I’m determined to stay awake for Walt tonight, although it’s hard because he doesn’t come home till nearly midnight. Is he working all that time? I guess I have to assume he is. At least there’s no lipstick on his collar this time.
I’ve decided to tell Walt about my pregnancy. I have to. He’s my husband. And despite what Riley claims, I think there’s a reasonable chance he’s the father. Hell, a good chance. Riley said himself that he was told he probably wouldn’t be able to conceive without help. What’s the chances that the two of us managed to make a baby? It seems so unlikely.
I’m watching The Colbert Report when Walt walks in. He collapses onto the couch next to me and loosens his tie with his thumb. He squints at the television. “I hate that jackass,” he mutters. “Margaret, how come you always watch this leftist propaganda crap?”
“It’s funny,” I say defensively.
“Margaret, you are in the one percent,” he reminds me. “Thanks to me, at least.” He grabs the remote control and flips to FOX news. “Watch this instead.”
Ugh. I grab the remote control and shut the television off. Before Walt can protest, I turn to him and say, “I need to tell you something.”
“All right,” he says. “But can you make me a sandwich while you’re telling me? I’m starving.”
“I took a pregnancy test today.”
Walt’s mouth falls open. “You… why did you do that?”
“I just…” I shrug helplessly. “I felt a little bloated so I thought maybe…”
Walt is practically gaping at me. “And?”
“It was positive,” I say.
I watch his face. I watch as his surprise turns to fury. He looks so angry, I’m almost terrified to be in the same room with him. His face turns almost purple and a large vein on his temple bulges out. “You’re pregnant?” he growls. “I can’t fucking believe this! I knew it! I’m going to kill—”
Before he can finish that thought, I quickly say, “But then I realized I read the test wrong. It turns out I’m not pregnant.”
“Oh,” Walt says. It takes him a second to compose himself. He takes a few deep breaths, his face slowly going back to his normal fair shade. “I’m sorry, Margaret. You were probably very disappointed.”
“Yes,” I say. “I was.”
“Listen,” he says as he reaches for my hand. “Don’t worry yourself about the sandwich. I’ll make it myself. You just rest.”
He stands up from the couch, stretching luxuriously as he stumbles in the direction of the kitchen. Just before he leaves the room, I hear him call me: “Hey, Margaret?”
He smiles at me. “I bet if you lost some weight, you wouldn’t feel so bloated anymore. Something to think about, right?”
I grit my teeth. “Thanks for the tip.”
I could not imagine being happier to find out that my husband is not the father of my child.
The next morning, Jill has to drive me to work because I left my damn car behind when Riley drove me home to take the pregnancy test. She seems a little perplexed when she comes to pick me up at my house. “How did you get home yesterday?”
“Oh, you know.” I shrug. Great answer, Maggie.
“Is everything okay, Maggie?” Jill asks, frowning at me.
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know,” Jill says. “You look like you’ve got something on your mind.”
I bite my lip. Jill has been my best friend forever. It seems like the obvious thing to tell her about my pregnancy, and even the part about how the baby isn’t Walt’s. But it’s clear I didn’t tell her before, and I know I can’t tell her now. She already doesn’t think much of Riley, and I know she’s going to judge me. I can just imagine her reaction: You got pregnant with Riley?? Are you out of your mind?!
No, I can’t tell her. Not yet, anyway.
Instead I listen to Jill chattering about our upcoming evaluations, which doesn’t make me feel any better. I know I’m going to bomb it. I have nothing to show for myself. I’ve accomplished nothing. Really, I ought to be fired. Publish or perish.
When I get to my office, I try to brainstorm some ideas for my upcoming evaluation, but nothing comes to mind. I can’t focus. I need to talk to someone about what’s been going on with me, but who? The only one who knows everything is Riley, and he’s the one I need to talk about.
Of course, there is one person who knows everything.
I look on my phone and locate Susan Richardson’s number. I hold my breath as I click on it and wait for someone to pick up. I’m almost hoping for a machine, but instead I hear Susan’s breathless voice: “Maggie?”
“Oh, hi, Susan,” I say. I clear my throat. “Look, um, I just…” I close my eyes and take a breath. “I just found out I’m pregnant.”
“Where are you?” Susan asks.
“In my office…”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I’m about to protest, but I realize Susan’s already hung up. I had no idea she was going to insist on coming over. This is going to be so awkward. I sort of wish I hadn’t called her.
About four minutes later, I hear a knock on my office door. I race to open it, and find Susan standing there, her graying blond hair half coming loose from its bun. The concern is plain in her light blue eyes. “Maggie,” she says.
And before I know what’s happening, she scoops me up in her arms. At first, I’m a little surprised and annoyed, but then something changes. I feel the warmth emanating from her body and know she is aware of everything, that she understands exactly what I’ve been going through. And I start to cry.
It’s probably pregnancy hormones, but I end up crying for like fifteen minutes straight. Susan doesn’t hug me the whole time, because that would be weird, but she sits next to me, holding my hand, stroking my back and my hair, reassuring me that it will all be okay. And gradually, it sort of starts to feel like it will be.
“How did you find out?” she asks me, after I’ve mostly calmed down.
I tell her about Riley slipping the vitamin into my drink, and the whole damn story. When I finish, she says, “Riley’s an idiot sometimes.” Then she adds, “But he loves you a lot.”
“I guess so,” I mumble.
“He does,” she insists. “More than you could ever imagine.”
“He loves who I used to be,” I say. “He loves someone I can’t even remember.”
“It’s all the same person,” Susan says. “You’re you. Trust me.”
Trust her. How can I trust anyone ever again?
“I don’t know what to think,” I say. “Riley says he cares about me, but the truth is, I don’t even know who he is. What if he’s as big a jerk as Walt?”
Susan shakes her head emphatically. “No. Riley is a great guy. He’s been a great friend to me for many, many years. And… and more than that as well.”
It takes me a second to figure out what she’s talking about. I stare at her. “What? You mean you and Riley…?”
She laughs at the expression on my face. “Years ago, Maggie. Years ago, long before I met Frank. My husband died and I just couldn’t seem to get back on the horse, so to speak. Riley was the first person since I became widowed who could make me laugh…” Her eyes glisten for a moment. “He was great. In so many ways. But of course, it was just a fling. He was far too young for me.”
I’m too stunned to say anything. I guess Jill isn’t so dumb after all—she guessed it at the barbecue.
“So I know him very well,” Susan says, grinning at me. “And I promise you, if you let him, he’ll treat you like a queen till the day you die. He adores you. And that baby too.”
“I’m going to need someone to take care of me,” I mumble. “I’m about to become a single mother, and I’m probably going to get fired.”
“Fired?” Susan looks alarmed. “Why on earth would you get fired?”
“Because I’ve got my evaluation tomorrow,” I remind her. “And I’ve got nothing to show for myself. Nothing.”
Susan blinks at me. “But what about your book?”
“Yeah, I’m sure the one chapter I wrote three years ago is going to really impress Frank.”
“One chapter?” Susan frowns. “Riley told me you finished it.”
“Of course I didn’t finish it!” I snap. “I didn’t… I mean, I don’t remember…”
“I think I need to talk to Riley,” I say.
Susan claps her hands together. “Oh my gosh! Are you going to tell him you love him?”
No. I’m going to ask him if I finished writing my book, and if so, where the hell is it? “Something like that,” I say.
To be continued....