A/N: Some light, fluffly, pretty much plotless reading for you (a rarity coming from me). A sort of follow up to my previous story In The Morning. Except I've changed to first person here, for unknown reasons. It just happened that way. The 'he' is Jess, some people were confused about that last time.
I went through a photographic phase. Bought a camera, tried to take pictures that would mean something. Maybe I was thinking about photojournalism. Or maybe it was that exhibit he took me to at the Met last winter that sparked it. Whatever the thinking behind it was, the result was a box filled with nothing but pictures of him or things that reminded me of him.
There were about ten of these on the refrigerator. My favorite hung in the center of the door. It was of him, half asleep one morning. I had to be up early for a meeting at work and after my shower, I saw him and took the picture. He is twisted in the bed sheets, his torso so beautifully exposed. The warm color of the sun is filtering through the curtains, casting perfect shadows on his tanned skin. And in his sleep filled daze, he is smiling fully. His white teeth showing, his eyes still closed, a hand fisting in his hair.
The others were scattered about. There was one, taken by my mother, of the two of us on a late autumn afternoon. There are red and orange leaves in my hair, a giant yellow leaf in his. And he is grinning deviously at me, because he put the leaves there. My hand is raised in a mock attempt to slap him. Our faces are close and I can remember (and if possible, still feel) the short, chaste kiss he had given me just seconds after the picture had been taken. I can hear my mother, saying, "Get a room!" and tossing the camera back to me.
The rest are pictures of him. Him, on the couch, typing furiously on his laptop, his brow furrowed as he squints at the screen. His reflection in the mirror as he shaved one morning, half of his face covered with shaving cream. Him, driving during a snowstorm, a black hat pulled down over his ears, his nose turned red from the cold, two hands gripping the wheel tightly, and his teeth taking hold of his bottom lip in concentration. Him, the night he gave me the engagement ring, tipsy on wine, sitting by the record player, the soft light of a candle flickering against his face and reflecting in his eyes.
He, of course, hates the pictures. Threatens to take them down all the time. "Why don't I start taking random snapshots of you and put them up for all to see?" But, they stay up. They stay up, because they mean something to me. They are proof that we can be happy. They are proof that he can be pure at times. They are proof.
I am hanging the unintelligible black and white up in the midst of all these. Somewhere just below my favorite early morning shot of him. The mess of black and white that is our entire future. Though, I can't tell what anything is, too early. I bring my hand up to touch it lightly once it's hung. My palm resting on what may or may not be the baby's head. The tip of my index finger resting on his cheek.
The afternoon light gleams off of the engagement ring. And I remember when he gave it to me. The simple apology for its size. "All I can afford. For now." The way I had insisted that it was perfect. That it reminded me of him. Simple, understated, beautiful. A thin silver band with a tiny diamond. "One plus, that's not cubic zirconium. Real diamond." I had kissed him hard then, knocking his head against the headboard of the bed.
I feel warm hands on my hips and then on my stomach. I look down and smile at the gentle way he moves them across the fabric of my shirt. The heel of his hand brushes against some exposed skin and I turn around to face him.
I point behind me, where the sonogram is. "Baby."
He smiles warmly. "Yes, I was there. Baby." He kisses my forehead and I close my eyes.
I turn around again to look at the smudge of white. "Do you think it's a girl or a boy?" I twist my head awkwardly to look at him behind me, his arms still around my waist.
He thinks for a second, staring at the sonogram. "Girl."
I smile widely. "Aw. I hope so."
He kisses me softly. "I'm sure you do."
He reaches out for the refrigerator door handle and I step out of his way. He pauses, glancing at the door. "Look, our future child is being swallowed by my ugly mug."
I lean into his back, my lips grazing against the space between his shoulder blades, breathing in the light smell of fabric softener. "Not ugly. Adorable. They're not moving."
He shakes his head and grabs last night's Chinese food from the bottom shelf. He looks at me in inquiry, holding the open container out to me. I peek in and nod. "Definitely heat that up."
He laughs and puts it in the microwave. Leaning against the counter, he watches me. "Have you told your mom yet?"
"About the baby? Yeah, you were there. We had dinner with her and Luke." This is me being evasive. I turn my eyes to the pictures on the refrigerator.
"Rory, you know I don't mean about the baby. I meant, about us. The engagement." The microwave announces that it is done reheating our dinner and he turns to take it out.
"No…not yet. Soon, though."
He throws me a dubious look as he pushes the food onto plates for us. "Do it tonight." He says it forcefully. He's angry. He doesn't like being a sore subject.
"Okay. Tonight. After we eat."
He hands me a plate and kisses me. "Thank you."
I'm nervous, looking at the phone. I don't know why this makes me nervous. I was fine with telling her that I was pregnant. And that was bad news at the time. That was me saying, "Hey, Mom, guess what. I'm only twenty-four, but I'm pregnant with the boy you always hated." This should be easier. This is good news. This is me telling her, "I'm being responsible. The boy you always hated loves me to death and wants to raise this child with me."
Still, my hand is shaking as I dial her number. She picks up after three rings.
"Rory!" I can hear her grinning through the phone. "How are you? How's baby?"
"We are both perfect." I look over my shoulder at the refrigerator, letting love fill me for a moment.
He's in the living room, watching the news, pretending not to be listening in on this conversation. I look at the back of his head and smile. "He's…good. Actually, that's sort of why I'm calling."
"Yeah." My fingers are twined in the phone cord and he has turned around completely now to watch me do this. His eyes are fixed on my face and I try to look away. He isn't making this easier. "Uh, he…We're engaged. He asked me a few weeks ago, actually. I've been meaning to tell you…"
"Honey, that's great." But, there is something hidden in her voice, almost disappointment, but she covers it up with as much genuine happiness as she can.
"Yeah….It is." I absently play with the ring on my finger, biting my lip to keep myself from grinning.
"I'm so happy for you." And she adds quickly, sensing my doubt, "Really. This is great."
And with a smiling voice she says, "Love you, kid."
I am lying in bed when he crawls over to me, placing his hands on my stomach, kissing me repeatedly. I am almost three and a half months along and there is nothing more than a slight bulge there, but he moves down and pushes my shirt up slightly, pressing his ear against my bare stomach. I giggle and looks up, a finger on his lips, shushing me.
After a few seconds, I ask, "Anything?"
He shakes his head sadly, "Nothing."
He suddenly springs off the bed and is fumbling around with something by the dresser. When he crawls back into bed, he has my camera in his hands. I try to suppress my smile as he points it at me, adjusting the focus a bit. He reaches out and starts tickling my foot. As I'm squirming to get away from him, I hear the click of the shutter. And he laughs, exclaiming victoriously, "Going on the fridge!"