In their three and a half years of marriage, they've never missed a Christmas together, though the tumultuous holiday they'd spent together the year before had been had been so fraught with discord, there had been very little holiday cheer.
It hurts Lindsey to think that only a year ago she was planning on leaving Bud. She'd been chief engineer of the Deepcore project for a little more than a year at the time, and the hunk of metal that had once been realized only in drafts and in her imagination was about to be completed.
It was a moment of jubilation, of validation for her, for her many years of fevered, monomaniacal work. Bud had been appropriately happy for her, but she'd been somehow unable to accept his praise. Looking back now, she knows he was completely ingenuous, but at the time she'd found it off-putting. In fact, for a long time, she'd been finding him off-putting.
He was just so nice. So goddamn nice, all the time. No matter how many times she'd snipped at him, denigrated him, ignored him, he just kept coming back for more. She couldn't understand it, at the time. She didn't want to. All she knew was that she didn't deserve it and she couldn't stand to be around it anymore.
It was only weeks later, after their two-week Christmas holidays, when she'd left him. Really left him this time, taken all her stuff out of the apartment, told him she was leaving, and left him.
He'd taken it as stalwartly as he took everything, though he'd done his darndest to convince her to stay, and by god if it didn't almost work on her. Maybe if his eyes weren't so goddamn blue.
His eyes are her one weakness. She knows it's because Bud, with his Nordic complexion in stark contrast to hers, reminds her of her father. Her father; tall, blond, blue-eyed and brilliant, who had swept her Sicilian mother off her feet. She loves her father dearly, but her contempt for her mother has not faded in the ten years since they've spoken. And the repulsion she feels at the thought that she is at all like that woman is enough to make up her mind.
What would have been their last Christmas as husband and wife is spent doing only two things: arguing and having sex. Those were the only two things they were always good at. And as her emotional investment in the marriage waned throughout the holiday, the ratio of their activities began to shift to the former, the latter forgotten in their anger and hurt.
Lindsey rarely takes time to reminisce, but she's the only one awake right now and her mind is wandering. She's enjoying a rare cup of coffee—her doctor has told her she should cut down—and staring out the back sliding glass door at their frost-covered back yard. It's New Year's Day, and the sun is just coming up.
Lindsey was surprised when she awoke that morning to see the white stuff covering the ground. For a second, she thought it was snow and was back in New York, looking out the window of the bedroom she shared with her younger sister, wide-eyed and amazed at nature.
But, after a trip to the bathroom, and a glimpse of her midsection in the mirror—which she swears has grown in the week since Christmas, though considering how much she's eaten over the holidays, it's not that surprising—and she's back in this house, certainly no longer a child and soon to be a mother to one.
This thought still hasn't taken hold in her head, truly. She knows now, at nearly fourteen weeks, she's very unlikely to miscarry, but that hasn't given her the impetus to call either of her parents and inform them of her condition.
She knows her father will be happy; he likes Bud and Bud likes him and Lindsey is loath to admit it's because they're two peas in a pod. The two men in her life have only met on a couple of occasions, but it was all they needed before they were sitting around, drinking beer and shooting the shit like old friends.
But she can't will up the courage to call him. Her father is living upstate now, with his second wife, a woman named Judith whom Lindsey thought highly of and their nearly twelve-year-old son, Daniel Francis.
Lindsey, at sixteen, was the only one of her four sisters to attend their wedding, though neither she nor her father had expected either them or her mother to make an appearance. Judith's large Irish-Catholic family more than made up for the absence of Frank Thomas's other children, and it had been a rather joyous affair.
When their son was born the next year, Lindsey again was the only one to visit them in hospital, though a few of her sisters sent flowers. She knew her father had wanted a son, and she had tried her best to fill the role. But seeing her father holding his baby boy she knew there really was a special bond between father and son. She'd never seen her father happier. And after everything her mother had put him through, she thought he damned well deserved it.
She would have to call him, she knew (if she couldn't convince Bud to do it.)
But her mother was another story all together. The woman who had all but hated her fourth daughter since the day the nine-year-old had decided she'd become an engineer, like her father, and for a long time it didn't matter to Lindsey. She had her father, and they loved each other. Then she had her rig, and she loved it, now she had Bud, whom she wished she'd loved then as she did now, and soon she'd have this baby, whom, despite her misgivings about motherhood, she was getting anxious to meet.
But pregnancy hormones wreak havoc. She's over the worst of the early stuff, but her emotions remain labile and she finds herself feeling empathetic and sometimes even sympathetic where before she'd remain impassive. And one person in particular is her mother.
There's a saying she heard once, she doesn't know where, that went something like "Once you become a parent you realize your own were just doing the best they could." And though she is yet to give birth, she finds herself identifying with her mother as a young woman.
She knows her mother was the child of Italian immigrants, poor, one of nine, and that the woman had spent the vast portion of her adult life trying to mold her daughters into successful women in the hopes that they would somehow erase little Catherine Mary di Angeli from existence.
Lindsey sighed as she sipped her coffee. The sun was slowly rising up past the horizon, and tendrils of sunlight were beginning to shine through the back door, warming her. She glanced at the clock; it was nearly seven-thirty and Bud would be up soon.
She knew her mother had only been doing what she thought was best. But, at the same time, she'd cut off her daughters from half of their heritage—not a single word of Italian had been spoken in their home, and the girls had not been permitted to visit their maternal grandparents, who had died a few years after Lindsey was born.
That she'd missed out on so much angered Lindsey. Later, when she was older, she'd visited cousins and aunts and uncles who had welcomed them into their homes, feeding her delicious food and teaching her Italian phrases. She wondered how different she and her sisters would be if they'd been surrounded by that sort of infectious familiarity.
She pushes down the bitterness as she sips the dregs of her coffee. She would never hide anything from her child, she decides, right then and there. She'd tell her mother about the baby, eventually, and she'd make sure her child got to meet all of his or her grandparents, and as many aunts and uncles as possible. Perhaps her mother had softened in her old age. Or perhaps not.
She shakes her head as if to clear it of all these thoughts. She knows she should not be focusing on negative things after the joyous Christmas they've just had.
They both went a little overboard with the gifts this year, though she supposes it can be expected. Bud bought her many interesting gifts; lots of books, topics varying from deep-diving suits to engineering marvels to what to expect when you're expecting. And though he's notoriously hard to shop for, she managed to wow him with some nice clothes, a new Yankees cap, and the piece de resistance, a new lawnmower to replace the lemon he's been trying to repair for months.
But she forgot everything when he led her into the largest of the three remaining bedrooms to find it furnished with crib, changing table, rocking chair and dresser. She had had an inkling he'd been up to something in there, but not to this extent. She smiles now, thinking of his face when he'd revealed the room to her. Even if she can't imagine herself having to use it, she appreciates the gesture.
Lindsey gets up to put her coffee cup in the sink and hears footsteps coming down the stairs. Bud is awake—and just in time to rescue her from the thoughts that won't leave her alone.
He saunters down the stairs, what's left of his hair sticking up awkwardly, and she stands at the sink watching him. He wipes his bleary eyes and catches sight of her.
"Hey," he says, smiling at her, his voice gravelly.
"Hey," she echoes as he walks over, wrapping his arms around her from behind and kissing her cheek, "Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year, babe," he says, kissing her again. "What's up?" he asks and she laughs, mirthlessly. How does he know?
"Nothing," she lies, leaning her head back onto his shoulder. She luxuriates in the contact they have these days. She was never very much for physical affection early in their marriage, but after their shared underwater ordeal and her ensuing pregnancy she's found she likes to be held, her soft body yielding to his muscular one.
"Lins," he says into her neck and she shivers. Goddamn this man, she thinks, smiling. She sighs.
"It's nothing," she says, as his hands find the hard little mound that has now pushed up past her navel, "I was just thinking. About my mother."
She feels him tense at those last words and almost smiles.
"What about her?" Bud asks, with much less venom than she'd been expecting. While Bud has never met Cathy Thomas, what he has learned about her from Lindsey and, less so from Frank is all he needs to know.
"Ugh, I don't know," Lindsey says, almost embarrassed now, "I guess it must be the baby, but I'm feeling almost sorry for her."
"Why?" Bud asks, turning her around with his hands and looking into her eyes. She looks away.
"I don't know, Bud, I just—I...She's my mother, okay? No matter what damages she's inflicted on me, I can't help but think I should tell her about the baby," she finishes, sighing. "Though I doubt she'll care. She was not too happy when we got married. Is it masochistic of me? To want to tell her?"
Surprising her, Bud shakes his head and smiles. "Of course not. But I'm just worried that her response is not going to be what you want to hear," he says, catching her eye. She nods, understanding.
"Not like your mother," Lindsey says, trying to keep her tone even. His mother's joyful reaction is still etched in her mind. Lindsey had been helpless to join in the elation, but now, days later, she can't help the envy that is creeping in.
"It's her first grandchild, Lindsey!" he says, incredulous. Lindsey smiles and nods. She knows, and she knows she should not be envious of Bud, who lost his older brother as a child and whose own father has been dead for fifteen years. But she is. Her mother's absence never bothered her before.
"Yeah," she says, "you're right. I don't know, I've just been thinking about her a lot lately."
"That's fine," Bud says, "but she doesn't deserve it, Lins."
Lindsey sighs and looks up into his eyes. She knows he's right. She pushes all thoughts of her mother from her head. She'll think about her later, when she has to, not now when the two of them are on the cusp of a new year, their fourth together.
"So," Bud says, "what will nineteen eighty-nine hold for the Brigmans?" They both smile, thinking of the little boy or girl who will soon be making its presence undeniable.
"All three of us?" Lindsey asks, and it feels odd. Three of them. She was just getting used to the thought of the two of them again.
But the infectious smile on Bud's face pushes that feeling away, and she soon finds herself mirroring his delight.
"Do you think the two candles can handle a third?" Bud asks, and it's so unexpected she feels the tears threatening.
"Oh, Bud," she says, pulling him close to her. "Yeah," she says, after some time, "we'll be three little candles, out there in the darkness."
"Yeah," Bud says, confident as always, "this is going to be a great year, Ace, I can feel it."