She’s nervous as a bride when he comes in and she hurries to get a hot dinner in front of him. She isn’t aware she’s gripping her apron with tight fists until she sees him looking at them. She flushes and opens her mouth to speak. “Went to the doctor today.”
He pauses, fork in mid-air, next bite ready. “Doctor?” he frowns.
“I’m pregnant.” She says the words in a rush.
His face goes blank from shock, but then his eyes crinkle up in that way she loves. “Gorram! Esme, girl, here I was thinkin’ you were just gettin’ fat!” he laughs. He can’t be serious for even a minute. Lord knows how he isn’t giggling all day at court when he’s defending his clients.
She’s built on generous lines and she knows she isn’t showing, but there’s nothing wrong with a snappy retort. “When’s the litter you’re carrying due, then?” she asks, with a soft slap to his belly.
He guffaws and pulls her down to his lap, kissing the top of her head. Her hair smells like fresh bread. A sudden thought freezes him. “Esme, you ain’t . . . too old for this?” The girls are fifteen, the second set of twins twelve. He’s seen the births, knows it takes strength to push for so long.
“No, Father Time, I ain’t too old,” she tries to joke, but his arms tighten around her and she can’t continue. “I'll be fine,” she promises quietly.
He intends to hold her to her word. “When are these new brats due?” he sighs, playing weary.
She rolls her eyes at the melodrama. “Not brats. Brat. This time there’s just one.”
“Really?” he asks, surprised.
“Really. This one’ll have no shadow.” She knows already this child will be spoiled rotten. “He’ll have to go it alone.”
She repeals that declaration when they put her newborn child in her arms. He’s got an absurdly endearing crest of reddish hair and his tiny fist clutches her forefinger with an iron grip, wiggling it around like a joystick. It’s the first time she’s been able to concentrate on the baby at her breast; with the twins, she was always worried about the child she wasn’t feeding, the one out of the circle of her arms. The sensation of his steady sucking at her nipple is overwhelming, and she nuzzles the top of his head with her nose. This is the one she’s never letting out of her sight.
Continue: Part 10/21