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Monday, March 1
My assistant, Mitzi, cancelled the office waiting room subscriptions to Vogue and Elle and replaced them with Fit Pregnancy and American Baby. I realize now that I should have appreciated it when she was only giving me fashion advice.
Frankly, the one magazine Mitzi should be allowed to read is her signature publication, Harper's Bizarre (sic).
My name is Whitney Blake Andrews, and today I'm starting a new volume of my personal journal. It's been quite a ride since that first day two years ago when I began keeping what I fondly call The Whitney Chronicles. My best friend, Kim Easton, has overcome breast cancer, and her son Wesley has turned three. I've been made vice president of Innova Software, located in downtown Minneapolis, and been married for almost two years to Dr. Chase Andrews, the most incredible husband in the universe. That's my personal bias, of course.
And Mitzi Fraiser is still the most aggravating person on this planet, but she's my aggravating person, so I love her anyway. Most of the time
at least some of the time
in brief spurts
I do remember having a pleasant thought about her sometime between last Christmas and New Year's Eve. I think.
Kim stopped over after work tonight so that we could debrief each other on our day at the office. She likes to come to my house for three reasons. There is no LEGO embedded in the carpet, Ernie and Elmo are not the anchormen during the evening news, and there is always chocolate.
I've been sacrificing myself in the name of medical science, researching the curative uses for chocolate. It has the same health-promotingchemicals as fruits and veggies. It's the least I can do for the good of mankind. How often did I dream Mom would tell me to eat my chocolate cake instead of my Brussels sprouts?
Oh, yes, that's another thing I don't understand about Mitzi. She hates chocolate. This is another indication that she is an extraterrestrialsomething Kim and I have suspected all along.
"What's up with Mitzi these days?" Kim curled her feet beneath her on my overstuffed couch, looking all of fifteen, instead of her actual thirty-three years. "She's been acting weird lately."
"More than usual? How can you tell?"
Kim grinned and took a piece of milk chocolate with almonds. "The magazines, for one thing. I got a copy of Pregnancy in my mailbox this morning. And the fact that she's turned into the food police. Did you see her whip that Twinkies out of Bryan's hand yesterday? You'd have thought he was having a toxic-waste sandwich."
Bryan Kellund was my assistant before Mitzi was assigned to me. He's the only person I've ever known who can disappear in plain sight. He fades into the background as though he's wearing wallpaper camouflage. That's why I'm so amazed that he found a girlfriend who's even more inconspicuous and retiring than he. They cook tapioca pudding to spice up their dessert menu.
Bryan's current idea of subterfuge is sneaking into the office break room and substituting decaffeinated coffee for the fully leaded stuff and then patiently watching and waiting for Harry's and Mitzi's energy to wane. I've caught him a time or two, but I never say anything about it because I've done it myself. Anything that makes Mitzi and Harry a little less hyperactive is fine with me.
"I've learned not to attempt to figure out what Mitzi is up to," I said. "Frankly, I'm more curious about Harry."
My boss, Harry Harrison, is a software genius and our office mascot. Okay, Harry's not our mascot, exactly, but his hair is. Two or three years ago he discovered the curly perm and he's resembled a Chia Pet ever since.
"I think he's depressed," I murmured, more to myself than to Kim.
"Harry? Don't you think I'd recognize it if Harry were depressed?"
Kim has battled depression much of her life. She now has it under control with medication and lots of exercise to get those endorphins moving.
"Wouldn't you be depressed if your claim to fame was being washed down the shower drain?" I persisted. "Have you looked, really looked, at Harry's head lately?"
Understanding dawned on Kim's pixielike features. "His thinning hair, you mean?"
"Thinning? Kim, he's only six strands away from a comb-over."
"Shades of Rudy Giulianiyou're right. No wonder he skulks into the office wearing that wool felt hat that makes him look like an Indiana Jones wannabe."
"We need to be nice to Harry. My own dad's hair is starting to thin, and he's very sensitive about it. Mother caught him wearing a baseball cap in the shower last week. She says he can't stand to see the reflection of his head in the mirror."
And that's only one of the many weird aging games my parents play. Dad now insists he's in male menopause. What it really is is revenge for what my mother put him through when she was "of a certain age."
vanity of vanities! All is vanity," Kim intoned.
"You can say that again. Harry and Dad may be prime examples, but look at all the silly, pointless things we've done
"The grapefruit diet?"
I never did get into that. I was in love with a cabbage soup diet that produced enough gas to replace fossil fuels.
"Remember the Approved Veggie Diet? The only 'approved' vegetables were arugula, chicory, bok choy, kohlrabi, leeks and dandelion greens."
We waxed nostalgic about the smoothie dietbest made with ice cream; the metabolism-revving dietbasically seasoning everything with cayenne pepper; and "EEAT"Ecclesiastical Eaters Anonymous Training, a diet group at church that actually worked.
Kim rubbed her brow. "What does my weight matter when Wesley is etching new creases here every day? No one cares about my figure when they see the Grand Canyon on my forehead."
"Can any of you by worrying add a single day to your life span?" I quoted, knowing just how crazy she is about that naughty little buzz saw of a boy. "But back to Harry. If food is the way to a man's heart, then good hair is the way to his ego. If Harry actually goes bald, he'll have to start therapy."
"Men are definitely wired differently from women," Kim agreed. "I see it in Wesley already. He and his dad spend hours piling blocks into pyramids and knocking them down. They laugh and high-five each other like they've just invented football. Yet when I ask Kurt to vacuum the floor, he says 'Didn't I just do that last month?" as if he detests repetition in any form."
"Knocking things down and picking things up are two entirely different concepts. One is male, the other, female. Even Chase says so."
Chase. Two years of marriage, and I love him more than ever. God really knew what He was doing when He put us together. It doesn't hurt that his sandy hair is shot with gold, his eyes are an inky Crayola blue, and his physique
There's only one way to describe ithunky. Oh, yes, and he's crazy about me, and a doctor besides. This morning he sent me yellow roses for no reason at all except that he loves me.
"Now you're thinking about him," Kim observed grumpily. "You've got that moonstruck look on your face again."
"And you don't feel that way about Kurt anymore?" I teased.
"Of course I do." Kim's attention drifted from me to some private thought of her own. "I wish
"Wish what?" I held the candy dish under her nose to refocus her with the scent of chocolate.
"Kurt and I have been talking lately" Kim reached in and took a piece of Dove dark chocolate, fortifying herself for a heavy-duty conversation "about having another baby."
My stomach took a roller-coaster ride from peak to valley and up again.
"Wesley will love a baby brother or sister! That's wonderful
Frankly, Wesley has become a bit of a tyrant, having control as he does of two entire householdsKim's and mine. It wouldn't hurt a bit to have a new baby around, someone who instinctively knows how to establish a dictatorship. It may seem absurd to think of a baby as a despot, but I can't think of an autocrat more qualified to put Wes in his place.
My excitement evaporated when I saw the expression on Kim's face. "Isn't it?"
"Of course it is!" she blurted, and burst into tears. At that moment, a flurry of activity erupted as my cats, Mr. Tibble and Scram, growling and hissing, rolled together past our feet in a single absurd kitty ball.
"Ignore them," I advised.
"Won't they hurt themselves doing that?" Kim snuffled.
As she spoke, Mr. Tibble tired of the game and went limp, as if his bones had liquefied. Scram tumbled halfway across the room by himself before he realized he'd been abandoned, then stood up and marched off huffily, his tail straight in the air in a gesture of disdain.
I'd insulted Mr. Tibble deeply when I introduced Scram into his peaceful kingdom, but he'd taken on the kitten with aplomb, taught him who was boss and generally made Scram a being subservient to his own royalty. Just like what Mitzi tries to do with us at work.
"So tell me about this new-baby conversation," I urged, "and why it makes you cry."
"If we don't hurry up, Wesley will be grown-up. I don't want a large age gap between him and a baby brother or sister."
There's not much danger of being all grown-up when one still sucks his thumb, refuses to sleep without his blankie and demands Cheerios in church, but when Kim is emotional, logic flies out the window.
"What's stopping you?"
Kim looked pained. "Kurt is worried about my health. He's been on the Internet trying to find out if getting pregnant with my personal history of breast cancer will increase the risk of the cancer recurring."
"If the cancer returns while I'm pregnant, treatment options are limited. Chemotherapy can be given without hurting the baby, but it is not given in the first trimester, when the major organs are forming. He knows I'd never do anything to harm the baby, even it if were risky for me. Kurt is afraid of my having a recurrence. He doesn't want me putting my own life on the line." She rolled her eyes helplessly. "He's been spouting information about hormones like they were football statistics."
"Is the danger real?"
"It is definitely real in Kurt's mind."
"Accept the authority of your husband," I murmured. "There's the rub."
"That might be a thorny issue for some, but to me that means voluntary compromise and teamwork with someone I love and respect. Kurt and I have discussed it. Whatever we decide will be mutual." She looked troubled. "But he has even stronger feelings than I. He's convinced I would be inviting problems if I had another baby right now. He's also afraid that being pregnant might exacerbate my depression."
Not a minor concern, considering Kim's history. "He wants to have another child, but not at the expense of my health. He's adamant about that." Tears welled up in her eyes. "The idea of not giving birth again breaks my heart! I desperately want to have a brother or sister for Wesley."
"Aren't you putting the cart before the horse? Who says you won't? Besides, is this about giving birth or about being a parent? There are other ways to
But she didn't seem to hear me.
After she left, I put some lasagna into the oven, tore up lettuce for salad and still had over an hour before Chase was due to arrive home from work. I couldn't get Kim out of my mind. How would it be like to be caught in the place in which Kim found herself? Another child, or her health. What would it serve if having another child deprived Wesley of his mother?
To distract myself, I picked up our wedding photo album. Looking at those pictures always turns me into a slobbering romantic. When Chase arrived for dinner, I met him at the door holding his slippers and a newspaper and doing my most seductive siren imitation. Unfortunately, his cousin's dog, Winslow, had made a hash of his slippers last weekend, and to find them I'd had to dig through the garbage can. Fortunately, they didn't smell too bad. Since we both read the paper at work, I'd also had to substitute an O magazine for the Tribune.
Clever man. He knew immediately that something was up.
"Now what have you and Kim been doing?" he asked as he put his arms around my waist and gathered me to him. "Last time you tried the newspaper-and-slippers routine on me, you'd agreed to foster a potential seeingeye puppy without talking to me first."
"Did you even consider that it might be because I love you and I want to show it?"
"No." He grinned, and his dimples deepening. "I know you love me. You show it every day and in every way. Something else is going on."
I ran my finger along the chiseled line of his jaw and was supremely thankful to have this man is in my life. Blessed. I am so blessed.
I stared into the inky blueness of his eyes and watched them grow round with surprise as I whispered, "Chase, how do you feel about having a baby?"