It’s the sweetest sex has ever been for me. The most poetic. The most transformative.
As we settle together, spiraling down from bliss, I land in a space of clarity. I stop worrying if it’s going to be Alayna that falls apart from this affair and start accepting that it’s going to be me.
Trying to ignore the Christmas music my mother had playing, I concentrated on entering some figures into a spreadsheet from one of the companies my father was letting me work on over the break. Plexis, a Pierce Industry subsidiary with a great outlook. If my modifications to the business plan were successful, the earnings for the coming year would far exceed what had been predicted. It was exciting enough to make spending time with my family over the holidays bearable.
“I don’t see any diamond ring size boxes under here,” my mother said behind me.
I glanced back to see her arranging the presents under the tree in the living room for the fifth time in an hour. There were more gifts than I’d ever seen growing up, and I bet that at least half of them were for the baby.
“There’s not going to be a ring, Mother. I’m not marrying Celia. I’ve told you that.”
“I keep hoping you’re trying to surprise me with a Christmas engagement.” She’d talked nonstop of marriage plans since Thanksgiving. I’d thought it would have been Celia’s parents driving a union. Turned out Sophia was even worse.
“I really wish I’d known what color to buy.” She added another gift to the heap. “I saved all the receipts though. In case you and Celia get sick of green and yellow.”
When I’d arranged for limited fathering of Celia’s child, I’d neglected to factor in my mother. Since we’d announced our news, Sophia had been a buzz of excitement. Every conversation stemmed around our child. Every day was another chance for her to dote on her unborn grandchild. It seemed she might not be drinking as much too, though that was hard to prove, especially when I’d been away at school for much of the last few weeks.
She moved a present from the back so that it was more visible. It was one I hadn’t seen before, the package shaped very much like a rocking horse. How long would it be before a kid could even use that? With a sigh, I turned back to my computer.
“I’m so glad Celia’s not going back to school next semester. I wish you were staying here.”
This was another conversation we’d had repeatedly. By phone and then at least twice a day since I’d come home for break. “Boston isn’t far. I’ll come up for every prenatal exam. I’ll make sure I’m here for the birth.”
“That’s what you keep saying. But labor can come on quickly. What if you missed it?”
I didn’t answer. Honestly, I’d be glad to miss it. Seeing Celia in a delivery room did not rank high on my-fun-things-to-do list. The rest, though—the exams, the ultrasounds, even the damn yellow and green layette—that I’d begun to look forward to with surprising enthusiasm. I was going to be a father. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t biologically mine. Because I’d claimed it, it was mine in every way that would ever matter.
Sophia didn’t seem to care that I hadn’t responded. “You know, we don’t have to wait until after Christmas for the gender reveal ultrasound. We could probably get in with one of those 3D ultrasound places. Should I call Celia and arrange it? My treat.”
“No.” I paused while I finished entering the formula I was working on. “Madge doesn’t trust those things. She wants to wait for her scheduled exam.”
“We don’t have to tell Madge.”
“Even if you are capable of keeping a secret from Madge, I don’t think Celia would want to go without her mother.”
“What I don’t understand is why you’re not more excited about it?” My mother’s voice came nearer as she spoke. Then she sat at the table next to me. “It’s your first child, Hudson. Take some more pride.”
Perhaps I needed to do a better job at mustering enthusiasm. My father, though, hadn’t shown much more excitement than me. No wondering why there. We’d never talked about it, but if he didn’t assume the baby could be his, then he was an idiot. Even if he believed I actually was responsible for Celia’s pregnancy, he had to be at least a little uncomfortable with the idea that he’d shared a woman with his son. It would bother me, anyway. But my father and I had obvious differences in what was socially acceptable and what wasn’t.
“I’m not very expressive,” I said, not looking up from my work. “It doesn’t mean I don’t feel things.” It was a line I’d stolen from some movie. Wouldn’t it have been something if it were actually true?
She put a hand on my arm. “I’m glad to hear that, Hudson. I used to worry you didn’t.”
My mother had never given any indication that she noticed my lack of emotional response. I typed in one more figure and shut my laptop. “What exactly worried you, Mother?”
“You, Hudson. You worried me.” She dropped her hand from my arm to the table. “Do you remember when you were twelve and you had those entrance exams for Choice Hill?”
I nodded. Choice Hill had been the elite middle school I’d gone to. The admissions process was a rigorous six-hour session of various IQ and personality tests. The children accepted were not only the wealthiest in Manhattan but also intellectually gifted.
“One of the psychologists that worked with you—” She furrowed her brow as if trying to remember something. After a few seconds, she waved her hand dismissively. “His name escapes me, but anyway, he suggested that you struggled with emotions. He recommended we had you tested further to rule out sociopathic tendencies or schizoid personality disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome. Because you had a blunted affect. Or experience avoidance. Or something like that. I don’t remember the terms.”
My heart thudded in my chest. This was the first time I’d heard any of this. “But I don’t remember being tested for anything.”
“Oh, no. You made it into the school, so we didn’t see any reason to pursue the issue further.”
I sat back in my chair, incredulous. “I made it into the school,” I repeated, “and so you didn’t see any reason to find out if your child might be suffering from a major psychological disorder?”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t act like it’s such a big deal. You’re obviously fine.”