I slipped out of bed without waking Sookie, was a small miracle in itself. She was a light sleeper lately on account of our daughter doing underwater aerobics in her belly at all hours of the day. I really did feel badly for her. Seeing her so miserable much of the time made it hard to be mad at her. I knew she was as much of a hostage to her body as I was at that point. Anything she asked me to do, I just did. I didn’t bother questioning it because I knew we would end up fighting. It was completely irrational, and she had about as many answers as I did.
I pulled on a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt. I could already hear Tray down in the yard. I really wanted to surprise Sookie with what we had planned, and I was hoping she’d stay in bed a while longer. We had everything all planned out and ready to go. It was just a matter of getting everything in place. Amelia was in on what we were doing since it required Tray to make adjustments to the picket fence that divided our yards. Jeter followed me out of the house and into the hard.
“There you are!” Tray breathed a sigh of relief.
“Sorry. I had to wait until Sookie was out cold, and that’s a rare thing these days.” I said as I made my way toward the fence.
“I keep telling Ame to pay close attention to what Sookie’s going through.”
Amelia and Tray still weren’t pregnant, and I knew Amelia’s constant fretting over it was starting to drive Tray crazy. He blamed himself for not being able to give Amelia what she wanted when he’d always been able to the past. This was different than anything else they’d ever done before. Frankly, I understood why they were worried. I also understood why it was hard for Amelia to be around Sookie sometimes. Amelia did a pretty good job of putting up a brave face, I’ll give her that. There were times when I’d see the two of them sitting at the table on the deck. Sookie would be laughing down at her belly, and Amelia would get this sad, longing look in her eyes.
“You two will get there when the time is right.” I told Tray.
“That’s what I keep telling Ame, but she’s convinced the time isn’t ever going to be right.” Tray sighed the sigh of a man who felt like he’d done nothing but let his woman down over and over again. It wasn’t pretty.
We got down to business after that. The tables for the small reception we were having were already put in place. The catering tables would be put up on our deck. We moved our deck table over to Tray and Amelia’s side where a small bar was going. Tray and I had convinced Sookie and Amelia weeks ago that it made sense to put a gateway in the fence between the two properties, since we were sure Sookie and Amelia would be coming and going from one house to the other after the baby was born. Not to mention, Tray and Amelia were fairly used to Jeter jumping the fence to get at whatever squirrels or chipmunks might be in their yard. So long as we cleaned up any mess Jeter might leave behind, they didn’t mind.
The biggest job we had was getting all of the twinkle lights strung up. We moved as quickly as we could, making sure to wrap the lights around the pickets of the fence that had already been decorated with some sheer white and yellow material I couldn’t name if my life depended on it, even though Sookie had used the word about a million times in the last six weeks. Once we got the fence done, we went on the trees and bushes to decorate them as well. Then we had tiki torches that Amelia had wrapped with shiny yellow ribbon that matched the color of the dresses. I hadn’t seen the dresses, but she assured me they were beautiful.
I liked that Sookie had chosen yellow. It was a bright color, and it reminded me of her. It was sunshine, after all, and it seemed fitting since we were getting married on the first day of summer. Sookie had once told me the first day of summer was her favorite day of the year. I was pretty sure that day was going to have to jockey for position in light of all the things happening in our lives.
The easiest part of all of this planning had been the decision to write our own vows. Not that traditional vows weren’t nice, but there were things I wanted to say to her that weren’t really covered in those vows. I wasn’t so concerned with whether she would obey me or stick with me through thick and thin. Sookie had long ago proven she had a mind of her own and would do what she wanted, regardless of whether I was on board with her or not. She had also proven she would, in fact, stand by me when things got shitty. I had proven the same to her after the accident.
There was nowhere in the world I wanted to go without her right there next to me, and I wanted that to be known to everyone. Mostly, I wanted to be sure she knew it. I did a little research and spent an afternoon out at the drive-in where we’d had our second date. It was quiet out there and it brought back memories. Some of them were a little on the dirty side, but it had been a good night. I wrote down all of the things I wanted to say. I’d been keeping the piece of paper in the glove compartment of the Comet ever since.
It took a little over two hours to get everything exactly where we wanted it. Then the real fun began. The ceremony was taking place in our yard. With Tray and Amelia’s permission, I ordered a small canopy for Tray and I to put up in their yard. After putting that up in what I figured had to be record time, I set about installing the portable dance floor I’d rented. I didn’t know how much dancing Sookie was going to want to do, but it was her wedding. I figured we were guaranteed at least one dance together, and I was pretty sure she’d want to dance with her father. I knew it would take some fancy footwork to get out of a dance with Mom, not that I would even try. Arguing with her would be more deadly than arguing with Sookie.
When all was said and done, it was maybe an hour before sunrise. I called Jeter to come back into the house with me. He followed me up the steps and continued on to the bedroom, while I went to the bathroom to take a shower. Getting into bed with Sookie while I was all sweaty and gross wouldn’t go over well for either one of us. I showered quickly and towel dried my hair. We had agreed we would sleep in as late as we wanted to since it was going to be a long day for both of us. I got into bed beside her, shocked that I didn’t wake her up.
I could see the Bean kicking away in her stomach, and I watched tiny feet press against the inside of her skin. If I wasn’t sure it would wake Sookie up, I would have reached out to tickle that tiny foot. The amount of time I spent zoned out wondering what our daughter was going to look like was way more than I anticipated. But there were times when I’d catch Sookie with a distant look in her eyes and a smile on her face, and I knew she was thinking the same things I was.
Rather than putting my hand on Sookie’s stomach and waking her, I gently picked up her hand and laced my fingers with hers. I squeezed my palm to hers gently before closing my eyes. She squeezed back, whether she meant to or not, and then I drifted off to sleep.
The Bean doing her morning jumping routine on the trampoline that was my bladder had me rolling out of bed much earlier than I wanted to. I waddled to the bathroom, surprised to find I wasn’t feeling the usual pain or pressure in my poor ankles. I brushed my teeth and hair, and stopped at the bedroom windows to look up at the sky for a moment. The sun was high in the sky, and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. I said a silent prayer in hopes the weather would hold out for us.
I tried to keep my mind empty of all the things I needed to do. I still had plenty of time before I needed to get out of bed and get going. I wanted to just relax and keep myself as stress-free as possible. I was just a few days shy of my thirty-seventh week. After that, the baby would be considered full-term and I could go into labor at any point. Of course, the longer we could keep her in (I hated Dr. Ludwig a little for reminding me of this), the better off it would be. I seriously wondered what the fuck doctors were thinking when they told hormonal pregnant women things like that.
I eased back into bed and curled on my right side for a little while. It wasn’t the preferred way for me to lay down, but my left side was numb and laying on my back was murder. Not only did it hurt like a bitch, but the chances of throwing up were much higher. A few minutes on my right side wouldn’t kill me. I stared at Eric’s sleeping form next to me and smiled.
God, he was so beautiful. My eyes welled up at the idea of waking up next to that face every day for the rest of my life. I felt like such a sap. I let it go because it was my wedding day, and I was extremely pregnant. Being emotional was to be expected. I moved closer to Eric and kissed the corners of his mouth. His lips twitched up into a smile that made my heart stop.
“Good morning, wife.”
“We’re not married yet.” I whispered in response.
“It’s just a piece of paper, remember?” His hand felt around for mine.
“Oh, trust me, it’s more than that.” I grabbed his hand and squeezed.
“Did you sleep okay?” Eric’s eyes were still closed.
“Yes, actually, I did. I only woke up once last night. Were you downstairs, or something?” I asked, since Eric hadn’t been in bed next to me.
“Oh, uh, yeah. I had trouble falling asleep so I went downstairs to read for a while.” Something in his voice told me he was bullshitting me.
“You went downstairs to read?”
“Yeah.” He was definitely full of shit. His eyes finally opened to see me staring right at him with eyes full of suspicion. “What?”
“Do you really want to start our marriage with a lie?” I narrowed my eyes at him.
Eric sighed and said, “Fine. I was trying to surprise you.”
“Eric, I think I’ve had enough surprises.” I drummed my fingers on my mountain of a baby bump.
He groaned as he sat up, wincing at one pain or another. What the hell was he doing last night after I went to bed? He came around to my side of the bed and took my hand. He led me downstairs and toward the back of the house.
“Close your eyes.” He instructed.
I played along only because it seemed that whatever he was up to, he’d gone to a lot of trouble to keep it a secret from me. I might hate surprises, but he clearly took some sort of joy in them. That was reason enough for me to shut my piehole. Eric guided me by my shoulders around the back of the couch, toward the patio door. He stepped around in front of me to open the french door, then slide the screen open. He resumed his position behind me, pushing me out onto the deck.
The sun was shining brightly, and the warmth of it felt good. I turned my face upward to catch a few rays before Eric told me to stop. I stood there for a moment, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight on my face. I listened to him move around and make a few adjustments.
“Okay, open your eyes.” He said almost nervously.
I righted my head and slowly opened my eyes. I looked at him first, and then around the yard. My mouth fell open in complete shock. It was so beautiful. There were twinkle lights strung up everywhere. A canopy was in the Tray and Amelia’s yard, and when I saw the dance floor underneath, I started to tear up a little.
“You did all this?” I gasped, staggering toward him slowly as the tears started.
“Lover, don’t cry.” He reached for me to hold me close, but it was too late. I was already sobbing. “Do you hate it?”
“What?” I jerked my head back. “No, Eric, it’s… it’s wonderful. Thank you. I had no idea you planned all this. It’s lovely.” I pushed myself up on my toes as much as I could to kiss him.
He was more than willing to kiss me back, and wiped my tears from my cheeks. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I don’t like it. I love it.” I corrected him, squeezing him tightly.
A rush passed through me I hadn’t felt in weeks, and the only thing I could think of in that moment was dragging Eric inside and having my way with him. That probably broke all sorts of pre-wedding superstitions or something, but I wasn’t too worried about that. Besides, if a quickie would help me relax and make Eric happy at the same time, it was more than worth it in my book.
“Come inside.” I started pulling him toward the house.
“There’s more I wanted to show you.” He started to tug me back.
My eyes narrowed. I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Eric, for the first time in three weeks, I’m horny. Fuck me.”
You’d think I smacked him over the head with a two by four the way he looked at me, but before I knew I was being pulled into the house. Fuck me, indeed.
I was pulled from a lovely dream that consisted of Tray and I getting frisky on a tropical beach somewhere by the shrieks of my best friend having one hell of an orgasm next door. I liked having Sookie so close. I didn’t like having to listen to her scream her way through sex with her baby daddy. I was tempted to pound on the wall to let them know to keep it down. Instead, I got out of bed. Let them have their fun.
Tray was out cold next to me, but that wasn’t surprising. He could sleep through an atomic bomb being dropped on his head. Talk about sleeping the sleep of the dead. I envied him for that. I kissed his forehead before going to the bathroom to take care of business. I didn’t get in the shower since I planned on getting a little myself before I had to start getting ready for the wedding.
I went downstairs and started up my laptop before going on to the kitchen to start the coffee. I looked at the calendar hanging on the inside of one of the cabinets, and blew out a slow breath. I had to wait another nine days before I could take a pregnancy test. Not that I wasn’t having fun trying to get pregnant, but I was starting to really worry that nothing was happening.
I’d already been to see my doctor about it to make sure there were no residual injuries from the accident that might be preventing it from happening. My doctor told me to just relax, just like everyone else did, and let it happen. I was pissed I had to pay for that kind of advise. I was trying to relax, but this was something I thought I needed to be proactive about. If it was true that Tray and I had fertility problems, then we needed to figure out what we were going to do.
I’d looked into the costs of doing in vitro, but that was awfully expensive. The really shitty part was that I was almost thinking about apologizing to my father just to get back in his good graces. If I mentioned a grandchild, he would give me the money. Of course, he would probably try to talk me into using a donor instead of Tray. I nixed the idea immediately. It was pathetic of me to even consider it. I didn’t want my child to grow up thinking they owed their life to my father the way I had for so long.
I should have kicked him out of my life a long time ago. I didn’t want to think maybe my inability to get pregnant was God’s way of telling me I wasn’t meant to be a mother, or that my genes weren’t meant to be passed on to the next generation. My brain was going in all sorts of crazy directions in attempts to explain my failure. That’s what it was, no matter what Tray or anyone else said. Every month I was letting us down.
I should clarify by saying that Tray never made me feel that way. He never looked at me like it was my fault, and I knew he didn’t love me any less because of it. In a lot of ways, I knew it was all in my head. Still, it didn’t make not being pregnant any easier.
Even worse was seeing Sookie. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for her, because I was. I was beyond thrilled. After everything the girl has been through, she deserves to be happy. Eric has been so good for her. He healed a wound in her heart that I’m not sure anyone else could have healed. He adores her, which was obvious from the second he laid eyes on her.
I stood there in the kitchen laughing to myself as I poured my coffee, wondering if the two of them would ever figure out they’d been set up. I’d met Pam the month before when Tray and I had gone there randomly one night. I saw Eric talking to Pam, and from how close they were, I thought they were dating. When I went to the bar to get a drink, Pam happened to be the one manning the bar. I’d asked about Eric, curious to know if he was attached to her.
I believe my exact words were, “Your husband is sex on a stick.”
Pam had thrown her head back and cackled at my assumption before telling me I was much more her taste than Eric. “He has a thing for busty blondes.” Pam had informed me.
Immediately Sookie’s face came to mind, and the rest was history. They fell for it, tequila, lime and salt. They had absolutely no reason to think Pam and I had played match maker. Maybe it was better to keep it between us.
I took my coffee into the office and sat down in front of my computer. It was nice to not have stacks of papers waiting to be graded, or worksheets that needed to be drafted. I didn’t rely on textbooks to create my homework for me. I used them as a guide but that was all. The work issued with the teacher’s guide rarely covered the things that were most important. Besides, the language could be a bit confusing at times. I was more concerned with my students understanding what they were learning, rather than spewing text at me.
I opened the document I’d started that contained my toast for the wedding later. I wasn’t very good at public speaking, so rather than trying to come up with something profound to say to a group of people who were already very aware of all the things Sookie and Eric had been through over the last few months. So instead, I went looking for a poem to read, and what I found was something by William Shakespeare that seemed only too fitting for the two of them.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
The second I read it, I had tears in my eyes. It was perfect. I added a few personal touches to my speech at the end, and then saved the document. The clock on the laptop told me it was almost noon. It was time to start getting ready. We had a long night ahead of us.