By shiny, you know I mean chorus boys wrapped in sparkling swim trunks, right?
His response appeared only a second later. This is why we’re friends.
We were led to our seats shortly after. With the way Max was looking at me from across the table—like nothing would please him more than to spread me out in front of all these people and have me for dinner—I hoped I’d be able to make it through the next two hours.
I opted for clam risotto with bacon and chives, and Max ordered a creamy fettuccine with asparagus. The waiter brought a bottle of pinot noir and held it out for Max’s inspection. Max smiled and then motioned for him to show it to me—which was ridiculous considering I barely drank—but my eyes widened in recognition. It was the same wine we’d had at the quiet dinner after our wedding at city hall. My husband was so getting laid tonight.
The waiter smiled and began to remove the cork. “It’s an amazing choice,” he said, wedging the bottle between his knees to get a better grip. He laughed nervously and jostled the opener, but it didn’t seem to want to budge. “Wow, it’s really stuck in there.”
“Maybe if I—” Max started to say, but the cork came out with a wet suction and both the waiter and Max eyed it dubiously. It was black with sludge.
“Oh,” both the waiter and I said in unison. Max looked like someone had just popped his balloon.
“This is a pretty bleak metaphor,” I joked, but Max’s expression told me he didn’t think it was remotely funny.
“I’m so sorry,” the waiter said, and looked around as if someone would be standing there to help him. “This bottle is clearly off. I’ll just go get you another.” He paused, and I knew right away that it wasn’t a good sign. “I just remembered, that was the last one.”
“No worries, mate,” Max said, glancing through the wine menu. “Happens to all of us. We’ll just have a bottle of the MacRostie instead.”
The wine had been poured, and I tore off a small piece of warm bread while we waited for our meal. “So how was Anna today?” I asked.
Max looked at me over the rim of his glass, mouth turned up in a teasing smirk. “I believe there was to be no baby discussion tonight, Mrs. Stella,” he said. “But since I relish the chance to talk about our daughter, I’ll tell you that she was perfect, as usual. Mum quite enjoys having her there. Not to mention Will, even if he does nothing more than sit and make ridiculous faces at her from across the table.”
As if on cue, my phone vibrated next to my plate and I glanced over as the screen lit up.
Your daughter is not impressed with Ryan Gosling. This is clearly your husband’s DNA. Attached was a photo of the two of them on the couch, Anna making a hilariously frowny face at the camera.
I showed Max and typed out a quick reply, before placing my phone—facedown—on the table.
Max reached for my hand and took it in his, rubbing his thumb over my wedding band. “It’s okay to look at your phone, you know. This is our first night out without her. It’s all right to feel a little anxious. I’m a little anxious.”
“You don’t look it,” I told him. “You never do. I swear you have a poker face like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
“I don’t know about that. Seems I couldn’t keep anything from you, now could I? Quite certain you knew I was ass over tits for you within a few days of meeting.”
“You played the rogue part pretty well, though. Even I—” My phone vibrated again and I bit back a groan.
It was more movie commentary from George, and honestly, if the accompanying pics weren’t so adorable and I didn’t love him so much for doing this for me, I’d probably offer to buy him a car to lose my number for the next forty-five minutes.
Has Anna been fussier than usual? Or doing this thing where she pulls her body up into a little bit before kicking out and crying?
“Was Anna fussy today?” I asked Max, suddenly worried that I’d missed something being away.
“Maybe a tad more toward the end of the day, but nothing big. Was just ready to go home, that’s all.”
Not that we’ve noticed, I typed. Why? Is she ok?
I’m sure it’s nothing, came George’s reply. Her tummy feels a bit noisy to me, so I’m going to do a little baby massage on her. See if we can get all those gas bubbles gone.
“She’s not feeling well,” I told Max. “I mean, he thinks it’s just gas but, I don’t know.”
“Would you feel better if we left, Petal?” he said, concern growing in his features.
“I don’t know.” I didn’t, I wasn’t sure if this was one of those moments where I needed to tell the overprotective side of myself to calm down, or give in to the worry pressing on my chest. A baby cried from somewhere near the back of the restaurant and I squeezed my eyes closed. Of course this would happen now. I could already feel the way my breasts felt heavier, tender. My milk was beginning to let down and I had no baby, no pump anywhere in sight. The night was going downhill, and fast.
Movement caught my eye, and I felt my shoulders sag with relief as I saw the waiter coming toward us with our dinners.
“Thank fuck,” Max said. “Shall I get them to go?”
The phone buzzed on the table again, so close to my cutlery that it caused a shrill clanking as they vibrated against each other. As he set my plate down, the waiter gave me a look.