Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Forty Weeks

Summary: Jill and Patricia receive some joyous news and spend the next nine months preparing for a very special arrival.

Jill stared at the ceiling, turning her head every time Patricia drew in a sharper-than-normal breath. She slid her hands over the smooth blouse of her pajamas, cupping her stomach as she rode through another cramp. It was nothing to be concerned about. They’d had a hectic few weeks; moving into the new house, helping Patricia during her first weeks as the mayor, the normal school stress, not to mention arranging for their little interlude with Noah. She managed to enjoy their Valentine’s celebration – always extra-special since they were also celebrating the day they met – but for the past week it had been all she could do to get home from school and curl up on the couch.

The alarm was set for five-thirty, but she slid out of bed twenty minutes early. One hand on her stomach, the other resting next to her on the bed, she waited until the latest cramp subsided before standing. She waited until the bathroom door was closed before turning on the light, then opened the medicine cabinet to explore her options. There was a small pink box on the bottom shelf that she had promised Patricia she would not open for another two weeks.

Another cramp hit and she reached for the pink box.

#

The alarm buzzed, and Patricia pressed her cheek into the pillow. “Snooze it.” The alarm continued to blare, so she rolled onto her back and swept her hand across the empty sheet next to her. “Baby?” There was a thin glow around the bathroom door and she whimpered in sympathy. Maybe the bug that had been inching around Jill for the past few days had finally taken hold of her. It was bad timing, but she wasn’t going to let it get her down. She pushed the blankets away with her feet and stretching as she walked around the foot of the bed.

“Jilly Bean?” She tapped her fingernails against the bathroom door. “Are you okay?”

The door opened and Jill held up a small white stick.

“What…” She recognized what it was and what it meant at the same time, instantly connecting it with Jill’s cramping and irritability. “Pink?”

“Pink.” She sounded on the verge of tears, her lips fighting a smile. “I need to get checked out to know for sure, I mean, obviously. And it’s so early. It could be a false positive.”

Patricia nodded, not really hearing her. “Pink.”

“Pink.” Jill threw her arms around Patricia’s neck and was surprised when Patricia responded by picking her up and spinning her around. Jill held on, unsure if she was laughing or crying but also unsure if the difference mattered.

March 12
Week Five
Dr. Rachel Tom smiled as she came into the examination room. “Well, it’s lovely to see you again, Mrs. Hood-Colby. Even though you’re in excellent health. You got your flu shot right on schedule, and you keep your annual checkups. You’ve always taken care of yourself, you exercise, and you eat right, so when you come in for a physical, I think that I can deduce the reason you’re really here.”

Jill took a steadying breath and nodded. She was a frequent guest at the hospital, but not out of any obsessive-compulsive or hypochondriac reasons. She worked with kids. She had to be sure she wasn’t picking anything up, and that she wasn’t exposing them to anything. Her hands were knotted together on top of her hospital gown, forming a crater between her thighs. She had her thumbs extended, rubbing against each other as she waited for the news she had come for. When she looked up again, Dr. Tom was smiling.

“Usually when I give this news, I have to try gauging whether or not it’s good news. But considering your situation, I’m pretty sure it was planned. Congratulations, Mrs. Hood-Colby. You’re pregnant.”

Jill closed her eyes and waited a moment for her hormones to settle before she spoke. “Wow. I guess it’s true what they say, it could happen on the first time.”

“The first time?” Rachel said. “Really?”

“First and only.”

“Lucky you.” She opened her file. “I’ve written you a prescription for some prenatal vitamins that should help with you fatigue and nausea. Help… not eliminate. Don’t think we’re miracle workers. Now, I think it would be best to go ahead and schedule your first few appointments. Just pit stops to make sure everything is progressing the way they ought to be progressing. Do you have an OB/GYN?”

Jill shook her head. “Please tell me there’s one on the island.”

“You even have a choice. We have two. I’ve written down their contact information for you. I would lecture you about taking care of yourself, but since this is you we’re talking about… just a few more appointments a year than you’d normally schedule.” She winked and rubbed Jill’s arm. “Congratulations again.”

“Thank you.” She looked at Rachel’s hand and frowned. “Is that an engagement ring?”

Rachel’s smile widened. “Why yes it is.”

“Congratulations to you too, then! That’s wonderful, Rachel!” She hugged her as naturally as she could, considering she was still seated and wearing the paper gown. “Have you set a date?”

“Not yet. We’re still getting our head around the fact we’re engaged. We’ve basically been married for the past few years, so the idea of making it official… it feels like taking a step back almost. But I can’t wait.”

“Try not to schedule your wedding for my due date, please? I’d hate to have to choose between you and my baby.”

Rachel laughed. “I’m sure I know which of us would lose that fight. We’ll keep you apprised.” She slapped Jill’s arm with the folder. “Now get out of here. Go give your wife the happy confirmation. Celebrate. But no wine.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

Rachel started for the door to let Jill get dressed, but she stopped with her hand on the knob. “Oh, and no coffee. You’ve touched your last drop for the next nine months.”

Jill’s hand froze on the way to pick up her pants.

#

She knew, of course, that caffeine was against the rules. She even thought she had prepared herself for it. After the night with Noah, she had stopped drinking coffee just in case. The problem with that was the possibility she could have a cup of coffee if she wanted to. But now it was forbidden, and suddenly the realization of nine months, forty weeks, seventy-five percent of the year, she wouldn’t be able to drink coffee hit her.

She didn’t care. It was a small, infinitesimal price to pay for what she was getting in return. She flexed her fingers on the steering wheel, then drummed her fingers in time to the song on the radio.

“I can’t have coffee.” She laughed and wiped her eyes.

She parked in the lot behind City Hall. Music class and lunch gave her two free hours, and Sonia would cover for her if she was late, so she felt justified taking the extra time. She whispered a prayer that Patricia wouldn’t be in a meeting or taking a phone call. It was still basically lunch time, so hopefully she would be at her desk with a Caesar salad. She kept her fingers crossed as she hurried up the stairs.

Patricia wasn’t in her office, but Jill saw a gathering of people in the conference room and kept her speed. Patricia was at the head of the table, plastic salad bowl in front of her just as predicted, and was gesturing at one of her employees with her fork. She glanced over as Jill approached and her smile froze on her face. Jill motioned her forward, and Patricia excused herself from the group.

“Hey. Everything okay?”

“That depends,” Jill said. “You did mean it when you said you wanted to be a mother again, right? Because if it was just a prank, well, it’s backfired on you, big time.” She was crying by the end, and Patricia stepped in and hugged her. She had been cautiously optimistic after the first test, but she wanted to hold off on true joy until it could be officially confirmed.

“You are?”

“I am. Dr. Tom confirmed it.”

Patricia exhaled sharply, her breath moving Jill’s hair. “I can’t believe it. You’re amazing. You made me mayor, you made me your wife, and now you’re having our baby. You’re giving me everything, baby.”

“It’s what I promised you, huh? I’m just being true to my word.” She kissed Patricia’s lips. “Go on. We both have to get back to work. We’ll talk more tonight.”

Patricia nodded. There was a lot they had to deal with, from telling Michael and his father to figuring out how to break the news that the mayor’s wife was suddenly pregnant.

#

That night Michael and Callie had a date, so they used dinner to discuss the reality of their new situation. Patricia came home early to make dinner and they ate at the counter, music playing from the stereo in the kitchen as they began a plan.

“I’m lucky I have you. You went through this all… is there anything you wish someone had told you when you were pregnant?”

Patricia sat up straighter. “Yes! Get a haircut. I don’t care how bad you think it looks, a month or so before the baby comes, just chop it all off. You’ll be lucky to have time for a shower, let alone washing your hair. You’ll thank me.”

Jill considered it. “Maybe I’ll skip getting my hair cut until the eighth month, and then chop it all off to donate to Locks of Love.”

“My wife, ladies and gentlemen.” Patricia grinned. “As kind as she is beautiful.”

Jill did a mock bow. “What about the nursery? I was thinking about colors. What do you think about orange and ash blue? One wall orange, the wall with the window blue, and we could have designs… trees and birds…”

Patricia pictured it. “That could be beautiful. We’ll look at paint swatches.” She put down her fork and smiled. “How do you feel?”

“I’m fine. Dr. Tom gave me some vitamins that are helping with some of the–” She made a circular motion around her forehead. “All the hormonal surges and the tiredness and all that. But I feel great. I feel giddy. I know it’s still extremely early, and so many things can still go wrong. It could still be a false positive.”

“Right. So I think we should play it safe in terms of telling people. There’s no sense in getting everyone’s hopes up just to say it was a false alarm in a few weeks. Right now we’ll just take it as a sign. If it’s real, fantastic. If not, we both know exactly how we feel about this. We know we made the right decision.”

Jill nodded. “No lingering doubts.”

“Not one. Even if we have to go back to Seattle with Noah next month, I’ll do that as many times as it takes until it’s real.”

“Me too.” She tapped her glass against Patricia’s and checked the clock on the wall. “Michael’s curfew is eleven, and knowing him he’ll push it right up to the minute. That gives us three more hours to fill with celebration.”

“Hm. Have anything in mind?”

Jill shrugged. “I was thinking playacting. You put on your toy and knock me up.”

Patricia laughed. “God, I love the way your mind works…”

#

After the dishes had been rinsed and placed in the dishwasher, they adjourned upstairs. Patricia went into the bathroom to don her strap-on harness while Jill examined her profile in the mirror. She didn’t see any difference in the shape of her abdomen, but of course it was much too early to see any kind of bulge. Still, she pushed up her shirt and ran her hand over the smooth skin. She arched her back to push out her hips, stretching her stomach to make it pouch out.

The bathroom door opened and Patricia left the light on as she joined Jill in front of the mirror. She pressed against her ass and Jill squealed.

“Why, Mayor Hood-Colby. I believe you’re getting fresh with me.”

“I can’t help myself, Mrs. Hood-Colby. You’re the most beautiful teacher in the district.” She brushed the hair away from Jill’s ear with her cheek and kissed the curve. “Every time you come into my office, I’m so distracted. I simply must have my way with you.”

Jill reached back and stroked the length of Patricia’s toy. “Do you have any condoms?”

“No,” Patricia said. “Please… I can’t think straight when you’re around… I have to have you.”

Jill turned around and squeezed Patricia’s cock. “Well… I guess it would be okay to risk it. Just this once…”

Twenty minutes later, Jill was propped up by the pillows with Patricia’s head on her stomach. They were both sweating, and Jill was a good kind of sore. Patricia’s harness was lying discarded on the far side of the bed. She ran her hand over the slight rise between Jill’s navel and the hair between her legs, stroking gently with her middle two fingers.

“Do you mind?”

“What?” Jill was busy toying with strands of Patricia’s hair.

“This. Me using you as a pillow and touching your belly.”

Jill laughed. “Mind? I think it’s my new fetish.”

“Good.” She turned her head and kissed Jill’s stomach. “I never wanted to get married again. I never wanted to be in a serious relationship, and I definitely didn’t want another child. I didn’t have aspirations to be mayor. All because I thought change was bad.” She lifted her head and looked at Jill. “Thanks for proving me wrong.”

“I do what I can.” She cupped the side of Patricia’s head. “Thanks for giving me a life. And a family. And all the things I thought I could never hope for.”

“My pleasure.”

They remained where they were until ten-thirty, when they got up to put on their pajamas. Jill went straight back to bed, while Patricia went downstairs to make sure Michael met his curfew. On her way down she stopped at the small room next door to the master bedroom, clicking on the light and walking into the middle of the empty space. There was a built-in bookshelf across from a window that looked east toward the harbor. She sat in the window seat and looked left to right.

“Orange and blue.” She nodded and smiled. She could definitely see that.

April 13
Week 10
Jill followed Patricia to their seats, shuffling sideways past the other spectators and apologizing until they reached their destination. Patricia sat first and Jill handed down the food from the concession stand. They also had apple slices stowed in Patricia’s purse, just in case they were still hungry after a few innings. They had found a restaurant serving gluten-free fare and Jill had jumped on it. She was doing everything possible to eat right and be healthy for the baby’s sake. In her mind every moment of the pregnancy was fraught with danger, but this early she knew that it was particularly vulnerable.

There was a tribute to the military before the Mariners took on the Rangers, and Jill threaded her arm around Patricia’s to grip her hand as the ceremony began.

Halfway through, Jill leaned in and whispered, “Thank you for this.”

Patricia nodded and tugged on the brim of her new cap. “In about seven months you’re going to ache for a night out. Dinner, dancing, baseball… might as well make time for it while we have the time.”

Jill smiled and scanned the field. She loved baseball. More than the game, she loved the feeling of being in the stands surrounded by fans while a game was going on. It was such a huge undertaking that she was a little awed by it every time. All the people on the field, everyone in the stands, and the stadium employees all teamed up for a simple game. She was wearing a Mariners T-shirt in a much too-large men’s size, the material knotted against her hip so she wouldn’t look like a toddler.

“You must like it, too,” she said.

Patricia looked at her. “Yeah. Baseball is fine.”

“No, I mean…” She gestured around her. “No one here knows you’re the mayor of our hometown. For the first time this year, you’re just Patricia.”

“Oh…” She straightened in her seat and smiled. “You know what, you’re right. Wow. I hadn’t realized I’ve missed that feeling. Incognito in a crowd. Looks like we both needed a night like this.”

Jill nodded and kissed Patricia’s lips. The tribute to the military ended and the crowd applauded. Soon the teams would take the field and the game would start. Patricia relaxed, pulling Jill back against the seat with her, and they settled in to watch the game.

May 9
Week Twelve
Patricia had given her a rundown on ways to not break the news. She had taken Michael to the harbor to watch boats when she told him Jill was more than just another girlfriend. She and Nicholas sat him down in the living room to tell him that they were getting a divorce. Now was the day they’d decided to let him know the secret they had been hiding from him from the beginning of the year. She hoped he would be happy, but with a teenager it could go either way. Still, she was three months along now and they either had to start telling people or risk being found out another way.

She drove to the airport where Michael had recently gotten a job as a ticket clerk, running through her part of the conversation in the parking lot before she went inside.

The counter for Duckworth Air was a large circular desk in the middle of the main concourse, separating the waiting area from the gates. Of course in an airport this small the gates were just glass doors that led out onto the tarmac, but Jill couldn’t help but be impressed when she walked in and saw her son manning the computer in the center of the operation.

He looked up at her approach, his professional smile fading when he saw it was her instead of a customer.

“Jill. Hey.”

“Hi. I thought I’d see if you wanted a ride home. Maybe we could pick up some dinner on the way, have a talk.”

“A talk?”

“Yeah.” She chuckled. “Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble.”

He glanced at the computer and shrugged. “I’ve got another twenty minutes or so, but then… yeah. Sure. I have to text Callie and tell her not to pick me up.”

Jill nodded. “Okay. I’ll wait for you.”

She went to one of the bright plastic seats in the waiting area and sat down. The departure board behind Michael revealed there was only one more flight leaving that day, and another was due to come in just before midnight. The little puddle jumper airplane only seated eight, so she didn’t have to worry about a sudden rush of passengers showing up to reserve seats.

As she waited, she thought about the various outcomes of the conversation. Michael could be thrilled, or he could be annoyed by the prospect of a baby sister. There would be a sixteen-year age difference between them. She remembered how some of the older kids had responded to her sudden arrival in their foster homes, their resentment and territorial behavior had not made her feel like a new addition to the family. But she trusted Michael.

He kept stealing glances at her, and she kept smiling to reassure him that she wasn’t there to scold or interrogate him about anything bad he might have done. She ran her fingernails along the pad of her thumb, one leg crossed over the other. She looked down at the pleat running over the knee of her slacks and realized that one day soon she wouldn’t be capable of sitting this way again for a very long time. She was saying goodbye-for-now to some of her favorite outfits, wearing them as often as possible before rotating to the maternity section.

Michael finally clocked out and went to tell his boss he was leaving. He came back with a jacket over his work uniform, book bag slung over one shoulder. Jill stood up and fell into step with him out to the parking lot.

“How was school today?”

“You know… school.” He looked at her again. “You sure everything’s okay?”

She squeezed his arm. “Yes. Everything is fine. I just have something I need to tell you.”

“Uh-oh. Last time Mom told me you were getting married, before that you were moving in, and before that she was divorcing Dad. I’m two-for-one on good news to bad news. I’m due for some bad news.”

Jill ignored the swell of pride she felt when he classified the news about her as good. “Well, this is more along the thread of your mother and our relationship. No one is going anywhere, so you don’t have to worry about that.” They were almost to the car. “But things are going to change, and I want you to be prepared for it. I’m pregnant.”

He stopped walking and looked at her. She continued on for a few more steps before she turned to face him, bracing herself for any reaction he might have.

“How? Uh, no. Never mind. Please don’t tell me how. But, like, officially?”

Jill nodded. “We got the tests and everything, but we waited to make sure it was all official before we told you. I’m three months along.”

“Holy sh–” He stopped himself and blinked. “Wow. And… it’s Mom’s, right? I mean, no. I know that doesn’t work…”

“It’s hers,” Jill said. “As far as anything that matters goes, the baby is hers. And the reason I’m the one telling you this is because I want you to be absolutely certain that I’m not trying to replace you or that I consider this baby ‘real.’ This will be my second child, Michael, and you will always be my son. I’m honored to call myself your mother. This baby isn’t going to change that.”

He was looking at his shoes, scuffing the pavement. Finally he nodded. “Okay. Will… you guys need any help?”

“I’m sure we will.” She chuckled. “We were hoping you might lend us a hand from time to time.”

“Yeah. Sure. I can pick up groceries or cook dinner.”

“That would be great, Michael. Thank you. We just wanted to be sure you were okay with it before it went any farther.”

“Thanks.” He started walking to the car again and Jill walked beside him. “You told me first?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“I mean, I understand. But who else do you have to tell? Your boss, and I guess Dad might be interested… And your friends?”

“Yeah,” Jill said. “And there’s someone else who probably needs to be told. I’m not exactly looking forward to it.”

He put his arm around her, and Jill was once again stunned by the fact that the boy she’d met in her fifth-grade class was the same height as her.

“You did a good job telling me,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Jill sighed and crossed her fingers.

#

“Ahoy on the boat!”

A few seconds later, Noah Crain’s shaggy blonde head poked up from below. He was still shaven and now draped his ears and forehead, but somehow he managed to avoid the illusion of being a surf bum. He smiled when he saw who was standing on the dock and climbed up to greet her properly.

“Ahoy on shore. Want to come aboard?”

Jill eyed the deck warily before she took the hand he offered. He pulled her up and stepped back. “Well, I suppose you’re here to give me the news.”

“How can you tell?”

He shrugged and sat on a canvas chair. “Our contract said there would be bi-monthly scheduled evenings until a baby was conceived. We missed a month, so I figure… I mean, I’m hoping…”

Jill smiled nervously. “I’m pregnant.”

Noah’s grin widened. “Wow. All those times I complained about wearing condoms, looks like it was necessary.”

“Oh, God,” Jill laughed. “Yes, yes, you’re a sharpshooter. Slam dunk on the first attempt. Much to my relief. No offense.”

“None taken. So when is the big day?”

“The doctor said October 18. She said it’s rare to know the exact moment of conception, but given the fact I’ve only had sex with a man exactly once in my entire life… kind of narrows it down.”

“Yes, it does.” He chuckled softly and stood up. “Well, Mrs. Hood-Colby, I guess this is where our paths diverge.”

Jill shrugged. “It doesn’t have to be. Signing away your parental rights just means the baby is mine and Patricia’s. But every kid needs a cool uncle with a boat.”

Noah looked out over the water as he considered the offer. “I wouldn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”

“We’d tell you if you did. If it’s a boy, we would welcome the male influence. You’re a good man, Noah. Patricia and I have been blown away by your selflessness and your kindness. I know we haven’t known each other very long, but that just makes what you’ve done so much more impressive. And hey, if we ever decide to have a third child, it’ll be nice to have your contact info.”

He laughed and ran a hand over his face. “Okay. I was planning to stick around the island at least until next year. We’ll keep in touch.”

She held out her hand, tears suddenly burning her eyes. “Thank you, Noah.”

He shook her hand. “Some things are just supposed to happen, Jill. I just provided the biology.”

She grinned.

June 15
Week 19
They settled on amber orange for two of the nursery walls, and teal blue for the other two. Jill was grateful for the summer months, getting time off for doctor’s appointments and sleeping in without worrying about having the conversation with the principal. She would have to take the leap soon, though. Normally she was preparing her syllabus by mid-July, but this year she and Patricia were discussing whether it would be feasible to skip the entire first semester. They could get a long-term substitute for the first half of the year and Jill would just step back into her position after Christmas break.

For the moment, she was satisfied spending her days shopping for the baby. She had taken the ferry to the mainland and spent a few days shopping for baby things in Seattle, and now the items she had bought – including a gorgeous crib – were waiting downstairs for the baby’s room to be ready. Jill was dressed in overalls and an old T-shirt, her hair covered by a kerchief. She hadn’t gotten a haircut in six months and she was starting to become irritated by the length of it. She would be grateful to have it all cut off in two months’ time.

Callie came in, giving up a summer weekend to help paint the nursery and to act as a go-fer. Jill looked expectantly at her and smiled when the girl held up a white paper bag.

“You’re lucky the Fourth of July is right around the corner.” She reached into the bag and pulled out a soft pretzel wider than her hand with the fingers splayed.

Jill took it. “God, you’re a life saver. Did you get–”

Callie held up a handful of ketchup packets. “Will this be enough?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

She went to the bench in front of the window, using the flattened bag as a plate. She made a small puddle of ketchup in the center, which made the stiff paper sag, and she smeared one curve of the pretzel in it before she took a large bite. She chewed slowly and made quiet sounds of approval, lips pursed as she swallowed.

“Thank you,” she said again.

Callie shrugged, examining the progress Jill had made in her absence. “You’re welcome. And hey, it could have been worse. Mom said when she was pregnant with my brother she craved pickle juice.”

Jill perked up. “Ooh.” She licked her lips and shook her head, smearing more ketchup onto her pretzel. “This will do for now. But keep your eyes peeled for pickles, just in case.” She took another large bite and wiped the excess ketchup from her lip with one finger. “And thank you for doing this. I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.”

“Not really. The shop is always closed on Saturday afternoons, and Michael’s at work. This is better than just sitting at home listening to my brother try to murder his friends in the backyard.”

“Well, it’s very much appreciated.” She finished the pretzel, embarrassed by how quickly it was gone considering how long Callie had spent searching for it. She folded the back around the pool of leftover ketchup and stood up. Her stomach was protruding ever-so-slightly against the front of her overalls, nothing that couldn’t be hidden by the right wardrobe but enough that she noticed it every morning in the shower. And Patricia, to Jill’s delight, seemed to be magnetically attracted to it. Every night Jill woke to feel Patricia’s hand on it, and it was where her hands automatically drifted when they kissed hello.

“I’ve been taking some pictures for the nursery if you want them. Just island stuff. Birds and whales and stuff.”

“Oh, wow. Yes, we’ll take a look at them. We were going to try painting something, but photos could be swapped out more easily.” She wiped her mouth on the napkin and sighed. “Okay. I may have to send you back to wherever you went to get more pretzels.”

“I have five more down in the kitchen.”

Jill groaned. “I may have to hire you as my personal assistant. There’s–”

Callie turned. “Mrs. Hood-Colby? Is everything okay?”

Jill nodded and moved her hand over her abdomen. “Come here.” Callie approached, and Jill guided her hand to the front of her overall bib. Callie flattened her palm, watching Jill’s face. “Come on… just one more time.”

Callie gasped. “She kicked!”

“Or he.” They were holding off on learning the gender, trying to see if they could keep it a secret until the baby was actually born. She smiled and squeezed Callie’s hand. “That was the first time.”

“Oh. Wow.” Callie’s eyes were wide and unblinking. “That is so cool. Did it feel weird?”

Jill chuckled. “Yes. Wonderful weird.” She exhaled and then shrugged. “I guess Baby appreciated the pretzel.”

“Well, Baby is very welcome. I hope Baby remembers I was the one who came through when it’s time to pick a favorite aunt.”

Jill’s eyes widened. “Aunt? Something you want to tell me and Patricia?”

“Hm?” Callie realized what she had said. “Oh! No! I meant… I just meant… uh. You know. Term of endearment. Just… you know.”

Jill smiled. “I know. But I had to be sure.”

Callie was blushing when she went back to the paint pan, bending over to pick up a roller so she could ignore the awkward slip of the tongue. Jill followed her, wetting her brush so she could do a little detail work on the corners. The kids were far too young to think about commitment that serious. They were going to be juniors when school started up again, and they needed space to figure out exactly what they wanted in life before they settled down.

Still. Even though she would be horrified if anything happened in the next few years, she had to admit Auntie Callie did have a certain ring to it.

July 22

Week 23

“Are you sure you’re okay with it being her?”

Jill smiled. “You mean just because you had sex with her a decade ago? I won’t hold that against you. She’s beautiful. You were single then. Plus she’s a great reporter. I love reading her column even after you told me about your history.”

Patricia smiled and glanced down at Jill’s midsection. Today she wore a lightweight blouse that draped her from chest to hip, obscuring the growing shape of her stomach. It wasn’t as obvious when she was standing, but as soon as she sat there was little doubt that she was trying to hide something. Currently it was obscured by the fact they were seated on one side of the booth in Chaplin’s, a new organic restaurant on the southern edge of town. They had chosen to meet between the lunch and dinner rushes so they would have a reasonable amount of privacy for the conversation they planned to have.

This was the moment of truth, when Patricia was going to sit down with a reporter and get in front of the story. Today she and Jill were going public with the pregnancy.

She slipped her hand into Jill’s as Kate Price walked over. She smiled apologetically and returned her phone into her pocket.

“Sorry. Partner problems. She’s trying to find an apartment and it’s driving us crazy.”

“It’s okay.” Patricia cleared her throat. “Thanks for agreeing to see us.”

“Of course. Always happy to lend the mayor an ear, especially now that there’s a chance I’ll actually like what I hear. I haven’t had a chance to congratulate you on the victory, but the island already feels different. It’s like it knows someone who deserves the job has been put in charge.”

“Oh. Thank you so much. I’m doing what I can.”

“I’m guessing you’re not here to talk about the job, though.” She looked at Jill. “Have we met?”

“Not officially. Jill Hood-Colby.” They shook hands over the table.

Kate nodded. “Nice to meet you. Over the phone you indicated this was a sensitive topic. I assume you’re trying to get out in front of something.”

“Exactly. We’ve been keeping it quiet, just a few friends and family know. But since it’s getting harder to hide the evidence I wanted to make a statement before you guys started seeking out rumors and gossip. No offense.”

Kate shrugged. “I’ve done things I’m not proud of on slow news days.” She seemed tense, unsure if what was coming would be good news or bad.

Patricia smiled and stroked Jill’s palm with her own. “Jill is pregnant.”

Kate straightened on her side of the booth, looked toward Jill’s stomach, and leaned back. “Oh! Well, that’s amazing! Congratulations again.”

“I’m hopeful that by breaking the news this way we can avoid any speculation about the hows and the mechanics of what went into this joyous event.”

“I understand. The last thing you need is the Dugan family trying to undermine your administration with gutter talk.” She turned her phone back on and began tapping the screen. “We’re going to do what we would normally do… a nice profile of Mrs. Hood-Colby, and we’ll use that to provide information to other expectant mothers about what the island has to offer them.”

Jill said, “I didn’t even know there was an OB/GYN on the island.”

Kate said, “I know of at least one.”

“There’s two.”

“Ah, see? Okay.” She continued tapping and then put her phone down. “All right. First question.” She smiled at Jill. “How do you feel?”

The interview was brief and friendly, more like a discussion with a friend than an interrogation. When it was over Kate checked the time before promising to have something in Wednesday’s paper. She shook Patricia’s hand and hugged Jill, wishing her luck with the rest of her pregnancy, and then excused herself to get started writing.

“That could have been worse,” Jill said.

“Yeah…”

Jill looked at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“I know you. Something’s wrong.”

Patricia sighed. “Not wrong, it’s just…” She gestured at the door Kate had disappeared through. “I don’t think she remembered me.”

Jill put her arm around Patricia’s waist. “As tragic as that is for her, how about you let her remain ignorant? For your wife’s sake?”

Patricia squeezed Jill. “You’re right. Her loss.”

“Although some reporter… how could she forget the best lover she ever had?”

“Oh, I wasn’t that good. I was okay.” She grinned. “I wasn’t a great lover until I went to bed with you.”

Jill leaned in and kissed Patricia’s neck, finding the spot that made her squirm. “Good answer. Very political of you, Madam Mayor.”

“Gotta keep my constituents happy.” She moved her hand into the thick waves of Jill’s hair, gripping a handful as she rocked against her in the booth.

#

The Friday after the story ran, their mailbox was full of congratulatory cards. Jill had fielded calls from most of the other fifth grade teachers at the elementary school, and she’d gone to lunch with Sonia to make amends for keeping the secret so long. Now that she didn’t have to hide her bump, its growth seemed accelerated. Her shirts became tighter, and she started moving with a wide-gait, hand in the small of her back as she tackled the treacherous path from the kitchen to the living room.

Patricia set up a bed for them in the downstairs den so Jill wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs every night and morning. One morning Jill was lying on her side of the bed, Patricia and Michael both long gone to work, when the doorbell rang. She got up and shuffled her feet down the front hall, forgetting until she was almost to the door that the house had a fence. There should have been a buzzed request for entry.

“Who’s there?”

“Sheriff Rucker, ma’am.”

She recognized his voice, but still peeked through the window to see his car and uniform before she unlocked the door. Cal Rucker was a little taller than her, old enough to be her father, and his bald head shone in the sun.

“Morning, ma’am. Just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”

“Yes, fine… why wouldn’t it be?”

He turned sideways to her, gesturing back down the driveway. “Your gate was standing open. Noticed it when I was driving by, thought it was a little odd. I just wanted to make sure everyone was all right.”

“All quiet here. Michael must have left it open when he went to work. Michael’s our son.”

He smiled again and dipped his chin, reminding her of an indulgent grandfather. “Yes, I know. I just wanted to make sure. I can go ahead and shut the gate behind me after I leave.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.”

He nodded and then gestured at her stomach. “When are you due?”

“The middle of October.”

“It’ll be here before you know it. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Sheriff. And thanks for checking in on us. It’s good to know you’re out there.”

He nodded again, now sheepish that there was no problem to solve. “Tell Patricia I said hello. She’s really reformed that office. I can actually have a budget now. I almost don’t know what to do with myself.”

Jill laughed. “Well, if she knew you were doing spot-checks on her home security she might bump it up even higher. I’ll see you, Sheriff.”

He waved and walked down the porch. Jill waited by the window until he drove back down the driveway, watching as he unfolded himself from behind the wheel and punched in the override code the police had for all the gated communities in town.

She sighed and walked back to bed. Michael. How many times had they told him to make sure the gate was closed when he left the house? She would have to talk to him when he got–

“Callie’s here. I think my remote control for the gate is broken… it hasn’t been working right. Could you shut it after we’re gone?”

“Sure, sweetie. Have a good day.”

Jill winced. She was pretty sure that conversation had happened that morning, when she was trying to get back to sleep.

“Whoops.” She rubbed her forehead and furrowed her brow. It was just the latest example of what Patricia called her baby brain. The first few times she’d been embarrassed, but Patricia had just stood behind her and rubbed her arms, kissing her neck and cheek to comfort her.

“Jill, you’re carrying our baby. That’s your priority, not remembering whether or not we have enough laundry sheets or what time I said I was going to be home. Right now if it doesn’t concern the baby, you categorize it as less-important. You’re doing triage. The important stuff gets through and the minor stuff… well, Michael and I will deal with the minor stuff. Okay?”

“Thank you, baby.” She turned her head and kissed Patricia. They’d been in the bathroom at the time, Jill close to tears because they were out of toothpaste and she suddenly remembered she’d been asked twice to pick it up. Patricia’s hands had roamed to the buttons of Jill’s pajama top, undoing them slowly before she knelt to tug her shorts off.

Jill patted her stomach as she returned to bed. She had been fully prepared for a hiatus in their sex life, but Patricia still found her attractive. They weren’t making love as often as they had in the past, but a large part of that was due to the fact they were both too tired to consider it when they finally climbed into bed together. Patricia still found the energy to rub Jill’s feet, to massage that spot in her back where all the tension of the day joined up in a knot of pressure, so she knew they weren’t in a dry spell. They were just making a different kind of love at the moment. Sex would come back into the picture after everything was done.

She sat on the bed and crossed her legs, a wall of pillows between her back and the headboard as she settled the laptop in front of her.

The school year was going to start at the beginning of September, and she couldn’t justify skipping so much work when her due date was at the end of October. Her plan was to start maternity leave on October 14, two weeks before the due date. The leave would run out on the same day school ended for Christmas break, leaving her free until January 6. Plenty of time.

Her lesson plan was nearly complete, and she had the benefit of working with the woman who would be taking over the class for her. Jill turned on her computer speakers and started what she’d dubbed the “Mommy Needs to Work” play list. It seemed the baby was a fan of anything with strings, so she had gotten some of Michael’s Radiation Canary MP3s loaded up. She hummed along as she sang, smiling when the baby moved and settled in to the music.

“Good baby,” Jill murmured, patting her belly before she went back to work.

August 20
Week 27
Jill woke with Patricia’s hands on her stomach, smiling before she even opened her eyes. They were spooning, Patricia curled against her back and murmuring quietly against Jill’s shoulder. Jill stroked from wrist to elbow until Patricia stirred. “Hey. Happy gave-birth day.”

Patricia chuckled sleepily and lifted her head to kiss Jill good morning. “Hard to believe it was sixteen years ago.” She lifted her leg to drag her foot over Jill’s calf. “Good morning. How is Baby today?”

“Baby is being good to mama for once.” Jill covered Patricia’s hand with hers. “I think she wants bacon for breakfast.”

“Oh, she does, does she?

Jill laughed. “Did I say she?”

“You did.” Patricia kissed Jill’s ear. “I’ll make you some bacon. Stacks of it. After showering.” She finally pulled herself away from Jill and got out of bed. The same act required a bit more maneuvering for Jill, who rose carefully. She wasn’t a large woman, and the size of her stomach had prompted her to ask the doctor to make doubly certain she wasn’t carrying twins. Of course, her cravings for salty and greasy foods (depending on the day) probably weren’t to manage her weight. As far as she was concerned, the baby got what the baby wanted. She didn’t mind a few extra pounds.

She showered, deciding Patricia was absolutely right about the need for a haircut before the baby came. There was no way she would bother with it once she had a crying infant demanding her attention. But for now she luxuriated in the joy of running her fingers through the long strands and feeling it resting heavily against her upper back. She also thought the weight of her hair, which was longer than she’d ever worn it, helped counterbalance her stomach.

After her shower she dressed in the Mariners shirt that now fit her almost perfectly, remaining barefoot as she left their makeshift bedroom and crossed to the kitchen. Patricia was half-dressed for work, her suit pants and v-neck undershirt protected by an apron. She went into the pantry and took out the present she had so carefully wrapped the week before. She placed it in front of Michael’s normal place at the breakfast table before she joined Patricia at the stove.

“What can I do?”

“Relax.” Patricia picked up a piece of bacon and held it over her shoulder. Jill bit the end, chewing down to Patricia’s fingers to kiss the grease away. “I’m almost done. You can read me the news if you want.”

“Okay.” She smoothed her hand over the seat of Patricia’s pants before she took the PDA from her right pocket. She turned it on and scanned the internet’s latest updates, stopping to click on the stories if Patricia expressed interest in knowing more. She checked email – two city council members asking for meetings and a message from waste management that elicited a grunt of irritation – and composed responses that Patricia dictated to her. When she’d checked everything, she found a funny cat picture to off-set the frustrating business and the bleak news.

They were seated and eating by the time Michael appeared. Patricia shouted, “Happy birthday!” as was her custom, rising from her seat to hug him and pepper his hair with kisses. Jill whooped and applauded, smiling as Michael squirmed away from his mother and spotted the gift on the table.

Patricia pointed at the wrapping. “You know, when I was a kid, something that thin meant you were getting ripped off. A card with a ten-dollar bill in it, or a comic book. But these days, thin could be just about anything.”

Michael opened the present and his eyes widened when he saw what it was. His bleariness disappeared and he ran his hand over the Kindle box. “Oh, awesome!”

“Well, I just got sick of you borrowing mine all the time.” Patricia winked. “This one is actually a better model than mine, so beware of turnabout. Your dad pitched in and bought you a couple of books he thought you might like. They’re ready and waiting. But you can mess with it after breakfast. And thank Jill… she’s the one who suggested I upgrade you.”

He hugged Patricia and thanked her, then went around the table and hugged Jill. “Thanks, Mom Jay.”

Jill blinked at Patricia, who had stopped with a forkful of eggs almost at her mouth. Michael sheepishly shrugged, still holding the present with his free hand. “Well, I just figured the baby isn’t going to call you by your name, and it would be weird if I was. Is that okay?”

Jill’s eyes were blurry with tears and she nodded. “Yeah. I’ve never minded you calling me by my name. But… yeah. I like it. Mom Jay.” She laughed and wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. “I’m glad you liked the present.”

“It’s awesome.”

He sat down and Patricia smiled at Jill. She cleared her throat, finally ate her forkful, and leaned back. “Your dad will be here in a few hours. Try to make sure he has you back by six.”

“I will.”

Jill listened with half an ear to this and the rest of the breakfast conversation, but she wasn’t entirely present. Her mind was filled with two simple syllables.

Mom Jay.

September 7
Week 31
The house still felt vibrant and alive, even though the last guest had left over an hour ago. Patricia volunteered to clean up so Jill could rest, and Jill had gone up to the nursery with an armful of presents from the baby shower. It had been wonderful to see Cheryl again, and she was amazed that Rachel had taken time away from planning her wedding to attend. She smiled as she thought back on the night, sad that it had to end. She deposited the gifts on the window seat, too tired to put them away at the moment. The best present from the evening was already set up in the corner next to the crib, angled so it was facing the window. The antique rocking chair was a gift from Sonia, an antique from her own nursery that was so gorgeous Jill had tried to turn it down three times before she finally accepted it.

The cushion was orange, and a teal blue afghan was draped over the back. She loved the colors, and just being in the nursery was enough to calm her frayed nerves whenever she needed to take a moment for herself. She settled into the chair with a groan, sighing as she cupped her hands under her stomach, rocking slowly and looking out the window. She was about to drift off when Patricia found her.

“There you are, Mom Jay.”

Jill smiled. “Sorry to stick you with cleanup duty.”

“Ah, no problem.” She entered the room and lowered herself to the carpet. She took off Jill’s shoes and settled one foot in her lap, massaging the other with both hands. “I like taking care of you.”

“Good.” She wiggled her toes and smiled. “Did you see what Callie brought us?”

Patricia glanced at the pile. “Which was hers?”

“The doll. She seems convinced we’re having a girl.”

“Well, to be fair, so do you. Whenever you slip up and mention a gender, you say girl.”

Jill shrugged. “Wishful thinking.”

“Or intuition?” She smiled and switched to the other foot. “I had a feeling Michael was going to be a boy as soon as I found out I was pregnant. If I was a betting woman, I’d put my money on girl.”

“Don’t jinx it. I’d be just as happy giving Michael a brother. Isaac.”

“Leroy.”

Jill laughed and patted Patricia’s cheek with her free foot. “Be serious. What names do you like?”

Patricia thought as she kneaded Jill’s soles. “Benjamin for a boy. I held onto it for a long time when I was pregnant, but in the last week or so I just decided that Michael would be a better fit. I like Leslie for a girl.”

“Leslie Colby.” Jill made a face. “I don’t like names that rhyme. Or that end with the first letter of the last name. So I guess Isaac is out. And Jack.”

“Joshua.”

Jill’s eyes widened. “Oh, I like Joshua. What about girls?”

“Olivia.”

“Yes. On the list. Sarah.”

“With an H or without?”

“With. You know, one of the girls in my class this year is named Magenta.”

Patricia wrinkled her nose. “No.”

“We could call her Maggie.”

Patricia pinched Jill’s smallest toe. “No. If we name our child after a color, it’ll be Burnt Sienna. Or Violet, I guess.”

Jill grinned. “Patricia, Junior.”

“Ha! No.”

“Why not? Guys do it all the time.”

“Egotistical guys who feel the need to slap their name on everything. Most won’t build a Trump Tower, so they just uncreatively stick their kid with the label for life.” She cleared her throat. “Uh. Nicholas wanted to name Michael Nick, Jr.”

“Like the TV channel?”

Patricia laughed. “Oh, God. I don’t think that was around then, but we definitely dodged a bullet there.” She pressed her thumb into the arch of Jill’s foot. “So… what other names do you like?”

October 14
Week 36
The Monday before Jill’s due date, she got her hair cut. Georgia Durbin had gone through the Locks of Love donation process before, and Jill trusted her to not butcher whatever she had left when the job was done. Georgia’s shop, A Cut Above, was where Michael got his haircut so she felt comfortable as she was draped with the smock. She freed her hand and found Patricia’s, squeezing as her hair was gathered into a ponytail.

“I’m scared. I’ve never had really, really short hair before.”

Georgia smiled. “Well, you have more than the required ten inches. We could leave you a little extra if you wanted.”

“No, I need it short. No muss, no fuss.”

“All right. I’ll leave you as beautiful as you are now, don’t worry.”

Patricia said, “You’d better. I only married her because she had such amazing hair.”

Jill laughed, and then closed her eyes as Georgia picked up the scissors. “Okay. On three… one, two…”

Jill embarrassed herself by yelping when the ponytail was severed. She whimpered when she saw it in the mirror and then dipped her chin so that the remaining hair fell against her skin. She shuddered. “I can feel air on the back of my neck. It feels so weird.”

“You’ll get used to it,” Patricia said. “And so will I.”

“You’d better.”

Georgia took a moment to get the hair ready for the donation, and then proceeded to style what was left. She left the top alone, leaving enough bangs to fall across Jill’s forehead at an angle. The rest of her hair was layered down to the nape of her neck, which Georgia tapered to a narrow point.

“You look so butch,” Patricia whispered, and Jill closed her eyes and lifted her fists.

When the deed was done, Jill reached back and brushed her palm over the short hair as she examined the results in the mirror. She looked like Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes, a neat and efficient cut that still managed to be feminine. “Wow.”

“Good wow?” Georgia asked.

“I think so.” She looked at Patricia for confirmation, and she nodded. She teased out the bangs a little and lifted her chin. “Yes. Good wow. I think I can live with this for a few months.”

“Good. Because I can make it look nice, but I really suck at putting it back on.”

Patricia said, “You have to go to a hundred-dollar salon for that, I bet.”

Georgia grinned and nodded. When Patricia reached for her purse, Georgia waved her off. “It’s for charity, and it’s a necessity with the baby coming. It was bad enough I had to hack off your wife’s hair. I won’t make you pay for it.”

“Oh! Thank you very much.”

“Happy to do it.” To Jill, she said, “Mrs. Hood-Colby, come in if you need a trim. Free of charge.”

Patricia, only half-joking, said, “That’s fine, so long as this isn’t preferential treatment for the mayor.”

Georgia hesitated. “Yes and no. A few years ago, my mother had an issue with her water payment. The city was charging her way too much, and we couldn’t figure out why because everything looked right on paper. You were still working in the utilities department, and I guess the complaint got to your desk. You figured out there was a problem with the meter and took it on yourself to make sure everything got settled. That meant a lot to me. A lot more than a couple of free haircuts. I would do this even if you weren’t mayor.”

Patricia smiled sheepishly. “Oh. Well, in that case, you’re very welcome.”

Georgia picked up the donated hair. “I’ll go get this ready for shipping, give you both a moment to get used to the hair.”

As she left, Patricia stepped behind the chair and put her hands on Jill’s shoulders. “You really do look amazing, Jill.”

“Yeah. I can get used to this. And it’ll be a godsend when the baby gets here.”

Patricia moved her hands, tickling Jill’s neck and ear. “Plus it gives me a lot of access to two of my favorite spots.”

Jill squirmed, chuckling. “Cut that out.” She touched her stomach and sighed. “Five days.”

“Yep. Five days.” She bent down and kissed the crown of her head. “Trust me, it’ll go by in no time flat.”

November 1
Week 38
“Fifteen days.”

“I’ve seen the calendar, Jill.”

“Fifteen days overdue. Where the hell is Baby?”

Patricia put down her pen and massaged the bridge of her nose. “Honey, she’s just a little bit late. I know you’re irritable, but–”

Jill cut her off with a growl, pacing away from the desk with a hand in the small of her back. Patricia leaned back in her chair, eyes closed. She was trying to be patient and understanding. She had been there herself, but it was difficult to deal with this irritable and grouchy woman while she also had a fair bit of work stress as well. She stood up and followed Jill out of the room.

“We’ve done everything the doctor said to do. We’ve had sex, we’ve gone on walks, you ate spicy food, we’re doing what we can. But the baby won’t be officially full term for another two weeks.”

“Two weeks.” Jill exhaled sharply and leaned against the wall. Her voice cracked when she spoke again. “I can’t do another two weeks of this. I can’t do it.”

Patricia massaged Jill’s shoulders. “Honey, you can. And you know what, I looked at the calendar and did a little math. I think I know when the baby is coming.”

“Oh, you do.”

“Yes. November 12.”

“That’s almost an entire month after the doctor told us she was coming.”

Patricia nodded. “Yes. But we got married on eight-eight-oh-eight. We were officially, legally married on twelve-twelve-twelve. And I think our baby is holding off for eleven-twelve-thirteen.”

Jill relaxed slightly. “Eleven-twelve-thirteen.”

“Our baby is as big a number nerd as you are.” Patricia smiled and brushed the tip of her index finger up and down Jill’s neck. Jill shuddered.

“And you don’t have to hold out for two more weeks. You can lean on me, rely on me, dump it all on me.”

Jill turned to face her. “I think you have enough on your plate.”

“I have you on my plate. Everything else is back-burner stuff.”

Jill rubbed her eyes. “I’m just sore all the time. And tired.”

“I know.”

“Love you.”

Patricia kissed Jill’s eyebrows. “I love you, too. Why don’t you go lie down? I’ll give you a massage.”

“How about massage later, I nap, and you focus on some of that back-burner stuff? You’ve been taking care of me all year. You need someone to take care of you. First year mayor… I feel like you’ve been in it alone.”

“I don’t feel that way. But thank you for acknowledging it.” She squeezed Jill’s hand. “I don’t see it as a chore. I see it as taking care of the person I care about more than anything else in the world… and the woman carrying her.”

Jill laughed. “Oh, nice.” She cupped Patricia’s face. “I’ll nap. If you need to complain about something, I’ll be all ears during the massage. I promise.”

Patricia nodded. “Thank you.”

“And if this baby doesn’t come on or before November 12, I’m coming after you with a potato peeler.”

“I will heed your warning.” She kissed Jill once more before pulling away from her. “Take care of little Olivia or Joshua.”

“Will do. I just get irritated… I want to ground him, but that kind of defeats the point.”

Patricia laughed. “Go on. I’ll come wake you in an hour or so. What kind of oil do you want for your massage?”

“Vanilla.”

“Okay. Sleep well.”

They parted, Jill going to the downstairs bedroom while Patricia returned to the study. She sat down, clasped her fingers on the back of her head and stretched. Just a few more days. By Thanksgiving the baby would be there and the old Jill would be back minus a few pounds and the majority of her hair. She smiled, scooted her chair forward, and focused on the work she had to get done before bed.

November 11
Week 40
“Trish… Patricia…”

Patricia had only just fallen asleep and resisted the urge to just burrow into the pillow. There was a note of insistence in Jill’s voice that made her open her eyes and roll onto her back. The moonlight coming through the window gave Jill’s features an unearthly gray hue as she looked down at her stomach. Patricia pushed herself up, instantly awake.

“Baby?”

“Baby.”

Patricia pushed away the blankets and jumped to her feet. She was wearing blue pajama bottoms with thin white stripes and a sleeveless white undershirt, and she threw a cardigan over it as she stooped down to pick up Jill’s shoes. She tossed them onto the side of the bed she had just vacated, then spun and pulled the outfit they had hung on the back of the door for this moment. She took it to the bed and, as Jill squirmed into her shirt, Patricia knelt next to the bed and put her shoes on for her.

“I’ll text Michael from the hospital so he’ll know where we are when he wakes up. How far apart are the contractions?”

“Nine minutes.”

“Okay. Okay, we have time. When did they start?”

“Half an hour ago.”

Patricia went through several emotions at once. She’d been awake half an hour ago, so she could have been prepared for this. But Jill also would have known how exhausted she was. If the contractions had been another false labor, then she would have forced Patricia to sit up for nothing. She cupped Jill’s face and nodded.

“Okay. To the car…”

The trip to the hospital was a blur. She was aware of keeping time on Jill’s contractions, remembered that she had nearly mown down the front gate of their house. And when the nurse asked for the name, Patricia had been so distracted that she answered, “Either Olivia or Joshua. We don’t know the sex yet.”

It was just past midnight when she got a text from Michael asking if they were at the hospital. He offered to come, but Patricia emphatically told him to go to bed. He could drop by before school in the morning to see how Jill was doing, but he needed to sleep. She called Sonia, who had demanded to know the minute things started to happen, and she showed up just before one in the morning.

Patricia left Jill’s side to greet Sonia. “You don’t have to stay here. You have school in the morning…”

“They have substitutes, and you need someone here for you. People are going to be coming, and you have to be by Jill’s side. Besides, babies need cheerleaders, and so do their mamas. I’ll be out here with my magazines. You go be with our girl.”

Patricia kissed Sonia’s cheek and hurried back down the hall. Her heart was pounding, and she felt oddly erratic. Even with the pain and discomfort, she realized she almost preferred being on the other side of the equation. She stayed by Jill’s side, blotting the sweat from her forehead and holding her hand as the doctor checked in to see how far along she was. Jill wanted strong, powerful music to be playing, so Patricia had loaded the iPod with all the Pink songs she could find.

Halfway through “U + Ur Hand,” Jill dropped her head against the pillow so suddenly that Patricia was startled. But then Jill laughed.

“I can’t believe it.”

“What?”

Jill sniffled and pointed at the wall. Patricia tried to see what she was indicating but she was lost. “Hon, I don’t know what–”

“The date. You were right about the date. This silly baby waited… it’s November 12, 2013.”

Patricia laughed. “Eleven-twelve-thirteen. This is definitely our baby.”

“It is.” Jill burst into tears, still smiling. “She’s definitely ours.”

The doctor smiled along with them and motioned the nurse over. “Well, whatever you two find so funny about the date, I hope it’s a good joke. Because I think this little one is ready to join us.”

Patricia shut off the song and gripped Jill’s hand. “Ready?”

“No. I can take another two weeks… let’s put it off until Thanksgiving…”

Patricia kissed Jill’s forehead. “I’ll be right here, baby.”

Half an hour passed, and then ninety minutes. Patricia withstood the vice grip Jill put on her hand, stroking the short bangs away from Jill’s forehead with her free hand. A nurse told her that Michael and Callie had shown up and wished them luck, and gave her a note from Michael that said he’d called the deputy mayor to let him know that Patricia wouldn’t be at work that day.

“He’s a good boy,” Jill said breathlessly.

“He is.”

Jill whimpered. “You should have done this. You’re strong, you’re so much stronger than me…”

“Hush. You’re doing so well, Jilly Bean. You’re amazing, okay?” She kissed Jill’s forehead. “Just get through the next few minutes and you can do anything.”

“I can’t…”

“You can. You will. You are.”

Jill moaned and pushed again. Patricia looked at the clock. “It’s a little past eight. If you can wait until nine-ten, then her birth date will be nine-ten, eleven-twelve-thirteen.”

Jill grunted and shook her head. “Say more number things.”

Patricia stroked Jill’s hair and let her other hand be squeezed hard enough to leave a lasting soreness. “If you keep this up for a month, our second child will be born on the first anniversary of our second wedding ceremony.”

“A month,” Jill cried.

“One little month.”

Jill sobbed, shaking her head as she laughed. “We should have gotten married at Thanksgiving…”

“Now you tell me.”

The doctor said, “We’re going to need one more big push.”

“Hear that? One more, Jill. I know you have it in you.”

Jill bared her teeth and pushed, squeezing so hard that Patricia was sure something had to be slipped out of place in her hand. Jill sagged back against the pillow with a cry of release, a victorious kind of anguish. Patricia started to tell her she had done a good job but was cut off by the new arrival’s sudden, piercing cry.

Jill and Patricia both looked down and saw the doctor holding their baby. “Congratulations,” she said. “You have a beautiful daughter.”

“Daughter.” Jill exhaled the word sharply, then laughed. “Daughter. A daughter, Trish.”

“You were right all along.” She kissed Jill’s lips, and then accepted the scissors the doctor offered her for the umbilical cord. The baby continued to cry, shaking her tiny fists as she was cleaned and swaddled in tight blankets before she was carried back to the bed.

“Unless you’ve gotten your fill of carrying her in the past nine months–”

“No. Give me.”

The nurse smiled and carefully transferred the squirming child to Jill’s arms. The tears that had been flowing looked the same, but Patricia knew they were happy tears now. She leaned in as Jill pushed the blankets away from the tiny little face of their daughter, stroking her finger over a plump cheek. Thin strands of dark hair swept across her forehead, her eyes still scrunched shut and her lips screwed up in her displeasure.

“Look at her,” Jill whispered.

“I see her. I see.” She touched the baby’s foot through the blankets.

Jill sniffled. “Hello, baby. Hi. I’m your momma. This is Momma Trish.” Patricia smiled, and Jill sobbed quietly. “Isabel.”

“What?”

“I know it wasn’t on our list. But this is the moment. When my mother had to give me away. And giving me a name was all she could do. I want to name her after my mother.”

“Isabel… Isabel Amelia.”

Jill made a quiet sound. “Oh, yes. Isabel Amelia Hood Colby. Hello, Izzie. Welcome.”

Patricia stroked the baby’s arm and then rested her hand on Jill’s wrist. “So… now that you know how it feels at the end, would you do it again?”

“Hell yes.” She chuckled. “For once, the ends really do justify the means.”

She kissed Jill’s temple. “So proud of you.”

The baby decided fussing wasn’t getting her anywhere and opened her eyes, staring up at her mothers with an expression of acceptance.

November 15
“Welcome, welcome back. That was Stevie Wonder singing a beautiful little song called ‘Isn’t She Lovely,’ in honor of a very special occasion. You see, when we elected Patricia Hood-Colby to the mayor’s office, we thought the island was enough for her. But it turns out she wanted one more constituent. The population of the island grew a little this week, and I want to wish the little one a very warm welcome to Squire’s Isle. And a very, very happy afternoon to the little one’s mamas. This is KELF, and I’m Nadine Butler. Rest well, Hood-Colby family. Right now we’re going to play ‘Mother and Child Reunion’ for you.”

The window seat was just wide and deep enough for Jill to lie down in, her body protectively curled between Baby Izzie and the edge. Isabel was on her back, eyes wide as she looked out the window waiting for another bird to pass by. It was like her own personal slideshow, completely random and always a source of joy. Jill stroked her daughter’s stomach through her thin T-shirt, offered her fingers for the tiny hands to grip and hold tight to. She chuckled, her breath rustling the wispy thin strands of hair that stuck out underneath her pink cap.

Michael would be home at three, and Patricia had been taking half-days to be home in the afternoons. Jill appreciated their help, but she also adored moments when she was alone with their baby. She hoarded moments when Isabel would look at her and smile. She knew the girl was still too young to actually form memories, but Jill was something constant in her life. Patricia was the same way, as her appearance always prompted a gurgling semblance of a laugh. It might not be much, a smile and a hiccup, but for now it was more than enough.

Jill tapped her foot against the wall of the window seat, humming along with the Paul Simon song as Isabel searched for another swooping, feathered beast to come entertain her.

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