Author's Note: Something that was missing for me in Aftershock was Charlotte and Cooper's consideration of each other's feelings about the pregnancy. Cooper was ecstatic about the babies and the fact that his sperm prevailed, but seemed to have little concern that his wife appeared clearly upset by the fact that she was pregnant. Charlotte for her part did not seem to think much about how upset Cooper would be when she was excited at the thought that she would miscarry. This story is set the evening of the day depicted in Aftershock when (in my world at least) Charlotte and Cooper come together and consider what the pregnancy means for themselves and each other. The story is in Charlotte's point-of-view and is a little stream of consciousness-y.
Cooper had taken Violet home, leaving Charlotte alone with her thoughts on her way to pick Mason up after play practice. Charlotte's mind is racing and her heart is beating so hard that she can feel it pounding in her chest as she pulls up to the curb outside Mason's school. She forces herself to take deep breaths, to try and let her mind go blank for the moment. She needs to calm the hell down before Mason gets into the car.
Charlotte spies her son running towards the car a few minutes later, and she does her best to plaster a smile on her face.
"Hi Momma," Mason says hopping into the passenger's seat and tossing his knapsack onto the backseat.
"Hi sweetie. How was field day?"
"It was awesome! Bobby and I came in first in the three legged race. And I came in second in the long jump."
"Good job. You want to pick up ice cream on the way home to celebrate?"
"Put your seatbelt on," Charlotte reminds Mason as she turns the car back on. Mason buckles up and they're on their way.
Luckily for Charlotte, Mason is exhausted from a whole day outside playing, and so he is more than happy with her idea that they pick up ice cream and Chinese takeout and eat dinner while watching TV. Charlotte knows that this isn't her best showing at instilling healthy habits in Mason, but she simply can't muster the energy to cook tonight. She's exhausted, absolutely emotionally and physically exhausted. A good friend of hers is dead. And she is pregnant with triplets. Both thoughts are utterly incomprehensible. Neither feels real.
Charlotte lets Mason pick out the movie since she's pretty sure that she won't be able to pay attention to anything she's watching. Mason pops the DVD in and sits down on the couch, leaning slightly against Charlotte, a pint of lo mein in his lap. Charlotte wraps her arm around Mason. She loves him so much. There are no words to describe how much she loves this kid. And for a second Charlotte thinks that maybe she can do this after all. She had never thought she would love Mason, would never have thought that she would enjoy raising a child, but she does. She loves being his momma, and maybe she will love being these babies' momma too. And just as she starts to think that maybe, just maybe, she will be surprised again, that maybe the three lives growing inside her will bring her joy too, she thinks about Mason.
It's a full time job raising Mason. A job that she wouldn't trade for anything, but a full time job none-the-less. How will it affect Mason to have three new babies in the house? Will Charlotte and Cooper still have enough time to take care of their son the way he needs? Will Mason feel pushed aside? Will he think that Charlotte doesn't love him enough?
Charlotte's mind is racing and tears are burning at her eyes. She makes an effort once again to calm herself, to will her mind to stop. She does her best to focus on her breathing and to just relax before she completely loses control. It's something she has felt precariously close to doing since she saw the three figures on the ultrasound. Three little blobs on a screen that are her children growing inside her. Three lives that depend on her for everything.
She presses her lips to the crown of Mason's head, and focuses on nothing but the weight of his body against her and the rhythm of his breaths.
Mason had fallen asleep on the couch before the end of the movie, and he had put up little protest when Charlotte had nudged him towards his bed once the credits started to roll at only 8:15 p.m. Charlotte had barely read two pages of a bedtime story when she heard Mason's soft snoring once more.
Charlotte cleans up the Chinese cartons from the coffee table. She's putting the containers in the refrigerator when she realizes that not only did she not eat dinner (she had been too queasy with worry and stress) but she hadn't eaten lunch either. Charlotte's not hungry at all, and the thought of putting anything in her mouth is still making her feel sick, but she's eating for four now. And while Charlotte can't quite bring herself to think about the fact that this is really happening, she certainly isn't going to neglect what her children need.
Charlotte rummages through the kitchen cabinets, trying to decide what is least off-putting right now. She settles on a bowl of cereal and milk, and after she swallows the first spoonful, Charlotte says aloud, "Hope you three like Cheerios." Charlotte stops, shakes her head at herself. "I'm talking to babies that haven't even developed ears yet." Her sanity is slipping away already, she thinks. God help her.
Charlotte is sitting on a stool in the kitchen staring into a long empty cereal bowl when Cooper walks in the door. He looks exhausted, and Charlotte smiles weakly at him. Cooper walks over to stand next to Charlotte and wrap an arm around her. "How's Violet?" she asks.
Cooper shrugs. "I left her alone to tell Lucas. I don't know how you explain that to a three year old." Charlotte shakes her head sadly.
"You look tired," Cooper tells his wife. "We should get you into bed. You and our babies need your rest." Charlotte looks over at her husband; he's grinning like an idiot. She feels guilty and pissed off and scared all at the same time. Her husband is on cloud nine that she's pregnant. And Charlotte, she was hoping for a miscarriage. She doesn't want a baby. She likes her life as it is. A baby wasn't part of her plan, let alone three of them.
But this is her life now. Three babies. Mother of four. Part of Charlotte feels guilty for wishing away these children. Three children that in nine months she will be holding in her arms. Well not all at once. She doesn't have enough arms. God, how is she supposed to do this? Charlotte doesn't know, but she's going to have to figure it out pretty soon, because she cannot fail her kids. She cannot be the kind of mother that her own mother was. But she's off to a pretty crappy start already: willing away her children. Her husband couldn't be happier, and there Charlotte was praying that she would have a miscarriage.
Cooper's babbling away about moving to a bigger house and painting a nursery. Charlotte only half hears him above the cacophony in her own head. She's not there yet. She is so not there yet. Charlotte isn't sure how exactly her husband hasn't noticed that she is freaking out here. And that's pissing her off a little, because she needs him to stop talking right now. She needs him to stop thinking that all this is the most wonderful thing in the world and just be scared with her for a few minutes.
"I'm tired," Charlotte says, getting up, placing her bowl in the sink, and walking past Cooper to the bedroom.
Cooper follows Charlotte into the bedroom and pulls the doors shut behind him. Charlotte opens her drawer and grabs a pair of pajamas. Cooper must sense that she still is hesitant about being pregnant, because now he starts what Charlotte thinks sounds an awful lot like a sales pitch. "This is going to be amazing, Charlotte. You'll see. Three little babies. I bet they'll look just like you. They'll be breaking hearts before we know it. I'm just so happy."
"I'm glad, Coop," Charlotte says a little sharply. But she is glad that her husband's happy. She loves Cooper, and he's always wanted a big family. This isn't what Charlotte wants, but Charlotte thinks that she should be glad to do this for Cooper. She should want to make her husband happy.
"What's wrong?" Cooper asks.
And that pretty much sets Charlotte off. Is he really that clueless? Has Charlotte not made it abundantly clear that she doesn't want kids? Did Cooper think that Charlotte had been joking earlier when she had walked into his office earlier and hit him. She had been close to screaming and crying then, and it's a feeling that is quickly returning.
"What's wrong?!" Charlotte asks incredulously, "What's wrong? You have got to be kidding me! I'm pregnant! With triplets, Cooper!"
"I know it seems like a lot," Cooper says, trying to calm Charlotte.
"No. It doesn't seem like a lot," Charlotte tells her husband, her voice raised. "It is a lot."
"I know. But just think, it will be three times the adorableness," Cooper says, and the goofy grin is back.
He's going to make her spell it out for him. "I didn't want one, Coop. I didn't want a baby. I don't. And now we're going to have three of them."
Charlotte sees her husband's face change, and he seems to really get it then. Cooper moves over to his wife and wraps his arms around her. This is what Charlotte needs, and she's grateful for it. He's not judging her. He's not trying to convince her that it will be ok or that she will love these children. Cooper is just holding her because right now Charlotte is scared and upset.
Charlotte buries her face in her husband's chest and stays in his arms for a few minutes before she pulls back so that she can look at him. Charlotte does her best to muster a smile of thanks. Cooper rubs Charlotte's back. "Come sit down with me," he says guiding her to the bed.
They climb into bed and Cooper wraps an arm around Charlotte. "I know you're excited," Charlotte tells Cooper. "But I need a little time to adjust to this." She's being honest here. She can't deal with trying to be excited, with pretending to be ok.
"You can have all the time you need."
"As long as it isn't more than nine months," Charlotte jokes. But she isn't sure that nine months (or any amount of time for that matter) will be enough to be ready for this.
"Charlotte," Cooper says gently. "You'll be ready. You might not feel like it, but you will be."
"We're going to have three babies and Mason. How are we going to take care of all of them?"
"We will. We might not sleep a lot, but we'll manage." Charlotte frowns. This from the one of them who's happy about the babies.
They're silent for a while, which Charlotte is ok with. She doesn't want to hear her husband try to convince her that this will be ok. She knows deep down that they will make it ok somehow, but right now she just wants to be held and comforted.
Cooper's hand slides under Charlotte's shirt and comes to rest on her abdomen. She isn't even sure if the movement is conscious, but she's starting to find it kind of cute that he's this excited about their babies. Charlotte looks up from where Cooper's hand is resting to give him a wry smile. "Sorry," Cooper mutters sheepishly, starting to pull his hand away.
"It's ok," Charlotte tells her husband, as she moves her hand to join his. She clasps their fingers together over her belly, over where their children are growing.