Josh finished smoothing down the bedspread and turned his attention to plumping up the pillows. He was not usually so fastidious when it came to making the bed, and today it was Sunday and a day off for both him and Colette, but the waiting was getting to him and he had to keep occupied. The flowers on the dresser, a small bouquet that he had thought pretty and bought on his way home from work yesterday were already wilting in the bright summer’s sunlight. He stared at them sadly; nothing ever seemed to last long these days, but now was not the time to get maudlin over it. Not when he could be a Dad again.
With the bedroom in a state of greater tidiness than it had exhibited in weeks and nothing but washing the windows going to make it any better, he turned his attention back to the bathroom door and began pacing up and down in front of it.
“Colette are you done yet?”
For a moment there was no response and he knocked impatiently on the wood.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming!” she called back, and he noted that she sounded somewhat harassed. Probably nerves, he told himself, after all it’s not every day that you find out you’re pregnant.
He heard the toilet flushing, followed by the sound of running water as she washed her hands, and he hovered anxiously outside the door for it to open.
“Well?” He indicated the small white stick she had clasped tightly in her hand.
“It’ll take a few minutes Josh…”
He nodded dumbly, he knew all about pregnancy test kits, he’d lived through the agonizing wait to find out the result a number of times in the past when he and Helen had been trying to start a family. Of course those occasions were different to this one. He and Colette weren’t trying to start a family, and her confession earlier that morning that she was ‘late’ was a complete surprise, albeit a very pleasant surprise for him.
She brushed past him and into the bedroom, sitting on the bed without even commenting on his job of tidying, but he wasn’t going to let that ruin his mood. He sat next to her, feeling the heat of the sun on his back. It was such a perfect day for a wonderful piece of news. He hadn’t been able to stand the thought of waiting until tomorrow to find out for sure. As soon as she’d mentioned the possibility he’d rushed straight out to buy a packet of testers. He’d had to go right over to the supermarket in East Holby before he’d found one, and he’d felt strangely proud when he bought it, even if the shop assistant looked at him as though he was insane.
Wrapping his arm around his wife’s back he pulled her gently toward him, in the mood for a cuddle - in the mood for a little more than that if the truth be told; it was his advances on that front that had prompted her lateness confession when they had first awoken. She had pushed him away, and when he asked what was wrong she had blurted it out.
She didn’t relax against him though, as he had hoped she would. Instead he moved his arm back behind him, so it would support his weight as be leaned back into a more comfortable position.
“Is it doing anything yet?”
“No, Josh, I’ll tell you when it does.”
She turned to look at him and Josh noticed for the first time that day how tired she looked. He’d been so wrapped up in thinking about their baby that he hadn’t realised it before. Only fair that she should be nervous though, he thought, I’m nervous too.
He had long since discovered that it didn’t matter how many books you read, how many pre-natal classes you attended the birth of a baby was a terrifying experience that only got marginally less terrifying with experience. But once the baby was conceived there wasn’t much you could do about it, you had to learn to cope with parenthood. Although he did acknowledge that Colette’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth was far from ideal, and probably made the thought of another child a little harder to deal with.
Feeling his arm starting to go to sleep under him he lay back horizontally on the bed, brought his hands up under his head and closed his eyes.
His mind was already churning through baby names: Michael, Richard, Christopher, James… Of course she might be a girl. He had no qualms about having a daughter, he’d loved Sarah, doted on her, but a son who Josh could play football and cricket with before he got too old and too unfit would be fantastic; perhaps a daughter afterwards, for his son to protect. It didn’t matter really, he’d love any child of his regardless.
It was hard not to think back to those early years with Helen. He’d promised himself when he’d married Colette that he would never compare to them to each other, it was unfair on both of them for so many reasons He was also well aware that in the years after Helen’s death he’d changed too, grown more cynical perhaps, definitely more independent and he needed different things from a partner these days. But still, lying on the bed with his eyes shut he could think himself back twenty years…
It was a Saturday and he’d only just walked through the door of his and Helen’s flat, skin scrubbed raw and hair damp and dishevelled from the after match shower. The radio was on in the kitchen and, from the sound of her humming, Josh guessed that Helen was too. He wandered through, careful not to let his muddy kit bag scrape along the walls.
“How was the game?”
“I scored, but we still lost three - two. Good match though, why didn’t you come?”
“I was busy…” She grinned, and sat down at the round pine table, beckoning him to follow suit.
Discarding the bag, he sat. “What? What is it?”
“Guess…” Her grin broadened more still. She reached out with her right hand and held his hands in the centre of the table, her left hand settled over her stomach.
She nodded, her eyes glittering brighter than the kitchen’s neon strip light. “I did the test, twice actually, just to be sure, but it came out positive both times. We’re going to have a baby!”
For all their trying, and all the false alarms it still took a moment for the news to register, but when it did he leapt up from his seat and punched the air exuberantly.
He ran around the side of table and pulled Helen to her feet, embracing her, and waltzing her round the room until she had to ask him to stop because she felt giddy.
“I’m so glad you’re happy too”.
“Happy? I couldn’t be happier if I tried - come here!” And they’d kissed so long and so passionately that it hurt to remember it.
He forcibly dragged himself back to present day and pulled himself back up into a sitting position next to Colette. She glanced over at him, smiling weakly.
“It’s changing”, she whispered.
Josh crossed his fingers in his lap. A new family, not a replacement for his lost loved ones, but another chance to create a whole new life, to fulfil his potential as a father. A chance that even a year ago he never thought he’d have again.
“Is it…? Are you…? Are we…?”
He became aware of a tightening in his chest, he was holding his breath in expectation; involuntarily of conscious thought.
“It’s… it’s negative”.
He exhaled slowly, and next to him he could see Colette do the same. He put his arm across her shoulders once more and this time succeeded in pulling her to him. She crumpled against his side, letting the test stick fall from her hands and thud gently onto the carpet.
“It doesn’t matter”, he replied soothingly.
He kissed head softly, feeling her body shrugging against his. He moved away enough so that he could lift her face up to his own, and saw the tears in her eyes.
“Of course Colette. There’s always next month”. But even his words of hope could stop her from crying.
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