I dig my toes into the sand
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds
Strewn across a blue blanket
I lean against the wind
Pretend that I am weightless
And in this moment I am happy, happy
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
I wish you were here
~ Wish You Were Here by Incubus
After telling Eric and Hunter about the pregnancy, I told everyone at Sunday dinner that I was pregnant. Sunday dinners were a tradition all of us had begun after Eric was deployed. I think it was a way for everyone to check up on me and Hunter and report back to Eric on how we were doing. Everyone was ecstatic that I was pregnant, but the person that surprised me the most was Pam. I always got the impression that Pam only tolerated me; she barely acknowledged Hunter. She wasn’t malicious, but I think an iceberg had more warmth than she did. So you can imagine my surprise when she pulled me aside to tell me that she wanted to be part of every aspect of my pregnancy; doctor’s visits, Lamaze classes, and of course, shopping. When I asked her why, Pam shrugged her shoulders and said she was doing it for Eric. I couldn’t begrudge her that; though I did worry we would end up fighting more often than not.
No one was more shocked than I by how involved Pam got into the whole process. She read every book she could get her hands on and came with me to every doctor’s visit. It hasn’t been smooth sailing between us all the time; she tends to overstep her bounds quite often. For example, she went through all the food in my house and removed everything she felt wouldn’t be healthy for the baby. I’m sorry but you don’t come between a pregnant woman and her food! Pam and I have nearly come to blows a few times when she has commented on how big I’ve gotten, saying a whale is smaller than me. She’s more than made up for her mistakes though; she’s arranged for a cleaning woman to come to the house twice a month and she’s also set up a standing appointment at the spa for me so I can enjoy the pregnancy massage they offer. When I asked Eric if he put Pam up to all this, he was stunned; he had no idea she was doing all of this for me. Hearing the genuine surprise in his voice endeared Pam to me all that much more.
Pam isn’t the only one to help me out while Eric is gone. Alcide has taken over working with Hunter on his t-ball skills. And Alcide comes over once a week to take care of all my yard work. When I told him he didn’t have to do it, he said he wasn’t doing it for me; he didn’t want the Viking to kick his ass when he came home. Maria usually came over with Alcide, she and I were friends before but we have grown even closer. I really enjoy how creative she is; she’s helping me come up with ideas for the baby’s room. When Maria is not at the bar, she is actually a photographer and a damn good one, hence the creativeness. She mainly shoots weddings, but she’s helping me with a project for Eric. Since Eric cannot be here to see me grow with his child, Maria is taking weekly pictures of my body to capture all the changes for him. At first I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of sending him nude pictures, but Maria has found ways to make all the pictures very tasteful; nothing is exposed that I wouldn’t want someone else to see. Maria uploads the pictures to the website she has set up for her photography; Eric and I are the only people outside of her that have the information required to log in to the website to see the images of me. He loves seeing all the changes to my body, telling me how beautiful I am and how he loves me more now than ever before. It’s nice to hear since I feel like a beached whale.
My beloved Eric . . . He’s still not home. And I haven’t heard from him in three weeks. The last time we had talked he told me they were leaving on a mission that could take weeks. He couldn’t give me any specifics and I was afraid to ask. There has been no news about his unit coming home; when I asked Alcide if this was common he said it depends on the situation. I don’t think he meant to tell me that Eric’s unit specializes in counter-terrorism, nor do I think he meant to tell me that Eric’s unit has been in the Middle East more than any other unit he knows of. That information earned him a smack to the back of the head from Pam and the stink eye from Maria and Lafayette. I appreciate my friends wanting to protect me, but I’m not fragile. I don’t need to be sheltered.
It’s already the beginning of August and I’m in my second trimester, how time flies. You wouldn’t know that I am only in my second trimester if you were to see me for the first time; I look like I have a giant beach ball under my shirt. Even close to my due date, I was never this large with Hunter. I had another visit with the obstetrician, Dr. Ludwig before we left for vacation. As usual, Pam accompanied me. I was hopeful that we would find out the sex of the baby since the last visit should have revealed the sex of the baby during the ultrasound, but Bubba as Hunter refers to the baby, was not cooperating. Stubborn little shit. However my disappointment was nowhere near as bad as Pam’s. Before this visit, she made me stand in front of her as she sat in a chair so she could have a conversation with Bean. Pam refused to call the baby Bubba like everyone else; she called the baby Bean for BN, Baby Northman. Pam, in her no nonsense voice told the baby to cooperate because she needed to finalize all her shopping purchases. Apparently she has two shopping carts saved online; one for a girl and one for a boy. God forbid the baby interferes with Pam’s shopping.
However, Bubba had other ideas. No matter what Dr. Ludwig did the baby would not move so she could not determine the sex. Pam huffed and commented that the baby is just like its father. Dr. Ludwig printed several sets of pictures so I could keep some for myself and send others to Eric. Despite her gruff manner, she has been more than accommodating about providing me duplicates of everything because the baby’s father is a soldier overseas. She has even burned the images to a disc so I can upload them for Eric to see quickly.
After the sonogram, the doctor told me to get dressed. Clothes are so uncomfortable anymore that all I wear are summer dresses. I am always hot and the baby feels like it is permanently sitting on my bladder. I have repeatedly asked Dr. Ludwig if I am further along than we think. My questions must have annoyed her finally because she snapped that if I didn’t trust her medical opinion I could find another doctor. Dr. Ludwig isn’t the most pleasant person to begin with, but that was the first time she flat out yelled at me. Before I could leave, the doctor cautioned me that because of the baby’s size she didn’t think I would carry him/her to full term. Dr. Ludwig warned that she will most likely induce me at 37 weeks if I last that long. Well, shit; after vacation I need to get the nursery together ASAP. Dr. Ludwig also cautioned me that I should consider going on maternity leave early. My blood pressure was a little elevated, not to the point where we need to worry yet, but it is something we will definitely need to monitor. She also reminded me that I needed to have my sugar test done. Ah hell, now I have to worry about preeclampsia and gestational diabetes on top of everything else.
After the doctor’s appointment, Pam took me home so I could rest; this baby is kicking my ass. I think Gran is even beginning to worry about me because she is offering to stay with me beginning in October. I told her let’s wait and see how everything goes. As it is I have Pam, Alcide, Jesus, and Lafayette doing everything in their power to help me get through this without Eric. I don’t want to feel like I’m inconveniencing someone else. All I want is to have Eric come home. It’s harder than I want to admit that everyone else is getting to experience all of this with me while he is overseas. I know it’s not his fault but sometimes I get so fucking angry that he isn’t here with me. Almost every night I wake up crying for him. I try really hard to keep it all inside, but there have been a few times I’ve slipped in front of the others and cried because he isn’t here. Lafayette told me not be embarrassed that I want the man who did this to me to be here to suffer along with me. Thank God for Lala; he always knows how to make me to laugh.
The next day, Gran, Jason, Hunter, and I left for Eric’s house on the beach. I’d extended an invitation to Pam but she told me that the only way she would be vacationing would be of the five-star resort variety. Besides, something told me it would be a good idea to keep Jason and Pam separated as much as possible. She couldn’t stand his redneck ways, and he thought she was simply playing hard to get. While I found it entertaining to see all the different ways Jason was coming up with to try to impress Pam, I don’t know if I could have handled a week of their banter.
For our trip to the beach, Jason drove all of us down there in Eric’s SUV. Before he had left, Eric told me I was free to use everything of his; he didn’t think in the terms of yours and mine but everything was ours. So I would alternate using my vehicle and his. For longer trips, his vehicle was roomier and had more storage space. I wish I could tell you that I remembered the drive to the beach house, but I had fallen asleep before we even hit the highway. Once we arrived, Jason unpacked all of our stuff before running out the back door with Hunter in tow. Gran and I worked to put away all the food we brought for our week’s stay. We’d tried to prebake as much food as possible so we wouldn’t have to waste our money eating out every day. We’d also brought things for breakfast and lunch; this trip was all about relaxing as a family unit, not trying to run around as much as possible during the day and tire ourselves out.
While Hunter and Jason played outside, Gran and I set up the bedrooms for everyone. I stayed in the bedroom that Eric and I had used before. Seeing the room again brought back all the memories of our first time together, and I found myself weeping on the bed. Damn pregnancy hormones; I’m either crying or horny and I hate it! I admit I cried a lot while I was pregnant with Hunter, but I don’t remember being this horny. Maybe it’s because I really miss Eric and all the things he can do to my body. I don’t know; all I know is that having to pleasure myself is not nearly as satisfying as it used to be.
Our time at the beach house passes quickly; Hunter and Jason play in the surf and sand every day for hours on end. Hunter had the time of his life playing with his Uncle Jason. Thank God for my brother; he has always been patient with Hunter and is always willing to play with him, which is something I can’t do a lot of in my current condition. Plus, I feel really self-conscious walking around on the beach in my bathing suit when all these skinny bitches are skipping around in their barely there bikinis. Of course, Jason doesn’t mind what the girls are wearing, and several girls are fawning all over him given the way he is playing with Hunter. My brother is eating this shit up; he even asked if I could be pregnant all the time since the chicks really dug him playing the good brother role. Honestly, what did God put up there if he didn’t give Jason a brain?
Vacation comes to a close, and I’m incredibly relieved. As grateful as I was to Jason, I wish it could have been Eric here with us. I wish Eric was the one to put Hunter on his shoulders and run into the water with him; I wish it had been my two guys building sand castles in the hot afternoon sun, and I wish it could have been Eric to be the one to shake water on my body when coming to lie beside me on the blanket underneath the umbrella. Being at the beach house without Eric was unbelievably hard. All I could remember was our weekend alone; Eric and I making love, talking in front of the fire, finally admitting to loving each other. I don’t know if I can come here again without him. It’s like his ghost was haunting me at every turn. I feel the same way about my home, but this was a thousand times worse. Sometimes I feel so guilty for loving Eric; I feel like I’m betraying Sam by loving Eric the way I do. I loved my husband with everything that I have; I adored our life together and he gave me my beautiful son. But I know in both my mind and my heart that I love Eric more than I ever loved Sam. I’ve tried talking about this with Claudine; there’s nothing she can do or say to make me feel better. Her only bit of advice was that we can’t help who we love and we can’t help how we love them. Claudine equated it to how parents love their children; a parent tries to love their children equally, but there are certain things that make a parent love one child more than another. For example, she said I’m always going to love Hunter that much more because he is both my first child and he is the only child I will ever have with Sam. She said with this baby, Eric will probably love it more than any other child we have because it is our first. Claudine said it’s not wrong how we feel; it’s just how we love.
“Momma,” Hunter’s voice breaks through my subconscious and I blink my eyes slowly awake. It takes me a few moments to orient myself. God, I miss coffee!
“Hey baby,” I smile sleepily at my son. The car is no longer moving and Gran and Jason aren’t in the vehicle. “Are we home now?”
“Uh-huh. Uncle Jase and Gran are taking everything inside. Uncle Jason said it was up to me to wake you up. He said you wouldn’t be mad at me like you would him.” I can’t help laughing knowing my brother is right. When we were teenagers, Jason would wear a cup, a hockey mask, and a catcher’s chest protector if Gran told him to wake me up since I would come up swinging. If he didn’t have time to put all that on, he would use the broom handle or a hockey stick to prod me awake from a safe distance. That’s ok; I usually dumped buckets of water on him to wake him up. More often than not he smelled like stale beer or stale skank; neither one were a pleasant odor in the morning.
Undoing the restraints on Hunter’s booster seat, he and I slide out of the vehicle. When my feet touch the ground of my driveway, I notice that all my friend’s cars are parked along the street. What the hell are they all doing here? I’m not in the mood to be entertaining company tonight. With Hunter’s hand in mine, we walk into my house to find Maria, Jesus, Lafayette, and Pam standing in the kitchen. Through the kitchen window, I can see Jason and Alcide manning the grill. Gran is sitting at the dining room table with a glass of sweet tea in her hands.
“Hey guys,” I say tiredly. Hunter runs around the room giving everyone hugs except Pam; they still haven’t reached that level of comfort with one another. Pam holds out her hand and Hunter slaps her five. I’m guessing that’s an improvement.
“Hows you feelin’ baby girl?” Lafayette wraps an arm around my shoulder while Jesus comes up to rub my belly. What the fuck guys? I’m not Buddha; you can’t rub my belly for luck!
“I’m really tired and just want to take a nap,” I say irritably. “What are y’all doin’ here?”
“Sunday dinner sweetheart; you didn’t think we’d break with tradition because you’re coming back from the beach did you? We need to know how the week went.” Pam looks at me with an overly sweet expression on her face despite the sarcastic nature of her words. She’s up to something I know it, but I’m just too tired to figure it out.
“Y’all could have warned me that you were going to invade my house for this,” I mutter grumpily.
“Oh Sookie, they did call to let us know they were going to cook dinner, but you were sleeping so I didn’t want to wake you. You should be thanking your friends for caring enough to come over and bring you and Hunter dinner,” Gran admonishes me gently. I know I should be grateful, and I am, but I’m just not in the mood to deal with people. I’m tired, hot, uncomfortable, and I want to be alone to feel sorry for myself. Is that too much to ask?
Alcide and Jason come in carrying platters of BBQ chicken, steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Alcide sets his stuff down to come over and give me a giant hug. “Hey Baby Momma; how you doin’?”
“I think she needs a pick me up,” Maria says from her spot against the counter. “We were going to wait until after dinner, but I think you could use it now. Come on everyone, let’s go upstairs. Sookie we have a surprise for you up there.”
Jesus escorts Gran up the stairs, Jason carries Hunter, and everyone else makes their way up my staircase. Lafayette and Pam keep me in the kitchen until everyone else is in place. Maria shouts out that everyone is ready. So the three of us make our way up the stairs; at one point I think Pam wants to make a comment about how slow I’m moving but Lafayette just tells her to shut her damn mouth. Lafayette tells me to wait at the top of the stairs and Pam produces a cloth to cover my eyes. I don’t think it’s a good idea to blindfold a pregnant woman that is as big as a barn; something tells me I might either walk into something or end up falling. But Lafayette and Pam guide me wherever they need me to go without any incidents. Lafayette lets go of my hands and tells me to stand still. Pam loosens the scarf that was covering my eyes.
I gasp in shock when I see what my friends have done: they’ve put together the nursery for the baby. The walls are a peacock-blue color with a bright white trim. The wall between the windows has a floor to ceiling decal of a white tree with different colored owls sitting on the branches. All the furniture I wanted from Babies R’Us is in the room and put together; there’s a crib, rocking chair, changing table, and armoire all in an espresso finish. The bedding is in a black and white geometric design as is the area rug that now covers the new hardwood floor. Over the crib is a decal that reads “Owl always love you”. Everything looks perfect!
I break down in tears; I’m so grateful for everything my friends have done, but all I can think about is how much I wish Eric was here.