Something’s up with Ashley. She’s been anxious for weeks. If I ask her a question and she happens to answer, her responses are snappy. Otherwise, she just ignores my question altogether. Thinking it was work-related stress, I let it slide. The video game has gone into production and she ought to be much more relaxed.
Not the case.
Another thing that raised my eyebrow was her cell phone. She changed her lock code three weeks ago. Nothing happened three weeks ago…what the hell is she hiding? I check the clock on the wall. Ashley’s been gone for two hours. I send her a text.
Are you coming home tonight?
Instead of waiting for a response, I call the one person who knows what’s going on with Ashley: her mother Renee.
“Hellllloooo!!!!!” Renee sings. She’s so animated.
“Hi Renee,” I respond, trying my best to stifle laughter.
“How are you and my grandbaby?”
“We’re doing well. I’m swollen and hungry.”
“Welcome to pregnancy dear. I was just telling Ashley’s dad that with this upcoming down time, I can finally visit ya’ll.”
“That would be awesome. You know how much I love when you visit…and cook.”
I sigh. Here goes nothing.
“Ashley has been acting really odd lately. I thought it was work-related, but…”
Before I could finish, Renee interrupts.
“Hold on Susan. You need to know that Ashley’s going through some things. I promised her I wouldn’t say anything but I don’t want you to worry.”
Too damn late. My mind starts considering the worst of possibilities.
“Breathe Susan. I need to hear you breathing before I continue.”
Inhaling deeply, I exhale loudly.
“Thank you. Ashley said she has been having these horrible coughing fits for the past month. They keep getting worse. About two weeks ago, she was in a meeting when she started coughing. She went to the bathroom, coughed into a napkin, and saw flecks of blood.”
I start feeling lightheaded. Stay centered Susan, stay centered.
“I knew she was coughing, but she went to the doctor and was on medication. She’s gotten better.”
My chest is heavy.
“The doctor gave her medication for a lung infection, which helped for a bit, but the coughing got worse. She went back to the doctor for X-rays and that’s when they…”
Her voice trails of. Sniffling, she clears her throat.
“…found a tumor on her lung.”
Tears flow down my face. My legs shake and I fall down, my head hitting the floor.
Video conference is finally over. I quietly do a happy dance, while stretching my aching body. Between Susan’s proposal and the launch of this new video game, I can’t wait for the next couple of months to end. Hopefully, we’ll be able to slow down and prepare for the baby’s arrival. There are classes, shopping trips, and books to read. Just thinking about it all is making me ravenous.
I head into the kitchen to make my specialty: brown sugar ham and white cheddar sandwich on honey wheat bread. Yummy! Happy that I’m feeding the beast, I take generous bites while blindly reaching for my phone on the counter. The phone isn’t there. I guess I left it in the living room. Tiptoeing through the room in search of my phone, I see one phone is on the coffee table. The other is rising and falling on Susan’s stomach.
I grab the phone and walk back to the kitchen. Activating the phone’s home screen, I realize that I have Susan’s phone. I have no idea what we were thinking when we brought identical phones after the coming out fiasco. Way too confusing. I get up and swap Susan’s phone with the one that’s on her stomach. Why it’s there, I have no idea. She probably thought it was her phone.
Walking back into the kitchen, I activate the phone’s home screen. I check my text messages looking for feedback from the meeting. Nothing received from my coworkers, but I notice a recent text from Nick.
Just pay her the money Ashley.
I don’t remember reading this message before. The message came in while I was in my meeting. I didn’t have my phone in the den with me. If I didn’t read it, then it was Susan who read it. Shit, shit, shit!!!!
“There’s definitely a baby in there,” the doctor announces, pointing to this bean-shaped dot on the screen.
I don’t quite know what to say. Susan’s smiling, but I’m sure she’s stressing on the inside. I mean, she’s having a baby with her ex-boyfriend. The same one she left to be with her best friend. That’s kind of a lot going on.
Susan wipes away a tear. “How far along am I?”
The doctor pauses.
“I would say you are around eight weeks.”
I cough. Wow, eight weeks. I’m trying to contain my excitement, but I really just want to text Mom and Yelena with the news. I manage to send them a text message while Susan was getting dressed. Not 10 seconds after I send it, she turns around.
“We have a little bit of time before we have to pick up Yelena,” Susan whispers, tracing the outline of my bottom lip with her finger.
“Watch it. That’s probably how you got knocked up.”
“That and a lot of alcohol!” she yells.
I laugh. I love Susan’s lack of filter. It’s definitely one of the things that attracted me to her. As we walked out of the office, I wrapped my arm around her waist. Susan lets out a deep sigh and let her shoulders fall.
“I have to tell Derek. He’s not going to make this easy,” she mumbles as we approach the car.
“Granted, I know he loathes us. But do you think he’s so upset that he’ll drag this out just because?”
Susan puts on her sunglasses and turns to me.
We grab some food en route to the airport, which makes us about 15 minutes late. Of course, Yelena’s flight would arrive on time. We park and head inside the airport. We approach the door to walk in when we hear a familiar voice.
“Yo, Ashley!! Come here girl!!”
Without hesitation, I turn around and start running. Yelena, multiple bags in tow, starts picking up the pace. We meet on the sidewalk and exchange hugs and kisses.
“Yele, I miss you bunches!!!!”
Brushing her curly hair out of her face, Yelena walks over to Susan and starts rubbing her belly.
“Does Nick know yet?” she asks, looking directly at Susan.
Susan’s face turns a shade of red that I thought wasn’t humanly possible. I’m totally lost. Why would Yelena ask Susan if Derek’s brother Nick knows?
I’m pretty sure that’s not what Ashley wanted to hear. Hell, I definitely don’t want to believe that I may be pregnant. Children aren’t part of our plan and on top of that, I’ve been guzzling alcohol out of sheer denial.
I really hope it’s nerves and not the development of 10 fingers and toes.
Ashley’s mouth is still open. I guess her mouth is parched because she finally takes a sip of her beer.
“P-P-Pregnant? You…we…doctor. ..now, ” she stutters while slowly sitting on the sofa.
“It’s a possibility Ash. I did have sex with Derek on occasion. You also know that my cycle has been irregular for years.”
Ashley frantically waves her hand in the air.
“The mental picture of Derek being the father is not flattering.”
“Flattering? Nothing about pregnancy is flattering. I’ll make an appointment tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she replies, forcing a smile.
I open the fridge for a snack when Ashley taps me on my shoulder.
“Oh, before I forget. Yelena is flying in Saturday.”
I roll my eyes. The last thing I want to deal with is Yelena and her diarrhea of the mouth.
I take a deep breath.
“I had a feeling I was pregnant weeks ago and took five pregnancy tests just to make sure.”
Ashley drops her phone.
“I’m going to ignore the fact that you withheld this from me. Did all of the tests come back positive?”
“Five bright, double-lined sticks,” I mumbled.
Panicked, Ashley starts pacing in the kitchen.
“Shit, shit, shit!!”
You hold all of my secrets, fears, random thoughts, and memories. When emotions become so heavy that sleep is no longer peaceful, I share all with you.
I keep you hidden. Others won’t understand the contents of your pages, judging what they see on the surface.
I’m thankful for the volumes that silently hold so much.