Two years later…
After waking up nauseated and exhausted for the fifth day in a row, Kat knew that there was probably an obvious reason for such symptoms.
She was married, after all, and to a man who practically exuded virility. Really, it was a wonder she hadn’t ended up pregnant ages ago.
Now, though, she needed to go into the tiny grocery store in Heron’s Landing that also served as a sort-of drugstore, buy a few pregnancy tests, and somehow not have anyone she knew notice what she was doing. Considering how impossible such a task would be, Kat needed a game plan.
She wasn’t embarrassed to buy pregnancy tests, but she also didn’t want Gavin to find out from some town busybody before she could tell him if she were pregnant (or not, if the case may be). The town gossips loved pregnancy rumors, so if anyone saw her buying pregnancy tests, it would get around town faster than she could blink.
So, a game plan. She knew that Mike, the grocery store’s manager, had recently hired a teenager named Connor to man the store in the evenings on weekends. Connor had a look about him that screamed all I do is smoke pot every day, and thus, she had a distinct feeling that she could buy an entire case load of pregnancy tests and the kid wouldn’t bat an eyelash.
If it weren’t already Saturday, she’d just buy the damn things online, but she was impatient. Kat didn’t like being in limbo. She wanted to know, and she wanted to know now. She just didn’t want everyone else and their grandma to know, too.
It was a warm summer evening in June when Kat told her husband, “I’m walking to Mike’s for a few things.”
Gavin, being a kind and thoughtful husband, replied, “Want me to go with you?”
Kat shook her head. “I’ll be right back. I need some Ben and Jerry’s.”
Emma, who was now in fourth grade, glanced up from her homework to gaze at her stepmom. Emma had come a long way from the terrified little girl Kat had found in supply closets at school. Now, she was on the soccer team and although she still had issues with anxiety, she was able to come to Kat or Gavin for help instead of hiding.
The young girl gave Kat a onceover, like she suspected something. Kat bit back a smile. If anyone would figure it out, it’d be Emma.
“Okay, well, can you get me some beer?” Gavin asked.
Kat snorted. “I am not carting back an entire pack of beer for you!”
But after some deliberation, she agreed to bring him back a very large can of beer. Escaping before anyone else could make a request, Kat walked to the grocery store, which was only a mile from the house she and Gavin had built after their marriage. She’d decided to sell her grandmother Lillian’s place, although it had been a difficult decision. Her new house, though, only held lovely, new memories, and for that, Kat was infinitely grateful.
Arriving at the store, she inwardly celebrated that only Mr. Taggart, a crotchety old man who didn’t like to talk to anything human except to complain, was the only person in the store besides her and Connor. Connor, for his part, stood at the register, his expression vague, pimples dotting his cheeks. He looked like he was chewing gum, but Kat rather wondered if he was just chewing air. You could never be entirely sure with Connor.
Going to the Feminine Care Aisle, Kat surreptitiously glanced at the few brands the store carried, and then preceded to snag one of each. She slipped them into the basket she’d picked up at the front of the store and covered them with coupon clippings. After that, she snagged a carton (or two) of ice cream and that beer for Gavin and made her way to the register.
Mr. Taggart had beaten her to the checkout counter, to her consternation. When Connor replied that they didn’t carry Mr. Taggart’s preferred brand of smokes, the old man decided this was the time and the place to talk about his rights as an American citizen and how Mike had always carried his brand of choice.
“Where’s Mike?” Mr. Taggart demanded. “I want to speak to him right now!”
Connor made a bored sound. “He’s on vacay somewhere.”
Kat bounced on her heels. Of course, now she had to pee, and she really, really wanted to know if she were pregnant or not. Just thinking about seeing that positive sign sent her heart pounding. Even better? Was imagining how Gavin would react. He’d wanted to start a family with her as soon as they’d married, and she’d wanted to as well. The timing hadn’t been ideal right then, though, but now, it was as good a time as any. Kat was also prosaic enough to know that with a baby, there really wasn’t ever a perfect time to have one. Babies had a tendency to waylay your best laid plans.
As Mr. Taggart continued his rant, the front door chimed. Kat glanced up, and her stomach plummeted. Gavin. Why is Gavin here?
“Oh good, you’re still here. You forgot your wallet, sweetheart.” He handed her her plaid wallet.
She took it without a word. How was she going to buy pregnancy tests with her husband standing right here? Could she get him to leave?
She almost laughed out loud, because why was she acting like she needed to keep it a secret from him? Well, it wasn’t so much not wanting to tell him in general; she just didn’t want to ruin the potential surprise if she should, in fact, be pregnant.
“What all did you get?” Gavin reached down into the basket, but she pulled it away before he could touch anything.
“Nothing interesting. Just what you asked for.”
He blinked. “Uh huh. Why do I feel like you’re buying something I won’t like?” He furrowed his brows. “Are you buying cigarettes or something?” he asked, confused.
Kat snorted a laugh, while Mr. Taggart turned at the word “cigarettes” and decided to yell at Gavin instead about the injustice being served right now. “Do they not have your smokes, too?” the old man shouted. “This is an outrage!”
Kat sneaked past the old man, set her stuff on the counter, and said in a low voice, “If you check me out within one minute, I’ll give you five dollars.”
Connor gave her a slow blink, like a sleepy cat. “What?”
“Fine, ten dollars.” She snapped her fingers. “Come on!”
To her surprise, Connor moved faster than she’d ever seen him move, all while Mr. Taggart yelled at her poor husband. After paying, giving Connor a fiver (he didn’t need ten whole dollars!), she stuffed the bag with the tests into her purse and said to Gavin, “Ready?”
Gavin moved slowly away from Mr. Taggart like the old man would attack him otherwise, and Kat took his arm and spirited him out the door. When they got into the fresh air, she let out a laugh, which only confused her poor husband even further.
A few hours later, Emma was in bed, Gavin was taking a shower, and Kat was using the downstairs bathroom to test herself to her heart’s content. After testing each one, she set them in a row on the counter. Then she waited. She waited. She checked her phone. And then she waited some more. When nothing was happening, she decided to go get that ice cream and start in on it. She’d need it, no matter the result.
She vaguely heard the water shut off upstairs, but when she came back into the bathroom (with ice cream in hand), she looked at the row of tests and let out a noise that was between a squeal and sob. A sound that was apparently loud enough to alert her husband that she’d probably either stubbed her toe or found a spider, and he damn well better get downstairs to do something about it.
“What is it?” Gavin had a towel slung over his shoulders, his dark hair wet. “Are you okay?”
Kat just pointed at the tests with her spoon and ice cream, her other hand over her mouth. Gavin, a fairly smart man, looked at where she pointed, and then he froze. But only for a moment. Then he stepped closer, gazing at the array of tests, rather like a bouquet, and asked in a hoarse voice, “Is this…?”
She nodded, tears falling. Setting down her ice cream and spoon, she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him until he made a little noise in the back of his throat.
“I’m pregnant,” she said. The words, said aloud, seemed to make it all the more real. Her heart pounded. “I’m pregnant,” she repeated.
“Kat…” He wrapped his arms around her; he murmured her name.
She had to see his face. He hadn’t said anything, not really. Was he upset? Apathetic? She took in his expression, his eyes, everything, and she almost shook him when he asked, “You’re pregnant?”
Beaming, she nodded.
Then, he let out a whoop that caused Emma to come running downstairs. When she saw her dad and stepmom hugging and kissing in the bathroom, she wondered if they’d finally lost it. But she was a smart child, and she could read “pregnancy test” on all of those boxes. She squealed as she put two and two together, threw herself into the melee, and the trio hugged and kissed and celebrated, not caring one bit that it was a school night or that, despite all of Kat’s best intentions, the entire town via Mr. Taggart and his wily gaze would know of their news by the time the sun rose in the morning.