Certain that I would not be able to reverse my brother’s shiny two-week old Toyota FJ Cruiser back down the narrow drive when I left, I parked in the front yard of their house Monday morning. She met me on the front step, 14 month-old Katie balanced on her hip.
‘I had an entire Hummer in the blind spot on 15 South.’ I said.
‘I don’t doubt it,’ she replied.
72 hours earlier (actually, 67 given the time difference) I was packing for my New England book tour. As I stuffed part done samples in my carry-on, I was hoping my mood would work its way up to foul. A book talk Monday night and two classes the next day had been cancelled. With a little more warning I could have rearranged my fully flexible trans-Atlantic ticket to Boston but it was too much fuss to bother at this point.
A day later I was working on the notes for the South Yarmouth book talk while managing a surprisingly edible American Airlines lasagne. Since there wasn’t anything I could do about the loss of publicity these classes and talk would have brought me (not to mention the fee), I resolved to let it go once the wheels touched down at Logan. An itty bitty Cessna landed on a parallel runway, which reminded me I must call my pilot friend to make sure she knew about the cancelled talk. With money tight, I’d arranged for her to come as my ‘assistant’ so she wouldn’t have to pay. After I filled out my landing card I wrote ‘K’ on the back of my left hand.
‘How long you been out of the country?’ asked the Cliff-Claven voiced immigration official.
‘I live in Scotland’, I replied. ‘Are the Pats at home this week?’
My brother was waiting for me at Shopper’s World in Framingham and took me up on my offer of supper at Chilli’s after we made the 90 minute trip down the Pike and Rt. 84 to the farm where we grew up. I called my gram, emailed my husband back in Scotland and Mom help me set up for tomorrow’s signing. ‘You have pen on your hand’ she said.
I sat out the deck, breathing in the November air. ‘Through the grace of God and the talents of the laid-back Mid-western pilots, I’m here.’
‘I’m spotting. I’ll have to put you on hold for a minute if the doctor calls .’
The call came in less than two minutes. She drove herself to the hospital for tests. Jet lag began to creep up on me. ‘Dad-strength’ coffee extended the 20 hours since I’d woken up on the other side of the pond.
She emailed the results. No heartbeat. I walked out into the dark, cold orchard and gave God a telling off.
Lots of people were expected that Sunday from 11AM-5PM. Lacking my customary enthusiasm for these events, I demonstrated techniques from the book on auto-pilot while accepting the congratulations of friends, family and customers, many who had known me most of my life. People who couldn’t wait to buy a copy of the book at the farm that day brought their Amazon copies to be signed. Two thirds of the people who had signed up for the Monday classes at that shop a few towns over came by and I arranged to teach it at the farm a few days later.
By 5:09PM I was in the office reading about miscarriages online. ‘Just be there for her’ said Mom. ‘Take the Cruiser down tomorrow,’ said my brother. ‘Be sure to use all three mirrors.’
I wondered if Katie weighed more than the big grocery bag of Cortlands I carried up the steps that Monday morning. Mom had me take cider donuts and a frozen, unbaked apple crisp as well. I brought the apples through the kitchen and utility room down to the basement fridge. When I returned to the kitchen, she gestured through the French doors to a box of stamped, addressed Christmas cards on the dining room table. ‘Should I steam open the envelopes and do new cards? I wrote we were expecting again.’
We drank tea while looking at the digital pictures from my latest round the world trip. I gave her a UK version of my book. Wee Katie dragged around by one leg a burgundy corduroy teddy bear I’d made her that morning (when I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 3AM). My brave wreck of a friend moved slowly around her kitchen. I didn’t need my research to know that she was in pain and it didn’t take me long to figure out I didn’t really need to say or do much of anything.
An old diner on the Berlin Turnpike was chosen for lunch. ‘Katie likes it because it is bright and shiny and I like it because has old-fashioned high chairs and really thick milkshakes.’ We picked a quiet booth at the far end which took us past the long counter of backless chrome and turquoise stools. Three men (three or four empty seats between each) – who obviously belonged to the tractor trailers parked in the front – smiled at a waving and babbling Katie. Once settled in her chair, her little head spun round every time she heard the drone of the milkshake machine.
Katie’s teeth made her fussy so we drove around until her little snores drifted from the back seat. My brother’s Lego-blue SUV was holding court for the utility repair crew across the street once we got back to the house. Katie didn’t wake up when removed to her crib and hung like a limp gangly monkey from her mom’s arms when she carried her up the back stairs. It was getting dark. I promised to return as soon as I could rearrange some of my book commitments. ‘Okay,’ she said.
On the way back to the farm, I drove by the fabric store where I should have been speaking that night. When the US publishers arranged this particular event, I’d invited Kelley along, providing Katie could go to Monday swim class with her father.
Dog tired as I was, I checked the email before heading for my old bed. ‘How about if I write on the back of the envelopes ‘we are no longer expecting’?