Have you ever been so certain of something, as a child, that you knew it would be a part of your life permanently? For me, it was Christopher, my best friend. When I was ten, he and his grandmother moved in next door; and from the first day we met, we were inseparable. But it was when we discovered we had the same birthday, and were even born the same year, that we were destined to be soul mates.
Growing up in a small town, we basically had every class together clear up through our senior year of high school. And during the summer of our eighteenth year, we discovered other things together; including losing our virginity to each other. At that moment, I knew I would love Christopher for the rest of my life and I was sure he felt the same. Until he came out to me our Freshman year of college, during a co-ed party of all things.
He found me among the crowd, talking to my roommate, took my hand and led me to a dark, quiet alcove of the Residence Hall. I thought excitedly, that we were going to have a make out session, as we had a couple of those since our first time together, but he sat me down, held my hand tightly, as if for dear life, looked into my eyes and said, “Kat, I love you more than anything. You're my closest, best friend and I want you to be the first to know this. I'm gay.”
I remember back to that night, and my first reaction had been to burst into tears. But then I saw how crestfallen he was and I quickly explained how I had hoped he loved me like I adored him, and he smiled sadly and said, “I have wished for the same feelings ever since our first, and regrettably, only time with each other; but my feelings for you, as strong and deep as they are, it's not the same and I am so sorry for that. But I have to be true to myself and I trust you and respect you so much that I wanted you to be the first one to know this.” I leaned over and he met me half way and we hugged for quite some time knowing that even though this changed some things, we were still the same.
That was seven years ago. Since then, we graduated from college together, miraculously, within the four year expected time frame. Christopher, who was an absolute genius, graduated with honors in Philosophy, with a minor in Photography whereas I graduated, much to the astonishment of my parents, with a degree in English and a minor in Art. Christopher and I, who many accused were attached at the hip, decided to embark on the proverbial quest of adulthood together, and moved to Seattle. This was quite the exotic place for two kids from the Midwest. My parents were horrified that I wanted to move so far away, but Christopher's grandmother, Myra Ann, gave us her blessing just before she passed away. Myra Ann, raised Christopher from the age of six, when his parents were tragically killed by a drunk driver; but she doted on him like a son and was proud to see him successfully complete college.
She left him quite a large sum of money and with that as well as her blessing, we made the move. Christopher never told her about his preferences and she assumed the two of us would marry some day. Christopher didn't see it as lying because in a way, we were like a married couple in that we did the shopping together, paid the bills together, and ultimately, when we moved, we put the deed of the condo in both of our names. That is how much we were intertwined in each others lives. That is, until Christopher met Paul. Two years ago, Christopher, who established himself as a photographer for a major magazine, was on location in the Bahamas. He was going to be there for two weeks, but by the end of the second one, he called me in the middle of the night to say he would be staying an extra week because he had met someone.
It's amazing how quickly jealousy can flare up, even in the most absurd situations; but it did and I think he could hear it in my voice, when I said, “Well, enjoy your vacation,” just before hanging up with him. Needless to say, I didn't sleep the rest of the night. I laid in my bed, alone, in the quiet condo, listening to the relentless rain pattering against the windows. I was agitated, I was worried, I was sad. We had settled into quite the comfortable existence with each other that I pushed the thought of either of us finding someone else far from my mind. Yes, I was 'playing house.'
After the week was up, Christopher called from SEATAC for me to come and pick him up. I was excited to hear from him, as he never called during that entire week and I was more than happy to get him from the airport. Thankfully, when I arrived, I noticed he was alone, so I figured it was just a quick island fling for him and we would be able to resume our lives together like before. But there was a change in Christopher. He had a light in his eyes that I had seen only when he was extremely passionate about something. I got out of the car at the pick up location, and ran to him and we hugged each other tight. He kissed my cheek, told me how much he missed me and that he had so much to tell me then asked what I had been up to for the last three weeks.
I told him of landing my first major art exhibit at a local museum and that the showing would be in a month. He replied how proud he was of me and of looking forward to being with me at the opening. When he said that, my heart flip flopped and the familiar comfortableness flooded back between us. He put his luggage in the trunk of my Camry, and slid into the passenger seat while I got behind the wheel to drive us home. On the way, he remained silent, looking out the window while I searched incessantly for a decent radio station to listen to. When we pulled into the parking space, we got out and as he retrieved his suitcase, I went to unlock the door and go inside. He came in and looked around. “You sure do know how to keep a house clean,” he said approvingly. I smiled and again, domestic bliss filled the air around me.
I asked if he wanted some coffee and he said “Of course.” That was something we enjoyed together, and I had missed it while he was away. He said he had a package of coffee he bought while in the islands that he had acquired a taste for and hoped I would like it as much as he did. They were whole beans, which was all we would buy as we enjoyed grinding them to get the richest flavor possible. And when I opened the bag, the aroma was so strong, I had to hold it away from me for a moment. “It definitely smells rich, doesn't it,” I commented. He just smiled as he carried his things to his room to settle in once more. I ground the beans to a fine powder and put them in the filter, then filled the coffeemaker with water and turned it on.
As I stood at the counter, cleaning out the grinder, Christopher came in and wrapping his arms around me, laid his head on top of mine. Oh how I missed his hugs. He took one of my hands and walked me to the living room to sit. That's when I knew he wanted to have a serious talk. Any time it was time for an important conversation on something, he made sure to take my hand to ensure my attention was completely focused on what he had to say. Once seated, next to each other on the couch, I turned toward him as he did to me, never breaking the contact of our hands. I looked into his beautiful blue eyes as he scanned my face, took a deep breath and said, “Kat, I'm in love.”
I guess I didn't take the news too well, because he looked a bit worried when I didn't immediately say anything. I took a minute to process what he had just said before replying. So much for my visions of a happy home. But I loved him too much to say how hurt I felt, secretly knowing in the back of my mind that this day was bound to happen. “So,” I began, “tell me about him.” That opened the floodgates he had held closed tight, just waiting for my approval. “His name is Paul, he's an architect and lives in Portland. He is divorced, no kids, and is a bit older than us. He was working in the Bahamas on plans for a new hotel development when we ran into each other. Kat, we just hit it off immediately, like it was meant to be.”
That sparkle had returned to his eyes as he continued his litany of Paul's attributes; and as he spoke, I was, regrettably, beginning to like Paul as well. “He sounds like a very nice man,” I said once he was finished with his story. Christopher kissed the back of my hand and said, “I'm so glad you said that. He's coming to town tomorrow for a convention and I invited him to stay with us for the weekend.” I looked around and said, “I'll be sure to have the sofa made up for him, will we need to get him from the airport?” Christopher laughed and reached over to hug me. “You are such the hostess, Kitty,” using my long ago pet name he gave me when we were still in middle school, “But he'll sleep in my room and I will pick him up to allow both of you time to prepare to meet each other.” I wasn't sure how to respond to that comment of us 'preparing to meet,' but I smiled and remained silent.
“What does he like to eat?” I asked as I got up for a pen and paper to start my list. Christopher was more than helpful with telling me what to write down and once the coffee was finished brewing, we enjoyed a couple of cups before heading to the public market for our groceries. The next day, as I waited patiently for them to return from the airport, I nervously went around the condo to make sure everything was clean and in place. I lit a couple of scented candles to make it feel, hopefully, a bit more inviting. And about an hour after Christopher initially left, I heard the car pulling in outside. My stomach flipped with nervousness and I went to the kitchen for some tea.
I heard the door unlatch and from the kitchen saw it open. The first to walk in was Christopher and when he spotted me, he smiled and walked in followed by a man who was nothing short of classic Hollywood hotness. “Damn,” I thought, “why did he have to be gay, too?” His hair was dark with sprinkles of gray mixed in. He had laugh lines around his warm brown eyes and devil may care smile. I set my glass down and walked toward them. With hand extended, I said, “Hi Paul, it's nice to meet you, I've heard so much about you.” He shook my hand and in a rich voice said, “I've heard a lot about you too.”
Christopher exhaled loudly and I glanced at him and smiled. He was more nervous than any of us I think, so I winked at him, and he grinned, reassured that everything was good. We sat in the living room for a while and observing them, they acted as if they had known each other a long time. I didn't want to share my best friend, but the look on his face was worth the tiny bit of jealousy I still held. He'd been through enough in his life already and anything that made him smile his joyful, carefree smile made me happy as well.
And so that's how the last year and a half has been. Paul relocated to Seattle and moved in not long after the weekend we first met; and the three of us have been quite happy with the arrangement. I would date from time to time, but during this transition, didn't have any relationship lasting longer than a couple of months at most. Christopher and Paul seemed content to share their life with me, and Christopher and I still maintained our relationship as well. Paul respected who we were to each other and accepted that there were times the two of us would go off and do one of our quirky things; usually when he was busy flying to exotic places designing buildings and such. But recently, a change had taken place in our cozy little home.
The three of us had gone to the public market to pick up fresh fish for dinner when Paul and Christopher ran into another couple, Shawn and George and surprisingly, they had a baby girl with them. Christopher asked when the baby joined their family and George happily told us they adopted her just a few months before. She was from an orphanage in Korea and they had flown over to get her after going through a local adoption agency. Now, if men have biological clocks, I do believe Paul's was ticking as he couldn't take his eyes off the little girl. Christopher noticed it too and smiled, somewhat sadly it seemed to me.
After a few minutes, we all bid the couple goodbye with plans for them to come to dinner in the near future. Paul was silent the rest of the day and into the evening. When we returned home, he and Christopher went to their room and shut the door. I busied myself with dinner, trying to keep the feeling of dread at bay. Was it going to be that they would want me to leave so they could go on with their lives here and try to have a family? It was hard not to get angry at that thought because, damn it, I had a stake in this home too. Half an hour later the guys emerged from the room to help with
dinner which was ready, and we all sat silently down to eat.
Christopher looked at me and said, “Our birthday is in two weeks, is there something you'd like?” I shook my head, then stopped, “There's a new espresso maker that also makes great cappuccino I'd like for the kitchen. He smiled and said, “Kitty, don't you want something that's a bit more personal? Like a new necklace or earrings or something? I smiled in return as this was the same conversation every year where he would ask what I wanted, already having purchased something to surprise me with. “That would be lovely, dear,” I'd say.
“What would you like then?” I asked in return. Christopher blushed for the first time in a long time, and Paul reached over and squeezed the hand he had resting on the table. I looked from Christopher to Paul and said, “Okay, boys, what's going on? Have you decided you want me out?” They both had horrified looks on their faces when I asked that, which made me feel about two inches high. Christopher blurted out, “No, Kat, that's not it at all. We want you to have our baby.”
Now that, wasn't at all what I was expecting. I sat dumbfounded for what felt like an hour, letting the thought slowly sink in. Christopher explained that he and Paul had been discussing this idea for a couple of months already and were waiting for the right time to broach the subject. “We feel complete with you in our lives,” he said with a lot of emotion. “You have been a part of me since we were kids and you know I adore you to the extent I am able with who I am and I would be extremely honored if you would consider this for us, for all of us,” he added.
I wasn't sure what to think at that moment. A part of me said, “Sure, what the hell, I love these guys more than anyone else, so why not, right?” But then another part of me was saying, “Are you insane? What about a future for you and a significant other down the road? How would this come into play with someone else in the picture?” So many questions were running through my head and I was beginning to feel quite lightheaded. Paul said quietly, “It's a big decision, one we want you to take all the time to consider, if you are considering it that is.” I looked at him, then at Christopher's pleading eyes and said, “I will think about it, but I want to go home my parents' house to consider it.” Christopher nodded, and leaned over to kiss my cheek and Paul gave me a sympathetic smile. I told them I would need to call the art gallery first thing in the morning to let them know of the time off I needed. “Give me a week,” I told them. I got up to start cleaning the kitchen, but Paul stood first and Christopher said, “We'll take care of it, Kitty. I know we have asked a large thing of you and you look a bit overwhelmed by it, so please, go to bed. We can discuss this more later.” Smiling weakly, I nodded and said good night to them. I could hear them whispering as I left the room, but didn't really care what they were discussing. I just suddenly felt very tired.
The next morning, I called the gallery and told them I would be taking a week vacation due to a family emergency. The director said she hoped all was well, and all I could muster was a “Me, too,” before hanging up. Christopher was sweet enough to book a flight that afternoon for me and after packing a few things, he drove me to the airport. He held my hand, something he loved to do for comfort, for me as well as himself, and once we stopped at the loading zone, he took my one suitcase out of the trunk, set it beside me and hugged me hard to his chest. Kissing my cheek, he whispered, “Thank you for thinking about it, Kat, there's no one else I'd even dream of asking to do this.” Nodding, I looked at him and smiled as he got back into the car to drive home.
I went to the counter to get my boarding pass, cleared the security check point and waited for my flight out. All the while I kept thinking, “Will a week be enough time to think about this life changing decision?” I mean, to have a baby for my best friend; would I have a stake in the child's life or would I be just an incubator and then get kicked to the curb after all was said and done? What if I say no? Would they travel to Korea then to find their own little girl like the pair from the market? Even thinking that thought sent a wave of jealousy or panic through my gut.
I was shaken from my thoughts when I heard the lady on the intercom say my flight was now boarding. I put the questions as far from my mind as possible, realizing this was the first time in over three years that I was going home. The night before, as I lay in bed, I called my mom to tell her I was going to visit for the week. She was so ecstatic, but being a mom, she could tell something was weighing heavy on me. “I'll talk about it when I get there,” I promised. She let me hang up soon after, sensing I needed a good night's rest. I appreciated that about her; she didn't push. Now the flight was taking off, and I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, willing sleep to come. But the mind tends to do what it wants as questions, again, came flooding back.
Once we landed in Chicago, I gathered my things and went in search of my mom and dad, knowing both would be there to welcome me home. They saw me before I saw them and embraced me as soon as I was within reach. Mom still smelled of vanilla, and I wondered what tasty treats she had baked for my homecoming and dad still smelled of his favorite pipe tobacco. “Hi mom, hi dad,” I said with little enthusiasm. Mom kissed my cheek and dad took my suitcase for me as they led me to the truck to make the hour long drive home.
Cortland, Illinois had a population of less than thirty-five hundred when Christopher and I left and according to dad, in the three years I've been away, it's stayed pretty much the same. I smiled, wondering how I ever made it out of that sleepy little town and realized, a lot of it had to do with my friend. Thinking back, he was always the one to stand by me, support me when I needed it, yelled at me when that was called for and overall took care of me on so many levels. I had been there for him as well when his grandmother passed away, I helped him with the selling of her house, and held him when he'd cry in his sleep.
He was more of a partner to me than I ever wanted with anyone else and although ours wasn't the typical relationship, it worked for who we were and where we were in our lives at the moment. Even having Paul in the picture didn't put a kink in things. The three of us were like a well oiled machine, working with and around each other in a cohesive way. It was on that ride home that I knew I had already made my decision. I loved both Paul and Christopher and I was completely happy being a part of their world and I wanted to have their baby, our baby.
As soon as the choice was final in my head, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my chest. I would take this week to try and explain things to my parents, but in the end, whether they approved or not, it was ultimately my choice. Once we arrived home, I took my things to my old bedroom while my parents discussed plans for dinner. My mom decided on making spaghetti and suggested I take the truck down to the local store for salad fixings and garlic bread. Dad gave me the keys and asked if I remembered where to go. Rolling my eyes, I said, “Yes, dad,” and kissed him on the cheek before leaving the house. I decided to stop by the bookstore before getting groceries. I wanted to pick up a book or two on babies to get an idea of what I was in store for. Within an hour, I had all my purchases made and was driving home, when my phone rang.
Smiling, I looked at it and saw it was Christopher. I answered, “Hello, dear,” and he laughed. “Hi, honey, just making sure you made it safely.” We talked for a minute or two longer. I wasn't quite ready to tell him the decision had already been made, as I felt it better to do in person, so after he said everything at home was good and wished me a good night, I hung up, still smiling. After dinner we sat at the table, enjoying full stomachs and the quiet evening. My mom's curiosity finally got the best of her and she asked, “Okay, sweetheart, why are you here? Did you and Christopher have a falling out after all these years?” I smiled, leave it to my mom to think the worst of things. “No, mom, we didn't have a falling out. In fact, things are really good between us. He's in a relationship now; has been, actually, for over a year.” “Oh yeah? And who's the lucky girl?” my dad asked. I sighed. I love my parents, but outside their little world here in Cortland, they were oblivious to reality sometimes.
“Not a girl, dad. A guy. His name is Paul, very nice, very respected man.” I let that comment filter through their minds for a moment. And I knew they didn't approve because my mom did this quirky thing with raising her eyebrows as if having a discussion, but just inside her head. My dad on the other hand, exhaled rather loudly over and over then it was just a matter of time before he walked outside to smoke his pipe. I felt they had had enough excitement for the evening and would wait to tell them at a later time of my intention to have a baby for the couple. No sense in sending them over the edge on my first night back.
The days and nights flew by rather quickly for me. My mom kept me busy cleaning out the garage during the day, saying it was very therapeutic to remove clutter from space. And my dad kept me entertained in the evenings with stories from his job as a state trooper. Being an only child, I enjoyed having my parents undivided attention; however, it was now the night before my flight back to Seattle, and I still hadn't shared my decision with them.
We decided to order out for pizza my last night home; and as we sat at the table eating, I cleared my throat to get their attention. Both of them continued eating, but had raised their eyebrows in response to the noise and looked at me expectantly. “The main reason I came home was to think over a very serious choice I needed to make that will really impact my life and I've come to the decision and am very happy with it,” I started. My dad was the first to set down his pizza and watch me as I spoke. “Both of you know that I've become rather successful with my artwork and that it's shown in several galleries and sold at many showings right?” They both nodded and smiled that proud smile parents get when their children know they are rather good at something, but want praise regardless. “Well,” I inhaled deeply, “you also know that I've had my share of boyfriends that haven't lasted more than a month or two as well, correct?” Again they nodded. “So, Christopher and Paul have asked something of me and I want to help them out as they are my family in Seattle now.”
My dad frowned, “What are you getting at Katherine?” I groaned inside, when the full first name was used, I knew I had to tread softly. With one final gulp, I said rather quickly, “Christopher and Paul want me to have their baby.” “Oh dear god,” my mom whispered in a swearing tone. “Over my dead body!” my dad shouted. I cringed in my chair, but I stood by my decision, knowing I was old enough to make the choice and content with how I felt about it. “So help me Kat, if you follow through with this asinine idea, we will never, and I mean never speak to you again,” my dad seethed through clenched teeth.
This caused my mom to start crying and she, being the heart of our family said, “Hank, don't do that, she's our only child, my baby girl. I don't want to cut off all conversation and ties with her and think of it, a grand-baby. They will let you have visiting rights to the baby right?” my mom asked, suddenly concerned. I smiled and said, “Mom, they aren't kicking me out of the house. There's plenty of room and instead of having two people love this baby, there will be three,” I hoped that would help, but my dad pounded the table with his fist before getting up and walking outside.
I leaned back in my chair, feeling as though I just survived a tornado. My mom reached over and patted my hand. “Let me talk to him Katy-did,” she said encouragingly. I smiled weakly at her use of my childhood nickname and whispered, “Thanks, mom.” We stood up and she gave me a big hug and suggested I finish packing then get a good night's sleep before my early flight the next morning. After my suitcase was packed, I changed into a t-shirt and shorts and put my hair up in a ponytail before going to bed; but as I lay there, my mom came in first and said, “He'll be right as rain in a few days sweetie, just give him time to adjust to the thought of a grandchild; regardless of who will be raising him or her.”
I nodded mutely and she closed my door again. Then, my dad came in, sat on the side of the bed and was silent for some time before he said, “Kat, I know it's your choice and I hope you really have thought this through. What if you meet someone down the road that you want to share your life with but they don't want to share you with your friends?” I smiled in the dark, leave it to my dad to worry about that. “I am as settled as I ever hope to be, dad,” I said, happy that it sounded completely sincere just like I felt it. I could see him shake his head in confusion, and as if he heard my thoughts, he said, “I don't understand, and I don't expect to understand at all,” he confided, “but you are old enough to know your mind and heart and not some young high school kid trying to take on the world.” I sat up and hugged him, whispering, “Thank you, daddy,” and kissed his cheek. He patted my back like he would when I was little, then let himself out, to leave me to my own thoughts. Excitement coursed through me as I laid there in my dark, quiet room, trying to fall asleep.
Early the next morning, my parents drove me to the airport and hugged me then waited for me to board the plane; and as I waved goodbye, my mom yelled, “Let us know how things go!” I nodded and waved one more time before turning to walk down the hall connecting to the airplane. With the time change, the flight home didn't seem as long and when I exited the plane to get inside the airport, I saw Christopher and ran to him. He caught me and hugged me tight, “God, I've missed you,” he said, crushing me to his chest. I kissed him on the cheek and hugged him back. “Where's Paul? I asked looking around for him. “He's at work right now, so it's just you and me kid,” in his most awful rendition of Bogart. It still made me smile and I linked my arm with his as we went to retrieve my suitcase.
On our drive home, Christopher told me about a new assignment the magazine was sending him to. “It's in New York this time; however, they want me to stay there for a month.” “That's the longest you've ever been gone,” I commented, feeling a bit sad that he'd be leaving for a while, but he laughed and said, “Kitty, you don't have to be so transparent, besides, you'll be going with me.” Confused, I waited for him to continue. “The gallery called while you were in Illinois and they had a request from the Museum of Modern Art to show some of your work,” he said proudly. “My assignment is you,” he added cheerfully. I couldn't believe my ears and when the shock of what he told me wore off a little, I hugged his neck tight causing him to veer off the road some.
He told me that we would be leaving in a few days to allow time for preparation. Then he became quiet and looked at me. “Did you make your decision? He asked softly. I nodded and smiled as I looked at him. “I did, but I thought maybe we all should be home when I tell you, if that's okay.” He took my hand and kissed the back of it as we arrived home. “Paul will be here soon, then we can sit down and hear what you have to say,” he said carefully. I told him that sounded like a good plan and we went inside.
Once Paul got home, dinner was ready and we decided to eat in the living room. The guys sat on the sofa while I took my comfortable overstuffed chair. I wasn't feeling hungry, so both Christopher and Paul suggested I talk while they ate. “Typical guys,” I laughed to myself. I sat up and looked from one to the other, feeling as though I were interviewing or being interviewed. “I knew what my decision was going to be before my first day home ended,” I began. Both men stopped eating and waited for me to continue. “Christopher, Paul,” I swallowed, “I'd be happy to have a baby for you.”
Thankfully, they had the presence of mind to place their dishes on the coffee table before they jumped up and crossed over furniture to get to me. They hugged me and kissed my head and my cheeks and my lips saying how they would take care of everything and then I told them to hold the celebration for a moment. I sat down, again, and said, “Now that the choice has been made, how will this affect my living here with you two? “Kitty,” Christopher chided softly, “You're part of our family and the baby will need you just as much as us, you're staying here permanently. That was a given, or so we thought,” he said smiling. When he said that, I knew I had found my place in the world. Contentment flooded through me and I hugged both of them again. We talked into the early morning hours, discussing how things would change around the house, what bad habits would need to be broken to create the most harmonious of habitats for a child. And the final question that came to mind that we all seemed to dance around in almost a shy way was brought up by me, “Will this be by artificial insemination or what?” Thinking of horror stories or urban legends of turkey basters and such.
Surprisingly, Paul was the one to answer this by saying, “Christopher and I discussed this for a great length of time and we both agree that none of us want that, it just seems too impersonal. Since Christopher was your first, we thought it fitting that he be the donor and that the two of you could handle this part,” he said very technically. I looked at Christopher and blushed as did he and then he said, “Sorry, Kat, it came up in conversation one night.” I shrugged and said, “Better to have everything out in the open anyway, right?” Both of them smiled seeming relieved that I was so open minded to things, I'm sure. This thought was confirmed with Christopher's next comment, “Kitty, thank you for doing this for us and I am so glad you want to be a part of our lives on such a personal level as this. You are truly the most unique person I've ever known.”
I could feel tears burning my eyes at seeing how happy this was making them. After a while, I bid the guys goodnight and went to my room; I laughed when I looked out my window and saw the beginning sunrise. “Glad I don't have to go to work today,” I said aloud. Undressing, I found something to sleep in and went right to sleep. Several hours later, I woke up and looked out my window, then glanced at my alarm clock. It was three in the afternoon, the day was shot, but I wondered what the guys were up to.
I crawled out of bed to look for them. Walking through the quiet house, I found the note they had left me, on the dining room table. Paul wrote that they had gone to an early dinner with friends and would be back later; so I went back to my room, retrieved the books I purchased in Illinois and started reading. Several hours later, I heard the door open and voices enter the living room. Christopher was the first to peek in my room and when he did he smiled and asked what I was doing. He then saw the books and came in, curious about the topic.
He picked up one book and read aloud, “What to expect when you're expecting.” He opened it and started skimming the pages while I read my book. After a while, Paul came in asking what we were up to and he sat on the bed while I told him what I had picked up in Illinois. A short time later, Paul excused himself to leave for the office to finish up some work. Christopher got up and walked him to the door and when Paul was gone, he came back to my room and asked, “Do you want to watch a movie with me?” I smiled because it had been a while since the two of us had a movie night, so I closed my book and told him I would be just a second so I could change into my favorite lounge pants and t-shirt. Christopher had the same thought apparently because he walked out of his room in flannel pajama bottoms and his old college sweatshirt.
After making popcorn, I sat down next to him and asked what movie would be watching. To my surprise he had a large box wrapped in pink birthday paper and handed it to me. “Happy early Birthday, Kat,” he smiled. I told him he shouldn't have done that as I didn't get him an early present and he touched my cheek and said softly, “Kat, you're giving me the best gift I could possibly wish for. That is all I want.” Kissing the palm of his hand, I proceeded to unwrap the box and beaming, I pulled out the DVD collection of Eighties teen movies and handed him my favorite one. We sat back and watched as the credits began.
Christopher asked if I was chilly, and unfolded the blanket I kept on the back of the sofa, covering us both. I snuggled close to him when he wrapped his arm around me. As we sat there, Christopher began rubbing my shoulder which felt nice and then he kissed the top of my head. “Your hair smells nice,” he whispered. I turned to look at him and said, “Thank you,” but I didn't say anything else, because the way he was looking at me made my mouth go dry. He leaned down and kissed my lips so tenderly, it made my heart ache.
He gently moved me so he could hold me close and I could feel the awkwardness in his movements. I leaned back, and looked into his sweet blue eyes and said, “Christopher, it's me, you don't need to be nervous, or shy, sweetie.” He smiled and nodded. I cupped the side of his face and kissed him in return. One thing led to another and afterward we laid together, silent, listening to our hearts beating fast. I felt something wet on my neck and leaned back to see Christopher's face. He had been crying and the urge to just hold him forever was overwhelming. He smiled and whispered, “Thank you.” I told him there was no need to thank me, but I understood what he meant.
After a few more moments, we got up and he kissed me softly once more before we went our separate ways to freshen up. Not long after, Paul returned home. Christopher and I were quietly watching the rest of the movie when he opened the door and saw us. I think he had a feeling of what would take place while he was out; but I think a part of him felt out of place too. I asked him to join us and watch TV for a while and he smiled sadly and said he would later. Christopher and I looked at each other and he said, “I'll be back in a minute.” I nodded, and unable to concentrate on the movie, stopped it and went to the kitchen for something to drink.
Soon both guys emerged from the bedroom and the tension that was there earlier was gone. Paul came into the kitchen for a glass of water and hugged me tight first. “What's that for?” I asked. “Just because,” he said. I hugged him in return and everything felt right again. A couple of days later, Christopher and I were boarding the plane to head to New York for my big showing at the museum. Excited didn't even come close to how both of us felt. I was just so happy to be sharing in the experience with my closest friend and he was ecstatic to be the one to photograph my adventure.
Paul said that he would be in the city in a couple of weeks due to a major construction project going on, so we made sure to get a large suite at the hotel. We arrived in the evening at JFK airport and had a car waiting for us for the ride to the hotel. Both of us were exhausted from the flight and once we were checked in, we crashed for the night.
The next day, both of us were up early and ready to meet with the organizer at the museum. The first two weeks were a blur of photo ops and interviews and setting up my exhibit that I didn't notice something missing. It wasn't until the night of the opening that I realized two things. First, I felt horribly sick to my stomach and second, I was a few days late. So on our way to the museum, I asked the driver to stop by a pharmacy and when Christopher looked questioning at me, I said, “I'll just be a minute.” In my formal attire, I ran into the store in search of pregnancy tests. I bought five. Once they were purchased, I asked the sales clerk where the restroom was and when she directed me to the back of the store, I made my way back to it.
Sequestering myself in the stall, I opened the first box, quickly skimmed the directions and waited for the results. Almost immediately, it turned positive. I wanted a second, third and even a fourth opinion and by the time the fifth test had been used, it was pretty much set in stone. I was pregnant. I guess I had been in there longer than what Christopher thought was normal because there was a soft knock at the door. “Kat?” he asked hesitantly, “are you alright?” Throwing all of the boxes away, I called out that I was fine and would be out in a minute. Once I washed my hands and checked myself in the mirror, I opened the door and smiled. He looked at me funny as I linked my arm with his and we went on our way.
Paul was scheduled to fly in early the next morning, but I was too excited to wait and share the news with both of them, so after the successful opening, back at the hotel and after we changed out of our formal-ware, Christopher and I sat down on one of the sofas and I told him the news. At first he was speechless then he hugged me, then we cried. The next day, after Paul arrived, we shared the news with him and his usual quiet demeanor became enthusiastic and energetic which was very contagious. Once our trip was complete in New York, we returned home and my first of many doctor appointments began. My OB was wonderful and very supportive of our situation which confirmed to all of us that we were doing the right thing. As the months went along, and I grew to the size of a house, the support grew as well. All of our friends and neighbors would come by to check on me and even the director and assistants at the museum worked with me around appointments and morning sickness.
Paul was in charge of remodeling part of the condo so the baby would have his or her own space and we were all torn on if we wanted to find out the sex of the baby before the birth or be surprised. We decided on before and were very happy to discover that we would be having a little girl. It wasn't long after we finished decorating the baby's room in soft pinks and greens that I felt a twinge in my lower back. I didn't say anything thing, attributing it to working harder than I probably should, so late into my pregnancy, but later that evening, after I had gone to bed, I woke up feeling wetness between my legs. “Oh crap,” I said out loud. I called for Christopher and Paul and when they came running in they saw what had happened. “Your water broke, dear,” Paul stated.
Christopher had the foresight to have my overnight bag packed and waiting beside the front door and Paul went to get the car ready while Christopher helped me change clothes. Once we were at the hospital, I was too far along for any kind of pain medication and when the nurse asked who the father was, Christopher raised his hand. She was about to tell Paul to leave, but both Christopher and I shouted “No!” at the same time. The OB quickly explained things and the nurse apologized.
The labor only lasted a few hours after we initially arrived and the doctor and nurses were amazed at how quickly the delivery occurred. Paul and Christopher both took turns holding the baby while I rested and was cleaned up after the ordeal. Paul was the first to come over and kiss my forehead, “She is beautiful, Katy,” he whispered reverently. Christopher walked to the other side of the bed and also kissed me and said, “You did good, mama.” Tears pooled in my eyes, “I'm a mom,” I said softly. Christopher placed the baby in my arms and we all looked at the tiny pink face with the biggest blue eyes we had ever seen. “What will we name her?” Christopher asked. “Madeline Rose,” Paul said firmly. We had the discussion of names early on and felt it only right that Paul be the one to decide. Smiling, we all said, “Welcome to the world, Madeline Rose.”
It's now Madeline's first birthday and a few things have changed. Not long after her birth, Christopher was taken from us. He was just completing an assignment here in the city and was walking back home when he had a blinding headache take over. Once he arrived, he saw me in the recently purchased gliding chair, rocking Maddie to sleep. I suggested he lay down for a while and hopefully resting would clear it up. He kissed my cheek, kissed Madeline's forehead and whispered that he loved us very much. Those were his last words.
Doctors later told Paul and myself that he had a brain aneurysm and sometimes they occur with no warning of any sort. Paul was devastated and I was inconsolable. My mother, thankfully, had flown in that evening when I called her with the news, so she was able to care for Maddie while Paul and I took care of details for the funeral. Christopher had wanted to be cremated and his ashes divided between Paul and me. Numbly, I went through the motions of taking care of things; but if you asked me later what I did, I couldn't tell you.
About a month after the funeral, Paul and I sat at the table for dinner. “I think it's time for me to leave.” He said solemnly. I had a feeling this would happen as Christopher had been the glue to hold our little family together, but I was still sad. “Where will you go?” I asked. He told me of his intention to move to London by the end of the year because of some business opportunities opening up for him. I smiled and told him I was proud of him and wished him the best of luck with everything. He looked at me for a while and when Maddie began to cry in her crib, he got up to take care of her.
He brought her to me so I could feed her and he was thoughtful enough to bring a blanket so I could cover both of us while she fed. Christopher was the one who had read that breast feeding was best for babies and encouraged me to do this even though I wasn't as convinced. While I sat in my favorite rocker feeding Maddie, Paul cleaned up the table and kitchen. And that was when I began to cry.
I hadn't been able to cry since the day my friend died. Christopher was my soul mate and my soul was broken. Paul came in and kneeling down by the rocker hugged me and the baby tight and cried along with us. I don't know how long we sat there, but we remained that way until every last tear was shed. Maddie was finished eating and after I adjusted her and myself, Paul kissed my cheek and took the baby back to her crib for me. When he returned, he sat on the sofa and asked softly, “Can I still visit you and Maddie from time to time?” I told him he was always going to be part of our family and that I expected him to visit often. He smiled and promised that I'd see him so much I'd probably get tired of his face.
He made good on his promise. He stopped by regularly, sometimes two or three times a week and even when he moved completely to London, he flew in for a week's visit every couple of months. I told him he would always have a place to stay when he was in town. We had a long discussion, before he left, that Maddie would remain with me and when she was older, we would share joint custody, which both of us felt was the right thing to do and Christopher would have wanted it that way.
And he was here now for Maddie's first birthday. The night before Paul arrived, he called to tell me when his flight would be in and I asked if he would be bringing anyone with him in case I needed more groceries. He said that he would be alone and was still single and probably would be for some time. I understood that, completely; Christopher had that much impact on both of our lives.
So here we are. All of our friends and family in the same room; even my dad, who hated flying, made a special appearance to see his grandchild. And as we all fit snugly in the living room, singing 'Happy Birthday,' I felt a sense of love so overwhelming that I knew it had to be Christopher's presence and this was confirmed by the joyful look in Paul's tear filled eyes and knew he felt it too. Smiling brightly for the first time in a long time, my thought was, “Our family is complete once more.”