Over the Moon
Even with socks on, the floor was icy cold as I skipped/ran into the bathroom so I could sacrifice the first pee of the morning to the little white stick god. I already knew that the result would be both the best and worst news I had ever received in my entire 39 years of life.
After peeing for what seemed like hours, while awkwardly holding the stick in the endless yellow stream, I placed the stick on the bathroom counter, closed the toilet lid, washed my hands, and then sat there waiting for my future to magically appear in the form of a blue plus or minus sign. I knew body pretty darn well and was 99.9% sure it was going to be a blue plus sign, but said a little silent prayer anyway that it was just stress or whacked-out hormones that had led me to this moment.
Plus equals positive, I thought as I turned the pregnancy kit box over and over in my hands. I counted the positives of my situation as I continued to await my sentence. I was positive this would be the most confusing news I'd ever receive. I was positive the father-to-be didn't want to be a father. I was positive that I was about to be screwed over by fate.
As I sat there lost in my own reverie and thankful that I decided to stay home from work and perform this little ritual in peace, away from Greg's prying eyes and mind, I realized that any second now, I would have to accept that I, Jillian Walters, was going to be somebody's mother and that Gregory House was going to be somebody's father. At that very moment, a chill ran down my spine. I was not quite convinced that it was from the cold.
As I knew it would be, the test was positive. Note to self: pray out loud next time. I had passed off my tender breasts and inexplicable exhaustion to Greg as just symptoms of PMS and an insane work schedule, which he surprisingly bought. I thanked Greg's latest patient, whoever he or she was, for keeping him far too distracted to focus on me and my little white lie.
Terrified as I was, I couldn't get rid of the stupid little smiles that kept creeping across my lips, bravely battling the frown lines that kept popping up trying to beat them into submission. Every frown reminded me that there probably wasn't going to be lots of smiles from Greg when he heard this news.
I found myself sitting on the sofa with a glass of orange juice in my trembling hands without any recollection of having gone into the kitchen, getting a glass, opening the fridge, pouring the juice or returning to the living room.
What I found odd about my mixed feelings was that I didn't even think I could get pregnant again, especially at my age and especially after the complications from the ectopic pregnancy I had three years earlier. The physical and emotional scars from that pregnancy had given Gary, my rat-bastard of an ex-husband, the excuse he needed to finally leave me.
Like all couples, Gary and I started out extremely happy, madly in love and just knowing we would grow old together with a pack of kids and grandkids around us. We both knew that we wanted children and had agreed from the beginning of our marriage that we would begin trying right away.
Nine months into our wedding, instead of welcoming a screaming bundle of joy into the world, I was in an ER facing the fact that our nearly 3-month-old baby was dead.
We wept together and comforted one another as only a couple who had just lost a child could do. We both had faith that this was some kind of medical anomaly and that we would simply try again.
By miscarriage number two, and after endless tests to determine why I couldn't seem to carry a child to term, Gary had become more frustrated, angry and distant, while I became more convinced I was simply a failure as a woman and a wife.
We were 3 ½ years into our marriage and the bloom was definitely coming off our rose when I found out I was pregnant again. I prayed that this little one would stick around, but if it didn't I was threw. I couldn't put my heart and soul through the emotional wringer, yet again. When this last pregancy turned out to be ectopic, that was the last straw for Gary. Within a year we were divorced and a year after that, I heard that his 28 year old girlfriend had given him the son he always wanted and that I had failed, several times, to deliver. I cried for a week then decided I was through with men, babies and men who acted like babies. That is, until I met Gregory House.
I met Greg at last year's Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital Children's Telethon, which was being broadcast live from the studios at local NBC Affiliate WMGM.
PPTH was hoping to raise at least a million dollars for equipment for their new pediatric oncology wing. I was assigned a seat next to a rather scruffy, though ruggedly handsome man with the most incredible blue eyes I'd seen in a while. Since, I was off men at the time, I was determined to ignore the little flutter I felt when he finally decided to drop his scowl and shake my outstretched hand.
"Greg House," he said, pulling me in with those blue tractor beams.
"Jillian Walters," I returned, trying hard not to get sucked in completely by those eyes.
We took our seats and were instructed to take the phone pledges in a friendly, courteous and professional manner. I could practically hear Greg rolling his eyes as the volunteer coordinator droned on. We were told to try not to pick our nose, stare directly into the camera or, in general, look like numbnuts while on-air. There was a part of me that felt like Greg saw these more as a challenge than instructions, so I decided at that moment to keep my eye on him.
I had always admired PPTH's work and was volunteering at the telethon because my company, Diagnostic Imaging of Princeton, thought it would be a good idea for us to send a team of volunteers to help out one of our top clients. I was there because I genuinely believed in the cause of helping kids.
I later found out that Greg was doing the telethon as punishment for telling an ER full of bus crash victims that there was a sudden outbreak of meningitis and everyone would be quarantined until further notice. The ensuing panic and paperwork did not endear Greg to his boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, or his colleagues, who ended up working around the clock to clear the ER.
A half hour into our 3-hour telethon shift, Greg decided to make things interesting.
"I bet I can get more pledges and raise more money than you can by the end of our shift," he whispered tauntingly to me between incoming phone calls.
"And if you don't, what's in it for me?" I whispered back, as I pretended to write something down on my pledge sheet. I was secretly kicking myself that I was actually a little intrigued by his wager.
"Dinner with me," he answered, flashing his baby blues at me when I had finally looked up at him.
Luckily, the microphones are usually off until the emcees want to make small talk with the volunteers about who's calling, why they're pledging and how many dollars they're donating.
"How's that a win for me?" I asked skeptically, not missing that Dr. Cuddy, who was serving as one of the emcees, had turned her back to the camera and was giving Greg a death glare.
"Let's see," he said, ignoring Dr. Cuddy's eyeball assault. "The hospital wins because we raise a butt-load of money, which is why we're here. Your company wins because we'll actually have a butt-load of money to buy your overpriced imaging equipment. The poor little bald cancer kids win, well...just because they should. You win because you get to have dinner with a handsome, caring doctor." I was left speechless.
"And, oh," he smirked, "did I mention...you win because if I get Cuddy off my back, I will be a most delightful person on our date, which means you're guaranteed to get lucky."
The salacious eyebrow waggle, the crack about "getting lucky," made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they would disappear clean into the back of my head. It was then that I realized the cameras were on us, especially me. I saw myself on the in-studio monitor and nearly died of embarrassment. Greg, of course, smiled sweetly into the camera–oh no, he did not just bat his eyelashes!–and started scribbling furiously like he was the most dedicated doctor and fundraiser on the planet, and this was the most important work he's ever done in his life.
"Keep it up and I'm going to rip those eyelashes out one-by-one," I growled under my breath.
As I sat there looking like some bored volunteer, who didn't give a damn about the hospital or the sick and dying children, he looked like the caring, handsome doctor, out to save the world one pledge at a time."It is SO on," I muttered as the telethon went to commercial break. He just smirked at me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Months into our relationship, I found out that during the telethon commercial breaks, Greg had called and basically threatened every med student, clinic nurse, resident, attending physician, referring physician, working girl from Princeton Escorts, ducklings–old and new, the janitor and Wilson, into calling on his line and pledging. He managed to get as little as $50 from the med students and as much as $10,000 from a few of the physicians.
At the end of our shift, Greg had single-handedly raised $100,000 to my $56,000. I had no choice but to honor the deal, even though at that point, I had all but convinced myself that I was "officially" through with men–all men–and especially this man. Of course, Greg charmed his way past my defenses and my panties by the end of that first date.
Finishing my juice, I looked back affectionately on that crazy first meeting. If I had known I'd be sitting here almost a year later trying to figure out how to tell him I was pregnant with his child, a child I wasn't sure either one of us was prepared for, would I have accepted the dinner date or would I have run screaming for the hills?
Considering who the baby's daddy was, I was now thoroughly convinced that I was carrying either the next Einstein or perhaps the spawn of Satan. I smiled, thinking the smart money should probably be on the latter. As much as I thought I didn't want a baby, in my heart and soul, I knew that this was probably my last chance and that I did want this baby with this man that I had come to love. I had no real reason to believe I would carry this one to term, but something told me that Greg House's child would not give up without a fight.
I continued to sit curled up on my sofa, arms wrapped around my knees, entertaining scenarios as to how I was going to break the news about the pregnancy to Greg. I knew that some cutesy reveal was out of the question because Greg House did not do cute–period. I decided the straightforward, get to the point, lay the cards on the table approach would work infinitely better with him, especially knowing his doubts about his ability to be a good father.
Occasionally, throughout our relationship, Greg has shared bits and pieces with me about his less-than-ideal childhood, but it was actually the night of my first Monster Truck show over in Trenton one Saturday evening in September, when he decided to come clean and tell me more than he'd ever told me before about life with his parents. I was honored because I'm still not sure how much of his early life Greg has shared with his best bud, James Wilson, or anyone else for that matter, over the years.
Call it fate, but I probably would not have been with Greg at the Monster Truck Show that night, if it wasn't for the fact that Jim was in Charlotte, North Carolina at an Oncology Conference. Greg knew it wasn't really my thing, but I was happy that I could be his "Monster Truck Buddy" that night.
The Auto Show traditionally draws untold numbers of males of all ages and women, who reluctantly accompany their husbands and sons to the loud, testosterone-filled event as a means of family bonding. Though how in the hell anyone bonded at these things was beyond me, since I couldn't hear myself think, let alone hold a conversation.
Our seats were pretty darn good, even though they weren't on the floor where we could possibly lose a limb or possibly our lives, much to Greg's dismay. We were sitting in the first row above the pit. Greg sat on the end, so he could stretch out his right leg. I was seated next to a 30-ish year old man with two young sons and his petite, nervous-looking wife. The boys looked about 11 and 8 and their faces were positively beaming from all the excitement. I also suspected that the huge cotton candies and larger than life sodas were also contributing factors.
From the tight smile plastered on the wife's face, I could tell she was happy to be doing just about anything with her husband, even Monster Trucks. She smiled lovingly at her boys, while her husband just barely seemed to tolerate her and the boys' presence, as he focused his attention on the colorful, roaring trucks that whizzed by.
I alternated between watching Greg enjoy the mayhem, the wife who seemed ready to crawl out of her skin, and the boys playfully shoving one another, as boys do. Greg's rare smile was anything but that night as he whooped along with the crowd as Gravedigger monsterized an equally massive piece of machinery known as Carzilla. It made me smile to see that my big boy was having just as much fun as the little boys.
I barely had time to react as I watched the large soda slip from the hands of the 8-year-old. As if in slow motion, the 32-ounce Coke went splashing down the front of the child's long-sleeved t-shirt and cargo pants, onto his brother's leg, barely missing his dad's feet.
"Son of a bitch!" the dad yelped as he tried to jump out of the way of the ever-widening brown puddle. In a flash, he grabbed the kid by the scruff of the neck and began to loudly berate him. Most people didn't hear the turmoil because of the arena noise, but we were close enough, unfortunately, to have a front-row seat for the abuse.
"Why can't you just behave like other kids!" the dad bellowed as he shook the child, who's big blue eyes began to fill with tears.
"B-but, it...it was E-Ethan's fault," the child pleaded, gasping to catch his breath. "He...he bumped my elbow when he was ch-cheering for Gravedigger!" the little boy tried to defend himself through his sobs, as tears slowly spilled over his bright red cheeks.
"Don't you dare stand there and cry!" he roared as his wife tried to wipe up as much of the mess around her husband's feet as she could. "Be a man and own up to your own mistakes! You're 8 years old! You're not a baby!"
My stomach did a back flip. The look of terror in the child's eyes as he faced his father's wrath was mirrored momentarily in Greg's normally bright blue ones. In an instant, the same blue eyes that I had fallen in love with, suddenly turned the color of the ocean during a thunderstorm as terror immediately turned to anger. My breath hitched as I was sure that at any second Greg was going to beat the obnoxious father senseless with his cane. Fortunately, there were just too many witnesses for him to do it without getting hauled off to jail in the process.
"Let's go," Greg growled, grabbing my hand tighter than I'm sure he realized and practically dragging me out of the arena. I looked back to see the wife finally attempting to clean up her youngest son and place an arm around his heaving shoulders.
Once in the car, the silence was punctuated by the words 'asshole' and 'prick' rising above the squeal of tires and the jingle of car keys in the ignition as we drove much too fast through the streets of Princeton.
Greg and I had been going out for about 6 months at that time and I knew that it was best to leave him to sort out the jumble of mixed emotions that were bubbling to the surface and would soon spill over onto anyone in the vicinity–which at that moment was going to be me.
I also knew he would talk to me when, and if, he was ready. Until then, I knew to give him a wide berth. I still believe that that's what makes our relationship work. He knows that I'm not out to analyze or fix him. He's a brilliant man. I trust him to fix himself, if he thinks that's what he needs.
I went into the bedroom and pulled out a pair of black lounge pants and one of his t-shirts, so I could at least be comfortable for whatever was coming my way. Grabbing the Vanity Fair I had left on the night stand on my side of the bed, I propped myself against the headboard and offered up a little prayer to whatever God might be listening that Greg would be able to find a way to somehow handle what happened tonight, without it sending him into a deep depression for days.
Shortly after the final chords of the last melancholy song died in the living room, the strong smell of Bourbon tickled my nose as Greg walked into the bedroom holding on tightly to his thigh, as he looked for his striped pajama pants and plain gray t-shirt to change into. I tried not to focus on the sprinkling of mixed brown and gray chest hair and his muscular arms as he pulled the shirt over his head, since now was definitely not the time for lustful thoughts.
Placing the unread magazine back on the night stand, I waited for him to slowly climb in bed. The way he looked at everything in the room, but me, as he used both hands to swing his right leg onto the bed, let me know that he wanted to talk. I reached out an arm and motioned for him to snuggle up next to me.
He approached me like a timid deer deciding whether to eat from a stranger's hand. Deciding it was safe, he snuggled alongside and gently lay his head on my chest, finally looking up at me with big blue eyes that were fathoms deep with emotional pain.
"I know we talked about this already," he started slowly, stroking my arm, "but, you don't really want to have kids, do you?" he asked, glancing away and practically talking into my left breast.
From the very beginning, I promised myself that I would never lie to Gregory House. After all, the man was some kind of human lie detector. When I told him I had plans the first time he asked me out after our "telethon bet date," he proceeded to give me at least 3 reasons why he knew I was flat out lying.
I couldn't voice that I was just freaked out because I had slept with him on what was practically a "non-date"and felt like slut of the century. But, from that day forward, I figured it just wouldn't be worth the hassle of lying to him. Of course, I never said anything about lying to myself.
"Do you really think at almost 40 years old that I'm looking to have kids?" I said as I gently stroked the hair at the back of his neck. "Sweetheart, between my age and my screwed up plumbing, the odds of me getting pregnant are pretty much slim to none. We have nothing to worry about," I quietly reassured him and myself.
"It's just that my dad was a real asshole," he said barely above a whisper. "I'm just afraid I wouldn't make a very good father. Shitty role model, you know?"
"Oh, sweetheart, just because your dad didn't know how to be a good parent, doesn't mean you wouldn't make a good father. You're great with all the clinic kids. Even Jim's bald-headed cancer kids love you and you give them more grief than anybody," I teased, which brought a tiny smile to his lips.
Greg rolled over onto his back, crossed his arms beneath his head and stared out the window at the big full moon, as if Neil Armstrong himself had left the answers written in the lunar dust just for him. I turned on my side, watching his strong, masculine features and feeling such love for this incredibly complex man that I was so lucky to have in my life.
With a deep sigh, Greg turned to face me and quietly launched into stories about his childhood.
Turning and seeing a somewhat pained expression on my face, he immediately added, "Don't get me wrong, the time I spent in Egypt and Japan when I was a teenager was cool. And the summers I spent at my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Carl's cabin in the Poconos were also great, but none of that makes up for having a father with an insane moral compass and a rigid view of what it means to be a man."
Greg's eyes glistened with unshed tears as he finished emptying out his tortured soul. I wrapped him in my arms like the broken child he was and just held him for the longest time. Greg's eyes slowly began to close as the clock on the night stand showed 4 a.m. The stress of the night's events had finally taken its toll.
"Goodnight, sweet boy," I whispered, as I kissed him lightly on the lips.
"Night, Jilly...love you," he yawned, entwining himself around me and returning the kiss. Even in his sleepy state he managed to slip me some tongue before drifting off to what I hoped would be a few hours of peaceful sleep.
I thought back to the night of the Monster Trucks show and Greg's midnight confession, as I bumped around my kitchen in a daze, pulling out roast, potatoes, carrots and other ingredients I would need to make his favorite meal. I couldn't help but feel like I was setting a roast-flavored trap.
What in the hell am I doing, I thought as I stood there chopping potatoes into halves then quarters. This man no more wants to be a father than I want a hole in my head, but regardless, I have to tell him. I'll just have to take the risk and bet that the Greg I've come to know and love will find a way to handle this news.
Without realizing it, I had put the knife down and was simply standing there at the counter with my hand on my stomach, already protecting the little life growing inside me from whatever Greg was going to throw our way.
"Don't worry, little one," I whispered. "Whether your daddy knows it or not, he's going to be a wonderful father. So, just ignore all the yelling and grumbling you're going to hear tonight. His bark is so much worse than his bite."
The ringing phone startled me back to reality. The caller ID read: House, Gregory, PPTH, 609-555-1959.
"Hi honey," I said as calmly as my jangled nerves would allow. "Yeah, I'm feeling much better. Good enough to actually cook dinner for you today. Would you mind stopping at La Marquis and picking up dessert? Something chocolate?"
"What's the occasion?" he asked suspiciously. "Or, better yet, what's on the menu? Hopefully you?" he asked with a sexy growl.
"So, you plan on having two desserts tonight?" I teased.
"You know I have a really...big...appetite," he said slowly in a voice that made my groin flutter in anticipation.
"Well, I'll see you and your really...big...appetite around seven," I said in my best Marilyn Monroe imitation.
I heard his ducklings suddenly rattling off test results and knew that was the end of our silly, little pseudo-phone sex. "Seven it is," he said quickly and hung up with his usual non-goodbye.
I continued with my preparations for the roast, rosemary potatoes and carrot souffle I was making for dinner. Talking to Greg that little while, immediately calmed the Buick-sized butterflies that had taken up residence in my stomach. Just the sound of his voice made me feel safe, loved and protected. Though I knew better, I was sure that even the baby could feel the calming effects of its father's voice. At that moment, I decided that I was now truly ready to face my future...our future. I was suddenly feeling over the moon.