October quickly becomes November and finally the oppressive heat and humidity begins to ease in southern Louisiana. Lindsey's sick as a dog nearly every morning and some afternoons, and on the rare occasion, evenings.
Bud does all he can, holding her hair back, rubbing her back, sitting with her on the bathroom floor for hours, and he is like a godsend to her. She never imagined she'd feel this awful, the way her mother had seemingly breezed through five pregnancies. Her resolve wavers at times, and she panics, crying and moaning that she can't do this. Bud only wordlessly rubs her back, or envelops her in a hug, whispering that she can, that she's been to the other side and back, so she can surely do this.
But then it will let up for a day or two and Bud will cook her whatever she wants and her determination comes back. She will get through this. And Bud is making life as easy as possible for her, doing housework and yard work; cleaning out the gutters and the pool, mowing the lawn and trimming the hedge.
A few weeks into December, nearing the end of her first trimester, the nausea eases up, and then, as they near Christmas, it all but disappears, and almost like a switch is flicked, she feels like herself again.
She feels like dancing and finds it hard to stop smiling, especially around Bud, whom she knows it has taken a toll on, too.
And something else starts to happen that simultaneously terrifies and exhilarates her—she's starting to show.
Though she's lost ten pounds, she still finds her jeans have been a little difficult to button the past few days. As her appetite comes back, and the weight comes back on, it gets so hard to button them she takes to wearing a pair of tights or even Bud's sweatpants around the house. He loves the fact that she's showing, of course, and when they're making love he pays such tender attention to the growing mound below her bellybutton it almost makes her cry.
Still, it's unnerving, and she stands in front of the bathroom mirror often, turned to the side, staring at and pressing on the area. She can't say she likes that something else is taking control of her body; she's always needed to be in control. She hates how the hormones make her feel—weak, tired and emotionally unstable, all things she, as a woman working in a man's world is not allowed to feel. So in a way she's glad for the extended vacation from Benthic. She's glad to be in the safety of this house with Bud, who never judges, never tries to undermine her because she shows a little weakness.
On top of all this, though, she's starting to become very attached to this tiny growing lump. Her hand often resting on the area unthinkingly and she is sometimes surprised at the intensity of the feelings she has. The need to protect and nurture is so instinctive and primal, types of emotions she has never been particularly familiar with, it scares her sometimes.
She loves this baby not because it is hers, but because it's theirs. A product of love she never thought she'd find, and which continues to surprise her every day. She loves this baby because it is part of him. And if it inherits even a quarter of what made him him, she will be smitten from day one.
They creep up on Christmas with rain and thunder, to which Lindsey has become accustomed and even sometimes misses. Summer and some of fall in Louisiana was oppressive and sticky, the only relief a refreshing thundershower nearly every afternoon. In winter it is cooler, the temperature at nights sometimes dropping below freezing, but they still get the occasional violent rainstorm that leaves motorists stopping on the side of the road and pedestrians running for cover.
In the middle of this downpour she is home alone on Christmas Eve, Bud having gone out to finish the last of his shopping.
Today is the first day of her second trimester, according to her doctor, and the risk of miscarriage will drop sharply in the next few weeks. It's relieving but also a little terrifying to her. This is the point of no return, she'd thought as she woke up that morning, I'm almost certainly going to have this baby.
The phone rings, surprising her, and she gets up to answer it. She's astounded to hear the other woman's voice, low and strong at the other end of the line.
"Hey, Lindsey!" One Night says with more affection than Lindsey's ever heard her use when speaking her name.
"Uh, hey, One Night!" Lindsey manages to get out, doing her best to sound cheerful.
"It's been a while, I know, I'm sorry I didn't call you or Bud, I just needed a little time to—"
"Decompress?" Lindsey supplies and they both laugh a little. It was true, if not literally. They'd needed the time alone to deal with what happened, and heal.
"Yeah, something like that," One Night replies, "so how are you and Bud doin'? I still can't believe you two are back together."
Lindsey smiles in spite of herself. "You know, sometimes, I can't either. But it's been great, One Night, we haven't been doing much and it was just nice to relax for a while."
"Was nice? Does that mean you're not relaxing anymore? 'Cuz I've got some news for you," One Night drawls conspiratorially.
Lindsey sits up straight, now completely at attention. "What is it?"
"Well," the younger woman starts off slowly, "I got a call from Kirkhill the other day. He says the rig can be repaired and they're going to start it after the holidays."
Lindsey sighs deeply, trying her best to set her tone completely neutral, "Oh yeah? Well that's good news."
"Yeah, yeah, well, that's not all," she says, "They're going to start the deep-sea trial up again, once it's repaired. April fourteenth, they said. They called me and pretty much everyone else on the team. They're probably going to call you two, soon."
Lindsey's found her heart rate has gone up a little. They're putting the rig back down there already? So soon? My rig, without even consulting me? She takes a deep breath and pushes down the rage.
"Wow, that is surprising. I'd have figured they'd wait a while, you know, instead of rushing back down there," Lindsey says, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice.
"Yeah, well we were pretty surprised, too, but you know Benthic. They gotta make the big bucks." She pauses. "Everyone but Sonny's agreed to go back down with it."
This surprises Lindsey more than anything, but after a few seconds it makes sense. Perhaps Bud's crew's a lot more like her than she thought. They love it, can't stay away from it.
"Including you?" Lindsey asks.
"Well, yeah, I mean, I bought a place in Dallas, but I've been staying with my sister because her dumbass husband is on some business trip to New York for two weeks, and I've been cooped up in the house with four kids under six, so three hundred fathoms sounds pretty damn good to me right now."
Lindsey laughs. "Wait, four? I thought she only had three."
"She did," One Night says, deadpan. "She just had another one about three weeks ago."
"Oh my," Lindsey says, laughing.
"Yeah, it's getting a little chaotic in here," she says. "So what about you and Bud?" One Night asks, surprising Lindsey, "You two coming back down to the depths or have you had enough?"
At this, Lindsey sighs. She knows it's okay to tell people about her pregnancy now, but it still feels weird, to talk about it with others. She looks down at the little bulge, patting it.
"Well," she starts, "I think I'm out of the running for doing any diving for a while, but I have no idea about Bud. He might want to. I'd definitely like to at least be around when they fix my rig."
One Night laughs, "Oh, your rig, right, well, as much as it pains me to say, Lindsey, I'll miss you down there. I know I wasn't exactly your best friend for the past few years, but, I respect you now a lot more."
Lindsey is surprised, and laughs a little, "Wow, Lisa, I never thought I'd see the day. But thank you."
"So why can't you dive, though? What is going on with that?"
Lindsey sighs. God, this woman saw right through her. "I can't pressurize or depressurize for a while. According to my doctor," Lindsey says, cautiously. She's not going to give this one away. One Night's gonna have to work for it.
"Oh really?" One Night asks, with a tone that suggests she knows exactly what is going on. "For how long?
"A few months," Lindsey says, nonchalant.
"How many?" One Night asks.
"Um, about six or so, maybe a little more." Lindsey says, grimacing.
There's silence at the other end. Then, "Oh, no way. No way! You two are reproducing already? You've only been back together for, what? Four months? I can't believe it."
"Five months," Lindsey corrects, but she can't help but smile. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I felt exactly the same way when I found out. I was mostly mad at myself for being so stupid."
"Bud's probably happier than a pig in shit, I bet," One Night says, laughing.
Lindsey laughs, too. "He sure is," she says, smiling, "how'd you know that?"
"Oh Lins, I know a lot of guys who aren't meant to be fathers. But Bud Brigman is. He's the kind of dad I wish I had. And most of the younger guys on the rig."
Lindsey smiles as she hears the words, knowing that they're absolutely true. "Yeah, he sure is," she says.
"Well, congratulations to the both of you, Lindsey. I mean it."
"Thank you, One Night. You guys have fun down there, you hear? And make sure they're taking care of my rig."
"Oh, it will be my pleasure. If it weren't for that rig I'd be lying dead at the bottom of the Caribbean, so I'll do my best. Hey, you don't mind if I let the rest of the crew know about Baby Brigman?" One Night asks.
Lindsey smiles and rolls her eyes. "Yeah, sure, why not. But only Hippy and you and Catfish and Jammer, not Kirkhill or anyone else. Keep it to yourselves, please." She pauses for a second, smiling, "I hope to hear from you guys soon. Merry Christmas, One Night."
The reply came back as strong as ever, "Merry Christmas, Lindsey."
As she hangs up the phone, that unsettled feeling settles in once again. She feels almost like a new mother whose child is under the care of someone else for the first time. Her rig, her rig, no matter what Bud or Benthic says, out there, under repair by someone who is not her. She supervised its initial construction, watched nearly every weld, every rivet and made sure the builders inflexibly followed her plans.
Her hand goes to her abdomen, to that little bulge that seems to get bigger by the day. She knows by the time Deepcore's repairs start she will be visibly pregnant. She thinks of supervising a build in that condition, arguing with men twice her size and trying to throw her weight around, and knows she couldn't do it. She knows her pregnancy will make her look weak and she knows, above all, that Bud will object to it.
She starts to caress her belly. God, she thinks smiling ruefully, this is like Sophie's Choice. She must decide which one of her children is more important to her. That rig, that she designed from scratch, sketched and drafted and watched grow from the ground up. And then, she thinks about this new child, her flesh and blood, and more importantly, Virgil Brigman's flesh and blood. That man that she has come to love irrevocably.
And her choice is made. She will trust that Benthic with follow her design, will repair the rig with the care she'd originally taken. For the next six months and at least a few more after that she will devote herself completely to this child, because it needs her more than her big iron baby, and because she knows that Bud, who has taken care of her so tenderly for the past few months, deserves to have her here with him, and not in Benthic Petroleum dry-dock, ordering around a bunch of surly men.
She's been so locked up in her own head she does not hear the crunch of gravel and the slamming of the car door signalling Bud's arrival, and when the front door opens, startling her from her thoughts, she nearly jumps.
He comes in with a few bags, and looks up when she stands to greet him.
He smiles when he sees her, that slow, lazy smirk that gives her a jolt right to her center.
"Hey, babe," he says, and she can't help but smile and drift over toward him, "how are you?"
She almost rolls her eyes at his concern, but doesn't, because she knows it's so painfully sincere.
"I'm okay," she says, putting her hands in the pockets of the big fluffy sweater she's wearing today. "I got a call from One Night today."
His surprise is evident. "Oh really? What's she up to?"
"Oh, she's in Dallas, with her sister. She just had another baby."
Bud laughs, "So how many is that now, five?"
Lindsey smiles, "Four. She's staying with her for the next few months until her brother-in-law comes home."
"So'd you tell her? About our own little imminent bundle?" he asks as he sheds his jacket, hanging it by the door.
"Yeah," she groans, "I didn't want to, but she got it out of me. She's very talented at that."
"Tell me about it," Bud says, shaking his head.
She sighs, her hands fisting inside her pockets, and Bud looks at her curiously.
"Something wrong?" he asks, stepping over in her direction.
"No," she says, right away, not wanting to worry him, "but she mentioned Benthic is going to be repairing Deepcore to start up the deep-sea trial again."
Bud's eyebrows go up at this. "Well, that's good news. Hopefully this one'll be less eventful than the first."
She laughs, "Yeah. They're going with April 14th as the date to start drilling. Her, Hippy and Jammer and probably Catfish are going to go down with it."
Bud is really surprised at this. "What?" She nods, smiling. "They don't need to work for ten years and they're all going back down there in three months? Do you know the grief I got from them every single day down there? You'd'a thought they'd rather be anywhere but there."
"Well," she says, shrugging, "it's what they do, Bud. And they do it better than anyone else. It's in their blood."
"Yeah, I guess so." He looks at her. "And what about you, Hot Rod? Isn't it your blood?"
She sighs, but smiles, looking past him out the window. "It's going to be hard as hell for me. But," she starts, trying to look anywhere but at him, "even by the time the repairs are taking place I'm gonna be too big to hide it, and by the time they start drilling I'm gonna be too pregnant to even think about going underwater.
"So I am going to politely stay on the sidelines this time," she finishes, glancing at him. The proud smile on his face gives her a flash of anger that makes it feel just like old times with them. But it is not 'old times' anymore. She takes a deep breath and the anger starts to fade. "And I swear to god, Virgil, if you make one smart-ass remark, I will hurt you so bad—"
But he doesn't make any remark, instead closing the few feet of distance between the two of them and placing his hands on her shoulders. She looks at him, begrudgingly, and, by god, if his eyes aren't astoundingly blue today.
"I'm proud of you, Ace," he says, frankly, and she takes a breath to push down the scathing remarks bubbling up, "I know this was hard for you."
She sighs, glancing up his earnest face. "Thank you, Bud," she says, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "It was."
He pulls her closer to him and kisses her on the forehead. "I would have been worried about you every damn day if you went back to Benthic."
A thought strikes her and she looks up at him curiously. "You're not going to miss it?"
He shakes his head, dropping his hands from her shoulders and shrugging. "Nope."
But she is not convinced. "As much as this pains me to say, Bud, but you took good care of that rig, better than anyone but me, and you're content just giving it all up?"
He sighs, thinking. "I had a good crew down there, and we had some good times. But what you don't seem to get," he says, taking her hands in his, "is that I'm content here with you." He lifts her hand to his mouth, kissing it just like he did that day too few months ago, when she'd awoken to learn she cheated death.
She smiles, helpless to his charm, "Bud, you're not serious."
"I am!" he states, laughing. "Boy, you really don't get it. I know I'm great at what I do, Lindsay, but all I want, all I've wanted for a long time was you. And I want to stay here with you, and with you," he says, tapping the little swell of her belly with their joined hands, "as long as I possibly can."
She realizes, as his blue eyes bore into her, that he's telling the truth. And it hits her that he has always felt this way, back in the beginning, after she left him, after Michael, and even when she cruelly pushed him away before all hell broke loose on Deepcore. All this time.
"Oh, Bud," she starts, but finds the words too hard to say, choked with guilt.
"Hey, hey," he says, cupping her face and turning it up to his, "don't cry, babe." He uses his thumb to wipe the single tear that has fallen, but his words leave her struggling to keep the rest at bay. God, she hates this. It's as if this pregnancy has opened the emotional doors for her, and she is unable to stop them from flowing out.
"I don't deserve you," she says, smiling in spite of herself.
"Come on, Ace, don't be like this. You deserve me. We deserve each other. We're the only ones willing to put up with each other. How's that?"
She laughs. "That sounds about right."