Wednesday, January 30

A Pregnant Wife

HE SAT WITH a diagonal spine on the edge of the bed, his fists on the duvet, palpitating, heart-like, drawing in the sheet and releasing it. She made the bed perfectly. It was her ceremony to beginning the day: a well-made bed. John’s eyes were open but he looked at nothing, he saw nothing. They had glazed, gone white. The thin colourless cotton of his t-shirt crumpled over his belly, but across his back it was stretched, defining his shoulders and flanks. He paid attention to his breathing and more or less drifted in and out of frequency with the sounds coming from the en suite. She was in there, accompanied by a empty rattling carton, once guardian to the finest of Spain’s freshly-squeezed. His figure was stiff, as if he were a gargoyle on a church. He looked around the spacious room. The paint was “Brilliant White” but no sooner had it been licked on than it faded. Besides the bed, the only other piece of furniture was her make-up table; a sweet-smelling oak specimen full of varnishes and powders and pads and liquids, each one ranging in age from a few years to a couple of weeks. The smell was one that John always embraced with fondness, genuine fondness. He never grew bored of it or ignored it. You didn’t even have to open the drawers—the smell was simply there, hugging at your clothes and sparking like iron filings in your nostrils. And John, when alone, could look at himself in the mirror atop of it and imagine his beautiful wife there, adjusting her necklace or perfuming the underside of her jaw. And adjacent to the mirror was a photograph from the wedding. Only four months ago, yet feeling like eighteen. Nothing had dulled in her. It was all there, like a fruit that ripens and never sours or bruises. From his position on the bed he looked at her in the champagne colour of her dress, and nostalgia echoed in his skull. Sounds came from the bathroom; a trickle of piss. He didn’t like to hear her pissing, but his proximity to the event, on this occasion, was necessary. The romance evaporates when urination occurs. He remembers seeing his old wife, his ex-wife, on the toilet, unashamed, this wire of pee stemming from her accomplished cunt. Her squatting there. That’s it; it wasn’t the act of urination but the squat with a skirt by her ankles. It made him grimace and she had caught him. John’s mind forced itself away from the sounds of the bathroom.
He had been crossing and uncrossing his fingers. It was a lucky charm he’d carried over from his childhood, one he still held some faith in. He thought of what he wanted and crossed his fingers. To concentrate the effect, he repeated this again and again. How long had she been in there? That was how long he’d been crossing his fingers; from the moment she shut the door, unlocked, until now—that was how long. And he would continue.
The sounds of her died out and the toilet flushed. A squeeze accumulated in his belly. The moment of truth. She did not wash her hands but swung the door open so quickly there wasn’t even the sound of the catch before she was in front of him, smiling from ear to ear.
“I’m pregnant!” she beamed.
“Really?!” he stood up and held out his arms to embrace her.
“Yes,” she held her heart, “I tried all five tests and they all came up positive!”
She rushed into his arms, nearly knocking the wind out of him. Her clutch was so tight, so vigorous—“John! I’m pregnant!” she squealed. He couldn’t think of another time he’d seen her so happy. It rose from her, as if her joy was boiling water. She snuggled his neck and he did the same, shutting his eyes. He planted a kiss in the softest nook of her nape. She released him and lay down on the bed. He took a place beside her, resting his head on his hand, staring at her lovingly. “I’m finally pregnant!” says she. He liked to see her this happy—the whiteness of her smile—but his sperm no longer felt part of the equation and, really, he didn’t care if it was or it wasn’t. There was only her. Eighteen years his junior and a radiant thing. One of the most amazing women he’d ever met. The pregnancy had done something to her though, and nowhere was its effect felt greater than in his mind. He couldn’t help but play out, year-by-year, his ex-wife through her three pregnancies, each one taking a little more. And by the third she was tired in that flesh. The breasts hung with pale stretch marks leaking away from the prepossessing dark aureoles. Her belly—so often remarked about—sagged with limp ripples, irreparable. The once-perfect cunt that held him so tightly and now bore the scars of seven neat stitches, upwards, and the sound she complained about in the delivery room as the scissors broke through her womanhood. That first child.
She kissed him again. He smelt the make-up table. Heated honey. She hitched up her top, a burgundy knit, to expose her toned midriff. He rubbed it as gently as he could, so that his calloused finger-tips just drifted over the tiny hairs, flagella, that streamed from her navel downwards. She smiled at him, at her belly. Her full lips took his, thin and dry, like a pillow or a hot-water-bottle. “I love you,” she said and he repeated it to her. Every word was meant, of course. His left-hand flat on her stomach, fingers outstretched. She trembled beneath.

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