As soon as Pacifica stopped crying, I called Serene and Cedar and told them they needed to come home immediately. They had been getting an ultrasound at the doctor, but all I could think was that this was a crisis that could not wait for anything. Of course, as soon as Serene heard that her darling cousin needed her, she was in the car ready to get home, with or without Cedar.
Serene found some clothing for Pacifica that was loose enough to grow with her as the baby developed. Baby. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of Pacifica swollen with my child. It was an image that I simply could not conjure in my mind, even though I knew it was inevitable. Soon, the oversized shirt and pants that Serene had provided would be stretched to their limit. Her lithe little body would be round and maternal. It was surreal.
“Oh, my sweet girl,” Serene said tearfully as she wrapped her arms tightly around Pacifica. “Why didn’t you call me as soon as you found out? I would have come to get you!”
Struggling to breathe against her cousin’s tight embrace, Pacifica responded, “I knew you were busy with your own baby plans and I didn’t want to bother you.” Her voice sounded meek, ashamed.
“Oh, honey,” Serene responded, her voice choking up, “you should never be afraid to bother me! You’re like my sister.”
Pacifica sniffled. “I didn’t want you to know I’d messed up again,” she said softly.
I stared at the exchange, barely processing the conversation taking place. My head was swimming with questions, concerns…fears. Pacifica and I were going to have a baby. I didn’t know what that meant other than that there would be a tiny human being dependent on the two of us. We were barely taking care of ourselves; how were we supposed to take care of a helpless infant? I was a frightened little ball of neurosis and anxiety, and Pacifica was a reckless party animal with no parents to act as guidance. That’s just who we were, there was no getting around it. It wasn’t exactly a recipe for a well-adjusted child. It was too soon; it was happening to fast. I needed more years of growth and maturity. I didn’t even know where we were in our relationship. Yesterday I was struggling to get out of bed, my heart broken and my life a mess. Today…I was a father-to-be. No. I wasn’t ready…
“How are we supposed to do this?” I didn’t realize I had said the words aloud until I felt Cedar’s hand come to rest on my shoulder.
“I know it’s scary, bud,” he laughed. “Trust me, Serene and I weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant. But here we are and we’re making the best of it.”
I looked to Pacifica to see if she was listening in, but she was deep in conversation with Serene. “I’m not ready for this, Cedar,” I said pathetically. “I’m not strong like you are.”
He smiled reassuringly. “Well, Mom wasn’t exactly equipped to be a single mother at eighteen, but I think I turned out all right.” He winked.
I let out a small laugh in spite of myself. “I guess you’re right. But I don’t know how to be a parent.”
Cedar shrugged. “One day at a time.” His expression became serious all of a sudden. “But you can’t do it here. There’s not enough room in this house for four adults and two infants. Have you thought about where you guys are going to go?”
“Oh, fudge,” I said. “I guess it’s time to make a phone call.” And it was not one I was looking forward to.
I’m glad I wasn’t there to hear my mother’s voice when my father told her I needed to take up residence in their beach house. I couldn’t afford to rent anything with two bedrooms, and since Pacifica had taken off and broken her contract, her record was unlikely to be released, which meant there was no income on her side. My parents had saved up some money and had the beach house built out of pocket, which meant there was no rent; only monthly utilities. I had called my father, begging him in the most desperate voice I could muster to please allow us to live there. He had promised to talk to my mom. A few days later, I got a call. My father sounded beaten down, which I only imagined was a result of my mother’s inevitable fit, but he assured me she was okay with it when she realized she was giving her future grandchild a roof over its head. I, of course, knew that she was going to hold this over me for the rest of my natural life…but I was willing to do what it took for our baby. Our baby. Oh, Berry.
The house was already furnished, so Pacifica and I packed up the few clothes I had, and the handful of clothes Serene was able to get for her, and we headed to our new home.
It was raining when we arrived, and I was anxious to get inside and get dry. The heat of July mixed with the moisture from the rain made the air feel like a sauna.
As I was unlocking the door, I noticed Pacifica wander off toward the edge of the cliff. For a moment, I feared she would walk right into the water below, but she stopped a few feet short. She stood motionless staring out toward the water, unspeaking. She hadn’t said a word to me the entire trip here. She had simply stared out the window, a blank look in her eyes. Thinking back, she had barely spoken a word to me since she had given the news of her pregnancy. I had held her as she sobbed about Valentino’s abuse, but I had seen almost no emotion from her since that moment. I had become so wrapped up in making new living arrangements that her behavior had escaped my notice. But now it was clear…she was increasingly distant.
I tried to understand what she was feeling, but I was so concerned about my own fears that I had no room left in my brain for trying to comprehend her emotions about having a baby. She hadn’t said a word about whether or not she was looking forward to the child. I hadn’t asked. I didn’t know what to say without revealing my own fears, and I couldn’t bear for her to see just how terrified I was.
I approached her slowly from behind, taking care not to startle her. She was mere steps away from the edge, and I didn’t want to take a chance on her falling over.
“Pacifica,” I said gently, “why don’t you come out of the rain? I’ll get a fire going and you can dry off.” I tried to sound as calm and reassuring as I possibly could under the circumstance. But, honestly…I hadn’t felt a sense of calm since she had walked back into my life. And now I feared I might never feel it again.
“Isn’t the water beautiful?” She asked. She never turned around and I wasn’t entirely certain she was aware of my presence. Her voice sounded wistful and shy. “I’ve always wanted to live on the water.”
I stood for a moment, looking at her through the curtain of rain. Her hair and clothing clung to her skin, but I don’t think she noticed. Finally, I rested my hand on her shoulder and she turned to face me. Her eyes were expressionless, and I felt a wave of sadness in my stomach.
“Why don’t we go inside, sweetheart,” I said slowly, as if I were speaking to a child. She just nodded and took off toward the door. I sighed and followed.
As soon as we entered, I got to work building a fire to warm up the cabin. Despite the steamy conditions outside, the inside of the house was drafty, which created a chill in combination with our wet clothing. It took a few minutes and quite a bit of cursing before the fire successfully took. The crackling of the flames was soon overpowered by the sound of running water from the adjoining room. I stood, looking around for Pacifica, and I realized that she was nowhere to be seen. I walked toward the sound.
I found Pacifica in the master bathroom. Her clothes were strewn across the floor and she was submerged in the bathtub, running water across her limbs. I stood over her, looking down at her naked form. Her breasts were ever-so-slightly fuller, but her stomach remained flat. If I hadn’t known better, I would never have known she carried a tiny baby inside of her womb. But everything would change soon. This body, the one I knew so intimately, was never going to be the same. Just as our lives would never be the same. Even after the baby was here, her hips would be rounder, her belly fuller, and her breasts more swollen. She would be different. As would I. We would be parents. It was a crazy thing to imagine, but it was happening.
I smiled softly as I looked at her, her beautiful form glistening with the moisture of the bathwater. She was beautiful. She was mine. And soon she would bear a child that was a little bit of each of us; a symbol of our love. I was terrified, but maybe…just maybe…I was a little bit excited, as well.
“Are you okay in here?” I asked her.
“Mmhm,” she said, nodding. “I think I need to lie down for a bit.”
As soon as she exited the tub, she redressed in her damp clothes and crawled into the bed, curling up in a ball. She looked so fragile lying there. There was something different about her, other than the pregnancy, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And she certainly wasn’t volunteering the information. It ate away at me, the mystery, but I couldn’t push her. She had so much on her plate, I just prayed to Berry that she would come to me when she felt it was right and share her insecurities. It was the only way we were going to make it.
I stood at the window, looking out at the setting sun. The rain had finally stopped and the dim glow of twilight was visible on the horizon. I watched as the sun made its last journey behind the water, and the room was bathed in darkness. I thought about everything that had changed in just a week’s time. It seemed surreal to think that only seven days ago I had thought my life was off-track; that I had lost everything important to me. But now, Pacifica lay in the bed behind me, a child we had created nestled deep inside of her belly, and our lives were a new rollercoaster of unfamiliarity. I had wished so hard for her to be with me, but now that she was, I felt a sense of unease. Even though I found myself looking forward to the baby, in spite of my fear, I worried for Pacifica and what she was going through. I tried not to think the worst, but until she told me what was going on, I was left in the dark.
And it wasn’t a comfortable feeling at all.
I was awoken at the first light of dawn by Pacifica’s feet, running furiously into the bathroom. I could hear a wretched vomiting sound, with small sobs on pain in between each agonizing heave. She was in there for at least thirty minutes before I ventured in cautiously. She was curled up around the porcelain seat, cradling it with both hands. Her face was streaked with tears and her mouth was crusted with vomit. I felt helpless as I looked at her, and I was afraid that this morning would be like so many others to come.
“Are you alright, Cici?” I asked frowning. I wanted to hold her, but she looked like she might not appreciate being touched.
“Do I look alright?” She responded, her voice irritable. She gave me a death glare and I backed away, nervous.
“I didn’t mean anything but it, I just…” I cut myself off as she burst into tears.
She stood, still crying, and clutched her stomach. “I’m sorry, Edie,” she said miserably. “I know it’s not your fault. I’m just in so much pain!” She started to cry again and I came forward to take her in my arms.
I shushed her softly. “Hey, it’s okay,” I said, trying to reassure her. “Do you think you can stomach a little bit of toast?” That was clearly the wrong thing to say, because she looked at me with wide eyes and dropped to her knees in front of the toilet once more.
This was going to be a long pregnancy.
The morning sickness, thank Berry, didn’t last more than a month. The next big problem was Pacifica’s rapid size increase. By the time the morning sickness was over, her stomach had swelled much more than Serene’s had in that time. I was worried there might be something wrong with the baby, so we made an appointment with the same OB that Cedar and Serene had been using. What we found out was nothing we had ever expected.
I probably should not have been nearly as surprised as I was to learn that we had two little ones on the way. I was a twin, as was my grandmother, and her grandmother before her. But I guess, on some level, I always thought it would skip a generation. Berry, was I wrong!
I hadn’t said a word as the doctor gave us the news. I stood, my mouth open in a dumb expression, and nodded as he gave Pacifica instructions for how to deal with the burden of carrying multiples. As we drove home, there was complete silence. I couldn’t even turn on the radio, because the noise in my head was so loud. I had managed to find a sense of excitement at learning we were having one child…but two?! All of those things that terrified me about being a father were now multiplied. If I screwed this up, there wasn’t just one life that would be forever changed, there would be two. Berry had a sense of humor, that was for sure!
Pacifica hadn’t said one word about the news after we left the doctor’s office, but the floodgates were released as we entered the house. She flung herself into my arms, shaking with uncontrollable sobbing. I was taken aback by the sudden change in her demeanor, but I wrapped my arms around her tightly, whispering calmly into her ear.
“How-how,” she was bawling so hard she could barely speak, “how are we supposed to handle tw-twins?” Her tears were flowing so heavily that I could feel the dampness through the fabric of my shirt. “I can’t-I can’t do it, Edie, I can’t.”
I realized in that moment that, as afraid as I was, Pacifica had to be my top concern. I was thinking of the obstacles we might face after the twins arrived, but Pacifica was dealing with the difficulties of carrying two babies, bearing them, and then trying to find the energy to be a good mother to them. I couldn’t let her see that I was just as unsure of our parenting abilities as she was, because she needed me to be her rock. For once, I had to be the one to put on the brave face and learn to deal with the challenges without faltering. Pacifica, not to mention our babies, deserved that much from me.
“Hey, we’re in this together,” I said, kissing her forehead. “And we’re going to be amazing!” I meant it.
Three months later, on a cold snowy night in November, I woke to the sound of crying on Pacifica’s side of the bed. I rose slowly, rubbing my eyes as they became adjusted to the light, to see her sitting on the edge, her body shaking as she struggled to breathe steadily.
“Pacifica,” I said concerned, “is there something wrong with the babies?” The due date was three months away, and I feared the worst. She looked pitiful as she whimpered softly.
“The babies are fine,” she said, her voice broken. “It’s nothing, I’m sorry I woke you.”
She turned back over, curling up into a ball. I could still hear the raggedness of her breath as she tried to stem the flow of tears. I looked at her back for a few seconds, then reached out to rub her shoulders. She flinched at my touch and pulled away. I frowned, but I wasn’t deterred.
I wrapped my arm over her, resting my hand on her swollen belly. We had barely made any physical contact in the past several months, not counting her occasional bouts of hormonal tears, and I relished the sensation of her skin. I missed her. Missed being close to her.
It didn’t last long.
She pulled away, rising to stand by the window. She crossed her arms over her swollen stomach and sniffled.
“You don’t have to pretend, Eden,” she said.
“What?” Pretend? I had no idea what she was talking about. “What do you mean?” I elaborated.
“I never should have come back to you,” she said softly. My heart dropped into my stomach. She regretted coming back? She had sworn up and down that she loved me, that she wanted to be with me, but was that all a lie? We were having two little babies together. I couldn’t think of any better reason to be together.
“I don’t understand,” I said angrily, feeling hurt at the implication.
“You were doing just fine without me, and I came in and turned everything around,” she said. I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell by her voice that she was crying again. “You deserved to be with someone you loved. You deserved a chance to find happiness, but I took that away. I was so concerned with my own feelings, my own needs, I just…” she choked up. “I’m sorry, Edie. I love you…but you deserve better than this.”
I looked at her dumbfounded for a minute before I realized what she was saying. Oh, Berry. She thought I didn’t love her. She thought that I had taken her back out of obligation and that I was giving up something by staying with her. That was the reason she had been pulling away from me all this time. In retrospect, I had only myself to blame for this. She had come to me with her heart open and I had given no response. In my defense, she had also taken that moment to drop a bombshell on me…but I should have said something. She had been so distant the past few months and I was so certain that it was something with her, I hadn’t realized I was making it worse by keeping my mouth shut. Oh, Pacifica.
I rose quickly and scooped her up in my arms. She yelped, but her arms came around me as I carried her to the bed. I sat, running my fingers through her hair as she continued to cry softly. She had so much to deal with, carrying two babies, and I had been hurting her when she needed my love and support. I felt so guilty.
“You’re wrong, you know,” I said, kissing her on the top of the head.
“What?” She asked quietly.
“I do love you,” I said. Her head came up quickly and she looked at me with wide eyes.
“You do?” She asked, her voice somewhere between heartbroken and hopeful.
“More than anything.” I pressed my hand against her belly and one of the twins shifted beneath my palm. “You and our babies.” I sighed. “I should have told you, but I guess…I was afraid that it was all too good to be true. You loving me. The babies. I was afraid if I believed that…it would go away.”
“Really?” She said, chancing a small smile. “Oh, Eden! I thought-I thought I had ruined your life and I…” I stopped her with a kiss.
“There’s nothing in this world I want more than you and our babies, Cici. I love you.” It was the absolute truth. I was still afraid, sure…but I was getting everything in life I never knew I needed. And boy, did I need it!
I lay back, pulling Pacifica on top of me. After so much time being close, but never close enough, I needed to feel her touch. I needed to make love to her. She was hesitant at first, but she eventually leaned down and kissed me. I pushed the nightgown from her shoulders, exposing her breasts. They had grown exponentially since I’d last seen them. I pressed a kiss to one rosy tip and Pacifica blushed.
“I’m so big, Eden,” she said shyly. “Are you sure you want to…?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world. Even if you were as big as this house!” That earned a laugh from her.
She removed the nightgown, and I took off my boxers. It took some maneuvering, but we were eventually able to make love with her on top of me. It was beautiful. I didn’t realize how much I had been craving this intimacy, but I felt like we were in the right place.
I felt like everything could finally be the way it was supposed to.