A man waits for some important news and reminisces about his past.
He stares angrily at his Rolex, the sharp ticking of the second hand giving him a headache. The room is completely silent except for his watch, counting down the minutes until his life will undoubtedly change. His mind is whirring as he tries desperately to draw his eyes away from his watch. Twenty-two minutes. His legs are uncontrollably jittery and his palms are sweaty. He has to distract himself, or he’ll explode before he gets to hear the news. He stands up, forcing his eyes from his watch to the first thing he can concentrate on, the small framed picture hanging on the sky-blue wall in front of him.
He stares at it and his eyes soften. He walks over to the picture. The frame around it is bright pink, and badly painted, with uncooked macaroni and tiny safety pins jumbled around the edges. He remembers so perfectly putting it up. They had been frantic to have something on the wall, but couldn’t afford to buy anything nice, so he had snapped the first picture he could with a disposable camera from the drug store and fished this hideous frame from one of the seven moving boxes that contained everything that was saved. His niece had made it, when she was in second grade, and he would have thrown it out, if his sister hadn’t guilted him so badly into keeping it. Now, he can’t be gladder he kept it if he tried. The frame is all he has left of his family, and he cherishes every tiny piece of macaroni on it.
He looks deeper into the picture, straight into her eyes, and tries to bring himself right into the scene that’s taking place. He can remember that moment so perfectly. It was only their second day in the tiny house, their first place together, and the day that she had discovered the rat that was living with them. He had found it hilarious that she wasn’t concerned about the rat itself, and had no trouble picking it up and putting it outside. The only thing she had been concerned about what where it had been living. “Under the oven?!” She had cried, holding its squirming body by the tail and dangling it by her thumb and forefinger while she was yelling. “Under the freaking oven? That’s where we make food! That’s where I was going to bake cupcakes! How can I do that when I know that there could have been a rat living there eating all the crumbs?!” He hadn’t been able to keep himself from laughing, which had of course made her more furious. She had stomped her way out to the yard, and he had followed her, still trying desperately to stop laughing. Luckily the smell of the grass he had just mowed was overpowering the smell of the rat that she was still swinging about, ignoring its little squeaks. She marched her way out to the middle of the lawn and stood there glaring at him. It wasn’t until that moment that he had realized how genuinely upset she was, and he remembered so clearly being furious with himself for, at that moment, not being able to stop thinking about how great her legs looked in the short shorts she was wearing.
He takes a deep breath and draws his eyes away from the picture. The rest of that day inside the picture has become a blur in his memory of their first fight in the house, and the first time that he had told her he was in love with her. He wasn’t sure what ever happened to the rat, only that it hadn’t ended up eating crumbs under the oven, and that it might possibly have been responsible for him realizing just how in love with her he had been. He sighs. He doesn’t like the inevitable truth that he’s even more in love with her now than he was then. He looks at his watch. Three minutes. His heart rate quickens. He walks back over to the couch and picks up his phone, staring at it, as if willing it to ring, and willing the voice on the other end to be happy. He looks over at the coffee table, his eyes going to the fancy, ridiculously expensive box of small chocolate truffles that their waspy neighbors had dropped off the day before. He had made her laugh by pointing out that it was the nicest thing those people had ever done for them. They had better be even nicer, she had snapped, or she was going to unleash the full wrath of her soon-to-be-pregnant hormones on them. The light mood disappeared when she had said that, and the familiar feeling of all-consuming apprehension had come over them again. He sighs again, that same feeling creeping up through his blood. He picks up one of the truffles and violently bites it in half. A second later he realizes he isn’t the slightest bit hungry and spits it back out into its preposterously fancy wrapper.
His legs are jittery again and his palms are even sweatier. He looks at his watch. Thirty seconds. In less than a minute, he realizes, he’ll get the phone call. He’ll find out if all of that money and time and pain and medicines have paid off. He closes his eyes for a second and prays. He doesn’t believe in God, but he can’t help it. He panics, maybe if there is a God, the fact that he’s an atheist and prayed will mean he gets punished. At that moment, his phone rings. He grabs it and looks at it for a second, almost too scared to answer. His hands are so sweaty and shaky that he almost presses the Decline button, but doesn’t. He puts the phone to his ear, and hears her sobbing.
“Hi.” He holds his breath, he feels like he is going to faint.
“James! James! It worked! Finally! We’re having a baby.” She’s crying too hard to keep talking, but he lets out an elated breath, because she is crying from happiness. He can’t speak from glee, but he can tell that she can feel how happy he is through the phone.
“I’ll be home soon!”
“I can’t wait!”
“Just make sure you don’t hug me too hard, I’m pregnant now, you have to be gentle.” He laughs and tells her not to worry and hangs up. Relief and joy rush through his veins more than apprehension ever has. He reaches for the box of truffles and stuffs one in his mouth, suddenly starving.