I climbed into my car as soon as the last student left after rehearsal wondering if I’d ever feel like I wasn’t out of my element. I’d had no previous experience doing any sort of acting at all and felt like I was letting the kids down. A lot of them had been in the Drama Club before and while they seemed to do alright without much direction from me, it just didn’t seem to be meshing yet and I saw that as my own personal failure for not being able to direct them properly. I’d talked it over with Eric numerous times over the last few weeks and he’d given me tips on what I could do to correct the problems, but I would’ve felt better if he would’ve been able to go to a few rehearsals with me so he could see them for himself.
Thanks to the massive delay in taping the show while Eric had been recuperating, after the Bill debacle they’d wasted no time in rewriting the script and casting a new actor, so Eric had been busy himself working nonstop so they could try and catch up. Even though we saw each other every day, I felt like we hadn’t spent much quality time together and I missed him. He’d said that things would calm down once the Thanksgiving holiday was over and now that it was only a few days away I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I hadn’t had any problems with the students or faculty at the high school and I felt like I was making progress with Tara. She was starting to open up a little with me, but I could tell she was still holding back. Knowing what I did of her home life I couldn’t blame her for guarding her trust with anyone, so I was content to slowly chip away at her defenses and hoped one day she would let me in. She was probably my brightest student and her talent on the stage was something to behold. The emotions she was able to produce in any given scene left me with goose bumps, but I could tell she still lacked the confidence to really let herself go. It was one of the things I was hoping Eric would be able to help me with.
Since Thanksgiving was later on that week, Eric only had to go in for a meeting that morning to go over the following week’s script, so everyone had the rest of the week off. Alcide was taking him to his doctor’s appointment afterward so he could finally get his cast removed and once I was on the highway I called him to see how it went.
As soon as he answered his phone, I asked, “So how did it go? What did the doctor have to say? How are you feeling?”
“Fine. He said I’m good as new and I feel like I want to fuck you up against a wall now that I can stand on my own two legs,” he growled. “When will you be home?”
Not soon enough.
I would’ve thought by now I would have some sort of immunity built up where his dirty talk was concerned, but he still managed to turn my insides into a pile of quivering Jello each and every time and I had to rein in the urge to press down on the accelerator as I blew out a deep breath and said, “Soon. I just need to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things.”
“No you don’t,” he countered.
It wasn’t a very strong argument considering he didn’t know what was on my list, but I still felt inclined to give in to him. Instead I steeled my resolve and said, “I only have a few things on my list, so it won’t take me very long. Besides, Jack wants one of those cherry pastries they have at the bakery there.” My morning sickness was a thing of the past, but my cravings were still holding strong and I sweetened the deal, so to speak, by asking, “Do you want one?” I’d planned on picking him up one anyway, but I didn’t think it could hurt to tempt him with it.
My clothes were getting tighter by the day and even though I knew it couldn’t be helped, I still felt like Jabba the Hut at times, but Eric always made me feel sexy no matter what so that helped my ego. I had only gained a couple of pounds at my last appointment and we’d both been disappointed when Doctor Ludwig wasn’t able to pick up on the baby’s heartbeat yet, but she’d assured us that it was a normal occurrence since I wasn’t too far along at the time. My next appointment would be the on Monday evening after returning from Bon Temps and we were both excited knowing we should be able to hear something by then.
“Why didn’t you give me the list this morning?” he whined. “I could’ve had Alcide do the shopping instead of flirting with Holly all morning.”
Alcide and Holly had been seeing each other for a couple of weeks and made a very cute couple. I’d had no idea Eric had gotten her a job working at the studio until I’d overheard Alcide asking Eric to teach him a few words in sign language so he’d be able to talk to Jessica. Even though I’d offered to babysit while they went out on their dates, Alcide chose to take them both out on kid friendly dates saying he knew they were a package deal and didn’t want Jessica to feel left out. It firmly cemented his ‘good guy’ status in my mind.
I gave Eric my best poor baby voice, saying, “There’s less than ten items on my list. I’ll be in and out.” Switching over to a sexier tone, I added, “And then when I get home you can be in and out; in and out. In. And. Out.”
There was a long pause before he finally huffed, “Hurry. Up.”
“Yes dear,” I laughed. “I love you.”
I could hear the smile he was fighting to hold back as she said, “I love you too.”
Since it was Monday evening, the grocery store parking lot wasn’t very full. I’d given up on going to Bristol Farms, even though it was closer to our house, thanks to the ever vigilant paparazzi that hung out there, and instead went to another paps-free store a little farther away. Grabbing a hand basket on my way in, I headed straight to the bakery to get the pastries before going a few aisles over to the dairy section. There was a caution sign on the floor where someone had just mopped up a spill and as I was walking carefully over the still damp floor, I had my head down so I didn’t trip over the sign and was blindsided in the stomach with a shopping cart. I ended up falling over on top of the sign and as soon as I got my bearings I looked up to see that I was all alone and the unmanned shopping cart had been full of several cases of water, making it all the heavier.
I almost wanted to laugh at being the victim of my very own drive-by when I was nowhere near Compton, but the soreness in my body pushed the urge away and I slowly stood up and gathered my basket and pastries from the floor. I did a quick ‘systems check’ and other then what felt like a bruised hip and ego, everything else felt alright. Looking around once more to see whose cart it might’ve been, I was still surprised to see there was no one else around. I was just thankful I’d worn a pair of khaki pants that day instead of a dress, although there was no one around that would’ve gotten a peepshow anyway, and shrugged it off. I continued to walk around the store and finished my shopping, making sure to keep an eye out on the few other people around me, and as I was standing in the checkout line I was hit with a weird feeling. I couldn’t describe it even to myself, but just knew I somehow felt off.
The feeling came and went as I drove home, but I didn’t think much of it until I saw Eric’s face when I walked into the house. Given our earlier conversation, I’d expected to be pounced on with barely one foot in the door, but as soon as he saw me his eyes went wide with horror as he asked, “What happened?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, wondering if he had some sort of Sookie sensor installed on my body unbeknownst to me. He was sneaky like that.
“You’re bleeding!” he exclaimed, rushing forward. I looked at my hands and arms wondering if I’d gotten cut when I fell, but Eric pulled my arms away and stared down at my pants making my eyes go wide and move downward too.
There was a small patch of blood on the crotch of my pants.
I was suddenly panicking as much as Eric as I said, “I fell. There was a drive-by carting at the store and I got knocked down.” Tears filled my eyes as worry for our baby filled my bones and I whispered, “It was full of cases of water. It hit me in the stomach. Hard.”
Eric didn’t say another word and instead scooped me up into his arms and I let the shopping bags fall from my hands to the floor at his feet as he carried me out to the garage and put me into the Audi. He was already on the phone when he climbed into the driver’s side as he barked into the receiver, saying, “My wife was hit in the stomach with a shopping cart. She’s ten weeks pregnant and now she’s bleeding.” He paused for a split second before adding, “Vaginally.” Eric growled impatiently as the garage door slowly lifted and threw the car into reverse, backing out so quickly that I probably had whiplash now too, but I didn’t care.
I only cared about our baby.
“Are you cramping?” he asked me in a softer tone. My inner voice was too busy screaming bloody murder inside, so I merely nodded my reply, thinking I’d finally figured out that was the weird sensation I’d been feeling. I’d thought it was a residual feeling of being knocked down, but now I realized I’d been feeling faint cramps. Eric relayed my answer to whoever he was talking to before saying, “We’ll be there in five minutes.”
We were ten minutes away from Doctor Ludwig’s office and fifteen minutes away from the hospital, but I didn’t bother to ask where we were going. Eric gripped the steering wheel with one hand while his other gripped my own hand and with his newly cast free lead foot we were screeching into the parking lot where Doctor Ludwig’s office was kept five minutes later. He didn’t bother looking for a parking space and instead threw the car into park in the fire lane right in front of the building. It was another move I couldn’t chastise him for and was instead grateful that he didn’t care about impending fines and tickets. He rushed me into the office and they took us back to an examination room right away without even asking who we were. I guessed by the panicked look on Eric’s face and the tears streaming down mine, they knew we were the ones who had called. I managed to answer the nurse’s questions through my poorly contained sobs and she told me to strip from the waist down, giving me a paper blanket to cover my lower half with, and I freaked out again seeing the spots of blood in my underwear. I crumpled them up in my hand, irrationally blaming them for causing us so much fear, and lay back on the table having never felt as scared as I was at that very moment.
We hadn’t planned on having a baby. Hell, we hadn’t planned on getting married or falling in love. All three of those things were impossibly high odds and yet they all managed to happen. Even Eric losing those precious three weeks of his memory hadn’t been unable to undo it all and I couldn’t help but to wonder if our luck had finally run out.
“I’m scared,” I whispered as Eric brushed the tears away that were falling down the sides of my face and into my hair.
“Me too,” he whispered back. When I started quietly sobbing again he shushed me and gently kissed my face before calmly asking, “Can you tell me exactly what happened? Who hit you?”
“I don’t know,” I choked out. “There was a caution sign on the floor and I was looking down so I wouldn’t trip over it. I didn’t see anyone. I was just knocked down by the cart.” It was all my fault that there was something wrong with the baby. If only I’d been paying attention to my surroundings. If only I’d done what Eric had said and given him the shopping list, I wouldn’t have been in the store to begin with and none of this would be happening. My crying became more jagged as I curled into a ball on the examination table and sobbed out, “It’s all my fault. I should’ve paid more attention. I should’ve given you the list. I always want to do everything myself and now we could…we could lose…”
I couldn’t bear to say the words. Once everything had seemed to right itself between Eric and I after the accident, the baby had become very important to both of us. Not that it wasn’t always important, but whereas before I’d been filled with doubt over my ability to be a good parent, and dread over telling Eric the news, now we were both filled joy. We talked to it. We often talked for it when trying to bend one another to our own way of thinking. Eric would try to convince it to kick while pressing his hand down on my stomach and I would try to convince Eric it was the father’s job to take all of the midnight feedings and change all of the shitty diapers. We’d talked about nursery themes and curfews and God help it if it was a girl because we would have to name her Rapunzel when Eric never let her out of her tower. I wanted it. Eric wanted it. Now we might lose it before we’d ever even met it.
Eric leaned over me and wrapped his upper body around mine, saying, “Don’t talk like that. None of this is your fault. I’m sure everything will be just fine.”
“But what if it’s not?” I whispered. I was terrified of getting my hopes up.
I couldn’t say anymore than that, but Eric knew what I was talking about and he didn’t say anything for a long moment before answering, “Then we’ll get through it. Together.”
A very small part of me felt better hearing he wasn’t planning on blaming me for our misfortunes, but the larger part of me was taking up the blame reins for him. If we lost the baby it would most definitely be my fault and I would never forgive myself.
Before either of us could say anything else there was a short burst of knocks on the door with Doctor Ludwig breezing right into the room, asking, “What happened Sookie? I was told you were hit by a shopping cart and now you’re bleeding?”
Eric had moved to stand next to my head and my hand quickly found his as I nodded, while still trying to catch my breath from crying. Doctor Ludwig stood alongside me and lifted my shirt, pressing down on my abdomen and asking, “Do you feel any pain now?”
I took her question seriously and thought about it for a moment before answering, “Not really. I feel sore from the fall and had a sense that something felt off afterward, but no actual pain.” I was starting to question whether or not I’d actually felt cramps and instead latched onto the idea already feeling panicked because I hadn’t felt any since we’d been at the doctor’s office.
She nodded as if she expected my answer and asked another as she moved to stand at the foot of the table. “How much bleeding did you have?” My crumpled panties were still in my hand and I gave them to her before she had a chance to start my pelvic exam. Examining them she said, “There’s not much here, so that’s a good sign.” Once she was started the exam she kept talking, saying, “A lot of women have some spotting during their first trimester. Have you experienced any dizziness or sudden fatigue?” When I answered in the negative she finished examining me and stood up saying, “Everything looks okay. There was very little blood, but we’re going to do an ultrasound just to make sure everything is where we want it to be, okay?”
“Okay,” I replied wondering what in the hell she meant.
She must have seen the question in my eyes because she stopped for a moment as she explained, “Sometimes the fertilized egg implants itself in the mother’s fallopian tube, causing an ectopic pregnancy, but, as a general rule, those cases present themselves with a high degree of pain and bleeding. Other times, when there’s trauma, the mother might have what’s called a threatened miscarriage. The good news is that your cervical os, the mouth of your womb, is still closed and you aren’t feeling any pain when I press down on your womb. Light vaginal bleeding during the first trimester is common in twenty to thirty percent of pregnancies, so this may have just coincided with your fall. We’ll have a better idea of what’s going on after the ultrasound.”
I knew Doctor Ludwig’s soft smile and gentle explanation were meant to ease my fear, but it caused the exact opposite to happen with my worry and panic ratcheting up several notches with every word she spoke. No, I wasn’t in a high degree of pain. No, there wasn’t a lot of bleeding. Yes, my mommy bits were still all closed up to keep the baby inside of my body, but there was one more thing about me that she didn’t know about.
I had a history of beating impossibly high odds.
She asked if I had to pee and explained that a full bladder helped during an ultrasound, so I chugged a bottle of water she brought me even though I already felt like my bladder was full. I watched silently as Doctor Ludwig pulled the ultrasound machine next to the examination table on the opposite side from where Eric stood. She moved it so that I wouldn’t be able to see anything, I assumed to soften the blow if what she found wasn’t good, and I loosened my grip on Eric’s hand expecting that he’d want to move to stand where he could see, but his hand merely tightened on my own.
He’d meant what he’d said. Good news or bad, we were in it together.
She squeezed out some warm gel onto my abdomen and spread it around using what she called a transducer. I could hear the sounds of people moving and talking throughout the office, but in our own little corner of the world there was nothing but silence as Doctor Ludwig worked. There was no clock in the room and to keep from going stir crazy or asking her what she could see every five seconds, I counted silently in my head. Every time I hit sixty I would start over. Focusing on the numbers climbing in my brain and keeping track of every minute that passed us by kept me from focusing on the thought that we could lose the baby. I could only imagine what was going through Eric’s head, but he didn’t say a word and other than his thumb rubbing across the back of my hand, he stood completely motionless.
I didn’t chance any glances at Doctor Ludwig, afraid of what I might deduce from her expression. If I saw anything remotely close to sympathy I would’ve lost it. As I was nearing the sixteen minute mark, the sound of her voice startled me when she said, “Well, you were right.”
Right? Right about WHAT?
I didn’t have to ask as she continued on, glancing at the notes in my file and explained, “Based on the size of the fetus, I’d say conception took place when you thought it did.”
I already knew that little bit of information and normally I loved drawn out thrillers and mysteries when watching a movie or reading a book, but I was ready to scream if she didn’t hurry up and tell us what we wanted to know. I glanced up at Eric’s face and could tell that he was ready to jump out of his own skin, so when I looked back at Doctor Ludwig, about to tell her to just spit it out already, the words were caught in my throat when I saw her smile. She turned the monitor so we could finally see what she’d been looking at the whole time and my mouth fell open while a fresh batch of tears flooded from my eyes.
There on the screen was our baby. It had arms and legs; hands and feet and was jumping all around like it was on a trampoline. I focused on it, trying to feel what I could see it was doing inside of me, but I felt nothing.
“It’s so active. Is that good? Normal?” I asked her.
“It’s very good and very normal. Everything looks good and I didn’t see anything that would suggest that you won’t have a successful pregnancy,” she smiled back at me.
Eric’s hand tightened on my own and I tore my eyes away from the screen and saw silent tears falling down his face, but the soft smile on his lips told me they were happy tears. I tugged on his hand until his eyes met mine and I smiled, saying, “I guess that explains my craving for Mexican food. We made a little Mexican jumping bean.”
He blew out a breath so deep that I could see the tension leave his body with it and he chuckled, saying, “I would hazard a guess that it’s asleep. It bounces around just like its mother.”
All of the worry and panic I’d been feeling left me now that we knew everything was okay and I looked back at the screen, watching our little jumping bean flit around, and jokingly said, “Well, from the size of its head we can definitively say it’s your baby. Its ego is already huge.”
I felt the touch of Eric’s hand on my face a moment later as he turned my head to look back at him and he leaned down, placing a soft kiss on my lips, before pulling back and smiling again as he said, “It should be. It’s ours.”
It most certainly was.