She sat in the school auditorium going over lists in her head for the Thanksgiving family get together they were hosting in a couple days, while she waited for her stepsons’ play to start. Her husband liked to tease her about her lists and her perfectionist tendencies, at which times she invariably reminded him that it takes one to know one. Besides, with their hectic life, she needed to be organized.
“Is Dad going to make it?” Her stepdaughter asked.
“I hope so.” She replied glancing at her watch. “He promised the boys he’d be here.”
“Then he’ll be here.” Her oldest stepson assured her. “If he promised, he’ll be here.”
“Where was the interview?” The kids’mother asked.
“It’s a phoner from the house.” Some people thought it was strange that the two women got along. In fact, she counted her husband’s ex-wife as a close friend. It certainly made dealing with the children easier, and Dorothea was a great source of information and advice when it came to their father’s crazy life.
“Is Jon going to be home for Thanksgiving?” Dorothea asked.
“He better be.” His wife replied. “He’s mumbling something about Soul meetings, and I know he’s itching to get into the studio, but I’m putting my foot down on this one.” It would be their last Thanksgiving in the house. They were moving to the city – Jon’s choice, not hers. She was trying to be understanding and supportive of his needs, but she really loved that house. The new loft was nice – very bright, and ‘urban sophisticated’, but she was going to miss the grounds and river, and the….space. The city was exciting, and busy and….crowded and loud. But if that where Jon needed to be, she would just have to suck it up and deal. She also had to decide what to do about her job, whether to stay in Jersey and commute, or transfer to the city. She loved the people she worked with, but she wasn’t sure the distance would work for her. She sighed. She’d have to make a decision soon.
He slid into the seat beside her just as the lights were dimming.
“Nice timing.” She said dryly.
He grinned and leaned across her to greet his older kids and their mother. In doing so his arm pressed against her growing belly. The baby kicked back. Startled, he looked at her belly then up at her. They exchanged a soft look and a smile. He stroked her with his hand. “Sorry sweetie.”
“Did the baby kick?” Stephanie asked, excited. Her stepmother nodded. “Can I feel?”
Taking her hand, she placed it where the little foot – or arm was currently beating a light tattoo against her belly.”
“How are you feeling? Dorothea asked.
“Fine. The doctor’s watching everything very closely because of my age, but so far everything’s fine. She says the baby’s growing really fast.”
“Yeah?” Dorothea’s brows rose in speculation.
She nodded. “I have an appointment for an ultra sound tomorrow.”
“Yeah, honey, about that…” Jon began.
She stared at him. “Don’t tell me you’re not going to be able to go with me?!”
“I’m sorry honey. I’ve got to go to Philly in the morning. I hope I’ll be back in time, but I’m not sure.”
She sighed and looked towards the stage. This wasn’t the time or place to get into this. Dorothea caught his eye and shook her head in disgust.
As the curtain rose, they turned their attention to the stage where the story of the first Thanksgiving was unfolding – told as only six year olds can. Seeing Jake strutting around in his pilgrim costume made her smile – he walked just like his father.
When it was announced that Jake’s class would be doing the pageant this year, Romeo caused such a fuss that Jake’s teacher agreed that he could be in it as well. Ever since he’d been running around the house in his Indian costume and the only vegetable he would eat was corn. Now he was wandering around the front of the stage looking at the audience. Suddenly his little face lit up. “Hi Daddy!” The crowd laughed. Jon chuckled and waved at his youngest son.
After the play while they waited for the boys Jon caught up with Steph and Jesse while his wife chatted with his ex-wife.
“So you’re having the whole family on Thursday?” Dorothea asked.
“Yeah. Uncle Joe and Aunt Joyce and their crew and even Tony’s coming home. Jon says I’ve got enough turkey and stuffing to feed the entire state of New Jersey. I keep telling him he’s exaggerating.”
“Only half!” The two women said in unison and laughed.
Just then the boys came running up to join their family. “Did you see? Did you see?”
“Yes, we saw! You were great!” She said, dropping down on one knee to give them each a hug. While she was rehashing every moment with Jake and Romeo, Dorothea pulled Jon aside.
“You haven’t learned a damn thing have you?” She accused.
“What are you talking about?”
“After everything you and I went through, after everything we talked about in regards to what went wrong in our marriage, here you are making the same mistakes all over again.”
He frowned. “What mistakes?”
She sighed. “At some point Jon, you’re going to have to put your family first, or you’re going to end up a lonely old man.” She could see that he wasn’t clueing in to what she was referring to. “You have another child on the way, and from what I can tell you aren’t going to be anymore involved with this one than you were the other four.”
“Hey, I’m involved in all of my children’s lives!” He protested.
“Sure, after they’re born. But how many doctor’s appointments did you go to with me? I can count them on one hand – and they were all with Stephanie. Look, you have a wife who is having her first child – something she’s been waiting for, for a very long time. This pregnancy has a bit of a higher risk to begin with because of her age. She’s got to be nervous and thrilled,…. and at least a little scared. And you’re going to make her go through this alone? Why? Because you’ve been through it before, so it’s no big deal to you? Or is your work really more important to you than your family? Keep it up Jon, and you’ll find yourself making another divorce lawyer rich.” Leaving him to think about what she said she turned to congratulate her two youngest sons.
After a few more minutes they said their goodbyes and Jon watched his wife head out the door ahead of him without so much as a glance in his direction. Sighing he followed her. They had driven separately so any discussion would have to wait until they got home.
He caught up with her in the foyer where she was hanging up her coat. He handed her his. “Honey, I’m really sorry.”
She held up her hand to stop him. “You do whatever you feel is best for you Jon, you usually do.”
“You know I’d be with you of I could!” He insisted.
“Do I? You’re the boss Jon. You set the schedule.” She closed her eyes and sighed heavily. “I don’t want to fight with you. I’m tired, and I have a busy couple of days coming up. I’m going to bed.” She started up the stairs.
She stopped and looked down at him. “No Jon. Damn you!” Fighting back tears she continued up the stairs.
Lindsay gripped the edge of the table and stared at her doctor, stunned. “Are you sure?” The doctor smiled and nodded. “And everything’s okay?”
Again, the doctor nodded. “Yes, everything looks fine, but I’d like you to come back more frequently than we’d discussed. I’m not anticipating any problems, but this, combined with your age increases the risks. I just want to keep a close eye on you.”
Lindsay nodded her agreement. “Is there anything special I should be doing or watching for?”
“No, not really. Just make sure you eat properly and get plenty of rest. If you feel any pain or have any spotting, call me immediately. Have you felt much movement?”
“Quite a bit actually, which I guess is understandable now. Jon’s arm pushed against my belly last night, and got kicked.”
The doctor smiled. “That’s good. Pretty soon you may actually be able to see the movement.”
“Cool!” Lindsay borrowed one of Jesse’s favorite phrases.
Laughing, the doctor wiped the gel off her stomach and helped her up. “Do you need a ride home? I see that Jon didn’t come with you.”
Lindsay sobered. “No, he had to go to Philly this morning, and didn’t make it back in time. I drove myself.”
Sitting in the car she placed her hands on her belly in wonder, smiling when she felt a kick. “I wish your daddy was here to share this.” She murmured aloud. “But don’t worry, you will never lack for love or attention, I promise. Your sister and brothers are going to flip, not to mention your grandparents!” At the thought she longed to call Carol and give her the news, but decided she’d better talk to Jon first. If he makes it home tonight. They hadn’t spoken since returning home from the play the night before. She’d been asleep when he’d come to bed, and he was gone when she’d awakened this morning. She knew they needed to talk about this, but she wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to come across as needy or clingy, but she wanted him to be apart of this wonderful, amazing experience. She needed him with her. Thinking about everyone coming for dinner tomorrow, she sighed. Maybe she should wait until after Thanksgiving to talk to him. She had enough to deal with at the moment.
Starting the car, she headed for home. Driving through the gates, she looked for Jon’s car. Not seeing it, she sighed yet again. Parking in the garage she walked slowly towards the house, breathing in the crisp fall air, scuffing her feet through the last of the fallen leaves that the gardener couldn’t keep up with no matter how many hours he worked.
Entering the house, she hung up her coat and headed for the kitchen to continue her preparations for the next day’s feast. She’d just put the last pumpkin pie in the oven when the phone rang.
“Hi Lindsay, how are you?”
“I’m fine Carol, how are you?”
“Fine. How did the ultra sound go?”
Lindsay hesitated. “The doctor says everything looks good.”
“And the baby’s growing and developing well?”
“Yes.” And then some.
“Good. What did she say about you being so tired?”
“Just that part of it is my age, and I need to take it a little easy. The pregnancy is draining my energy and I need to eat properly and get lots of rest.”
“Good advice. What did Jon say?”
Lindsay closed her eyes. “Jon wasn’t there.” She hoped she didn’t sound as bitter as she felt.
“What do you mean he wasn’t there?”
“He left this morning for meetings in Philly, and didn’t make it back in time.”
Carol sighed. Sometimes her oldest son still needed a kick in the ass! “I’m sorry sweetie. Next time, call me and I’ll go with you. You don’t have to do this alone.”
“Thanks Carol, I will.” The tears were threatening again. Damn hormones! Even his mother knew that he would miss more appointments, and that she was basically in this alone.
“What can I do to help you for tomorrow? You should have let me have it. You’ve got enough on your plate without planning and preparing a lavish meal for all of us!”
“Really Carol, it’s fine. I wanted to have it. Besides, Mrs. Henderson’s been a wonderful help.”
“Uh huh, and where is she today?”
“I gave her the day off. She’s having her family for dinner tomorrow too.” Lindsay replied defensively.
“And what are you doing today – when you aren’t at the doctor’s?”
“Breaking up bread for stuffing and baking pies.” Lindsay admitted. She didn’t bother to mention the other preparations she’d been busy with, knowing her mother-in-law would only scold her more.
“Uh huh, and a lot more besides, I’m sure. Well, I’m coming over early tomorrow to help, and I’ll bring Desiree and Joy with me. I don’t want you to do anything tomorrow but enjoy the day.”
“Yes ma’am.” Lindsay laughed. There was no point in arguing with Carol – she would always win. “I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
Hanging up, she turned back to the kitchen and started cleaning up her mess. Finished, she took the pie out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. She glanced at the clock as she stretched her back. Not knowing when Jon was going to be home, she decided to have a rest before starting dinner.
It was a cool, damp day, so she started a fire in the den, grabbed a book and settled on a couch. But try as she might, she couldn’t concentrate on the words on the page in front of her. She stared into the fire and tried to figure out how things had gotten to this point. First she had to sort out hormones from true feeling. They had been so happy until a few months ago. Was it just her hormones? Was she being too hard on Jon? But shouldn’t he want to be involved in this pregnancy? Was it just a case of the novelty wearing off for him or was it something more serious? Despite everything he’d said, did he really not want another child? Did he just agree because it’s what she wanted? Was the fulfillment of her dream of having a child going to be at the expense of her dream of a happy marriage? Closing her eyes against the tears threatening she drifted off into a fitful sleep, not even aware of those tears escaping and leaving tracks down her cheeks.
Walking up to the front door, Jon paused with his hand on the knob and sighed. He was not looking forward to what was waiting for him inside. He knew he should have been there for her today and he really didn’t have a good excuse. She was right, he did set the schedule. The only thing he could say in his own defence was that Dorothea never seemed to care if he went with her to doctor’s appointments or not – although after her comments last night he had to wonder if he was wrong about that too. He was so used to doing pretty much whatever he wanted, he’d forgotten that this was Lindsay’s first pregnancy and she might be nervous. She always seemed so strong and independent, it never crossed his mind that she might need him. But dammit, he wasn’t a mind reader! She should have said something. Well, tonight she was going to talk!
The house was quiet when he entered and he wondered if she’d already gone to bed. It was early yet, but he knew she’d been really tired lately and she’d been working too hard – both at the lab and here, getting ready for tomorrow. Passing the doorway to the den on his way to the kitchen he heard the crackling of the fire and felt its warmth emanating from the room. Stopping, he went to investigate. He heard her before he saw her on the couch, her breath hiccupping in her throat. The sight of tear tracks on her face broke his heart and he castigated himself for letting things get to this point. He was her husband. He was supposed to take care of her, but he’d been too wrapped up in his work to notice that she needed help. She’d tried to let on that she was coping just fine, but if he’d taken the time to look, he would have seen the little signs that she was flagging.
Toeing off his boots, he stoked the fire, and grabbed a pillow and a blanket. Spreading the blanket over her, he carefully lifted her head and torso until he could slide in underneath. Placing the pillow behind him, he settled her comfortably against his chest, wrapped his arms around her and with his hand resting on her belly, held her close.
Lindsay woke feeling the warmth of his hard chest at her back and the strong bands of his arms holding her securely. Not opening her eyes, she savoured the moment. She always felt so safe when she was wrapped in his arms. An especially strong kick made her jerk in surprise. His hand immediately stroked the spot, trying to soothe the baby. She placed her hand over his and felt him press a kiss to her hair. They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at the fire, both knowing they needed to talk, but neither one knowing where to start.
Finally Lindsay broke the silence. “Have you eaten?” She asked quietly.
“No. Have you?” He answered just as quietly.
“No.” She started to get up, but he held her still.
“Can we talk first? Or do you need to eat?”
“I can wait.” She settled back against him, took a deep breath and asked the question that she’d fallen asleep thinking about. “Jon, are you really okay with having another child?”
He froze as he realized what she really meant by the question. Sitting her up, he moved so that he could see her eyes – and she could see his. “Lindsay, look at me honey.” He waited until she did. “Of course I want this baby! My God, don’t ever think that I don’t!”
“Then why didn’t you come with me today?”
He didn’t pretend it wasn’t his choice. “I don’t really have an excuse.” He answered her honestly. “I guess I was so used to Dorothea not caring – or at least seeming to not care – if I went or not, it never occurred to me that you might. Why didn’t you tell me you really wanted me there?”
“I know that you need a wife that is strong and independent. I didn’t want to seem needy or clingy – I know how much you hate that. Besides, I figured if you wanted to be there, you would be. I didn’t want to pressure you to be involved if you really didn’t want to be.” Tears filled her eyes. “But Jon, I can’t do this by myself! Especially now. I really thought I could, but it’s too much. It’s too overwhelming. I’m sorry Jon, I’m sorry I’m not as strong as you need me to be.” Unable to hold it back, she started to sob.
“Oh, honey!” Ever at a loss before a female’s tears he wrapped her in his arms and rocked her gently. “You don’t have to be strong all the time! You’re pregnant and – I’m sorry, but you’re hormonal – you’re allowed to be clingy! And you don’t have to do this by yourself. Of course I want to be involved! It’s just that I don’t know how to be at this point. I can’t carry the baby for you, there’s no diapers to change or bottles to warm….I don’t know what to do.” Then another comment she'd made sank in. He set her back a bit and tipped her face up to his. “What did you mean ‘especially now’? Is something wrong? What did the doctor say?”
Seeing the honest concern in his face, she quickly reassured him. “Everything’s fine, but the ultra sound did show something….unexpected.”
“What? Honey, you’re scaring the hell out of me here!”
“Twins.” She told him and waited for his reaction.
“TWINS?!” He exclaimed. His expression went from concern to shock to stunned awe as he stared down at her. Shifting his gaze from her face to her swelling stomach, he placed a hand carefully on her belly. “Twins!” He breathed. He met her eyes again.
She smiled gently and nodded. “That’s why I’m so big and why I’m so tired.”
“But everything’s okay? You’re okay, the..babies… are okay?” He pressed.
“Yes, we’re all okay. The doctor just said that I needed to make sure that I eat properly and get plenty of rest.”
He nodded. “That I can help with. I’ll go make you something. You should have eaten hours ago. Next time eat before you nap and don’t wait for me. And I’m canceling dinner tomorrow. Mom can have it. It’s too much work and you don’t need the stress right now.” He frowned. “And I think you really should consider quitting your job, or at least cut back. After the babies are born you can decide what you want to do.”
“Jon, stop.” She chuckled. “Wow, you just went from not being involved at all to being totally over protective in less than five minutes. That’s got to be a record!”
“Well, I may not be able to help you care for the babies directly at this point, but I can help take care of you. You said yourself that this is overwhelming. You are my life. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you. Don’t begrudge me my concern, and let me help.”
“Ok, but you’re not canceling dinner tomorrow. Mrs. Henderson helped me get most of it ready, and your Mom, Desiree and Aunt Joyce are coming early to help set everything up.”
“Do they know?”
“No. No one else knows. I wanted to tell you first.”
“Can I tell them? Mom’s going to flip!” He looked like a little boy with a new toy. She nodded and laughed. “Okay, let’s go feed my babies.” Standing, he tugged her to her feet. Lifting her face to his, he gazed deeply into her eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He kissed her softly, flashed that million watt smile and led her to the kitchen. Rummaging through the fridge he insisted she sit while he put together a quick but nutritious meal for them out of leftovers. Leaving their dishes in the sink he guided her up the stairs.
Cuddling together in bed, watching a movie on T.V., Lindsay kept shifting position, trying to get comfortable.
“What’s wrong honey? Does your back hurt? What do you need?”
“I need them to settle down and go to sleep. It feels like they’re turning somersaults and crashing into each other.” She replied ruefully.
Pushing down the blankets, he lifted up her nightgown to bare her belly. Stroking her with his hand, he leaned down and kissed the warm skin. He could feel the rippling movement underneath. “Hey, you two. Settle down and let Mommy get some rest.” There was a pause in the movement, then an obvious kick.” The stunned look on his face made her burst out laughing.
“Oh I can see that these two are going to be handfuls! They’re already ignoring Daddy!” She chuckled.
He frowned in thought, then tried a different tack. He laid his head on her breast, resumed his stroking and started to sing softly.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won’t sing
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass gets broke
Papa’s going to buy you a billy goat
And if that billy goat won’t pull
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull
And if that cart and bull fall down
You’ll still be the sweetest little babies in town.
While he sang, Lindsay ran her fingers through his hair, emotion once again bringing tears to her eyes. Damn hormones!
By the time he finished the lullaby both babies had stilled. Jon continued to hum the tune and stroke her belly for long minutes. Dropping another kiss on her womb, he raised his head and smiled smugly at her.
She chuckled. “Oh you are definitely on bedtime duty! I always found your voice soothing, and it looks like they do too.”
Moving back to lie on the pillow he pulled her into his arms and smiled at her. “Oh, I’m good at bedtime duty!” He waggled his eyebrows at her making her chuckle. “Do you need me to sing you to sleep too?”
“That would be nice.” She yawned and settled her head on his shoulder, her hand resting over his heart.
He kissed her forehead and slowly stroked the arm draped across his chest.
It’s hard for me to say the things
I want to say sometimes
There’s no one here, but you and me
And that broken old street light
Lock the door
We’ll leave the world outside
All I’ve got to give to you
Are these five words when I
Thank you for loving me
For being my eyes
When I couldn’t see
For parting my lips
When I couldn’t breathe
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me
“Mmmm, my favorite.” She whispered.
I never knew I had a dream
Until that dream was you
When I look into your eyes
The sky’s a different blue
Cross my heart
I wear no disguise
If I tried you’d make believe
That you believed my lies
Thank you for loving me
For being my eyes
When I couldn’t see
For parting my lips
When I couldn’t breathe
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for loving me
Her deep, regular breathing and the total relaxation of her body against his told him she was asleep. Smiling he kissed her forehead again. “I love you.” He whispered. Settling back he watched the rest of the movie, holding tightly to so much that was precious to him.