To start with, we took it slowly and saw each other a couple of times a week, did things together at weekends, like hikes and films. Jules relaxed the more she got to know me, the more she trusted me, and she stopped being so dependent on her rules.
She had let me call her Jules fairly early on, and I met a lot of her friends, who also called her Jules, and I realised then why she always looked like a Jules to me; because that’s who she really was. She met Dec and Amy, briefly, in a shop, she met Jay, Beth, Cal and Iz, briefly, on a flying visit to my flat, and she met my mum, briefly, when I called in on the way somewhere and made her get out and come into the house. But I sensed her reluctance to spend a lot of time with my family, how being with people briefly was good for her, and I just saw them on my own. It didn’t stop them asking about her. I had let her name slip a couple of times, and Beth wouldn’t leave it alone:
‘I’d love to meet Julia properly, when are you bringing her over for lunch?’
‘When are you next seeing Julia?’
‘What does Julia think about that, then?’
It nearly drove me away, but I’d got used to Beth over the years, and I managed to ignore it.
Then two things happened at almost the same time, which changed things in different ways. Firstly, everyone at GreenScreen found out about Jules and me. Secondly, Amy got pregnant. The two events were in no way connected, but the impacts of both were felt for quite a while.
We’d had a particularly difficult day; the client had suddenly changed his mind about what he wanted, but wasn’t prepared to shift on the deadline, so we had pulled out all the stops to try and turn things round. The teams had worked really hard to deliver their part of the bargain, and it was down to Matt and me to pull it all together in order to present a draft of something coherent the next day. As people left one by one, emailing or giving us their work as they did so, Matt and I strove to put it all in order and make a presentation.
It was late as the last person left the office, and I was tired. My eyes were sore from looking at a computer screen all day, and my back ached from sitting in one position. I sat back in my chair and stretched, giving a big groan as I did so. Matt looked up.
‘It’s been a bloody long day.’
‘I’ve had enough. Have we nearly finished?’
‘Nearly. I’ve just got to put Dave’s bit in and add a bit of blurb, and I think we’re done. Another twenty minutes, I reckon.’
‘Great. I don’t care if I never see another spreadsheet as long as I live.’
I rolled my shoulders, trying to get rid of the kinks.
‘Need some help with that?’
I looked up at him, frowning. It was a big breaking of the rules.
‘Oh come on, Jules, we’re the only ones here, it’s way after hours. I do a great shoulder rub.’
It was so appealing. I sat still and let him walk round behind me to start massaging my shoulders; as the knots unwound, it was like being in heaven. Of course, we couldn’t stick to just a shoulder rub, and before long I felt him lean down and kiss my neck, and then nibble my earlobe, and then my chair span round, and he pulled me to my feet and we were kissing, long and hard and –
‘Oh good, there’s still someone – oh my God!’
We sprang apart as Lexi walked in. She stopped with her hand over her mouth and a delighted, mischievous look in her eyes as she saw us.
‘Sorry. I think I left my – oh, there it is.’
She walked over to a desk and picked up a bag from beside it. And without another word, she turned and walked out. I looked at Matt, wide-eyed with alarm.
‘OK, you need to make a quick decision. I can run after her, ask her not to say anything, and she won’t, but she’ll hint and insinuate until everyone thinks they know without actually knowing, and it’ll go on for ever until one of us cracks. Or we can let her go, she’ll tell everyone, but it’ll be faster and we can deal with the fall-out. Quick, I won’t be able to catch her soon.’
I was paralysed for a few seconds. Neither option was appealing. But the long tortuous version seemed worse than the immediate version.
‘Let her go. Shit. See, this is why we had our rules. Bloody hell, Matt.’
‘It’s as much my fault. I didn’t exactly try to stop you.’
‘You know it’s going to be all over the office tomorrow, before we even get in. She’ll have texted everyone – probably doing it now.’
‘I know. Shit.’
He held his arms open, and I let myself be folded up. There seemed little point in not.
‘You know what would be the best thing to do?’
‘Please tell me there’s a best thing.’
‘Yeah. Act as if nothing’s happened. Keep things exactly the same. Play by the same rules. Make them doubt it. We can say what we want if anyone asks – you’re as good as me at diverting attention and not answering tricky questions. Damage limitation. We just need to be more careful. I’ll keep my shoulder rubs to myself in future, at least until we’ve left the building. Fuck it, I’m sorry Julia. I know this is your worst nightmare.’
As ever, in his arms I felt safe and comforted, and it seemed less of a catastrophe than I would have imagined.
‘Well, it’s happened now. I suppose sometimes anticipating something is worse than the reality. Can we go? If we come in early tomorrow, we can still finish this before it’s due.’
‘You go, you look wiped. I’ll just tie it all up, it won’t take long, then we don’t have to come in early at all. Are we still OK for your place?’
‘Don’t cook, though, Jules, we’ll order takeaway or something. Let’s just have a relaxing evening, bottle of wine or something, finish off your shoulder rub. Properly, no snogging. Well not until I’ve finished, and then only if you feel like it. Yeah?’
‘It sounds heavenly. Are you sure you don’t mind finishing up here?’
‘It’s fine. I’ll text you when I’m on my way.’
I picked up my bag and coat, and walked back to Matt, cupping his cheek in my hand. He took my hand and held my fingers against his lips.
‘It’ll be OK.’
I gave him an unconvinced smile and went home.
I’d managed to shower and change by the time Matt arrived, as well as looking out several takeaway menus from places that delivered locally. We ordered, and while we were waiting, Matt walked up to the Whistling Panhandler to get a bottle of wine. He arrived back with an expensive bottle of Zinfandel and several bottles of beer at the same time as the delivery boy, and we ate hungrily and drank needily. We hardly spoke until we’d finished, the music I’d put on filling the silence comfortably.
‘That feels a whole lot better,’ he said as we finished, ‘It felt like today was never going to fucking end.’
‘It almost has ended, I’ll be in bed soon.’
‘I still haven’t given you your shoulder rub. Hey, want one in the bath?’
‘I’ve already had a shower.’
‘I wasn’t suggesting you needed a good hose down, I thought it might be more relaxing. Bubbles, candles, me rubbing your shoulders … doing anything for you?’
‘It sounds amazing, but what about you?’
‘Are you kidding me? I get to perv on your boobs while giving said shoulder rub. It’s a win-win all rounder.’
He got up and headed to the bathroom.
‘You find some candles, I’ll fill her up.’
A while later, I was blissed out, floating in the semi-darkened room while Matt finished his massage. The music still floated through from the lounge, and I was half dozing. I’d been expecting Matt to start nuzzling my neck or touching me somewhere other than my shoulders, but he was true to his word and he managed to totally relax me.
‘How’s that, then, madam?’
‘Oh, have you finished?’
‘Fraid so. My fingers are getting cramp, and if you get much more sleepy you’re going to slip under the bubbles and drown.’
‘Wouldn’t you save me?’
‘I’d try, naturally, but I’d have to touch some pretty intimate areas, and I’m not sure either of us could cope with that tonight.’
‘Maybe it would be worth it to not drown though.’
‘Hm, not sure. A promise is a promise. I said no snogging, and I feel I should stick to my bargain.’
‘So … even if I started to slip under the water and was about to breathe my last, you would feel constrained by your honour …’
I slipped my shoulders under the water.
‘… and just sit and watch?’
‘Well my honour is very important to me. It’s a tough one.’
‘Oh. Well, fair enough I suppose.’
I slipped further into the water, my mouth covered by bubbles.
‘Of course, you can never say what you’ll do in any given situation until it happens, maybe my honour would be overridden by other considerations.’
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and slipped completely under the water, smiling to myself as I immediately felt Matt’s hands grip my waist and half push, half pull me up. I wiped the water from my eyes, and grinned up into his face, surprised to see him unsmiling and looking relieved.
‘Fuck, Julia, I thought it was going to be funny, but that completely freaked me out. You’re so slippery, I thought I was going to drop you. Shit. Sorry. Spoilt the moment. We’ve kind of made a mess of the bathroom too.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll get the mop, won’t take long.’
‘Sorry. I was trying for relaxing repartee, ended up making you work.’
‘I said don’t worry – it won’t take long to clear up. Can you hand me my bathrobe?’
He took the robe from the back of the door and held it up while I took the plug out and stood up.
‘Wow. You are so fucking hot. It seems a shame to cover you up.’
‘I’m not mopping naked, this isn’t some dodgy porn set. Oh, you’re soaked. Do you want me to dry your clothes?’
‘And what would I wear in the meantime? It’s not like I’m the one who’s comfortable sitting around in no fuking pants.’
‘No, of course not, how silly of me. Well, how about you throw your things in the dryer, and go and wait for me in bed?’
‘Whoa! What kind of boy do you take me for?’
He affected a look of outrage, which was muted somewhat by the eagerness with which he started taking his clothes off.
‘The kind of boy who would like to have a bit of a shoulder rub himself and maybe cuddle up with a girl he just called fucking hot, while his clothes are drying.’
‘Oh, well, maybe I am that kind of boy. Sounds perfect.’
I quickly dried my hair, then went to fetch the mop while Matt put his clothes in the dryer. A few minutes later, as I was tipping water down the sink, I heard him call out from the bedroom.
‘Where’s this fucking hot girl I ordered for my shoulder rub? She’s late.’
‘If she’s not there in half an hour, you get her free.’
‘Wow, that’s a bloody good deal. What’s her normal rate?’
‘Part exchange. Shoulder rub for a sexual act of her choice.’
‘Hmm … and why would I want to get out of paying that, exactly?’
‘She’s pretty demanding. You might not be able to cope.’
‘I’ll be the judge of that. Hope she’s here before half an hour’s up, then.’
‘Oh, here she is.’
I stood in the doorway of the bedroom and admired Matt, who was stretched out naked on the bed, hands behind his head, grinning at me.
‘Turn over then.’
‘Not sure I want to.’
‘It’s a bit hard to give you a shoulder rub if you’re lying on your shoulders.’
‘While this is true, I’m intrigued by the prospect of payment up front.’
‘No, those aren’t the terms. Service provision first, and then payment is accepted.’
‘OK. Are you going to keep the robe on?’
He pouted a little bit.
‘You’ll have your head in the pillow, what do you care?’
‘Just helps, that’s all.’
‘Maybe not exactly relax …’
‘Thought not. You turn over, let me sort things out this end.’
He flipped himself onto his front, while I slipped the bathrobe off as I straddled his back, and then smiled as his muffled voice reached me.
‘Did you just take it off?’
‘Never you mind.’
‘You’re completely naked up there, aren’t you.’
‘Just keep your mind on relaxing.’
‘It’s hard thinking about relaxing, knowing what you’ve got sitting on you – oh fuck that’s good.’
I carried on massaging his shoulders, not answering him, and his comments slowly dropped away to be replaced by soft moans as I felt the tension leave him. He had been as wound up as me by our busy day, and it felt good to help take some of it away from him. When I thought he might drop off to sleep if I carried on, I stopped and gently slipped off his back, lying down next to him and pulling the duvet over us.
‘You are so fucking amazing.’
‘I bloody love you.’
‘No you don’t.’
‘No, I don’t. You are fucking amazing though. Have you given any thought to your payment?’
‘Well, actually, what I would like is a … well, I’m not sure if I can say it, it’s pretty radical. You might not have heard of it.’
He laughed, and propped himself up on an elbow.
‘Well, alright then, but if you’re shocked, you’ve only got yourself to blame.’
‘Spit it out, Jules, I’m pretty unshockable.’
‘Have you ever spooned before?’
‘Ha ha. That is pretty rad, Jules. You will never, I’m sure, have heard any tales of Matt Scott spooning a woman, not from anyone. Not for a long, long time. Sounds great, you’ll have to remind me how it goes.’
‘Well, I lie on my side like this.’
I turned over.
‘And you lie behind me – that’s right – and put your arms round me and kind of pull me towards you so we fit each other – hey, that’s it. Kerching. Payment accepted.’
‘Are you sure that’s all you want?’
‘I’m too exhausted for anything else. Shall we just do this until your clothes are dry?’
I felt him nod, and then he kissed my hair. It was warm and soft and peaceful, and his arms around me felt right. I felt myself drifting – warm, safe and happy.
I was dreaming – a vague, mixed up, dream spattered with faces, noises, places. I gradually woke up, until I was back, in bed. It was dark, cold. Amy wasn’t beside me, the sheets on her side were cool. I heard a sound, saw a light from under the bedroom door. The sound again. A sob. Amy.
Instantly alert, I jumped out of bed and headed towards the sound of crying, which was coming from the bathroom.
I tapped on the bathroom door. The sniffing stopped.
‘What’s the matter?’
A short silence.
)Nothing, just having a pee.
Her voice sounded thick. There was more sniffing. Another muffled, choked sob. My stomach contracted in fear.
‘Come on, babe, I can hear you.’
I tried the door handle. Locked.
‘Let me in?’
Silence. A sniff.
‘Please, Ames, you’re scaring me.’
After a long time, the lock turned, the door opened. Amy looked up at me with reddened eyes, runny nose, hair all over the place.
‘Oh, babe, what the fuck …?’
I gathered her into my arms as she crumpled, crying hard, onto my chest. I held her tightly, stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head, waiting for her to be able to speak. Worried out of my mind, but trying to stay calm for her.
‘It’s OK, shh, I’m here, shh.’
Amy’s tears slowly subsided but she clung on to me, eyes closed. I gently held her away from me, tilted her chin up and waited until she opened her beautiful blue eyes. The tears in them nearly broke my heart.
‘Tell me, babe.’
Without saying anything, she turned round and picked something up from the toilet cistern. Showed it to me. It was a white plastic stick; there were some pink lines on it in a little window. I frowned, taking a moment to recognise what she was showing me.
‘What’s this …’
And then I realised.
‘Shit! Amy, are you pregnant?’
She nodded miserably, unable to look me in the eye, as more tears ran down her face. My heart lurched, my stomach flipped, my mind whirled.
I pulled her into my arms again, as a huge grin spread across my face.
‘Fucking, fucking hell.’
Amy’s crying intensified.
‘How fucking amazing is this? It’s … Amy, this is … it’s just fucking amazing.’
She stopped crying, looked up at me. Saw my smile.
‘Fuck, yes. Why are you so upset, babe? Aren’t you happy about it?’
)Well it’s not what we planned. We said wait a few years, get married first, settle down, both be a bit older.
‘Fuck that, it’s happened now. Somehow. One of us slipped up – me, you, some guy in a condom factory somewhere. Don’t really care who. Oh – not the guy in the condom factory – remember a few weeks ago? Our amazing day? I think we were a bit forgetful in the condom department.’
Amy nodded, but the worry was still plain on her face.
)But we said we were too young. We made that list of things we want to do first …
‘Know what? Lets tear it up. New list. Number one: Have a bloody baby fucking immediately. Ames – shit – we’re going to have a baby. This is just fucking awesome.
‘Really. Really, really. So. Fucking. Awesome.’
)Oh Dec, I was scared. I didn’t know what you’d say.
‘Why, babe? We’ve talked about it haven’t we? It’s what we both want, just maybe a bit sooner. Sooner is good too.
)I just didn’t want you to say it’s too soon, that we’d have to … I’d have to … do something about it.
‘What? No, babe, never. You didn’t really think that did you? We’re in this together, joint decisions. Besides, it’s what I want. Isn’t it what you want?
Amy flashed me a wide smile, full of relief.
)Yeah, it really is. Oh, hon, I’m just … it’s all mixed up with Mum and Dad. They’re not going to be happy at all. I’m scared about what they’ll say.
‘We’ll handle them together. They can’t make us do anything, babe. We’re grown ups, have been for a long time, despite how they treat you. Is that all you’re worried about? How long have you been worrying? How long have you known?’
)For definite? About ten minutes. I only just did the test. But I’ve been sick every morning for about two weeks, and I’m a week late, it’s been on my mind. But Dec, what about … there’s no room here. And what if you – we – move to London or something?
‘Come on, Ames, we’ve got months to worry about how much space we’ve got here – nine, right? Jay and Beth had Iz in with them for ages, didn’t they? Seriously, it’s not a problem. As for re-signing for Raiders or thinking about some of the other offers, well this is just something extra to think about. Listen, do we really want to talk about this in the toilet, or shall I make a cup of tea and we can go back to bed?’
)A cup of tea sounds completely amazing, hon.
Amy wiped her eyes, looking at herself in the mirror.
)God, I’m a sight.
She ran her fingers through her hair. My heart filled with love and desire as I looked at her.
‘Ames, you’re fucking gorgeous. Never more beautiful.’
I put my arms round her and kissed her on the mouth. She reached up and twined her fingers in my hair, kissing back.
‘Steady, babe, it’s that kind of wanton behaviour that got us here in the first place. Mind you, I guess you’re not going to get any more pregnant, are you …’
I scooped her up and carried her in my arms, back to bed, her arms round my neck, kissing as we went. The cup of tea went on hold for a while.
It was still dark later, with Amy curled up asleep beside me. I couldn’t sleep, it was all going round in my mind. Overwhelming, awesome news. Trying to get my head round it. I was taken aback by how thrilled and excited I was.
Amy and I had talked about wanting children, we were both really keen, but it had been one of those ‘in the future’ things like pensions and a steady job. Now it was a reality, I knew how much I wanted it – a family of my own.
I lay there and luxuriated in the feeling. No idea of the time. Checked my phone on the bedside table. Three fifteen. Got out of bed and headed into the kitchen to make the cup of tea I’d promised a while ago. Carried the two mugs back to the bedroom. Amy stirred as I got back into bed.
)What time is it?
‘Bloody early. Half three-ish.’
)I love this time of the morning. It feels like you’re the only ones in the world.
‘Yeah, then you remember you’ve got to be up for training in a few hours and so you shouldn’t be drinking shit with caffeine in it. Ames, I want to tell someone, I can’t keep this to myself, I’m going to burst. I don’t know how you kept it quiet for so long.’
)Well, I wasn’t sure, really. Not till tonight. I was kind of trying to pretend it wasn’t happening.
‘Oh babe, you’re sure you’re OK about it?’
)Yeah, hon, now I know you’re OK about it too, I’m completely happy. Who do you want to tell?
‘I feel like announcing it on the news. I’m going to be a dad! That’s huge! You’re going to be a mum.’
I put my hand on her stomach.
‘Fuck, there’s a tiny, tiny person in there!’
I bent over and put my ear against her belly.
‘Nope, can’t hear anything, obviously having a snooze.’
I turned my head and spoke into Amy’s belly button.
‘Hey, wake up in there, it’s your dad – whoa, fuck! I’m gonna be a dad. Whoa.’
It just kept hitting me, as the reality gradually broke through.
‘I would like to solemnly announce – no, fuck it, shout from the rooftops – that Declan Summers and Amy Wright are going to be parents. In sole charge of a tiny person. But I want to tell Jay and Beth. And Matt. And Rose – oh Rose is going to flip. And your parents, obviously.’
)Well obviously. They’ll be just delighted. Especially as we’ve missed out the getting married first bit.
‘Fuck them. If they can’t be as ecstatic as us, that’s their loss. I’m going to ring Jay now.’
)Dec, you can’t, it’s the middle of the night. You’ll wake them all up.
‘This is big news. I can’t wait.’
Amy tried to take the phone out of my hand, but I’d already called up their home number on the screen. I held the phone high above my head and pressed ‘call’ with my thumb. Amy admitted defeat with a sigh and lay back down. The phone rang a few times. A sleepy voice.
‘Jay, it’s Dec.’
łJesus, Dec, what time is it?
‘About three thirty. Sorry it’s so early.’
łFuck, what’s happened?
‘Nothing – well, nothing bad. I’m going to be a dad.’
There was a long silence.
‘Me and Ames are having a baby.’
A shorter pause.
łFuck me, Dec, that’s … bloody astounding.
łYou couldn’t have waited until a reasonable hour to tell me?
‘No, I don’t think I could.’
łFair enough. Mind if I go back to sleep now?
‘Be my guest.’
łYou’re too kind. Give Amy a kiss from me.
He hung up.
)I told you it was too early.
‘I know, he wasn’t really awake I don’t think. He might not even remember when he wakes up. This is from him.’
I gave Amy a lingering kiss.
)Wow, that was from Jay? Remind me to thank him.
‘OK, not all of it’s from Jay. I may have given it a bit of an upgrade.’
My phone rang. Beth’s mobile.
A high pitched squeal made me wince and hold the phone away from my ear.
‘Beth? Is that you? Or is your burglar alarm going off?’
_Dec, what fantastic news. I’m so excited. When did you find out? When’s it due? How’s Amy? Oh sweetheart, you’re going to be such a good dad.
‘Thanks, it’s pretty immense news. We’ve only just found out, a couple of hours ago. Ames is fine, do you want to talk to her?’
I passed the phone over, realising I was going to have to get to grips with the kind of information everybody wanted to know when hearing news about babies. Amy chattered excitedly with Beth. They got on really well, Amy was another member of the family now. As she talked to Beth, I thought about how my life was going to change in the next year. I was going to be responsible for another person, a tiny person who would be totally dependent on me and Amy for everything. It was pretty immense. Awe-inspiring. Overwhelming.
I sensed a change in Amy, looked at her expression. She had gone pale. She handed me the phone and ran to the bathroom.
‘Sorry, Beth, I think this is my first run in with morning sickness. I need to go and help Amy.’
_Just be thankful you don’t experience it first hand. Take care of her, Dec, lovely news, we’ll talk later.
I followed Amy into the bathroom, where she was bent over the toilet, heaving. I held her hair away from her face, rubbed her back, and guiltily loved every minute of it. All new territory, all new and exciting. Once she had stopped throwing up, Amy shooed me out to freshen herself up. I wandered back to bed, still too excited to think about sleeping. Training was going to be a dead loss today. I wanted to tell someone else, but there was no one who I could comfortably call at four o’clock. Not call, no, but text …
Me: =UR going 2b an aunty.
I sent it. If he was sensible, he’d have his phone on silent or turned off or something. Matt wasn’t known for being sensible.
I woke with a start to a shrill sound. Matt stirred against me.
‘Wha … th … fu …’
‘Is that your phone?’
‘Yeah … sorry. Meant to put it on silent. What time is it?’
He reached over to the bedside table and grabbed his phone.
‘It’s gone four! What? What the fuck is he texting me at this bloody time of night for?’
This last was said to himself. He typed a few words onto his phone, then another tone shattered the peace.
Matt:=Wtf ru on about? Do u no wot tim it is?
Me: =Me & Amy having baby. Gonna b a Dad. Holy fuck!! It’s 4:12. In the morning.
‘Fuuuucking hell. Oh my God, I don’t fucking believe it. Ha ha, shit.’
He typed again.
Matt:=It seems they’ll let any riff raff father children these days. Awesome 🙂 Luv 2 Amy. Bak 2 sleep now. Xx
The next person on the list was Rose, but I couldn’t do this to her over the phone or by text, and not at this time of the morning. I’d have to wait until later.
Nico and Lis. Tried to figure out the time difference. Nico had signed for the top side in Buenos Aires at the the end of last season, breaking the hearts of many Raiders fans. He and Lis had moved to Argentina a few months ago. They felt a long way away, even though they kept in touch. Buenos Aires was several hours behind the UK. It was too late to call. Probably too early to text. Fuck it, I was excited. Did it anyway.
Me: =Hey Nico. Sorry it’s early. Just found out Amy’s pregnant. Wanted you to know. Dec
There was no reply, he probably had his phone off, or hadn’t even heard the alert.
‘Sorry, Jules. Sorry, I fell asleep, I didn’t mean to. I’ll grab my things from the dryer.’
‘Don’t be silly. Stay.’
We had never yet stayed the night with each other, it seemed like a big step, but it also seemed silly for him to drive home for a couple of hours’ sleep.
‘Who is your text from?’
‘Dec. Do you remember meeting him at the farm place?’
‘He’s … wow, he’s going to be a dad. Him and Amy are having a baby. Bloody hell.’
‘Couldn’t he have told you later, when it wasn’t the middle of the night?’
‘Dec’s pretty immediate. He thinks it, he does it, or says it. Shit, I can’t get my head round it, he’s only – actually he’s absolutely bloody old enough. He’s just a lot younger than me, I forget he’s grown up sometimes. Mind you, sometimes I forget I’m grown up.’
‘I think we all forget you’re grown up at times.’
‘Sorry he woke you up. We might have slept right through if he hadn’t texted.’
He started to get out of bed. I held onto his hand.
‘Come on, Jules, I need to get my clothes.’
‘Are you really going?’
‘Yeah, I’ll just keep you awake if I stay. I don’t feel sleepy any more. We need at least one of us to have a functioning brain cell tomorrow, busy day, plus Lexi will be making mischief.’
I’d managed to forget about events at GreenScreen, safe and warm in Matt’s embrace, but now he’d reminded me about them, and I felt the relaxation slip away.
‘Don’t go yet.’
‘I’ll just get dressed, then I’ll come back and say goodbye.’
He hopped out of bed and I watched his naked back as he walked to the kitchen. He pulled his clothes out of the dryer and slipped them on, then came back to the bedroom, where he lay down next to me again.
He brushed my hair away from my face, cupped my cheek in his hand and kissed me gently. I put my arms round his neck and pulled him against me, not really understanding why I was so desperate for him to stay.
‘Hey, Jules, are you OK?’
I didn’t have a coherent response for him, so I just nodded.
‘Get some sleep, yeah?’
I nodded again.
‘Thanks for the spooning. Awesome.’
He kissed me again, lightly, stroked my hair and left. My flat felt empty without him, and it took me a long time to go back to sleep.
Amy climbed back into bed. I wrapped her up in a cuddle, stroked her hair.
‘How are you feeling?’
)Ugh, I hate being sick. I’m OK, once it’s passed it’s fine. Thanks for helping, hon. I think I’m going to take today off work.
‘What? Amy Wright pulling a sickie?’
)No! It’s not a sickie, I’m wiped out, I’ve been up half the night. Just one day, to slob around and feel better. Then I’ll have to get my strength up to visit Mum and Dad.
‘Sounds like a sickie to me – oh babe I’m kidding, you look really tired, you shouldn’t go in, you need to feel better. We’ll go to see your mum and dad later on this afternoon after your dad’s home from work, but only if you’re up to it.’
)Are you sure?
‘Yep, we need to get it over with. I’d hate them to find out from someone else.’
)Someone else like who – who else have you told while I’ve been in the bathroom?
‘Er, just Matt and Nico. Texted them. And I’m going to tell Rose later. Sorry, babe, I’m just too excited.’
)Oh God, is everyone at the club going to know too?
‘I don’t know if I can help myself. Do you want me to not say anything?’
)No, I guess not. I love that you’re so happy about it. It’s just that usually people have a few weeks to get used to the idea, wait to see there’s nothing wrong, then let everyone know.
‘Oh Ames, I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I just got carried away.’
)Well, let’s keep on getting carried away then. I love you, hon.
‘I bloody love you too. You’re amazing, wonderful, gorgeous and, fuck me, I can hardly believe it, the mother of my child. You couldn’t be more perfect if you tried.’
Amy snuggled into my arms.
)I think you need to try to go back to sleep. You’ll have to be up soon. Unless you fancy pulling a sickie yourself, spend the day with me?
‘I don’t think I’d get away with that one, especially now I’ve told Jay. I’ll be back after I’ve seen Rose, we’ll have some time before we go to your parents.’
)I suppose I wasn’t serious, I don’t think I’ve ever known any of you mad rugby players take a day off sick, even with legs hanging off and eyes missing. A bit of girly puking is completely not going to get much sympathy. We should try and sleep though.
‘OK, I’ll try.’
I held her tightly and shut my eyes. Amy fell asleep really quickly, I felt her relax and heard her breathing become steadier. I felt the slight twitches she always did when she was first falling asleep, and then she was still, breathing quietly, growing our baby inside her.
A blaring tone on my phone woke me up some time later. Nico.
‘Nico! Did you get my text?
>I get it. This is great news, yes?
>Ha, good, I not sure from your words if you are happy. Lis and me, we are very happy. Amy is OK?
‘Amy is amazing.’
I looked into her eyes as I said it. She had woken up when the phone rang.
>Lis she has women’s questions about baby things. You OK to speak to her?
‘Sure, I’d love to speak to her. Thanks for ringing, Nico.’
>Be careful of yourselves. Here is Lis.
~Hey Dec. How exciting is this?
‘Hi Lis. What time is it there, it must be the middle of the night.’
~Pretty much. So you’re going to be a dad, yeah?
‘Yeah, unbelievable, eh?’
~It is pretty unbelievable. Surely you’re under age?
‘She’s great, tired at the moment, she’s been up all night.’
~When’s it due?
‘Sorry, Lis, I don’t know, we literally only found out a few hours ago. I haven’t got my head round it yet.’
~You’re a useless lump, Declan Summers. Is Amy awake? I might get more sense out of her.
I looked at Amy and shook the phone at her, raising my eyebrows. She nodded.
‘Yeah, I’ll pass you over, you can talk baby details with someone more qualified.’
~Great to talk to you, Dec. Congratulations.
‘Thanks, Lis. Take care.’
I passed the phone to Amy, and glanced at the clock. Eight fifteen. Fuck! I was going to be late for training.
I jumped out of bed, gathering up my kit, grabbing a towel and stuffing it into my bag. I picked up a cereal bar and a bottle of water from the kitchen, then went back to the bedroom to wait by Amy, who was still talking to Lis. She looked up at me questioningly.
‘Sorry, babe, I need my phone.’
)Oh, OK. Sorry, Lis, Dec’s late for training. He needs to take his phone with him. Great to talk to you, I’ll ring soon or text or something.
She handed the phone back.
‘Sorry, Lis, gotta go, I don’t want to be filling Nico’s boots in the late-for-training chart.’
~I think his place at the top of the chart is pretty safe. Keep in touch, yeah? We miss you.
‘Bye Lis, miss you too.’
I bent over and kissed Amy quickly, then headed for the door.
‘Sorry, babe. Gotta go. Have a good lazy day. I’ll call you later.’
)Wait, come here.
I walked back to the bed. Amy reached up and pulled my face down to hers, planting a big wet kiss on my mouth.
)That’s better. Much more satisfactory. Now you can go.
‘Not fair. I just want to do this all day now.’
I sat on the bed, cupped her face in my hands and gave her another kiss, then wrapped my arms round her and gave her a huge squeeze.
)Don’t be late, hon.
)Jay’ll give you stick.
‘Don’t give a shit. I can take anything Scotty dishes out.’
)You’re squeezing a bit tight.
‘Oh OK, better let go then.’
I relaxed my grip, and Amy lay back down, wrapping herself back up in the duvet.
)Shame you don’t have time to get me breakfast in bed.
‘Yeah, shame, better be off then. Love you.’
)I thought that might speed you on your way. Love you.
I finally made it out of the flat, seriously tempted to make some excuse to spend the day with Amy. I couldn’t come up with anything that would sound remotely plausible and resigned myself to having to wait until later in the afternoon to see her again. I got in the car and drove to the club in a bit of a trance. Happiness floated around me in a cloud. I parked, grabbed my bag and ran to the changing room, which was empty by the time I got there. Changed as quickly as I could, ran to the training ground, where rucks and mauls were already in session. Sprinted onto the artificial surface.
łMr Summers, how nice of you to join us.
‘Sorry I’m late.’
łYou will be. Twice round the pitch, fifty bench presses if you’d be so kind.
‘What? Fuck off.’
‘Er, what luck, off … I go.’
I set off, and hardly had time to draw breath until the end of the session. Rucks and mauls was always punishing, and the extras hadn’t helped. It was tiring, it was cold, it was raining, but none of it could dampen my spirits as I headed for the showers with the rest of the squad. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t contacted Rose. Grabbed my phone before I went into the shower, sent a quick text.
Me: =Hi Rose. Can u meet 4 late lunch? 2.30 Luigi’s. Have news. Dec.
I hit the showers and the hot water revitalised my aching body. There was the usual banter from the lads, I came in for a ribbing due to my late arrival:
*Hey Summs, more bench presses for you tomorrow if you can’t haul yourself away from the lovely Amy.
*Reckon it was bench pressing Amy that made him late.
‘Fuck off, I overslept.’
*Hm, wonder why?
Kissing noises followed.
‘Actually, I didn’t get much sleep, neither of us did.’
*I knew it! You young studs are so fucking horny.
‘Amy’s having a baby.’
That shut them up. For about two seconds.
*Wahey, Deccy, get in there.
*Top performance, Summs.
*Hit the spot with that one then.
This was accompanied by backslapping, head-rubbing, arse patting, hand-shaking, jeering, cat-calling and all the other bantering paraphernalia of a room full of testosterone fuelled rugby players. I would have laid down my life for those guys, and I let them have their fun, grinning from ear to ear, as I dried myself off and got changed for the gym – I could put in an hour or so before it was time to meet Rose. Checked my phone, she had texted back.
Rose: =ok see you then
I was joined in the gym by Bonksy. Of the group of us who had been together in the Academy, DivDav had moved to another club when he was let go by Raiders; Big had obviously been out of the picture since he went to prison, no one knew where he was now; Mikey had hit the big time with Warriors, a big London club and was on the verge of breaking into the England side, and Danno had had to quit rugby after breaking his leg in a reserves game. Bonksy and I were the only ones left from that time a few years ago, and we were still mates. I started up the treadmill next to his, and set it for a short run. He had his headphones in, but took them out when he saw me.
]Shit, a baby, that’s pretty huge.
]Aren’t you shit-scared?
‘Actually, no. I should be, shouldn’t I? Maybe I will be when I’ve thought about it. At the moment, I’m just fucking blown away.’
]Don’t ask me to babysit, will you?
‘Ha ha, don’t worry, mate, we’ll have plenty of doting aunties for all that. Strictly boys only for us!’
‘Yeah, you won’t be able to get rid of Rose now. Say hi to her for me.’
‘No worries. If I can get a word in.’
Bonksy laughed and put his headphones back in. I completed my run, showered again, and set off to meet Rose.