The saga of Dan and Jessa continues
Jessa learns that sometimes to get what you want you have to let go....
Thanks as always, Lizzy Bennet for your comments and kind words.
Saturday morning. We were going to brunch with Michelle and Amanda at a restaurant a couple of blocks from their place. We were first so we gave our name to the hostess. There was a wait for a table so we went to the bar for a drink. I knew that I wasn’t pregnant so I had a mimosa. It had been a long week and I needed a break. Jess looked at me and I just said, “not today, OK? It doesn’t really matter today, does it? Who knows maybe it’ll help?” She put her hand on my shoulder and it felt like a reproach.
Michelle and Amanda walked in. I looked in Michelle’s eyes. I could see the smile in them. I nodded. She nodded and smiled. “Ohmigod, that’s so amazing!” I gave her a huge hug. I was happy for her. I was miserable for me but she was my best friend, so I resolved to be happy. “Mazel tov. Mazel tov, Amanda.” Yes, mazel tov. To my Black friend and her Italian wife. Whatever.
Jess gave Michelle a kiss and Amanda a hug. “Mazel tov, guys.”
Michelle took out her phone. “I told her she couldn’t tell her until I told you.” She grinned, “it has been absolutely killing her.”
“Tell her to tell her that we’re at brunch, so she won’t bother me.” Michelle didn’t say anything. She just looked at me like I was an idiot. Which, thinking about it, I was. Fifteen minutes later, my phone buzzed. “I’m surprised it took that long.”
Amanda laughed, “Well, they had to go through everything first. ‘So, then, Michelle told me that she couldn’t handle the smell of oranges which I thought was ridiculous although when I was pregnant with Charlie I couldn’t handle pomegranates which wasn’t a problem because it’s not like there were that many places in the county serving pomegranates….”
“Shhh,” I said, laughing and picking up my phone. “Hi ma. Yes ma. I know she is. She’s right here. Yes, she looks beautiful.” Michelle started making beauty queen moves. “She seems OK. She can’t stand oranges.” Everyone was laughing and making faces at me. Michelle was twirling her hand in the air in the ‘come on Barb’ gesture. I started laughing. “Nothing ma. Something in the restaurant. We’re at brunch. It’s rude to talk on the phone in a restaurant. Yeah, hang on,” I said, handing the phone to Michelle. “She wants to talk to you.”
“Hi Barb. Thank you. Fine. Tired. Yes, she told me about the pomegranates. Corned beef, huh? That’s really interesting,” she said, as she mimed, shooting herself. “Yes, I’m getting enough rest. Amanda’s fine. Barb says mazel tov Amanda. Hi Dave. Thank you. Thank you. Dave says you have to be nice to me, Mand.” Amanda looked at Jess, smiled and shook her head. “OK, well, anyway, Jess will call you back. Thank you. I love you too.” She hung up the phone.
“So,” I said, in a tone that I hoped sounded only mock-angry, “why did you wait until now to tell me? I mean you told HER first.”
She knew exactly who I meant, and played along, “She is my MOM. Come on.”
Under the table, I fidgeted with the hem of my dress. “Oh fine. You know she was a much bigger risk to talk than I was. But, fine, go with that whole ‘she gave birth to me’ bullshit,” I laughed. It felt forced to me, but no one seemed to notice. I took a sip of my drink. I would have sworn that I saw Michelle give Jess a look. “Seriously, Shell, how are you feeling?”
She laughed. “Seriously tired. And seriously I can’t stand the smell of oranges, so you have two choices - move seats or switch to something else. That or I’m going to puke on you.”
I smiled. “It won’t be the first time.” She came to visit me in Madison once. My friends were so impressed with my hot Black female friend. Well, until she had her first Hairy Buffalo punch and puked all over Bascom Hill. I gulped half of the mimosa and motioned over the waitress, “Can I switch to a bloody Mary? Sorry, but my friend here is pregnant and can’t handle the smell of oranges.” The waitress congratulated her and went to get my drink. Under the table, Jess squeezed my knee and not in a good way. I gave her hand a hard squeeze, as if to say, it’s one drink. Or maybe one and a half, if you counted the mimosa, which I didn’t.
The conversation was basically the same as it was with Sammie. Michelle talked and I oohed and aahed at all the right places. Said how excited I was to be Aunt Jessica. Jess and Amanda listened and smiled. When we were almost through with brunch, Michelle said, “Excuse me, but I have to go pee, which you better get used to when we go out from now on. Hey, Jess, come with?”
We went to the bathroom and Michelle said, laughing as she washed her hands, “Peeing all the time sucks, you know.”
I looked at myself in the mirror and said, involuntarily, “yeah, well…”
Michelle looked horrified. “I am so sorry, Jess. I didn’t mean that.”
I gave her a hug, “I know. And I shouldn’t have said anything. So we’re even,” I said, with a smile that hopefully didn’t look too forced.
It did, because she looked concerned. “How’s it going?”
“Well, I’m drinking, so that should give you an idea.” I hated this. I hated it. I hated that she was pregnant and I wasn’t. I mean, I didn’t hate that she was. I was happy for her. But I hated that I wasn’t. And I hated that she caught me.
“It’s going to happen. It will. It’s only been what two, three months? That’s nothing.” It was three.
“Yeah, well, you got pregnant on the first try.” They had to postpone the first try because Michelle got the flu. She wasn’t happy but I guess it didn’t matter now.
She rolled her eyes, “yeah, with a centrifuge and a turkey baster. It’s like cheating. I mean you have to do it THAT way. Ewww, gross,” and she made a ‘yuck’ face from when we were kids.
That made me laugh, for real, thinking of when we were little. “Freak. Seriously, I am really happy for you guys.”
She smiled and gave me a kiss. “I know you are, Jess. It’s going to happen. Soon. And besides you get to keep trying,” she laughed.
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t tell Dan.”
We walked home, hand in hand. “Are you OK, Jessa?”
I didn’t look at her, “I’m fine.”
“You were drinking.”
“I wasn’t drinking. I had a drink. And some of a mimosa. That’s hardly drinking,” I said, making air quotes. I hated people who made air quotes. It struck me as lazy and insulting, like you couldn’t do a sarcastic tone or assumed that people wouldn’t get it.
“Sorry. I guess you just haven’t in awhile. Anyway, you can be upset. It’s OK.”
She was trying to help, but I wasn’t interested. I wanted to feel bad for myself and about myself. “Thanks for permission,” I snapped.
“I didn’t mean it that way, you know.”
Now I felt bad about this too. “I know. And I’m happy. But now I’m just going to hear about it for the next six months.”
She turned me to face her. “It’s not going to be six months. It’s going to happen. Soon,” she said. “It will.” I wanted to believe her, like I wanted to be happy for Michelle like I was for Sammie. But I didn’t believe her and I wasn’t happy, at least not in the way that I thought I should be. I started to feel nauseous. I could feel the bile rising in my throat, but choked it back down. She caught me and said, “Are you OK, Jessa?” with true concern.
“I’m fine,” I lied. “Must’ve been something I ate.” I had a frittata with gruyere cheese, not exactly the stuff of nausea, so Jess just raised an eyebrow at me. “Or it was the alcohol. You know, I was drinking and all,” I said, with an edge.
We walked home the rest of the way in silence.
We got home and I went into the bedroom, “to take a nap.” I wasn’t tired and didn’t even try to sleep. I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for myself. I looked at my dresser and saw the prenatal vitamins. It felt like they were staring at me. I wanted to throw them away and never think about them again, but knew that I’d just be back at the store tomorrow. Instead, I put them in a drawer. I looked at myself in the mirror. I was wearing a pink floral minidress and sandals that everyone said made me look “really cute.” I wasn’t in the mood for cute right now. I took everything off and put on a t shirt and shorts and laid back down.
I put my face in the pillow - and cried. And cried. And cried until I passed out. At about 4:30 PM, Jess came in. She gently shook me. “Hey, honey, wake up.”
“Huh? What?” I looked at my phone. “I didn’t realize I was that tired. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t have woken you except we have the thing tonight with the managers and dinner’s at 6:15, because of the show.”
‘Fuck,’ I thought. We had dinner with the managers from Stone’s Southern district tonight. We were eating dinner at some Italian restaurant in the theater district, and then seeing “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet,” which my parents had seen. It was an immersive experience where some of the audience was on stage at tables drinking vodka, while the play swirled around them. My mother loved it; my dad said, ‘it was loud.’ To be honest, I was not a fan of musicals. People randomly breaking out into song or, worse yet, singing the entire story did nothing for me. Couple that with the fact that (a) I didn’t want to go anywhere tonight and (b) we were seeing it with company people and I was (c) miserable. Unfortunately, since we were hosting tonight, I had no option.
Up until two weeks ago, I had no idea what hosting entailed. When Jess was me and I was her, we never hosted. We tagged along occasionally when they had extra tickets, but we never hosted. I found what it entailed when, two weeks ago, during working hours, Terri, one of the corporate meeting planners, called me. “Hey, Jess, how’s everything?”
“Hey, Terri,” I said, brightly. “What’s going on? How’s Tony.” We had become friends with Terri and her husband Tony on a trip to the Bahamas. He was a VP at an ad agency and invited us along to a Yankee game, when he was given use of the corporate box.
“Oh, he’s fine. She’s still praying for me.” They had no kids, apparently much to her mother-in-law’s chagrin. Her mother told her, frequently, that “I pray for your fertility,” to which she told Jess she responded, “that’s funny. I pray against it.” I thought about asking her to tell her mother-in-law to put in the good word for me. I figured it couldn’t hurt. “Anyway, let’s talk about the dinner.”
“Dinner?” I was knee deep in a motion, and wasn’t really focused on anything but that.
“The dinner you’re hosting on the 24th, with Southern states,” she said. “We need to talk menus and the show.”
“OK,” I said, uncertain of how this involved me. I just assumed this got done. I went with, “So, I’m new at this, obviously. What does hosting mean exactly?”
“OK, well, we have to decide what to see and where you’re eating and what the menu is. Lucky you, you get Southern states for the first time. Well, may as well go into the deep end and learn to swim.”
“Or drown.” She laughed. I wasn’t kidding. What did I know about this? “Um, OK,” I said, thinking that I really don’t have time for this. I figured the easiest part would be the show. You needed tickets for 24 people, so that limited your options. “Lead me, Terri. What do we do here?”
She took my e-mail and, while we were on the phone, sent me five show options and menus for four different places. Like I said, I hate musicals but was told, “you can’t do plays. Too dark. Too much potential for politics. Plus, when these crackers say they want to see a show, they mean a musical.” After much back and forth (I rejected anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber), we came up with “Great Comet.” I figured if my mom liked it, these people would.
“Great,” she said, brightly. “Now, the menus.” We started to talk, when Mike walked in my office.
“Hang on a sec, Terr. My boss just walked in.” I put my hand over the mouthpiece. “What’s up?”
He smiled. “Order me chicken parm. What the hell are you doing?”
I laughed, “We’re hosting a dinner for some of Dan’s managers. We’re seeing the ‘Great Comet,” to which he mimed hanging himself. He came back from seeing ‘Miss Saigon,’ telling me that he now appreciated where Ho Chi Minh was coming from, “and taking them to dinner, so I have to plan a menu.” As I said the words, I could see a look somewhere between incomprehension and disgust cross his face. “I’ll be done really soon, Mike. I’ll come in.” He walked out, shaking his head.
“Sorry, Terr. So where were we? Can’t they all order off the menu?”
She laughed at me. “If you want to miss the show, sure. Come on…” she said, like I should know better. Then, I remembered that they always gave us three choices for dinner. Two for starters and two desserts.
“Oh yeah. Do you think Italian’s a good choice?”
She kept laughing, “Sure. A genuine New York experience. If you consider Times Square New York.” I didn’t. We decided on the sort of anodyne restaurant that any good New Yorker would avoid. Italian but not too Italian.
I looked at the menus with one eye and my phone - for an email from Mike - with the other. “Do chicken piccata, salmon and fettuccine work? And a salad or soup for the starters?” I had zero interest in this but knew this was going to be our first impression as part of management. I didn’t want to blow it for Jess.
“Sounds good. I’ll give them $100 gift cards for the room gift. Does that work?”
“Sounds great, Terri. Sorry, but I have got this motion due and I really need to go. E-mail me with questions, I can cover up for that if I’m in a meeting.” I laughed, “How come I’m doing this and not Dan?”
She laughed, “Funny, Jess. I’ll e-mail the final menu and everything for review, OK?”
“Sounds great.” Sounds ridiculous but what could I do? I was on board.
I went into Mike’s office and he laughed, “What the hell was that about?”
“Sorry, you know how I told you Dan got promoted?” I could see in his eyes that he was trying to remember if he knew that. Like a good lawyer, he lied and said, ‘oh yeah.’ “Anyway, so some managers from the South are coming in and we’re hosting them for dinner and show Saturday. I had to pick a menu and a show, sorry.”
“Don’t they have people for that,” he asked, exasperated.
“Yeah, I thought so. And they do, sort of. That’s who I was talking to. Anyway, the motion is basically done. I’m just proofing it.”
“OK. Is this going to become a habit?” He said, playing with his pen.
“Is what going to be a habit?”
“This Suzy Homemaker bullshit?”
I was, to say the least, surprised. And pissed off. I took one phone call and I get this. I could walk past Jeff’s office and hear him bullshit about football for half an hour and no one blinked. I used to do it with him all the time, and Mike would join in. I was going to call him on it, but knew it would fall on deaf ears. “Mike, have I ever done that in seven years? Ever?”
He looked like he realized he would be in deep trouble if he kept going, so he said, “sorry. I guess I was just surprised. And this is on deadline. Sorry.” Then he laughed, “So what did you go with?”
“Chicken piccata, salmon and fettuccine,” I said, laughing. “Wanna come?”
“People singing for no reason? No thanks. Good luck.”
I went back to my office and thought about what he said. Was that who I was now? Dan’s wife? I knew it was at his job. Was that all I was here now too?
I rushed around getting ready. “You should have woken me sooner,” I said, I fastened in my earrings.
“Sorry,” Jess said, “you just seemed like you needed some rest.”
“Well, thanks,” I said, turning around so she could zip me up. “But this is important. I need to look good so you do.” I don’t know why I added that last part. “How do I look?” I was wearing a black knee-length crepe sheath with a bateau neck and cap sleeves. I started putting on makeup.
Jess smiled. “You look gorgeous. That dress is perfect. You don’t have to dress for me though.”
I laughed then lied. “I’m not doing it for you. You said it, we all dress for each other,” I said, inadvertently hitting that first ‘we’ a little too hard.
“Are you OK, Jessa?”
“I’m fine,” I said, putting on my shoes. “I just don’t want to be late. Terri said we, I need to get there a little early to make sure everything’s OK.”
“Are you sure? Do you want to talk about Michelle?” She put her hand on my shoulder.
I moved out from under it. “There’s nothing to talk about. She’s pregnant. I’m happy for her and Amanda. They’re going to do great.”
“Are you going to be OK tonight?”
I gave her a quick glance. “I will be fine, Dan. I am fine.” Besides, I thought, it’s not like I have any other option. I put the tickets in my purse - Terri had messengered them to me - and we left,
We got to the restaurant about fifteen minutes early and met with the maitre d’. “Is everything the way you wanted it, Jessica?” she said.
I smiled. “Perfect, Carrie. Thanks.” They had set up a private room with four tables of six. They had originally wanted to set up two long tables but I had spoken with Terri and decided that I liked the four tables better since it encouraged conversation. All this happened either at lunch or after work. Since Mike caught me, I felt like I was being watched. I made sure that my billable hours were impeccable. Other people may have surfed the web or talked about the Yankees, but not me, not after that. I was going to be partner.
Jess looked at me. “You did all this?”
I looked at Carrie and rolled my eyes. “Yes, Dan, I did. Well, Carrie, Terri and I did. We picked the menus and set up the tables and everything,” I snapped. Well, in my mind, I snapped. Carrie just laughed so I hoped it just came off as ‘god, men are clueless.”
Jess gave me a kiss. “Wow. Thanks. When?”
“Menus I set when I went to get lunch. The tables were when I met Sammie for dinner a week ago. I came over early and Carrie very generously stayed late. Thank you again.”
She just smiled and said, in a clear effort to leave us alone, “I am going to check on the bruschetta for the tables.”
Once she left and closed the door, Jess said, “I am really impressed.”
“At what?” I said, pulling down on the hem of my dress.
“How you got this all set up.”
“This is our first impression, Dan. We need to look good,” I said, checking my teeth in the mirror for lipstick. I needed to look good. I didn’t need to get a reputation among these women as inept. I had to be on board.
She kissed me. “I know we will. When I’m next to you, I always look good.”
She was trying. I was snapping and she was trying. It wasn’t her fault - well, not her fault alone - that I wasn’t where I thought I’d be. She was just concerned about me. I smiled and said, “True enough,” and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Let’s go wait out front for everyone. I don’t need them to get lost finding the place.”
I needn’t have worried. They brought everyone over on two party buses. As they got off, the men all shook Jess’ hand. Like the Breakers, I found myself introducing myself to people with whom we had been away before.
Everyone went into the party room. The wine was poured and Jess stood up. “I’d like to make a toast,” she said. From one of the tables, a manager said, ‘make it quick, so we can drink,’ to the sort of forced laughter jokes like that engendered. “I’m Dan Silverman and this is my beautiful wife Jessica,” and I gave a little wave, “and we would like to welcome the Southern States team to New York. As some of you know, I’m from the South originally…”
Jeff McKechnie, one of the managers with whom we had gone to Bermuda and whose wife didn’t remember me, said, “please, Silverman. You’re from Miami. Yankee with a tan.” That brought about genuine laughter from the legitimate Southerners in the room. Miami wasn’t the South. It was either New York or Havana, but it wasn’t the South.
“Well, anyway, Jessica and I want to welcome you and now Jessa is going to let you know what to expect tonight.”
I was not expecting to speak nor did I want to, but goddammit, I was on board. “Hi everyone!” I said brightly. “Welcome to New York! I hope you all had an easy trip in and you like the hotel! I hope you like what we left you…”
James Rogerson, one of the managers, joked, “we didn’t get anything….”
I looked at Jess and said, “uh, Dan, weren’t you supposed to talk to him yesterday,” which got a laugh, even from him. His wife just looked at me and rolled her eyes. “Well, anyway, on behalf of Stone, we wanted to congratulate for your hard work and hope that you enjoy dinner and the show. We’re seeing a new show, ‘Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,’ which I’ve heard great things about. We’ll be sitting on stage with the performers so be prepared to pay attention. Anyway, if you have any questions or need anything, just ask. Now, I’m going to let Dan finish his toast…”
Dinner was, like Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. OK, that was a little unfair. It wasn’t brutish.
I went around from table to table, introducing myself and asking and answering the same questions over and over again, with a smile. ‘Yes, we live here. In the city. You get used to the noise, I don’t even hear it anymore.’ ‘No, we don’t have any kids.’ ‘I don’t know what we’ll do when we have them.’ If we have them, I found myself thinking. ‘I’m an attorney.’ ‘Ha ha, yeah, that’s a funny joke.’ I wanted to hang myself. I tried to introduce people from one district to another, so they’d get to meet. It didn’t work as most of them just wanted to talk to people they knew. After a couple of efforts, I figured it would happen like it did in Florida or not at all. I just wanted to make sure that I looked like I was doing it.
On the other hand, I was watching Jess. She was legitimately enjoying herself, talking about sports with the other men and asking the wives about their kids. She wouldn’t remember the kids’ names - that was my job, even before this - but she seemed genuinely happy. Every so often, she would take my hand and give it a gentle squeeze. I decided to relax. It was one night. I liked meeting new people. It was good for Jess.
Once I relaxed, most of the wives were OK. One, Layla Thomason (“yeah,” she joked preemptively, “my parents were hippies”), whose husband was a manager in Mobile, specifically thanked me. “Did you set all this up?”
I smiled, “I did. Well, I mean Terri, one of the planners, gave me some options for restaurants and I picked one, but we did it together.”
“So, yeah, you set this up.” She looked at Jess and said, with a snicker, “Did he even know where you were going before you came over?”
I laughed, “Oh, he was completely involved in everything. It’s even his recipe for chicken piccata.”
Another woman, Cheryl Harper, a manager from Macon, overheard and laughed. “Well, then, you’ll just have to come to Macon for a potluck. Mike’s cheesecake is the perfect complement to it. Seriously, Jessica, you work lawyer’s hours and you did this, too? Damn, you are the perfect wife.” Yup, that’s me, Suzy fucking Homemaker.
Another woman joked, “What, you mean she’s not supposed to work full time, plan this, clean up the house and, when she’s done, be ready and waiting for him…” I blushed and she said, “you need some kids, honey. Clears up that blushing immediately.”
Before we left, I went to the bathroom. One of the wives, Kerry Farrell, came in while I was washing my hands. “So you’re the famous Jessica SIlverman? I just put two and two together.”
‘Uh oh,’ I thought. I decided to make a joke out of it. “You must have me confused with the legendary supermodel Jessica Silverman,” I laughed nervously. ‘Where is this going? Be careful.’
She smiled. “No, she’s taller. Mitch used to work with John Chapman.”
‘Oh fuck,’ I thought. ‘What does this mean.’ I kept my smile on my face. “John’s a great guy. We were just in Palm Beach with them. Bonnie’s great too.”
She laughed. “Bonnie’s a bitch and he’s an asshole. The happiest day of my life was when Mitch got assigned out of the midwest.”
I smiled, making sure not to give away anything. “I’m glad you enjoy Baton Rouge. I’m still not sure why I’m famous though.”
“The dumb bitch has been blaming you for why John didn’t get Dan’s job. She’s been telling everyone you kissed Ellen Conlan’s ass and that’s why it happened.”
I smiled, thinking of how much this dinner must be killing Bonnie. “Dan always says I’m a great kisser,” I joked, figuring that was innocent enough should it get back to the powers that be, yet bitchy enough to get me in everyone’s good graces for when she told the story at the hotel later. “Well, I had a nice time with them in Florida. I hope we get a chance to go away with them again soon.”
She laughed. “That makes one of us. Well, anyway, it’s nice to meet you, Jessica.”
“You too, Kerry.”
We finished up dinner and were heading to the theater. “OK, everyone,” I said, “the theater is two blocks south of here. We’ll pass some souvenir places along the way, but I’d ask that you wait until after the show if you want to get anything. Like I said, we’ve got stage seats, so I want to get there early. We can go after the show plus there’s a great store right nearby...”
“OK, Mrs. Silverman,” one of the managers, John Hodgson, joked.
In a mock teacher voice, I said, “well, it seems we have a comedian. You know what’s funny? You all have to do a book report on the show and it’s due Monday….but seriously, I’ll be up front and Dan will be in the back, should you need anything. Thank you again for all of your hard work.”
We went to the show. My parents were both right. It was incredibly entertaining and a unique experience. Vodka makes most unpalatable things less unpalatable. It was also very loud. I made a note to tell Mike to see it. He started it.
We took the bus back to the hotel with everyone. It was the last place that I wanted to be. I was tired, my feet hurt and I was still upset about Michelle, but Jess asked if we could go. I figured that we could go for a drink and walk home from there.
“Club soda with lime,” I said, to the bartender. Between losing the weight and not drinking for four months, I had become a lightweight. I had one shot of vodka and could feel it. I wasn’t drunk, far from it, but I knew another drink, especially a drink in a bar versus at the theater, would lower my inhibitions just enough to be dangerous. Once again, I figured club soda could be anything.
I walked around and talked to the various wives, while Dan held court.
“That was some show,” Danielle Ravenel said. “Thank you for picking it.”
“You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it,” I said, taking a quick glance at my watch. It was 11:30 and I wanted to be home.
“That actor who played Anatole was hot,” she laughed.
I thought about it. He was cute, but a little too pretty for my taste. I shuddered at that. I had made peace with who I was and even that I found men attractive, but for some reason this threw me. “Yes, he was,” I said, laughing. “So, what are your plans for the rest of your trip?”
“Well, we have a 5PM flight tomorrow from LaGuardia with Tammie and Doug and Laura and Jeff. How long should we leave to get to the airport?”
I thought about it for a second. LaGuardia to Midtown is maybe ten miles away. On a late night flight, you’re there in twenty minutes. 5 PM on Sunday? “Hour or so. Leave around 2:30.”
“Great!” she said, with a smile. “That gives us time to window shop a little in the morning. I’ve never been to Fifth Avenue before.”
‘It’s overrated,’ I thought. ‘And crowded.’ Then I realized that she had never been here. She lived in New Orleans. I imagine that she wouldn’t be caught dead in the French Quarter, so I said, “It’s a lot of fun.”
“Would you like to join us?” she said, hopefully.
‘I have an appointment to kill myself first,’ I thought. Then, I thought, ‘you can’t be a bitch, Jessica. This is for Jess.’ “Sure,” I said. “What time?”
“How about 11:15?” I said. “I’ll meet you in the lobby and we’ll walk over.”
“So why are you going then,” Jess said, as we walked in the apartment.
“I told you,” I snarled. “I’m doing it for you.”
“You don’t have to,” she said. “You did more than enough already.”
“Well, I can’t back out now. Besides, I’ll be fine.”
“You seem fine now,” she said, sarcastically.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that you’re upset.”
I paused for a second. I hoped that no one picked up on it tonight. “Did I seem upset tonight?”
“No,” she said, “And if you were, so what?”
“So what? So what? These were your people. I wanted it to be perfect. For you. For us. So that’s what!”
She took me in her arms. “You were perfect. Everyone said so. You were beautiful,” and she kissed one shoulder, “and charming,” and she kissed the other, “and funny,” and she kissed my neck. “I am the luckiest man in the world to have you.”
She meant it and I wanted none of it. “Not tonight.”
She looked concerned. Not upset, just concerned. “Are you still upset about Michelle?”
“I was never upset in the first place, so how could I be upset now?” She started to say something, and I preemptively snapped, “and don’t tell me it’s OK to be upset, because then I will be upset. With you.” I finished getting undressed and put on a t shirt. I didn’t feel very sexy or feminine, and didn’t want to.
“OK,” she said. “If you want to talk about...something, I’ll just listen,” she said, meekly. “I am very proud of you. You made it the perfect night. I love you, Jessa.”
“I love you too.” I didn’t fall asleep for a while. I just laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, thinking about who I was tonight. Jessica Silverman. Dan’s wife. The hostess with the mostest, as my grandfather used to sing. Tour guide. Then who I wasn’t. The lawyer. The potential politician. The mom. I cried myself to sleep, trying not to wake Jess.
June came and, once again, I was not pregnant. February, I said, ‘it was the first month plus we shouldn’t have abstained.’ March? ‘First month. Well, the first real one, where you did everything right. Odds were against you. No worries. We’ll get it.’ April, ‘ok, third time will be the charm.’ May. ‘May not.’” It didn’t help that my mother kept talking about Michelle.
Dan was out golfing for the day with Bruce and two VPs. They had gone to a course upstate that one of the VPs had raved about. They wouldn’t be back until late. Ellen was supposed to come in to spend some time, but then Patrick got caught skipping school. She called me from the car after she picked him up from school. “I apologize,” she said, through what sounded like gritted teeth, “but someone decided it would be funny to skip school, so now he’s grounded. Which means I am.” I hated that she couldn’t make it but feared for Patrick more. When I was a kid, I got busted for drinking at a party. My parents grounded me the next weekend and couldn’t go out. My father said, “now, you are in seriously deep shit. First, because you screwed up and, second, because your screw up means I don’t get to go to dinner, which I have been looking forward to all week.”
My mother called. ““Mona is just so excited,” my mother said one Saturday morning. For the umpteenth time.
“I’ve heard, ma,” I said, flicking through a magazine
“They’re making Michelle’s room into a room for the baby.”
“So, you’ve told me,” I sighed. I thanked G-d we weren’t on Skype or FaceTime or anything where she could see me. That way, she couldn’t see me alternate between giving her the finger and blowing my brains out.
“Of course, they don’t know what color to paint it. I mean, if Michelle and Amanda know, they’re not telling anyone…”
I knew what she was asking. I wasn’t in the mood, so I snapped, not taking a breath, “I told you ma, I don’t know. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. Like I said the last four times, they can paint the room yellow or green - a light green, not that lime green that Laura used to have, I know, ma. If they want some gender-specific color, they’ll have to wait. It’s not the worst fate in the world.” I mean it’s not like, I don’t know, trying to have a kid and failing.
“I’m sorry I’m excited for Mona, Jessica.”
I felt bad. She wasn’t saying anything to me or about me. She was excited for her friend. “Sorry, ma,” I said. “I’m just under a lot of stress at work,” I lied.
“How many hours have you billed this month?” She sounded concerned.
“Counting today, when I go in? About 240.” The sole saving grace of all this was that, since Mike’s snotty Suzy Homemaker comment, I had billed - a lot. 220 hours for the month of May. 240 for this month. And I had already billed between 180 and 210 for January through April. To be clear, billing wasn’t hours in the office, at least for most people. You couldn’t bill lunch (although the best partners did) and the time spent looking at the Internet and bullshitting with the other people. I was in the office from 9 to 8 every day, working, and 11 to 4 on weekends. If I couldn’t be a mother, I’d be partner.
“What does Dan say about all of this?”
“Why does Dan get a say?” I snarled. “We work. He works. I work. He’s been all over the place but you don’t seem concerned about him.” He had been at back-to-back meetings in Denver and Houston the past week. I wasn’t worried. I knew that he was being watched.
She got defensive. “Jessica Renee,” she said. When she used my first and middle name, I knew I was in trouble. Not as much as all three, but trouble nonetheless. “I know you both work. What is wrong?”
I can’t get pregnant. Every one else can. You won’t shut up about it. How about that? “If you’d listen to me, you’d know that I have a big case coming up. And I still have to manage the rest of my docket.”
Her voice got soft. “I know that. I just hate seeing you work yourself crazy. You need to take a break sometimes.”
She meant well. “I do, ma. I work out every day. I still read.” Not as much as I wanted to. I had an ever growing stack of books on my nightstand. By the time I came home from work, I was spent.
“I’m just concerned. Please take care of yourself. You need to stop moving at some point or you’ll fall over.”
“I know, ma. I appreciate it. But, I’m fine. We’ll see you for dinner next week. I promise, no phone,” I laughed.
She didn’t. “Please take some time and relax. Go get a manicure. Go sit by the water and read. But relax. Stop running and relax.”
“I will. I love you, ma.” I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. She was right. I needed to relax. I figured I’d go for a run in the park. She didn’t literally mean ‘stop running,’ right? It was figurative. Running relaxed me.
I ran up to Central Park and got on the big loop. I wanted to be around the reservoir, but had made a promise and, to be honest, was still a little spooked. I get that women dealt with it all the time. I did. But that first time still scared me when I thought about it. I still hated the big loop though. It was crowded. I had to dodge bikers and walkers and, at the bottom of the loop, the horse drawn carriages. Which is what was ultimately my downfall. I went to dodge a pile of horseshit and…
“Fuck,” I screamed, as I tripped on a pothole. I felt my ankle twist and thankfully, I fell onto the grass. “Fuck,” I screamed, as I held my ankle. The pain shot through me.
A couple running nearby came over. “Are you OK?” the woman said.
“No. My ankle. It really hurts,” I said, grabbing it.
The man came over. “Do you want to try getting up?” He leaned down. “OK, on the count of three,” he said, putting his arms out, “I’ll pull you up. Ready?”
I wasn’t, but I needed to get home and get to work. “Sure. Thanks.”
“1-2-3,” he said, lifting me.
I didn’t even get my toes down when I felt like my leg was on fire. “Ow,” I screamed. “Sorry,” I said.
He smiled and said, in a mock-deaf voice, “What’s that? I’m a little hard of hearing. Speak up,” he said, as he led me to a bench. “Sorry about that,” I said, blushing. “Thank you,” I said, as his female friend gingerly stretched out my ankle.
He smiled, a warm, sincere smile. “Don’t worry about it? Will you be OK? Is there someone you can call?”
I smiled, “I’m fine. I’ll be OK.”
She said, “I’d feel much better if you called someone. Boyfriend, husband?” I raised my eyebrow. “Girlfriend. Non-binary gender. Whatever works for you,” she said.
I laughed. “Husband. But he’s golfing.”
She said, “We’re getting you to CPMU,” the park medical unit. “That needs to be looked at. It’s already swelling up. If it’s broken, you need someone to look at it now.” I tried to protest, but she just said, “Jack, go get someone.” She stayed with me until the CPMU came. Her name was Wendy. She said that she and Jack, “were friends. Really just friends. No benefits. In fact, if you know anyone, he’s a great guy.” Hey, I was a captive audience. At least, I could laugh while I writhed in pain.
I was lucky. It was just a severe sprain. I was given crutches and told to “stay off it for the weekend.” I tried to say that I had to go into work and the staff doctor just laughed.
I went home. Raoul, the Saturday doorman, helped me out of the cab. “What happened, Ms. Jessica?” I felt weird when he called me ‘Ms. Jessica.’ I tried to get him to call me just Jessica. He refused and would call me ‘Ms. Silverman.’ Ms. Jessica was our compromise.
“Pothole attacked me, Raoul,” I joked.
He smiled, “Want me to go kick its ass?” He’d curse in front of me, but wouldn’t call me Jessica. Whatever.
I walked into the lobby and saw Jodi, her husband Mark and Leo. Lately, I had mixed feelings when I saw Leo. On the one hand, I lived for his little laugh. It started off my day on a high note, something that was in short supply lately. On the other hand, seeing him reminded me of how I was failing.
Leo came over and looked at my crutch. He pulled at the one next to my good leg. “Leo,” Mark yelled. “Don’t do that. Jessica got an owie on her leg.” I smiled at that. Mark was a doctor. An orthopedist, to be exact.
I laughed, “Owie? Remind me to never go to Sinai, Mark. Hi Leo!”
“Hi hi hi. Owie?”
“I fell down and went ka-boom!” He plopped down on the ground and started laughing. “Ka-boom,” he said. Four times. In spite of myself, I laughed.
Jodi smiled. “Do you need help getting upstairs?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said.
She smiled, a strange smile. “Why don’t I help you,” she said. “Mark, I’ll meet you guys at the park. The playground by the zoo.” She kneeled down. “Leo, daddy will take you the big park with the big slide. I’m going to help Jessica upstairs, OK?” Leo looked confused. “Jessica got hurt on her leg, so mommy’s going to help her. Can you give Jessica a kiss so she feels better?”
She lifted him up and gave me a kiss. It did make me feel better. We got in the elevator and went upstairs. “Thanks,” I said. “You didn’t have to but I appreciate it.”
She smiled. “Please, it’s no bother.” I started to hobble to the kitchen. “Go sit on the couch,” she said. “Whatever you need, I’ll get it.”
“Thanks. I hate to be a bother but could you get me a glass of water and an ice pack? There’s one in the freezer.” She brought them both out to me. “Thanks, Jodi. I’m fine now. You can go meet them.”
She sat down next to me and smiled. “I think you need some more help. Right? You need more help.”
I wasn’t sure what she was saying. Then, I realized and smiled, “Yeah, help. Thanks. What’s up?”
She took a sip of water. “Nothing. Sometimes, I just need a break. I love Leo more than anything but he’s a handful. Speaking of Leo, are you OK?” I laughed and pointed at my leg, up on the coffee table. She smiled, “No, not that. Lately, you just seem, I don’t know, out of it. Like something’s bothering you.”
I guess, for all my changes, I wasn’t that perceptive. I don’t know that I would have noticed in reverse. I certainly didn’t notice that she was tired. “What do you mean?”
“When we see you in the lobby, you seem distracted lately.”
I felt bad for poor Leo. He waited for hide and seek and I couldn’t give him that. “It’s work,” I lied. “Sorry. Does Leo notice?”
She laughed loudly. “Leo is 17 months old, Jessica, a 17 month old boy. He notices leaves, dogs and trucks. Not whether you’re distracted. He’s just happy to see you. Seriously, though?”
I debated telling her but, in the end, couldn’t. I knew she’d be sympathetic. Who knows? It may have taken them a year to get pregnant and maybe she knew something. But then I couldn’t handle being an object of pity. To hear her say something well meaning like, “Oh, that’s so bad,” and “it’ll happen,” because it was so bad and because I didn’t believe that it would happen. So, instead, I said, “We’ve both been working crazy hours. I billed 220 last month,” Jodi used to be a lawyer, which wasn’t helping me either. She was me and now she’s Leo’s mom - and only Leo’s mom, “and my mom’s been on me to relax, so I guess I’m relaxing now,” I said, with a stupid little laugh.
She looked at me and smiled. “220? That’s a lot. Seriously, though, I’m here, anytime, if you want to talk.” After 15 minutes of idle chatter, she looked at her watch and said, “I guess I should get going. I can’t wait to see what they’re up to.”
“Thanks again, Jodi,” I said, as she walked out.
I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling sorry for myself. I could have called Sammie and I’m sure she would have brought Charlotte over, but I wasn’t in the mood to feel good. I wanted to feel bad about myself. I couldn’t have a baby and I couldn’t go to work, so I just wanted to have a pity party. I did catch up on my reading and occasionally hobbled to the kitchen for a snack or a drink, but mostly I just stewed.
About 8 PM, Jess walked in, “Hi honey...whoa, what happened?”
With a fully cooked set of grievances simmering in my head, I let go. “What happened? What happened? What do you think happened? I was running in the park on the big loop and I tripped and I sprained my ankle and I’ve been sitting here all day!”
“Why didn’t you call me,” she said. “I would have come home.”
“I didn’t need you to come home! I needed you there in the first place.”
She looked confused. “Um, you know I had the golf thing today. I thought you were going into work…”
“Well, I was,” I said, starting to tear up. “And then my mother told me I was working myself to death and I should relax. So, I decided to go for a run before I went to work. And I went to run on the big loop. I wanted to run the reservoir but,” and I decided to pin it on her and her alone, “you told me not to run the reservoir and to stay on the big loop…”
She looked shocked, go figure. “I just asked that you be careful…”
“No, you said stay on the big loop if you weren’t there,” it now felt like an out-of-body experience or, in retrospect, nervous breakdown, but I kept going, “and so I did. And it wasn’t enough to dodge bikers and walkers. I went to dodge horseshit,” and she started to laugh. It was funny. Slipping on horseshit is objectively funny but it wasn’t in the moment,” and - IT’S NOT FUNNY - and I tripped on a pothole and sprained my ankle and two nice people - NEITHER ONE OF WHOM WAS YOU - had to call the medical unit and I’ve been here all day and you weren’t,” and I started to cry.
She tried to hold me but I pulled away. “Why didn’t you call me? I would have come there immediately.”
“You were exactly where you were supposed to be!”
“I don’t understand.”
“You were exactly where you were supposed to be. Where you are supposed to be. But I wasn’t not. I’m not. I’m not where I’m supposed to be. I’m not anywhere,” and I started to cry.
She held me and rubbed my back. “What do you mean, Jessa? I really don’t get it.”
I wiped my nose on her shirt and said, “You weren’t supposed to be with me. You were where you were supposed to be. You were golfing with your boss and two other VPs. You’re assistant VP and you were showing them how great you are. But, I’m not anywhere. I don’t know what I am or where I am anymore. I’m not sure I’m supposed to be at work, but I was supposed to be, but I wasn’t even there because I was listening to my mom talk about Michelle. And I’m not there either. I’m nowhere.”
“You’re with me. You’re my wife,” she said.
“Is that all I am to you?” I snapped. “A wife. Suzy fucking homemaker? That’s not all I am.”
She looked at me and snapped back. “When the hell did you become such a macho shithead?”
“When did you become such a macho shithead?”
I picked up one of my heels with my crutch. “That’s me, macho.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it. Suzy fucking Homemaker? Is that what you think I want? I could make dinner plans and pick menus, Dan.” That shocked me out of my funk. And pissed me off.
“What did you call me?”
“I called you Dan. You’re not acting like Jessa. Jessa understands who we are. You don’t so you must be Dan. Although, to be honest, you’re not even that. You’re not the person I married.” I grabbed my breasts with both hands and smirked. She didn’t laugh. “I didn’t say man. I said person. Asshole.”
“What does that mean?”
“The PERSON I married wouldn’t use the phrase Suzy Homemaker. The PERSON I married didn’t think husband and wife and his job and my job. That PERSON’s place wasn’t in front of me or behind me. It was next to me. The PERSON I married said we were a team.”
“We are a team,” I mumbled, feeling chastened.
“Are we,” she asked. “Are we a team? Were we ever?”
“That’s not fair. We were always a team,” I said.
“That’s what I thought. Were we a real team? Or were we one of those teams where you get to be Lebron and get to be some D-leaguer on a ten-day contract?”
I tried to joke. “You’ve been doing your reading.”
“Yeah, I have,” she said, without cracking a smile. “But answer me! Is that who you saw us as?”
“No, I mumbled.
“Then, what is it? What is wrong?”
I paused. “You don’t need me anymore.”
She looked horrified, “What? Are you kidding me?”
I wanted to curl my legs up to my chest but didn’t want to move my ankle too much. “You don’t need me. You need Jessa to look good and be the good wife, but you don’t need me. Not like you used to.”
I thought that she’d give me a hug and tell me everything would be OK. She didn’t. “What? What does that even mean?”
“You’re so strong and sure of yourself. What do you need me for? To be arm candy?”
“Oh, come on! Is that how I think I see you? Is that how you see yourself?”
“I just feel like…”
“I love you Jessa. I love my hot, sexy wife. But I love the person who’s there for me more. Who gives me great advice. Who’s smart and caring.” She took my hand in hers, hers covering mine completely. “I was always proud of you. I thought you were proud of me too…”
“I am,” I whimpered, “I just…”
“Are feeling sorry for yourself?”
“Now, I feel stupid.”
“You should,” she said, with a smile. “But what’s going on? For real?”
“For real, I feel like I’m watching my life float away from me. Every month, it kills me. I look at Sammie and Michelle and Laura, and I feel like everyone’s moving on. I feel like you’re Dan. You’re you. You’re doing great. But who am I? I can’t even do the one thing I couldn’t do before right”
“It’s only been five months, Jessa.” It felt better, her calling me that again. I felt comforted.
“It’s killing me. It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be what defines me but it does and it’s killing me.”
Now she gave me a hug, which made me cry again. She rubbed my back and said, “Jessa, I love you. More than anything in the world. I need you. You’re my rock, remember?”
I smiled, a small smile. “I’m a small rock.”
She kissed me. “You are, but you’re mine. But you need to stop beating yourself up. You didn’t do anything and it’s going to happen, but you need to stop focusing on what’s Dan’s job and what’s Jessa’s job and just be you. Don’t worry about being the woman you are or the man you are,” and we both laughed, “and just be the person you are.”
I smiled. “When did you get so smart?”
She kissed me. “When I married you.”
“Me too,” I said, leaning into her arms.
We made a decision that night. We were going to stop trying. We weren’t going to stop trying to have a kid, but we were going to stop thinking so much about it. No more basal body temperature. No more special diet. No more sex on these days and not on these days. We were going to do it the old-fashioned way. We’d have sex and, if it happened, it happened. Mind you, I still took my prenatal vitamins and wasn’t drinking. We may have been doing it the old-fashioned way but Emma was going to go to Princeton.
Our anniversary was June 23rd. Danny was taking me to dinner and Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center. Yes, I said ‘Danny’ and not ‘Jess.’ I lay in bed the night that I sprained my ankle and just thought. I realized that she was right. I liked being Jessa, but realized that I still, on some level, thought of myself as Dan and Jess as Jess. I had my role as the voice of reason and Jess as the one to be protected. That wasn’t true now and, if I thought about it, wasn’t 100% true then. He was right and I was wrong. We were a team. I wasn’t Lebron and neither was he. We each had our strengths and weaknesses and it was time to let go of the old paradigm. To embrace Jessa and Danny fully, as they were.
We left the apartment. We were feeling silly and had decided to dress up for dinner and the show. Danny was wearing his charcoal gray suit, with a blue checked shirt and no tie. I was wearing a blue Nicole Miller spaghetti strap dress. It came in at the waist and flared out a little, ending a few inches above the knee. I felt flirty and sexy. “It’s a beautiful night,” he said, “Up for walking?”
I smiled, “Sure. If my feet get tired, I’ll let you know.”
We walked through the park at 64th Street and were walking past the carousel when he said, “Let’s go for a ride.”
I smiled, “Are you serious?”
He took out his wallet and went up to the window. “Come on, we have time. Let’s do it.”
I shrugged. “OK.” We got on and he lifted me onto a white horse. “Hey,” I said, grabbing the pole. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“A steed for my princess,” he said, with a bow. ‘OK,’ I thought, ‘someone is getting a little too into this. But, whatever.’ The horses started going up and down and, against my better instincts, I enjoyed myself. I never liked carousels as a kid. I always found them boring. I wanted the thrill of a rollercoaster. If I didn’t feel like I was about to vomit, it wasn’t worth it. But, now, with Danny hanging off the pole and looking at me, I was having the time of my life. At the same time, I felt like I was being watched but decided that I was being paranoid.
We walked hand in hand through the park. We were near Umpire Rock, a giant rock at the southwestern end of the park. When I was a kid, we’d visit my uncle Simon at his apartment on Central Park West and 68th Street. He’d take us to the park and we’d climb the rock, go to the playground and then he’d take us for ice cream. Eventually, he left that apartment and moved to an assisted living facility on Riverside.
I smiled, “Oh wow. This reminds me so much of…”
Dan smiled, “Uncle Simon. I remember. You told me on our second date.” On our second date, we went to dinner on 77th and Columbus. We walked back to her place, on 43rd and 3rd. I showed her the rocks and told her about how I used to climb them. She smiled and told me how sweet it was that I remembered that. She then asked if we could climb them together. She was wearing boots with a heel and I figured that any girl who was willing to try in those shoes was worth getting to know. “Let’s climb up.”
I laughed. “Are you serious? In these shoes?”
“Come on. I did it. You can do it. We’ll go up the back way.” If you go to the north end of the rock, there’s a slightly less steep path up. “I’ll help you. I won’t let you fall.”
I smiled, “If I hurt my ankle again, you’re carrying me home the whole way.”
He held out his hand, “Deal.”
We climbed up, Danny taking my hand along the way. Everyone looked at us, climbing the rock dressed as we were. One dad, climbing with his five year old son, said, “I didn’t realize they had a dress code on this rock.”
I smiled, “Only after 5.”
When we got to the top, Danny smiled and said, “I told you we could do it,” and he gave me a kiss. Then, he started fumbling in his pocket, “Now, where is it,” he said. “There it is.” I couldn’t see what it was.
“There’s what?” Then, he got down on one knee. “What are you doing? People are watching,” I said. They were.
“Jessa, you are the love of my life. When I see you, my heart sings. The two happiest days of my life were the day I met you and this day six years ago. You are my lover, my wife, my best friend and my teammate. I am everything I am because of you. All of my successes are because of you. You lift me up,” and now I was wiping away my tears. “I’ve said it before. My only goal is to make you happy and never hurt you. And the last time we did this it was amazing but I want this time to be better, if that’s possible,” and he opened his hand and there was a blue velvet box.
“Danny, what are you doing?”
He opened the blue box and inside was Jess’, my, someone’s old engagement ring, except now the diamond in the middle was flanked by two sapphires. “I had it reset when I took it to get resized,” he said, with a grin. I was now crying, as were two women nearby. “One sapphire is you, one sapphire is me and the diamond is us. Jessica Renee Richman, I have one question. Will you marry me?”
I couldn’t speak, so I just nodded my head. Everyone on the rock applauded and Danny picked me up and twirled me. While all of this was going on, I still felt like I was being watched but I didn’t care. It was official. I was Jessica Renee Silverman, Jessa to my Danny.
The rest of the night was wonderful. The Count Basie Big Band was playing in Damrosch Park. They were giving swing dancing lessons. Danny twirled me and dipped me, and I felt my skirt swirl around my legs. We were like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. If they were uncoordinated and gawky. We may have been us, but what us was mediocre dancers, at best. I didn’t care. We were us and we were having fun. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched but again I was happy.
We ate dinner at Boulud Sud. We were having wine and appetizers when Danny said, “I’m sorry I can’t give you the wedding you deserve.”
I took a sip of my wine, “Would you stop? I had the wedding I wanted. I wouldn’t trade a thing,” I said, sticking out my hand and looking at my ring. “It is so beautiful, Danny. I love it. I can’t believe that it’s making me so happy but it is.”
She just smiled and said, “Not as happy as seeing you with it is making me.” I hoped that there were no diabetics nearby. I couldn’t live with the guilt.
Just then, a photographer came past. I didn’t remember a photographer there the last time we went but it was Saturday, so I figured maybe it was something they did for the bridge and tunnel people, the out of towners. “Would you like a picture?”
We looked at each other. “Sure,” I said, “hang on. Let me check my makeup.” I touched up my lipstick and fluffed my hair with my fingers.
“Put your hand on the table, Jessa, so the ring is showing.” OK, weird, I thought, putting my hand on top of Danny’s. We smiled and we took the picture.
We came home and we made love. I thought I might be ovulating but I didn’t care. OK, I cared a little. OK, a lot. But I didn’t check, which was progress for me. We just made love. Beautiful, sweet tender love. I even took off the ring, which was not what happened the last time.
A week later, I came home late from work. Danny was on the couch and I saw a box in front of him. “What’s that?”
“I dunno. It’s addressed to you. Open it.”
I opened it and inside was an album. “What’s this?”
He smiled, “I dunno. Open it.”
Inside were all the pictures from our anniversary. Us on the merry ground. Us climbing the rock. Danny proposing. Dancing. Dinner. “What’s this? How, where?”
He smiled, “I had a photographer follow us that night to document everything. I mean I can’t give you the wedding you deserve but I thought our children should see the night that daddy proposed to mommy. Happy anniversary, Jessa.”
A week later, my period still hadn’t come. I was like clockwork but I wasn’t ready to take a test. I couldn’t handle the disappointment.
I was at work when Rachel popped her head in. “We’re still going to lunch, right?”
“Of course, let me get my bag.” After Sarah’s bat mitzvah, I followed through on my commitment to try and mentor Rachel. She, Robin and I had lunch bi-weekly.
Initially, Robin balked. “Seriously, Jess? Why are you doing this?”
“C’mon Robin, it’s not every day. I’m trying to show her what she can become.”
She laughed, “A bitch and a neurotic Jew?”
“Is that you or me,” I laughed.
She smiled, “Yes.”
Over time, Rachel grew on her, though. She said, “she’s got this weird happy-creepy, Kimmy Schmidt thing going on. I don’t know why but I like her.” Between the two of us, we were teaching her to how to handle herself.
The day that my period hadn’t come we were working with her on Jake.
“OK, Rachel,” Robin said, in an exasperated tone, “what do we say when Jake tries to dump document review on you?”
“Um, Jake, fuck off? Who made you assigning associate?”
“Are you asking him if he should fuck off,” I said.
“No, I’m telling him,” she said.
“Good, again,” Robin and I both said.
“Fuck off Jake! You’re not my boss!” OK, it was a little strident and had a chopped up in the freezer vibe but we were getting there.
We both laughed and said, “There’s hope for you yet.” She grinned, the look being somewhere between a kid who got her first A and your dog dropping a dead bird at your feet, but we were getting there. It was a start though.
Rachel excused herself to go to the bathroom and Robin said, “You know we are totally fucking with her head. She’s going to explode one day and take us hostage.”
“Probably. But we tried.”
“Speaking of which, how’s trying going?” I had embraced Jessa fully but still never ceased to be amazed with the openness of women around this.
I looked to make sure no one could hear me and whispered, “I’m late.”
She looked at me, “That’s good, right?”
“Yeah,” I smiled.
“What did the test say?”
“I haven’t taken one.”
She looked at me with the same look she gave me about the bikini. “Why, dare I ask?”
“I can’t handle the disappointment.”
As she was about to say something, Rachel came back. “Hi, guys, what’s up?”
Robin looked at her phone, “Shit, Jess, we have that meeting at Feldstein at 1:30. We have to prep. Rachel, we will see you at the office in a little while. OK. What do we tell Jake?”
I laughed, “Good girl,” and she left. “What meeting, Robin?”
“The meeting at Walgreen’s. We’re buying you a pregnancy test.”
I laughed, “What?”
She laughed. “You heard me. Christ, if it wasn’t for me, you’d be like one of those girls in the South Bronx who gives birth in the bathroom because she didn’t know she was pregnant. And you’d be wearing a one piece bathing suit.”
That night, I heard Danny come in. “Hey, Jessa, that smells good. What is it?” I was cooking steak, broccoli and new potatoes.
“Come in and see,” I said, in my cutest voice. Which was probably hovering between cute and annoying.
He walked in and gave me a kiss. “Ow,” I said, as he stepped on my foot.
“Sorry,” he said, looking down. “Why are you barefoot?” I tilted my head to the counter. He looked over. It took a second and then he said, with a smile, “Does that mean?”
I smiled through my tears, nodded and said, “Uh huh….”
“You are? We are?” Now, he was crying.
“Uh huh,” I said, as he picked me up. He couldn’t twirl me. It’s a New York city apartment kitchen and we don’t live on TV. But, in my mind, I was twirling through the air.
On the counter was a positive pregnancy test. OK, there were three. And I scheduled a blood test with my OB-GYN Dr. Andopolis. Sue me, I’m neurotic.
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