“I don’t think it’s about having to share me . . .” I hedged, but Chloe held up a hand.
“I mean it’s about shifting how he sees you,” she said, lifting an arched brow. “First you were the lust of his life, and now you’re the mother of his daughter.”
“Exactly,” she said, a bit more gently. “Having Anna was traumatic. It wasn’t as easy a birth as you both expected. You’ve already forgotten it, but maybe he hasn’t and still needs to get over it.”
Chloe was right. Sex this morning had been wild and hard, as if wanting me took over the part of Max’s brain that told him to slow down. That’s what I wanted.
“When was the last time just the two of you went out?” George asked.
It was his turn for a little eyebrow snark. “Well there’s part of your problem right there, babycakes.”
“Are we just talking wild sex here?” Chloe asked. “Because it’s not like Annabel would have a clue what’s going on.”
“True,” George said, “but it’s probably a lot harder to fuck like wild animals with a baby asleep two doors down. You need a little space.”
He had a point. “I love my baby more than anything in the world, but I want hours and hours. I want to bang my husband until he can’t remember his name.”
Silence bounced around the table for a few breaths.
“Never,” George said quickly. “I think we’re all just working on that mental image.”
“God, I sound desperate,” I say, resting my chin on my fist. “Maybe we should just start with dinner out? I think Max is asking his mom if she can watch Anna this weekend.”
“Otherwise next weekend Bennett and I can help,” Chloe said.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” George cut in. “What am I here for? My subtle charm? My pretty face? What about me?”
“I’ll have you know that my mother ran a day care, and I taught preschool all through college. Hell, I worked in the infant room when I was in high school to pay for majorette class.” Chloe went to respond but he held up a hand: “Shut it, Mills.” He turned to me. “I’ll watch Anna. I can even watch her tonight.”
“You’d watch her?” I asked. “You could really do that?”
“With my eyes closed. Besides,” he said, eyeing the muffins again, “it’s not like I have any kind of social life to speak of. My nights are wide open.”
The smell of home hit me before I’d even walked in the door. My talk with the girls and George had done wonders, and I’d successfully navigated the day with no freak-outs, no tears, and only one breast milk incident when a phone call went long and I couldn’t get to my pump in time. Next time, I’d just do it while I was on the phone. Boom. My friends were right; I’d figure it out as I went.
Basically, I was feeling pretty unstoppable as I rounded the corner, ready to tell Max about our dinner that night. Then I found him shirtless—again—wrapped in nothing but a towel, with a tiny sleeping baby in his arms, and I was ready to forget about dinner entirely and let him get me pregnant again that very second.
“I’m taking you to dinner,” I said. “Surprise! Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m going to need you to put some clothes on for real this time or we’ll never get out of the apartment.”
Max looked up, confused. “Dinner? How did you—?” Sitting up, he said, “And no, I meant to ring you today. I wanted to take you to dinner this weekend but Mum is leaving for Leeds tomorrow. I completely forgot it was in my schedule.”
“That’s what I’m saying: George is watching Anna tonight.”
“Tonight? Has George ever even seen a baby?”
I crossed the room and kissed him softly on the mouth. “Hi,” I said, and kissed him again. “I know what you’re thinking, but it’s perfect.” I took the sleeping baby from his arms and leaned in, pressing my face to her soft little head, breathing in as much of her as I could. She had Max’s hair for sure, only a shade darker than mine but already with a bit of a wave to it. Her clean-baby smell hit me, and I felt my breasts grow heavy, my milk letting down almost immediately.
A chair Max brought me from England sat tucked beneath the window in the nursery. It was my favorite place in the apartment, where I was able to look out over the city while I nursed. I got Anna situated, and then looked up at him.
He clearly thought I’d lost my mind. “Are we talking about the same George?”
“I had breakfast with everyone this morning before I went in to work. Did you know that George’s mom ran a day care while he was growing up? He worked there while he was in high school and all through college. He worked with infants.”
He gave me his best skeptical face. “We’re talking about the same twenty-something bloke who wore a Wisconsin cheese hat and some flowy Jesus robes for Halloween, calling himself ‘Cheesus’?”
“The one and only,” I said, laughing at the memory. “He’s probably more qualified to take care of her than we are. Plus we’ll stay close. Just around the corner. He can text or call with any questions and we can be back up here in less than three minutes.”