Then the two pink lines appeared. Pink, as in positive. . .as in pregnant. . .as in pure, unadulterated panic. This wasn't supposed to happen: I'm scheduled to marry the handsome, successful, and very appropriate Ross Davis in six months. Unfortunately, while Ross may not rock my world with kitchen-table sex, his technique worked well enough to put a bun in my thirtysomething oven. . .
Don't get me wrong, babies are great--in theory. But I enjoyed my life the way it was. Loved my job, my rooftop apartment, my friends; was having fun planning my wedding and gazing at my pretty three-carat diamond. I didn't need anything more. . .did I? Well, whatever I needed, here's what I currently have: A nasty case of morning sickness, a future mother-in-law obsessed with "Ross's Baby," and a custom-designed wedding dress I'll soon be too fat to wear.
Now, as I burst the seams on my pencil skirts, I'm trying to take some small comfort in the fact that one is never too bloated for a really cute purse. But impending motherhood also has me reassessing more than my wardrobe--and wondering how fast I can finish growing up. . .
Release date: June 6, 2012
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 416
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Think about a trauma, like a car crash, sudden and unexpected. Or think about having your purse snatched. You’re walking down the block, minding your own business, when out of the blue some creep grabs your purse and makes off with it while you stand there gaping and gesturing wildly. People stare, some might even stop to ask what happened, but no one can really help. The deed has been done. The car crashed; the creep stole your purse.
Nothing will ever be the same. Your perspective has been radically changed. You have been radically changed. And suddenly, life is wrought with consequences you never imagined because you never imagined the inciting incident.
You ask yourself: Why didn’t I ever imagine that I could be in a car crash? Why didn’t I ever imagine that my purse could be snatched? Why didn’t I ever imagine that I could get pregnant even though I was on the pill?
I was thirty-seven and a half years old the morning I discovered I was pregnant. Going to have a baby. Knocked up. In the family way. The morning I learned I had a bun in the oven.
Thirty-seven and a half years old the morning I found out that I was expecting a blessed event—in other words, the end of my life as I knew it.
My name is Anna Traulsen, and this is my story. At least, the part of my story during which everything just exploded.
Back to that auspicious morning.
My first thought after dropping the pink plastic stick into the white porcelain sink was:
Oh, my God, this can’t be happening.
My second thought, after retrieving the stick to give it one more hard look, was:
Of course this can be happening. I had sex. I missed my period. So of course I’m pregnant. This is what happens.
My third thought, after tossing the offending stick into the brushed-aluminum trash can was:
What will Ross say!
Ross Davis was my fiancé. From the day I met him he’d declared pretty strongly that he did not want children. And when we got engaged, Ross reminded me that a family of two—Ross and me—was all the family he wanted.
And I’d gone along with that.
Except for maybe a dog, I’d suggested. A small dog, one with short hair so the shedding problem would be minimal.
Ross had agreed. Maybe a dog. A small, nondestructive dog. The kind you can train to pee on newspaper.
Well, I thought that awful morning in April, a baby most certainly isn’t a dog, and although it is small, it most certainly is destructive. It spits up on your best silk blouse; siphons your bank account in an alarming way; and puts a firm, wailing, pooping end to your sex life.
The thing that had gotten you into trouble in the first place.
Sex with a man.
I remember thinking that I should call Ross right away. I assumed he hadn’t left the condo for his office yet; Ross is never his best in the morning. I belted my robe more tightly around my middle and hurried from the bathroom. With a practiced motion I snatched my cell phone from the kitchen counter where it had been recharging for the past eight hours.
The number was loaded; I hit the proper button.
A woman’s voice answered on the first ring.
“Alexandra,” I said. “I need to talk to you.”
I checked my watch for the third time and wondered why I was bothering. Alexandra was always twelve minutes late. Never eleven or thirteen, always exactly twelve minutes late. Alexandra claimed this was just a bizarre coincidence, and she teased me for even noting it.
“I’d say you’re the one with the problem, honey, not me. Sure that watch isn’t bolted to your wrist?”
Well, it’s no secret that I’m a bit anal. That would be Alexandra’s term. I call myself disciplined. Orderly. Focused. I’m certainly not obsessive in any way. I do not suffer from OCD.
Anyway, I don’t know how I made it through the day without spilling my dread secret. I swear I came close to grabbing the server behind the counter at Bon Marche, where I stopped for a cup of coffee, decaf of course, and shouting the news in his face.
Being a highly disciplined person, I refrained from attacking the poor server and even avoided telling Ross when he called at eleven to see if I could have lunch with him. I begged off, claiming a disgruntled client, and though I hated to lie to the man I was to marry in a few months, at the time it seemed the right thing to do.
How could I not have seen the signs? How could I have been so blind to the truth?
“Another soda water?”
I forced a smile for the too-pretty male bartender. Bartenders used to look like normal people, like your favorite grizzled sweetheart of an uncle, or your bland-faced third-grade science teacher who somehow made the task of memorizing the names of the planets come alive. Now, too many bartenders look like models. I have a hard time sharing news of my pedestrian life with a person too pretty to have a care that can’t be alleviated by batting an eyelash.
“Thanks, no,” I said. “Not yet. I’ll wait for my—”
“Anna! What on earth is the matter?”
I swiveled on the bar stool to see my friend striding toward me. Alexandra can’t help but stride; her legs are quite long.
“Nothing’s the matter,” I whispered as Alexandra slipped onto the bar stool next to mine. “I mean, everything is the matter. But we don’t have to announce it to the world.”
“Honey,” she replied, “look around. The collective ego in here, apart from yours and mine, of course, is so overinflated it could sail us to Portugal. Relax. No one cares about you.”
Alexandra had chosen the bar at Bodacious. It isn’t one of my favorite places—the clientele is tragically hip—but Alexandra loves it. She enjoys, as she puts it, “mocking the ignorant.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Well, that’s comforting. I guess. Look, go ahead and order. I’ve waited all day to talk to you, I can wait another few minutes.”
“If you say so.” Alexandra hailed the bartender; he came dashing over and gave her a gorgeously flirtatious smile. She returned it mockingly; as she knew he would, the bartender clearly misinterpreted and began to fawn.
Alexandra is my closest friend although I’ve known her for only about four years. She’s one of those people who seem completely comfortable with herself. It’s as if she looked in the mirror one day long ago and said, “Okay. I got it.” And from that point on, she’s been unapologetically and wholeheartedly Alexandra Ryan Boyd.
The Ryan came from her father. Disappointed to learn his firstborn child was a girl, he insisted on staking at least some claim by branding her with the name of his favorite uncle, long since deceased.
Good thing, too, as Alexandra turned out to be his only child and, therefore, his last chance at immortality, of a sort. It’s Alexandra’s opinion that her declaration of remaining forever child-free—that is, that there would be no grandchildren forthcoming—led to the massive heart attack that killed Mr. Boyd on the spot.
“Literally,” she told me not long after we met. “I was on the phone with him, and the second the words were out of my mouth I heard this terrific thud, and then my mother was screaming, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane for Cincinnati. It was a very nice funeral, by the way. My aunts put together a very respectable party afterward. I always thought they should have opened a catering business.”
Alexandra Ryan Boyd—she uses her full name professionally—is an interior designer. Her business—Alexandra Ryan Boyd, Inc.—is primarily focused on private homes, although on a rare occasion she accepts a corporate gig. And once in a while, for certain large budget, high-profile events I’m coordinating, I invite Alexandra to team up with Anna’s Occasions. We do it partly for the big money and partly for the fun of working together. Clients want satisfaction, and that’s what they get from us. Satisfaction and an inevitable photo in the Boston Globe; once, we even got a mention in a popular home-decorating magazine.
Not bad for two girls from families who reared us with all the attention usually reserved for an afterthought.
The bartender was still fawning over my friend. I rolled my eyes to the painted tin ceiling. It was almost always the same. Nine out of ten times, men greedily zeroed in on Alexandra and ignored every other woman in the room, even those at least as attractive. Like me. Although since I’d become engaged to Ross, being ignored didn’t bother me. Much.
Alexandra isn’t a conventional beauty, but I think she’s the most attractive woman I’ve ever met. Clearly, I’m not alone in that assessment. Her face is challenging, planes and angles rather than round and welcoming. Her skin is super-pale, very evenly white, like alabaster or marble. I swear not even a freckle mars her face. Her eyes are a very deep blue, almost the famous violet of Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes.
Alexandra wears her thick, super-dark-brown hair slicked into a chignon, which serves to emphasize the angularity of her face. It’s a conscious design decision, of course, as is the unusual shade of lipstick she wears. She mixes it herself and applies it from a 1950s gold and mother-of-pearl compact with a skinny-handled brush. The shade is a little like crystal with a touch of lilac, like a Cape amethyst.
Unlike me, a self-proclaimed jewelry addict, Alexandra owns only a few pieces and wears each piece consistently. On her left wrist she wears an antique watch she bought at an auction somewhere in France. Diamond studs sparkle fantastically on her earlobes; the earrings are a college graduation gift from her grandmother. And on the fourth finger of her right hand she wears a slim silver band with the inscription “vous et nul autre,” an early version of French meaning “you and no other.”
I often wondered who gave the ring to Alexandra; it isn’t the sort of thing a person buys for herself. But something kept me from asking. I figured that if Alexandra wanted to tell me about the giver someday, she would.
I watched as the bartender slid the largest martini I’ve ever seen across the bar to Alexandra, all the while not so subtly trying to peer down her crisp-collared blouse. Alexandra doesn’t need to dress like Adriana from The Sopranos. I swear she could wear a nun’s habit and still be a knockout. In reality, her wardrobe is based on a few simple, signature pieces. A white tailored, long-sleeve shirt; black slacks; a few bright, silk scarves; a few fitted jackets in leather, suede, and lightweight wool; and sleek black pumps my mother would call “smart.” On the coldest days of the year, Alexandra appears in a vintage fox fur inherited from the same grandmother who gave her the diamond earrings. (That grandmother, Alexandra told me, was the family’s infamous wild child; no wonder she and Alexandra were so close.) On the hottest days of the year, the black slacks are replaced by a pencil skirt in Schiaparelli’s hot pink; the pumps give way to stiletto-heeled slides.
Alexandra says she was born with her signature style, and while I know she’s exaggerating for the sake of a good story, I want to believe her. Stylish, fiercely independent Alexandra sprung, fully formed, from the forehead of a tyrannical, pale-blue-polyester-wearing father. Why not?
That same polyester-clad man had told his daughter that he thought what she did for a living was frivolous; he suggested she get a real job, like “a secretary or something.”
Alexandra had commented, “I think my father’s notion of a ‘working girl’ was cribbed from a 1950s Technicolor movie, you know, dozens of wasp-waisted women wearing cat-eye glasses, corralled in a typing pool, longing only for a handsome husband and a kitchen full of shiny appliances. Not,” she’d added, “that there’s anything wrong with the handsome husband part.”
Mr. Boyd, wherever he is, might be interested to know that Alexandra’s professional reputation has been well established for a long time now. Her reputation is due partly to hard work, partly to an uncanny ability for knowing what the client needs even if the client doesn’t know he needs it. I’ve seen her create a lush, opulent apartment, something completely the antithesis of her own sleek, art deco-ish home, for a fifty-year-old corporate lawyer, newly divorced, who practically burst into tears of joy when it was finally revealed to him.
“Did he ask for something so Oriental?” I remember asking Alexandra when she’d triumphantly finished the job.
“Of course not,” she’d told me. “He had no idea what he wanted. So I had to tell him.”
Alexandra, I have to admit, can be frightening.
“So?” she said now, fixing me with her violet, appraising gaze.
I took a deep breath. It was the first time I’d speak the words to anyone other than my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
“I’m pregnant,” I said. “I bought a pregnancy kit, and it says I’m pregnant.”
Alexandra calmly took a sip of her massive martini, set the glass down on the bar, and then looked right at me.
“Who’s the father?” she said.
“My God, Alexandra,” I cried, “Ross is the father!” I glanced around to see who was staring at me. No one.
Alexandra nodded. “Good. Just checking. I don’t like to make assumptions. No one is perfect, my dear.”
I needed a moment to get past whatever it was I was feeling right then.
“I wouldn’t cheat on my fiancé,” I said finally. “I’m not a cheater.”
Alexandra sighed. “Honey, I know you’re not a cheater. By nature you’re a good, moral person. You’re ethical, upstanding, all of that. You’re a downright Girl Scout. But sometimes passion takes a person by surprise and—”
“Not me,” I insisted. And then I wondered if that was something to brag about. Never having been swept away by overwhelming feelings. Never having committed a crime, not even a misstep, of passion.
“I don’t understand why you’re so surprised,” Alexandra said, matter-of-factly. “I mean, you bought the pregnancy kit, right?”
“So you must have had an inkling that something was wrong.”
“But I’ve never been pregnant before,” I said. How could I explain my puzzlement? “I’ve always been so careful. How could this have happened? I’m almost thirty-eight years old, I’ve been on the pill for years, and every gynecologist I’ve ever been to has told me I’m a perfect candidate for intensive drug therapies and artificial insemination and all that other awful stuff. God.”
“They say He works in mysterious ways.”
“Meaning that maybe He wants you to be a mommy. I don’t know. I don’t believe in God. Your hands and feet are going to swell, you know. You probably won’t be able to wear your engagement ring.”
I shot a glance at the three-carat emerald-cut diamond on my left hand. Not be able to wear that gorgeous piece of jewelry? It was unthinkable.
“Who says I’m still going to be engaged once Ross finds out that I’m pregnant,” I said plaintively.
Alexandra opened her mouth and closed it again almost immediately. She frowned. She folded her arms across her chest. She unfolded them. She leaned forward.
“Oh, come on,” she said, “you don’t really think ...”
“See? Even you think he’s going to be mad and walk out on me.”
“Or suggest that you have an abortion.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d been avoiding using the a word even to myself. It isn’t that I’m against the idea of abortion. I’ve always been staunchly pro-choice; there are certain circumstances where an abortion is simply the wisest path.
It’s just that the word is so ugly.
It sounds like war. It sounds like a man’s word. More accurately, it sounds like an aggressive man’s word. Abort the mission. The enemy has found us out. Abort, abort, abort! It makes me think of characters played by actors like James Coburn and Steve McQueen and Arnold Schwarzenegger— faces I personally don’t care to associate with the image of a cooing bundle of joy.
“How can I get an abortion?” I said, lowering my voice, though I, too, was convinced nobody in Bodacious cared at all about two women over thirty-five talking about babies. “I’m financially stable, I’m certainly old enough to be a parent, and I’m engaged. At least for the moment. What’s my excuse for not going through with the pregnancy?”
“You don’t want children?”
“There is that,” I admitted.
Alexandra took another delicate sip of her martini and swallowed.
“Perfection. And by the way,” she added, “if Ross has the nerve to be mad at you for something he helped make happen, kick him. Hard. In the ass.”
“I don’t think he’ll be mad,” I protested. “Ross is rarely ever mad. He’s rarely ever anything but—”
“But what?” Alexandra smirked. “Bland?”
“No,” I corrected with some annoyance. “I was going to say he’s rarely ever anything but pleasant. And let me tell you, a pleasant disposition is a good quality in someone you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.”
Alexandra shrugged. “If you say so. Look, why do you even have to tell Ross right away? Why not take some time and think things through.”
Really, I thought, I wonder if she thinks about what’s coming out of her mouth.
“Alexandra,” I said with great patience, “human gestation is only thirty-six weeks or so. With maybe three weeks down I don’t have much time to hide the fact that I’m pregnant. Anyway, I have to tell Ross right away. He is the father.”
“So?” she said.
“What do you mean, so? He’s my fiancé. We’re getting married. Husbands and wives are supposed to be honest with each other, about everything.”
And yet, when Ross had called earlier that day I’d chosen not to tell him he was about to be a father.
“Besides,” I went on, “he’ll figure it out on his own soon enough.”
“Men can be dense,” Alexandra pointed out.
“Not that dense. Anyway, Ross is very body conscious.”
Alexandra popped a gin-soaked olive in her mouth and chewed. “He keeps track of your eating habits?” she demanded finally.
“No. But he notices a change in my weight.” I shrugged as if Ross’s uncanny attention to weight gain didn’t bother me, but it did. Sometimes. “It’s just the way he is.”
“Neurotic,” Alexandra suggested. “Controlling. Shallow.”
“He cares about appearances. So do I. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Assuming you’re not contractually obligated to undergo liposuction every five years.”
Really, I thought, Alexandra can be such a drama queen.
“I’m not saying Ross would leave me if I gained a few pounds. He’s not horrid. Would I be engaged to him if he were?”
“I don’t know,” Alexandra shot back. “Would you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that there’s nothing wrong with marrying for reasons other than romantic love. Women have done it since the dawn of time. Well, you know what I mean. Since it was prudent for them to ensure their future by marrying up.”
It took me several moments to reply. “I should be furious with you,” I said, “for suggesting I’m marrying Ross for his money and his looks and his social connections. I really should. But for some reason I’m not.”
Alexandra shrugged. “Because you understand that marriage is a legal contract at bottom. And within the bounds of that legal contract every couple has another contract, a private contract, their own rules. For example, I support you financially and you keep your mouth shut about my mistresses. That’s a popular one. Just look at Tony and Carmela Soprano.”
“Do I have to? That’s such a depressing marriage.”
“Do you really think so?” Alexandra said. “I think it’s kind of sweet in a way. But here’s another private deal: I take care of your aging mother and do all the housework and the maintenance of our upscale social life and you don’t ask me for sex. I’m sure that deal has its fans.”
“I’m not one of them,” I assured my friend. I wasn’t even sure how that deal would work. Was the husband supposed to go elsewhere for his sexual pleasures?
“How about this?” Alexandra said now. “I call this the Arm Candy Deal. You do everything within your power to keep your looks—diet, exercise, Botox, surgery, bulimia if necessary—and I’ll take you to Europe every summer and buy you diamonds from Tiffany for every little occasion.”
“Where did you get such a jaundiced view of marriage?” I asked, wondering again what life in the solidly working-class Boyd family must have been like for a rare orchid like my friend.
“I keep my eyes wide open. The sanctity of marriage exists only in a storybook, if there.”
I sighed. “You’ll never get married with that attitude.”
Alexandra put her empty martini glass on the bar with more force than strictly necessary. “Have I ever said I wanted to?” she snapped. “Really, Anna, it’s dangerous to assume everyone wants the same happy ending. It makes one a very boring person.”
“One?” I smiled ruefully. “Don’t you mean it makes me a very boring person?”
“Now, I didn’t say that.”
But she’d implied it. And I really couldn’t argue. Sometimes I did worry that I was becoming more of a bore with every passing year.
I shrugged, took a sip of seltzer, and wondered if I was wild and crazy enough to order a glass of wine. I wasn’t.
“Did I mention that I’m happy for you?”
I looked closely at Alexandra. I was suspicious.
“Are you trying to make up for the boring remark?”
“You don’t even like children.”
“I like you, and I’m happy for you,” she said. “Assuming of course that you’re happy for you, and clearly your jury is still out. So maybe I should say that if you decide to be happy about this pregnancy, I’ll be happy for you.”
I sighed. “Will you be nice to my baby?”
“Of course I’ll be nice to it. The kid. Although to be honest it would be easier if the kid turns out to be intelligent. I’m not very good with dumb people.”
“Mentally challenged. Differently abled people.”
Alexandra’s expression remained bland. “That’s what I said. Dumb.”
“You’re incorrigible,” I said.
“And you’re the only one I know who uses that word. Outside of a romance novel, I mean.”
“You read romance novels? I find that hard to believe.”
Alexandra smiled coolly. “I might not have great faith in marriage, but I’m not immune to chocolate hearts, chilled champagne, and violins singing in the background.”
“You left out the most important element of romance,” I chided.
“I mentioned the champagne.”
“The man, silly. What about the man? And by the way, who are you dating at the moment? You’ve been oddly silent about your own life.”
“That’s because you’ve been oddly talkative about yours.”
“Really, it’s okay, honey. What you’ve got going on is big news. Me? I’m just passing the time with some tax attorney.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of Mr. Right Now?” I asked.
I’m not a prude; I didn’t care how many men Alexandra slept with as long as she played it safe. It’s just that I was concerned my friend might miss a window of opportunity and never find someone nice with whom to settle.
“Ah, but that’s the beauty of Mr. Right Now,” Alexandra explained. “He’s always changing, and change is always exciting.”
Let me be honest. I’ve never been a huge fan of change. Generally speaking, I crave stability. It takes people like Alexandra to force me beyond the comfort zones I so readily establish.
“I don’t like change for its own sake,” I told Alexandra, unnecessarily. “I think that’s why I’ve never had a roving eye. Monogamy seems very natural to me.”
“I’m not abusing loyalty to the familiar,” Alexandra pointed out. “Necessarily. In fact, honey, I’m not even preaching here. I’m just telling you that I’m just fine not settling down. At least for now. Who knows what will happen in the future? The future, my dear friend, is deliciously uncertain.”
I frowned. Deliciously?
“Of course the future’s uncertain,” I said. “Everybody knows that. It’s just that suddenly it seems more uncertain than it ever has. Like, I don’t know, like a big raggedy question mark ready to explode at the slightest inquisitive poke.”
“Hmm. The future as pendulant piñata. Very interesting, if a bit of a stretch. But seriously, Anna, with a baby you’re going to have to learn to deal with change. You’re going to have to learn to expect the unexpected. You’re not going to be in control of your life. Not for a while, anyway. So say goodbye to your current routines and habits, honey. Life is about to get weird.”
“Thank you,” I said, “for being so gentle with the truth.”
Let me tell you about Ross Davis. He’s the dream catch of every single woman over the age of thirty. At least, of every urban-based, professional, well-dressed, single woman, and there are an awful lot of them about town.
People say Ross looks like a younger Pierce Brosnan, and that’s true to some extent, but Ross’s features are a bit more pronounced. His eyes are pale gray and quite pretty for a man. His hair is thick and dark and wavy; he has it expensively and expertly cut every three weeks at a salon on Newbury Street by a petite, stylish young woman he considers his grooming guru. I was jealous of the grooming guru until I learned that her husband is even wealthier than Ross. My fears were immediately put to rest.
Ross is in perfect physical shape. Some of that perfection is due to good genetic stuff; the rest is due to regular trips to the gym and a diet low in both fat and carbs. Ross appreciates good looks in others, too. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that every one of his male friends is as well groomed if not as naturally handsome as Ross. No need for a visit from the Fab Five for that crowd. Ross is a born metrosexual.
Oddly, in those early days, Ross didn’t care quite as much about my appearance as he did about his own. Sometimes I wondered if he saw me all that clearly, in detail, or if he was satisfied that I presented an overall attractive appearance. Ross might notice a change in my weight, but he often failed to notice things like a new blouse or highlights in my hair.
No one can argue the fact: Ross is self-focused. He’s not selfish, exactly. I think of selfish people as mean spirited, and Ross is nothing if not generally pleasant.
Anyway, there’s no doubt that one of the reasons Ross was drawn to me was because of my physical attributes and my personal style. And he liked the fact that I have my own small but successful event planning business. He liked the fact that I’m on a first-name basis with just about everybody who is anybody in Boston, even if most of those people are not my friends but my employers.
Ross is drawn to glamour like a moth is drawn to a flame.
Actually, that’s not quite right. At first I wondered about the fatality of his attraction, but after a few weeks together I realized that while Ross might like certain accoutrements of glamour, like his XJ8 Jaguar, he’s not interested in glamour’s dangerous aspects, like drugs and high-stakes gambling and driving that outrageously expensive Jaguar over the speed limit. A healthy degree of caution is a good quality in a husband.
Overall, Ross is a nice guy—the right guy for a lot of women. But was he the right guy for me?
Here’s what I told myself about two months into the relationship: Every man has his faults and flaws. What does it matter if Ross rarely reads a book and grumbles every time his accountant suggests he make a substantial charitable donation to one of the city’s homeless shelters? He dotes on me to the best of his ability, and he’s generally fun to be with.
I had no complaints. At least, none of the magnitude I’d had with former boyfriends. Ross isn’t a cheater, and I knew this because before getting too involved with him I’d asked around. He isn’t a drunk. He isn’t a mama’s boy. W. . .
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...