Phoebe gave Geraldine a smile as the woman entered her bedroom. “It’s great having you here; like we’re one big family.”
Geraldine snorted, carrying a tray of food to the end table. “How are you feeling?”
“Not much better than yesterday, unfortunately…” Phoebe eyed the bowl. “What’s that?”
“It’s rice porridge with no seasoning.” Geraldine poured Phoebe a glass of water and extended it to her. “By the way, you should schedule an appointment–”
“I know the drill,” Phoebe cut in, taking a sip of the water. She lowered the cup to her lap and sighed. “I just don’t want to…”
Geraldine arched a brow. “Why not?”
“Too scared. Scared it’s another false alarm.”
Both women looked at each other, both aware of Phoebe’s struggles to hold a pregnancy. Even the night before, Abe seemed more worried than hopeful and the family wasn’t as joyous as a normal family would be with that type of news.
Geraldine reached over, placing a hand over Phoebe’s. “I can go with you, if you want.”
Skepticism was plain on Phoebe’s face. “You think I should go?”
“I do. What if your baby’s waiting to be acknowledged by you both? You’ll want to be ready for when he or she comes.”
Her optimism drew a tentative smile on Phoebe’s lips. “To be honest, I couldn’t sleep last night and I think neither could Abe. He kept sighing, thinking I was asleep… It’s weird, trying to pretend that we’ll be okay without kids of our own, but I know he wants one.”
“And you do too?”
Phoebe nodded emphatically. “Oh yes. In fact, the moment he asked me to marry him, I already imagined the five kids we’d have.”
Geraldine choked a shaky laugh, drawing her hand back. “Five?”
The woman grinned unabashedly. “Already had their names picked out…” Then her smile waned. “But three of those names were taken after…” Her gaze lowered.
Geraldine placed her hand back over Phoebe’s. “Don’t think about that.”
“How can I not?” Phoebe’s voice trembled. “We have three children in heaven, and I’m scared that this one too…”
“What name?” Geraldine spoke up. “When he or she is born, what will you call him or her?”
Phoebe’s eyes swam in tears. “I wanted to continue the naming scheme, so Isaac.”
Geraldine nudged her hand. “That’s a fitting name, don’t you think? Abraham had Isaac after a long time of waiting.”
“Oh.” Phoebe’s eyes widened. “Oh!” Then she threw her arms around her friend, not caring that she’d spilled the water onto her bed-covers.
Geraldine wrapped her arms around Phoebe and let her weep, saying nothing for the woman who’d called herself barren as Sarah had in the Bible. “We can go after you get ready.”
Phoebe nodded, holding onto Geraldine tight as she shed tears held in for so long. Once her sobs subsided, she drew back and gave her friend a wobbly smile. “I’ve made up my mind. You have to be my sister-in-law.”
Geraldine frowned and lowered her hands. “That’s flattering but I can’t accept.”
“Oh come on. If Bart bothers you, you can marry Junior.” She nudged Geraldine, half-joking.
“He doesn’t bother me…” Geraldine mumbled, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, not in the way you’re thinking.”
Phoebe sobered, peering down at Geraldine. “Then what is it? Why won’t you accept his heart?”
Geraldine shook her head. “It’s not because I don’t want to.”
“Then say yes, Geri. He wants you.”
A lone tear slipped down her cheek and she averted her face. “I can’t…”
The desperation in her tone disturbed Phoebe and made her seize Geraldine by her shoulders. “What’s going on, Geraldine? Why won’t you accept him?”
Geraldine squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m scared.”
“…scared he’ll hurt you too?”
The disbelief in Phoebe’s voice drew Geraldine’s eyes to her face. Phoebe shook Geraldine, her face tense. “Don’t be ridiculous! Bart wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“Not now, no,” Geraldine insisted. “But when I disrespect him–”
“Since you two met, you’ve fought like cat and dog.”
“Exactly!” Geraldine answered. “That’s what scares me.”
Phoebe eyed her incredulously. “That you’re passionate people? I don’t see what’s wrong with that, Geri… Heck, I wish Abe was a little fiery.”
Geraldine shivered. “You don’t understand. We fight more than we agree.”
“That’s because you’re frustrated that you can’t express yourself fully and so is he. Half of your arguments are because you’ve misunderstood each other.” Phoebe eyed her warily. “He believed you liked Abe for years and was a jealous idiot because of it.”
“I know.” Geraldine’s cheeks warmed, ducking her head in shame. If she was honest, she paid Abe more attention when Bart noticed, just to get a kick out of his reaction. Her face screwed up. “I’m afraid of what I could provoke out of him. He’s fine now until I make him crazy with rage.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Geri.”
Geraldine looked up, meeting Phoebe’s stern expression.
“No woman has that kind of effect on a secure and stable man. Bart is more even-tempered than you think. He won’t be driven to unstable emotions just because of you, provoked or not.”
Heat flooded her cheeks and she looked down. Did she dare believe Phoebe?
“Mark my words, they’ll be married by Thanksgiving,” Phoebe vowed, tugging the end of the thin quilt. She glanced over to her husband who stared at her with an expression she couldn’t decipher. She tucked the quilt’s end under the mattress. “Tuck in your side.”
Abe’s eyes remained unblinking on her face.
She placed her hands to her hips, head tilted in silent question. “What?”
Without a word, Abe then rounded the bed and approached her.
Even after three years of marriage, Phoebe’s heart still skipped beats whenever he came near. Like now; her heart raced. She closed her eyes and tilted her head upward, awaiting his kiss.
It didn’t come. Phoebe lifted one eye open and saw Abe was smiling, making no move to kiss her. She opened both eyes and pouted. “What?”
His hands slid over her bare arms. Even with the air conditioner set below 70° and vents were opened fully, she still felt hot at night–side effects of this pregnancy. Abe grinned fully, pulling her into his arms.
Phoebe quietly rested her cheek to his chest, content to listen to the steady beat of his heart. She closed her eyes, reveling in the strong yet gentle warmth that was her husband.
“I love you.”
She smiled; he’d echoed her thoughts exactly. “I love you more.”
He dipped his head, planting a kiss on the sensitive spot between her neck and her shoulders. “Impossible,” he mumbled against her skin.
Phoebe slipped her arms around his narrow waist and hooked her fingers together, locking them as one. “You’re happy?”
His kisses stopped, though his lips tarried against her skin. He sighed. “Not sure yet.”
She opened her eyes but didn’t draw back to look at him. “Why?”
“I don’t like watching your heart break.”
It still could, an ugly voice whispered in Phoebe’s head and she shoved it aside. Too late though because she thought of their first child, Fiona, who was just 27 weeks when she lost her. Phoebe could still remember the hollow feeling in her womb, the gush of warm blood–
“We’ll be okay,” Abe’s firm yet gentle voice broke through the horrible memory. His hands rubbed her back, drawing her deeper into his warmth. “We’ll be okay.”
She sighed blissfully. He was a sturdy foundation in the midst of her chaotic thoughts, and she couldn’t imagine being married to someone that was easily provoked as she. “I love you, Abraham.”
He kissed her ear. “I love you more, Phoebe.”
She giggled and he chuckled. Then she sighed. “Do you think they could work it out?”
“Your brother and Geri, do you think they could get married?”
“That’s up to them, Phoebe.” Abe drew back then, eyeing her warily. “Right now, settling this issue with her in-laws is top priority.”
Phoebe scowled. “Oh phooey! I hate them.”
Abe snorted. “You hate no one.”
“Fine, I strongly dislike them.” She stepped out of his arms and perched on the bed. “But what can we do? I don’t see them letting up on this issue even if they return to Peru next week.”
He nodded, his expression thoughtful. “One of my boys, he’s a civil rights attorney. Good guy. I’ll talk to him tomorrow; see if he can help us make sense of this whole thing.”
“Well we better figure something out and soon. Darah and I have a November wedding to plan.”
Abe scoffed incredulously and poked her cheek. “Busybody.”
She stuck her tongue out at him and bit back a laugh when he leaned over. “Be careful, the baby.”
He lifted his weight almost instantly, and Phoebe regretted alarming him. Concern etched his angular features as his gaze swept over her flat stomach and up to her face. “You okay?”
“We’re fine.” She placed her hands on his shoulders and pulled him close. “Kiss me, Mr. Teka.”
His boyish grin returned and Phoebe sighed with bliss as he obliged her.