Coming and Going

They told me to just pop the stick in midstream, so I did. They instructed me to lay it flatly in the stream, so I did. They told me to wait a couple of minutes, so I did.
I could have waited for my period, due in two or three days, but just as with Robert last week on our first date, I couldn’t wait. I had to know. Robert was a nice enough bloke, friendly, thoughtful, gentle, but also lacking in excitement. I really don’t know why I agreed to go to his place for a nightcap, but once there and with the cognac working inside of me, I couldn’t resist the temptation to find out what other assets Robert might have.
We made love well into the night. He really was friendly, thoughtful, gentle, but at the end of it all, still lacking in excitement. I left the following morning, leaving a very hopeful Robert Dunwoody with a peck on the forehead, knowing that I would probably never see him again. He was not the man of my ever more frequent dreams, and I left chastising myself for the lack of prudence. We hadn’t used any form of protection. How could I have been so irresponsible?
While pondering this for the umpteenth time since last week, I was suddenly brought back to the here and now by the realisation that I was staring at a plus sign. A positive. A little ‘add’ symbol. It was telling me that I would be ‘adding’ to the population. Why the hell do they call it positive? It wasn’t positive. Positive, for me, would be a big fat negative. A minus.
I wanted a bloody electron, not a sodding proton.
My first reaction was to terminate. I wanted to get rid of Plus quickly and quietly. That was until I had lunch with Rose.
We met two days after Plus came into my life. She had called me in tears. No explanation, but she needed to talk with her closest friend. I was looking forward to telling her about Plus, and asking if she would help me with the arrangements for erasing him.
We met in a quiet corner of the Nag’s Head. I was there first, sipping my favourite Campari and ice, when Rose entered, spotted me straightaway and headed directly to the table. Her eyes were puffed, swollen from her tears, which still looked as they were about to burst into full flow at any moment.
“Whatever’s the matter, Rose?”
I could hardly understand the response as it came intermittently through sobs and tissues. The gist of it was that she had been trying with Rod for millennia, to become pregnant. Finally it had happened only a month ago. She had miscarried yesterday morning.
“I just sat on the loo and it happened. No pain, just a lot of blood.”
Apparently she had gone to the hospital but after a few routine checks she was discharged with some medication to help “clear the rest”.
All I could think of was Plus. How could I break Plus to her? She needed me right now. As these thoughts raced through my mind, I was suddenly overcome with guilt. I was thinking only of myself, when my dearest friend needed me more than ever. This sudden realisation caused a surge of emotion in me and the tears began to flow. There we sat, two young women, one dying to become pregnant but losing it, the other hating the thought of becoming a mother with Plus rapidly dividing and multiplying his cells deep inside. Obviously I didn’t say a word. How could I?
Over the following weeks two things happened, or should I say, they didn’t happen.
Firstly, I didn’t tell a soul. I couldn’t. Dad was not well, with his dicky heart. Since his second heart attack it was repeated daily that we must not let him become stressed. He must rest. Of course I couldn’t bring Plus into his life.
Secondly, I didn’t have the termination. Not being able to tell anyone except Rose, who I couldn’t put through the discussion of a termination right now, I didn’t do anything. Each day, I intended to call the clinic, make an appointment and de-Plus myself as soon as possible. But I didn’t. Something in me, that I can’t explain, held me back. I had no strong religious beliefs, no views against abortion, and certainly no ‘mother’ needs. So why did I keep referring to Plus as ‘he’? Every time I thought about Plus, I imagined a baby, a real person. A boy!
The weeks passed. Plus grew. I began puking.
Mum knew almost immediately. She heard me in the bathroom. She knocked the door. I opened it. She nodded and threw her arms around me, heaving a big long sigh. “My Kate, what are we going to do with you?” she whispered. “How far gone are you?”
“Just over three months,” I replied.
“And the father?”
I looked up until our eyes met. They said it all.
Rose called again. “Can you meet me in the Nag’s for lunch?”
I was dreading another crying session. By now, at four month’s Rose would notice. What would I tell her? At least it wouldn’t be to ask her to help me get rid of Plus. Why they hell can’t I stop calling him Plus?
“Kate! Kate!” She came rushing up to me as soon as I entered the door of the lounge. “Guess what? Go on, I bet you can’t.”
One look at her smile and I relaxed. “You are pregnant.”
“How did you know? Well never mind. Yes, isn’t it wonderful? I am so happy.” She blurted it all out in one long stream of thoughts.
Now it was my turn. “Guess what”, I asked after we had ordered our drinks.
Rose looked at my face, then down at my dress and smiled until it widened into full blown laughter. “Oh my God, Kate,” she screamed, “you too?”
“Yep, as pregnant as it gets. Me and Plus have been together now for four months.”
The Plus part went over Kate’s head but the four months didn’t. “Four months? But that means you must have been pregnant when we…”
“Yes, that’s right”
“But why didn’t you tell me? I am your best friend.”
“How could I, Rose? You had just miscarried. It would have been heartless of me, especially as I intended to …” I stopped and dropped my eyes.
“Oh, Kate. You were going to have a termination. Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t really know. Time moved on. You were upset, so I felt alone. Dad is ill. And anyway, me and Plus are becoming quite used to each other,” I said, patting my small bump.
“Never mind.”
The weeks passed. Dad had to be told, which was a bit of a nightmare. At first he went through the roof. Then came the hurtful recriminations and finally the acceptance, after a couple of stiff drinks.
I stopped working at seven months. All discussions had been had a thousand times. Mum and Dad wanted me to stay with them and bring the baby home. They would help me, while I continued to work. I wanted to move out and not subject them to the hardships of a new-born baby, especially in Dad’s condition. He was only up for a few hours per day, and even then he spent it mostly dozing in the chair. He looked worn out.
I met Rose every week for lunch and we compared notes. She was over the first few months and according to the doctor, everything was looking fine. We talked more and more of our lives after the birth. How we would spend more time together and our children would be like siblings to each other. On the odd occasions when Rod was free for lunch, he joined us. It was transparent from his manner that he was not so happy with the situation, and who could blame him? We liked each other well enough, but I could see that when his baby came along he wanted to spend far more time at home with his family, and not have to share Rose with me.
The following weeks flew by. Plus was now making me waddle. I desperately wanted to meet him in person and it wasn’t to be very long before my wishes were met.
I woke up during the night in need of a drink. I tiptoed down the stairs to the kitchen and opened the door of the fridge. As I bent down and lifted a 2 litre bottle of mineral water it happened. My waters broke all over the kitchen floor.
“Oh no,” I yelped.
Mum appeared at the doorway, just as she always had when I was young. She had a sixth sense when I had a nightmare or felt ill. She would always hear me and come to my bedside.
“I’ll drive you to the hospital,” she said, “but first I must tell your Dad so that he knows where we have gone.” She touched my cheek with the palm of her hand and said very lovingly, “don’t worry my dear. Everything will be fine.”
Two minutes later I heard the thumping steps of my father coming down the stairs.
“There’s no need to get up, Dad. Mum will take me to the hospital. You can go back to bed.”
“I will Kate. I just wanted to give you a hug before you leave and tell you that we are always here for you.”
He came to me with widespread arms and gave me the sweetest hug. After some seconds, I said that we must hurry. “Dad, you need to let go,” I whispered. “I love you too.”
Dad didn’t move. He gripped me as though he was in a trance. I tugged myself free and looked into his eyes. He wasn’t there. I am not sure if I screamed or just whimpered but Mum came running across the room. She took one look at him and gently lay him on the floor.
“Stay there, Kate. We need an ambulance.”
I sat with Dad’s head in my lap, resting against my bump. He was drifting in and out of consciousness. One moment he opened his eyes and looked at my tummy. He moved his hand gently onto my baby and at that moment he gave a big kick. Dad felt it and smiled as a small tear oozed out of his eye. He knew.
When the ambulance arrived I was still sitting on the floor. My nightie was soaked and the pain of regular contractions was immense. “Just bloody wait there, Plus, and don’t be so damned impatient,” I screamed.
The paramedic gave me a strange look, took one look at Dad and went to work. Mum was bouncing between me and him, not knowing really what to do.
The paramedic said, “My name is Bob. Don’t worry. Mr. Richardson is now in good hands, but we need to get him to the hospital quickly. He is having a heart attack. Will you be alright on your own here? “, he asked looking at me and then at Mum.
Mum explained that my water had broken half an hour ago and that she was shaking so much, she wasn’t sure that she could drive me to the hospital.
So, I travelled in the ambulance with Dad, Bob and Mum in the front seat.
Despite the grave situation and regular painful contractions, I couldn’t help thinking how attractive Bob was. He was clearly very concerned about Dad’s condition, but still found time, every few minutes, to squeeze my hand and check that I was ok. I noticed that he had no wedding ring on.
Whether Bob read my thoughts or not, he smiled at me and gave me a knowing wink. I smiled back.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital things moved fast. Mum went with Dad and they were wheeled away in a hurry. I was checked in and taken to the maternity block. Before I knew it, as it all happened so quickly, I was lying in a four person ward holding my new baby boy. It was eight o’clock on a Sunday morning.
I asked the nurse if she would check what the situation with my father was. She went to find out. Some minutes later Mum came into the ward. She took one look at Plus and burst into tears. “He is so beautiful,” she murmured. The she looked at me and I could see it all.
“It’s Dad. He’s he’s .” I couldn’t say it.
Mum nodded, “yes Kate, your Dad passed two hours ago.”
The next two days dissappeared in a dream. I was switching between so many conflicting emotions. It was a mixture of immense sadness and immense happiness at the same time. My father had died as my baby was being born. It was as if I was being given a message of some kind. I promised myself that I would be as good a mother as Dad was a father. This would be the right way to honour such a wonderful man.
Later that day, two faces popped their heads around the door. Rose was like a schoolgirl, full with excitement. “Oh, sorry I couldn’t come before. We were away at Rod’s parents. How tedious. Anyway I am here now and look at who I have brought in with me.”
I instantly burst out laughing. It was so transparent that Rose assumed that the man she came in with was the father of my baby. She didn’t even doubt that the handsome guy with a bunch of red roses, asking at the reception desk for Kate Richardson, was not only the father but my secret lover.
Bob looked nervous and confused. “Should I leave,” he stuttered. “I just wanted to see how you were after seeing you the other night. I..I…am very sorry to hear about your father. There was nothing that could be done. Plus is a very beautiful baby.”
“Plus?” queried Rose.
“Never mind,” I replied.
My laughter disappeared. Rose hadn’t yet heard. I asked them to sit down on my bed, one each side, and slowly explained everything.
Bob looked uncomfortable and said that he must go, but before he left he asked me if he could call on me at home. I said that I would be very happy for him to call. We gave each other that same knowing smile that we exchanged in the ambulance. Rose spotted it too and giggled.
As soon as Bob was gone, Rose couldn’t contain herself. There were so many mixed feelings that we didn’t know where to start. Dad had passed, but we had known deep down that he would not be long in the world, due to his bad heart. I looked at Plus and couldn’t find it in myself to be terribly upset at the same time.
As the coffin was lowered into the grave it was one of those typical grey November days. I held Luke closely to me. I don’t know why, but it felt the right thing to do to bring my new baby to the graveside so that Dad could have one last look at his first grandson. Bob squeezed my hand and I looked up at his strong serious face. I had known him only ten days, but already I knew that if he would have me, I would be his forever. I looked at Mum, standing on the other side of me. She smiled and nodded approvingly. I think that I never loved her more than at that moment.