Or maybe he doesn’t understand that his mother walking to her window would be a miracle. He’s only five.
I look down at the book, now covered in water, and pick it up and shake the liquid from it. I blow out an unsteady breath because it feels like I’ve been on edge all day. I’m sure I’m still a little shaken from thinking she was staring at me earlier, and that’s why I assumed I saw the curtain move.
Part of me wants to forget it and lock myself in the office and work the rest of the night. But I know I won’t be able to if I don’t check on her. Make sure I didn’t see what I thought I saw.
I lay the book open on the patio table to dry and make my way into the house, toward the stairs. I’m quiet. I’m not sure why I feel the need to be quiet as I work to sneak a peek at her. I know she probably can’t process much, so what would it matter if I made my approach known? Even still, I remain quiet as I make my way up the stairs, down the hallway, and to her bedroom door.
It’s slightly ajar, and I can see the window that overlooks the backyard. I press my palm to the door and begin to open it. I’m biting my bottom lip as I peek my head in.
Verity is in her bed, eyes closed, hands to her sides on top of the blanket.
I breathe a quiet sigh of relief, and then feel even more relief when I open the door a little wider, revealing an oscillating fan moving back and forth from Verity’s bed to the window overlooking the backyard. Every time the fan points toward the window, the curtain moves.
My sigh is louder this time. It was the damn fan. Get a grip, Lowen.
I turn off the fan because it’s a little too chilly in here for it. I’m surprised April left it on to begin with. I cut my eyes toward Verity again, but she’s still asleep. When I get to the door, I pause. I look at the dresser—at the remote sitting on top of it. I look up at the TV mounted to the wall.
It isn’t on.
April said she turned on the TV before she left, but the TV is not on.
I don’t even look back at Verity. I pull the door shut and rush down the stairs.
I’m not going back up there again. I’m scaring myself. The most helpless person in this house is the one I’m the most afraid of. It doesn’t even make sense. She wasn’t staring at me through the office window. She wasn’t standing at her window, looking at Crew. And she didn’t turn off her own TV. It’s probably on a timer, or April accidentally hit the power button twice and assumed she turned it on.
Regardless of the fact that I’m aware this is all in my head, I still walk back to Verity’s office, close the door, and pick up another chapter of her autobiography. Maybe reading more from her point of view will reassure me that she’s harmless and I need to chill the fuck out.
So Be It
I knew I was pregnant because my breasts looked better than they had ever looked.
I’m very aware of my body, what goes into it, how to nourish it, how to keep it toned. Growing up watching my mother’s waistline expand with her laziness, I work out daily, sometimes twice a day.
I learned very early on that a human is not merely comprised of only one thing. We are two parts that make up the whole.
We have our conscious, which includes our mind, our soul, and all the intangible parts.
And we have our physical being, which is the machine that our conscious relies on for survival.
If you fuck with the machine, you will die. If you neglect the machine, you will die. If you assume your conscious can outlive the machine, you will die shortly after learning you were wrong.
It’s very simple, really. Take care of your physical being. Feed it what it needs, not what the conscience tells you it wants. Giving in to cravings of the mind that ultimately hurt the body is like a weak parent giving in to her child. “Oh, you had a bad day? Do you want an entire box of cookies? Okay, sweetie. Eat it. And drink this soda while you’re at it.”
Caring for your body is no different from caring for a child. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it sucks, sometimes you just want to give in, but if you do, you’ll pay for the consequences eighteen years down the road.
It’s fitting when it comes to my mother. She cared for me like she cared for her body. Very little. Sometimes I wonder if she’s still fat—if she’s still neglecting that machine. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t spoken to her in years.
But I’m not interested in speaking about a woman who chose never to speak of me again. I’m here to discuss the first thing my baby ever stole from me.
I didn’t notice the theft at first.
At first, after we found out that the night we got engaged became the night we conceived, I was actually happy. I was happy because Jeremy was happy. And at that point, other than my breasts looking better than ever, I didn’t realize how detrimental the pregnancy was going to be to the machine I had worked so hard to maintain.
It was around the third month, a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, that I started to notice the difference. It was a small little pooch, but it was there. I had just gotten out of the shower, and I was standing in front of the mirror, looking at my profile. My hand was flat on my stomach and I felt something foreign, and my stomach was slightly protruding.
I was disgusted. I vowed to start working out three times a day. I’d seen what pregnancy could do to women, but I also knew most of the damage was done in that last trimester. If I could somehow figure out how to deliver early…maybe around thirty-three or thirty-four weeks, I could avoid the most detrimental part of pregnancy. There have been so many advances in medical care, babies born that early are almost always fine.
I dropped my hand and looked at the doorway. Jeremy was leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded over his chest. He was smiling at me. “You’re starting to show.”
“I am not.” I sucked in.
He laughed and closed the distance between us, wrapping his arms around me from behind. He placed both hands on my stomach and looked at me in the mirror. He kissed my shoulder. “You’ve never looked more beautiful.”
It was a lie to make me feel better, but I was grateful. Even his lies meant something to me. I squeezed his hands and he spun me around to face him, then he kissed me, walking me backward until I reached the bathroom counter. He lifted me onto it, then stood between my legs.
He was fully clothed, just returning from work. I was completely naked, fresh from the shower. The only thing between us were his pants and the pooch I was still trying to suck in.
He started fucking me on the counter, but we finished in bed.
His head was on my chest, and he was tracing circles over my stomach when it rumbled loudly. I tried to clear my throat to hide the noise, but he laughed. “Someone’s hungry.”
I started to shake my head, but he lifted off my chest to look at me. “What’s she craving?”
“Nothing. I’m not hungry.”
He laughed again. “Not you. Her,” he said, patting my stomach. “Aren’t pregnant women supposed to get weird cravings and eat all the time because of the babies? You barely eat. And your stomach is growling.” He sits up on the bed. “I need to feed my girls.”
“You don’t even know if it’s a girl yet.”
He smiled at me. “It’s a girl. I have a feeling.”
I wanted to roll my eyes, because technically, it was nothing. Not a boy, not a girl. It was a blob. I wasn’t that far along yet, so assuming the thing growing inside me was actually hungry or craving any particular type of food was absurd. But it was hard for me to state my case because Jeremy was so ecstatic about the baby, I didn’t really care if he treated it like it was more than it was.
Sometimes his excitement excited me.
For the next few weeks, his excitement helped me cope. The more my stomach grew, the more attentive he became. The more he would kiss it when we were in bed together at night.
In the mornings, he would hold my hair while I puked. When he was at work, he would text me potential baby names. He became as obsessed with my pregnancy as I was with him. He went to my first doctor’s visit with me.
I’m thankful he was at the second doctor’s visit, too, because that was the day my world shifted.