The unmistakable odor greeted him as soon as he opened the can. The color within was relaxing even to him, and he was ready for the task he was going to begin today. He'd prepared already, laying out plastic on the floor and tape along the bottom edges of the wood border.
He held up the fresh, unused roller and flicked it with his finger, setting it into rolling motion. He watched it slow gradually, then come to a stop.
He looked over his shoulder at Jamie, walking towards him from the doorway to the nursery. He looked back down at the freshly opened paint can, then around at the four walls surrounding them.
"Yeah," he said, nodding. "All ready. It's gonna start looking like a baby's room." He grinned.
Jamie held her hand on her expanded stomach and smiled back at him. "It's a beautiful color," she said, nodding towards the can. "I'm glad we picked that."
"Yeah…and it only took us forty minutes." Landon smiled in mock pride.
Jamie giggled. The expression on her husband's face almost made him look like a little boy. She had a sudden vision of him tickling their daughter, laughing with her…
She exhaled deeply, running a hand through her hair. "It was worth it," she decided. "I've always loved purple…especially light hues of it, like that." She smiled again. "It reminds me of a fairy tale."
Landon smiled as he knelt down. "Little girls love fairy tales, right?" he responded.
"Mmm." Jamie rubbed her belly. "Most do, yes."
"Good." Landon nodded. "I was worried she wouldn't like it." His eyes twinkled jokingly.
Jamie laughed softly. "If she had anything to say about it," she replied, "it probably wouldn't be for a few years."
"Well, I think that'd be enough time to buy new paint."
Jamie shook her head, smiling. "She'll like it. She'll like all of it."
Landon grinned. "I figured." He knelt down beside the open paint can, gazing into the entrancing color, a soft bluish violet, like one of the colors of the sunset…or sunrise.
He lifted it up, tipping it gently so it poured into the waiting tray. Then he placed the can aside, and held the roller above the paint. "Here we go," he said, dipping it in.
He stood up, placed the roller against the wall, and rolled it up and down, creating the first patch of color.
"Ooooooooh," Jamie said, like she were a spectator watching a magic show. Landon laughed.
"Oh, it gets better," he promised her.
"Yeah," she said quietly. "It'll get better." She looked down, thinking of the events of the past week.
It was Saturday afternoon, and Jamie's amniocentesis had been just under a week ago. Since then, they'd had their first appointment with Dr. Weber. Dr. Crawford had been right, in that she really was a wonderful lady. She and Jamie had hit it off right away, and she had a way of making the Carters feel better about everything that was happening, or would happen, with their daughter. Still, she hadn't promised a hundred percent smooth sailing…only that she would be there with them throughout it all.
"All I'm going to tell you for now is to just take it easy, Jamie," she had said. "You can go into work, you can keep doing what you do at home…just no strenuous activity, or anything too extreme. I'm not saying lock yourself in the house and become a recluse…just take a little extra precaution for the time being. Okay?"
Jamie's next appointment was the following week. Until then, she felt slightly more at ease. She was especially glad she was allowed to continue going into work as she usually did; she'd worked at a bookstore in town since the first summer she and Landon were married, and she felt lucky to be able to. She loved her job.
Meanwhile, Landon had a day off of his job (his fifth month working at Sears across the way in Morehead City; in appliances, to be exact) and Jamie didn't go in until four. They'd decided to use the majority of the day doing what they were doing now.
The colored area grew as Landon continued. When he stopped for a moment, swiping the front of his hand across his nose to relieve an itch, he stepped back and took a look.
"You think it works?"
Jamie smiled. "If it doesn't, too late."
He looked back at her, with a quizzical smile. "Well, if you're not just being sarcastic, we could always paint over it…"
Jamie laughed. "Of course I'm being sarcastic, honey," she assured him. "I love it. That's why we agreed on it."
He nodded. "Right." Kneeling down again, he dipped the roller into the paint.
"So, uh…" He straightened up, and continued the painting. "I was thinking about the na—"
Landon turned quickly at Jamie's surprised tone. "What?"
Her hands were on her stomach.
Landon's mind filled with alarm.
"Jamie?" He almost dropped the roller.
But in the next moment, she looked up at him, and her lips flickered into a smile. "Come here," she said.
He paused, before slightly moving towards her. "What is it?"
"Just come here." She reached for his hand, the one without the roller. She pulled him towards her. "You have got to feel this."
When she placed his hand on her stomach, he understood.
"Just wait a second," she said quietly.
Both were silent.
Landon's eyes flickered from his wife's belly, to her face, and back again. "Did she…"
Then under his palm, he felt it.
It wasn't one of the flutters he'd felt before. It was strong, a true movement. It was as if his daughter had been trying to serve a volleyball...well, maybe not that hard, but that one centralized movement, in that one spot, was enough to cause Jamie's whole stomach to actually move, and it was enough to make him jump.
"Wow," he said loudly, blinking in disbelief. "She…she just…punched me."
Jamie burst into giggles.
"Maybe she kicked you," she countered. "You never know."
Landon just blinked again.
"I've never felt anything like that," he said.
Jamie smiled broadly. "I have."
He gazed into her face. "How…how often does she do that? That was…wow." His hand remained on her belly again.
"Well, she moves around all the time, but, this is one of the first times I've felt her do that." She smiled, looking down. "Usually, if she does something like it, it's early in the morning. In fact, this morning, I almost woke you up."
Landon's face showed his amazement. "You should have."
"I will next time," she promised. "But hey. You got to feel it."
"Yeah," Landon breathed. "No kidding." He shook his head. "Wow. I could just forget about the painting and sit here feeling that for the rest of the day. That was…"
Jamie watched him trail off, and nodded in understanding.
"I think she's telling us to stop second guessing the paint color," she offered, flashing her wide grin. "She likes it."
Landon felt it again, a jolt of movement that made him jump a second time.
"Yeah, all right, little girl," he said, his gaze still mystified, reminding Jamie of a child on Christmas morning. "We'll keep the color. We promise."
Jamie laughed again, and once again her belly shook a little, but only because of her giggles.
Landon got back to work.
"I feel like I'm standing around while you do everything," Jamie admitted after a moment.
"Probably because you are," Landon answered simply, with a wink.
Jamie's eyebrows raised, but she knew he wasn't being accusing. She patted his head. "I kinda like it that way," she joked.
Landon just grinned, and she leaned down to kiss his head.
"Don't worry," he assured her. "Come tomorrow, we'll both be able to pitch in. We've got to get the crib and changing table moved in here." He stood up, leaving the roller in the tray for a moment, swiping his hands across his pants.
"That's right," Jamie nodded. "It's just…I can't really help get them upstairs, for obvious reasons…"
"Oh, Jam, no, don't worry about that. My dad and yours are on the job, remember?"
She nodded. "Mmm. I know." She sighed. "Good old grandpas."
Landon thought that one over for a second, then chuckled.
"My dad…a grandpa," he said, shaking his head.
Jamie smiled a little. "What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing," he said, turning his head to look at her. He looked down at the paint tray again, then knelt and picked up the roller. "It's just…funny, because it seems like not that long ago that my dad and I even started talking again. You know? And now he's got a grandchild coming up from me…" He trailed off. "It's not bad, none of it's bad, I just—"
"Well then, this happened at the perfect time, didn't it?" Jamie replied. She was smiling.
He looked up. "What? The baby?"
She laughed. "Laaaaandon, Landon, Landon…" She stroked his hair. Drawing out his name caused that slight southern accent to taint her speech.
"What?" he asked, still kind of clueless.
"Two things you should remember about things," she told him. "One, they'll catch you off guard, and two, they'll always work out."
He gazed at her, nodding. "I know that."
"I know you know that. I'm just reminding myself. Well, both of us."
He nodded, thoughtfully. "Okay."
She smiled, again.
"What do you think she'll call our parents?" Landon inquired, painting again.
Jamie's eyes twinkled happily.
"Mmmm…I was wondering that too," she answered.
Landon grinned as he worked. "I called my mom's dad Pop. I remember that. That was a long time ago…he was a good guy."
Jamie nodded, understanding. She knew his grandfather had passed away when he was nine.
"My mom's mom…well, obviously, I just call her Grandma." Jamie smiled. She'd gotten to meet Landon's grandma for the first time when they were engaged, and then had gotten to know her better at the wedding. She was a sweet lady, like his mom, but they didn't get to see her much…she lived a little ways outside of Beaufort, and she didn't go out as much as she used to.
"And then my dad's dad…never met him, so I never really called him anything."
Jamie nodded. She also knew Landon's grandfather on his father's side hadn't been the warmest or more kindhearted person you'd ever meet. He'd been more distant and wrapped up in his business, never even coming to see Landon after he was born, and never up until the time he died when Landon was four. He'd also already been divorced by the time Landon came along, and apparently had a couple more wives before his death, so a grandmother on that side wasn't really something Landon had had, unless you count a random step-grandmother whose name he didn't even know.
"But anyway," Landon continued. "I don't know. What do you think?"
Jamie answered after a second or two. "I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "The last time I talked to a grandparent of mine, I was really little. My dad's father died long before I was born, and his mother died when I was three or so…well, I told you that. The only memory I really have of her is sitting on her lap once, so I don't know, I must have just called her Grandma. As for my mother's parents, they never lived around here, but they've both passed too. My dad's always just referred to them all as 'your grandparents'. But I don't know." She sighed, contemplatively. "I'd like to think she'd call them something…affectionate. Something sweet. They'll be a pretty big part of her life. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah. I know what you mean." Landon smiled, stretching his arm up further to reach higher points on the wall. He smiled to himself. "The more interesting thing to think about, though, is what they'll call her."
Jamie was about to respond, when she realized what he actually meant.
"I know," she agreed. "We can't refer to her as 'her' forever, can we?"
"Wouldn't really be fair," Landon answered, shrugging. "So…"
"What?" Jamie asked, as she smiled. "By the way, I can do some of this painting if you want me to…"
Downstairs, the phone rang.
She looked over her shoulder, then back at Landon. "But not yet, I guess. Ah, we don't have a phone up here…let me go get that. I'll be right back, baby."
When she was gone, Landon turned back to the wall, contemplating. He looked over at the unpainted sections, then dipped the roller into the paint once more.
Jamie returned a few minutes later.
"It was Daddy," she said, entering the room again. "He was just making sure we still—Landon?"
She looked around the empty room, about to inquire as to where he'd gone, when she saw the wall at the far right side.
"What?" she mumbled to herself, when she noticed the new paint on the previously unpainted wall.
It was in the shape of four letters, four big letters carefully painted in fairy tale lavender, with a roller.
The bathroom door opened down the hall, and Landon ambled quietly up behind her.
"What do you think?" he asked, and she turned around quickly.
Her eyes darted curiously from the wall to him. "Well," she responded slowly, "it's nice, but what…is it?"
He didn't do anything except place a hand on Jamie's stomach, patting it softly.
"Well, I thought," he replied, "it could be her."
Jamie blinked, and she began to smile in that way she had the night they went to the state line, North Carolina and Virginia, both at once…
She took a few steps towards the wall, then turned around, and this time, her smile was a little wider.
She began to laugh, the kind that bubbled up softly, and brought more joy as it grew.
"That's it," she said. She shook her head back and forth, laughing again. "That's it exactly…"
As she walked over to Landon and wrapped him in a hug, he knew he'd better not try to pick her up and spin her as he had the first time, but he knew something else this time too.
In the short moments that he'd been alone in the room, he had probably gotten more accomplished in a few paint strokes than he had since he'd begun.
Four letters, an H and an O and a P and an E, held the reason for their lives in a purple, slightly dripping, fairy tale simplicity.