The idea of it makes my heart drop. “Oh, that’s okay.”
“I mean,” he continues, “we probably aren’t even going to have kids, and we have all that space. It seems sort of a waste.”
I lift my beer, drinking about half of it in a few long swallows.
So Dave doesn’t know that Em is pregnant. And he’s not expecting a baby, maybe ever. A protective fire rises in my chest. Is that where Emily is? He thinks she’s shopping, but is she really off somewhere freaking out?
I realize I’ve been silent for an impolite amount of time. “I know what you mean, and I honestly do appreciate that offer, but it’s something I’ve been looking forward to.” I try to explain this to Dave without sounding ungrateful or dropping the baby bomb. “It’s an honor for me to take them.”
He nods and opens his mouth to speak, but I need to change the subject quickly. “I think I need to do something about Hazel.”
Beside me, Dave goes still. “Like what?”
I take a deep breath. “I’m in love with her. I don’t think she’s going to see Tyler anymore, so I wonder whether I should tell her.”
Dave slowly lifts his beer to his lips, drinks, and swallows. “I mean, yeah, maybe you should talk to her.”
This response isn’t immediately encouraging. How much does Dave know about this? Why isn’t he more shocked? Does he know more about Hazel’s feelings than I do? Does Hazel talk to Emily, who then talks to Dave about it?
“Unless you think she’s just undecided,” I say, probing for a reaction I can then dissect until I am insane. “I mean, we’ve had the opportunity to be together, and the last time I tried to approach it, she still seemed conflicted about the whole Tyler thing.”
“I don’t …” Dave starts, and then shakes his head.
I lean infinitesimally closer. “What?”
He seems to be picking his words carefully and I can’t decide if he really doesn’t know anything, or his eyes keep flicking up to the ceiling because he’s really into the architecture. “I don’t think she was ever conflicted about Tyler, per se.”
I search for the hidden meaning tucked into that handful of words. “I … don’t know what that means.”
He turns to look at me. “Hazel is a wild one.”
I’m immediately confused. “Yeah? So?”
This makes him laugh. “So, it’s who she is. She’s just … Hazel.” He shrugs, and his smile is genuinely adoring. “There’s no one like her.”
Where is he going with this? “I agree …”
“But I get the sense that … sometimes Hazel … is very aware of how different she is from other women. She’s not ever going to change, but she’s aware that she’s quirky, and a lot to take.”
I look on, confused. We’re on the same page. “No, I totally agree with you, but what does this have to do with me and Tyler?”
Dave takes another sip of his beer. “From what I can tell, Hazel has worshipped you—sort of singularly—since college.”
The fog clears, and I understand his meaning. “You mean, she’s not sure she’s right for me.”
I’ve heard her say this before, too.
“That’s sort of what I mean,” Dave says, nodding side to side. “But I also mean your opinion matters more to her than anyone’s. And so if things don’t work with Tyler, well, that’s to be expected. But if things don’t work with you—well, it’s obviously because of who she is.”
“But I love who she is,” I say simply.
I’m at the dead end of this alley. I’m in love, and there is absolutely no going back.
Dave finishes his beer and blinks down at the bar for a few beats. When he looks up, his eyes are red-rimmed. “Then you should probably tell her, man.”
For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve carried around the most precious piece of paper I’ve ever held. In the pocket of my jeans, it’s sure to bend in a thousand places. My purse is a Mary Poppins rabbit hole, so if I put it there, I’m likely to never see it again. In my sweaty palm, I can feel the thin photo paper turning tacky and limp from the handling, but I simply cannot put it down.
I’m obsessing about this ultrasound photo. The moment I put it on the table, or nightstand, or counter, I want to pick it back up and look one more time at the white text on the black borders:
And then my eyes drop to the object of greatest interest: my tiny sweet blob, a nebulous white figure in a sea of speckled black. Nine weeks and three days and it’s already the love of my life.
I press my hand to my stomach, and my pulse lurches to a thundering stampede. The embryo in the photo looks like a gummy bear, curled into a delicate C. My little monster, I think. My sweet little monster, with a fluttering heartbeat, little buds for limbs, and who is half me, half Josh Im.
Not my preferred reaction, but nausea rolls up from my stomach. I have just enough time to set down my precious piece of paper and bolt into the bathroom before I’m losing the cracker and three sips of water I’ve had today. Guess it wasn’t a bug after all.
After brushing my teeth—and almost throwing up again—I come back to the kitchen. I’ve got a text from Josh.
If I hadn’t just tossed my cookies—or crackers, rather—I might have tossed them now. With a trembling hand, I type out a
I stare at the photo again, and my heart feels too full.
After getting a last-minute appointment with my doctor yesterday and doing a blood test, then an in-office ultrasound—where Emily held my clammy hand, and we both cried our faces off when the monster came into clear view—I gave myself twenty-four hours to digest the news, and swore Emily to absolute secrecy.
Her response? “I already texted Dave, and I’m sorry for that. But if you think I’m going to be the one to tell my brother that he knocked up our best friend, you’re high.”
Today, I called in for a sub at work, and have spent the entire day walking around my neighborhood, staring intermittently at the photo. I’m in love with him.
I’m in love with Josh.
And I’m pregnant.
Yesterday, when I got home I was sweaty and panicky and eventually threw up. Now when I look at the photo, I feel jubilant.
Well, jubilant through whatever weird and exhausting things are going on in my body right now. Dr. Sanders told me not to Google pregnancy—said it’s a minefield of panic—and instead she gave me a few pamphlets and recommendations for books to read. But I’m sure every single person she’s given that advice to has ignored it similarly. Alas, the internet tells me that it’s normal to be tired in the first trimester.
So when Josh knocks on my door, I’m prone on the couch, one leg thrown over the back. All I can manage to do is moan out a zombified “It’s open.”
Josh steps in, kicking off his shoes. He greets Winnie as she races for him. And just the sight of him in my apartment is such a relief I have to swallow down a sob.
He’s carrying flowers and wearing my favorite purple shirt. Pushing to sit up, I become aware that I wasn’t expecting Fancy Josh. I’m Dumpy Hazel right now, wearing an old Lewis & Clark T-shirt and paint-splattered cutoffs, with my hair stuffed in a bun under my CHEESY hat.
For some reason—Some reason, ha! Pregnancy—I feel my throat go tight again. “Well, you look nice.”
Frowning, Josh walks around the couch, sitting next to me, reaching under the hat’s brim to put his free hand on my forehead. “You feel okay?”
Now that is a million-dollar question. “Yeah.”
“You look …”
He smiles. “I was going to say ‘flushed.’ ”
If I’m going to tell him I’m carrying his child, it should be easy to start with the smaller admissions. But my words come out hoarse: “It’s probably because I’m absurdly happy to see you.”
His eyes dip to my lips, and in turn, my gaze shifts down his face, over his nose, to his jaw, cheekbones, and then back to his eyes.