Authors: Neal Doran
Life can be complicated. And complications are the last thing you need when a baby’s on the way.
But when Rebecca and James announce their joyful news, little do they know the road to baby bliss is far from smooth. Not only has James lost his job, but he can’t find another and can’t tell his wife why. Meanwhile Rebecca’s own family has picked the worst possible time to start to fall apart, and are relying on her to try and fix it.
As secrets begin to permeate their lives Rebecca and James end up wondering are they really ready to be parents after all…
But it’s too late now – and the expectant couple are about to learn that life doesn’t always turn out quite as you expect it.
Also available by Neal Doran
Dan Taylor is Giving Up on Women
Not What They Were Expecting
grew up in London, and the only real childhood hardship he knew was not being able to get a bedroom door sign with his name spelled properly on it. He knew he’d rather be a writer than an astronaut from the time he realised he didn’t want a job that required too much travel. He has been an editor for spoof news website Newsbiscuit, written some jokes for BBC radio, and spent a short time as Britain’s most unlikely private investigator.
Neal now lives on the southwest coast of Ireland with his wife and two sons, who still prefer their mum’s stories to his.
He can be found on Twitter, usually when he’s not supposed to be, as @nealdoran.
Thanks to Mum and Dad, David and the much-missed Carol for not being anything like the parents and in-laws in this book. Thanks also to Mark & Liz for sharing their experience of ‘sharing’; Richard for knowing where I need to raise my game, and to Darren for getting locked out once; wise authors Mark Dawson and Matt Dunn; Miranda Dickinson for a year of marvellous mentoring; Kirsty Greenwood for putting an early version of the start of this story in the
final; Kathryn, Lucy and Victoria and all the team at Carina for making this happen; and to Gavin Ames, because I forgot about him last time.
Finally, thanks to Jo for making life better than I ever could have expected, and Thomas and Noah for patiently waiting while dad wrote another book about kissing and stuff, rather than dinosaurs or zombies.
For Mum & Dad
‘Well at least the date means the anniversary will be easy to remember,’ James said.
‘What are you talking about?’
December 2011. The day the romance died. Still, five years, four months and seventeen days was a good run.’
‘Oh give over,’ Rebecca replied, ‘I was bursting. Now look away, I’m finishing.’
‘Although even without the romance there’s something about seeing you with your knickers around your ankles…’
‘Shut up and turn around, we’re running late as it is.’
‘I don’t need much time,’ he said, his mouth full of toothpaste.
Rebecca watched as he continued brushing his teeth, and making a big deal of looking away – staring at the bathroom doorframe, whistling, and occasionally feinting as if he was about to turn around. She grabbed the toilet roll from the top of the cistern, and noticed those cobwebs above the door must have been there for months.
‘And it’s five years, four months and fifteen days actually,’ she said over the cranky flush. ‘And I saw you wee in the first six months when we went for a ramble in the countryside after a pub lunch.’
‘I remember that walk,’ he said. ‘Did we—?’
‘No. There was a creepy looking guy with his dogs sniffing around everywhere, and I didn’t want to get grass stains on my skirt. And you freaked me out talking about how the dogs were probably picking up the scent of a dead body.’
‘Ah yeah. You never were much of a country gal.’
She squeezed between him and the shower cubicle and slid her hands into the sink, where he was standing dabbing dots of her Bright Eyes hydrating crème on the circles under his eyes.
‘And who was it that spent half the walk and the entire drive home complaining about getting dog shit on his shoes, Mr One-with-Nature?’
‘Cor, I remember. I loved those trainers. They were virtually brand new then. I should dig them out – I’ve still got them somewhere.’
‘No you don’t. I threw them out.’
‘Three years ago. They were making the wardrobe smell.’
‘Bloody dog shit.’
‘It wasn’t the dog shit.’
‘Are you sure it’s fifteen days?’
‘Anniversary’s the tenth.’
He stared at the ceiling through the mirror while he muttered days quietly to himself, and his thumb counted off his fingers.
‘Sixth, seventh, eighth… Aha! No, you’re wrong it’s… Actually, no you’re right, you’re right. Sixteen days to go.’
‘Just as well you haven’t got a job that needs you to be good with numbers.’
‘Ha ha,’ he said, his arms around her waist as he stretched to reach a towel. ‘It’s this sort of squabbling we’ll be learning to live with now the romance has gone, eh?’
‘I. Was. Desperate,’ she said, poking a finger into his chest, ‘and we haven’t got any time…’
‘I understand, I understand. It’s your condition. I just thought we had maybe a few more months of carefree unencumbered bliss…’
When had her life become so much about taking a piss? Rebecca wondered to herself. A couple of weeks or so before Christmas, she’d been in their cramped, desperately-in-need-of-a-renovation bathroom, trying not to pee on her fingers while she manoeuvred a plasticky stick in place. She wanted to make sure she got it while ‘in midstream’ as recommended by the box. She could hear James outside, pacing across the rug on the landing, over the creaky floorboards to the window in the spare room – soon not to be spare room – and then back again. He’d wanted to come in with her then, but she hadn’t let him. The plan had been she’d take the test, get herself back looking composed and presentable, and he’d come in and they’d wait for the results to become clear together.
Before she’d gone in he had studied the box carefully, reading all the instructions about what to do and when, and the small print about accuracy. She could hear him going over the possible outcomes as he paced, making sure he had it clear in his head what was a positive result. He’d wanted to get the digital version with a display spelling out the answer, but then if he’d had to do the test he’d have wanted one with sound effects, and maybe some kind of target to aim for that would tell you the accuracy of your shooting. She guessed they were getting a measure of that now anyway.
The test was lying on the basin while she washed her hands. Results in two minutes they reckoned. James had said something about the possibility there’d be a faint line, and you might have to wait longer. Maybe the digital version would have been a good idea after all. She’d told herself she wasn’t pregnant, she didn’t feel it. Or whatever it was she had been feeling that wasn’t quite right was just the nerves of worrying about whether she might be. Not that she didn’t want to be – she really did – but they hadn’t really started trying yet. The idea was still largely hypothetical. She wasn’t even sure there’d definitely been a time when it could have happened, with her cycle and everything, and it can take months anyway, even when using all those hormone level tests, and they were a bit away from that stage just yet.
No, she wasn’t pregnant she told herself. She just wasn’t sure whether she was going to be relieved or disappointed when she got the confirmation.
She’d dried her hands and was about to open the door when she took a quick glance down at the predictor. She was pretty sure it hadn’t been two minutes, but there were blue lines, bold as anything, one going up, one going straight across.
James was still pacing and she could hear his mantra: ‘Minus means you’ve not done it enough, but if it’s a plus then you’re up the duff.’
She stood there for a few seconds with her hand on the door, before she flicked the latch to see her husband.
‘So you’re still OK about telling your parents, then?’ he shouted over the noise of her hairdryer.
‘I don’t know, maybe we should keep it to ourselves a bit longer. Early days, and we don’t know…’
‘We’re going to be fine. But we can leave it. It’s your mum’s birthday in a month and we’ll have had a scan then – we can show them pictures. Your dad loves a slide presentation.’
‘God, I can’t leave it that long,’ she said, slumping down onto the bed. ‘And I’m no good at lying to Mum. She’ll spot something’s up and then I’ll crack and tell her, and then as soon as we’re gone she’ll crack and tell Dad.’
‘It’s going to be bloody obvious the second you step through the door and don’t head straight for the booze.’
She gave him a blast of hot air from her dryer as he bent over his neatly arranged bedside cabinet drawer, to collect his carefully laid out watch, wallet and phone.
‘Steady…’ he slightly yelped as he jumped upright.
‘A sober Christmas with my parents.’ Rebecca slumped even further and looked ruefully at the chest of drawers.
‘Sober for you maybe. I’m the man bringing them their first grandchild. I’ll be on the good stuff.’
‘I’m going to be spending the next nine months driving you home from everywhere pissed aren’t I?’
‘Yes, you are. I’m thinking I might start keeping some cans in the glove box.’
He gave her shoulders a squeeze as he walked past her at the end of the bed. ‘It’s going to be great, isn’t it? Telling someone?’
She beamed up at him. ‘It’ll be fantastic.’
‘You don’t feel too nervous or anything?’
‘No. No, it’s going to be good. Mum is going to dehydrate within minutes.’
‘We’ll bring tissues and bottled water. Your dad’s going to explode. He’ll be trumpeting around the house, singing his songs, telling me it’s about time…’
Rebecca shuddered slightly. ‘No more “Haven’t you got my daughter pregnant yet then?” jokes, thank God. Like he spent a lot of time thinking about our sex life.’
‘He’s just enthusiastic about things. He’ll be all about pregnancy now, asking about your discharges.’
‘James! Yuk…’ she said, squirming on the edge of the bed. ‘And he won’t anyway. He’s a results man, he’ll just want to know when it’s due, and start nagging me if it’s late.’
‘And speaking of being late…I’ll be down in the car. I’ve loaded up the presents.’
James headed downstairs, taking them two at a time, to check all the doors and windows were locked, before heading for the car. It was the best Christmas he’d ever had, all the more exciting for thinking how much cooler still the next one was going to be. A proper family Christmas, and he’d even get his parents to celebrate it next year.