Chapter 8: Martin
I recognize Connie’s voice, and she sounds worried.
I look up from my desk.
Luke is home with the flu, but it’s Tuesday, so I won’t be seeing Melanie today.
“My son’s sick. It seems like there’s a bad bug going around his school. I’ve called Rick, but he has to wait for some laundry to come out of the washing machine, and he might be almost an hour. Can you sit at the desk?”
Rick really should get himself a wife.
“Sure, no problem.”
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been behind the desk. There’s the computer, phone, and a container of baby wipes.
Strange. Nobody who works here has a baby or preschool kid. Connie’s son is the youngest, and he’s almost nine.
Maybe Rick knows. Trust him to buy baby wipes instead of disinfecting ones. What a baby.
Half an hour later, Rick arrives.
“Why did you buy baby wipes?”
I show him the container.
“These are for babies, not for cleaning the desk.”
“Oh, I spilled my coffee and Melanie gave me those.”
Melanie? Does she have a baby?
I try to picture her with one. I thought she lived with her parents, but maybe she was visiting them when I called. But why did she give us their number?
“I’ll give these back to her. In future, please buy disinfecting wipes, oh, and Rick?”
“Next time Connie calls you, drop what you’re doing and get yourself here. If I’d had a client, they would have had to wait for you.”
He opens his mouth, probably to complain, but I walk away and go to my office, still holding the container of wipes.
Maybe Melanie doesn’t like to give out her number until she trusts people, so she gives them her parents’ number. Or maybe she doesn’t have her own landline and didn’t want to give us her cell number.
I guess she could have a baby and live with her parents. Maybe they have a big house with enough space for two families.
I open the container and smell the wipes. Nice and fresh. I close the container and stick it in a drawer.
Should I ask her about her baby? Strange she’s never mentioned it, but maybe she’s a private person.
The next month goes by quickly, and on a Friday afternoon, Luke becomes a fully-trained member of our staff.
We order a cake and have a little office party.
“What are you gonna do now?” Karin asks.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “I was sort of thinking about setting up yoga classes, but your class is also awesome.”
“Thanks. I was actually thinking of adding a second class, but I don’t want to come in earlier. Can you teach it and do a yoga class as well?”
“That’d be great.”
Tim takes a big bite of cake.
“What do you think, Tim?” Luke asks.
Tim swallows and says, “To be honest, I’d like a change from supervising the gym some days. Would you take a couple?”
“Sure. Which one?”
They discuss days and I end up offering to supervise on Tuesdays and Saturdays because Luke wants to do a yoga class on Saturdays.
After the cake’s gone and the paper plates thrown out, I go to my office and with my heart pounding, I call Melanie’s cell.
“Hi, is this Martin?”
“Yep. I have some exciting news.”
“Oh, I love exciting news. Tell me!”
“You can start HIIT on Monday.”
“Yay! I can’t wait. What do I need to do to get ready?”
“Nothing, just dress comfortably and be prepared with lots of energy, because I am gonna push you to maximum. By the way, I have a question. There was an empty container of baby wipes at the desk, and nobody here has a baby. I asked Rick about it and he said you gave them to him to wipe up some coffee. I’ve never heard you mentioin a baby, so I was just curious. If it’s none of my business, please tell me to mind my own.”
“Mind your own,” she says, and laughs. “Just kidding. I actually wanted to tell you this at our first session, but I was shy.”
How can she be shy about telling me she has a baby? Most moms can’t wait to mention their kids.
“The reason I wanted an exercise program in the first place is to make me strong enough to have a baby. I read something on the Internet that says having a baby is like running a marathon, but even after that, you don’t get to relax and brag for very long, but you have eighteen years or so of work ahead of you.”
Not a real marathon, I think. So that’s what she meant.
I envy her boyfriend. She’s bought the things she’ll need and she’s making a huge effort to be able to give her baby the best possible entrance into the world.
At least we’ll have some time alone, now that Luke is doing other things and Frank needs his own session.
“So I’ll see you on Monday,” she says. “Six, right?”
“Yep, see you then.”
“So, what did you think of that?”
Melanie’s sitting in a chair after doing her first HIIT workout on the stair machine.
She looks at me sadly.
“I’m sorry Martin, I hated it. I prefer the longer workouts. Are you mad at me?”
I’m disappointed, but how can I be mad at her?
“No, I’m not mad at you. How about we try a different exercise on Wednesday?”
She shakes her head.
“I’d love to keep working with you on Mondays, but if it’s okay with you and Frank, I’d like to go back to shared sessions. I know mostly what I’m doing, and he’s been doing HIIT for a long time.”
I don’t like this, but she’s right, and there’s no reason they can’t share if she’s not doing HIIT.
“Yeah, that’s fine. So what about Wednesays and Fridays?”
“I heard Karin and Rick talking about her class. I think it’s on Tuesdays at two.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I also saw on the bulletin board that Luke’s doing a yoga class on Thursday mornings.”
My day off.
“Yes, he’s starting it this week.”
“So that’s gonna be my new routine, and if I like yoga, I’ll add his Saturday class.”
I’ll be supervising in the gym and won’t even see her on Tuesdays or Saturdays.
I wish she wouldn’t do this to me, but I can’t think of a professional reason why she shouldn’t. Karin’s workout is strenuous, but it’s mostly resistance training, and will be great after the bike ride on Monday.
After that conversation, the only day I want to work is Monday. I drag myself through the rest of the week, but by Friday, I’m exhausted and irritable, and Susan isn’t helping.
She’s always got dinner ready, but she acts so bright and cheerful.
She doesn’t say anything about what’s making her happy, and that worries me. Usually when she’s having a good time, she tells me so. In fact, she usually talks endlessly about whatever it is.
I don’t like the secrecy, and I’m determined to find out what’s going on.
The first thing I do is try to think of reasons why she might both be happy and not want to tell me.
I come up with only two reasons: she’s pregnant but wants to tell me at Christmas, or she’s having an affair.
It’s only a couple weeks until Christmas, so I decide to wait.
Thinking about finally becoming a dad makes it easier to get through my work week.
Will she tell me on Christmas morning, or after dinner? Maybe one of her presents to me will be a piece of paper with her due date written in permanent marker. Make that a card. The front will have a watercolor painting of a happy family, and inside, there’ll be her due date, surrounded by a border of flowers and smiley faces. She won’t sign it, because our baby isn’t from her, but from God, or maybe Jesus.
I decide she won’t present it with the other gifts. She’ll wait until after dinner, and then she’ll turn off the light. The room won’t be dark for long, because she’ll light a candle. She’ll pick up an envelope and slip it into my shaking hands. I’ll fumble as I try to open it, and my heart will be going faster than a HIIT workout. I’ll see the card, and I’ll take it out, but I’ll drop it. Susan will bend down, pick it up, and hand it to me.
I’ll manage to open it and I’ll see our baby’s due date, and I’ll feel the happiest I’ve ever felt in all my life.
“I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” she’ll whisper. “I was scared, you know?”
I’ll nod and say, “So am I, and it’s better now that you’ve written all your books and have more time to devote to a child. My job’s secure, so now is the prefect time, honey. So don’t be sorry, and if there’s anything I can do to make you less scared, just tell me, and I’ll be right here.”
We’ll kiss tenderly, and then we’ll go to the baby’s room, and Susan will open the door quietly. I’ll look in, and the room’ll be spotless. I’ll go get my laptop, and we’ll sit down on the floor in the baby’s room, and browse online for baby things.
We’ll spend more money than we need to, but it’ll be Christmas!
After that, even though it’s late, we’ll conference call her parents and my mom, and we’ll tell them the good news at the same time.
When we go to bed, we’ll be so tired and happy, we’ll fall asleep as soon as our heads touch the soft pillows.
We’ll wake up the next day, and every day after that for the rest of our long lives, happy and loving parents. The only writing she’ll ever do will be shopping lists, letters, and notes. Her books will be in the past, but of course people will still be allowed to buy them. We’ll put that money into a college fund for our child, but it won’t be even a quarter as much as I’ll add to that account!
I’m not so caught up in dreaming about our future that I don’t consider what Susan might like for Christmas.
A baby is really the only gift she should need, but it’s romantic to buy each other presents, and I’m sure she’s got something material for me as well.
After work on December 21, I head to the mall.
I see a huge display of chocolate, but can she eat that now that she’s pregnant?
I wander around, and walk randomly into a bookstore. There’s a display of children’s books at the front. Maybe I’ll buy some books for our baby.
“Can I help you?” A saleswoman is at my elbow.
“Yes, please. I’m looking for something to buy for my wife for Christmas.”
“What does she like to read?”
“She likes romances, but I thought I’d buy her something more, um, useful.”
“Does she like to cook?”
“How about some cookbooks? We just got in some new ones with beautiful pictures.”
She shows me to a shelf loaded with cookbooks.
I pick out a big one that’s full of recipes rather than pictures.
What else will we need for when the baby comes? Susan can cook well, and she’s good at doing laundry and cleaning, but she doesn’t sew. She also doesn’t knit. Sewing and knitting are two things my mother does a lot of. I think we also need a book about parenting, and maybe one about what it’s like to have a baby, but those won’t go in the box I wrap for her.
I don’t want to ask about where to find them, so I look around until I do.
Wow. There’s a whole shelf full.
I pick up an armload and figure some of them will be good, and we’ll give away the ones that aren’t.
I go to the checkout.
“Did you find everything?” the cashier asks.
“I’m not sure.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“Sewing and knitting.”
“We have books about those, but if you need equipment, I can suggest a few places. My mom’s an avid craftswoman.”
I write down the information and thank her.