by Judy Jarvie
I’m screaming in my head. Because being here is one.
“Is everything acceptable for Madam?” Sergio enquires.
He’s the waiter. He’s just led me over to a table with the biggest foil, heart-shaped helium balloon this side of Las Vegas. And my heart has dived like an Olympic swimmer in the front crawl of despair.
I look at Sergio. It’s Valentine's night and this is the best Spanish restaurant in town. What else did I expect? Understated seclusion?
“Senora?” he repeats, his face mirroring my confusion. “A drink while you are waiting?”
Right now I’d be happy if he brought me several cases of anything. Then I rethink and make it a mineral water. I need all my brain cells intact tonight.
Little does Sergio realise the raging mess I am inside, covered up by the cream suit. The suit, like the idea of coming here on Valentine's night, was not my finest hour.
Sergio wields the ‘Tapas Fiesta’ menus. “Perhaps Madam wishes for a different table?” He must have seen my face fall at the awfulness of his table décor. Even the napkins are foil and heart embellished.
I’m about to have our biggest heart-to-heart in years but I’ve picked the most ludicrous setting possible. Sweetheart hell.
Moments later I’m by the window, watching the milling traffic as thoughts crowd in.
Why have I been burying my head in the sand?
Then a strange tinkling sound draws my attention. It’s my mobile phone’s muffled tune inside my bag.
“Where’s my velvet top. You ironed it didn’t you, Mum?” It’s my daughter, Becky, clearly involved in affairs of high fashion pre-date.
I sigh at the familiarity of the scene. Same old Mum duties. I often wonder if I should be buried with my turbo steam jet iron beside me. A token of my long-service to neat laundry.
“When did I ever not conquer the towering Kilimanjaro of the Hamilton family ironing? Have crumpled clothes ever messed with your social life before?”
“So it’s ironed?”
“In the drawer. Have you checked?”
“Why do you think I’m calling?” Her snort of disdain could not be more derisory if it had just sat a derision Masters course.
We often talk to each other in questions. It’s a long established Mother-Daughter communication ritual. It minimises superfluous exchanges on the route to motherly bestowed enlightenment.
“I just can’t find it, Mum!” I can hear from the tremor in her voice that this is a catastrophe of world-congress proportions. Heaven help us if I hadn’t ironed her purple top at all!
I know how she feels. The panic is zooming around inside me too. At least I can sort out Becky’s problems with just a burst of steam.
“Check Ryan’s closet just in case.”
Sometimes being a Mum is like being a natural CEO without the salary or plaudits. “Thanks, Mum”
“Bye, Becky. Have a nice night love.” She rings off with haste.
Just then Joe comes through the door and his face says it all. Why the dickens are we here?
That’s the great thing about twenty years of marriage; expressions become transparent. He regroups before kissing me on the cheek.
“What’s an amazing woman like you doing here?” he asks. “Isn’t this all a bit neon?”
“I needed to talk. In private.”
“For a minute I thought you’d booked here because you’d picked a timeshare apartment.” Joe says.
I look at him blankly.
“It’s a Spanish restaurant, Jen. The brochures I got you were for Spain. So did you take a look?”
Somehow, I’d hoped we were gaining neutral territory as opposed to clearing the way to discuss his ‘toy project’.
“I’ve had other things on my mind.”
Since Monday. Since lunchtime at work when I picked up a test. Of course, I never imagined it could be positive. Ever. I’d thought we’d jumped off the procreational merry-go-round long ago – fifteen years ago to be exact. But since then, my mind never deviated from the topic.
How could this be? How have we gone and done this all over again without trying?
“Shame. There’s some fantastic places. I fancy mainland Spain. Alan, at work, has a villa in Barcelona.”
“I really don’t care.” I say more loudly than I intended. The couples at the next three adjoining tables look up.
“Jen?” Joe whispers.
Sergio is watching us now. His Happy Valentine's heart badge is flashing as wildly as my pulse. But he doesn’t’ realise this isn’t just ‘a cosy Valentine's meal for two’. It’s a meal for three. With a third member neither of us saw coming.
Joe is staring at me hard now.
Will I even be able to cut it as a Mum twenty years on? The sleepless nights…the nappies/feeding/weaning/teething? We were supposed to be reaping the rewards of our younger days of sufferance – getting a place in Spain. Enjoying life…
“What’s eating you, Jen?”
I hold onto the edge of the tablecloth. “I did a test. We’re pregnant. And I know we did all that – having family years ago. But it’s happening.”
Joe sits back. No doubt reeling from the personal realisation that time-share won’t be a future option ever. It’ll be story-time and nursery days.
“A little kid – after so many years of trying and nothing? When we’d given up?”
I feel the moisture on my cheek, but I just can’t help it. “Ten years trying…crazy huh? You don’t mind?”
I touch my slightly swollen tummy, signalling my gratitude to the tiny new life there. Our miracle.
Joe takes my other hand. “It’s amazing news – unexpected – but wonderful. You’re a phenomenal mum. At twenty you were great. At forty you’ll be fantastic.”
And that’s why I love him. He’s my amazing man. The one I’ve underestimated because of crazy self-doubting misgivings.
“I’m overjoyed, Jen. We’re having our baby!” He passes me the ‘Hug Me Slowly’ balloon with a smile. “Who needs timeshare anyway?”
Judy Jarvie writes for Moonlit Romance. You can find her novel, Taking the Leap, in the 2007 catalog at the Moonlit Romance website.