Expectations

Chapter 1

They used to talk about it, dream about it, even plan for it, but life had interfered. Infidelity. Blindness. Rehabilitation. Healing. Adjustment. Where had those plans gone? Had they escaped, with his vision, to a place in his imagination he couldn't often bear to visit? Why had he never thought of such a thing happening?

Where did a baby fit into this life?

He and Christie used to imagine what their child would look like. All they knew for sure was that it was bound to have blue eyes, but the hair color could be anything. It was a given that any child born of Christie would have to be stunning and Jim was sensible enough to know that his genetic contribution wouldn't lessen the effect any. The thought of his future daughter's beauty used to make him tense as he imagined her setting off on her first date with some punk who was obviously not good enough for her. He had seen himself shaking hands with the little rat extra hard to give him a taste of how strong the daddy of this girl was, making sure the kid was able to look him in the eye as they spoke. He had seen the scared kid glimpsing the gun on his hip…the gun he had conveniently left in place after arriving home from work, just to remind the kid that he had to take extra-special care of this girl. Or else.

He shifted on the couch and sighed, feeling Christie's eyes on him even though she was silent. She was waiting for his next words, but he didn't know how to form them.

"You're sure about this?" he finally said. "Can't you take another one?"

She laughed easily. Comfortably. "I've taken three already."

When had he last heard that tone in her voice? That joy in her laugh? He looked right at her but all he saw was the image her voice triggered in his mind. He saw her eyes laughing at him, startlingly pale in contrast with the glossy blackness of her hair. What color were they, exactly? It was easier to say "blue" but they were nearly aqua. He could see them crinkling impishly in the corners as she smiled at him. She had to be smiling because that laugh had been so very real.

"So," he started to say, feeling foolish. "Uh—a baby. So, those tests are never wrong?"

"Jimmy!" Her tone was playful, but a slight edge had crept into her voice. "Come on."

"I thought we would talk about it before—how did this happen?"

"Well, I haven't been on the pill for over a year," she reminded. "And you don't like condoms…"

He knew this only too well. But she had worked it all out. Timed it. Measured it. "You said you were doing that thing with your temperature every day," he said helplessly. "You said you knew when it was safe."

"I was. I did. Hey, it kept us safe for over a year, but nothing is foolproof. Well, almost nothing, but that's no fun."

Again that laugh rang out, jarring Jim with its very happiness. How long had she been hoping for an "accident" like this?

He rested his forehead against the palm of his hand. "Every time, when I asked you, you told me if it was safe or not. You sounded so sure. What did you do, Christie?"

"What did I do?" she asked, the edge in her voice deepening, "First of all, I didn't do anything, we did, and you're smart enough to know these things can happen. Second of all, I seem to remember you not asking not too long ago. Neither one of us seemed all that concerned with consulting my chart on that particular night before…"

His head came up. Oh. That night. It almost felt like a blur, even though it had only been three weeks. The day he had given up his gun. Too much had been crammed into his head that day for anything to make sense. The sacrifice. The despair. The triumph over self. Holding Christie in his arms that night, oddly euphoric after their final dance class, somber because of the thought of that gun sitting in his locker and not on his hip. Never again on his hip. The passion ignited as it hadn't since—well, it had never been that good, even when he could see. He had never before allowed himself to feel such a complete sense of oneness with his wife. Of course he hadn't remembered to ask Christie if it was safe. Her fertile days had not been on the top of his list of concerns as he had given in to whatever it was that had overwhelmed them both when they found themselves in the privacy of their apartment. What a release it had been. The thought of that night had kept him going during those next hard days at work as he had arrived each morning, feeling like less of a cop because he was the only one who wasn't armed. Feeling like less of a man. But whenever he thought of that night, he knew he was still all the man he needed to be.

"So that night…"

"Yes," she said. "It had to be. It was at just the right—or wrong—time. I realized it later."

"Why didn't you tell me that you might be…?"

"I figured there wasn't any hurry in case it turned out to be a false alarm. I even waited a whole extra week to be sure and now we know. It's not a false alarm. Congratulations, Jimmy. You're going to be a father!"

Extreme emotions struggled within him, leaving him stunned, as he had felt the day Dr. Galloway had told him he was fit for duty and that he didn't need to come in anymore. As part of him had inflated, thinking of the psychiatric evaluation being favorable, another part of him had felt cut off at the knees, lost without the safety of having an excuse to continue talking to this man, who had such wisdom. Even now, Galloway's words floated through Jim's mind sometimes, making him think, sustaining him.

Christie was going to have his baby. He tried to think of what having a baby in his life would be like, but some barrier came up every time he tried to take that image past a certain place in his mind. Why wouldn't his brain allow him to fully realize what this meant? But then he knew and a chill swept over him, causing him to shudder.

"Jimmy?" Christie asked, but her voice seemed to be coming from very far away. Jim had a hard time hearing her over the pounding in his ears.

Never, since the moment he had awakened in the hospital, face covered in bandages, had Jim felt so blind. Blindness had become just another tiresome fact of his life; that one extra hurdle placed before him he would always have to jump in order to be almost as good as everyone else. But that was life and Jim had learned to accept the limitations that had been forced upon him. He was even learning to be happy, and in ways he had never thought of when he could see.

But a baby! That beautiful child Jim had always dreamed of protecting. The child Jim would never see. He would always remember what Christie looked like, but his child would be a faceless blur in his mind, like Marty or Karen or everyone else he had met since losing his sight. His knowledge of his child's face would be secondhand. He wouldn't see his baby smile. He wouldn't be able to size up pesky boyfriends. He wouldn't be able to coach Little League. He wouldn't even be able to drive his kid to Little League games and then film the games from the bleachers like all the other embarrassing parents. He would be raising his child in a void. He sighed, shaking his head.

Christie's hand brushed his cheek. He jumped, jarred out of his reverie by the contact, but her gentle fingers played with his hair and he felt himself being drawn into her arms. He gave himself up to the comfort of her body, sheltering him as his thoughts swirled out of control. Before losing his sight, Jim wasn't one to cuddle or even to sit still for very long. Now he knew what he had been missing all those years as he leaned against his wife so her arms could encircle him from behind. It didn't matter that he wasn't facing her. In a way, this position made not being able to see her slightly less frustrating than usual because she couldn't see much of him either. Not head on, anyway. His eyes and whatever they could accidentally reveal were not in her face.

"I knew this would be hard," she said, her voice sweet, quiet. "And I know why. I understand, Jimmy. I know you don't think I can understand what this is like for you, but I can."

He stiffened a little, feeling the sudden urge to resist the comfort she offered. "Can you?" he asked. He regretted the words almost instantly. They sounded bitter. Jim had been through a lot over the past couple of years, but one thing he had tried not to be was bitter. Once he gave in to that kind of feeling, the fight was lost and he might as well give up and sit around the house for the rest of his life, living off his pension.

"I can never know what it's like," she said, leaning in to kiss the top of his head. "Of course I can't, but that doesn't mean I can't understand. I've been with you through everything. I know a little something about the way your mind works and I know what you're thinking right now."

"And what is that, huh?"

Again those lips brushed across his face, kissing his scarred temple. "This has to be bringing up a lot of—issues."

He sat up straight on the couch, disentangling himself from his wife's caressing kisses. "You call them 'issues'?"

Her silence could have meant anything. Oh God, she had his baby in her. Jim reached for her, his hand settling on her stomach. A new kind of awe struck him as his palm pressed against her. He tried to imagine was has happening inside. No one could see it yet. They were all blind.

"You're going to be the most amazing father, Jimmy," she said, the calmness of her voice settling some of his raging thoughts. "What a lucky baby. We always planned—"

"We did," he interrupted. He didn't want to hear about those plans now; those words that would shove blindness back in his face, mocking him. "It's different…" he said slowly, but then he realized he couldn't explain what was so different except for to go with the ridiculously obvious thing, and that wasn't something he talked about. Not the deeper aspects of it. Not with Christie. Not with anyone. It had taken some time to even tell Galloway and that had only happened because his job had depended upon it.

"I don't know what to say," she said, drawing him back to her. Those hands felt so good, one of them back in his hair, the other trailing across his chest as he settled back into that comfortable place only Christie had.

"It's okay," he said, giving up all thought as his body relaxed.

"Obviously things are different, Jimmy."

Now her voice had lost that dreamy sound that had made him relax. The words were sharp, insistent.

"That's what I said," he said, his sharpness matching hers. "Different."

"Well, why bring it up?" she asked. "I get it. You're blind. That wasn't in the original plan. Why is this different from any of the other things you've had to accept?"

Why was it? Warmth flooded him for a moment, settling in his eyes, making him glad Christie was holding him from behind and wasn't in a position to see his face very clearly. Jim couldn't remember the last time he had out-and-out cried, but this warm feeling in his eyes was as close as he came to it and Christie could always tell.

"Why, Jimmy?" she asked again.

"I don't mind not seeing a crime scene so much—or Marty, for that matter," he said, trying to laugh. "I miss seeing you, but I know what you look like. It's locked in and I can see you any time I like. But…my kid—"

"You'll know your child, Jimmy. Better than anybody. Maybe even better than I will. It will be special, the way you get to know your baby."

He nodded because the warmth was worse now and he knew it would be in his voice if he tried to speak. Turning, he kissed Christie's stomach and then he wrapped his arms around her in a low hug.

"You happy?" Christie asked, nudging Jim back into a sitting position and shifting so that, if Jim could see, they would be looking into each other's eyes. He could feel her expressive eyes boring into his blank ones. "Jimmy? What is it?"

He smiled. "I'm happy. It's just…it's too much for me to really get all at once."

"I hope he looks just like his daddy," she said, a playful note back in her voice. "Daddy's blue eyes and blond hair."

Jim shook his head. "No. She's going to look like you."

"A girl?"

He thought about it. "I don't know why, but I feel like it's a girl. I just picture it that way. I mean, a boy would be great, too—but I just keep seeing a girl."

Her hands went to his face, drawing him into what he knew would be a kiss. He even knew what kind of kiss it would be. Learning all her signals hadn't been easy in the beginning, but now Jim could anticipate Christie's needs without a word being spoken between them.