Home > Surprise Me(11)

Surprise Me(11)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

‘Right there,’ he repeats, his eyes still fixed on baby Anna.

‘You’re right.’ I nod emphatically. ‘You’re so, so, so, so, so, so …’ My mind has suddenly gone blank. ‘Exactly. Exactly.’

‘I mean, what else matters?’ He makes elaborate gestures with his wine glass. ‘Nothing.’

‘Nothing,’ I agree, holding on to my chair to stop the world spinning. I’m feeling just a bit … There seem to be two Dans sitting in front of me, put it like that.

‘Nothing.’ Dan seems to want to make this point even more strongly. ‘Nothing at all in the world. Nothing.’

I nod. ‘Nothing.’

‘So you know what? We should have more.’ Dan points emphatically at the screen.

‘Yes,’ I agree whole-heartedly, before realizing I don’t know what he’s on about. ‘More what?’

‘That’s how we make sense of our life. That’s how we fill the endless, interminable years.’ Dan seems more and more animated. ‘We should have more babies. Lots more, Sylvie. Like …’ He casts around. ‘Ten more.’

I stare at him speechlessly. More babies.

And now I can feel tears rising yet again. Oh my God, he’s right, this is the answer to everything.

Through my drunken haze, I have a vision of ten adorable babies all in a row, in matching wooden cradles. Of course we should have more babies. Why didn’t we think of this before? I’ll be Mother Earth. I’ll lead them on bicycle outings, wearing matching clothes, singing wholesome songs.

A tiny voice at the back of my head seems to be protesting something, but I can’t hear it properly and I don’t want to. I want little feet and ducky-down heads. I want babies calling me ‘Mama’ and loving me most of all.

Times ten.

On impulse I reach for the duckling sleepsuit, hold it up and we both stare at it for a moment. I know we’re both imagining a brand-new squirmy baby in it. Then I drop it on the table.

‘Let’s do it,’ I say breathlessly. ‘Right here, right now.’ I lean over to kiss him, but accidentally slide off my chair on to the floor. Shit. Ow.

‘Right here, right now.’ Dan eagerly joins me on the floor and starts pulling off my clothes.

And it’s not that comfortable, here on the tiled floor, but I don’t care, because we’re starting a new life! We’re starting a new chapter. We have a purpose, a goal, a dear little tiny baby in a Moses basket … Everything’s suddenly rosy.

FOUR

OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE WE DONE?

Am I pregnant?

Am I?

I’m lying in bed the next morning, my head pounding. I feel nauseous. I feel freaked out. Do I feel pregnant? Oh God, do I?

I can’t believe I’m waking up to this scenario. I feel as though I’m in a video warning teens about accidental pregnancy. We didn’t use any protection last night.

Hang on, did we?

No. No. Definitely not.

Gingerly, my hand steals down to touch my abdomen. It hasn’t changed. But that means nothing. Inside me, the miracle of human conception could have happened. Or it could be happening, right now, while Dan sleeps on, blissfully clutching his pillow as though our life hasn’t just been ruined.

No, not ruined.

Yes, ruined. In so, so many ways.

Morning sickness. Backache. No sleep. Baby weight. Those vile pregnancy jeans with the elastic panels. No money. No sleep.

I know I’m fixated by sleep. That’s because sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I can’t do the no-sleep thing again. Plus: the age gap would be six years. So, would we have to have a fourth child, to keep the baby company? But four? Four children? What kind of car would we need then? Some monstrous people carrier. How will we park a people carrier in our little street? Nightmare.

Would I have to give up work to look after the brood? But I don’t want to give up work. My routine works well, and everyone’s happy …

A brand-new, horrific thought makes me gasp. What if we have another baby, and then we try for a fourth … and end up with triplets? It happens. These things happen. That family in Stoke Newington that Tilda met once. Three singletons and then boom! Triplets. I would die. I would actually collapse. Oh God, why didn’t we think this through? Six children? Six? Where would we put them?

I’m hyperventilating. I’ve gone from a mother of two girls, keeping her head above water, to a submerged mother of six, with her bedraggled hair in a scrunchie and flip-flops on her pregnancy-ruined feet and a look of meek exhaustion …

Wait. I need the bathroom.

I creep out of bed, tiptoe into the bathroom without waking Dan and immediately realize: I’m not pregnant. Very much not pregnant.

Which is, oh God, such a relief. I sink down on the loo and allow myself to sag, head in hands. I feel as though I’ve skidded to a halt just before hurtling over the precipice. I’m happy just as we are. The four of us. Perfect.

But what will Dan say? What about the duckling sleepsuit and the dinky little socks and ‘That’s how we make sense of our life’? What if he wants six children, he just never told me before?

For a while, I sit there, trying to work out how I’m going to break it to him that not only are we not having this baby, we’re not having any more babies.

‘Sylvie?’ he calls out from the bedroom. ‘You OK?’

‘Oh, hi! You woke up!’ My voice is high and a bit strained. ‘I’m just … um …’

I head back into the bedroom, avoiding Dan’s eye.

‘So … I’m not pregnant,’ I say to the floor.

‘Oh.’ He clears his throat. ‘Right. Well, that’s …’

He breaks off into an almighty pause. My breath is on hold. I feel like I’m in an episode of Deal or No Deal. How exactly is he going to finish that sentence?

‘That’s … a shame,’ he says at last.

I make a sound which could sound like agreement, although is in fact totally the opposite. My stomach is gnarling up a little. Is this going to turn into the massive deal-breaker of our marriage? Even more than the green velvet sofa? (Total saga. We compromised on grey in the end. But the green would have looked so much better.)

‘We can try again next month,’ Dan says at length.

‘Yes.’ I swallow hard, thinking: Shit, shit, shit, he does want six children …

‘You should probably get some … whatsit,’ he adds. ‘Folic acid.’

No. This is going too fast. Folic bloody acid? Shall I buy some newborn nappies while I’m at it?

‘Right.’ I gaze at the chest of drawers. ‘I mean, yes. I could do that.’

I’m going to have to break it to him. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool. Take a deep breath and go.

‘Dan, I’m sorry, but I just don’t want any more children,’ I say in a burst. ‘I know we got all sentimental about socks, but at the end of the day, they’re just socks, whereas a baby is a massive life-changing commitment, and I’ve just got my life sorted, and we’d probably have to have a fourth, which might mean six, and we just don’t have room in our life for six children! I mean, do we?’

As I run out of steam, I realize that Dan is also talking, just as urgently, straight across me, as though he’s jumped into a swimming pool too.

‘… look at the finances,’ he’s saying. ‘I mean, what about university fees? What about the extra bedroom? What about the car?’

Hang on a minute.

‘What are you saying?’ I peer at him, puzzled.

‘I’m sorry, Sylvie.’ He looks at me tensely. ‘I know we got carried away last night. And maybe you want a bigger family, which is something we’ll have to talk through, and I’ll always respect your views, but I’m just saying—’

‘I don’t want a bigger family!’ I cut across him. ‘You’re the one that wants six children!’

‘Six?’ He gapes at me. ‘Are you nuts? We had one unprotected shag. Where did “six children” come from?’

Honestly. Can’t he see? It’s so obvious!

‘We have another one and then we go for a fourth, so the baby has a friend, and get landed with triplets,’ I explain. ‘It happens. That family in Stoke Newington,’ I remind him.

At the word ‘triplets’, Dan looks utterly aghast. His eyes meet mine, and I can see the truth in them: he doesn’t want triplets. He doesn’t want a people carrier. He doesn’t want any of this.

‘I think another baby is a red herring,’ he says at last. ‘It’s not the answer to anything.’

‘I think we were both quite pissed last night.’ I bite my lip. ‘We really shouldn’t be in charge of our own reproductive systems.’

I cast my mind back to the little duckling sleepsuit. Last night I felt so broody. I desperately wanted a brand-new baby inside it. Now I want to fold it up and put it away. How can I have changed my mind like that?

‘What about the duckling sleepsuit?’ I press Dan, just to make sure he’s not concealing some deep, buried desire, which he’ll then reveal in some torrent of resentment when it’s all too late and we’re a faded, elderly couple staying by a lake in Italy, wondering where our lives went wrong. (We just did an Anita Brookner novel in our book club.)

‘It’s a sleepsuit.’ He shrugs. ‘End of.’

‘And what about the next sixty-eight years?’ I remind him. ‘What about the empty interminable decades ahead of us?’

There’s silence – then Dan looks up at me with a wry smile.

‘Well, like the doctor said … There are always box sets.’

Box sets. I think we can do better than bloody box sets.

As I arrive at the Bell for the quiz that evening, I feel fired up on all cylinders. I’m pumping with adrenaline; almost seething. Which, to be fair, is due to all sorts of things, not just dealing with how to be married to Dan forever (and then some).

   
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