Turnabout Part 14

The saga of Jessa and Danny continues. Jessa gets a preview of what it means to be a mommy and Jessa and Danny head to Spain for their babymoon.

Thanks as always, Lizzy Bennet. Especially for making sure the trip to Spain didn't read like Lonely Planet.
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December 16 - 25 weeks pregnant. Thumper was as big as cauliflower.

I was meeting Laura to go shopping for Carrie’s Christmas party. I didn’t really want to go shopping or to deal with anyone. I had had a horrible week at work, which was capped by something that happened yesterday.

Every year, Danny’s company had a Christmas open house, also known as the “kiss the ring” ceremony. Basically, everyone brought their kids in and they had candy and cookies and someone dressed as Santa. The center of it all was when the C-level executives all stood in something resembling a receiving line and met the headquarters employees; hence, ‘kissing the ring.’ I had gone once, when we started dating. When I had bitched to my boss Mike then, he laughed and said, ‘enjoy it. She wants to show you off. Soon, she won’t want to see your ugly face.’ Danny wasn’t in the receiving line - not yet at least, I believed. But, because of his new position, I had to be there, to be on board and all that.

Yesterday, when I was leaving, I said to Mike, ‘Sorry. This is political. I won’t be long and I’ll stay late.’ He just looked me up and down, staring at my stomach (I felt). He smiled and said, ‘take your time.’ I felt vulnerable.

The open house itself was fine. Everyone came over to ask how I was doing. Melissa had brought Ben and Layla. I hadn’t seen her for a few months. We had had plans to go out and Layla got an ear infection. The next time, Ben had, according to Melissa, ‘learned to share at day care. He was so nice and gave us all a cold!’ Then she added, ‘welcome to the rest of your life.’ “Hey, Ben. Hey, Layla,” I said, leaning down to give them a kiss, which brought up my reflux. I gagged a little and Melissa said, ‘heartburn?’ When I nodded, she ruffled Ben’s hair and smiled. “How’s everything?” she said.

“Busy. Ridiculously busy.”

“I hear you. You look beautiful.” I was wearing a blue dress and 2” heels. My ankles hurt like hell. I should have worn flats, but I wanted to look good for Danny.

“I look like I swallowed a basketball,” I said.

“Oh, stop. You look gorgeous. Right, Dan?” Danny smiled, put his arm around me and gave me a kiss. I should have felt better, but I didn’t. ‘Take your time’ was ringing in my ears.

Melissa left to take Ben and Layla to see Santa. Danny said, “Is everything OK?”

“Fine,” I said. “Work. Just work.”

“Everything OK?”

“The Namowitz motion,” I lied. “The one I was telling you about the other day?” I knew that would work. He didn’t understand what I did, anymore than I understood what they did here, other than create and sell drugs. By the way, there was no Namowitz motion. For an added fillip of reality, I said, “you don’t listen, do you?”

He smiled and said, “I try.” He did. More than I did then and more than I did now. He said, “Bruce said to bring you down before the whole thing.” As a result of his promotion, Bruce now was in the line, albeit at the beginning of it. Old Kremlinologists didn’t spend as much time studying placement as Stone people did with ‘kiss the ring.’ We went down the hall to Bruce’s office and knocked on the door.

“Mind if we come in?” Danny said.

He saw me, got a huge grin and came around the desk. He looked me up and down, but in a manner that felt completely different from Mike. He leaned down and gave a me a hug and kiss. “I heard an ugly rumor about you…”

I smiled, “it’s true. I’m a Yankee fan.”

He laughed. “How are you doing? How are you feeling?”

I smiled, “ask Ellen how I’m feeling.” Then I added, “I’m doing fine.” No man really cared how I was feeling; I didn’t used to, not really. What was I going to say? I have heartburn? I’m constipated? Oh, and my ass is bleeding from hemorrhoids? So, I went with ‘fine, thanks.’

“You look beautiful, if that’s OK to say.”

I said, “it’s more than OK.” It was bullshit, but I needed to hear it. Danny put his arm around my waist and smiled. “Thank you, Bruce.”

“Ellen said to tell you that she loved the article.” Since Florida, Jillian had kept to her word. She had gotten me jobs, non-paying but jobs nonetheless, writing articles for various on-line papers including the latest in Huffington Post on voter suppression in Ohio. “I read it, too. It was great.”

Danny said I blushed when I said, “Thank you. It wasn’t too dry?”

He laughed, “No, it was just dry enough. Besides, who wants a wet article?” I rolled my eyes and he said, “ba-dum dum. Seriously, it was terrific.” He looked at the clock on his desk. “Ah shit, I have to get downstairs. Let me practice my smile on you two.” He pasted on a game show host smile. “Too fake?”

“Just fake enough,” I said, with a smile.

He gave me another kiss and turned to Dan, “you’re lucky I like her.” Then he turned to me, “call Ellen and make plans for dinner.” I was responsible for dinner plans now. And birthday presents. And ordering groceries. “I’ll see you downstairs. Take care of Bruce in there.” I looked at him and stuck out my tongue. “Hey, Bruce is a great name. Bruce Lee. Bruce Springsteen. Jack Bruce.” Danny looked confused, so Bruce said, “the bassist from Cream. God, I’m old.” And he left us, singing, ‘Sunshine of Your Love,’ as he walked away.

The rest of the open house went well. We went downstairs and ‘kissed the ring.’ Everyone told me what a great job Danny was doing, which made me feel proud. I had really learned to feel proud without qualification. He was respected at work. He worked hard and they respected him, which is what he wanted. What I wanted. I couldn’t help but notice how, whenever we talked to someone, he let go of my hand and put his hand around my waist. He also answered questions that were directed to me, stopping only if I smiled sweetly and said, ‘Danny…’

I went back to the office after an hour and a half and went into Mike’s office. “Sorry about that.”

He smiled, “Relax, Jessica. It’s fine. We survived in your absence,” which stung a little. Between that and the garbage cases I had been assigned lately, I began to wonder if that was the plan. I smiled weakly and said, ‘thanks.’ Then, I worked until 8:30, making sure not to leave until everyone else did. I wasn’t going down without a fight.

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Laura and I were meeting on the Upper East Side, near her place. I needed a dress and, given the UES’ reputation as the suburbs in the city, there were a lot of maternity stores. I had asked her to meet me at Barnes & Noble Bookstore on 86th and Lex, so I could buy a couple of books for the trip.

Before I left, Danny said, “not too many, please. And no hardcovers.”

“Why?” I said, giving him a kiss on the nose.

I knew the answer. “Because I’m going to be carrying them.”

“You don’t have to,” I said, as flirtatiously as I could. I didn’t feel flirtatious. I felt bloated and edgy and concerned about my future.

“Please,” he scoffed. “Paperbacks, please.”

I was standing in Barnes and Noble looking at books, when a guy, in his early 30s came over. He had dark curly hair and green eyes. He was wearing a Michigan hoodie and jeans, the requisite uniform of the Upper East Side. He was cute, not gorgeous but cute. “Hero of the Boer War. The Orphan Master’s Son. Knockemstiff. Interesting choices…”

I smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Interesting? How so?” I brushed my hair off my face.

He smiled. “Maybe that was the wrong word. Unusual. I mean, most women…”

I held up, ‘Hero of the Boer War,’ a biography of young Churchill in the Boer War. I pointed to the author’s name - Candice Millard. “Candice,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that that’s a woman’s name. Not all of us read books with high heels on the cover.” I had tried. I thought that maybe I’d like them now. I didn’t. Crap is still crap.

He smiled. He had a terrific smile that made his eyes light up. ‘OK, Jess,’ I thought. ‘You are very pregnant. And very married.’ “You win,” he said. “Knockemstiff is excellent by the way. Have you read...”

“Devil All the Time? The Heavenly Table? I loved them both….”

“I stand corrected. Surprised, pleasantly surprised but corrected,” he said, smiling that smile again. He picked up the last book in my pile. “‘The End of Men?’ Uh oh..”

I looked down at my feet and then at him. “It’s not like that, at all…”

He laughed. “I’m just teasing. I’m Mark,” he said, offering his hand.

“Jessica,” I said. “Nice to meet you.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Laura standing about fifteen feet away. She had a huge smile on her face and was rubbing one finger on the other, in the universal, ‘tsk tsk’ gesture. “I apologize but I see my sister over there.”

“Well, don’t let me keep you,” he said. “Very nice to meet you.”

I smiled and said, “Nice to meet you too,” and I brushed my hair out of my face. It felt like it kept falling in my face.

As he walked away, he handed me a book. “You should read this,” he said. “It’s terrific. Exciting but smart.” I looked at the cover. ‘Danelaw.’ The blurbs read, ‘A taut psychological thriller,’ and ‘this year’s, ‘The Girl on the Train.’ ‘Eh,’ I thought. ‘Well, if I don’t like it, maybe Danny will.’ I walked over to Laura, who had a huge grin. “What?”

“Jess likes a boy,” she sang. “Jess likes a boy…”

“Yes, Jess likes a boy. Her husband.”

“Oh, please. You were totally flirting with that guy.”

“No, I wasn’t.” She started pushing her hair behind her ear. She smiled and then looked down then up. Oh god, I had been flirting. “Oh god…”

Then she took ‘Danelaw,’ off my pile. “Is this the book he picked?” I felt mortified and nodded. “Ohmigod, is he going to make you a CD too?”

“Stop it. Anyway, hello?” I said, pointing at my stomach. “He clearly wasn’t interested in me. Not like that anyway.”

“I don’t know. From where I stood….you look really good, by the way.”

“Yeah, well, anyway, I’m married, remember?”

“I know. But I bet it felt really good.” It did. I was embarrassed to say it, but it made feel better about myself. If nothing else, I was apparently attractive. “So, anyway, what’s going on with Tuck and Sam this week?” Sam was a boy in Tucker’s pre-school. Apparently, they had a fight and Tuck pushed Sam down, which necessitated all the parents coming in to discuss ‘how to handle things better in the future.’

“Eh, it’s fine. We had this whole meeting to find out that….they’re three year olds.” A woman with a little girl waved at us and came over. She was about 35, with brown hair, muddy brown eyes and the sort of toned body that came from way too many hours in the gym. I used to have that body. She was wearing a ‘Soul Cycle’ shirt, Alo yoga pants and the same pair of Adidas Superstar sneakers that every other woman on the UES had. The kind she’d throw away, still pristine, in two weeks when they stopped being hip.

“Tina,” Laura said, giving her a kiss. “Hi, Penelope.” Penelope smiled and hid behind her mother. “Penelope and Tucker go to preschool together. Tina, this is my little sister Jessica. Jessica, Tina Blackwood.”

“Hi,” I said, sticking out my hand. “Jessica Silverman.” She looked me up and down while she shook my hand. I was glad that I dressed up a little. I had worn jeans, a blue sweater and booties. I had debated wearing a skirt, but after yesterday, it felt too open. I bent down, “Hi Penelope. I’m Tucker’s aunt.” She kept hiding. Whatever, I thought. I can’t stay down here too long anyway.

“So how far along are you?” When you’re pregnant, this is the standard greeting, especially from other mothers. No ‘hello,’ just straight to the point.

“Twenty-five weeks,” I said. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Laura keep a fake smile on her face. If you didn’t know her, it looked real. I knew it wasn’t. The left side of her mouth was slightly lower. It was her tell.

“You look terrific,” she said, by rote. “How are you feeling?” I gave her the quick once-over. She didn’t care and would probably tell all the other mothers whatever I said, so I went with, ‘Fine. The usual.’

“That’s great,” she said. “Is everything OK with Tucker? I heard what happened.”

Penelope piped in, “Tucker hit Sammy!” She smiled and said, ‘shhh, honey.”

“It’s fine,” Laura said. “Boys…”

Tina gave her a tight smile. “Hm. Well, we have to get Penelope’s art class. Very nice to meet you, Jessica. See you at school, Laura.”

As she left, Laura said, “Bitch. She’s probably already texting her crew to tell them how I looked like shit.” She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I didn’t see what the big deal was, it was the weekend and we were just going shopping. But I knew enough to know that a woman who bought her yoga pants at Bergdorf Goodman and not Lululemon or the Gap would say something.

‘Whatever. Her husband’s probably cheating on her now,” I said, in some sort of effort to make Laura feel better.

It didn’t really work. “Seriously, whatever. I don’t want to deal with her today. Let’s go find you a dress. So, who is this again?”

“Jill’s friend Carrie.”

She smiled a strange smile. “And she invited you why exactly?” I looked back at her. “I mean, it’s cool. I just can’t picture you going to Rachel’s party.”

I was annoyed. “This isn’t a mom and Evelyn thing, is it?” I couldn’t deal with that on top of everything else.

“No no no. Sorry. I just wanted to know.” And I explained how Emily sometimes came in with Sarah and how I think she felt like ‘she owed me one.’ All she said was, “Oh, OK.” I let it go because I had to.

“How was the reunion?” Laura and Jeremy had just gone to her 20th high school reunion.

“It was good. Weird to see everyone, y’know. Jamie DiGuardia got really fat.” Jamie was one of those half-skanky girls who was gorgeous - dark hair, dark eyes, great body - in a scary way. If the wrong guy, which is to say any of the jocks or dorks, looked at her, she’d growl, “what?” in a way that drove you away. She and Laura had been friends in junior high until Jamie suddenly developed at which point she abandoned her. Laura was crushed, from what I could recall, but my parents were not disappointed, to say the least.

I laughed, “I could see that. She always struck me as the kind of girl who got by on metabolism.” Jesus, I was a bitch.

Laura looked at me and said, “meow?”

“Sorry, that came out the wrong way. I meant,” and she smirked, “forget it. Who else did you see?”

“Caryn Zweig.” Caryn was the bane of Laura’s existence. She had picked on her from first through twelfth grade. I remembered how, in eighth grade, Laura went to make plans with her friends to go to the mall and they all came up with an excuse. My mom took us to the mall and we saw Caryn standing there with all of Laura’s friends. Before Laura could cry, my mom said, ‘we’re going to Garden State,’ another, bigger and better mall. Laura cried the whole way there. I was just happy we were getting to go there; cut me some slack, I was in fourth grade.

“How was that?” I braced for the worst.

She smiled. “Really really weird. She was all friendly, like ‘oh, you work in midtown. So do I. We should totally get lunch. You look great.’ It took me like ten minutes to accept that she wasn’t going to run back and make fun of me.”

I almost asked what she looked like now, but realized that that would make me sound even cattier. However on edge I was, I didn’t want to go over it. “That’s great. I mean, it has been twenty years but still that’s great.”

We walked up to Madison, talking. Even all these years later, there were times it still felt strange to be walking with Laura, talking and window shopping.

We walked past a boutique on Madison and in the window was a blue dress that fell mid-thigh. It had lace sleeves. I was imagining myself in it and wondering if I’d ever be able to wear it again. “God, I love that dress,” I said.

Laura looked at it. “That is pretty. Want to see if they have it in your size?”

“Please. Size whale?”

“Jess,” she said, taking my hand. “What’s wrong? When did you get so down on yourself? That’s my job.”

“Being down on yourself, or on me?” I smiled.

“Serious. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Work.”

“Mom says you’ve been working too hard.”

“I don’t like you two talking about me,” I said. She thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. “Besides, it’s not that. It’s like I feel like they’re trying to push me out. They’re giving me the shit cases and, when I was going to Danny’s thing yesterday, I told Mike that it wouldn’t take long and he said, ‘take your time.’”

She smiled. “Maybe he just meant don’t stress yourself?”

“Law firms don’t work that way.”

She said, “Oh, I forgot. Law firms are like this whole other planet, us mere non-lawyers don’t understand. Up is down. Black is white. Take your time means you’re fired. Laws don’t apply there. For every action, there is not an equal and opposite reaction. Not in law firm world.”

In spite of myself, I laughed. “Shut up. I’m just scared. Feel better? I’ve worked really hard and I’m scared, OK?” I started to cry. Not tear up. Cry. “I’m really scared. I’m feeling like, I can’t explain it,” and I just bawled. People were staring at me.

Laura hugged me, tight. “Shhh, Jessica. It’s going to be OK. You’re going to be OK. You can be scared. It’s OK.”

I sniffled into her shoulder. “Are people staring?”

“Who fucking cares? You poor thing. I had no idea,” and she steered me to a bench in front of a store. I stared at the ground and she put her hand under my chin and pushed up. “What’s wrong, Jess?”

“Mom does that…the thing with her hand under my chin.”

She smiled, “If you want me to help, don’t tell me I’m like mom.”

I smiled, “Sorry. Sorry to get snot on your sweatshirt.”

“Stop it, Jessie. Tell me what’s wrong, for real.”

“It’s going to sound weird.”

“So? You’re my little sister. You used to think the people lived in the TV. Little midget people.”

“Shut up. No, I didn’t. And if I did, I was like four.”

“Yeah, well, what’s weird?”

“I feel like my whole world is upside down. Like I spent the first thirty-three years of my life doing one thing and now it’s like totally something else and I won’t be able to deal with it.” She was looking at me now. “OK, see, it’s weird. You’re totally looking at me like I’m a freak. I’m sorry that I said anything. Forget about it.”

“No. I wasn’t looking at you. I mean keep explaining. It’s not weird. I just want to understand.”

I tried to figure out how to articulate so that I didn’t end up in a room wearing shoes without laces and a bathrobe without a belt. “OK, it feels like I’m not who I was. That before I was,” and here I stumbled to find the right words, “one person. I mean I was the same person but different. I mean, I was married to Dan,” or Jess, as the case may be, “and he was married to me and we did our jobs, but it was different. I wasn’t this other thing. People didn’t see me as a woman…”

She laughed, “Uh, I hate to break this to you…”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean, it’s like no one sees me anymore. They see my body, my belly, that’s it. It’s like I went from being the subject of my sentence to the object.”

She smiled, “Subject and object? Will this be on the test?” I thought of Ms. Brunello, my fourth grade teacher, making us diagram sentences.

“I’m serious,” and I went from starting to cry to agitated. “It’s like before I was a person. I worked. I ran. I did things...and now it’s just….”

“I’m pregnant. I’m having a baby. How is the baby? How do you feel?”

“I know. It sounds ridiculous.”

She gave a short grunting laugh. “Not really. I totally get it. When I was pregnant with Tucker, that was the topic of conversation. Even at work. Even my office.” Laura was in public relations. Her whole firm was women, other than the errant gay man.

“Yeah, well, I just feel like…”

“Everyone is putting you into a box?”

I let out a sigh of relief. “Yeah. That’s it. And I don’t want to be in the box.” She looked surprised. “I mean,” and I put my hand under my belly. “I do want to be in the box, but I don’t want to only be in the box,” and I started to cry again. “I’m afraid that I won’t be good at being in the box.” I had never said that out loud. I had been having nightmares lately. I had a nightmare that I had the baby and that it knew that I wasn’t always its mother. I mean I was, but it knew that I used to be Dan and Danny used to be me. And it spat out, ‘you’re not my mother. You’re a freak.’ I would wake up with a start and would try not to wake Danny. Instead, I would stare at the ceiling and silently cry for an hour, until I fell back asleep. “I can’t sleep because of it.”

I started bawling into Laura’s shoulder again. “Jess, ohmigod, how long has this been bothering you?”

I sobbed. “I don’t know. A few weeks. Month or so? I don’t know.”

“And you haven’t said anything? To anyone” I shook my head ‘no’, rubbing more snot onto her sweatshirt. I mumbled, ‘sorry.’ “Stop apologizing. You poor poor thing.” She meant it to be comforting, but it just made me feel more weak. “You have to stop beating yourself up. You are going to be great. You are going to the best mommy ever. Everyone knows that.”

“I’m scared. And I’m scared about my job. I’ve worked really hard.”

She looked me in the eye. “And they know that. And if they don’t know that, someone else will.”

“Don’t tell me I’ll be fine…”

“I’m not mom,” she said, with a half-humorous, half-annoyed tone. “But you will be. You will make partner. There or somewhere else. And you’ll be a great mom. I saw the pictures of you and Sebastian and Charlotte on Facebook. You’re going to be great, Jess. But, you have to stop beating yourself up, OK?” I nodded and wiped away my tears. “And the next time something’s bothering you, call me. Call Jill. Call someone. But, you can’t keep things in. It’s not good for you.” Then she paused. “Mom told me she told you about Uncle Richie.”

“You knew about him?”

“Sorta kinda. I mean, I knew he died and I knew it was lymphoma.” I was staring at her, so she said, “she told me about him when I was pregnant.”

I laughed. “What is that, her go to story for pregnant women? ‘Hey, I know you’re freaking out about everything….’”

She finished the sentence. “How about I tell you about your uncle? Your dead uncle. Who died when he was just your age?” We both laughed a lot, then she said, “but she never told me he was like you.”

“Yeah, well, how do you say that? ‘Oh, by the way, he reminds me of your sister.’”

“Yeah, well, guess what? She may be grandma, but I’m not going to be her. I’m not going to let you just tell me everything is OK when it isn’t. I’m serious. I don’t care about my sister the partner. I care about my little sister, my little sister.” I started to cry again and she held me. “Jesus,” she said.

I smiled, “Stupid hormones. Thanks.”

“That’s why I’m here.” She smiled, “Is daddy still doing the food thing?”

“It’s cute,” I said, laughing and grateful to be doing so.

“It’s nauseating,” she said. “I mean you think he’d at least make an effort not to show you’re his favorite….”

“That’s not true,” I said. “He loves us both the same.”

She laughed. “Yeah, you keep believing that. Are you OK now?”

“I’m as OK as I’m going to be.” I looked at the store window. “I really do love that dress.”

She laughed. “Who’d a thunk it? My little tomboy sister would like lace so much.”

I started to think about everything again and stopped. I was still me. I liked lace now, but I was still me. So, I just said, “people change. Think I’ll ever be able to wear that dress again?”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s better. There’s my neurotic little sister. Yes. I lost the weight. Sammie lost the weight. Michelle lost the weight. You’ll lose it. I’ll give you the jog stroller. You’ll take my nephew for a run.”

I looked at her. “What makes you so sure it’s a nephew?”

“You’re carrying all in front. From behind, I couldn’t tell you were pregnant. That’s how I was with Tuck, remember?” I didn’t remember. I remembered her being pregnant and yelling at Jeremy. Now I felt bad. She was paying attention to me and I didn’t really care when it was her.

So I lied. “So now you’re grandma Rosie?”

She shrugged, “Better than mom.”

We came to the first maternity store of three in a two block stretch.

The saleswoman came over, “Hi! How are you doing today? How far along are you?”

I smiled, figuring this was the one place where the question was sort of appropriate. “Fine. Five and a half months.”

“Well, congratulations!” I wondered if she spoke in exclamation points all the time. Like, ‘yes, honey, I would like Mexican tonight!!!’ or ‘where is the dry cleaning!!!’ “What brings you here today?”

I’m going out for a night of drinking and debauchery. “I need a dress for a holiday party.”

“How fancy?” I smiled, thinking how Danny wasn’t even thinking about how dressy it was. He’d wear a jacket, pants and a button down shirt. I didn’t miss that. I liked being pretty and feminine, especially now, when I mostly felt bloated and nervous. I just had to smile at the change in circumstances.

“I don’t know. I mean it’s a friend’s party, not a work thing. But, it is Saturday night and it is in Chappaqua, so I mean it’s probably going to be pretty nice. And her friends have money, not that I count it. So,” and I started to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Laura said.

Well, your former little brother is now parsing what dress, what maternity dress, to wear to a party, that’s what. And he’s, I mean she’s, nervous and excited about it. “Nothing, just thinking of something. Pregnancy brain,” I said, with a smile. That placated her. “Dressy, not too dressy. Plus, I’m going to Spain next week, so if it can do double duty, that would be terrific.”

The clerk led us over to the rack. “What are you thinking?”

“I don’t know,” I said, looking at a mix of black and colored dresses. “You never can go wrong with black, it’s very slimming,” which got a laugh, “but I could use some color.”

The saleswoman smiled. “Well, let’s see. What size were you?” Maternity stores all measured you by what size you were before, which made sense but felt cruel. Like ‘you used to be a six. Used to be.’ I said, ‘six,’ and she looked on the rack and said, “what do you think of this?” She held up a pale mauve dress that came to a couple of inches above the knee. It had sheer shoulders with beading on them and short sleeves.

Laura said, “oooh, that’s really pretty, Jess. Try it on.”

I went into the dressing room and put it on. I looked at myself in the mirror. It was soft, it was feminine and it showed off my shoulders. One of the few saving graces of swimming for exercise was that my arms and shoulders were still toned. It had a peek-a-boo back. It tied at what used to be my waist and showed off Thumper.

I came out and said, ‘how do I look?”

Laura said, “oooh, you look so beautiful. I’m so jealous.”

I teased her. “You could have another one. Then you can borrow it.” She stuck out her tongue at me. “Let’s put this one aside,” I said. “Can I see that black one?” It was a black dress with long lace bell sleeves. I tried it on.

“You look like a pregnant Morticia.” She turned to the saleswoman, who looked horrified, and just said, “she’s my sister. Someone has to say it.” Then she stuck out her tongue and said, “that’ll teach you to say I should have another one. Barbara.”

I tried on a third dress. It was blue, knee length with lace sleeves. It didn’t have a tie which I liked. I was happy to be pregnant and was proud of my bump. I just didn’t know why I was supposed to draw attention to it. It wasn’t as dressy as the mauve. I turned to the saleswoman and Laura. “What do you think?”

“I like the mauve,” said Laura. “It looks gorgeous on you.”

“What if it’s too dressy?”

“I guess. I mean it’s not too dressy, but the other one…”

The saleswoman chimed in, “you could totally accessorize the other one and make it dressy.”

I started to think, ‘well, I have the Tiffany heart, which I love. But, it doesn’t really dress it up. Do pearls go with this?’ I started to laugh to myself. This was me now. I was going to text Jill, but decided to not live my life by committee. Or at least only by small committee. I went with the mauve.

Laura and I had lunch and just chatted. She told me more about the preschool moms. “I mean, I work for a living. Sorry, Jeremy’s not at Goldman Sachs like her husband…”

I decided to lighten the mood. “He’s having an affair right now...with the nanny.”

Laura laughed. “I’ve seen the nanny. She’s like 55, two hundred pounds and from Trinidad. Or maybe Barbados. Or one of those places.”

I smiled. “Exactly. Right now, while Tina and Penelope are at whatever class, he’s bending the nanny over the couch, pumping away…”

She started laughing and covering her mouth, so as not to make too much noise. “Ohmigod, Jess, you are disgusting. Now I won’t be able to look at the nanny….”

I kept going, “And then she’s going to come home. ‘Is that a CUM STAIN on the rug? How do you expect to get a CUM STAIN out of our Persian rug? I simply do not understand this. And then she turns to the nanny, ‘this is coming out of YOUR pay!’”

Laura was giggling so hard, tears were coming out. “You are so disgusting, Jess.” I just smiled.

I walked back with her to her place, holding the dress. “Thanks, Laura.”

“Promise me you’re going to call when something’s bothering you.”

“I will.”

“Promise. Say ‘I promise.’”

“I promise. Thanks.”

“Stop,” she said, hugging me. “I’m your older sister. That’s what I do.”

“I love you, Lolo.” She smiled. I hadn’t called her ‘Lolo’ since I was a baby and couldn’t pronounce ‘Laura.’

“I love you too, Teddie.”

----------------------------------
Friday December 22 - Thumper was as big as kale. I could work with kale. It was dirty, it was sour (thanks, heartburn) but, in the end, it was good for you.

The day had not started off well.

It was 45 degrees and raining, fat intermittent drops.

The train was crowded and we were all crammed in. There were no available seats. I looked down to see a man sitting with his legs spread, pushing the woman next to him against the arm at the end of the row. He just looked at me, like,‘’you chose to be pregnant.’ A woman sitting with her toddler in a stroller looked with tired eyes at me and said, ‘you want?’ I smiled and shook my head. She looked at the guy and mumbled, ‘cabron.’ Asshole.

To add insult to injury, I felt a hand grab my ass. This was not the first time this had happened. As Jessa, I had become inured to the ‘misplaced’ hand and the ‘mistaken’ grab on the train. I hated it and, more importantly, hated that there was little I could do but try and move away. I fantasized about kicking someone in the groin and screaming but knew that, on a train, I was trapped and couldn’t do anything. If we were at a station, I could knee someone and try and run but, with each passing day, that wasn’t an option. Today, however, was something different. I turned around, so that my belly was visible, looked down at it and then glared at him. The bastard just grinned at me and got off at the next stop.

Then, I got to work and walked past the coffee maker. In the past twenty-six weeks, my sense of smell had become acute. Which was great because, for the first three months, I was constantly nauseous. While the nausea had passed, the sense of smell remained and today I was greeted by the smell of coffee. Rich French Roast coffee - coffee I couldn’t have. I sighed and went to work.

It was 11:00 AM. I was in my office, working on a brief, when Mike knocked on the door. "Busy?”

Uh oh. "Kinda."

He ignored me and sat down. "Mind if I sit?" I looked at him and smiled as if to say, 'not really a question, is it?'

"What's up?"

"How are you doing?" he said, looking around.

"Fine," I said slowly.

"So where are you going again?" He picked up my stress ball and started throwing it up in the air.

"Madrid and Barcelona." I watched the ball go up and down, inexplicably transfixed.

"That's terrific. Pack warm clothes. It gets cold at night."

"Ok.... What's up?"

He looked at my bulletin board. I had the new sonogram up. "Is that the baby? Can I see it?" I handed it to him. "That is truly amazing. The detail. You can really see little Michael's face."

"Ha ha. What's up?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing," he said, throwing the ball up one last time and catching it backhanded.

"Huh? Something wrong with my work?"

"Not at all. But something's up lately. What's up?" He kept staring at the sonogram then me.

"Just trying to tie stuff up before I go." Will this be over soon, I thought? I have a lot to do and I don't want to waste too much time.

"I want you to relax while you're away." Now, I was nervous. My heartburn acted up and I tried to surreptitiously rest my hand on my stomach. It comforted me. I thought of Thumper and knew that, no matter what, I had him. Or her. I put my hand under my belly, which Mike couldn’t see because of the desk.

"Ok. I'll have my phone if anyone needs me. And I'll check emails every couple of hours."

"No you won't," he said. "I said relax, and," then he picked up my phone and mimed swiping through, "this is not relaxing. It's called a vacation. Go vacate."

"What if there's an emergency?"

"We’re not criminal lawyers. There’s no emergencies in real estate litigation the week between Christmas and New Year's?" He laughed. "Someone will handle it."

"I'm serious, Mike. I'm working on a lot."

He smiled, "I know. You've billed enough this year. And I want you to relax. You don’t realize it but this is the last relaxing trip you're going to have for years. After this, it's going to be 'how is the baby? Is the baby ok? Call your mom and make sure Mikey’s OK' then, 'no, I'm not buying more plastic crap. You have enough plastic crap.' Then, 'do I hear a party going on?'. This is you and Dan and just you two. Relax. See the sights. Eat some tapas. I'd say have some sangria but that's out, right? But relax. You can look at email once a day and unless it has a 911, you are not to respond." He looked at my eyes, "what's wrong, Jessica?"

"Nothing. "

"Seriously, what? I know that look. Maureen gives it to me all the time. You say nothing’s wrong, I say ‘OK’ and then six weeks later you bring it up. What’s wrong?"

I took a deep breath and thought about what Jodi said. I had spoken with Jodi about this. In her old life, ‘B.L. before Leo,’ she had been an employment attorney, representing management. When I told her what I was thinking, she said be forthright. Respectful but forthright. "What's going on, Mike? I've been getting the shit cases..."

"What?" He started squeezing the stress ball. Hard.

"You've been giving me third year cases to handle. Low grade condo suits. Anyone could do them."

"Anyone could," he said. "But did you notice the name on those cases?". I shrugged. They were various entities. "Ok, did you notice the address?" I looked at one file. It was a very well known address. "You know who's headquartered there," and he gave the name.

"Yeah. That still doesn't explain why you're giving me scut work.”

He let out some air. "All of those entities are owned by the same person. We are trying to steal that work away from Fried Frank. I didn't give it to you because it's scut work, Jessica. I gave it to you because I wanted it done right and efficiently, so they'd see how good we are."

I felt embarrassed. "Oh," was all I could mumble.

"What did you think?"

"I just thought.... I mean Lindsay."

"Lindsay was a fucking idiot, excuse me. You are not. What? You thought because I gave you these cases, I was trying to tell you something? When have I ever not told you something? I remember giving it to you after that Friesland case..." I just looked at my hands. He said, "look at me. You are not going anywhere. Even if you want to, you're not. You think I'm pushing you out because you're having a kid?". I looked at a spot on the wall behind him. "I'm serious."

"I just..."

"Jesus, Jessica. What the hell do you think of me? Have I ever treated you any differently than Jeff or Stephen or anyone?"

"No." I took the stress ball from him and started squeezing it, which made him laugh.

"And I'm not now. You are as valuable a member of this department as anyone, even Jeanine". He said that last part in a lower voice.

I laughed. "I'm telling."

"Then I will fire you. Seriously though, you are not going anywhere. I'm not letting you off that easily."

"Sorry, Mike."

"Don't be. But do me a favor. Two favors. Relax and next time, say something."

"Thanks, Mike.”

“Yeah, you’re welcome,” he said, looking at the sonogram one more time. “Damn, this is amazing,” and he left.

---------------------
Saturday December 23.

“Are you sure this is OK?” I said. We were in the car on the way to the party. I was wearing the dress with my Tiffany heart and flats. I put on heels but my legs started to really hurt. I played with the heart. It reminded me of Danny and made me feel loved. “It’s not too dressy?”

He smiled. “You look gorgeous, Jessa.” He was wearing, as predicted, a navy suit with a blue checked shirt and no tie. He looked really handsome.

“Really? You’re sure? It’s not too dressy? I won’t look ridiculous?” I kept having to adjust my bra straps. They were digging into my shoulders. I really needed to get refitted but didn’t want to deal yet, so I just adjusted constantly.

He laughed. “God, pregnancy has made you more neurotic. Which I didn’t think was possible.”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to look pretty for you,” I said, reaching over to his waist, opening the zipper and sticking my hand in. I felt bad. Sex had become more and more difficult and I felt guilty.

“Stop, Jessa.”

That was unexpected. “Seriously? I can’t believe you’re turning it down.”

He groaned, “I want it more than anything but I need to focus on the road, Jessa.” He touched my belly. “I need to keep you and Thump safe,” and he touched my belly.

“Fine,” I sighed.

We drove the rest of the way listening to the radio. I alternated touching my belly and flicking the visor up and down, until Danny put his hand on the visor and said, with a smile, “enough.” I started to look at my phone but the motion of the car gave me a headache - like everything else these days. I opened the window a crack and let the cool air blow over my face until we got to Rich and Carrie’s.

We walked up to the house and rang the bell. Carrie met us at the door. She was wearing a black v neck cocktail dress and heels. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks for coming. Ohmigod, Jess, you look gorgeous.” She kissed both of us.

“Stop, I look like a mauve oompa-loompa. This is for you,” I said, as I handed her a bottle of wine, and, “these are for Rich.”

“Oh god, you didn’t…” I had bought her husband Rich black and white cookies from Glaser’s, a bakery on the Upper East Side, near their old apartment. She yelled, “Rich, come here.”

As I saw him walking over, I said, “you said that he liked them and I just thought…”

“You and Jill. I swear. Dan, I love your wife,” which made him smile. “Rich,” she said, handing him the box.

He looked inside the box and grinned from ear to ear. “From Glaser’s? Oh wow….I’m putting these in the downstairs refrigerator.”

She rolled her eyes. “Child...what do you say? I swear to god he’s like Noah,” her eight year old.

He gave me a kiss. “Thank you Jessica.” He stuck his hand out, “Rich Fung, Dan. Good to meet you,” he said, “let’s leave these two,” and they walked off.

Carrie and I walked into the living room. I was on the dressier side, but not so dressy that I felt awkward. Jill was wearing a black dress and standing with their old preschool friends, Andrea and Elissa. I stopped for a second and pretended to get a drink. I watched the way they interacted. Andrea stood with her hip facing to whomever she was talking, with her shoulders tensed. Elissa was always standing with one foot back and Jill was Evelyn, although she’d never admit it. She had an open, welcoming stance, her arms hanging loosely by her sides but the look in her eyes told you that she was ready for whatever happened. Jill saw me and smiled, “Hey sis!” She gave me a kiss and brought me over.

Andrea and Elissa gave me the once over. Andrea was wearing a red v neck dress with three quarter sleeves and Elissa a pale blue shift, that complemented her coloring. They were all wearing heels which made me feel even more oompa-loompa like.

Andrea looked me up and down but, unlike the bat mitzvah, gave me a big smile. “Look at you. You look absolutely gorgeous. How are you feeling?”

I smiled and said, “Thank you for lying. Fine. The usual fun stuff.” They all laughed knowingly and she said, ‘ah, the fun stuff. How far along are you?’ “Twenty-six weeks.”

“Constipated yet?” Andrea asked.

I looked at all of them and they all looked perfectly fine with it so I said, “oh god, yes. I feel like…”

“You have your period times ten with the bloating?” Elissa said, laughing. “I hated that.”

“Ohmigod, yes. It is fucking killing me. That and the hemorrhoids,” I said, laughing.

Just then, Danny, Rich and Andrea’s husband Bryan walked in. Danny was holding a glass of scotch in one hand, and seltzer in the other.

“Hey, honey,” he said, handing me the seltzer. “I thought you might want a drink.” He leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks, honey,” I said.

“Bryan, you remember Jessica,” Andrea said, with a big smile. He clearly didn’t. “From the bat mitzvah? Jill’s sister-in-law?”

He smiled. “Oh yeah,” he said, looking through me. “I remember now.” I nervously smoothed my dress and wondered if the shoulders looked ok. I hoped my bra strap wasn’t showing. “Congrats, you two,” he said, mostly to Danny, who smiled and shook his hand.

Jill got up and punched Danny in the arm, then gave him a kiss. “I was wondering when you’d come over.” I looked at him towering over her and smiled.

“Did you really care?” he half-joked.

“No, but I still wondered.” She introduced him again to everybody and they all just looked him up and down with contempt, which I appreciated.

He laughed, held up his glass and said, “Very nice seeing you all again. Excuse me.” I watched him walk away, him to his room and me in mine.

Jill smiled and said, “1 to 10, how much do you want to kill him?”

I smiled, “3.” Then, I saw him come back in and take a piece of tuna sashimi from the table. No tuna for me - mercury. “Sorry, 4,” which got a laugh from the women. Then, he took a piece of brie. Not that either - might not be pasteurized.

“5?” Elissa said, as we watched Danny leave the table. “Anyway, enough about him. You look gorgeous. I love that dress.”

I smiled. “Thank you. Yours too. That is a great color.” It reminded me of the dress that Laura and I saw, the one I wondered whether it would ever fit me again. “Yours too, Andrea.”

She smiled. “Thank you. You really look amazing. You really are glowing.” I looked at Jill, who smiled and gave a slight shrug.

“So, how did Chloe’s concert go? How was the solo?” Sarah had told me how Chloe (Andrea’s daughter) had a solo on ‘Let It Snow’ at the school concert. I asked partly because I cared (Chloe had come in one more time and was better without an audience) and partly to keep her off guard.

It worked. “Uh, great. Thanks for asking.” I smiled and turned to Elissa. “How’s Matt,” her sixteen year old, “doing? How’s the driving coming along?” I didn’t mind Elissa actually, but figured I should be fair to all parties.

“Well, he’s driving Mark,” her husband, “crazy, thanks for asking,” she laughed. “He’s doing fine though. I’m not looking forward to him being behind the wheel. It’s funny. I remember him in one of those little mechanical cars in the mall and now....it goes fast.” I started to tear up, thinking of Thumper driving. I shook my head, realizing that he should probably leave my uterus before he got behind the wheel. She looked at me and smiled. “You have a while yet. But it goes fast, faster than you think.”

Andrea laughed, “The years and the months fly by, but you’re going to learn exactly how long twenty-four hours is.” Then, they started on college admissions. Matt was a sophomore in high school.

“So, where is he going to do his volunteer project?” Jill said. She turned to me. “You have to do a volunteer project now to get into a good school. It’s expected.” Oh, I thought.

“He’s thinking of doing two weeks in a village in Senegal. They have them put up solar arrays for power.”

“That’s terrific,” Andrea said. “Sherri Marks’ son did something like that. He dug wells in Ghana, and he just got into Amherst.” I smiled, wondering what the causal link was. Was he mediocre, but Amherst said, “well, he dug a well, so come on in?’ I sat and listened to them for a while, about the college admissions process and wondered what Thumper would have to do.

Elissa read my mind. She smiled and said, “By the time yours is ready, he’ll probably have to travel to space to get in,” which made me laugh. Which in turn made me sneeze. Which in turn made me pee. Apparently, Thumper was putting pressure on my internal organs - including my bladder.

“Damn it,” I said. “I snissed myself.” The Bump gave it the cute name of ‘snissing.’ On top of everything, I had to wear a panty liner all the time. Which went along with the dress shields in my bra to prevent leakage.

Elissa said, “Snissed?”

Jill said that I turned red. “I sneeze…” I said.

And Elissa smiled and sighed. “And then you pee yourself. Snissing. Real cute. After Lily, I had no bladder control for years.” She looked at me and said, ‘sorry.’ ‘Sisterhood forever,’ I thought.

I shrugged. “It’s not enough that I spent the first three months teaching myself to hold back my own hair when I puked…”

Jill smiled. “You get to leak like a sieve. Come on, I’ll show you where the bathroom is,” she said. I felt mortified, like a child being taken to clean herself up.

She showed me where the bathroom was and I said, “I’ll be fine. Go back to your friends. Maybe, I’ll get something to eat after.” I sat down, cleaned myself off and put a new pad in my panties.

I walked out of the bathroom and stopped for a second, thinking about everything. I wondered if all the leakage this was nature’s way of getting me ready to care for an infant. De-sensitizing me to bodily fluids.

I was just thinking when I heard Yoram say, “I said, ‘Ma shlomech ima?” It meant ‘How are you, mommy?’ I liked that.

I gave him a kiss. “Oh hi, Yoram. Sorry, I space sometimes.”

He laughed, “I went through it twice. Pregnancy brain, she called it. How are you doing? You eat yet? You should eat something.” I smiled and he took by the arm into the dining room. I looked at the buffet. I half-heartedly picked up some baby lamb chops and grilled vegetables; I knew those were safe.

He laughed, picking up some sashimi. “Tuna won’t kill you. In Israel, they eat whatever. And smoke. In the delivery room. The doctors. ‘OK, here it comes,’ and then he mimed a doctor looking, then taking a drag off a cigarette and exhaling, ‘it’s a girl.’”

I laughed. “Don’t make me laugh, Yoram.”

He smiled. “Sorry. So how are you doing?”

“I’m doing,” I said, with a smile. Yoram brought out the fatalist in me. “How about you? Did the kids get off OK?” Jill had to grade end of semester exams, so she sent Sarah and Yoni to Florida for the week earlier that day.

“Fine,” he sighed.

He didn’t say that he was worried, but I knew he was. I was worried too, but I wouldn’t let on. Instead, I said, with what I hope he knew was sincerity. “I spoke to her honor and I laid down the law. I told her that I better not get any phone calls and she promised….”

He smiled, a sincere smile. “Thanks, Jess,” he said, taking me by the arm. “I’m not looking forward to it, you know.”

“I told you. I spoke to her. And I told Sarah to call me if she starts with her.” I was going to be in Spain. Any calls would be on a delay but he didn’t need to know that.

“I know. I know. You really think it’ll be OK?” He was never worried. He wasn’t naive about what went on. He just never worried.

“They have to survive driving with Marty…” which made him laugh. “Nah, I think so. She knows better now and Sarah knows better.”

He gave me another kiss. “Thank you, Jessica. For everything.”

I smiled and just said, “Please.” I looked toward the family room where I saw Danny in conversation. “How’s he doing in there?”

He smiled. “Why are you worried about him? He’s doing fine. When I left, they were talking about golf…”

I smiled, “Your favorite topic, I know.” He mimed pointing a gun at his head and pulling the trigger.

He said, “It’s fine. He’s fine. They all talk the same language. How about you? How’s Andrea?” He had a devilish grin.

I swatted him. “Stop. She’s my new best friend.”

He looked at the women and smiled. “I’m sure.”

“The college stuff is giving me a headache though. This one is going to Ghana to dig wells. This one is going to Senegal to put in solar arrays....”

“Ma’azeh (what) solar arrays in Senegal?” Clearly, whatever the men were talking about, it wasn’t this.

I smiled. “Elissa’s son Matt. That’s his project.”

“I don’t know. We all went to the army and came out. I think I did OK for myself.”

“Imagine what you would have done had you gone to Ghana.” I lowered my voice, “is it just me or is it all bullshit. Like I want to ask a college admissions counselor if they actually believe this shit…” He laughed. I continued, “you want to impress me? Go raise money so someone who knows how to dig a well can dig a well. Or study hydrology, so you’re not in the way when you go to dig your well. Better yet, go help some poor people in the Bronx.”

He smiled and, in a low voice, said. “Brown people there, good. Brown people here, not so much.” I started to giggle and clenched my vagina, which was surprisingly difficult, but the crisis was averted. “You know what the sad part is?” I smiled, and he said “you’ll do it and I’ll do it.” The sad part was he was right. “Anyway, we should probably get back.” He gave me another kiss. “I’m glad you’re here.”

----------------
We had an early flight on the 24th. I wanted to get to Madrid as early in the day as possible.

The alarm rang at 5:15. “Fuuuuck,” Danny said.

I gave him a peck on the cheek. “You can sleep for another fifteen minutes, at least. I’ll get ready first.” He pulled the pillow over his face and I went to shower. I stood in the shower, letting the water run over me while I talked to the baby, in a high-pitched sing-song voice. ‘Hey, Thump. Guess where you’re going today? Spain. Vamos a España. We are going to Spain. We are going to have so much fun. You and me and daddy. I am very excited….” I felt Danny staring at me. “What?”

He smiled. “Nothing. I just love watching you…”

I smiled, “Perv.”

“Not even close,” he said, wrapping my towel around me as I got out and giving me a hug from behind. “You are going to be the best mommy.” I smiled, holding back my thoughts. We were going to have a babymoon. A relaxing, romantic babymoon. Without my neuroses.

I put on a blue dress with black horizontal stripes, and black tights. For some reason, maternity clothes tended to horizontal stripes, which made me laugh. I’m not fat enough? You need to make look fatter? I took a selfie in the mirror. I went to post it to Facebook with the caption ‘babymoon’ with little baby emojis and smileys and stopped. I was a woman, not a fourteen-year old girl. Instead, I went with “Off to Spain. My belly arrives at 3. I get there at 4.”

Danny came up behind me, put his hands under my belly and said, “Look at you, all dressed up.”

“Stop,” I said, turning to my arms on his shoulders and kiss him. “I wanted to look pretty. To feel pretty.” I needed to feel pretty. Otherwise, I’d feel bloated. I hadn’t flown pregnant and could only imagine what that would do to my system.

He kissed me. “You’re beautiful. I love you, Jessa. Are you ready?” I smiled. “Paperbacks, right?” I smiled.

We took a cab to the airport, holding each other’s hands. Mercifully, the security line was short and I didn’t have to go through the x-ray machine. We were walking through the terminal when Danny stopped at the first class lounge.

“Um, honey, you have to have first class tickets…” He smiled and showed his phone to the guard, who waved us through. “Danny? What’s up?”

He smiled and said, “Thank Bruce. He gave us some of his miles. Between his and mine, here we are. Water? Juice? Muffin?”

“Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve thanked him.”

“He wanted it to be a surprise for you.” He opened his arms wide. “Surprise!”

I started to cry. Stupid hormones. “Well, I have to thank him,” I said, taking out my phone.

He put his hand over mine. “No phone. Relax. Doctor’s orders.”

I smiled, “What doctor?”

“Doctor me.” Which was cute. I expected something like ‘Dr. Love.’

-----

Our hotel was in the Barceloneta district of Barcelona. Near the beach, and pretty central. Just walking distance from the train station where we arrived. Given Thumper, I didn’t want to do much walking.

We arrived at night, having taken a train from Madrid. The receptionist, who was a tired looking Eastern European woman, greeted us as we entered. I let Danny do the talking. I should have practiced my Spanish, as I rarely had the chance to speak, but I was tired. Instead I looked around. The hotel was originally built in the late nineteenth century (I’d been online and checked) and the style owed a lot to Art Nouveau. I’d been reading about the Catalan Renaixença and Modernisme and was eager to learn more. In the center of the foyer was a metal cage for the elevator. The cage was made out of iron, welded into a beautiful pattern resembling the leafs of flowers.

After we got the keys, I watched Danny wrestle to get the thing down. The receptionist had to come over and explain the trick. By the time it reached us Danny didn’t look too happy.

As the elevator went up I rested my head on his shoulder, hoping to show I appreciated his effort.

He sighed, “You couldn’t book a regular hotel?”

I had booked the trip. I could have booked a Radisson or a Hilton, which would have been cheaper and more modern, but I wanted this trip to be special. I wanted to stay in a classic old world European hotel. I hadn’t planned on the elevator though. “I thought this would be more romantic,” I smiled, looking into his eyes. Which proceeded to roll like slot machines.

The corridors were mostly quiet. In fact, we didn’t see anyone until we reached our room. Two women, one tall, with long hair and bangs, the other with short hair dyed red. They smiled and nodded at us as they opened their door. Danny was struggling with the key in the lock, so the taller woman leaned over and showed him how you needed to turn the handle at the same time.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile, although I could tell he was frustrated.

“Not a problem,” she smiled back, and then was gone. Just strangers passing in the night.

The room made up for the lack of service. It was beautiful, and decorated in the same Art Nouveau theme as the rest of the hotel. By the look of it, they were original features. Danny didn’t seem to see any of it and simply flopped on the bed, turning the widescreen TV on in an almost seamless movement.

“You OK?”

“Sure, sorry. I just need ten minutes.”

I lay down next to him nuzzling myself against his side. Not so easy these days with Thumper getting in between us. I felt his arm coming around me. I was only half watching the TV, just enough to notice he’d settled on a woman’s soccer match.

“Who’s playing?” I whispered.

Danny leaned forward, squinting, “ENG verses ESP, I’m guessing England vs Spain.”

I drifted off after that. I half remember Danny getting me undressed and into bed. The next thing I remembered was waking up to the sun coming in through the window. The clock by the bed said 6:46am, so I just rolled back asleep.

By the time we got up, the hotel was busy. A new receptionist, this time a young Spanish woman, greeted us as we came out of the elevator. Danny went to get some tourist information while I sat and people watched. I was surprised by how full the hotel was. Most seemed to be young Europeans and I spent a happy ten minutes trying to guess what country they were from. I half glanced down at the papers on the table, all were European, I didn’t see any American ones. There was a large picture of Trump on the front of most of them. I flipped the ones at the top over. This was a vacation, I didn’t want to know.

Danny came and sat next to me, “We’ve got a table in the restaurant. It’ll be about ten minutes.” His demeanor had completely changed from the night before.

The couple from the night before walked into the restaurant. “Do you mind if I take that one,” the taller one said, pointing to the Guardian, “I want to read about the football.” I hadn’t noticed her British accent the night before.

“Be my guest,” I said. The shorter one smiled at me, her eyes looking me up and down and, for a brief but noticeable second, alighting on my stomach. I smiled back, having become used to it, and she looked away.

Danny smiled, “I watched the game against Spain yesterday. Your women did well,” he said, putting his arm around me. “Do you know Barcelona?”

“I studied here, why?”

“Anything you’d recommend?” I was slightly annoyed, having planned what we were going to see. Then, I thought, ‘if she studied here.’ I wondered if he was enjoying being able to talk in English with someone other than me.

She smiled, “well, if you’re interested in football, go see Camp Nou, where FC Barcelona plays.” She took a piece of paper and pen and started writing one of those impossibly long European numbers. “You can do a tour…”

Her partner gave me a smile and a quick eye roll and said, “it has the best views. On a clear day you can see the sea in one direction, and the mountains in the other.”

The taller one smiled and continued, “if you’re in luck and they’re playing one of the midtable teams, you may be able to get tickets in the visitor’s section.”

“Thanks! Er…” I said.

“Oh, sorry, Liz,” I introduced the two of us and then she was off.

The rest of the day was busy. First we walked up Las Ramblas. I was disappointed as it seemed very touristy. Lots of stalls selling the sort of cheap crap that gets aimed at gullible American tourists. We had more luck with the Picasso Museum. Danny smiled, “in context, I totally get it,” he said. “Like the Warhol exhibit at the Tate. Sometimes, you just need to see the work together to get it.”

That led us into the narrow streets of the old medieval town. According to my Lonely Planet, Barcelona is split into three sections. There’s the old winding streets of the medieval city that makes up the most of the city center. Then there’s the grid system of the later, 19th century buildings, with its beautiful apartment buildings to the north. Then there’s the more modern city that surrounds that, which grew after the death of Franco.

We spent most of the day wandering, interspersed with sitting in cafes to give my feet a rest. I was glad we’d come in winter, I don’t know how I would have coped in the heat.

Sitting in a café overlooking one of the beaches, I put my feet up on one of the chairs. Without asking, Danny started massaging them.

“Oooo, that’s good.” I slipped down in my chair.

“How about the beach tomorrow?” he said, in a tone that went between pleading and commanding.

I looked up at the sky. Compared to New York, it wasn’t exactly wintery, but the sun was weak and the sky was equal parts blue and grey cloud. “I mean, it’s not exactly beach weather,” and I smiled thinking of Sarah’s bat mitzvah and ‘beach party chic,’ “but OK. We’ll take it easy.”

We were wandering around, slightly lost when we came across a little square near their main modern art gallery, the MACBA. Danny’s phone was struggling to get a signal so I pulled out the little tourist map the receptionist had given us. Two old women approached me. The first put her hand on my belly, while the second took my arm. I didn’t speak at first, I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I got that, for the most part, they were cooing over Thumper. By this point I was used to being manhandled as a pregnant woman, but this seemed to be invasive by any standards. I looked over at Danny who caught my eye.

As soon as they caught a look of him, they seemed to evaporate. It took me only a moment to realise something was up.

“Danny, my purse!” I yelled.

My ears started to ring. I could hear shouting. I remember two blond girls, Dutch I think, leading me over to a little seat. There was an older Spanish man talking angrily and before I realized it two cops were standing over me.

The next hour or so was a nightmare. The cops were friendly enough. They took mine and Danny’s statements. I just kept asking was about my passport. I wasn’t worried about the credit cards - they could be canceled and new ones sent; besides, Danny still had his wallet. I only had 50 euros. But, my passport was lost and I started to panic. Why had I taken my passport? How long would I be stuck? Would Thumper be born here? Did that mean he or she couldn’t be president? Would our health insurance cover me out here? It took Danny a while to calm me down.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted. The American consulate had been amazing. I’d have my replacement passport in the morning, but I still felt like something had gone wrong. Our babymoon was spoiled. Worse yet, I had read about these sorts of things and had still fallen for it. I had put Thumper in danger. We headed to our room and ordered up through room service then spent the next few hours mindlessly watching Spanish soaps and game shows.

Danny fell asleep around ten-ish but I couldn’t settle. The day’s events had set Thumper and he was taking his frustration out on my bladder. The image I had in my head was of a pinata. After the fifth trip to the toilet, I decided to go explore, hoping to calm both of us down.

I ended up in the bar where I ordered a club soda with lime, wishing I could have something stronger. There was a pianist in the corner playing old jazz numbers and, for the first time in hours, I could feel myself relaxing. Looking around the near empty bar, I spotted one familiar face.

“Hi Liz, would you mind me sitting down?” I felt bad when I noticed she she was reading.

“Hi, Jessica, isn’t it? Please do.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your reading.”

She looked at her book, “Don’t worry. ‘Homage to Catalonia.’ “I read it every time I’m here. And, so far, I was just staring at the page. Please sit, I need the company.”

For a few minutes, we both watched the pianist quietly.

“Off on your own tonight?” I asked, realizing it was relatively early.

“No, I just can’t sleep. Kate was out like a light, but I was just lying there. I thought these might help,” she held up her book in her right hand and a glass of whiskey in the left.

I laughed, “Well, at least I can still read,” then I patted my belly. She laughed as well. “Do you mind me asking what you’re doing in Barcelona? Come to see old haunts?”

She looked at me for a while, swirling around her drink, “Sort of,” she said, cryptically.

“Spy mission?” I joked. She gave me a quick, ‘heh’ and a look. “Everything OK?” I asked.

She took a sip from her glass, “can I trust you?” I nodded, hopefully looking concerned enough. Now, I really began to wonder. A complete stranger asks that and your mind wanders. OK, my mind wanders. “Please don’t tell anyone, but we are here for fertility treatment. Apparently Barcelona is the egg donor capital of the world.” I realized why Kate was looking at me.

I would never tell anyone. Besides who would I tell? I went with, “Well, I’m not sure if it applies here, but say, ‘should I get sued in New York?’”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “What?”

I smiled, “Just say it.”

“OK...should I get sued in New York?” I thought I saw her shift down the bar.

“No, you shouldn’t. Now, this is privileged.” She continued to stare at me. “Lawyer humor,” I said, weakly. “Anyway, egg donor capital? I mean my friend Michelle and her wife did IUI in the states last year. The baby’s two and a half months now, Sebastian. He’s adorable,” I babbled. I went to take out my phone and then thought, ‘oh, shit, I have to replace it.’ Then I remembered it was in the safe, where I promised Danny and Mike I’d leave it. “But, they needed the, uh, other stuff…”

She laughed, “Very delicately put. I’m transgender and Kate’s family has a genetic illness we don’t want to pass on.” She took a big sip of her whisky. The pianist had finished and we all clapped politely.

“I get it. We’re both Jewish, Eastern European. We had all these rounds of testing before and I still have to do it now. Apparently, generations of marrying in the tribe has deleterious effects. Who knew?” I laughed a little, she didn’t.

“Yes, well, this is a nasty one,” and she left it hanging there.

I sat thinking for a while, my hand resting on Thumper. “Would you mind if I asked you a question? It’s kind of personal...”

She laughed to herself. “We’ve covered personal, haven’t we?”

“When did you know you wanted to be a woman? I mean, did you always know?” She looked at me directly. She had good, clear skin, but you could see the stress lines around her eyes. “Sorry that was totally inappropriate. None of my business.”

She looked at me thoughtfully. “On some level, I always knew, but it took me a long time, and about four years of therapy to realize what it was I was feeling and then be able to articulate it.” Silence fell and I feared I’d gone too far. I started to wonder if I always knew too but hadn’t realized or acknowledged it. “The hardest bit was accepting that was what I wanted. We like to think we’ve evolved as a society but as the referendum...”

“Brexit?”

She shuddered, “Please don’t mention that word. The referendum and, other… er.... elections.” I didn’t need to think too hard, remembering what Michelle said when they started trying, how they wanted to be sure they could still do it. I debating saying something but she continued, “but we really haven’t. We all,” and she half-smiled, including me in her ‘we,’ “pay lip service to difference, but we don’t mean it. Male means power. Female means weak, different,” which made me think about the past few weeks, months. “I’m a suspect. I hear it, feel it all the time, even from so-called feminists. My choice,” she said, dripping with sarcasm, “makes no sense to them.” I could see she was getting a little agitated and put my hand on hers, to, I don’t know? Comfort her? Show solidarity? It seemed to work. She smiled and looked down at her empty glass, “Sorry. I’m going to get another drink. Will you keep me company? Make me look like less of an alcoholic?”

We sat at the bar for a while and listened to the music. We talked about work briefly, but mostly about ourselves and our partners.

“Tell Kate to get ready is all I have to say,” I said, to Liz’s laughter. “You don’t want to know all the gross stuff I go through regularly.”

She laughed, “I’ve heard.”

“Well, seeing is believing. I mean I hope you’ll see.” She gave me an indulgent smile. “I mean, even with all the gross stuff,” and I put my hand on my belly, “it’s truly amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” I wouldn’t. I had never articulated it but I wouldn’t. If we had never changed, I would never have known, but I was glad it was me. “Sorry.”

“For what?”

“For being such a girl about it.”

She smiled. “If you can’t be a girl about this…”
-------------------
We woke up and then went to the beach and walked along. Before we left the hotel, I went to a shop and bought the cheapest pocketbook that I could find, hoping that it would distract the thieves. I hated being on edge like that but facts were facts. I started to beat myself up mentally over falling for it when Danny smiled and said, “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t beat yourself up over yesterday. It could happen to anyone. They’re replacing your passport. You’ll get new credit cards. You lost what 50 euros? That’s like $60. It sucks but that’s like dinner at the diner. You’re safe, I’m safe, Thumper,” and he put his hand on my belly, “is safe. When we get old, you’ll have a story to tell at the pool - ‘I did not like Spain. We went when I was pregnant with Emma and they robbed me. A pregnant woman if you can believe that…”

I laughed. “Stop making me laugh. It makes me pee.”

He kissed me on the cheek. “You are so cute - ‘it makes me pee,’” he said, in a feeble attempt at a cutesy voice. “We’re great. We’re going to have a great time. Right?”

I smiled. “Yeah. We are.” I kicked off my sandals and he leaned over to pick them up. “Thanks.” I walked, the cold sand between my toes. I wanted to tell him about Kate and Liz but promised that I wouldn’t. Thumper was calm. I think the walking made him relaxed. I looked up at Danny and smiled. We rented two beach chairs and an umbrella and just sat, looking out at the Mediterranean and holding hands.

At one point, Danny said, “what’s it like?”

I looked up from my book, “the book? It’s fine.” I was reading ‘Hero of the Boer War.’ “History. Churchill. It’s good. You can read it when I’m done.”

“No, I meant being pregnant,” he said, intently studying the sea.

I laughed. “Glad to see you’ve been paying attention the past five and a half months. You’ve been to the appointments. You’ve seen me puke.”

He smiled, still focusing on the sea. “Is that it?”

I ran my finger up and down his palm. I wanted to put my head on his shoulder, but we were in separate chairs. Six months ago, I could’ve curled up in his lap and it would’ve been cute. Now, we’d be replacing a chair. “Is everything OK, Danny?”

The smile left his face. “I just wanted to know. What’s it like? What’s it like to be pregnant?”

I thought for a second, about how to articulate it. I didn’t know what he wanted to hear. I knew what I felt but something was up. I said, “it’s amazing, in every sense of the word.”

He turned to look at me and said, in a grave tone, “what do you mean?”

“I mean, you’ve seen the gross stuff so far. I don’t need to explain puking and snissing and leaking, do I?” He laughed and I continued, “but you’ve seen the sonograms too.” I took his hands in mine. “That’s ours. That’s our baby. You and me,” and I started to tear up.

He smiled, “What’s that like? For you, I mean. To have her wave the wand over your belly and know that’s part of you?”

I smiled. “Amazing. I would never have guessed it in a million years but it’s really amazing. Every day, I think about it. I wake up and I look at my belly and I think, ‘I’m having a baby.’ I kiss the sonogram good morning every morning at work, and think, ‘that little baby is in me, it’s me, I give it life.’” He was smiling but I could see the tears in his eyes. “Are you OK? Is this bothering you?”

His voice cracked a little and then he tried to regain composure. “No. I was just wondering. We spend so much time on the day to day and I never asked you. But I’m good,” he lied. He got off his chair and knelt in the sand, putting his hand on my belly. “You’re the mommy,” and he kissed my belly, then my lips.

“You sure?” I said, not really believing him.

“Positive,” he smiled, looking out at the sea again.

------------------
I woke up early the next day. We had plans to see Parc Guell. When I said that I had wanted to see Spain, in large part it was because of Gaudi. I had seen the pictures of Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia cathedral and I had to see them in person. When I was a kid, I liked drawing. I had half-entertained being an architect until, in 8th grade, we had to take aptitude tests. They had us put down our choices of careers. They were legendarily awful at predicting what you should be. They told my friend Jordan’s uncle, who was the CEO of a bank, that he should be a farmer. I put down architect as one of my choices and I swear the test came back - ‘look, we know we’re usually way off base on this, but we’re not here. You have no mechanical aptitude or spatial relations. At all. Please don’t be an architect. Please.’ Anyway, notwithstanding my lack of aptitude, I still loved architecture and Gaudi’s colors and fantastical swooping buildings were as much art as architecture. Form didn’t follow function and that was what I wanted. “I’m so excited,” I said, putting on my sneakers. I had decided to wear leggings, a sweatshirt, my down vest and my sneakers. I debated, not wanting to look like the ugly American tourist but, in the end, went with comfort - and varicose vein prevention. I knew the walking would put pressure on my legs and, while I wanted to be stylish and look European (or what I thought was European), I wanted to keep my legs more. “Are you excited?”

Danny smiled, putting on his jeans and sneakers. He was not concerned about fitting in. He had said, ‘we’re Americans, Jessa. It’s fairly obvious.’ He gave me a kiss. “Are you sure about this? I looked at it. It’s a pretty steep climb.”

I smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Are you scared you can’t keep up with me? I ran. I swim. I will be fine.”

“Promise me you’ll stop if you get tired.”

“Promise me you will,” I said, joking. Sort of.

“I’m serious,” he said.

“I promise, Danny.” I was annoyed. I was pregnant. I wasn’t an invalid. I could do this.

I had downloaded the map to the Parc to my phone. As a concession to Danny, I had turned off the data plan, so that I could access the map while not checking e-mails.

We approached the Parc from the southside, the Carrer D’Olot. I was excited and was talking to my belly.

“Hey Thumper,” I said, not really caring if anyone was listening. “Mommy is really excited. We are going to see the Parc Guell. These are a lot of buildings designed by a famous architect, Antonio Gaudi. When you get older, I’ll show you pictures and, if you’re good, which you will be, because you’re the best baby, I’ll take you here and you can see for yourself. Would you like that?” Thumper gave a little kick. “I think Thump likes that.”

Danny smiled at me and shook his head. He leaned down, “Mommy likes art, Thump. A lot.” I stuck out my tongue.

You enter the park up a long flight of stairs. “Hey Thump,” I said, looking at my belly, “these are the dragon steps. A dragon, grrr….”

Danny laughed and said, “You are so cute.” Then, he looked at the stairway, “are you sure you can handle those?”

I looked at him and said, “can you?”

He looked concerned. “Seriously. Those are really steep.” He saw a taxi going up hill. “Can we take a cab?”

“No,” I snapped. “I want to see the stairs. There are all kind of mosaics and statues on the way. I want to see everything.”

“Please, Jessa. Just promise you’ll be careful. Please.”

I was annoyed. I wasn’t an invalid. I was pregnant. I wasn’t running a marathon. I was climbing stairs. I climbed stairs all the time. I could do this.

At the entrance to the stairway was a multicolored mosaic dragon. “Look at this,” I said. “Look at how amazing this is. Look at the detail.”

Danny looked at it, “it is amazing.”

“Don’t placate me,” I joked.

“I’m not. Stand next to it. Let me take a picture.” I stood next to it, smiled and pointed at my belly. I wanted something to show Thumper when he or she was born. “OK, now take one of me.”

A couple came over and the man said, in a British accent, “would you like me to take one of both of you?” I handed over the camera, trusting that he wouldn’t take it. I hated that I thought it, but I wouldn’t have done it had they looked like the two women from the other day.
He took the picture and the woman said, in a Scandinavian accent, “so, how far along are you?” Into the box again.

“Five and a half months,” I said, with a smile.

“Congratulations. Your first?” I smiled and nodded. “It goes fast. Our son is studying here now.”

Danny smiled. “He must be his from his first marriage. You’re far too young.”

The woman smiled, “And you’re far too blind or far too bad a liar, young man. Congratulations again.”

We started walking up the steps. I could feel my legs tightening up, which the Bump said was to be expected. My joints and ligaments were stretching, preparing my body to give birth. About halfway up, we stopped to look at a dragon carving on the wall. “Isn’t that something?”

“Are you getting out of breath?” he said, with concern.

“I’m fine,” I lied. “Besides, we have tickets for the 1:00 PM. tour.”

“So what? If you’re tired, rest. We’ll get other tickets.”

“I’m not tired,” I said, bouncing on my toes to try and stretch my calves.

“Yes, you are,” he said. “You’re trying to stretch your legs. Don’t lie to me.”

“I am fine,” I said, through gritted teeth. “If you want to stop, just say so and I’ll meet you up there. But we have tickets and I. Am Not. Missing. This.”

About three-quarters of the way up, I felt light headed, like I was going to collapse. I paused and leaned against the wall and started to slump.

“Jessa!” Danny yelled, putting his arm around me and gently putting me on the steps. People walking up tried not to stare. “Goddamnit, Jessa!”

“People are looking, Danny…” I said, trying and failing to stand up. “Come on, let’s finish.”

“I don’t care. Goddamnit, Jessica,” he said, using my full name. “Sit down!”

“Danny! Don’t talk to me that way!”

“What way? Like you’re being pigheaded? You are and you know it.” I was. He was right. I wouldn’t admit that though, no matter what my body was saying.

“I want to get up there,” I huffed.

“I don’t care what’s up there! There is nothing up there that is as important as you and that baby!” he said, pointing at my stomach. People stopped pretending. They were now staring. ‘Come one, come all, come see the crazy pregnant woman climb stairs. And fail!’ “That’s all I care about.”

“And I don’t?” Now I was angry. I was wrong, but I was angry nonetheless.

“Of course, you do,” he said, sitting down next to me. I put my head on his shoulder and took a sip from his water bottle. The crowd started to disperse. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m just winded is all.”

“That’s not what I mean.” I knew that. “Why are you doing this to yourself?”

“I can do this,” I said, starting to tear up. “I can totally do this.”

“Jessa, I hate to break this to you but you’re pregnant. There’s nothing wrong with getting tired or taking a cab. Your body is changing.”

I smiled, “I’ve heard.”

“I’m serious. I know you. I know that you want to do everything just like you used to but maybe you can’t. At least not now. And that’s OK.”

“No, it isn’t. I can do this.”

He put his arm over my belly. “No, you can’t. If something happens to you, do you know how much trouble I’ll be in?”

I smiled, thinking of my dad trying to fight him. And then my mom and Evelyn joining in. I laughed, “I’ll take it slowly, OK?”

He smiled and rolled his eyes, “and they call Sammie the Bull.” He took my arm and we walked slowly up the steps.

When we got to the top, it was 1:15. “Dammit. We missed our tour.”

Danny smiled and walked over to the ticket agent, while I sat on the bench. “Perdone me, estábamos en la excursión de una hora, pero,” and he pointed at me, “mi esposa esta embarazada y ella decidió intentar subir las escaleras.” My wife is pregnant and she decided to climb the stairs. The agent laughed and Danny continued. “Yo se, yo se. Es posible para cambiar estos boletos?” Can we exchange these tickets? The ticket agent smiled and said to me, “ven aca.” Come here.

I walked over. “Si?”

She smiled. “Cuantos meses?”

“Cinco y media.”

She smiled, handing us two new tickets. “Estos son para el tour especial. Pero, no puedes bajar las escaleras. Prometeme!” These are for the special tour. But, you cannot go down the stairs. Promise me!

I smiled and sighed. “Si. Muchas gracias.”

“Por supuesto. Buena suerte.”

Danny smiled, “See? It’s all OK. You’re not missing anything.”

“I’m not a child,” I said, taking another sip of water.

In a patronizing voice, he said, “no, you aren’t. You’re a big girl,” he said, spreading his arms wide.

I laughed in spite of myself. “Shut up.”

He gave me a kiss and said, “seriously though. Please. “

We walked through the Monumental Zone, the guide explaining the architecture and history, how it was all supposed to be an estate.

“Look at this, Danny,” I said, as we passed through the ‘Laundry Room Portico,’ its walls shaped liked waves, “Isn’t this amazing? “ I wanted to tell Thumper what we were seeing, but decided that would look ridiculous. Danny and the guide smiled every time I spoke, the guide periodically congratulating me on ‘having done your Gaudi studies.’

At the end of the tour, we were headed to La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral on which Gaudi was working before he was unexpectedly killed. It was a forty-minute walk away. I felt up to it but decided to take a taxi. After all, I had promised the tour operator.

It was about 5 PM when we finished the tour. In the states, we would have waited a couple of hours and then went to dinner. However, a restaurant in Spain at 7 is like a restaurant in the US at 3 PM. The chairs are up and the staff listlessly milling about, getting ready for the dinner rush at 11. Thump, however, was not interested in the Spanish customs on dining, He was hungry. We went to a bar and had tapas. I was picking at a plate of olives and cheese when I looked at Danny, “I love you.” I looked at him in his button down shirt, the way the green of the shirt brought out the flecks of green in his eyes. The way he smiled. I looked at him and hoped that our baby would have that smile. It’s funny. It’s what I always loved about Jess. Intellectually, I knew I was looking at the old me but, when Danny smiled, I saw the smile I fell in love with. The one that made me feel safe, feel loved.

He smiled, “I love you too, Jessa. What brought that on?”

“Nothing,” I said, taking his hand. “I’m just really happy, you know? Are you having a good time?”

“Of course.”

“You’re not bored?”

He smiled, “of course not. I’m having a great time. I loved watching you speak with the guide. It’s one of the things that I love about you, that I’ve always loved about you. You’re so smart and, when you love something, you see the passion come out.”

I smiled. “It’s not annoying?”

He laughed, “no. That’s what people love about you. Remember, the Breakers? That’s why Ellen loves you too. It’s what’s going to make you a great mom. You want to share what you know and you make people like it too.” He leaned across the table and gave me a kiss. “So, I spoke to the concierge and we’ve got a dinner reservation at 10 at some place in the Eixample district. Supposed to be trendy and all that.”

I smiled, “that sounds wonderful. I made plans to see Camp Nou tomorrow. We may be able to see them play Villa Real.”

He smiled, “Great. Is that a good game?” We both wanted to see a football game. I supposed it would have helped to know something.

I shrugged, “would we know if it wasn’t?”

We finished our tapas and went back to the hotel. We came into the room and, as the door closed, I stood on my toes and forced open Danny’s mouth with my tongue. He put his arms around me and pulled me close, well as close as my belly would allow. He pulled my shirt over my head and unhooked my bra, kissing my breasts and putting his hands down my leggings and grabbing my ass. He went to pull down my leggings. He laughed, “damn, these are tight.”

I giggled. “Try wearing them. I better not get varicose veins,” I said, as I wrestled them down while he took off his pants and underwear. We laid down and began kissing each other again and running our hands all over each other. I had noticed how he would play with my breasts, but not touch my stomach. I was getting excited and said, “please Danny...now….please.”

He started to move pillows around to put them under my back. There weren’t that many. In an American hotel, there were multiple pillows, probably to accommodate the sleep apnea that was becoming prevalent as we got fatter. Not here though.

I was watching Danny look around when I took a deep breath and said, climbing on all fours, “this is silly, Danny.”

He said, “are you sure? I mean…”

I smiled, “don’t kill the mood, Danny. Stop talking and make love to me, OK?” He started to say something, and I said, “stop. Don’t talk. Just grunt.” He flipped me over and kissed me again, making silly grunting sounds. “Oh, stop it, you ape,” I said, rolling myself over and pushing myself up on all fours again, which was making me winded. If he rolled me over again, all bets were off.

I sat there on all fours, feeling the weight of my boobs and belly pulling on my spine. He entered me and began thrusting away. I could feel his balls slapping against me as he grabbed my hips. ‘Oh god, oh god,’ he kept saying, ‘unh...unh...unh,” and that I felt him come inside me. He pulled out and I could feel it dripping. I rolled myself over and then went to the bathroom to clean up. As I sat on the toilet, wiping myself clean, I thought, ‘it wasn’t awful. I mean I didn’t come but it wasn’t awful. Nothing changed.’ I thought about it and laughed to myself. ‘You’re a woman. A pregnant woman who had sex with her husband. Stop thinking about it, Jessica.’ I smiled and walked back into the bedroom. Danny was lying there, looking at me while I walked out, a big smile on his face. “Hey, beautiful,” he said, as I got back into the bed.

“Hey,” I said, with a smile. “Someone’s happy.”

“I am,” he said, his arm draped over my belly, while he kissed my neck. “What about you?”

‘Please don’t ask me if I’m OK. Please don’t,’ I thought. “I’m great. I’m in Spain with my husband, who I love. We had a great day and we just made love. Nothing could be better.” That seemed to satisfy him because he said, “I love you,” and he kissed my neck. And then we both fell asleep, him spooning me while his hand sat on Thumper.

-------------------------
December 31 - our last night in Barcelona

It was 10:30. We were going out for a late dinner and to celebrate the New Year on the beach. I had taken a nap that afternoon so that I could welcome in the New Year, our last New Year’s before we became a family.

I was wearing the blue dress with the lace sleeves that I had seen when I was with Laura. I had loved it that day, maybe more than the mauve, and went back for it. I was wearing it with a pair of wedge sandals and a shawl. “Do I look OK?”

Danny smiled, “you look,” and he kissed me on the lips, “gorgeous. I can’t believe it’s almost 2018.”

I kissed him again. “Me either. This is going to be one hell of a year.”

“One hell of a great year,” he said, pulling me to him. “This time next year…” and he put his hand on my belly. “We’re going to be mommy and daddy.” I looked at myself in the mirror, at my hair and my dress and my growing belly and I felt at peace. I was mommy and it was right.

We went to dinner and, at around 11:30, started walking to the beach. Danny had gotten a bottle of champagne from the hotel and two glasses.

“A sip won’t hurt Thumper,” he said, taking my hand.

I smiled, “I know. I checked with Dr. Andopolis before we left. You know, she thinks I’m nuts.” My feet were killing me and I planned to kick off my heels the minute we hit the sand.

He kissed me. “You are nuts and that’s why I love you.” He took my hand and we walked slowly to the beach, walking past the bars, all filled with revelers. I had no interest in any of that. I had Danny, he had me, we had a bottle of champagne and the beach and that’s all I needed.

Around 11:50, we got to the beach. I took off my shoes and was immediately 3” shorter than Danny and I liked it that way. I remembered how Jess had always said that she liked how much bigger I was, how it made her feel safe. I had liked that she liked it but had never really thought about it before. “It’s colder than I expected,” I said. He immediately took off his jacket and wrapped it around me. I pulled it in tight, smelling his cologne, and felt loved and protected. I thought how he would always be there for me and Thumper. I didn’t need to be protected, I could take care of myself if I had to. But I liked it.

The beach was crowded, but we found a relatively secluded spot on the beach and sat down on the sand. “Are you sure you’re OK?” Danny asked. “I wish I had brought a blanket with us.”

I put my head on his shoulder. “I’m fine,” I said, looking up into his eyes. “Between the dress and my pantyhose, I am fine. No, I’m great. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be…”

“And anyone else I’d rather be with,” he finished. I hoped no one was nearby and had to hear that. Vomiting is no fun on New Year’s. Well, not until later, at least.

Danny looked at his watch. “20, 19, 18,” he began counting down. At midnight, he gave me a deep kiss, then poured us two glasses of champagne. “Happy New Year, Jessa,” he said, clicking my glass. “I love you.”

“Happy New Year, Danny. I love you too.” We sat for a few minutes looking at the lights of the ships at sea, holding hands and not talking. Life was perfect, for now and that’s all I needed.



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