Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weeks 5 and 6

I’m still spotting but my period’s not here yet and I have only myself to blame for screwing up my cycle. I hate the damn pill. I think I might have to get one of those IUT or IUP whatchamacallits or that patch thing – something so I don’t have to remember all the time.

Major PMS is setting in and I’m completely aggravated with Adam. Not only was he totally unsympathetic to the whole Wendy thing and the Holiday Window Slaughter (“Don’t worry babe, you’ll get the job”), he’s engrossed with Tiger Woods. Adam works at Buckland Golf Course and Tennis Club as its director – golf all week – and then when the weekend comes, he’s what’s he doing?

“Come on, Tiger baby, get it in the hole!” he yells at the TV.

“I’m going out,” I snip, after Tiger makes the putt, even though I had my fingers crossed that he’d miss it, just to spite Adam.

“Where?” he asks, not taking his eyes off Tiger.

“Just want some fresh air. I’ll be back before the tournament’s over, don’t you worry.” I close the door, a little harder than necessary.

I walk quickly down the sidewalk, annoyed that everyone’s so happy. Why can’t everyone else be pissy when I’m pissy? Even the mail guy is chipper, greeting me as Mrs. McMillan, which pisses me off more. I’m not his damn mother, I want to yell.
After a long walk into town, which only makes me hot and even more irritated, I go into Walgreen’s and grab a two-dollar faux spring water most certainly from the mountains of Colorado. I feel cramps coming on so I head to the feminine product aisle because I am out of tampons.

When I get to the Aisle-Where-No-Man-Goes, my heart does this kind of “Oh God” thing, and I turn suddenly hot, then cold, then flushed again.

Pregnancy tests.

They are all lined up neatly, in their blue and white or pink and maroon boxes. They are little soldiers, taunting me, daring me to make a purchase. The urge comes over me to just buy a frigging test, take it and put my mind at ease already.

I do a quick, side-to-side, over-the-shoulder-glance-around to make sure I’m the only one in the aisle, then scan the rows and rows of boxes. I never knew there were so many types – tests that display plus signs, sticks that turn purple if pregnant, black if not. One brand is called Two Hearts where a pink heart appears if positive, and another brand that displays a YES or NO answer. It’s kind of like the Magic Eight Ball pregnancy test. I wonder if there are other answers like Better Luck Next Time, or Ask Me Later, or Should Have Used A Condom. There’s a get-two-for-the-price-of-one-test; one with a free condom inside, which makes me laugh out loud; and a kit with K-Y Jelly samples included.

I grab the Two Hearts test, because really, I think it’s the cutest of them all, with little pink hearts dotted all over the box – very cleverly designed. It’s the least expensive, and even includes a bonus test stick, which I’ll probably need because I’d be the person who drops the stick into the toilet or something equally stupid.

I head toward the checkout and freeze. I can’t buy just water and a pregnancy test! Everyone in the store will see I’m buying a pregnancy test! I have to camouflage this purchase so I do a quick mental inventory of things we need at home. I grab a four-pack of Charmin, a two-pound bag of Reese’s Pieces, a new razor for Adam because even his stubble is annoying me lately, a birthday card for Mom, People magazine (Paris Hilton, on the cover again), and a box of super-plus tampons.

Tampons and a pregnancy test – that’ll throw the clerk off. I consider buying a pack of condoms too.

With a surge of confidence, I take the items to the checkout and “Hello-My-Name-Is-Dottie” (who looks smashing in her poop-brown Walgreen’s smock) smiles at me with her smoker’s yellow teeth and bleeding pink lipstick. She doesn’t even look at my items as she scans them. She doesn’t give a damn what I’m buying! Thirty-four dollars later, I’m out the door, determined the pregnancy test was a waste of money.

At home, I shove the tampons and Two Hearts test in the closet, grab the Reese’s Pieces and the People magazine and settle in for some Hollywood gossip. Adam’s still watching golf and has said exactly two words to me since I got home: “Hi, Babe.”
I instantly cheer up after reading about Katie denouncing Scientology and teaming up with Brooke to educate women on Postpartum Depression. Ben’s having some marital problems and he and Jen are living on separate coasts for a while. And one of those top models has been put on a guava juice diet because she gained like four pounds and a swimsuit shoot in Australia had to be postponed. My life’s not so bad, I think, and I pop a few more Reese’s Pieces.

“Hey, what time is it?” Adam asks, eyes still glued to Tiger.

When I don’t answer, he turns his head away from the television and checks the clock. “We’re supposed to meet Paul and Jolene at five!”

“Well, you better get your ass off the couch and go take a shower. And here, while you’re in there, go shave. That stubble is doing nothing for me.” I toss him the razors I just purchased.

* * *

Paul waves us over to the table when we arrive at the restaurant, and Jolene is smiling ear-to-ear, probably ready to regale me with tales of the twins. Paul and Adam went to high school together, he was our best man, and now he’s a big-shot lawyer. We used to see Paul and Jolene pretty regularly, but there was a shift in our relationship, ever since I went running out of their house the first time we met the twins, almost two years ago. We see them about every four months, and frankly, it’s tiresome, listening to Paul talk about his latest deposition, and having to endure Jolene talk about Hugo and Sloan. I still can’t understand why they chose dog names for their children.

We exchange hugs, and Adam apologizes for being late.

“We ordered a bottle of white,” Paul offers, and I accept a glass graciously, thinking we’ll need another pretty quickly. Jolene pulls out pictures of the boys, and Paul and Adam start talking about Tiger’s performance earlier. I am faced with Jolene and her photos.

“Did I tell you Sloan’s over the charts in height and Hugo’s in the ninetieth percentile for weight?”

What the hell does that mean? “Oh, really.”

Paul and Adam are having a debate on which college basketball team has the best forward, so I’m stuck listening to Jolene, who’s onto breastfeeding. I drink my wine and am glad when things get a little fuzzy because I so do not want to hear about Jolene’s blocked milk ducts.

“I really should have stopped after one glass of wine. Now I’ll have to go home and pump and dump!” She laughs, easily amused, but I have no clue what she’s talking about, and Jolene realizes this.

“Oh, I guess I didn’t know about it until I started breastfeeding.”

I turn my head to see if anyone has heard her. It’s embarrassing. She’s loud and she’s slurring because she’s had like one and a half glasses of wine.

“Pump and dump is when you get rid of the milk in your boobs after drinking a few cocktails so the alcohol doesn’t get passed to the babies. I’ll go home and use my pump, then I’ll toss out the tainted milk – pump and dump.” And she laughs like it’s the most humorous thing she’s ever said.

I am dumbfounded by this whole phenomenon, and then consider how strange it is she’s still breastfeeding her children when they are practically two already.

“So, what about you guys?” Paul asks, looking at Adam and then at me.

“What about us, what?” I ask.

“When the two of you going to get on the baby bandwagon like the rest of the world?” Paul asks and proudly puts his arm around Jolene. Me man. Me knock up wife.

I reach for my wine and take another sip.

“We’re talking about it. We’re thinking about it,” Adam says, reaching for my hand under the table, which I reject. I know he’s hoping for a reassuring comment from me. I respond by finishing my wine.

Jolene perks up, “Don’t wait too long, guys. You know those eggs start to rot after you hit thirty or so, and sperm starts to lose it’s oomph after a while too.”

Our entrees arrive and suddenly my linguine with scallops in cream sauce doesn’t look so appealing.

* * *

It’s Tuesday. The test has been in the closet since Saturday, right next to the box of super-plus tampons. I haven’t used either yet. I have, however, devoured the entire two-pound bag of Reese’s Pieces, a dead giveaway that my period will be here soon.

Week Six
Oh God, oh God, please, please God.

A thin layer of urine spreads its way through the test stick and onto the result windows. Everything looks purplish-pink, like watercolors with mixed-up paint.
In a state of panic, I had ripped open the Two Hearts box, took out one of the foil-wrapped sticks and peed on it without reading the directions. My heart is banging in my chest, my palms are clammy, and my forehead is hot. As I watch the windows swirl with a faint purple color, I glance at the instructions and wonder if maybe I hadn’t peed enough. My hands shake as I check my watch. I’m supposed to wait three whole freaking minutes.

An eternity.

In one window, a faint outline of a pink heart appears and I momentarily freak, scared because I don’t know which window is the YES and which one is NO. Finally, I match what I see on the stick to the instruction page and get the result.

The one I was hoping for.

Negative. Negatory. No. Nada.

I toss the stick into the garbage can, exhale loudly and flop onto my bed. I thank the good Lord for His divine intervention.

“What’s this?” Adam asks, leaning over my chair. He’s holding the Two Hearts box and the stick I threw away hours ago. I put down People.

“Just a test. My cycle’s screwed up, but it’s okay. It was negative.”

As soon as I say it, I realize it’s not okay with Adam, because he wants us to be pregnant.

“Why are there two hearts on the stick? Doesn’t that mean something?” Adam shows the stick to me, and there, in both windows, are faint outlines of pink hearts, barely visible but kind of there. My heart does a little freaky “oh shit” thing, but then I remember what I read on the box.

“The instructions said the result is immediate, and when I looked at it exactly three minutes after I peed, there was only one heart in the control window,” I explain.


“Come on, don’t be bummed. We’ve got time. We’ve got plenty of time to have children, just not this month.” And not next month or the month after that either.

“Look, we’ve got our vacation coming up, then Christmas. And I’ve got to concentrate on the holiday windows. That’s my main concern right now. I can’t let Wendy get my position. It’s just too important for my career.”

Adam looks at me like a beaten puppy, all sad-eyed and pathetic. I kind of want to kick him in the face. He’s being ridiculous. Hell, he’s acting like a woman.

The next night, Adam and I are at our favorite Italian restaurant, Cosa Mia, sitting in a cozy little booth, with checkered tablecloths, and cheesy ruby-red glass candle votives on the center of the table.

“Can you give me until April?” I ask.

Adam looks up at me, midway into a forkful of linguini, and he makes this strange sound like he’s either asking me a question or choking. I figure he’s not choking or else he would have given me the international sign for choking, so I continue.

“My annual check-up’s in April. I’ll talk about it with Dr. Keller then. Maybe get a prescription for those vitamins Jana talks about. I’ll feel much better if we can hold off just a bit longer.”

He sips his wine, looking at me, skeptically.

“Is this okay with you? Can you wait for a little bit more?” I ask.

“If that’s what you want,” he says.

Of course that’s what I want. That gives me seven months. That gives me our anniversary in Jamaica, Christmas, time to transition into my new job. Time to be me for a while longer.

Adam’s smiling at me, and I’m suddenly happy I’ve come to this decision.

“Are you sure about this Elle? I don’t want to jump into it unless you are positively certain. I mean, are you sure I’m the right one for you?” He gives me an exaggerated wink but I can tell he’s pleased. He calls to an imaginary waiter. “Sir, more wine here, please! We’ve got something to celebrate! My wife might actually let me impregnate her someday!”

We drink more wine and talk about the possibilities ahead, and I begin to relax. I’ve stalled him. I can concentrate on work. I’ve got a plan in place, and I can look at things with some perspective. April is a long ways away. It’s plenty of time to ready myself for pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, puking, weight-gaining, sleepless nights, crappy diapers, midnight feedings, a squawking baby…

Yes, waiter, more wine please.

Since it appears I’m really going to get serious about this pregnancy thing, I need to call Sarah, my best friend. She and Jetson already have two kids and live in Montana where they run some sort of a ranch. She’s a great mom, plus she got her degree in psychology, not that she’s doing anything with it taking care of animals at a ranch, but I know she’ll give me some sound advice, and help me sort through my anxieties.

Sarah and I met freshman year in college, while we were rushing sororities and she convinced me to accept a bid from Delta Gamma Pi. If I hadn’t met her, my college experience would have been completely different, and I might not have met Adam, either.

It was Sarah who suggested we take Women in Literature as an elective, and that’s where I first saw Adam. Right away, I knew he was sensitive, because what insensitive guy would take a course like that? He was also cute, wearing a baseball cap, faded Levi’s, navy blue GAP t-shirt. Sarah and I started following him after class and I found out he lived at the Sigma Chi house, went to the library to check out Golf Digest, and was a regular at O’Leary’s Pub.

I started dragging my sorority sisters to O’Leary’s.

“Why are we going here again?” Sorority sister Megan would ask each time we headed to O’Leary’s for happy hour.

Sarah would say, “Because she’s hot for Adam, so we have to go.”

I’ve loved Sarah ever since. She just got me.

At O’Leary’s, there was always a fun crowd, and rarely any fights ever broke out, like they did over at the Neanderthal bar Havoc, where the only chance a guy would buy you a beer was on dime beer night.

One night, a bunch of us girls gathered at O’Leary’s and had monopolized a couple tables up front. I started showing off my one beer-drinking talent which was pouring my beer backwards into my mouth without the cup touching my lips. I usually only attempted this when I was well on my way, and this particular night, we had garnered quite a crowd.

Adam walked up to our table and said, “Cool trick. Can you teach me?” I felt my heart do double-triple flips. He and his buddies sat down with us and we laughed and drank, and one-upped each other on our worst drinking adventures. At last call, we ended up singing a glorious rendition of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” before the lights were turned way up signaling closing time.

Adam looked directly into my eyes and asked, “So, Irish Eyes, what should we do now?”

We ended up back at my apartment. Not a lot of sleeping went on that night, and aside from one short breakup the following year when Adam needed to put our relationship “on the back burner,” and I shed the fastest twelve pounds in my life, we’ve been together ever since.

At the end of the semester, I got a C- in Women in Literature, but I always joke that at least I succeeded in getting my “MRS.” degree. Those sloshy late nights at O’Leary’s weren’t some of my proudest collegiate moments, but it did land me my husband.

I call Sarah on a night when Adam’s going to be late because Adam gets annoyed at how loud I get when she and I are on the phone.

Andrew, my Godson, answers the phone.

“Heh-wo.” He says in typical three-year-old fashion.

“Hey Drewy, how are you?”

“Auntie Ellie, Aunt Ellie!” Sarah insists the kids call me Aunt Ellen. I cringe when I hear it because I imagine the children Jana longs to have are the ones who should be calling me Aunt, but I’ll take being called Aunt Ellen over Mrs. McMillan any day. That’s Adam’s mom for Christ’s sake.

“Wanna heah my A B Thees? A b thee defghijklmno…P…pee pee… I make pee in tha potty.”

“Andrew honey, get your momma.”

Four minutes later, three more rounds of ABCs, a detailed description of his afternoon poop, and a quick chat with his sister, Charlotte, who can’t even speak yet, and finally, Sarah picks up the phone, out of breath.

“Hey, sorry! I was folding laundry; didn’t hear it ring. I didn’t even know what was going on until I heard Char beating Drewy over the head with the phone.”

“I thought she was playing her toy drum.”

We laugh, and continue to do so, especially when I ask her how the cows or mules or whatever they’ve got on the ranch are doing.

“Horses, Ellen, they’re horses we’re raising.”

“Sarah, come on, we all know you’re raising children, not horses!” And I figure this is the perfect segue into my unforeseen and skeptical future as a mother.

“Speaking of children…”

“You’re pregnant!”

“No, no, no.” It freaks me out to even hear her say this. “But, we’re going to start trying.”

“That’s great! I’m so happy for you. When do you ovulate?”


“What do you mean? You’re not starting now?”

“I still need time,” I sort of whisper.

I relay all my worries, and she and I talk for two hours.

“It will be the best thing you’ll ever do,” Sarah says. “You have no idea how wonderful it is to be a mom. And don’t think of it like you’re losing a part of yourself. You’re not. Well, you kind of do in the beginning, because at first, you’ll be pregnant and all the attention will be focused on you, and then pop! Out comes this baby. And by the way, I won’t tell you how much it terribly hurts, because if I told you, you’d say forget it. But anyway, after you have a baby, you do lose a part of yourself, but you can get it back. It just takes a while. You spend all this time catering to this tiny being’s needs. Demands, really. And then, at the end of the day, there’s nothing left for yourself, or for your husband. Of course, this is all in the beginning. You know, the first ten or eleven months after you have a baby, but then, everything starts flowing. It flows a little more slowly and maybe in a direction other than you thought it would be flowing, but still, you’ll get used to everything and you’ll be fine.”

“Really?” I ask.

“You really will. And I know you’ll be an awesome mother.”

As much as I want to believe my best friend, I have tremendous doubts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week Four

Lexi, Wendy and I are in the front store window, with brown paper taped up to prevent anyone from getting a sneak preview of our Back-To-School debut. I don’t know what kind of medication Wendy’s on today, but she adored our Back-To-School window idea. She’s doing what she usually does – overseeing our progress, and basically standing around.

“Girls, this is so terrific! Management is going to love it!” Wendy looks at her watch. “Oh, I almost forgot. I told Dean I’d check the windows over at the south entrance. Want me to bring back coffee?” Lexi and I accept, knowing we won’t see Wendy for the better part of an hour.

After Wendy leaves, Lexi and I work in comfortable silence for a while, attaching shimmering purple kites to the ceiling.

“Did I tell you I’m babysitting my nieces in a few weeks?” Lexi says.

“That’s great! I know you miss the girls a lot.” Then I ask, “Do you ever want kids of your own, Lex?”

She grabs the tape measure and stretches it across the window panel. “Oh yeah! I love babies!”

“So, you’re planning on having children someday?” I press on.

“Oh God, yeah, I want two or three, probably three. What could be better than having a bunch of rugrats cuddling and snuggling with you, loving you unconditionally because you’re their mama?”

I hadn’t thought of it that way. She’s being so earthy granola, and all I think about is how my life would be affected negatively, and not about a beautiful child I could have with the man I love.

“Sounds kind of like having a puppy,” I finally say.

Lexi puts her hands on her hips and whips her head so her curls shake all over.

“You’re kidding me. Tell me you’re not comparing a scrappy little dog to a beautiful child, your own flesh and blood?” Clearly, she is disappointed in me, and she looks at me kind of sideways, scrutinizing me. “Are you pregnant?”

“God no! Adam’s been bringing it up again. He’s really ready, I think, but I’m not.”

“Well, he is in his thirties. Maybe he’s worried about his swimmers losing steam?” Lexi laughs.

“Oh God, Lex, I’m no good with kids! Remember when Paul and Jolene had the twins and the first time I held one of them it started howling at me, and I almost dropped him!”

Lexi cracks up.

“That kid’s face was beet red and I had absolutely no idea what to do, and as soon as Jolene took him from me, the screeching stopped! I had to take a Xanax to calm down because it freaked me out so much.

“Besides, my sister wants one. I can’t have a kid before Jana. She needs to go first.”

Jana and Josh, her high-school-boyfriend-turned-husband, have been married seven years and they’re trying to get pregnant, and Jana does not keep this a private marital matter. I hear about ovulation and the unique ways she and Josh are doing it, and really, it kind of grosses me out. Every month she takes her temperature and charts the results on a graph. She studies her own secretions to map her cycle. They’ve had sex every day for fourteen days in a row to make sure there’s a constant sperm supply. Josh goes sans underwear so he’s nice and cool and loose. Just the thing I want to know about my brother-in-law. Next, they are trying some fertility drug that’s supposed to rev up the eggs.

I don’t want to know about my sister’s sex life.

“It would kill Jana if I got pregnant and she didn’t.”

“That’s an excuse,” Lexi accuses, and she’s right.

“Look, things are really good right now between Adam and me. And I really, really want the director position, and if I do get it, a baby will complicate things. And I don’t want to be one of those stay-at home moms. I don’t want to go to playgroups with moms I don’t even know, or worse, when I do get to know them, I might not even like. I don’t want to have to lug around a whole extra bag of crap. You see how much crap I need just for myself! And I don’t want to get up in the middle of the night because of a crying baby who needs a diaper change and a breast!” I feel like a horrible person for admitting all of this, but it feels good to confess to Lexi. “It’s scary.”

“Hey, I bet every woman is intimidated by the idea of pregnancy. It’s all new territory. Maybe that’s why pregnancies last nine months. To give the mom time to adjust, time to prepare.”

“Yeah, and that brings me to the other stuff.”

“What stuff?” Lexi asks.

“Everything! I just can’t think about all of it – the whole nine-month thing. There’s baby gear and weight gain; sleep deprivation and strollers and car seats and milky boobs and sleepless nights, and… and I love working and don’t want to be stuck at home with a squalling infant I might start to resent. I’d be miserable to be around – fat and hormonal. Heck, you know how terrible I am when I’m PMSing. Multiply that by a thousand and that’s me pregnant.”

I feel better after venting to Lexi, and then I think about her being gay and wanting children. “You want kids? How?”

“Oh please, Ellen. There are so many ways for a woman to have a baby these days. I can adopt. I can pick out a potential donor like Melissa Etheridge did, although I have to say, I think she should have picked a father according to his looks and not his musical talent.”

We both laugh.

“David Crosby ain’t exactly hot. Dave Matthews or Chris Martin – now those are hot daddies.” It’s funny how we are sitting cross-legged in Lindstrom’s main window drinking soda and discussing sperm donors. It’s a good thing we covered the windows with brown paper. You’d hardly know we were working.

* * *

So, Adam has planted the figurative seed, and while I’m trying to think of ways to stall him aside from “Jana wants one,” or the old “I’ve got a headache” standby, I know Adam really wants to be a father.

And I love him, so I’m trying to see his side. Desperately.

Every now and then there’s this teeny, teeny, very itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny voice inside my head I can barely hear whispering, “Have a baby while you’re young. Eventually it’s going to happen, so get it over with. Someday, you will conceive, and carry, and deliver (with not too much pain, and a lot of drugs) and raise for eighteen plus years, a hopefully healthy and beautiful child.” Most of the time, I tell this voice to shut the hell up.

I don’t want all the crap that comes along with getting pregnant. I don’t want to give up sexy thongs for grandma panties. I don’t want power bras to hold up Vitamin D fortified jugs. I don’t want to become a cow, which is what I’d be – a milk-producing mammal.

The pregnant women I see are frumpy-assed and waddling around in their tent-like tunics that accentuate their widening hips. Or else they’re hip little things strutting around all bare-bellied. I know I wouldn’t be this cute little thing that doesn’t look pregnant from the back. I’d be the tunic-wearing frump-crab-assed prego.
And, who the hell said pregnant women glow? They don’t look like they’re glowing. They look tired; most look absolutely miserable. They don’t look happy, even the skinny ones with perfectly round bowling ball bellies. I don’t want to be tired, crabby, fat and unhappy – the seven dwarfs all rolled up into one cranky lady. That would be me – one big fat, dopey, sleepy, grumpy woman.

I’m not even thirty yet and there’s plenty of time for the mom stuff! Let my sister go first. I don’t want to think of all the stuff involved with becoming a mother. Call me vain. Call me selfish. I love my work, I like how I look, I like throwing back a couple on the weekends, and I enjoy sleeping far too much. Okay, yes, I admit it, I’m really, really, really selfish. But at least I’m woman enough to admit it.

* * *

I hear the phone ring as I jam the key into the lock and push open our door. I drop my things in the foyer and run into the kitchen, thinking I’ve missed the call.

I grab the phone. “Hello?”

“Hey! You sound out of breath. Are you heading out somewhere?” Jana asks.

“Hi! No, I just walked in though, so hang on a sec.”

I kick off my shoes, grab a diet Coke, and plop down onto my favorite chair.

“What’s up?”

“You guys want to come here for Mom’s birthday?” she asks.

“You’re planning already? It’s more than a month away!”

“Yeah, I know. But you know how she is,” Jana says.

Jana’s right to plan ahead. Because if Mom didn’t get a celebration of some sort, she’d be annoyed, and we’d never hear the end of how disappointed she was. In subtle motherly ways, of course.

The fact that she wants to be honored each year is kind of ironic considering she hates her birthday – hates the fact that she’s getting older. She’ll be fifty-five, although she looks like she’s in her mid-forties. She’s a pretty hot mom and is very stylish, from highlighted head to glittery toenail polish in the hippest colors. Mom never goes out unless she is completely put together. She’s got the matching bag, belt and footwear, funky chunky jewelry, embroidered Capri linen pants or skirts with coordinating tops, accessories and a face made up straight from the Lancome counter. She looks great even if she’s only going to the end of the drive for the paper.

I don’t know how Dad has put up with it for all of these years. He must have wasted a few years’ worth of time waiting in the car while Mom yelled out to him that she’s “putting on the finishing touches, dear.” Fortunately for Daddy (and their thirty-five year marriage), he takes it all in stride and loves her for who she is (a major shopoholic), and for what she does (shops).

“What kind of party do you have in mind?” I ask Jana.

“A simple barbeque. Just us, and Adam’s folks of course.”

Mom and Dad got friendly with Adam’s parents right after we got engaged. I’m actually glad they enjoy each others’ company as it makes for relatively pleasant family gatherings.

“What do you want me to bring?” I ask.

“Not sure yet, but how does Sunday the twenty-sixth work for you?”

“Yeah, that should be fine.”

Then I decide I might as well ask her, because if I don’t, she won’t say anything.
“So...” And I pause hoping she knows what I’m fishing for. When she doesn’t say anything, I continue, “What’s going on in the land of baby-making?”

“Oh God, don’t ask.”

I’m relieved she doesn’t feel like talking about it, because I don’t really want to hear anything new about Josh’s testicles or her incompetent eggs. But then, after a short silence, she says, “We’re giving it six more months and then we’re calling it quits,” she says.

“What do you mean?”

“We’ll quit. We’re so tired of all the shit involved with trying to have a baby. You know, when you don’t want it, you get it, and when you want it, you don’t. Here we are, doing all this stuff to try to get pregnant, and nothing’s happening. Sometimes I wish I could just go back in time. But back then, what the hell did I know?”

Back then is when Josh and Jana got pregnant in college. It was a mistake and totally bad timing as Josh was graduating and Jana was finishing her junior year. I had gone to visit Jana at school when she and Josh told me the news.

“I’m pregnant,” she had said, and I was ecstatic. I knew they were talking pretty seriously about marriage and a family. But when Jana looked at me, I knew something wasn’t right.

“Oh God, Jana, no,” I said. “You can’t. You love each other. Please don’t say...”
Josh spoke because Jana was near tears. “Ellen, we can’t have a kid. We haven’t even graduated yet. We’ve got no money, we’re not married. We’ve already thought of everything. And it’s been a hard decision, but …”

“I’m getting an abortion next Friday,” Jana had said.

And, she did.

Jana feels she jinxed her fertility by giving up what she could have had years ago, and she can’t let it go. She’s never gotten over the guilt of her choice, and that frustrates me. It’s a choice, and yes, it was her choice, and she and Josh made it together. But she shouldn’t keep blaming what happened so long ago for her infertility. I’m tempted to tell her she’s not being punished for something she did eleven years ago, but I know she hates to discuss it, so I keep my mouth shut.

“All Josh and I do anymore is fight. Well, when we’re not having clinical sex, which, by the way, is the absolute worst,” Jana tries to laugh, but she sounds so bitter.

I can’t even imagine what clinical sex is like. Positioning your bodies just so, pillow under the ass, pelvises aligned for maximum penetration. Discussing each thrust – is it in deep enough, are you sure you’re ovulating, has the sperm had enough time to build back up? I imagine no foreplay, no loving words, no candles, no soft touches or whispers. Clinical sex must be like opening a bank account. Make that deposit, don’t withdraw too quickly, and hope for some interest.

“I’m so pissed that we’re not pregnant yet,” Jana continues. “Our friends are starting on their second kids, and we’ve spent the past four-and-a-half years having clinical sex. Do you know how many months that makes? How many periods I’ve gotten I didn’t want? Shit, we’ve spent fifty-three months waiting for a little pink line to show up on a goddamn stick. We’ve spent a shitload of money on pregnancy tests, ovulation kits, doctor’s visits, fertility specialists. And we’ve got nothing. No baby, and practically no marriage left either.”

She’s exaggerating about her marriage suffering and she’s crying so hard, I don’t know how to comfort her. All I want is for her to feel better, so I say what I think would be a sensible thing to say.

“You can always adopt.”

“Oh Christ, Ellen, you don’t have a fucking clue, do you? It’s a good thing you don’t want kids because you are completely clueless. Hell, you can’t even say the right things a sister is supposed to say!”

She might as well have leapt through the phone and sucker-punched me.

“Why the hell are you on my case?” I yell. “You’re right. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never had a desire so strong that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, that I can’t work or think or enjoy life because I’m waiting around for something I’m not positive will ever even happen. I wish you could stop stressing out so much, take some time for each other and relax and be happy. You’ve got so much of this negative energy, what do you think that’s doing to you guys, physically and mentally? I really wish you two could just start enjoying your lives, already, and be thankful for what you do have.”

I don’t want to hear anything else she has to say. “And since I am just your dumb little sister who can’t figure anything out, you shouldn’t look for my shoulder for your sob stories anymore!”

I slam down the phone and am I’m so shaken up I start to cry. I feel terrible for Jana, and sorry for what I said, and sorry for what she’s been through, but I can’t change the past and she’s the one making her life so miserable.

When I calm down, I take a deep breath, wipe my eyes and pull the afghan over me. It’s the afghan my dear sister crocheted for my wedding gift.

* * *

Adam gently rubs my cheek and I shake myself out of a restless fog.

“Ellie, baby, wake up, honey. You okay?”

I pull the blanket up higher, not ready to wake, hoping the argument was something I’d dreamed. But the headache I’ve got because of crying is proof of my conversation with Jana.

“Jana and I got into a fight.”

He rubs my temples while I tell him about it.

“I can’t imagine how your sister and Josh must feel,” Adam says. “I’m sorry every time you talk, the conversation turns to this.”

“I know. I mean, it’s all she ever talks about. It seems like she loves this non-existent baby she might never have more than the people who are here and who love her.”

“I guess we shouldn’t assume we know how they feel unless we’ve walked in their shoes, which, I hope we never have to do. What they’ve been going through sounds really tough.”

I know all too well what he is thinking. He’s worried that someday we might be like Josh and Jana, having our own fertility problems, fighting incessantly over whose sperm or egg is not working properly, having clinical sex.

I want to take his concerns away. I want him to know that someday I will give him the child he wants, the child we both will want, when the time is right. But I can’t share these thoughts with him yet. Instead, I take his hand and I take him to our bedroom. I’m not dwelling on what our future may hold, but I’m also not ready for the next step where there are three of us instead of two. I just want two for a while longer. I want it to be Adam and me for a while.

We make love, and it’s nowhere near clinical. It’s soft and giving and selfless and real. And afterward, we fall asleep while the candle on the nightstand flickers to a gentle glow and drifts off, the flame melting itself into the wax, turning our room dark.

* * *

On Tuesday, I have a lunch meeting with Claire, the regional vice president of marketing for Lindstrom’s. I am pretty sure this “lunch” is an interview so she can gauge my interest in taking over Barb’s position. It’s killing me because I know Wendy wants it too, and because of Owen, I’m afraid he might pull some strings. I’ve spoken to Claire on the phone, but this is the first time we’ll meet, and I start sweating as I make my way over to the café.

I arrive early, so I wait in the lobby near the front doors. I’m so nervous because I want to impress Claire. I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at now, and getting promoted to creative director is the next rung on my career ladder, and I’m ready to climb it. I plan to tell Claire about all our plans for the upcoming season, and to let her know Lexi and Dean also have some fabulous ideas for the spring fashion line. Of course, I will not be mentioning Wendy in any of this, because she has stepped forward with absolutely nothing.

I reapply my lipstick and curse myself for being suckered into buying a twenty-eight dollar tube of lipstick that “will not smudge, smear, or budge.” It does all three of these things, and very well. Why the hell do I buy lipstick on eBay?


I turn around to meet Claire.

My God, she’s pregnant!

“Claire? Hi. Oh, hi, how are you?” I’ve just addressed her belly instead of her face, and my cheeks flush. “Wow, you’re pregnant.”

From the smile on Claire’s face, I am guessing our lunch conversation will quickly go from job descriptions and holiday displays to nursery décor and babies. Fabulous.
The hostess leads us to a booth but Claire asks if we could have a table instead.
“Booths get a little tight,” she chuckles and pats her belly.

When our waitress arrives and asks what we’d like to drink, Claire orders water with lemon and I ask for a diet Coke.

“God, I would so love a diet Coke,” Claire says when our waitress walks away.

“I’m sure she won’t mind if you change your order.”

“Ohhh, no, no, no. No thanks. Caffeine’s not good for the baby. I’m allowed one cup a day and I’ve already had coffee this morning.”

“Caffeine is off limits?”

“Well, there’s no definitive study on the effects of caffeine in utero, but, I always say, ‘Better safe than sorry,’ right baby?” She pats her belly again and laughs.

I chuckle along with her. Dear God.

Our waitress returns and I order the chicken salad on a pita and Claire orders an appetizer, the French onion soup and a pasta entrée.

“I’m so famished these days, you know. I swear they aren’t kidding when they say ‘You’ll be eating for two!’” Again, as if she’s trying to include her unborn child in the conversation, she looks down and rubs her belly.

I don’t think it’s cute at all, but I figure the politically correct thing to do is to smile. I still don’t get it though – she can’t have caffeine but she can eat everything on the menu? At least I’m no longer nervous; just perplexed by Claire’s pregnant oddities.

Claire asks me the basic “I’m-trying-not-to-make-this-look-like-an-interview-but-it-is” questions, including, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I smile during all the right parts, answer the questions as truthfully as possible, including a response to her five-year question of, “Your position?” where she laughs good-naturedly. And rubs her belly.

Things are going well, and we’ve moved on to the subject I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid. Her baby.

“Well, I’m about half-way there!” she beams. I can’t imagine what the other half is going to look like if she’s already this big.

“I’m feeling pretty good now since I’m in my second tri.”

Second tri? What the hell is a second tri? I don’t want to ask because if I do, I’m afraid I’ll be stuck here until the third or fourth tri.

She’s jabbering on about things I’ve never even heard of, all the while including her bulging stomach in the conversation. I’ve never gotten into any details with my friends who have had babies, because they all know I’m not interested, which maybe was a mistake on my part. It would have been better to hear about this stuff from friends rather than the company’s regional vice president.

“I already had my sonogram, and thankfully, I didn’t need an amnio. Since I’ll be thirty-five at the time of delivery, we considered it, but then, the sonogram came back fine. Good thing, because I didn’t want a huge needle shoved right in the middle of my belly! I’m scheduled for the glucose test next week.”

Second tri? Glucose? Amnio? Sonogram? What does all this mean? I wonder if there’s a textbook pregnant woman study. I bet Jana would know, but there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to ask her about all this. In fact, it’s doubtful I’ll ever be talking to her again after our last phone call.

Then, after all this cute baby talk, Claire drops the bomb.

“Well, I’ve had the chance to meet with Wendy, and you’re both definitely qualified to take over Barb’s position. I’ve got a plan though.”

I’m so glad she was looking down at her belly and patting it when she announces this because it gives me time to put my eyeballs back into their sockets. Wendy? She’s already talked to Wendy.

“I thought it would be fun to put your talents to the test? The holiday windows are such a hit each year, and I’ve come up with a great idea to see who’s right for the job, because, as I see it, you’re both highly qualified.”

What? How can she be comparing Wendy and me? Wendy started with a non-paying internship she got because of her uncle! She’s never even had a designing class – she studied poetry in college! She can’t design her way out of a paper bag; she’s unethical, she’s not a team player, she criticizes everything but then takes credit for things she has no involvement in!

“We’re going to split up into two teams. You and Dean; Wendy and Lexi. Each team will create a unique theme for the holiday windows, prepare drafts and layouts and present them for review. Mr. Lindstrom will have final say on which theme most accurately reflects the holiday season and the quality of Lindstrom’s Department Store. That theme will be the one the holiday windows are drafted upon, and that designer will become Lindstrom’s newest Visual Display Creative Director!”

Claire has stopped talking and is waiting for me to say something. I touch the corner of my eye and say, “My contact’s out of whack. Will you excuse me a moment?”

I don’t wear contacts.

I rush into the bathroom and splash cold water onto my reddened face. This cannot be happening. A contest? Wendy and I cannot be competing for the job. This is just too much.

But maybe this is a good thing. She’ll never figure out how to come up with a unique theme for the holiday windows. Never in a million years.

* * *

“So, how was your meeting?” Lexi asks. I avoided everyone when I got back into the office, but now we’re at The Living Room and I so need to vent. Besides, tomorrow Claire is going to send out a press release announcing the Holiday Window Slaughter, as I have named this ‘event.’

I take a swig of my vodka tonic and twirl the straw. “Did either of you know Wendy met with Claire last week?”

Lexi and Dean exchange guilty looks.

“Do you know why they met?”

More guilty looks.

“You knew already! And neither of you said anything to me!”

“What were we supposed to say?” Dean asks. “It’s not like it was our idea? Like we want to be working against each other? Like Lexi wants to be stuck with Wendy?”

Lexi looks down into her glass like it’s the most interesting fusion of vodka and tonic she’s ever seen. She even pokes at her lime. Then, she looks up at me sheepishly.

“You think I’m happy about this? Getting teamed up with her?” she finally says.

“I know, I know. But damn it! She’s Owen’s niece! There’s no way she’s not going to get the position!”

“And how am I supposed to work exclusively with her?” Lexi whines. “This totally sucks.”

We’re wallowing in our pissed-off-ness and decide to keep wallowing and stay for dinner. We order appetizers and more cocktails, which is our idea of dinner. Adam’s working late at the golf club – there’s a tournament and banquet he’s overseeing so there’s no reason for me to rush home.

Bizarre Love Triangle comes on and Lexi shrieks because it’s her favorite song. She grabs Dean and leads him onto the dance floor.

“Frannie, can I get another?” I yell to our waitress.

“Vodka tonic?” she asks.

“Yep! And make it a double!”

Looks like tomorrow’s going to be another one of those fun Fridays at work where we tape up the windows, order lunch in, and gripe about our hangovers. And you can bet we’ll be bitching about this latest development.

“Want one more?” Dean shouts from over at the bar. Lexi gives him the thumbs up, walks off the dance floor toward our table, grabs her purse and nods in the direction of the ladies’ room. I follow her while Dean orders another round.
Lexi applies another layer of lipstick to her already pouty mouth as I check for feet under the doors, and find an open one. Then she starts singing, “Do you really want to hurt meeeee? Do you really want to make me crryyy?”

“You’re going to make me cry if you keep singing!” I shout from the stall. “I’m already in a crap mood!”

“Lighten up. Everything at work will be fine,” Lexi says.

“Easy for you to say. You’re not up for a promotion,” I say as I’m peeing. “Hey, I left my purse at the table. Do you have a tampon?” I ask.

“Got your rag?”

“I’m spotting. And I’m so bloated. And, completely pissed off. Major PMS.”

A super-plus tampon flies over the top of the stall.

“Nice shot, Lex.”

“Do you need another? Did it land in the toilet?” she asks.

“Nope. But it whacked me right on the head.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

40 Weeks

A Novel
By Stephanie Elliot

Week Three

I lift my head from the cold porcelain and reach up to flush. A spattering of water hits my face and the swoosh from the toilet sounds like I’ve just entered a wind tunnel. I hadn’t planned to spend the last hour hugging the American Standard. Not exactly my ideal morning.

Of course, I blame Adam.

He had arrived at the table with a Cosmo for me, not knowing I had already downed two of the cranberry-vodka concoctions. So, it’s mostly Adam’s fault that today I’ve got a pounding head, bloodshot eyes, pasty mouth and clenched stomach. However, I know it’s never a good idea to have three Cosmos on an evening when lunch was a pack of cheese crackers, a Butterfinger and a diet Coke.

Streams of sun splash through the paper blinds as I crawl my way back to our bed. My head’s throbbing, my chest pounds from dehydration, and my body’s making all these internal noises, echoing loudly, blaring through my skull. Everything sounds freakishly like Gloria Estefan’s, “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.” If the rhythm catches up to me, I hope it kills me flat out dead.

I heave myself onto the bed, nudge Adam, and ask, “Can you get me the Advil?” He doesn’t answer. I swipe drool from his lower lip and pull the blanket over my head, feeling like death might be a nice alternative.

It’s almost ten when I wake up, Adam’s no longer in bed, and I smell coffee brewing, which churns my stomach. A glass of water and three Advil are on the nightstand. I ease up slowly, testing the severity of the hangover, and fumble for the pills. I choke all three down.

“Adam?” I croak. He appears in the doorway, freshly showered, a towel wrapped around his waist.

“What happened?” I ask, rubbing my still-throbbing head in an attempt to dull the pain.

“What don’t you remember? Slamming the fourth Cosmo?”

“Four! I did not have four!”

“Ellen. You had four. And then, you and Lexi started ragging about Wendy.”

“Oh God. Do you think she heard us?”

“You weren’t exactly whispering, but if it’s any consolation, you were speaking ‘Slurvakian’ so if she heard you, she probably didn’t understand a word you said.”

My head pulsates louder, and I close my eyes. “Why is this fun for me when it’s happening, but not the day after?”

“Oh, it was fun alright. Especially when we got home.” Adam winks and my mind shuffles to recall the events. I sort of remember being in the kitchen and… Oh God…


He grins. The memories flood into my thrashing head.

“Not the kitchen island? Tell me we didn’t do it on the kitchen island?”

“Okay. We didn’t do it on the kitchen island,” he smirks.

I muster up just enough energy to throw a pillow at him. Great, I’ve done it again. I’ve become the drunken slut every man fantasizes about, thanks to my little Thursday evening Cosmo habit at The Living Room bar.

In the shower, I let steaming water run over me, and think about last night. We go to The Living Room every Thursday, but there was special cause for celebration last night as it was Barb’s last day, and I’m in the running to replace her as Visual Display Creative Director at Lindstrom’s Department Store. But, so is Wendy.

After that third Cosmo (or was it the fourth?), things got really foggy. Wendy was flitting around the bar, making the rounds, chatting up the department heads, basically kissing ass like she usually does. Dean and Lexi were dancing to some retro eighties mix, and I remember kissing Adam, his lips tasting of summer ale. He smelled like citrus and freshly mowed grass from the golf course, like he always did after work. I remember telling him I wanted to inhale him forever, and do other things to him. Apparently, I had followed through with that, right on a slab of granite counter top.

I change the temperature from scalding hot to almost freezing. Cold water splashes over my body, and a case of the goose bumps proves to me I’m alive. When I feel like I can function again, I shut the water off. I might survive today after all.

“You’re going to be late,” Adam says as he grabs a towel for me. I take it, pretty sure I’ve cleansed away the telltale hangover signs – flaked mascara under puffy eyes, swollen lips from the kitchen make-out session, and blood-shot eyes.

I pull on black fitted pants and a hot pink top with flouncy sleeves, spread some concealer under my eyes, then spend two minutes under the dryer, thankful for my short hair. I brush my teeth, which feel a bit like bunny fur, swipe on some lip gloss, and grab an Evian from the fridge to rehydrate. Even though I don’t feel anywhere near functional, I think I may look half-way presentable at least.

Oh hell, who am I kidding? I look like I’m trying to look not hung over, which ends up looking just as bad.

“Love you. So glad it’s Friday!” I say, and kiss Adam goodbye.

“Me too.” He taps me on the butt and I slap his hand away. “Call me when you’re done with your appointments,” I say as I head out the door, trying to remember what I’m forgetting. I search my purse and find my cell phone, and Adam follows behind me and hands me my keys.

“Thanks hon.”

Ten minutes later, I pull into Lindstrom’s employee parking garage, grab my purse, and finish my water. Some of the hangover pangs have evaporated. However, with the easing of the headache, the nagging part of my brain kicks in to tell me what I’ve forgotten this morning.

My pill.


Lexi’s at her drafting table, ringlets of auburn curls camouflaging her eyes, which I suspect are red-rimmed like mine. Dean is across the room, tapping a pencil against his thigh and staring at black and white photos of George Michael tacked to his bulletin board. Lexi, Dean, Wendy and I share a very small office, which is really a dressing-room-turned-utility-closet-turned-office. I’ve often wondered why we don’t have more space to be creative, possibly an office with a window view of the tree-lined avenue below for inspiration.

“Morning Ellen,” Dean says. Lexi smiles up at me.

“Hey guys. Nice shirts.” They’re wearing black tees studded with rhinestones. Lexi’s spells out Feisty. Dean’s says Lover. Fashion isn’t a priority when you’re behind the scenes, drafting designs, creating unique displays, or scrunched in the windows dressing plastic naked anatomically-impossible people.

Dean’s a girly boy, but not in a blatant gay way, more like a sensitive, caring way. He’s got this deadpan way of looking at you like he’s all serious when he’s telling you something important, and then he’ll start cracking up for no reason, and the next thing you know, you’re cracking up too. Lexi’s very feminine but she can be stubborn, which is a dangerous combination. She’s this little spitfire that stands five-foot-nothing in three-inch chunky shoes, and you definitely don’t want to make her mad, ever. Enraged Lexi is not good.

“Ellen, can you look at these composites for the Back-To-School window?” Lexi asks.

“Sure; and do you have any aspirin? I took Advil earlier but it’s not helping.”

“Tylenol.” Lexi tosses me the bottle she keeps at her desk, then asks, “Did you have too much of a good time last night?”

“It sure looked like you did,” Dean pipes in. “Especially when you were hugging Barb and slurring, wishing her the best of luck at wherever she’s going. Remember when she walked away and you whispered that you hoped she was going to hell?”

I glare at Dean.

“Is it lunchtime yet?” I ask. “I could use a Screwdriver.”

Even though we’re hanging, it’s a relatively good day, mostly in part because Wendy does not work on Fridays. When she was hired by Owen, who happens to be her uncle, and Director of Human Resources, it was written into her contract that she would have a four-day work week. While Fridays are less stressed because Wendy’s not here, we do have to spend more time avoiding Owen since his snoop isn’t around. Wendy’s like that girl in elementary school no one wanted to sit with at lunch – the bossy, tattling one.

Lexi, Dean and I had been working for Barb and the three of us had immediately clicked. Then, Owen got Wendy an internship, and next thing you know, she was working in our department. She is nowhere near creative, although she thinks she is. She’s good at one thing, and that’s standing over us while we work, and throwing out compliments, like she’s in charge of us. Oh, and avoiding anything that remotely resembles work.

Dean and Lexi are the production and props team of our staff, and by no choice of my own, Wendy and I share the same role as Associate Designers, even though I’ve been at Lindstrom’s two years longer than Wendy.

After lunch, I tell Dean and Lexi about last night’s kitchen-island tryst. What I can remember of it, anyway.

“On the kitchen counter?” Lexi shrieks.

“I know! Can you believe it?”

“What got into you?” asks Dean. “Besides a couple Cosmos?” he snickers.

“Adam said I had four.”

We’ve managed to avoid Owen all day long and have created a spectacular design for the boy’s window for Back-To-School. It’s an autumn scene, with falling leaves and bare trees, in purple, silver and black. Headless mannequins will be flying kites, except the kites will be shirts, and the mannequins will be wearing cargo pants only. Hidden fans will blow leaves throughout the window so the shirts ruffle in the makeshift wind.

“I don’t think Barbara would have given us the go-ahead for such a retro window,” Lexi says. “What do you think Wendy will say about it?”

“Who cares,” I say, gathering up my things to go home.

“Well, what if she doesn’t like the changes we’ve made?”

“Then she should start working Fridays so she can be a part of this team. I’m so sick of her getting special treatment just because she’s Owen’s niece.”

“Tell me about it, girlfriend,” Dean says.

The three of us head out to the garage at the end of the day, and my cell phone rings. “You guys have a good weekend,” I shout at them and flip open my phone.

“Hey,” Adam says.

“Hi hon, what’s up?”

“Do you want Lil’ Dumplings tonight?” he asks.

“Sounds great. I’ll call for the food; you pick up the DVD.”

Friday night is our usual “Take Out and Movie Night” and Adam always picks up the movie. Last week it was Grease and like the geeks that we are, we both belted out that Whamma-Lamma-Ding-Dong song at the end as Danny and Sandy are flying off into the sky in that red convertible.

I dial Lil’ Dumplings and Hao Ping answers. It’s frightening that I have the number programmed into my cell, and even scarier that Hao Ping recognizes my voice.

“Have the regular tonight, Mrs. McMillan?” Hao Ping asks.

“Hao, come on, you know Mrs. McMillan is Adam’s mother.”

“Ellen, you so funny, make me laugh all time. You wan number 103H and spring rolls, right?”

“Can you add some crabmeat wontons?”

“Sure thing; you and Adam my best customers, you know.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

When I arrive home with the steaming food, Adam has already pulled out the paper plates and opened a bottle of Chardonnay. I cringe at the thought of wine.

“What movie did you get?” I ask.

“Guess,” he says. “I don’t think you’ve ever seen it.”

“Tell me,” I scan the room for the DVD.

“I’ll give you a clue,” Adam grins. “Bacon.”

“Hmm,” What was the name of that early eighties flick? “Oh, I know! You got Porky’s! Great clue – bacon, pig. Pig, Porky’s!”

“No, Elle. Come on, think here a minute. Bacon. But not a breakfast food.” He continues, “Well, maybe for Kyra Sedgewick… heh, heh,” Adam grabs the box on the kitchen island, that island from last night, and does a little ‘ta-da’ move as he reveals the DVD.

“It’s Kevin Bacon!” he announces.

It’s definitely not Footloose, and it doesn’t look like a DVD I’d seen before. Then I read the box.

“She’s Having A Baby? Are you kidding me?”

“Aw, come on. It’s a chick flick. I thought you’d love it!”

“God, I am so not in the mood for a sloppy baby movie. You might as well have picked Bridges of Madison County. I would much rather watch Clint Eastwood make out with Meryl Streep than see Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth somebody-or-the-other in a stupid movie about getting knocked up.” Sometimes he does these idiotic things that make me want to hit him over the head and yell, “Hello, anybody home?”

“Oh, so you know what it’s about then?” he asks.

“Yeah, it’s about a cute suburban couple having a kid. It’s you and me, in like five years, talking about whether we should start a family. It’s you, in five years, looking the same, and me, fat and roly-poly carrying the fruit of your loins. I’m not in the mood for this right now.”

“Five years?” Little veins protrude from his neck, his face gets splotchy red, and his voice rises.

“Come on, Elle, we’ve talked about this. I’m not waiting that long. I want to start having kids. I want to have children running around this house. I’m ready for baseball practice and ballet lessons! You know I’ve always wanted to be a part of a big family. I didn’t have that growing up. It’s something I really missed out on.”

Adam is an only child. When we first started dating, I asked him why his parents didn’t have more kids, but he just shrugged. He would have liked to have had siblings but I think after he came along, Adam’s parents weren’t too sure they were cut out for the job.

Adam looks at me, his blue eyes all soft. He starts to say something, but stops, and I look away from him then. When I look back at him, he stares down at his clenched knuckles, and says slowly, “I don’t want to wait another five years.”

I hate when we get into these conversations, and it’s been coming up more frequently lately. I pour a tall glass of wine, slump down onto the kitchen chair and take a big swallow. The immediacy of the wine does little to comfort me.

“I’m just not ready yet.”

“We’ve been talking about this for months.”

“Yeah, we’ve been talking, not doing. It’s kind of like oral sex… talking,” I mutter and take another gulp of wine.

“Didn’t you straddle me against the kitchen island last night?” Adam counters.

“SHIT!” I stand up, nearly knocking over the bottle of wine.

“Ellen, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“No, not shit because of our discussion. I forgot to take my pill this morning!”

In the bathroom, I grab the pills from the medicine cabinet and open the oval packet. If it’s Friday, why is the next pill under the Thursday tab? Did I forget yesterday’s too? I am responsible enough to own a three-bedroom town home, and have a successful designing career, yet I can’t remember to take a stupid pill every morning?

I shove the pills into my mouth, lean over the sink and slurp water from the faucet. When I go back into the kitchen, I’m ready to apologize to Adam for being snippy.

But before I can say anything, Adam delivers the winning blow. “For someone who’s not interested in having children, you sure forget to take your pill a lot.”

We eat in silence, and I finish the bottle of wine.

We don’t watch the movie.