In the Rectory at Ampthill Rebecca awoke to the same feeling of acute nausea. There was absolutely no doubt now that she was pregnant. She lay still for a moment willing the sick feeling to recede. Finally giving in, she dragged herself out of bed and raced to the bathroom arriving just in time to throw up. Tired and depressed she climbed back into bed wondering for the millionth time what she was going to do. Well really more that there was nothing she could do. Her life was completely out of control. For Rebecca this was a new and very unwelcome experience. She was cheered by the sound of footsteps and a tap on the door knowing it was Penny coming to the rescue. Penny poked her head around the door, smiling sympathetically at Rebecca,
‘I’ve brought a cup of tea and a piece of toast. Might make you feel better. I had terrible morning sickness with Simon for about three weeks and then it just went away and I felt fine again.’ She set the tea and toast down on the bedside table and sat on the side of the bed reaching over and bestowing a hug and a kiss on Rebecca’s cheek. ‘Caitlin will cheer you up.’ She offered.
‘Yes, I expect she will’ replied Rebecca somewhat doubtful, ‘you do too Pen. More than that, I don’t know what I would have done without you for the last couple of days. Thank you.’ Her thanks were heartfelt. The two chatted in a rather desultory fashion for a few moments. Rebecca tried to pull herself together, ‘I’m sorry Pen, and I’m really not great company for you.’ Penny responded with a squeeze and,
‘Hey friends are for the bad times as well as the good. I know you would always be there for me if anything awful was to happen.’
‘Yes, I would. But I hope the time never comes’ responded Rebecca, ‘you and Charles makes me feel secure and hopeful for the future for all of us.’
‘Thanks Rebecca, as you know I feel blessed in my marriage and lucky to have two perfect babies.’ She wondered if it might be a good time to talk more to Rebecca about the practicalities of bringing up the baby she was carrying. Rebecca sensing that Penny wanted to help her to think through the problem of her unlooked for pregnancy and to be supportive responded:
‘Pen, I keep wondering how I’ll cope with the shops and a baby on my own.’ Her face looked pinched and desolate as she said this but she soldiered on without resorting to tears, ‘I want to have the baby, I already feel connected to it in some strange way. Sort of protective I suppose. I just know that Dylan will not want anything to do with it or me. He’ll just walk away without a backward glance.’ Her voice hardened as she remembered the time he had done this before, after humiliating her completely. The time the baby was conceived. ‘But I have started to think how I’ll manage. My flat above the shop in Wimbledon could work out all right. The baby could come to work with me and sleep in a Moses basket in the staff room. The girls will really like it I think. Then when it’s bigger it will have to go to nursery or I’ll get a nanny to look after it.’ Penny was delighted and relieved that Rebecca had started to apply her old logic and problem solving skills to her situation. She seemed to have accepted where she was and implemented a plan to move forward; just as she always did reflected Penny.
Caitlin arrived a couple of hours later to find her friends, still deep in conversation, sitting in the snug. The three all hugged and kissed each other enthusiastically and Caitlin was relieved and happy to see that Rebecca seemed quite upbeat. Together they revisited the conversation that Rebecca and Penny had been having before her arrival. Caitlin nodded and agreed and thought that Rebecca would manage fine, especially with the help of the girls in the shop. She had met most of them and she knew that they all liked and respected Rebecca and would put themselves out to help her.
The subject of Rebecca’s pregnancy was interrupted for a while when the girls went into the kitchen for lunch and the huge bouquet of flowers discovered. Caitlin blushed slightly as she explained their origin and confessed that she’d dumped them there on the way in so as not to cause a distraction.
‘But we like distractions!’ Rebecca countered immediately, ‘Is there something that we need to know Caiti?’
‘Well I don’t really know…’ Caitlin hesitated, ‘and if it is something special I don’t want to be gloating about my good fortune when you’re going through such a bad time Becca.’ Her look pleaded for forgiveness. Rebecca immediately gave her a big hug and said to both of them,
‘Please both of you, I thank you for your kindness and support but don’t think for a minute that you have to tread around me on eggshells. I want you to be happy. It gives me hope, like I said to Pen earlier. Why should you guys be miserable because I’ve made a big mistake?’ Rebecca looked her old self as she lifted her chin in the way that her friends were accustomed to see when she was facing a challenge. ‘Come on Caiti dish the dirt. We want to know all about this Mario character don’t we Pen?’
‘You bet’ seconded Penny, ‘Dish!’ Caitlin laughed as she started to tell the tale of her meetings with Mario so far. All three felt comfortable and contented as they settled into the old established patterns of their friendship. They exchanged opinions on Mario’s motivations, some quite likely, others absurdly fabricated until they were giggling happily like their eleven year old selves. Rebecca wiped her eyes from tears of laughter and exclaimed:
‘I wish Annie was here it would be perfect!’ Penny looked at her watch
‘I’m going to call her now. She could be here for dinner if she’s got nothing planned.’
Suzanne had thought she would write up some of the notes she had made during her travels in Andalucía. But that could wait she decided immediately when she took Penny’s call late in the afternoon at work. Her father would look after Zorro and Ziggy; she would call and let him know where she was going. She could go straight to St Pancras and catch a train. Suzanne kept a small supply of toiletries at Penny’s as she often went down at fairly short notice. She took her duties as godmother to Simon very seriously.
When Suzanne joined the group of friends that evening their conversation continued seamlessly. Suzanne was brought up to date with all the happenings. She expressed her concerns for Rebecca and felicitations to Caitlin. They all played with Simon who was a cute child with blond curls and big blue eyes, more like a girl than a boy said Caitlin meaning a compliment,
‘Not fair for a boy to have such gorgeous long eyelashes!’ The baby, Lucy, was passed around between them and rocked gently when she opened her eyes and made a little cry. Penny felt inordinately proud of her children and oddly maternal to her friends. In some ways she was glad that Rebecca was going to be a mother. It would be good to have one of her friends to discuss baby things with. To know how different that it made you feel being a mother. She just wished that the circumstances were happier for her friend.
When Charles joined them the girls warmly welcomed him. They all loved him because he made Penny so happy as well as because he was such a good, kind person. He listened to his wife and the other girls making plans for Rebecca and the baby and was deeply relieved to know that the pregnancy would not be terminated. He also felt a certain amount of disquiet that all thoughts of Dylan being a part of the equation were off the agenda. He wondered if Rebecca even intended to tell him or give him a chance to ‘do the decent thing’. Charles knew it wasn’t the right time to raise the subject but his unease refused to budge.