***Chapter Thirty-Four***
Word Count: 6,846

May 1989

"You're oddly quiet about all this," John said as he watched her.

"Well, what do you want me to say?"

"I'm not sure. How about 'Gee, congratulations, honey, that's awesome!'?"

"Well, of course I'm happy for you," she said.

She didn't sound happy, though. She didn't look unhappy exactly so he wasn't sure what her deal was.

"Yeah, you sound real thrilled for me," he said, more than a little annoyed at her response. Didn't she get it?

"It's three weeks!"

"Yeah. It's a huge opportunity for me, Claire."

"It's one model."

He sighed. One model could lead to more, could lead to him being called back next year to work, or any number of possible opportunities.

"Yes, but it's a chance for me to work in an environment where people other than wedding guests will see me work. Not to mention my name, forget my name, my company name, will be in an international magazine."

"I know," she said.

"I like doing weddings, don't get me wrong. I'm better than doing just that for the rest of my life. I've never had an opportunity like this fall into my lap before. She's requesting me. They're paying her and she said the only way she'd go is if she could have who she wanted take her pictures. Do you get how huge that is?"

"I do!"

She didn't. Not really. Obviously not or she wouldn't be reacting like this.

"But…" he said.

"There is no but. It's great."

"Uh huh. You say that, but you're looking at me as though the last thing you want me to do is take this job."


"Yes?" he asked.

"Nothing. It's nothing. I'm happy for you."

"Claire. You can't lie to me."

"I'll just miss you."

"I told you maybe you could convince your dad to get a long weekend and come visit me over one of the weekends. I'd say both, but I doubt he'd go for that."

"I know…"

"Then what?"

She sighed softly. "Nothing, John. Really."

She avoided looking at him, which was a pretty good sign it wasn't nothing.

"You don't trust me," he said softly with a shake of his head.

"I do!"

"You don't. You think… What? That I'm going to go there and cheat on you because I'm away from you for three weeks?"

"Surrounded by models!"

"I have access to models right here in Chicago! I take their pictures all of the time."

"You come home to me, though."

"I'm still coming home to you when this is done. Unless you're leaving me while I'm gone."

"No, of course not! It's just different."


"You could do…"

"Don't even say it. Just don't or I'll get even more pissed off. Have I given you any indication that I've even looked at another woman since we've been married? Forget married, since the night you showed up at my house with your blouse ripped?"

"Well, you came home that one day…"

"Oh, God, don't you dare throw that in my face now. I left to go back to work that day and you said we were fine. I offered to let you watch one of those shoots so you could see I view it as work. You said no. Now months later it's an issue suddenly because I want to go on what could be a potentially lucrative trip for me and my business."

"Surrounded by women not wearing any clothes!"

"They are, too. It's not a nudie magazine, Claire."

"I've seen some of the swimsuits those women wear. They may as well be naked."

"Do you hear yourself? So I shouldn't go to the beach anymore either? Glen asks me to go down to Oak Street Beach for a game of volleyball I'm supposed to say no because I might see a woman in a bikini?"

"No. It's different."

"So, you trust me here in Chicago, but evidently nowhere else. That's what you're saying. You trust me to keep my dick in my pants for a few hours essentially between when you leave in the mornings and get home again at night but any more than that you think I'm going to find someone else to fuck?"

"We have sex every day!"

"Yeah. We're married. We're allowed to do that!"

"And you could just stop doing that?"

"Uh yeah. I mean, I don't want to. Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy with our sex life at the level it is, but I can certainly refrain from fucking anything for three weeks."


"What? What do you want me to say? I'm thrilled that when it gets down to it you don't trust me? Why are you even here then?"


"Why are you even married to me if that's what you think?"

"I don't think…"

"So that's not what you're thinking? That three weeks away I'll be tempted…"

"No, I just, God they're all gorgeous and you're going to be somewhere in the Bahamas where it's gorgeous."

"Where I want you to come see me for a weekend if you can. You think I'd do that? Fuck around with other people and then tell you to come down and see me?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know," he said with a shake of his head.

He left the room then. There was no way he could stand there and have this conversation with her and not say something really, really stupid. Or mean. He was surprised she hadn't already accused him of thinking the sex they had was just fucking since he'd said the word. She was the only woman he'd been with that he didn't consider sex with just fucking.

He grabbed his keys and left through the back door. The garage was still open since he hadn't had time to lock everything up for the day after she'd gotten home. She knew how to lock the garage, but he went out and checked it again anyway so she just stopped doing it. It was just habit for him to do it every day.

He still had the top down on his car since it'd been nice the past couple of days.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Where does it look like I'm going? Out."


"I'll try to refrain from picking anyone up in between now and getting back."

"That's not fair!"

"Yeah, well, neither is you not trusting me when I've done fucking absolutely nothing to deserve that."

"Until we…"

"I'm leaving now," he said, turning up the radio enough so there was no chance of hearing her anymore.

Eventually she must have sensed he was really going to leave and there was little she could do at this point to stop him. She stepped away from his car then so he could drive out without running over her feet or something.

He headed to his studio, parked and let the car idle for a while before deciding that he had no business being here now. He had some things he could do, but when he was pissed off he wouldn't do a good job. That would be bad.

He pulled out of the parking lot then and drove for a while without thinking much about where he was going. He wasn't sure he was surprised or not when he found himself in Phillip's neighborhood. He could've gone to Glen's, but while John had told him about dating Claire last summer they just didn't have a real close friendship.

John sat in his car at the curb for a few minutes before shutting the engine off and heading to the door. He didn't have to talk about anything just because he was here, though he suspected Phillip would know something was up as John had never just stopped by for no reason before now.

"John, hey," Phillip said when he answered the door.

"Uh, hi. I hope it's not a bad time."

"No, not at all. Elizabeth is at some training session or something for a couple nights."

"Oh? Isn't tax season done?"

"Yeah, well, personal taxes. I think there's always stuff to learn for corporate accountants."

"Oh," he said with a shrug.

"Did you want to come in?"

"If you're sure I'm not intruding."

"I'm pretty sure."

John laughed a bit at that. They were still kind of unsure around each other. To be expected he supposed since neither of them were exactly sure what they wanted from one another.

"Can I get you a beer or something? Did you eat?"

"A beer would be great and no I didn't eat. I cooked dinner, but that was as far as I got toward eating it."

"Everything okay?"

"I don't know," he shrugged.

"Not sure you can trust me, John?"

He laughed at the irony in that.

"I don't blame you, I guess. You don't really know me from Adam, but you came here."

"That's not why I was laughing. I mean, it was, but just the irony of you accusing me of not trusting you when that is in a roundabout way the reason I'm here tonight I guess."

He followed Phillip to his kitchen. He'd never been inside of his townhouse before. He'd seen the outside of it once before when he and Claire picked them up on their way to a Bulls game one night. It was a nice place. John himself could never do a townhouse or a condo. He'd known that when the idea of finding a place to own wouldn't go away. He didn't want an association fee or a neighbor on the other side of a wall. He also didn't mind doing things like shoveling, mowing the lawn, painting the house, and general upkeep that people like Phillip avoided by paying an association fee.

"You not trusting me?"

"No, evidently Claire not trusting me."

"Hmm. Have you given her reason not to?"


"Why is it an issue then?"

Phillip handed him a beer, which John took and twisted the top off so he could take a sip right away. He shrugged.

"All right. If you don't want to talk about it we don't have to."

John followed him to his family room where Phillip obviously had been watching TV when John rang the bell. He had a baseball game on. John wasn't a big baseball fan. He much preferred hockey or football, basketball wasn't his top choice either but baseball usually bored him. Then on a night like tonight, watching the slower paced game he could understand its appeal to some degree. There was something about watching a pitcher throw the ball again and again that was sort of soothing in a weird sort of way.

"I'm just not sure I'm in the right here."

"There's not always a right or wrong to things," Phillip said, clearly surprised John had spoken up. John was, too, for that matter.

"I know that. I don't just take wedding and family photos."

"Okay," Phillip said.

"I have some models that come to me for headshots and whatever. Some of the whatever may include attempting to get into men's magazines."

"All right. So they take their clothes off."


"And that bothers Claire? I'm not sure I blame her exactly, but you didn't just start doing that, did you?"

"No, have been for years now."

"Okay. And she knew about it?"

"Yes. We did sort of have an argument about it once before a while ago, but no that's not the issue. One of the girls has gotten selected for a swimsuit magazine."

"That's good, right?"

"Yes. It's three weeks down in some Caribbean island I've never heard of. She's said the only way she'll take the job is if I'm her photographer."

"Ah," Phillip said.

"She says she's happy for me."

"You don't think she is?"

"I think she thinks I'm happy and content taking wedding pictures for the rest of my life."

"But you're not?"

"Well, no. I'm better than that. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with doing what I do. There's not, but this is a huge opportunity for me to get my company name out there to more than just brides and their friends."


"I mean, she knows she's got a place at her dad's company. You know? She probably knew that before she could walk. I've had to work hard every day from the time I graduated to get where I am. I don't want to just stop working hard because I've achieved minimal success."

"I think you've achieved more than minimal success, John, but I get it."

"I just want more. I had a picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated once. I want that. More of it. I want that to be common not a once in a lifetime thing."

"You did?"

"Yes," he said.

"I'd like to see it sometime."

"Sure. I only have like thirty copies of the magazine."

Phillip chuckled. "I'd take one off your hands."


"Sure. How many opportunities am I going to get to meet someone who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Let alone someone I'm related to."

"I'm not on the cover."

"Your work is. That's you, you and I both know it."

"Sure, I guess," John said never having thought about it that way really.

"So, she's happy for you, but you don't believe her?"

"No. I mean, I didn't lead the life of a monk before we got together. You know? Even back in high school I wasn't a monogamous guy. She was the only one I ever thought about it with."

"But you didn't back then?"

"No, I didn't believe someone like her could like someone like me so I sort of blew her off. I mean, not entirely, but I just kind of treated it as a joke, you know casual and she grew tired of it."

"And went to prom with the kid with the red hair?"

John chuckled softly.

"Yeah, Scott Hansen. You remember that?"

"Vaguely. Just remember the hair and he had this ridiculous car. I was away at school, but I saw pictures. You know, your mom showed my mom who showed me because I knew her."

"He did," John said, thinking of the station wagon Scott had had with paint all over it. It was pretty atrocious, like someone had just splashed paint all over and then smeared it on there. The car was memorable, though. There wasn't anyone who didn't know what Scott Hansen drove.

"So she doesn't want you to go?"

"She says she does, but she seems to think I'm going to do something I wouldn't ordinarily because I'll be gone for three weeks with scantily clad models in the Caribbean."

"Well, would you?"

"No! Jesus, I haven't even looked at someone else since I've been with her. I invited her to come down. You know, thinking maybe her dad could give her a long weekend and she could come down there with me."


"So, does she really think I'd do that? Invite her down there and then fuck around on her when she's not there? People would meet her and know. That'd just be rude."

"Well, it would, but I'm not sure that would stop some people."

"Well, I wouldn't do it anyway. I realize some people would, but I'm not a cheater."

"You've told her this?"

"Yes! She seemed to believe me. I mean, I thought she trusted me until this came up and now it's all of a sudden can I go three weeks without having sex. I mean, months now we've been trying to get pregnant so I'm not sure why she'd want to have my kid if she can't even trust me not to keep it in my pants for three weeks. You can't for a while after a kid is born, right?"

"Uh, yes," Phillip said.

"So, what, is she going to think I'm out doing that after she has one, too?"

"I think that's a little different of a situation. You'd still be home with her."

"Maybe so," John said.

"Well, this is the first relationship for both of you."


"She may not know if you can really do that."

"If she came down to visit me for a long weekend I wouldn't have to!"

Phillip chuckled softly. "Point taken, but have you ever had to go three weeks before?"

"Uh," John said, taking a sip of his beer as he thought on that. "No, I guess not. She doesn't know that, though! Jesus, I'm not a moron. You think I'd tell her something like that?"

"Do you think she could guess that?"

"Well, maybe, I mean," John shrugged. "I made no attempt to hide the fact I liked women."

"When is this?"

"December. Right after Thanksgiving, I'd get back just before Christmas."

"So you have months to decide."

"Yes, but I shouldn't have to decide. I wouldn't ask her to not do something that could mean potential advancement for her career."

"That's part of being married, though, John. Negotiating and sometimes sacrificing."

"The thing is I have to decide now! I mean, I can't wait until August to decide to go. I have to ensure my schedule is clear those three weeks if I'm going to go. People book weddings more than six months in advance sometimes."

"I understand."

"So, what do I do?"

"I guess that depends on what you want."

"Fuck," John said softly. "Why should I have to sacrifice my career? She has hers mapped out for her."

"She does, but you married her knowing that."


"She married me knowing I did more than wedding pictures, though."

"Did she really know you wanted to do more, though?"

"Isn't it the same thing?"

"Doing more and wanting to do more? Not necessarily. You took business that came your way, that doesn't mean you told her what your goals were."

"Well, isn't everyone's goal to be successful at what they're doing?"

"Yes, but do you have to have a well-known name or brand in order to be successful?"

He sighed.

"And why do you think this will be the only opportunity to come your way?"

"What if the next one's worse? What if the next one isn't a swimsuit magazine, but the other kind?"

"I don't know."

"I did tell her if she could talk to her dad she could come for more than a weekend. It's not like I said I only wanted her there for a few days. If she could get the whole three weeks off I'd have her with me in a heartbeat. Three weeks with her in the Caribbean? No hardship on my part spending as much downtime with her in that type of environment."

"Did you tell her that?"

"Yes! I mean, not the last part, I guess, but I told her if she thought she could swing it she could come down for as long as she was able."

"Is it possible she thinks you only want her to come down there so you have an outlet for sex?"

"No! I don't know. I mean, we do more than that. Why am I in the wrong here? She doesn't trust me. I've done nothing since I've been seeing her or married to her to give her reason not to."

"Maybe it's not you she doesn't trust."

"What? She wouldn't do that…"

"No, not her. I agree. I think I could see our priest having sex before I could see her having sex with someone else."

"I, oh, okay," John said with a frown.

"Bad example maybe, but you get my point. She may trust you but what about the woman who's specifically requested you."

"What about her?"

"Maybe Claire doesn't trust her."

"But I'd still have to do something. I mean, I've had women hit on me. The ring doesn't stop them. I'm sure she has guys hit on her all of the time. I can't control that."

"No, but you're going to be far away in a tropical, romantic spot. She may imagine you having a beer or two…, the temptation of someone she views as being beautiful right there when weeks will have gone by."

"But ultimately that means she doesn't trust me, right? She wouldn't trust me to put the brakes on something like that happening."

"Not necessarily. She probably has an image of a woman who would pose for you like that."

"She won't be posing naked!"

"Has she ever?"

"Well, yeah," John said.

"With you?"


"And Claire knows that?"


"So, you're going to be far away with someone who's going out of their way to request you who you've seen naked."

"I've seen lots of women naked I'm not going to have sex with any of them either."


John sighed, setting the bottle of beer down on the table next to him.

"This isn't helping."

"I'm sorry. I don't have an answer for you. I really don't. I'm just trying to make you see her side of it, too."

"What about my side of it?"

"Well, like I said you have to decide what you want ultimately. You want a happy wife or not?"

"Fuck, I didn't want a wife at all, not really. I'm doing the best I can. I just, I really think I'll regret not doing this and ultimately get pissed off at her for not trusting me enough to act professionally. I'm there to take pictures not get drunk and act like an idiot."

"Wouldn't some people take advantage of the situation, though?"

"Sure I'm sure there are some who do. I, however, who want to get noticed for my pictures wouldn't do that. I want to get more like her to hire me. I want magazines like this one to want to hire me when they do these shoots. I don't want to be someone shoehorned into the staff only because I'm requested."

"I get it."

"Do you? I mean, Elizabeth has kids I bet you don't worry about whether you can support her so she doesn't have to go back to work if she doesn't want to."

"Well, no, but Claire wouldn't…"

"Okay, we both know Claire's not going to quit working, I realize this. What if she wanted to, though? What if she gets pregnant here now and wanted to take a few years off to be a mom? We both know her dad wouldn't give her position away to someone else. I don't want to have to work six days a week every day for the rest of my life to support her and a kid or two."

"Has Claire met the model?"

"Once," he said. "A long time ago. In passing. They were never introduced or anything."

"Well, maybe if she met her she'd feel better about the situation."

"That sounds real professional. Telling her that I have to let my wife meet her before I can get permission to go."

"If that's how you want to see it, I'm not sure she would. She'd probably understand. It would at least send her the message that you want your wife involved in your life."

"I'm married to her!"

"Yeah, well, that doesn't always mean involvement. I know guys who are married and never take their wives anywhere business related. A friend of mine is a lawyer and I don't think his wife has ever seen his office or met one of his associates at the firm."

"Okay. I'm not like that."

"I get that."

John stood then, bringing the empty bottle to the kitchen.

"You don't have to go," Phillip said.

"Nah, I've wasted enough of your time. I just," he shrugged. "I've never gotten mad at her and just left before. We've had arguments. You know, differences of opinion or whatever. When she first started working she was mad I wouldn't take money from her."

"Why not?"

"Because," he shrugged. "She shouldn't have to."

"She lives there, too."

"Yeah, but I don't know. I paid the bills without her."

"Yes, but…"

"Nope, not getting into this discussion with you. I take her money. I don't like it, but I get that it's something she feels the need to do. I don't spend a dime of it, though. Every penny she's given me since September has gone into a savings account. I asked her to marry me, I shouldn't take her money to support her."

"Does she know that's what you've been doing with her money?"

"Nope," John said. "She thinks she needs to do it. Fine. I let her do it. My dad didn't need my mom to work."

"I'm not so sure your dad…"

"Yet he managed! I know he's not a great role model, believe me but I do agree with him on that."

"Claire would never just stay home like your mom did."

"I know that. I don't want her to either. I mean if she wanted to for a while I'd be fine with that. Kids need their moms I know that."

"Have you seen your brother lately?"

"Uh, yeah, Claire and I took him to lunch a couple weeks ago. Second time."


"He's all right. You know. He's three. I don't know what to say to him and he can't talk to me yet so we eat, color some pictures, and he plays when we bring him some place that has a play area."

"And your mom?"

John shrugged. "I don't talk much to her. I try to be civil to her, but I think I'm sort of not to a point yet of doing more than that."

"I'm sorry, you know. I really am."

"Nothing to apologize for. It's not your fault. You were a baby yourself."

"I know, but…"

"Nope, not your fault. We're fine. Your parents I may not be as fine with, but that's not you and I understand they had other kids to worry about, too."


"Thanks for talking to me, I guess. I don't really have a lot of places to go."

"My door's open anytime. I'd say Wayne's is, too, but…"

"Yeah, no," John said.

Nothing against Phillip's older brother, but John was just nowhere near as comfortable around his other uncle. It didn't help that he stared at him as if he was seeing a ghost every time he saw John. Wayne had been old enough to have memories of John's mom and dad, so he knew what an eighteen year old John had looked like. John didn't like people looking at him in a way that reminded him who he looked like. He thought it every time he looked in the damned mirror, which was bad enough. Wayne would have been about six when his mom got pregnant with him. It sounded to John as though maybe she'd come around a few times before she'd had him but never after. He had no idea when the last time Wayne had seen John's dad was, but had to guess it was before John was born.

"Are you going home?"

John shrugged. "I don't know. I may go into work and do some things for a while."

"You can't avoid her forever."

"No, but I can until I figure out what I want to do."

"That may take a while."

"I know," he said. "I'll figure it out."

"Okay. If it means anything. I mean, if it helps, I believe you wouldn't do that."

"No, that doesn't really help, but thanks for saying it I guess."

He sighed softly when he pulled into the parking lot of his studio once again this evening and saw her car there. Her car was hard to miss as it was, but by itself like that even more so. He almost kept going, but she'd obviously come out in an attempt to find him.

He put his top up when he got out this time not sure how long he'd be staying here and whether it would start raining or get real cold quickly. She followed him inside. He didn't bother turning the lights on. He didn't need to. He knew the place by heart.

He took a seat on one of the chairs in his waiting area. He wasn't going to have this conversation in his office sitting at his desk.

"Where did you go?" she asked.

"Oh you know. To one of my several girlfriends' houses. Arguing with you just puts me in the mood. You know?"

"Shut up."

"Well, why not? You think I'm going to be away from you for three weeks and fuck someone else. What's to stop me from doing it here? I mean, I have plenty of time some days. I could have a slew of them and you'd never know because you're downtown all day. For all you know I have her come over in the morning after you leave for work."

"You wouldn't do that."

"Uh huh. You say that and I want to believe you mean that, but evidently somewhere in your head is the idea that I'm going to be away from you for three weeks and get so hard up for companionship I'd sleep with someone else."

"No. It's not about that."

"Then what is it about?"

She sighed softly. "Maybe I just don't like the idea of you being gone for three weeks."

"Uh huh. That's not what you said, not even remotely. Nowhere in there was anything said that sounded like anything but you don't trust me. You even asked me if I could go three weeks without sex."

"I wasn't expecting it!"

"I wasn't either, but I didn't think you'd accuse me of cheating on you as a result of an opportunity like this. I mean, shit like this isn't going to fall into my lap every day, Claire."

"I hate when you say my name."


"It means you're mad."

"Well, yeah, I'm mad. You have your entire life mapped out. Maybe Dad will change his mind as he nears retirement and leave the company to Christopher after all, but we both know you will have a spot right there near the top."


"I don't get that. This is it. My job. Right here. I take this assignment it could lead to so many other things. I don't take it and I'm stuck right here for the rest of my fucking life working weddings every damned weekend."

"You don't know that."

"No, you're right, but I have to start somewhere."

"Is that so bad?"


"Working the things you do now?"

"It's not what I want. Wouldn't you like to have our weekends free once in a while? Wouldn't you like to know I don't have to check my schedule every time one of your friends wants to do something with us?"

"Well, sure."

"Wouldn't you like to know if we have a baby you can take time off worry-free?"

"I can do that anyway."

"I don't mean because your dad would help you. I mean because I wouldn't have to worry about it."

"You worry about it now?"

"I think about a third mouth to feed, sure. You've been talking about getting a puppy so that'd be four mouths to feed. Puppies and babies need stuff. I don't know about babies beyond diapers and food. Dogs need training and toys, food and grooming."


"I want to know that I can give you everything you want."

"You do just fine."

"Doing just fine shouldn't involve killing myself every week nine months out of the year. I mean, yes I have slow times January and April and in the fall, but do we want things like vacations dictated by my work schedule every year?"

"You could hire…"

"I don't want to hire someone else. You know that as well as I do. I'd never trust someone else to be as good with my customers as I am."

"I know."

"I like my job, don't get me wrong. It's gotten me way further ahead than I thought it would. I won't deny that. I look at friends like Glen and Charlie and they're nowhere close to having a house or anything. I just want more. You know? I'm better than this," he said. "I've been so busy with you that I haven't even really had the chance to just go out and take pictures like I do sometimes to try to sell them."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"I don't want an apology. I'm not complaining, but this is a huge deal, Claire."

"I know."

"It's a chance to get my name out there, outside of Chicago. You know?"

"I do," she said, moving to sit on his lap. He slid his arms around her instinctively.

"Is this your way at trying to distract me away from being mad?" he asked.

"Is it working?"

He shrugged, sighing softly as she leaned in to kiss him. Yeah, it was working just great. It was hard to stay mad at her when she kissed him like she did. Like he was the only person she'd ever felt was worth kissing. He knew she kissed other guys over the years, but he knew she hadn't kiss them like she kissed him.

"Fuck, Claire," he murmured when he felt her hand work the zipper on his jeans.

"I'm trying," she said.

"We still haven't…" he said, but she cut him off, kissing him. She knew that would shut him up. Of course her hand, stroking him was a good way to get him to shut up, too. He groaned in protest as she drew away from him, but it was only long enough for her to adjust her skirt so she could settle herself over him.

She still wasn't hugely comfortable being on top of him. She had yet to tell him why, but he guessed it had something to do with being self-conscious about what she looked like to him. He would never understand it because he, obviously he thought, loved looking at her naked.

"Listen, if you think your dad would let you take a week or ten days off, come down with me for as long as you can. Believe me, spending whatever amount of time with you in the Caribbean wouldn't be a bad thing," he murmured when they'd finished.

"John, that's not it."

"What then? You don't trust her? I mean, even if she or someone else did hit on me I'd have to let them. So we're back to you don't trust me."

"No," she sighed softly.

"Then what?"

"You're talking six months from now."

"Yes," he said. "Please don't tell me there's time to decide. If I'm going I need to tell Ronda so she knows not to book me during that time."

"I know," she said.

"Then what? Please. If you really think I'd do what we just did with someone else…"

"I don't. I know you wouldn't. It doesn't mean I don't think they'll all throw themselves at you."

"I don't think you have to worry about that."

"I think I have to worry about that, especially with the goatee."

"Hmm, I never realized you liked it that much."

She shrugged. "It looks sexy on you," she said, sliding a fingertip along the edge of it.

"So what then, Princess, because if I'm doing something wrong here…"

"You're not."

"It's killing me you wouldn't support me doing this."

"I would. I never said I wouldn't."

"Then what?"

"I'm late."


She sighed. "I'm late, John. Like six weeks late. So six months from now…"

"Why the fuck didn't you just say that?"

"Because I haven't been to the doctor yet! I didn't want to get your hopes up, or have you be disappointed, until I knew for sure."

"So you'd rather me think you think I'm a douchebag of the worst kind? Jesus, talk about feeling like I got my heart ripped out. You thinking that about me was one of the worst things I've felt."

"No! I didn't think you'd leave like that!"

"Well, I wasn't going to stick around! My wife tells me…"

"I didn't! I mean, I know it sounded like that, but I'm going to be hugely pregnant and they're not and what if I have issues and am on bed rest or something and we can't."

"That can happen?" he asked.

"It can, yes."

"Then we can't? I'm not an asshole. I mean, I love having sex with you probably more than I should admit to. If I could stay in bed with you all day, every day and do nothing else I'd be a happy guy."

"I think I'd need a break once in a while."

"That's what your mouth would be for, Princess."

She settled her cheek against his neck and he knew she was blushing.

"Fuck," he whispered. "Are you shitting me?"

"No," she whispered.

"And you just didn't tell me?"

"I didn't want you to worry about it."

"So you've spent the last six weeks worrying about it yourself?"

"Well, there's nothing to worry about until I see a doctor."

"Well, yeah but there are tests."

"I took three."

"Where the fuck was I?"

"Doing weddings."

"Oh," he said. "All three came back positive?"


"I could be a shit right now."

She laughed softly. "God as my witness you're the only man I've slept with, John."

"I know, Princess," he said. "You've also spent the last six weeks making me think it hasn't worked."

"Because I didn't want to get your hopes up! Those tests can be wrong."

"Three of them?"

"I don't know."

"When's your doctor appointment?"

"A month from now."


"There's nothing they can do until then, I guess."

"That doesn't seem right."

"Well, if I get my period between now and then we'll know they were false positives."

"That's it?"

"They told me to take some prenatal vitamins."

"Have you been?"



"At work."


"It's easier for me to remember. I take it after lunch."


He sighed softly.

"And now you're mad," she whispered.

"Not mad, I just. Fuck. Six weeks ago, you wouldn't be due until like January, right?"

"Something like that, but babies don't come when we want them to."

"I get that."

"You still want to go."

"Well, yeah. I mean," he sighed. "Certainly your brother would shovel for us while I'm gone so you wouldn't have to do that."


"And I'd come back early…"

"I know you would."

"You want me here, though," he said.

"Kind of. I mean, what if we don't have another one."

"Well, obviously I'm functioning."

"Obviously," she said with a soft laugh.

"What if you came down with me the whole time?"


"Why not? You could relax for three weeks. I can find out about something better than a hotel room for three weeks that we could stay in so we can do our own cooking and everything."

"That does sound appealing."

"You know your dad would let you."

"Yes," she said.

"Think about it? Come on. The potential for weekends off."

"When do you have to decide?"

"Well, I can for now tell Ronda not to schedule anyone and if we decide not to I can tell her to go ahead. I'll also to ask her to note anyone who wanted those weekends so I can call them if I don't go."

She sighed softly, kissing his neck and he tilted his head a bit to let her do it better. He loved when she got like this and left him little love bites. They were never large, but he liked them just the same.

"I'll think about it."

"Thank you," he said, extremely relieved.

"Where did you go anyway?"

"I already told you."

"Shut up."

"I went to Phillip's."

"Oh," she said. "I'm glad you had someone to talk to."

"Where did you go?"

"I came here. I went to the pay phone down at the store and called Christopher."

He chuckled softly.

"What did Chris say?"

"To let you do your job."



"You didn't tell him about the baby, did you?"

"No," she said softly.

"I wonder if he'd give the same answer if you had."

"I think he would've."

"I knew I liked him."

She laughed softly. "Can you take me home now?"

"You drove your own car!"

"Oh, right."

"I can meet you there, though."

"Yes, please," she said.

"You're all right?"


"We're, uh, supposed to be doing that?"


"All right." He stood then, adjusting his jeans as she did the same to her skirt. "I don't care how pregnant you are, Princess. No one could compare to you as far as I'm concerned. So the idea that I'd look at someone else is utterly ridiculous. I have the best, there's no point in looking."

"Hmm, you may just get lucky again if you keep saying stuff like that."

"Well, then, let's get home so I can work on saying more of those things."

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