Justin

The next day was so weird. I mean, this really big, huge thing was happening to us, but life was still going on. I had meetings all day, and Jhondie was going to take my car over to Kat and Scott's place to get some work done on it. There was nothing unusual going on except that Jhondie had warned me not to make eggs for breakfast. After the night before, I was willing to make any dietary sacrifices needed.

We had slept together for a couple of hours, and then she had woken up, crawled out of bed, and hit the bathroom, throwing up until there was nothing but dry heaves left. I felt bad for her, worse because this had been going on for a week now, and I hadn't noticed it. She said later that she wasn't trying to hide it anymore.

All I could do was hold her hair back and get her a cool washcloth to put on her forehead between rounds of vomiting. She told me certain smells would make her nauseous during the day, but it was at night that the real throwing up would get going. It was like it would all build up during the day and unload at night. Eggs were at the top of the bad-smell list. So was roast pork for that matter. And even the word "mayonnaise" made her turn green and start heaving again.

She told me to go back to bed several times, but I wanted her to know that I was going to be there for her. I didn't know how to say it without sounding dumb or melodramatic, so I just stayed with her and made sure the washcloth was cool, and got her some ice chips once. Eventually she started to feel better and we went back to bed. I was going to have to do some research on if there was some smell or food or supplement that would ease the pregnancy sickness thing. I was wiped, and I wasn't even the one getting sick. Dad had warned me this would be pretty constant for the first three months, but there had to be something that could be done.

But I knew one thing I could do, and that was have some toast for breakfast rather than the omelet I had planned on making. Jhondie was already up, ate my buttered toast and reminded me to take her car so that she could take mine to Kat's garage. It was weird because it was so normal. I made some more toast and slapped some pineapple preserves (yes, I said pineapple preserves on toast, get over it) before Jhondie could eat it, and we talked about having live musicians versus a d.j. at the wedding. Normal…yet still very weird.

Finally I had to leave and get to my meeting with Nikki. We met over at her apartment to go over some Eyes Only work. After that I was meeting with the head of the Perimeter Police Division and then Councilman Terry Mott. Nikki and I were trying to show the underground market for childhood disease vaccinations and how children were getting sick from bad injections. Why weren't the kids getting good vaccines and who should be monitoring it? With the police and councilman, I was writing a story to show how Los Angeles had perimeter police, and it was starting to thrive again, unlike other places that had full sector police and stayed locked down. Places like, oh, Seattle maybe?

Tonight I had a lot of writing to do. I wanted the piece on the sectors done by the end of the week. The expensive areas in the city had private security forces that created sectors within LA, but it wasn't anything like the high-security cities. In Chicago, you practically had to have a full cavity search any time you crossed a street. A guy I know that works for a national magazine had liked the idea and said that if I got it past the censors here, maybe I could do a more in-depth piece and show a cross-country comparison. I really liked that idea, but it would mean traveling, and now I wasn't sure if that was such a good idea with Jhondie being pregnant.

Jhondie was pregnant. Like, having a baby pregnant. We were going to be parents. Wow. I guess it still hadn't sunk in all the way by the time I got to Nikki's place. She gave me an arch look as I came in.

"So is it still too soon for congratulations?" she asked.

I gave her a half-smile. "I had a great bonding experience last night with Jhondie while she was throwing up." Nikki turned green. She can handle almost anything but someone vomiting. Even the noise is enough to make her get sick.

"We're dealing," I said. "It was really unexpected, so I'm not done freaking out yet."

She shrugged. "Most of the guys I know would be denying it's theirs and taking off." There was some serious bitterness in that undertone. "At least Jhondie got you to commit to a relationship before she got pregnant."

Okay, we were no longer discussing my impending offspring. Crap. I had suspected for a few weeks that she was having problems in her relationship with Dink. It's not a shock since he's a creepy little man and she's a hot redhead. If I was Dink, I would be thanking God every night that she let me near her, much less sleep with me.

I didn't want to ask. I had enough issues of my own. But I found myself saying, "Something wrong?"

She sighed. "Of course not. Nothing's changed at all. So how can it be wrong?"

I sat down on the couch, not wanting this discussion to go further because that meant I had to think about their relationship. If this was something I was going to publish, then I'd be all over it with sympathetic words and coaxing out more information. But this was Dink's sex life and I did not want to know details.

Nikki whirled around to face me. "You're a guy, you explain it," she demanded. Christ. Go to my happy place. Go to my happy place.

"How can a man tell you that he loves you, tell you that he wants to be with you, and then not care when you say that you want to be more important than his damn computer. I'm tired of feeling like I'm the mistress and the computer is the wife! I'm sorry, but I do not believe it's possible to lose your virginity with cyber-sex."

I may have just been struck impotent with that one sentence. I guess Nikki noticed my look and waved her hand, plopping heavily onto the couch. "I shouldn't be dumping all this on you," she said. "But you're the only guy that I can trust to say I'm having a problem with my boyfriend and not use that to try and make a move on me."

I had to say something. We were never going to get anything done today if I didn't say something reassuring. "I've known Dink for a while," I said. "And I'm not making any excuses for his behavior. But the man never left his cave until he met you. He couldn't even waste the time to get his hair cut. Since you two got together, he's made some big strides. He's actually interesting in normal interpersonal relationships and not just electronic ones. I never thought I would live to see the day when he would spend the night away from his computer because he would rather be with a girl."

She looked a little mollified. I wasn't about to tell her that the first time I saw him away from the computer was because of Jhondie. Nikki and Jhondie had a friendly relationship, but they weren't friends. I could just imagine Nikki's reaction if she found out that Dink's first real crush since childhood had been Jhondie.

"My boyfriend's an ass, your girlfriend is knocked up," she said with a sigh. "What a pair." I thought about correcting her and pointing out that Jhondie's title was actually fiancée, but I kept my mouth shut. Nikki was settling down and I didn't want her going off on a "why won't he commit" rant. Nikki was an awesome partner, but she could be such a girl sometimes.

"So, um, how's it going looking for the vaccine shipments?" I asked.

She pulled out a map of the city. "Well, I think I've found three potentials that need to be staked out." Ah, the sweet bliss of working and ignoring personal problems.

I was with Nikki for as long as I could and then I had to run over to the Perimeter Police's headquarters. Chief Vickers was happy to see me since the article was promised to put a positive spin on how Los Angeles was handling martial law. If a wealthy community wanted to create a sector, they had to pay for the security. But those guys had to be actual cops and answered to Vickers. It helped to keep the system clean. Actually, it wasn't like that five years ago, but after several Eyes Only hacks about graft and corruption, things started to get cleaned up.

Vickers and I talked for over an hour about the changes he had made to the Perimeter Police. He seemed like a pretty decent cop, but I was going to have the Informant Net investigate him before I showed him as an example of how a Chief should be. After that meeting, I ran over to Councilman Mott's office and had to wait forty-five minutes for our meeting, even though I got there at the scheduled time. Politicians liked to make people wait so that they felt better about themselves. However, not the wisest thing to do when the person waiting could give you a national reputation for good or bad. Of course, he didn't know about the national magazine being interested in the article.

I finally got in, and the talk was less than satisfying. He didn't seem to understand the need for change, and thought it would be better with more security. We had to be careful against another terrorist attack. I asked him about Constitutional rights, and he said that the good of all demanded sacrifices sometimes. I wanted to point out that hundreds of thousands had already died as a sacrifice to preserve those rights, but Mott's eyes and ears were glued shut.

I ended up back at the apartment to get my notes organized and start outlining the piece. I had a meeting with an economist in a couple of days to get the final facts and figures on the growth of the city's economy since the changes, and had to talk to a censor on what would be allowed concerning corruption in the past. Logan wanted to get together with me tomorrow on a story he was working on. He thought one of the main players was in California and wanted some help tracking them down.

Jhondie wasn't home when I got there, but she had planned on getting together with her mother and looking at the floral arrangement photos that the florist had sent for the table centerpieces at the wedding. Oh, darn, I was missing that. My jobs for the wedding were to help pick out a caterer and music, and look good in the tux. I was not going to add anything else to that list because that would mean looking at flowers and color swatches and fabrics and crap like that.

I tried to call Jhondie, but it went to her voice mail. That bothered me a little. She always had her phone on her. Maybe it was in the living room and they were in the dining room. It had happened before. I should have gotten on it and started tracking her down then, but I didn't know. Never so much as suspected what was to come. Instead I settled in at my desk and started getting everything together for the article and looking at where I still needed to add some details.

When the phone rang, I wasn't expecting to hear Scott. "Hey Justin, is Jhondie around?" he asked hesitantly. The guy was a genius with cars, but not so much with other people.

"No, she's not home yet," I replied. The worry I had felt earlier jumped back up, intensifying exponentially, and I couldn't say why. "What's up?"

"Normally I don't stress, because it's Kat and she has to get out, you know. But she doesn't hit it with Jhondie so I'm just checking and stuff."

My heart was slamming in my chest. "Scott, in English, what the hell are you trying to say?"

"Kat took Jhondie for a test drive on the car hours ago," he said. "They haven't come back."