Two stories, two main characters, but each of them is married to the same man. And each of them is in the last few weeks of pregnancy. The "sibling" of this story can be found here: http://www.protagonize.com/story/the-wives-of-james-merridew-vicki-a-tandem-story
The radio-alarm clock blared into life, waking me from a dream which, as usual, was about Jamie. I always dreamed about him he was away. I sighed, and wriggled over to the middle of our bed, making use of the extra space. In some ways, it was an advantage being alone in this bed at this stage of pregnancy. I was huge. I always slept far better on Jamie's “awaydays”, but that did not make up for how much I missed him.
I heaved myself over onto my right side, holding the bump with both hands as I did, and gazed at the photograph of my beautiful Jamie, which I kept on the bedside cabinet when he wasn't here. When he was home, it was relegated to the window-sill. I didn't need it so close when I had the real thing. And Jamie was the real thing; my first and only love. He was the father of our child-to-be, and I was the happiest I've ever been in my life. I looked at his blue eyes smiling at me from the photograph, and wished again that he was here.
“Look after Bumpy,” he'd said; using his special name for our unborn child, when he left four days ago, kissing me at the door, then leaning down to kiss my tummy, before stroking it gently. “And look after you, too, precious. See you both next week.”
He was up in Scotland now, doing the rounds for the brewery, visiting a few country pubs, out in the wilds, among the heather and the mountains. We had both agreed that it was best if he did not phone me, except for emergencies, during the times he was away from home. It just made us miss each other all the more if we heard one another's voice. Still, many a time I had picked up the phone, longing to speak to him, to tell him how much I love him; how much I miss him. But I always put it down. It wouldn't be fair – would make him feel worse, alone in a hotel room.
When he returned from these trips, it made our time together all the more precious, and we made up for the absence. Even now, with my lumpy, unwieldy body, we still cherished our times alone in bed.
Better get up, I thought. I didn't bother dressing. I didn't go out unless I had to nowadays – just the supermarket and the occasional ante-natal visit to the midwife. I was having trouble finding shoes to fit now,with my swollen ankles, and I did not want to buy a larger size, because the midwife had told me that they would almost certainly go back to normal after the baby was delivered.
“You may find you do need to buy new ones. Some ladies go up half a shoe size, permanently, after pregnancy. It's to do with the the loosening of all your ligaments, preparing your body for the big push,” she had said, laughing. “We'll keep an eye on this ankle swelling, because it can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia,” she added, prodding at my feet. “But, it's not too bad, and your blood pressure is fine, Nicola, and no protein in your urine. Just keep your feet up as much as you can, when you're sitting, and do those ankle exercises I gave you.”
So, I was sitting, obediently, with my feet up on a footstool, remembering to circle them in my roomy, pink fluffy slippers, first one way, then the other... when I thought about it, and reading the latest Jodi Picoult.
I was beginning to doze when the doorbell rang, around lunchtime. I was so tired these days – now that my due date was approaching. Following the weary, sickly, dog-tired first few months, I had been full of energy a couple of months ago, in my second trimester; the blooming phase – my face glowing with health, but now, I was a shapeless, apathetic lump, spending most of my days in my pyjamas and pink dressing gown, back to being tired most of the time, reading, drowsing,and watching television.
Through the opaque glass panel of the front door, I could see that the person outside was fat... or maybe pregnant. When I opened it, I saw straight away that it was the latter. I looked at her bump - the same size and shape as my own, then at her face. I didn't recognise her. Someone from the ante-natal class I'd just joined, maybe?
“Hello,” I said, still searching her face for clues to who she was.
She didn't speak; simply pulled out a crumpled looking brown envelope from her jacket pocket and handed it to me. For a second or two it crossed my mind that she was a post-woman, but I was pretty sure Royal Mail did not employ heavily pregnant women, and besides, she was not wearing a uniform.
I took the envelope. It really was very tatty. It was addressed to Jamie, and looked like a business letter. Maybe it had been delivered to the wrong address. Something about it felt wrong, though. As well as being creased and tattered, it felt too thin, so I turned it over. It had been opened, and was empty.
“Where did you get this?” I asked. “Who are you?”
Her reply turned my heart over, and froze me to the spot.
“Victoria,” she said, “Victoria Merridew.”