“We are excited, too!” I say, and then try to modulate my enthusiasm to seem less over the top. “Seriously, I feel lucky that Charlie has chosen someone so cool.”
“Yeah?” Natalie says. “You’d be my sort of co-maids of honor, I guess. Since there isn’t an official one.”
“Works for us,” Rachel says.
My mom comes back out with pigs in a blanket. “Check these babies out!” she says, laughing to herself. The three of us look at the tray and see that she’s put food coloring in the “blankets.” Some of them are pink, some of them are blue. “Since we don’t know the sex of the baby yet. Get it?”
“So we are going to be eating the babies as an appetizer?” Rachel asks. I start laughing; I can’t help it. Natalie tries to stifle hers.
My mom looks down at the plate, frowning. “Oh, no,” my mom says. “Do you think people will feel like they’re eating babies?”
“You guys are so mean!” Natalie says. “Leslie, they are great. It’s a perfect baby shower thing.”
“Mom, I was totally kidding,” Rachel says, trying to take it back. My mom normally doesn’t mind being made fun of, but today she’s taking it at least a little bit seriously, and I feel bad about that.
She hasn’t put the tray down. She’s seriously considering not serving them. “No,” she says. “It’s weird. Shoot. I should have just left them not colored.”
“No,” I say. “Please. She really was kidding. It’s perfect. It’s just like those games where people melt candy bars in diapers to look like poop or bob for ni**les, you know? Baby showers are supposed to be a little over the top. It’s good!”
“You’re sure?” my mom asks all of us.
“Positive,” Rachel says.
Natalie nods her head. I walk over to my mom and put my arm around her. “Totally. You’ve done such a great job. It looks incredible.”
“OK,” she says, finally putting the tray down. “But I didn’t get any ni**les to . . . bob for. Is that bad?”
“No,” I say. “It was just a suggestion. Is there more stuff in the kitchen? I’ll come help you.”
We head toward the kitchen, leaving Natalie and Rachel in the living room.
When we are out of earshot, I ask, “You doing OK?”
“Yeah,” she says. “This is . . . it’s a little stressful!”
“What can I help with?” I ask, standing at the counter, but it looks as if everything is under control.
“No, nothing,” my mom says. “It’s just . . . it’s my first grandbaby.”
“I know,” I say.
“I always pictured myself throwing a baby shower for my first grandbaby.”
“Sure,” I say. “I can understand that.”
“And I just figured . . .”
I wait for her to finish, but she doesn’t. “You thought it’d be for me,” I say.
It takes my mom a while to answer. “Yeah,” she finally admits. “Which is fine. Your life is your life. I’m so proud of what you’re doing with it.”
“I know, Mom. But that doesn’t mean it’s not surprising. Or that things haven’t worked out in a way that is stressful or confusing,” I say.
“I’m so happy about all of this,” my mom says. “I really am.”
“But . . . ?” I ask.
“But,” she says, taking the bait, “I don’t know her. When I was shopping at the store and putting together the menu, I kept stopping and going, ‘Does Natalie like olives? Does Natalie like cilantro?’ I mean, some people hate cilantro.”
“Yeah,” I say.
“I just don’t know her all that well yet,” my mom says. “It’s hard to throw a baby shower for someone you don’t know that well yet.”
“All that matters is that your heart is in the right place,” I say. “Natalie is easy to please.”
“Yeah, maybe,” my mom says, staring at the plate of crab cakes in front of her. “Will you just go out there and casually ask her if she likes cilantro? I put some in the crab cakes, and some people just really hate cilantro.”
“Sure, Mom,” I say, just as the doorbell rings.
We can hear Rachel open the door, and a group of women’s voices begin to chatter. The party has started. Natalie’s friends and coworkers will start streaming in. The gift table will begin to pile up. Before you know it, we will be pinning the sperm on the egg and acting as if the Diaper Genie is the most fascinating object the world has ever seen. “You know, one day, it will be me,” I say as I leave the kitchen. “And when it is, you can serve all the cilantro you want.”
David is lying across my bed. His shirt is off. He’s just in his underwear. We’ve been drinking.
It all started because David said he wanted to make me dinner, and he brought over a bag of groceries and took over the kitchen. And since he brought dinner, I figured I should open one of the bottles of wine that’s been taking up space on the credenza. We each had a glass of red wine and then had another. And then another. And then we opened another bottle for some reason. Between the deliciousness of dinner and all the laughing, more drinking seemed like a good idea.
And here we are, stuffed and still drunk. We started kissing in bed. But his watch got caught in my hair, and we started to laugh. And since then, we haven’t really recovered. We’re just lying next to each other, both half dressed, holding hands and looking up at the ceiling.
“I think Ryan is going to want to get back together,” I say to the air.
David doesn’t move or look at me. He keeps his focus on the ceiling. “Yeah?” he asks. “Why do you think that?”
“Well, he said as much,” I say.
Now he does shift toward me. “I thought you guys weren’t talking,” he says. David knows the deal. He knows the drill. At this point, he knows about the fights and the resentments. He knows about the lack of sex, the bad sex.
“He writes me letters sometimes,” I say. I leave it at that. I don’t feel like explaining it.
“Ah,” he says. His hand is still in mine. He’s starting to massage my hand in his. “Well, how do you feel about that?”
I laugh, because that is the question, isn’t it? How do I feel about that? “I don’t know,” I say, and then I sigh. “I’m thinking that I’m not sure I feel the same way. Or, yeah, that’s exactly it. I’m not sure I feel the same way. It scares me that I’m not sure anymore.”
“Man,” David says, looking back up at the ceiling. “I’m almost envious of you. I wish . . . God, I wish I could stop thinking about Ashley. I wish I could feel unsure that I love her or want her.”
“It still hurts?” I ask, but I know the answer. I’m just trying to give him space to talk about it.
“Every day. It hurts every day. It kills me not to tell her everything going on in my life. And sometimes I just want to call her and say, ‘Let’s get dinner. Let’s figure this out.’”
“Why don’t you?” I ask. I roll onto my stomach, with my elbows out in front of me. Listening pose.
“Because,” he says, his voice becoming animated and passionate, “she cheated on me. You can’t . . . if someone cheats on you, I mean, the self-respecting thing to do is to leave that person. You can’t be with someone who cheats on you.”
Normally, I would agree with him. But it really sounds as if he’s saying it because he’s been told that’s what he should think.
“I don’t know,” I say. “It was one time, right?”
“She says it was one time. But isn’t that what all people who cheat say? Anyway, I’m not sure it matters whether it was once or a millions times.” He turns over onto his stomach now, too. Our shoulders grazing each other.
“People make mistakes,” I say. If I have learned one thing in all of this, it’s that we’re all capable of more than we think we are, for better or worse. Everyone has the potential to f**k up big when the stakes are high. “I threw a vase at my husband’s head.”