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By 2:45 we have read the instructions on the test box a dozen times and followed them precisely. Now we are waiting for the pink line to appear, or not.
This is the longest five minutes of my life-longer than waiting to see the principal in the fourth grade after defacing school property (drawing a happy face on my math book), longer even than waiting for my mother-in-law to exit the plane after Doug and I married a week before the elaborate wedding she planned for us. “Well . . . is it turning colors?” I ask, closing my eyes like I do when I don't want something to be true.
“It's starting to look pink. Think about the ice-cream cone. It's getting very pink.”
This is some kind of chemical reaction, I'm sure. I've been drinking this terrible-tasting tea for my blood circulation, and that's why the false positive. Cabbage. I had cabbage last night. Maybe there's something in the antioxidants that could be causing this. I'm thinking all this, but I know it isn't true.
Allie shows me the results.
I look at my moment of truth and then close my eyes again.
“The scale didn't lie. This test isn't lying either. You are pregnant, girl!” Allie's brown eyes are shining.
Allie hugs me, and I open my eyes slowly, as though they are glued shut. Her smile is a mile wide. I try to smile on her account, but suddenly I feel tired, like I could go to bed for a year. “What time is it?” I ask, even though the clock is right in front of me.
“Doug. What is Doug going to say?”
“You and Doug take some time together,” Allie suggests. “I'll take the kids to some fast-food place I can't stand. That way I won't be tempted to blow my diet.
If I were very spiritual, I would not be thinking about how ugly maternity clothes are or how my feet are going to swell like balloons and my bladder will shrink to the size of a quarter. I wouldn't be considering stretch marks, spider veins, raging hormones, leg cramps, heartburn, skin pigmentation, and sleep deprivation. I would be glowing like expectant mothers are supposed to glow. One consolation: as soon as I have some cravings, I'm giving into them. I'll have an excuse to eat anything I want. I don't get morning sickness-and this, all my friends assure me, is a huge blessing.
On the way to Doug's office, I drive my practical brown van up to the Java Junkie espresso stand. (My dream vehicle is a yellow Hummer, fully loaded-and I don't mean with candy wrappers and crunched homework.) I order a twelve-ounce caramel fudge latte, and emphasize the word single twice, because I suspect the owner instructs the employees to accidentally on purpose make a double so he can make a couple of extra quarters.
I give the bored after-school teenager my money and then my coffee card to punch. It's the wrong one. Five cards and a thousand eyeball rolls later, I find the right card and hand it to the girl, dying to ask if her eye muscles are sore.
I drive to a corner of the parking lot and take a sip of the whipped-cream delight. One sip, that's all.
They say a moderate amount of caffeine is permitted during pregnancy, but when I was pregnant with Logan, my mother-in-law said caffeine was linked to birth defects. Studies have shown it isn't true, but I'd never get past the guilt-the same way I have to make my bed before breakfast and have to brush my teeth for two full minutes, because the hygienist said to.
“Good-bye,” I say to my caffeine buddy as I place it in the cupholder to throw away later. (Decaf is useless, in my opinion.) For a while I stare at the weeds in the adjoining field, hoping for a good cry that never comes. A good cry would be therapeutic. But if I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop. My eyes would be red and puffy, and the people at Doug's office would ask what is wrong. I need to be mature about this. Be strong for Doug, I tell myself. I tell myself this continually for the ten-minute drive to Doug's office.
I walk nonchalantly into the office of Adams, Brown, Gibbs, and Associates. The first things I notice are the parenting magazines on the coffee table in the waiting area. I never noticed them before. What are baby magazines doing in a CPA's office? Tax deduction, I surmise. Now there are two good things: no morning sickness and a $3,050 deduction. Or is it $3,100? Oh, and the dependent-care exemption (I think that's what it's called).
I feel terrible that I'm thinking in terms of tax benefits. I can't yet see this life inside me as a tiny soul, and that's hard to admit. I'm a visual person. When I see the baby on the ultrasound screen, I'll weep like I did with all my other children. I know I will.
Marge at the front desk nods as she talks to five people at the same time. I walk down the halls. The number crunchers are busy, for which I am grateful. The fewer questions the better.
I walk past Ursula Andrews's office. Ursula wears these cat-eye glasses that have been out of style for fifty years (which is probably how long she's been with the firm). Al Samson doesn't notice me either. He's one of those stereotypical accountants who wears polyester blue suits and has zero social skills.
You can imagine how exciting the Christmas office party is. Randall Peterson is hunched over his desk but manages to spot me through peripheral vision. He waves with his left pinkie. Mr. Nerd, I call him affectionately. He really is a nice man. He gives to charity and takes in stray cats he's allergic to.
And then there's my Doug, fifth office on the window side of the building. His office is the only one with the blinds open, allowing the sunlight to stream in. Doug is not your typical accountant. He is dynamic and interesting. He skis, bikes, plays on the church basketball team, and has even been known to dare a few ramps at the skateboard park with Logan every now and then.
“Becca! What are you doing here?” He stands up (looking very dapper in his black suit, I might add).
His desk is neatly cluttered.
I look at the piles. “Unless you're busy.”
“Of course I'm busy; it's tax season. But never too busy for you, honey.” He gives me a warm and lingering hug.
“Allie offered to take care of the kids, and I thought it would be nice to spend some time together.”
“Actually, I haven't had a break all day,” he says, his red eyes showing it.
“Are you hungry?”
“How about Chili's?”