His wife was right where he'd expected to find her: at a table with Janice across from her, two cardboard coffee cups discarded between them. "Hey, Janice," said Sam. "Hey, hon. How many today? Two, right?" It was becoming something of an in-joke greeting between them, but he wasn't entirely joking.
"Two today," Amy agreed, sweeping hair out of her eyes and leaning up for a kiss, "and another tomorrow. But after that we're free for a week, if you can believe it."
Janice looked back and forth at them in perplexion. "You guys lost me."
"Baby showers," Sam said, pulling a chair over to sit next to his wife.
"Christenings," Amy said. Her hand clasped his above the table.
"Pregnancy announcements," Sam said.
"You know, just baby..." Amy's free hand groped for the right word. "Business?"
"Shenanigans," Sam said.
"That's right," Amy said, snapping her fingers, "I knew I married you for a reason." She gave him an exaggerated smooch.
Janice smirked. "You guys do that even at home? How do you ever have arguments if one's always completing the other's sentences?"
Amy shrugged and grinned. "We don't. Convenient, huh?"
"Right, I imagine so," said Janice, still with that smirk. "So, when's it gonna be your turn?"
"What do you mean?" said Sam and Amy at the same time.
"To make an announcement," Janice said, giving them a conspiratorial grin. "To welcome a new member into the family. To be knocked up."
"Oh, not for some time yet, I think," said Amy breezily. "We're still having fun."
"Such as a gazillion baby showers," Janice said, laughing. "Well, all right, Mr. and Mrs. Logan, it looks like you've got appointments of your own. Don't forget to invite me when it's your turn." And they laughed and waved good-bye, but when Janice was gone they glanced at each other, and Sam saw the same troubled expression on her face as he felt on his.
In the car, they discussed it again. "It's just that time of year, I guess. The sun's shining, summer's here, everyone's hormones are in overdrive."
"Or were already," Sam said. "What is it about November that makes people so frisky?"
"It's cold," Amy answered. "People are staying indoors more and trying to find ways to keep warm."
"I guess," Sam said. He couldn't remember if they'd done it more frequently nine months ago. "But just because everybody else is doing it doesn't mean we have to."
"Of course it doesn't," Amy agreed. "But don't you want to do it?"
Sam tried to keep a straight face at that, but the total earnestness of her voice on top of the innuendo was too much. Amy laughed too, a bright smile breaking out across that pixie face, and she swatted him on the shoulder. "Not like that, you dirty man."
"Really?" Sam countered, trying to keep laughter from ruining his best 'innocence' face. "I thought that's exactly how it happens."
Shyness had never been one of Amy's problems. They had met just out of college and he had been entranced by her energy and charm, the mischievous laughter written across every line of her face. They became lovers after a wait that, for both of them, was mostly out of a sense of decorum; since then they had fucked like bunnies, both before and after the honeymoon. They had been wed for a little over two years now, together for just under five, and Sam could not remember being happier.
The party this time was at a modest two-bedroom home in the suburbs. Sam and Amy were mostly strangers; Amy found some of her co-workers, including proud new father Jonathan Stanford, and duly introduced her beloved husband Samuel and was introduced in turn to the new mother Caitlyn, but a fair amount of the cast were a mystery to her. The host, when he was not distracted with hosting duties, made the rounds as best he could, introducing people left and right, explaining that many of the guests were friends of his wife, or people he had gone to college with some ten years before. (Some of those friends, of course, had children too.)
Finally the new mother emerged with the babe cradled in her arms, and a general round of cooing and doting commenced. The daughter (Faith) was barely a month old, tiny fists clenched against her body, her face a mask of grumpy concentration, but no one seemed to mind, least of all her parents, and there were torrents of baby talk and gentle fingers (a little provided by Sam himself). Eventually the infant awoke and began to squall, which her mother quieted by proferring a breast; Jon held a towel before them while she loosened her shirt, and then the enraptured viewing resumed.
Sam watched the happy couple—well, trio now; the mother cradling the child to her breast, the father behind her, standing guard over them both, but all their energies focused on the baby. It was a touching scene, and he was reminded again of what the two of them had silently avoided in all their arguments: that he wanted this. He didn't need to ask Amy, didn't even need to look at her, to know that she felt the same, because she was standing next to him, in the arc of his arm, just the same way the Stanfords were standing as they looked down at their daughter, smiling down at the infant at her breast, knowing their love had become something tangible and real: a child.
The second party was much the same, but better in a lot of ways, because both Sam and Amy knew a lot more of the people there. It was one thing to introduce yourself to multiple people and start making friends, especially when a lot of them had five or ten years on you; it was another to be amongst peers you had known forever. This time it was Cal and Cassie Ernster showing off their son David; there were plenty of jokes about how they'd better name their next child with something that didn't start with a D if they knew what was good for them, Sam had known Calvin since his second year of college; Amy and Cassie had lived together as seniors. David, of course, was new to them, but then that was kind of the point.
It was a much less stuffy party, with some amounts of beer and a lot more noise. Under this cover of chaos, it was Cassie who broached the question: "So, what about you two?"
"What about us two?" Amy asked.
"When are you two going to break the big news?" Cassie asked.
Sam and Amy traded glances.
"We hadn't really..." Sam said.
"Things are super busy at work right now..." Amy said.
" ... Cutting back on my hours..."
" ... to find a better place than our tiny apartment..."
" ... all sorts of ongoing bills that..."
"We never have time to..."
"Yeah, and I'm a vegetarian," said Sam, which earned him a glower from his wife.
Cassie laughed. "I should've known better than to ask the clones. Well, just tell me about the big news, okay?"
It was much the same outside. They retired to the backyard where more of their friends were sitting on the patio, swapping stories and drinking beer. Well, all but one of them was; Lauren's pregnancy was quite visible, and Brad was playing the gallant husband and monitoring her alcohol intake. Lauren looked half pleased and half annoyed.
Crystal, who had no such problems ahead of her, was well on her way to being sloshed. "Lost the coin flip?" Sam asked Jason, and Jason gave a morose nod. Both he and his wife had undergone sterility procedures when they married--"tying the knot and tying the tubes," as they put it--having already made the decision that they would make awful parents, too likely to drink themselves to an early grave. Sam gave them points for not lying to themselves, but in the end, he thought they'd made the right choice—parents should be able to shoulder more responsibility than the bother of flipping a coin to determine which of them would be the designated driver that evening.
"Ah, the lovebugs," Crystal said, not entirely unslurred. "Got an announcement of your own to make?"
"Uhh..." said Amy. "What?"
"Well, you have to know we're all expecting it," Lauren said. She, Amy and Crystal had been an unsinkable trio in college, despite (or, perhaps, because of) how different they were—Crystal with her blonde hair and unabashed sex appeal, Amy as cute as a button, and night-haired Lauren shy and virginal. It was hard to read between the lines sometimes, but Sam had a hunch Lauren had done most of the work to keep them together. In any case she seemed satisfied with it now. "Ever since the two of you met, it's been hearts and rainbows."
"We figured you wouldn't wait one minute," Crystal contributed. She made a rather shaky gesture with her beer bottle. "Figured you'd come back from the honeymoon all glowy and, and knocked-up-y."
"And yet we pine away unsuccored, whilst other people's babies pile up around us," Brad said with his typical taste for the overdramatic. "We thought you'd be first, but now you're far behind. As the kids say it nowadays, What gives?"
Sam glanced at Amy, saw her eyes meet his. They were just as uncertain as his were, which he found strangely reassuring. "Well..." she said. "Unfortunately, the stars haven't lined up quite that well."
"What does that have to do with it?" Lauren asked.
"Well, we don't have our details in place," Sam said. "You guys've been to our apartment, it's tiny. And we don't have the money to—"
"No, I mean, what do all those answers have to do with it?" Lauren asked. "Having a baby isn't about details or timing or whatever. It's about love, and family, and, and wanting to leave something behind. It's about life."
.... There is more of this story ...