Author's note: Thanks so much to all the reviewers! I'm glad you all seemed to like the last chapter. Don't worry, Nathan is not going to become too serious, as you'll soon see. I started re-watching episode 7 (the Xmas special) and I realized for the first time that it takes place 3 months after community service ends. Soooooo, I had to go back to chapter 24 and take out the stuff Marnie said about it being almost Xmas because it's not accurate. I apologize for the mistake on my part! Hope you all like this chapter.
In the waiting room, it's easy to distinguish those who want to be there from those who are scared shitless. Bubbly blond twenty-somethings? Want to be there. Husbands? Want to be there. Barely sixteen-year-old girls? Scared shitless. Their equally young boyfriends (there was, like, one)? Scared shitless. Nathan and I are conspicuously neutral in comparison.
Nathan, having had a day to let the news soak in, is no longer bounding with enthusiasm and professions of how much he would love our child. He is instead uncharacteristically impassive. For a while, at least.
When a nurse calls my name off the roster, he springs to his feet and wipes his palms off on the front of his trousers. "Thank god," he mutters. "Did you see those fuckers? They either looked like they were about to start discussing little Timmy's first silver rattle or like they were gonna hurl all over the carpet."
"I know," I agree. "There was a huge contrast. Starting to rethink your decision yet?"
"Not a chance, baby," he baits with a maddening grin. "It's gonna take more than a few panic-stricken teenagers to get me to lose my nerve."
"Oh yeah, cos I'm sure it's only gonna be uphill from here," I say with a derisive roll of my eyes.
We're led to a small room that has what I presume to be the bare necessities required to practice medicine. I hate places like this. They're so… clinical, and everything is the same sickening shade of blue-green. It makes me feel as if I'm just another cog in the machine.
Once we're seated on a couple of chairs, the nurse hands me some sort of questionnaire that I'm meant to fill out whilst I wait for the doctor. There are a bunch of super invasive questions about my sex life and life in general. Nathan's reading it over my shoulder, looking more and more appalled with each question.
"Do you mind?" I snap, trying to wave him away.
"What in the bloody hell kind of questions are these?" he demands, snatching the sheet away. "Oooh, any history of STIs?"
"Fuck off, Nathan." I slap him on his upper arm and reclaim the paper.
Finally, when the doctor comes in, she immediately give us a knowing smile and says, "First time?"
"I resent that," Nathan retorts dramatically. "Just cos we're young and beautiful doesn't mean you should be judgin' us. I'd worry more about those fifteen-year-old trollops out there in the waiting area, if I were you."
The woman, who looks kind enough with a pair of glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, raises her eyebrows in mild surprise. "I just meant that you look a little apprehensive," she rectifies. "What's your name, dear?" she asks me.
"Marnie," I say, shaking her hand.
"It's a pleasure, Marnie. I'm Dr. Leeds. And you're the boyfriend, I presume," she says to Nathan.
I don't exactly know if that's an accurate description of what he is to me, but, nonetheless, Nathan seems unfazed. "Name's Nathan," he responds warily.
"It's nice to meet the both of you. Now, my first question is why do you think you're pregnant? And how far along do you suspect you are?"
"I took two tests at home and they both came up positive," I answer. "And I'd say I'm about five weeks in. We're -" I clear my throat loudly, realizing that I've made a fatal error. "I'm quite sure about the date of conception." We're not a we. Not yet. I can't be one of those people, one of those girls who goes around telling people 'we're' pregnant. I'm pregnant. Nathan's just along for the ride.
"Alright. Well, for today, I'm just going to take a urine sample to confirm that you are indeed pregnant." Nathan is already cringing in the chair beside me. "Once the results are back, you can schedule another appointment if you are indeed expecting. Any questions?"
I shake my head mutely as she hands me a small plastic cup. "The lavatories are across the hall," she instructs.
When I return from the bathroom, Nathan is eying the cup in my hand like it's filled with hydrochloric acid. "I hope you've washed your hands," he says flatly.
I lurch forward and pretend that I'm about to spill it all down the front of his shirt and I swear to god I have never seen him move so quickly. "Jesus Christ!" he exclaims, scrambling back and nearly toppling over some sort of expensive-looking machine. I can't stop myself from bursting into laughter, and the doctor looks at us as if we're mentally deranged. Which, to her credit, we probably are…
"Thank you," she says stiffly after she's recovered from the near-tragedy of her equipment being destroyed. "Someone will contact you with your results in a few days. Take care." It's obvious she's only being polite in order to get away from us as swiftly as possible.
"Hey, wait a sec," Nathan says as she moves towards the door. Even though her back is turned, I can practically feel her wince. "Aren't you supposed to smear some jelly shit on her stomach with that metal detector thing and such?" He mimes what he apparently believes the motion to be on his own abdomen.
"Are you referring to an ultrasound?" she questions, clearly astonished by his tactlessness.
"Yeah, yeah that," he dismisses, waving his hand flippantly.
"We don't do that until later; she'll have one at her next appointment. Have a good day."
And with that, a nurse comes in and we are ushered back towards the waiting room.
"Well," Nathan comments as we walk out of the building and onto the sidewalk, "that was far less traumatizing than I'd expected, actually. I'd prepared myself for the worst – I thought I was gonna have to see your fanny with all sorts of medieval torture devices pokin' out of it! And don't get me wrong, I like a fanny as much as the next bloke, but it's gotta be under the right circumstances… That whole thing back there actually went by pretty fast."
Unable to resist the opportunity, I say, "That's what she said."
"Oh, so we're cracking jokes now?" he teases. "I thought we were all about turning over a new, mature leaf and whatever other bollocks you were trying to sell."
"Aw c'mon, I didn't mean that I wanted you to be a different person," I reply, "I just meant that I want you to be able to sort out the serious moments from the not-serious ones. Honestly, I don't even care if you act like a twat – if you act like a twat while accompanying me to my doctor's appointments, I'm completely fine with it. If you act like a twat while holding a job, again, I'm completely fine with it. I'll only be angry if you're being twat in some other scenario – eating crisps in the community center while I'm alone at my doctor's appointments or alone slaving away to earn a living, for example. Anyway, speaking of which, have you found a job yet?"
"As a matter of fact," he says, puffing out his chest self-importantly, "I have."
"Let's hear it, then."
"Well, I'm warning you, it's not the most glamorous of things..." he starts.
"Oh god, for you to say that it's really got to be something rubbish."
"Simmer down, love, it's not that bad! I did consider going into the male escort business, thinkin' it'd be pretty profitable what with my gorgeous facial structure and Adonis-like physique n' all, but I figured – and rightly so, from the look of it – that you wouldn't be too thrilled about that. So, I had to explore the alternatives, and, well, after assessing my multitude of skills and previous work experience, I arrived at picking up litter. Again. But hey, at least this time I'm gettin' paid to do it."
I pause contemplatively, eventually replying, "I suppose. Well, it's good to see that you're at least trying."
"Why thank you," he beams cockily.
"When do you think we should tell the others?" I ask abruptly.
"Tell them what? Oh – that. I dunno, probably when you get your piss results back," he reasons. "They're in for a right shocker! Can you imagine their faces? Oh man, it's gonna be classic." He lets out a bark of laughter at the mere anticipation of their reactions. I don't even want to know what sort of scenario he's picturing – I'm planning on being as concise and frank with them as possible, but I have the distinct feeling that he has something else entirely in mind.
Nathan walks me back to my flat and shifts his feet awkwardly, uncertain of how to part ways. He's aware that he may very well be treading into perilous territory.
"Well, I'll see ya later then," he decides upon finally, hands firmly rooted in the pockets of his sweatshirt.
I give him a kiss on the cheek and say, "Alright. Thanks for coming with me today."
His eyes light up in response to the token of my affection, and his customary, mischievous confidence seems wholly restored as the corners of his lips curl into a smirk. "Don't mention it, love," he drawls.
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes yet again, I reply, "I'll talk to you later."
"Give me a ring if you need anything!" he calls after me. I can't tell if he's being impudent or if this is a sincere suggestion, but I quickly decide that I don't really care.
Two days later, I get a call from the clinic – turns out, as I was already quite sure, I'm pregnant. They advise me to schedule another appointment three weeks from now, at which point I'll be able to have an ultrasound. Weird. The first thing I do is call Nathan to inform him of the new developments.
"Hey, I've got the results back," I tell him.
"What do you think?" I reply somewhat prissily.
"I AM the father," he says, his voice dropping an octave as he quotes Maury.
"Yep. Listen, I'm just about to start my shift at the pub. Want to invite the others down for a pint and we can tell them?"
"Yeah, sure," he agrees excitedly. I feel a faint sense of dread that he's come up with some elaborate plan to give them all heart attacks.
After me, Nathan's the first to arrive at the pub. He's dressed in a black uniform, which makes me think he's arrived straight from work.
"A pint of lager please," he asks impertinently.
"Seeing as you've apparently just gotten off work, I assume you have every intention of paying for it, right?" I prod.
"Hell-fucking-no," he scoffs, "What's the point in havin' a girlfriend who's a barmaid if you can't get free drinks?"
I exhale sharply in agitation, but fill a glass from the tap nevertheless.
"Thank you, darlin'."
"So I'm your girlfriend?" I innocently throw out once he's mid-slurp.
He falters slightly, spilling a bit of the beer and getting foam all over his upper lip. He wipes his mouth crudely with the back of his hand and stutters, "Well, I mean, I just assumed…"
"No, it's fine," I stop him. "I was just clarifying."
He looks a smidgeon uncomfortable, but before he can say anything, Alisha and Simon arrive.
"I'm not bein' funny, yeah," Alisha starts, "But it's only been, like, a week since community service ended. I'm not sure if it's time for a reunion just yet... Wait a second – are you two back together? Is that what this is about? Cos to be honest, a text message would have cut it."
"No, just wait," I tell her.
Once Curtis, Nikki, and Kelly are also here and drinking their beers, Nathan theatrically starts, "So, you're probably all wondering why we called you here..."
"Ehm, not really," Kelly interrupts, taking a long swig of her beer.
"What? Well, you should be! This is a very momentous occasion. Marnie and I, we have something we have to tell you all. And you should consider it a privilege to know that you, as our friends, are the first to be informed –"
"We get it, you're back together," Nikki cuts in. "Congratu-fucking-lations. Can someone pour me another pint?"
"Will you all just let me talk! That's not what this is about – yes, that's also true, sorry ladies – but we asked you to come here for another reason."
"Just get to the fucking point," Curtis deadpans, very visibly bored.
"I'm pregnant," I state before Nathan can drag this out any longer.
Anyone who had any amount of beer in his or her mouth sprays it all over the bartop; luckily, I'm able to jump out of the way before I'm completely saturated. This initial shock gives way to choking, coughing, and laughter.
Curtis, most of all, is laughing harder than I've ever seen him laugh before. "No seriously," he manages, "That's a good one, but what's the real reason?"
"That is the real reason," Nathan snaps, clearly offended.
"Right. The two of you? Parents? Bull-shit. Seriously, what is it?"
"It's true," I say.
"You and Nathan," Simon starts slowly, working things out, "You're going to have a baby?"
"Yes, Simon, very good. That is indeed what pregnancy entails," I answer tiredly. "Good to know you made it through primary school."
"Nah, I don't believe it," Curtis continues to insist.
"They're tellin' the truth," Kelly interjects, astounded. "I can 'ear them finkin' it – they're tellin' the truth!"
"Jesus Christ," Alisha mutters, covering her face with her hands. "You two? Out of all of us, it just had to be you two..."
"Gee, thanks for the boatload support," I spit acidly.
"I'm sorry," she protests, "But the two of you procreatin'? My god…"
"What was it you said at the beginnin' of our community service?" Kelly starts amusedly, "'Belt n' braces,' yeah? Good to see ya took your own advice..."
"Yeah," Simon chimes in, struggling not to crack up, "And then the pair of them were arguing about how it'd be so horrible if he got her pregnant. I believe that's what they call irony."
"Hey, I for one am deeply hurt by all this negativity!" Nathan says, putting his hand over his heart. "I thought this was a judgment-free space! I was expectin' loads more cheering and fanfare and the like, what's wrong with you people? You lot really need to work on your congratulatory etiquette, I mean really!"
"We're not judging you," Simon starts pointedly, "We just don't know if the world is ready for Nathan Young's offspring."
"That's enough cheek out of you," he tells him, "I preferred you when you suffered from a crippling shyness!"
Kelly snorts. "Fine then, we're all very 'appy for the both o' you," she says.
"Thank you," Nathan answers haughtily, ignoring her sarcasm.
"So you're havin' it then?" Curtis says, still obviously unnerved and surprised.
"No, Curtis, I decided to tell you all before I go in for the abortion tomorrow. Wish me luck," I say dryly. Nikki give me a disapproving glare, but they're the ones in the wrong here, not me.
"I dunno," he defends, "You could be givin' it up for adoption or sommit!"
"How dare you even suggest that we give our future son or daughter up for adoption!" Nathan exclaims. "What kind of monster are you?" He's being predictably over-the-top about this whole thing...
"There's nothing wrong with putting a baby up for adoption," I amend, "But no, that's not what we're doing."
"Fuck," Curtis murmurs under his breath. "I can't believe it."
"Well, you'd do well to start," I reply. "Cos if you're on your best behavior, soon enough you'll all be called 'Auntie' or 'Uncle.'"
Author's note: Hope you all like it! I go back to school very soon (I have a reeeeeaaaaally long winter break), so I don't know if I'm going to be able to post another chapter in the near future. I might be able to squeak one more in before I go back. But please, review, review, review! Reviews are what allow this story to continue. Oh yeah - and also, I know next to nothing about being pregnant, so if anyone has any tips or advice about writing about it, I would very very much appreciate hearing it. Seriously, like, I know NOTHING besides the stuff that is general knowledge. Please review! I hope Nathan was in character!