a close and it was a bittersweet moment. Nathalie hugged Alain, a smile on her face as they finished. It was time to go home.
One month later
Nathalie tapped her foot as she waited to be called into the office. It had been a month since she had started feeling so strangely. It was more than a virus. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was called into back by the medical assistant who took her vitals and symptoms and had her give a urine sample to test for pregnancy and UTIs. She was led to an exam room and told the doctor would be in shortly. She held her face in her hands and read over a poster talking about some new medication for asthma. She straightened up as the doctor walked in, a smile on her face.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Leroy!" She greeted, shaking her hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Um, not so great to be honest. I'm so queasy these days. And tired. And I'm really worried about how much I have to urinate lately. It's like a UTI, only it doesn't hurt," She frowned.
"Well you're not sick." The doctor grinned. "Your little family is about to grow."
"You mean..." Nathalie couldn't keep the smile off her face. Tears filled her eyes as her hands covered her face. She couldn't believe it. She couldn't wait to tell Alain and her family and his family and all their friends. They needed to talk about names more. They'd been discussing names casually for the past six months, but now they needed to get serious.
"Yes, ma'am. You're pregnant! Now for dates, when was your last period?" Her doctor looked at her with an expecting gaze.
"Um...wow...I don't know. When I'm training, I would just get a little spotting and during the season almost nothing because of the nerves and stress. It's been like that since I was seventeen." Nathalie chewed her lip.
"Okay, well no worries. We can look at an ultrasound for dating. I'm going to send you to our ob-gyn clinic next door for a stat ultrasound. Dates are very important in calculating due dates and the testing schecule. Do you have the time?"
Nathalie nodded, thanking the doctor. She walked over to the clinic and was taken back fairly quickly. She couldn't wait to go home. She laid back lifting her dress and pushing down her stocking and underwear for the technician. The gel was cold, she couldn't help but shiver. The wand was uncomfortable on her pelvis. More tears when she heard the heartbeat. It was so fast, so strong. She stared at the screen, not sure what she was looking at. It was all so fuzzy.
"It looks like you're about twelve weeks." The woman smiled. "You'll make your prenatal appointments with the front desk. I'll print you some shots from this, okay?"
Nathalie nodded, her heart leaping for joy. She wiped away the gel, fixed her clothing and made her way up to the front. She was told her first prenatal appointment would be in two weeks. The woman gave her a packet with information she needed to know and was on her way. She pulled out her phone the second she got in the car and dialed Alain's number. He didn't pick up. She frowned, frustrated. She wanted to know if he was at home or think rink so she could tell him as soon as possible.
She decided to check the rink first. He'd been spending a lot of time there since they'd gotten back. They both had really. Still having fun with the thing they'd spent the majority of their lives doing. He also had started teaching small kids how to skate. Nothing fancy, just general skating. The trickiest part was balance.
She pulled into the parking lot and almost ran through the doors. She waved to the university student who they'd hired to work the desk and asked him if Alain was there. He nodded directing her to the rink. She walked in to find him doing jumps. They hadn't been allowed to jump in competition since they started dancing, but Alain had loved them and would always practice them when he could. She watched him for a moment before calling to him. He waved to her and glided to the side to meet her. She smiled and rushed over to him.
"How was your doctor's appointment?" He asked pulling blade guards on and stepping off. She rocked back on her heels not wanting to tell him until he was out of his skates. She waited impatiently before sitting on the bench.
"What do you think of the name Émilie for a girl?" She asked, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"I think it's a very beautiful..." He stopped as he registered the question. His mouth hung open for a minute, eyes wide. "No way! You're pregnant!?!?" He grinned grabbing her and kissing her, his hands on her hips as he pulled her closer.
"Yes! They did a sonogram for dating. I'm about twelve weeks. Look."
She pulled out the sonogram and handed it to him, pointing out the head and body that the technician had pointed out to her. She beamed as she watched Alain, cover his mouth and tears pool in his eyes as he laid eyes on their child for the first time. He met Nathalie's eyes.
"I love you so much," he breathed before hugging her again.
They sat there, hugging and kissing and crying, taking turns looking at the picture of their baby. By the time they decided to go, they were both cold. They hadn't noticed it in their excitement. Alain couldn't stop hugging her and stealing kisses as they walked to the car. She hadn't ever felt this close to him. They drove home, hand in hand. Nathalie, curled up next to him, a smile plastered on her face. She couldn't wait for the baby to come.
Their apartment a small one bedroom with minimal furniture. A small love seat against one wall, the television opposite with a small fire place on the perpendicular wall. A small kitchen with two chairs not far off in the dining area near the kitchen. Nathalie had never really taken the time to look at their home, but this evening, she couldn’t help it. They’d wanted something small and minimalist near their home rink and good schools so Nathalie could teach during the off season. The two had decided they really didn’t need much since they would be gone for half the year or more. It was very minimalist in nature. Neither of them bothered too much with things being fancy.
Alain was in the kitchen preparing a nice meal while Nathalie sat on the couch, her eyes scanning over every inch of the place. She had never noticed the cracks in the ceiling or the wall. There was a draft from the window near the love seat. She frowned. This was really no place to for a baby. She got up, making her way to the bathroom. She flicked the light on and glanced around. The tub was stained from wear. Every time they cleaned this place, it didn’t ever look like it. There was just too much staining. She sighed, flipping off the light and making her way towards the bedroom.
The bed took up more than half the room leaving very little room for the chest of drawers they had near the closet. There was no place for a crib or any extra room at all for toys or baby clothes. She sat on the bed and frowned. It had never bothered her before. Sure they could have afforded something better, but neither of them cared to spend so much for a place they’d rarely be in. They opted to save for later, for the future, for children.
Nathalie walked out of the room and toward the kitchen. She watched Alain for a moment. There wasn’t even room for the both of them to be in there. It was one of those aisle kitchens that you could barely move around in. Would she even be able to fit in there once she was swollen with child and close to her due date. She leaned against the wall.
“We need to find a house.”
It was a statement rather than a suggestion. Alain looked at her, a bit taken aback. It wasn’t like they hadn’t talked about buying a house in the future, but she knew neither had expected so soon. Her eyes were glued to the skillet of stir fried vegetables he was cooking. It smelled so good.
“When do you want to start looking?” Alain asked her.
“Soon. The sooner the better. You know how hard it is to find a house. I want it to be perfect. We don’t have space for a baby here. And there are cracks and stains and drafts and I’m not ruling out mold. This isn’t a place for a baby. I want it to be perfect, Alain.” Natalie frowned.
“We can start looking tomorrow, okay?” Alain flashed a smile.
“How many kids do you want?” Nathalie crossed her arms and straightened. “We both talked about wanting a big family and I think if we’re going to start investing in a house we need to at least the size right. Houses are expensive and shopping for one is stressful. I would kind of like to only do it once.” She offered a smile.
“How many do you want?” He asked.
Nathalie thought for a minute. She had grown up with an older brother and sister and she’d always wanted more siblings. Alain had an older brother. If they spaced them appropriately, they could manage just fine without having more than one toddler at a time.
“Four or five.” She smiled.
“I like five.” Alain grinned back. “Five sounds nice.”
“What do you want the first one to be?” She asked, rubbing her pelvis. She still couldn’t believe she was already three months and hadn’t even known. “I kind of want a boy first.”
“I don’t mind. I just want them to be healthy.”
Nathalie rolled her eyes and sighed. “You know that should go without saying, but it’s okay to have a preference. Come on, Alain, what do you want?” She watched him think for a minute.
“I would also kind of like a boy first. I would love a daughter, but I don’t know the first thing about daughters. I didn’t have any sisters and being a dad sounds hard enough without having to navigate uncharted territory.” He pulled her toward him, kissing her temple. “But I would love a daughter.”
Nathalie smiled, resting her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes and imagined the little person growing in her. It felt so wonderful. She felt tears in her eyes. She was so happy. She hated crying, but she didn’t care anymore. Let the hormones and cravings rage. Experience it all. She couldn’t wait. She wanted to hold her baby already. What would they look like? More like her or more like Alain? Or maybe a mixture of the two? What would they be like? Would they like skating too? Or would they like art? Music? Would they be the baby you hear about that cries a lot or would they be that rare baby who slept through the night early?
Alain mentioned the food was ready. She pulled away and grabbed dishes from the pantry and started to set the table. They’d need another table before long. A bigger one for their family. Family. The word made her grin ear to ear. She wanted to have all kinds of family traditions for the holidays. She hadn’t had those growing up after she’d begged her parents to let her skating. She had watched the Winter Olympics with her family and fallen in love with the beauty of it all. She had begged them and they agreed to give her lessons. She knew they weren’t cheap, but they never complained. She’d made them so proud. And while she had loved that life and never would change anything, she wanted to have a close knit family with those traditions now.
She sat down as Alain served the food. She wanted to call her mother and father up now and tell them she was expecting, but that didn’t feel right. She wanted to surprise them. Maybe they could do something cute? Her sister was also expecting and very early on as well. She was only ten weeks if memory served correctly. Oh that would be so fun! She and her sister would get to have their first baby together. She hoped they would be close cousins. What about Alain’s family? There were already two grandchildren on that side. Was it the same for parents of sons? She wasn’t sure but she knew she wanted to tell everyone.
“Have you told your family yet?” Alain asked.
“No. Just you. I kind of want to do a little get together? Maybe my parents wouldn’t mind hosting? And we could have everyone over and announce it? I think that would be perfect. If only we had a house…then we could be the ones hosting.” Nathalie sighed. “I want this to be a big deal.”
Alain nodded as he chewed his food. She watched him carefully. God, she loved him so much. She was so happy to be starting this family with him. To be with him. She’d loved him for so long she couldn’t imagine life without him and now…there was a baby on the way.