The next three days were wonderful. It felt like we’d got our various frustrations and stresses out of our systems, and relaxed into a good mix of sightseeing and staying in.
Our hotel was luxurious, with full spa facilities, and it was no hardship to spend lazy mornings there, but with all of Paris at hand, we made sure we spent time dining out, seeing things like the Louvre, and going to smaller, tucked away places to experience what Matt decided to call ‘le Paris de Scott’ – little cafés and patisseries we would always remember as special to us.
With limited time to explore, we made a hit list of things we wanted to do, and mixed this with some lounging around in the hotel’s outstanding spa.
We went to the Louvre, bypassed the huge queue for the Mona Lisa and stood for some time in front of Monet’s huge canvasses, whose colours and vibrancy were stunning. We wandered around the smaller streets finding small boutiques and patisseries, drinking the best coffee I’d ever tasted and eating wickedly delicious pastries. A couple of places we went to several times, and our favourite café was also a bistro, where we ate in the evening. Lau wasn’t man enough to try escargots. Ha, I wasn’t stupid enough. I’d tried them before, when we’d been on a huge family holiday, and was in no hurry to repeat the experience.
We could have spent our time rushing here, there and everywhere, trying to see everything and getting frustrated, but we decided that was stupid, and we’d be better off just doing what we felt like. The important thing was we were together; we could have been in Margate, and would have had an equally good time. Which I suppose brings me back to the shit that was at the back of my mind, but I was ignoring that, and so I just enjoyed myself.
Neither of us could quite believe it when Tuesday morning arrived and we were going home. I was even prepared to admit that I’d had an awesome time, and that I would like to thank those responsible for organising it. It must have been a life-changing experience.
All too soon, it was Tuesday morning and we had to catch our flight home. As the plane touched down in the city airport, and the doors opened, I smelt the air of home, and everything I had to look forward to here came rushing back. I gripped Matt’s hand and smiled up at him.
‘We’re home. Tomorrow, we find out when Philpotts is due, and we can start making plans.’
She seemed delighted to be back, and I suppose I’d missed home too. I was certainly looking forward to getting back to the flat, my cave, my bolthole. I just wanted the circus to stop, now. It had been a furiously hectic week or so, and I’d forgotten that Lau’s scan was booked for tomorrow, so although we’d be home, there was more excitement. It felt like it was never going to end. Finding out about the baby would be awesome, but a little bit of me groaned and put its head under the covers.
‘Oh yeah. Bloody hell, Philpotts is going tuh be a bit more real, isn’t he.’
We continued to refer to the baby as ‘he’, but although I hadn’t said anything to Matt, or anyone else, I just had a feeling the baby was a girl. I couldn’t have told you why, what it was that made me feel it, I was just certain. Maybe tomorrow we’d know more, although it was likely to be a bit early.
We got home and sank down on the sofa, both breathing big sighs. I automatically got my phone out of my pocket, ready to text everyone, but then realised what a commotion that would cause. Beth would call, I’d need to talk to Dec and Amy, people would want to see us. So I put the phone back in my pocket. Lau noticed and raised an eyebrow, it being unheard of for me to put my phone away if I didn’t need my hands for something else.
‘Don’t wana tell them we’re home yet, they’ll want us to go round, or come here, see pictures, tell them how great they are fuh thinking of it.’
‘Well, they are pretty great.’
‘Yeah, I know, buh just wana … catch my breath. It’s been mad, soh mad, the last couple of weeks.’
I knew Lau was tuned in to how I was feeling, she always was. She also seemed to know when to push me to talk and when to leave it alone, and this time she left it. I’m not saying I always agreed with her judgements, just that she was usually, in hindsight, right. Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that, eh Lau?
I was sensing that undercurrent, the one that hadn’t really left since we argued in Paris, but we’d been too busy having a romantic honeymoon to examine. I really didn’t want to get into a deep and meaningful as soon as we got back, and highly doubted Matt would be up for it either, at least not without a bit of a run-up. So I let it go for now.
‘Cup of teh?’
I got up and went into the kitchen, filling the kettle and getting the mugs out. I saw a note on the counter.
‘Oh, yes please, Paris can do coffee, but I’m proper gagging for a cup of honest English tea. Oh, we haven’t got any milk though.’
‘Yeah, that’s what I thought. Look.’
I held up the note.
Hello Matty and Laura
Hope you’ve had a wonderfully romantic time in gay Paree. Just to save you having to go out again, I’ve brought a few things over. Milk, bread, just the essentials that might have gone off while you were away.
Call me as soon as you’re back!
It was really thoughtful, and it pissed me right off.
‘I’m seriously gona get my keys back, ih’s out of order coming in here an –’
‘Doing something nice like make sure we’ve got milk. Yeah, bad form. It looks like she’s put more water in the flowers, and taken some of the dead ones out so they don’t smell, too. What a cow.’
‘Yeah, but you know wha I mean, there was all the business with packing our cases, I mean, the holiday was great, buh not sure ih’s OK for them to jus come in whenever they bluhdy feel like ih, do whatever they want. It’s a privacy thing. Who knows wha they migh have found in my bloody wardrobe.’
It was the principle, rather than the act itself, that was pissing me off. It made me feel like a child, that they a) needed to have a key, and b) thought they could just waltz in and do stuff without question. I could possibly see why it had been necessary when I was in the throes of the bastard MS, on my own, and thinking about ending it all. But I’d been better for months, and I had Lau now.
‘You’re right, it would have been terrible if they’d found that manky pair of gym shorts. Maybe you just need to have a chat with – who did you say had your keys? Jay and Dec? Make some rules.’
‘Yeah, maybe. Or jus get the keys back. Ih’s not like they need them any more, I’m OK now, an you’re here. I haven’t got Jay’s key, gave it back when I moved out.’
‘Dec’s still got one.’
Summers might be a law unto himself, but I had principles.
‘Tha’s up to him, or them, but I always ring the bell. I’d never jus barge in unless they knew I was coming.’
‘Fair enough. Let’s have a word next time we see them.’
Lau was being my grounded voice of reason again. I was trying my hardest to get her to be outraged too, but it wasn’t working.
‘Yeah, it’s your place too, you should have a say in who can come and go.’
I handed her a mug of tea.
‘OK – oh, thanks flower, just what I need. Beth didn’t leave any biscuits, did she?’
I rolled my eyes and went to look in the cupboard.
‘Yeah, chocolate digestives. I had a perfectly good stash of biccies, noh need for that. Here you go.’
I tossed her the packet.
‘Perfect. Now come here and rub my feet.’
‘OK, bossy cow.’
And devious cow, Lau, as if I didn’t know you were trying to take my mind off it, cool me down.
‘Come on, you know you love it.’
‘Yeah, I know. I know wha you’re doing, though, you’re trying tuh distract me from ranting.’
‘Oh, you saw through me.’
She put on an innocent expression, as if we didn’t know the little game we played with each other, where I knew she usually knew what I was thinking, but let her get away with talking me down from whatever it was, I don’t know, work rant, Beth rant, world news rant, general Matt’s-a-git rant. Sometimes I let her get away with it, sometimes I called her on it, but I always let her do it.
‘Yeh, I always know. Works though. Feet please.’
I sat on the sofa and Lau put her feet in my lap, leaning against the back of the seat, sipping her tea. I took her feet and gave them a good, firm rub, making her sigh with pleasure. While I was massaging and zoning out, it popped into my head how they’d done it, how they’d organised the trip to Paris – our cases, passports, everything we’d needed. Beth knew where everything was, because she’d fetched it all for me when I went to Egypt post-Jules. I shook my head at the bare-faced cheek of using my misfortunes against me, nearly got myself riled up again, but found myself too relaxed by rubbing Lau’s feet to do so. I made a mental note to be less predictable about where I stored important items in future, and moved past it to focus on the beautiful woman succumbing to my firm and manly touch.
‘How about head an shoulders?’
I loved massaging Lau, loved feeling the tension slide away from her, loved the little noises she made when I hit a good spot. But she shook her head.
‘Maybe later, sounds great, but I think you’re a bit tense. How about I do your shoulders?’
I nearly denied it, the tension, but there was never much hiding it from Lau, and maybe some unknotting was what I needed. I nodded.
‘How can yuh tell?’
‘Just the way you’re holding yourself.’
I sat behind him and started to massage his shoulders. I could feel big knots start to unravel, and after a while I felt more confident that Matt was relaxed enough for a gentle enquiry.
‘Want to tell me?’
And I thought I’d been so good at keeping it from her, that back of my mind shit all the time we’d been away, the little dissatisfied, grumbling voices that were just taking the edge off what should be the happiest time of my life. But she was Lau, and she got me, and so of course she’d noticed.
He didn’t talk straight away, just sighed and made appreciative noises. I hoped he might unravel his tongue, too, but didn’t hold my breath. Matt only ever talked when he was ready, and much as I wanted to get at the underlying strangeness, I knew better than to push him. He might not say anything now, but he knew I was there when he wanted to talk. After a while, sooner than I expected, I heard a deep breath, and felt him gather himself to speak.
I knew I would tell her, but I just sat leaning against her for a while, feeling safe with her, thinking about what was going on with me. Then, when I’d worked it out properly, I told her.
‘I’m freaking, aren’t I.’
Lau stopped massaging, and folded her arms round the front of me, laying her head against my shoulder, and nuzzling into my neck.
‘Are you? What about?’
I tried to keep my tone light and conversational, rather than probing.
She sounded vaguely interested, not inquisitional, and hit just the right note to make me want to carry on spilling.
‘Everything. Jus had a dose of realihy. Well, not jus. Back in Paris. When we rowed. Before then. I’m married. We’re married. Fucking married. Lau, this sounds terrible, but ih’s like everything I’ve been trying to escape the last few years, an now here I am, married, baby on the way. Shit. Sorry, sorry Lau, I don’t mean … I want it, I want it all, with yuh, but I feel out of control. It was soh quick, I hardly had time to think, I got caught up in it all an then …’
As the words were coming out, in a bit of a rush, I realised how it must sound to Lau, and I was scrambling to try to say it in a way that didn’t make it sound like –
‘Are you regretting it?’
I always found that asking a direct question got the best results with Matt. He turned to face me, and I moved from behind him to beside him, so I could look into his big grey eyes and see what he wasn’t telling me. He shook his head.
So that worked well. Lau always asked those sorts of questions so matter of factly, like it wouldn’t have upset her at all if I’d said ‘yeah I wish I hadn’t married you’ or some such shit. But that wasn’t what I’d been going to say, and despite the casual way she asked, I needed to reassure her.
I turned to face her, and as Lau moved from behind me to beside me, I looked into her eyes and shook my head, so she’d know I was sincere.
‘No, fuck no, Lau, I don’t regret any of it, it’s what I’ve wanted, and to do it with you is fucking amazing. You know wha I’m like, I don’t like people taking control, doing stuff for meh, helping meh. We’ve talked about it before, when I was ill, I didn’t realise how much I didn’t like it for other stuff too. With Beth doing all the wedding planner bit, it just got bigger than I could handle, and then when they changed the hotel, I was pissed off, but felt guilty for bein pissed off, then when you wanted to go out, in Paris, I was all ‘I’m doing this my way’ an I jus took it too far. I don’t feel like we sorted it. Yeah, we made up, had a great time, but bloody hell, Lau, I told yuh to fuck off. Tha’s not OK.’
‘No, I guess it isn’t, really, but we were both tired and emotional.’
I was surprised – I’d thought we had sorted it all out. I’d sensed something, some kind of thing that needed sorting, but hadn’t realised that there was more to our argument than both of us feeling the after-effects of a stressful week. I honestly hadn’t given a second thought, after Matt’s apology, to him telling me to fuck off.
I could have taken that, and let her accept some of the blame, but the more I’d thought about it, the more it felt like it was only really down to me, when it came to it.
‘Noh, I’m not gona let you let me off. We’re both stubborn, we’re gona bash heads again, I need to feel like I can control myself. This being married thing, I love ih, I love you, I’m just being an arse. I don’t wana fuck ih up.’
‘So what exactly are you freaking about?’
I was quiet for a moment as I tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that was simmering down there.
‘I think … I feel … not in control of things. We’re married. I can’t change it. I don’t wana, Lau, but if I did, I couldn’t, not without huge shit going on.’
‘Do you wish we’d waited a bit?’
He looked away from me, breathing in deeply, and I knew without him telling me what his reply was.
Whoa, how did she do it? She could just get right to the heart of what I was feeling before I even knew it myself.
‘Maybe a bit of me does. But no, Lau, I’ve loved it, most of me has loved this crazy week, baby, wedding, us, Paris, I’ve never had such a fucking mad amazing time in my life.’
He wasn’t being completely straight with me. He was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, what he wanted to feel, so I tried some more honesty.
‘Part of me wishes we’d waited.’
How did she manage it? Just say shit? Without having it dragged out of her by a team of enormous horses?
‘Yeah, just a part of me. I’ve loved it too, the madness, but a tiny bit wishes I’d had time to savour it, plan things myself, not be so reliant on other people being amazing.’
The relief washed over his face, as he realised it was alright to say it.
And there we had it, what it was all about, for me as well as Lau. Matt was feeling his life spinning out of his control, in the way life does, and he didn’t like it, and so instead of acknowledging it, he had to have a freak and make life bloody difficult for all and sundry.
‘Oh Lau, tha’s what I feel. I’m so happy, but it’s just a tiny bit tha’s saying ‘we could have waited an done it differently’, tha’s all.’
The more I thought about it and talked about it, the tinier it became. Having it sitting there festering at the back of my mind had been making it a bigger deal than it was, and now it was out there, it didn’t really seem worth the effort of freaking.
‘But we didn’t really have a choice, did we. We wanted to do it this way. Life’s not always about plans and arrangements, sometimes it’s about what happens to you and how you respond to it. I think we responded pretty well. Maybe it’s just catching up with us a bit. We need to give ourselves time to get used to it. Nothing should change, really, well, except we’re having a baby in … whenever. Oh Matt, that’s what I’m having trouble getting my head round. I almost keep forgetting. How can I forget?’
She looked stricken, and I stroked her cheek, and reminded myself that I wasn’t the only one for whom things were moving at breakneck speed.
‘Maybe getting married jus took up so much time the last week, there wasn’t time tuh think about it.’
And that was the truth of the matter. Wonderful and crazy as the last week had been, it hadn’t given us time to think about the baby who was coming to change our lives really, really soon. I was going to be a mother; Matt and I were going to have to look after a baby, keep her safe, be responsible.
‘Yeah, maybe. I want to think about it, though, this is something we have got time to plan for. I don’t want to get there, and suddenly there’s a baby and we haven’t got any stuff, or made any room for her, or –’
‘Wait, her? Philpotts is a boy, weh agreed.’
‘I know you think he’s a boy, Matt, but … I just feel she’s a girl.’
If the baby turned out to be a girl, I was going to have to do some major readjusting. For example, it was highly unlikely she was going to captain a victorious Spurs team to three successive Premier League titles. But I needed to focus on Lau.
‘I guess we might know tomorrow, but, anyway, my point is, I think, we got married really fast, and it was great, it is great, it was right. But I want us to have lots of time to think about Philpotts, get used to him or her, not freak when it happens. I think being married won’t make much difference to us, do you? We always said ‘holding hands forever’, we both said that in our vows, it’s just we’ve got a piece of paper saying it officially, and some photos of you wearing a kilt and showing your best bits to the world. Nothing should change between us. I just want to make sure we’ve thought about the baby.’
I looked at her, took her hand, kissed her fingers, trying to show how much I wanted to hold her, protect her, support her and love her. She’d got to the heart of my shit, and now I thought I might have got to the heart of hers, too. Sometimes I was as good at reading her as she was at reading me.
‘Are yuh telling me you’re freaking too?’
Lau laughed as she recognised the truth.
‘Yeah, I guess I am. Maybe about different things, but yeah, a fair amount of freaking going on.’
‘Ha ha, we’re a couple of freaks. Oh Lau, tha makes me feel better. We should freak together more often. Sorry, tho. I feel like I spoilt our honeymoon.’
‘You daft sod. You’re just looking for reassurance now. You know we had an amazing time. I’m glad we sorted this out, though. Matt, I know you’re not always comfortable talking about what’s on your mind, but please tell me, if you can, when something’s freaking you.’
Anyone else trying to cajole me into telling all when I was stressing would have been on a hiding to nothing, but this woman, my Lau, it was as if she was my security blanket, and everything I usually worried about when I was trying not to talk about shit just didn’t matter.
I could only keep reassuring him that it was always going to be alright to tell me how he was feeling. I don’t know where he got his ‘keep it all to myself’ ideas from, and I doubted I’d ever get him to be completely up front, but I was determined to tell him he was safe with me as much as I could.
‘I know, Lau, I know. I can talk to yuh better than anyone, even Dec, an he’s usually the one I bother at some ungodly hour, but I don’t always know what I’m thinking until I blow, then I feel guilty, then I think about why I blew, then I try to make it righ. I know it’s the wrong way round. I’ll try to realise when I’m freaking. Yuh can tell me too. We can have little freak parties, jus you an me.’
‘Partying might be just what we need. How about some non-alcoholic fruit juice, healthy snacks, and some womb music?’
‘Whoa, Lau, you’re jus goin wild. I can’t keep up.’
‘I know. Hold on to your hat, it’s going to be a crazy ride.’
‘Ha ha. I love you, Lau.’
‘I love you too.’
And so, finally, it was gone, that annoying niggle that had been underlying everything. If only I could say I learned from it, and that every time something bothered me from that day on, I just talked to Lau about it and life went smoothly. Ha fuckety ha.
And that sorted it. That thing that had been at the back of my mind since that first morning in Paris was gone. That didn’t mean everything was going to be perfect, far from it; in many ways Matt and I were still getting to know each other. Moving in together had shown us that we’d been pretty efficient at showing off our good sides to each other, and the coming months were going to be challenging as we stopped trying so hard. But if we managed to keep talking, and face what was bothering us, we stood a chance, more than a chance. Matt was complicated, and I wasn’t always easy to live with. The positives were that we loved each other and we made an effort to sort things out when they cropped up.
Something had just occurred to me.
‘I’m gona have to call Dec, see if Amy’s had Splodge yet.’
‘Surely they’d have told us?’
Possibly, but apart from replying to my ‘thank you’ texts, I hadn’t heard from any of them while we’d been away; some kind of Beth-imposed radio silence I assumed.
‘I suppose. Would they have, though? They might have thought we’d come back early.’
‘Would we have?’
That was a tricky one. There would have been no reason to rush back just because Amy was giving birth. She was more than capable of doing so without us.
‘Dunno. Maybe not. I was first there, tho, after Charlie was born. Set a precedent. Maybe I should just give them a quick ring? Text?’
Matt was worrying away at himself, wanting to call but not wanting to let any of his family know how much he wanted to talk to them.
‘Matt, it’s fine, if you want to call or whatever, just do it. You don’t have to justify it.’
And there she was again, calling me on shit.
‘I know. I’m being an arse. I jus spend half my life moaning abou them not leaving me alone, then as soon as I’m away I can’t wait tuh call. Needy or wha?’
‘You know what you are?’
‘A daft sod?’
It was Lau’s favourite thing to call me when I was being bloody ridiculous.
It was my favourite thing to call him. Just the right amount of almost-swearing to make it a fondly loving insult.
‘A daft sod. Just do what makes you happy, don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to work out why you’re doing it.’
He thought about it for a bit. I could see his inner struggle; it was always going to be there, his conflict between needing his family and not wanting to need them. This time, his need for them won. He picked up his phone and pressed a number, and I saw his whole body relax as Dec picked up.
It wasn’t just that I was looking for justification; I really was torn between calling them to find out what the news was, and having an evening of peace, here with Lau, letting the aftermath of the last week settle around us. But much as I would hate to admit it to anyone, it felt weird to not be in touch with them, to not know what was going on with all of them. In the end, I just needed to know, and I called Dec.
‘The honeymooner returns. Hey mate.’
‘Are you back then?’
‘Yeah, been back for a bih.’
‘Did you have a good time – don’t give me any details.’
‘Yeah, had a fucking awesome time.’
‘Sounds about right. I did say no details though. How’s Lau?’
‘Hasn’t she got the scan soon?’
I wondered if Beth had primed him with questions in case I called him instead of her, as Dec would not usually have been aware of things like dates for scans. Amy had had to programme all of her appointments and important dates into his phone so he didn’t miss them.
‘Shit, so you’ll know boy or girl, yeah? Maybe a date?’
It was weird talking about baby stuff with Dec. I always forgot he was more than ten years younger than me, but never thought of him as someone who had been through nearly two whole pregnancies with Amy, and knew a lot more about it than I did.
‘Yeah, I guess, haven’t had time tuh think about it.’
‘Well tomorrow should sort that. You’re going with Lau, aren’t you?’
‘Yeh. Yuhr obviously not in the labour ward.’
‘Oh, well, we were, Friday night, after the party, Ames was having full on bloody contractions, all the screaming and swearing started, we were all set, Rose came over, but when we got there they just sent us home.’
‘Oh, rehly? Fuck, is she OK?’
‘Yeah, they said it was Braxton Hicks, like fake contractions. It’s all quiet at the moment. Still waiting.’
It would take a lot to fluster Dec into panicking.
‘Oh, jus a false alarm then.’
‘Yeah, but Ames is bloody pissed off. She’s well fed up with waiting, she can hardly get up. Or sit down.’
‘Yeah, I bet, bloody hell.’
‘Matt, now you’re back, would you … I hope you don’t mind me asking, but if Rose can’t come over for some reason when it all happens, can we call you?’
I loved that he asked, that I was second in line, that he didn’t care that only a few months ago I was a fucking cripple who couldn’t be trusted not to drop his daughter.
‘Yeah, course, but no way is Rose gona miss it.’
There would have to be some kind of earthquake that opened up a ravine between Rose’s flat and Dec’s house for her not to be there.
‘You’ll do it? Might be middle of the night.’
‘Yeah, you know I will, second stand-by or whatever.’
‘Thanks mate. Are we going to get to see the happy couple anytime soon?’
I immediately wanted to go round there, open a few beers, see him and Amy and Charlie, but a larger part of me still wanted to relax here with Lau, just for tonight.
‘Sure, weh’ll call in tomorrow after Lau’s had the scan.’
I raised my eyebrows at Lau to check; she nodded.
‘Great. I’m training in the morning, but come and see Ames, she’d love it. Assuming there’s no other news.’
‘Yeh, let us know.’
‘I’ll wait till a reasonable hour.’
Of course you will Dec, like that ever happened.
‘No, don’t worry about tha, any time, jus call or text, we’d like tuh know.’
‘Will do, then mate.’
‘OK, see you tomorrow, hopefully. Cheers mate. Bye.’
As conversations go, it was pretty standard, but reconnecting with my family had made me feel kind of secure. While we were away, I’d felt somewhat adrift, and recognising that now felt weird, suddenly knowing how much they all meant to me. I turned to Lau.
‘Amy had some Braxton-Hicks thingies yesterday. Got all the way tuh the maternity unit, sent her home. Called Rose over for Charlie, everything. False alarm. Still waiting.’
I could see that the security that contact with his family gave him had returned. I hadn’t realised it had gone, while we were away, but seeing it back made me realise just how vital they all were to him. I doubted he even realised himself.
‘Is she OK?’
‘Yeah, jus fed up I think. Sure it’s OK tuh call round tomorrow?’
‘Yeah, that’d be good. We should go and see Jay and Beth too, maybe our mums. Do a bit of a tour?’
‘Shit, I suppose so. Not today, tho. Migh phone them all, but I jus wana be here with you. Come here, not had a proper welcome home yet.’
I shuffled over on the sofa, and folded Lau up in my arms, pulled her onto my lap, then leaned down to kiss her, softly, lips roaming over hers, slipping my tongue into her mouth and flickering it across hers. Before long, my hands had found their way under her shirt and undone her bra, because, well, when you’ve got a hot girl on your lap it’s rude not to, and I squeezed and stroked her breasts, feeling the changes in them.
‘Lau, I think you’re getting bigger every day. Are yuh sore?’
‘A bit. Don’t squeeze too hard.’
‘Sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt you. You’re jus so fucking sexy.’
Lau sighed and sat back against me, allowing me to touch and feel, but not seeming to have the energy to respond.
‘Yeah, that’s lovely, flower, but I’m wiped. Don’t stop.’
I didn’t need more than one invitation. I carried on touching, gently stroking her, then bent my head down, lifted up her shirt and put my mouth to her nipple, sucking gently. Lau sighed and stretched her arms above her head, looking content, and I looked up into her eyes. Then it suddenly felt weird. These were the breasts that our baby was going to be sucking on in a few months time, in the same way I was doing but for a very different reason. Shit. Weird. I pulled her shirt down and sat up.
‘Hey, you stopped.’
‘Yeah, jus had a weird thought, didn’t seem right.’
‘What weird thought?’
‘Well, Philpotts is going to be using these for food soon. Not sure ih’s right to be perving on them.’
‘You weren’t perving. They’re dual purpose. Business and pleasure. And until Philpotts is actually here, all pleasure. Definitely pleasure.’
I knew Lau was disappointed that I’d stopped, but I needed to sort out the weirdness.
‘Yeah. Think I need to get my head round ih a bit first. Sorry Lau. Normal service will be resumed when Matt stops being a fucking mad freak-out.’
I leaned forwards, dejected. Playing with Lau’s awesome boobs was one of life’s little pleasures, and for the time being I was putting them out of bounds. Lau leaned towards me and put her arm round my shoulder, pulling me towards her.
‘It’s OK, flower. All this is taking some getting used to. Everything’s changing really quickly, it’s a bit full-on.’
‘Sorry, Lau. I’m jus a fuck-up. Keep freaking on you.’
I couldn’t believe it, less than half an hour after the last one, here was another freak incident fucking with my head.
‘As long as you’re freaking on me and not going all quiet, I can handle it. It’s when you stop talking I don’t know what to do.’
I turned my head and looked at her. God I loved this woman so much. Whatever I threw at her, she coped with. She made me so happy. But what was happening to both of us was scary. In a few months, before we’d really got to know each other properly, we were going to be parents, and everything was going to have to change. Everything was going to have to change before then, really. It was never-ending. I was scared.
He turned his head and looked at me. I could see all sorts of emotions flickering through his big grey eyes – love was there, happiness too, but he was scared, maybe of the big things like being married, being a father, maybe of smaller things like the ways we were both going to have to change in a relatively short space of time. He may not even have known exactly what it was he was afraid of, and he wasn’t going to tell me about it just now.
‘Matt, I love you so much. Don’t forget, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I’m holding your hand. I’ll never stop.’
‘I know, Lau. Me too.’
He sighed and rubbed his hands over his face and then, inevitably, through his hair, making it all stick out.
‘Fuck, I need tuh do something, stop me bloody moping. What am I bloody well thinking? Here I am, world’s most gorgeous woman by my side, an I’m fucking freaking. Get a bloody grip, Matt Scott.’
‘Fancy going out? Get something for tea?’
It was awesomely right, spot on.
‘Going out sounds jus the thing. We haven’t been to the deli for ages – let’s get a coffee out and bring back some bits and pieces. Hahv a picnic at home?’
‘Great idea. Does the deli do cheese and onion crisps?’
‘Maybe bluhdy expensive poncey ones – aged mature cheddar an caramelised shallot or some such shit.’
‘No, has to be Walkers. I’ve had a hankering since Friday, fat chance of getting any in France.’
‘OK, stop off at the corner shop, then deli. Come on, woman, what are you hanging around for? There are crave crisps to be had.’
My mood lightened as suddenly as it had dipped, maybe Lau’s hormonal mood swings were osmosing into me. We grabbed our coats and went out.
Our first evening in our flat as married people went pretty much as you would have expected. We ate, we watched some TV, we called a few people, we went to bed. Actually, that wasn’t as expected, as Lau was wiped and we just slept. First time for weeks that had happened, but extenuating circumstances were present. There was always tomorrow morning, our last chance before going back to work.
I woke up really early, and resisted touching Lau. She was tired, and it was about time I stopped pestering her for sex – yeah, like it was always me doing the pestering, but she was fast asleep, and I’d woken up with shit on my mind, and bloody annoyingly couldn’t get back to sleep. So I got up and tried to deal with it.
I’d tried to go back to sleep, but had ended up thinking about the baby, about what it meant, how things were going to change, what it might mean for Lau and me. It all started whirling round in my head, until I suddenly thought of something Adam had suggested the last time I saw him, a few weeks ago.
I got up, much earlier than I was used to, but sure that this was a way to stop the whirling and try to make my peace with this huge coming event, the thing I’d wanted in a hypothetical way, but now it was real was doing a pretty good job of sending me crazy.
I woke up the next morning feeling sick and apprehensive. It was still early, dark outside, and I felt chilly. I turned over to pull Matt towards me, but he wasn’t there and I saw light filtering through the gaps around the door from the lounge. It was unusual for Matt to be up early; he slept a lot, still needing to recuperate, and on days off he was sometimes still in bed close to lunch time. I slipped out of bed and opened the door. He was sitting on the sofa, laptop open, typing. He looked up as I came into the room.
‘Hey Lau. Sorry, didn’t mean tuh wake you up. Jus been writing a letter.’
‘I don’t think you woke me up. I didn’t hear anything. Didn’t sleep very well, feeling a bit sick. It’s a bit early for you, isn’t it?’
‘Couldn’t sleep either. Big day, stuff on my mind. Fancy some ginger tea?’
While we were in France, we’d discovered that ginger tea was great for helping Lau’s sicky feeling.
‘Thanks, that would be great. Are you still freaking, then?’
‘I was, a bih, but I jus wrote a letter to Philpotts, an it really helped. Who’d have thought that bloody psychologists know what they’re bluhdy well talking about?’
‘Adam told you to write it?’
‘Yeah, kind of, last time I saw him, we talked about all kinds of shit, it was just a suggestion for when I’m trying to work stuff out, I didn’t know about Philpotts. Wana see?’
I gestured at the laptop. Lau looked like she was battling between having a nosy and thinking it was private.
I really wanted to have a look, but it felt like an intensely personal thing. I was touched he wanted to share it.
‘Are you sure? It feels a bit intimate.’
‘Come on, Lau, you can’t get much more intimate than you and me. Have a look.’
It was true. We’d never said ‘no secrets’ because we didn’t want to get all stressed about surprises and presents and shit, and hey, Lau, if we’d said that then none of this monstrously long story would have got done. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
I pulled the laptop towards me and read.