Posted on: 2012-09-02
I don't remember when or how I met George. I don't remember not knowing George. He's just always been there, the same as my parents or my sister. Sure, he lived on the other side of the ocean, and I didn't see him as much as I saw my biological family, but that doesn't matter. George and his family have always been there.
My mother grew up with George's mother. They were childhood best friends who did everything together-until Madeline Clancy moved to England and married Henry Knightley. But they stayed friends and made sure that they saw each other as much as possible. And so, my sisters and I saw George and his siblings as much as we could-usually two or three times a year.
But George and I really grew close when I was twenty-seven and he was thirty-two. I had just finished my PhD in literature and had accepted my first teaching position at the University of Michigan. That same year, George left his position at the University of Virginia for Ann Arbor, and we decided to room together as friends.
It was a good arrangement for both of us. He didn't care (too much) about my personal life, and I didn't care about his. George, for some strange reason, didn't really date. And when I dated Paul Churchill, a chemistry professor, on and off for most of my first two years in Ann Arbor, George kept his opinions on Paul to himself. I knew they didn't like each other very much, but they remained civil when I was around.
All of this remained constant until the spring of 2012. Seven things happened between January and May. Firstly, Paul's older brother, Weston Churchill, married my best friend, Hannah Taylor on New Year's. I was the maid of honor; Paul was the best man.
Three weeks later, Hattie Smith and Blake Elton went on the first of three dates. I thought this was an amazing idea; George thought it was a nightmare.
Thirdly, at the beginning of February, George left to spend a semester as the faculty advisor for a study-abroad group in London. He was still paying rent on the apartment, but I was staying there alone. When George left, Paul told me that this would be "heaven for us."
Fourthly, Valentine's Day happened. On Valentine's Day, Paul took me out for dinner, wooed me in the most romantic way possible, took me back to my apartment for more of his so-called heaven, and then left around one in the morning after finding an old shirt of George's in my bedroom and declaring our relationship to be "too constraining."
Next, Blake terminated his relationship with Hattie because she was "too juvenile" and started dating the "more mature" Gus Hawkins. And yes, Gus was a woman. Her full name was Augusta Georgia Hawkins. Her parents were apparently big golf fans. Apparently.
On St. Patrick's Day, I spent most of the day throwing up. I never touched a sip of alcohol all day. I just had the flu. I swear.
And the seventh event was my discovery on April Fool's Day that I was pregnant. Paul immediately informed me that I should just "do the sensible thing and take care of everything quickly. Neither of us needs any complications in our life right now. Our careers are far too successful for children at the moment."
But I exerted what George called "the infamous Emma Woodhouse stupid-stubborn pride" and told Paul that I didn't need him. I would raise the baby without him. He laughed at me and told me that I was ruining my own career. "And don't think that Knightley will help you," he replied. "He might be head over heels in love with you, but even he isn't dumb enough to raise another man's baby. Just because you two have that dumb marriage pact, even that isn't enough to keep the noble Knightley around."
"Oh go blow it out your ear," was my parting comment.
And on June 21, 2012, George Knightley came back to Ann Arbor. And I had to tell him everything that had happened while he was gone.
Posted on: 2012-09-08
Being five years older than me, George Knightley had always been taller than me. But by the time I was in high school, I had finally accepted the fact that he would always stand at least a head taller than me. Part of this acceptance meant that I finally (at age fifteen) stopped standing on my tiptoes around him or jumping up and down in front of him in futile attempts to be taller than him.
But when I picked him at the airport on that bright June day, the sheer force of George Edward Knightley struck me. Just his mere presence struck me. I saw him before he saw me, and the sight of him overwhelmed my senses. Tall, blonde, vivid blue-gray eyes, and a warm smile that lit up his tired, thin face-it was all there in front of me for the first time in four unbelievably long months.
"Emma," he breathed. "My gosh, it is so good to see you. How are you?"
I waved my hand. I had so much I needed to tell him, but now was not the time. "I'm fine. But how are you? How was your flight? Are you tired? Do you want to go home? Am I asking too many questions?"
He laughed. "I think you are, but it's fine. I'm doing well. Now let's go home, shall we?"
"That sounds great," I replied, grabbing the handle of one of his rolling suitcases. "Follow me."
"So, Em," George began after I pulled the car out of the parking garage. "How have you been? What have you been up to in the past four months while I was gone?"
"Was it really four months?" I asked. I still hadn't figured out how to spring my pregnancy on him.
"Did it feel longer or shorter?" he teased. "Come on, Em. Fess up; you missed me, didn't you?"
I laughed. "I definitely missed you. Life was lonely without you."
"You were lonely? Where was Paul? Did you two break up again?" His voice took a warning tone on the final question.
I took a deep breath. "You could say that."
He paused. "Em, what's that supposed to mean? Did you or did you not break up with Paul?"
"Well, he broke up with me this time," I replied softly.
"It's his loss," George replied quickly. "I've been telling you this for ages. You're an amazing person, and you deserve to be with someone who appreciates you, who cares about you."
"Well, he made it pretty clear that he doesn't care about me anymore," I muttered.
"Emma Clare, what's going on?"
I sighed. "It's complicated, George. I'd rather not talk about it while I'm driving if you don't mind."
"Can we talk about it when we get home?"
I looked at his compassionate face. It was the same gentle face that had told me twenty months earlier, during a previous breakup with Paul, that if we were both still single on my thirtieth birthday (July 19, 2013, if you care) he would marry me.
"Sure, we can talk about it at home."
I managed to evade talking about "it" with George until nine-thirty that night. When we got home, he unpacked his luggage, started a load of laundry, and then collapsed for a three-hour nap. After his nap, he switched his load of laundry into the drier and found his way into my bedroom where I was reading.
"Okay, Bean, spill. What happened with Paul and why is there actual healthy food in the fridge? I know you didn't just go out and buy real food just because I was coming home."
I sighed and put down my book. "George, I need to talk to you about something serious."
He sat down on my bed. "You can tell me anything. You know that."
"I'm not sure you're going to like this one."
He shrugged. "You've told me lots of things I didn't like, and I've always survived."
"This is a little more serious than my confession that I don't understand a single thing about soccer."
George grinned. "You were nine, and I think we've cleared that one up pretty nicely. So what is going on, my friend?"
I chewed on my lip, trying to think of the right words. I'd spent most of the past two months trying to find the perfect words to say this in a way that he would understand and accept. I'd even written some down and practiced saying them in front of the mirror. But in that moment, they all fled my brain and only two words slipped from my mouth. "I'm pregnant."'
"Repeat that again, slowly and enunciate a bit more. I could have sworn you just said you were pregnant."
I sighed. "I did."
"And Paul is the father?" he asked coldly. He sat up straight and pursed his lips.
He clenched his jaw. "I see. So that would be why he broke up with you?"
I shrugged. "Sort of, he initially put us back on hiatus after he found your Arsenal shirt on the floor in here on Valentine's Day night."
I could have sworn that elicited a momentary smirk on George's face. "And why was it in here?"
"I might have missed you," I replied softly. "And Paul might have misread that and ended our relationship."
His visage turned cold again. "But you're pregnant?"
"Four and a half months pregnant, yeah, and he wants nothing to do with the baby or me, but I don't particularly care. I told him it's my life and my baby and if he doesn't want to be involved, then I don't need him."
"Oh, Emma," George said softly. "Why didn't you tell me before now?"
"I don't need your pity," I replied firmly. "I can take care of myself."
He scooted closer to me on the bed. "I know that full well. But we're friends. I could have been a better friend to you these past few months."
I shook my head. "I've been fine."
"Okay, Em," he replied. "But I'm here now. And I'm not going anywhere."
"You don't have to," I started.
George shook his head. "Em, you're my best friend. I'm not going to hang you out to dry. And if you want, I'm going to help you get child support out of Paul."
"George," I said. "That's really not necessary."
"Children aren't cheap," he replied.
"I know that," I replied with a sigh.
"So make him give you money. It's his kid too."
"But I don't want him involved my baby's life," I protested, putting a hand on the soft swell of my stomach.
George sighed. "Em, I get that. But it's his kid too. He should have to bear some consequences for his actions. It's not like he's poor and he can't afford to do this. Last time I checked, Paul Churchill was plenty loaded."
"He told me he wanted out of all responsibility."
"And you're just going to let him get away with that?"
I sighed and threw myself back against my pillows. "George, I'm exhausted. And you just got home from England. You don't have to solve all of my problems in one day."
"You're my best friend, and I was gone for almost five months. I'm trying to help you."
"Then support me," I replied from my nest of pillows. "Hold my hand and listen to me whine. Please don't stat trying to fix my problems right away."
He sighed and squeezed my hand. "I'm sorry, Em."
I smiled weakly. "I know you are. But I need you to be patient with me right now."
"I'll try. But you know that I hate Paul. This isn't going to make any of this easier for me."
I laughed. "Please don't kill him, George. Please don't. I don't know what I'd do if you ended up in jail."
He laughed and lay down next to me. "Em, I'll do anything you want me to do and be there for you as much as you need me to be."
"Just be my friend," I said softly.
He kissed my cheek. "Always, Emma, I'll always be your friend."
Posted on: 2012-09-30
Before I go any further with this, I ought to explain the origins of the marriage pact. It all started when I was twelve and George was seventeen. No, it started even earlier than that. When I was four and George was nine, I kissed him during a family dinner and announced that someday I was going to marry him. He told me to stop licking people like I was a dog.
But back to when I was twelve. My parents were having marital problems, and so they sent me to England to spend the summer with the Knightleys so they could work on their marriage. George had a girlfriend, and I had a crush on George. I was heartbroken, but I was determined to hide it from everyone-especially George.
And that worked beautifully until the day he found me in the backyard crying. I wasn't crying about him; I swear. But I was in the backyard crying because I was convinced that my parents were going to get divorced. And George came and sat down next to me, put his arm around me, and told me that no matter what happened, I'd always be his best girl and he'd never let anyone hurt me.
And I told him that I'd never marry him because he was too nice to marry. He laughed and told me to let him know how that worked out for me.
After that, we didn't talk about marriage much for the next fifteen years. I occasionally wondered why he had never gotten married, but I never got the nerve up to ask him. He did date; he wasn't a hermit or anything. But nothing ever got serious.
And then came the night when I broke up with Paul in November of 2010. It was the only one of our break-ups that I ever initiated. I was twenty-seven; George was thirty-two.
We were in the living room of the apartment we shared. George had done most of the decorating of the lofty, rustic space. Few people who visited us ever believed that my tall, thin, very masculine roommate could have decorated this space that seemed to have been ripped from the pages of an Anthropologie catalog. And so I just took to smiling and blushing whenever anyone complimented me on the space.
But there we were. I remember that I was wearing a baggy, navy blue sweater; I'm sure that I had Kleenex stuffed up the sleeves. George was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, an odd outfit for his gangly frame, but that was his style. I even remember that I had bright pink nail polish on my toenails, but I don't know why that detail stuck with me over so many years.
"Em, why are you angry?" George asked as I sniffled my way through Sleepless in Seattle.
I shook my head. "Maybe I'm dumb, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, he could be the one."
"Why did you think that?" his voice was surprisingly soft and gentle.
"I know you didn't like him," I began harshly.
"No, this isn't about me. I just want to know why you thought that Paul was the one. What made him so special at first? And how did that change?"
"Good gravy, it sounds like you're writing essay questions about my relationship."
George laughed. "Well, I have given a few essay-based exams in my life."
"So what do you want to know, Professor Knightley?"
"What do you want out of life, Em?"
I sighed. "I don't know. I want to be happy. And I want to be loved. I want to be safe, taken care of-you know. I want things to always be like this."
He smiled. "You want to spend the rest of your life living in this apartment with me?"
"Well, maybe not in this apartment, but I really do enjoy living with you."
"Then marry me," he replied without a touch of humor in his voice.
"I just broke up with Paul. I can't marry you."
"I'm not suggesting that we run down to the JP tomorrow and tie the knot. But in a couple of years, we could get married."
"Maybe," I replied casually as if this was a totally normal idea.
"It's just an idea," he said.
I smiled. "Let's make a deal."
"Oh dear," he sighed. George had heard far too many preposterous ideas come after that phrase.
"Hey now, listen to me. I think this is a good idea."
He smiled. "Okay, spill."
"I propose that if we're both still single when I turn thirty we should get married."
"Are you serious?" George asked.
I nodded. "As the grave."
"Okay, then I consent. But are we getting married on your thirtieth birthday or during the year following that birthday?"
"On my thirtieth birthday, we'll hop down to the Justice of the Peace and do the deed."
He extended his hand. "Let's shake hands on it then, shall we?"
I smiled and shook his hand. "I doubt anything will ever come of it, but it's nice to have a plan in place."
We then wrote the whole pact down and signed it. Then we put it in George's copy of his favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing.
At some point along the way, we amended the pact to include two children in the deal because we both wanted to have a family. I wanted kids of course, and George was born to be a dad. He needed a daughter. A daughter (or two) would complete him.
Anne Shirley once remarked that tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it. And that's what I was looking for the next morning. I just wanted a good, peaceful day. I wanted things between George and me to be the way that they'd always been.
But I was pregnant. And that was not the way things had always been. That was a change, something that could get in the way of my friendship with George. Nevertheless, I was hopeful and determined that things wouldn't change.
But some things must change. The cup of coffee that George had always made me wasn't on the kitchen counter when I stumbled into the kitchen that morning. "No more coffee," he told me when I looked at him grumpily. "I made you tea instead. It's better for the baby."
I took the mug of tea from his hands and smiled. "Thanks. I appreciate it."
He smiled. "Someone has to take care of you, pumpkin."
"Why are you calling me pumpkin?"
George shrugged. "It's a nice, cutesy name. It's perfect for you."
"So you're not calling me big and round?"
He chuckled. "No, not at all, I think you're adorable."
"But I'm going to get big and round soon. And statistically speaking, I'll be very emotionally insecure about it. And then you won't think I'm adorable."
George smiled. "Em, you're my best friend. I'll always think you're adorable."
"Even when I look like I've swallowed a pumpkin?"
He smiled before coming around the counter and hugging me. "No matter what happens, I'll always think you're the cutest little Emma Woodhouse ever."
"Even when I'm not little?"
He held me close and kissed my nose. "Em, you're my best friend, and I've known you since you were a baby. I will always think you're beautiful. And I'm actually kind of excited for you to have a baby. I think you'll be a good mom."
I looked up at him. "Do you really?"
He smiled. "You love kids. Kids love you. You are one of the most caring, compassionate people I know. You will be an amazing mom I know."
"But I'll be alone."
"No you won't, pumpkin. You'll always have me."
"Always?" I repeated. "Will you be in the delivery room, holding my hand the entire time?"
"You can cuss me out and break my hand if you need to," he replied.
I looked him in the eye. "And this doesn't change anything about the pact, does it? You'll still marry me if I'm single on my thirtieth birthday even if I have a baby, won't you?"
George nodded. "If you insisted, I'd marry you tomorrow, but I doubt that you'd agree to that."
I shook my head. "I can't marry you right now. I'm not good enough for you. I need to grow up and heal from being with Paul before I can marry anyone."
He pressed his lips together and nodded. "Of course, I don't understand, but I can accept that."
"Thanks, George," I replied. "Thanks for being the best friend in the history of the world."
You're probably wondering why I was so steadfast in refusing to marry George then and there when I was perfectly willing to marry George in the future. I can try to explain that. I idolized George at a certain level. I had put him on a pedestal. George Knightley, in my opinion, was perfect. He wasn't like Paul Churchill who had gotten me pregnant only to bail on me. He was steady and constant. He would be there for the long haul. And I didn't think that I was worth of that. I saw him as too good for me.
I think that at some subconscious level I knew that he was in love with me and I reciprocated those feelings. But that was all very subconscious in those days. I wasn't ready to acknowledge the fact that I was in love with him and he was everything I wanted in life. I was too angry with myself for having gotten into the whole mess with Paul in the first place. And while I was open to the baby I was carrying, I viewed myself as somehow tainted by the time that I had spent with Paul.
"George," I called loudly one morning about two weeks after George's return from England. "Can you please come here?"
"Where is here?" he yelled back.
"My bedroom," I replied.
"Why do I have to come?"
"Just come here and I'll explain."
Two seconds later, George's blond head was poking into my room. "What do you want?"
"I need help buttoning my pants."
"You need what?" he asked.
"Help buttoning my pants," I repeated. "They won't button because my belly is too big."
He sighed. "Can't you just wear something else? Wear a dress or something, Em."
"George, I have a doctor's appointment today. I want to wear pants. So please help me button my stinking pants."
That just elicited another sigh from him. But he did walk into the room. "Okay, show me what I need to do."
I pulled up my shirt slightly. "See my pants. Button them."
"On one condition," he replied.
"What?" I barked.
"After your doctor's appointment, you have to buy at least one pair of maternity pants."
"Fine," I sighed. "Just button me up."
"Ask nicely, Emma Clare."
"Please button me up, you idiot."
He complied and then pulled my shirt down over my belly. "I think you look cute."
I put my hands on my belly. "I think I look fat."
"Nah," he replied. "You're still my adorable Emma."
"And you're still full of it."
"Whatever," he replied. "Let's just get ready for your doctor's appointment."
"You're coming with me?"
"Well, duh, I have to be there when you find out if you're having a boy or a girl. That is one of my official duties as your best friend."
I smiled. "You're the best. "
George stood up, rolling his eyes. "Well duh; that is part of my job description as your best friend. If I am your best friend, I must be the best."
"And you love it. Otherwise you wouldn't keep me around."
"You keep me from being bored. I just keep you around for your entertainment value."
George snorted. "Well, gee, thanks. I feel the love. Maybe I won't go to your appointment with you or stick around to see the baby born. I mean, if I'm just here for entertainment, I've got to be pretty darn easy to replace."
I sighed. "George, you shouldn't believe everything that I say. I know I don't listen to half of it. "
Posted on: 2012-10-20
George was a patient man. He was a calm man. He was a kind man. He was a good man.
However, he was not a man who liked it when other people sat in his favorite recliner in the living room.
I learned this the night that we found out that I was having a girl. I was curled up in the recliner and reading Death Comes for the Archbishop while drinking a mug of mint tea.
And then George came into the living room.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked me, leaning against the top of my chair.
"Reading," I replied without looking up.
George sighed. "I know you're reading. What else are you doing?"
"Attempting to ignore you."
"Emma, you are sitting in MY chair."
"Oh," I said casually. "I suppose I am. Is that a problem?"
"Is that a problem?" he repeated, seemingly befuddled. "It's my chair, the chair that I bought with my own money, my favorite chair. It's my chair, and I want to sit in it. But I can't because you're sitting in it. Of course it's a problem."
"But I'm pregnant, and it's a comfortable chair." That comment was accentuated by my attempt at puppy-dog eyes.
He sighed. "Are you going to use pregnancy as an excuse for everything now?"
I rolled my eyes. "George, I am pregnant. And it is a very comfortable chair."
"I know that it's a comfortable chair, and I would like to sit in it."
I sighed. "So despite the fact that I'm pregnant and I finally got comfortable, I have to move just to make you happy?"
"Yes," he said firmly.
"All right," I said, starting to sit up. "But I would just like you to know that Baby does not approve of this."
"Tell Baby that it's nothing personal. I just want to be comfortable."
I stood up and moved to the couch. "Fine, but Baby says that she'll remember this at three o'clock in the morning when you have a class to teach at eight o'clock the next morning."
He rolled his eyes. "The baby is not vindictive. That's her mother."
"She's a girl, and I'm her mother. Of course she's vindictive."
George laughed as he sat down in his recliner. "Good gravy, you are ridiculous, Emma Clare."
"I'm pregnant. You have to humor me. Besides, I'm pregnant. I'm pregnant and I have to tell my parents."
"You haven't told your parents yet?" he asked.
I shook my head.
He took my hand and squeezed it. "They're your parents. They adore you. Just tell them. You're five months pregnant. They're going to notice."
"Not if I just avoid them until after the baby is born," I replied.
"And then you're going to hide the baby for the rest of her life?"
I sighed. "Don't bother me with trivialities."
"Em, you're pregnant. They're your parents and they love you. They'll be thrilled that you're having a baby."
"They won't be thrilled that I'm a single mother. "
"You've got me by your side. You'll be fine. They'll be thrilled."
I snorted. "George, you know my parents. They won't be thrilled about the baby. My mom will use this as yet another excuse to point out why my dad shouldn't have gotten custody of me after the divorce. And my dad will use this as another reason how my mom failed our family and let us all down when she left him for John. This will just be another example of how freaking dysfunctional my family is."
"Em, you don't have to tell them about Paul. You can say that it's my baby."
"Umm, moron, you were in England when I got pregnant. This is not your baby," I said, resting my hands on my belly.
"Em, we could lie to your parents."
"Wait, St. George Knightley is promoting lying?" I teased.
"Okay, so maybe we shouldn't lie to them directly," he replied with a firm look in his eyes. "It will just be a lie of omission. You'll tell them that you're pregnant and due in November. You'll mention that you and Paul broke up for good back in the winter. I'll be there with you and acting very supportive of course. Naturally, Chuck and Dianne will use this information to deduce that we are together and that I'm the father of your baby. And we won't do anything to contradict this."
I smiled. "Why are you always so helpful?"
"So that you forget that I stole the recliner from you," he replied with an impish grin.
I'm not going to lie. At that moment, I totally wanted to kiss him senseless. But that was totally just the result of pregnancy hormones messing with my brain. Totally.
Two days later, I had lunch with Hannah Taylor-Churchill and Hattie Smith. Hannah and I had been on shaky terms since Paul and I broke up. While we were still friends, Paul was her husband's brother, and that made things a bit sticky between us. I had managed to keep my pregnancy from her thus far, but now it was inevitable that I would have to tell her. And knowing Hannah's sentimentality, she would insist that there must be a way for Paul and I to make peace for the sake of our child. She wouldn't like the idea of George taking Paul's place in the baby's life while I didn't think that Paul had any sort of place in the baby's life other than that of an anonymous sperm donor.
And Hattie was despondent over her "breakup" with Blake. Sure, they'd only had a few dates, but to Hattie, that might as well as have been seven years of marriage with three kids. "I just want a real man," she sighed as soon as we were seated and the hostess had given us our menus.
" A real man?" I asked with a sigh. "I'd love to know where I could find one of those."
"Oh please," Hannah snorted. "You live with George. He is the most perfect man alive. I mean, sure, Paul and Weston are probably more attractive, but George is simply amazing. They don't make them like him anymore."
"He is gorgeous," Hattie sighed. "I'd date him. But I'm still hoping I could get Blake back."
"But you guys broke up ages ago," I said. "Do you really think that you want to get back together with some guy you went on three dates with back in the winter?"
"It was winter and spring," she protested. "And besides, Emma, I know you don't understand this, but he's my soulmate. He's my Prince Charming, my one true love. I know that we are destined to be together. We're like Hannah and Weston and you with Paul. We are soulmates."
I sighed and rested a hand on my belly under the table. "Hatte, I've told you that Paul and I are over."
"You guys have broken up before though," Hannah protested. "And you always get back together. You guys are destined."
"No, we're really not," I began.
Hannah held up a hand. "It's destiny. I know you don't believe me, but it is. You're my best friend, and he's my husband's brother. It is destiny, sweetie."
I sighed. "I know you mean well, but seriously, Paul and I are over for good this time."
"You guys broke up on Valentine's Day over George's shirt. It's just a dumb little shirt. Inevitably, you will be back together," Hannah protested.
"Exactly," Hattie agreed. "I know that this thing that Blake is doing with Gus is just a phase, and someday soon he'll find his way home to me."
I couldn't believe she still thought that. She had gone on three, count them three, dates with Blake. He had been dating Gus for four months. There was no way she was going to get Blake back now that he was in the clutches of Augusta Georgia Hawkins. But I wasn't about to tell her that; Hattie wouldn't listen anyway.
"The point is, Emma," Hannah said. "This is destiny. You two are meant to be together."
"No, we really aren't," I said. "I know that for sure."
"How can you know that?" Hannah demanded.
I sighed and rubbed my bump, which was still hidden under the table. "Paul doesn't ever want to have children. He told me that a few times over the past few years, but he made it infinitely clear in May. He never wants kids, and I can't live like that."
"Maybe he'll change his mind with time," Hattie offered sweetly.
"I don't think there is very much time left for him to change his mind," I said softly.
Hannah's face was suddenly concerned. "What happened now?"
"I'm pregnant," I told her. "I'm five months pregnant, and while the baby is Paul's, he has absolutely no interest in the baby."
"I'm sure that if you talked to him," my friend began.
I cut her off. "I have talked to him. He told me to terminate the pregnancy and save us both the hassle."
"Well, then, I'll have Weston talk to him. I'm sure he'll change his mind."
I sighed. "Hannah, please don't do that. Paul doesn't want the baby. I don't even think he wants me. But George has promised me that he'll be there for me the whole way."
"I knew he was the perfect man," Hattie sighed. Sometimes, I was pretty sure that she had the emotional depth of a thirteen-year-old girl reading a Nicholas Sparks book.
I shrugged. "I don't know if he's perfect, but he's pretty darn amazing."
"So you're going to marry George now, right?" Hattie inquired. The eager look on her face quite honestly reminded me of a beaver; her buckteeth did not help her in that regard.
I shook my head. "No, we're just friends. He'll be there for Baby and me no matter what. But we're just friends."
"He's so dreamy," my younger friend sighed. "I would love to marry a man who is as faithful, devoted, and gorgeous as George Knightley."
"I cannot understand why you're still friends with Hattie Smith," George sighed when we were making dinner together that evening. "She's immature and ridiculous."
I laughed. "Funny, I'm pretty sure I've heard her describe you as a dreamboat a few times."
He snorted. "A dreamboat? Me? Ha, I knew she was dumb."
I smacked him. "George, that's horrible."
"Okay, she's not dumb, but she sure isn't a genius either. And furthermore, I am not a dreamboat. I'm a tall, skinny blond guy. I'm pretty bland to be honest."
I laughed. "Personally, I think you're pretty darn amazing."
He shrugged. "I'm just an average guy trying to make his way through life."
"Maybe that's how you see yourself, but to someone trying to navigate her way through a difficult time in her personal life, you're a hero."
George smiled one of his rare real smiles. "So, my dear damsel in distress, when would you like this hero to go with you to talk to your parents?"
"We're meeting my dad for dinner on Monday," I began. "And we're having dinner with my mom and John on Wednesday. If that works for you, that is."
He pulled out his iPhone and scrolled for a few seconds. "Yep, I'm free both nights. I'll be there, holding your hand and doing anything else you need."
"See, you really are utterly amazing," I sighed.
He smiled. "But I demand that you give me Tuesday evening free to go out with Rob Martin and have real man time."
I laughed. "Real man time? That's what you call it?"
He shrugged. "I need time when I can burp and drink beer and have fun."
"And you can't do that with me?"
"Em, it's nothing personal. But I feel guilty drinking around you when you're pregnant. And I know you; you don't like burping."
"It's gross," I said.
"So you've told me a million times. And that's why I'm going to go out burping with Rob on Tuesday."
I raised my eyebrows. "I hope you have fun."
He grinned. "Oh trust me, Emma Woodhouse. I will."
Posted on: 2012-12-08
Summer wasn't all fun and games for me as a college professor. I had to teach a three-credit summer course during July and August. It met twice a week for three hours. I was teaching "Jane Austen and Her Heirs: Female Writers in the Pre-Feminist Era." It was an upper-level course, something not normally taught in the summer, but students had been requesting it pretty frequently. It was also my first time teaching it, but mercifully, Mark Williamson, Michigan's Austen expert, was letting me teach from his notes and letting me call/email him whenever I needed.
I knew that I ran the risk of running into Paul if I went to campus, but I didn't really have much choice in the matter. I worked on campus. And it's a big campus so there was no guarantee that I would see him. But there was also the eternal promise that if you're trying to avoid someone, you will inevitably encounter them at the exact moment when you did NOT want to see them.
And that would be exactly what happened to me the morning of my planned dinner with my dad. I stopped to grab a cup of tea on my way to my class-only to run into Paul in line. I was determined to ignore him, but that failed when he turned around and looked at me. "Oh," he said flatly. "It's you."
I shrugged. "It's me, the same boring old Emma Woodhouse."
"You're pregnant," he continued in the same flat almost disinterested tone.
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," I replied.
"I thought I told you to get rid of it."
"You did, but I don't have to do everything you tell me to do."
Paul rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but you should listen to me when I tell you that I don't want to have kids."
"And you're not going to have kids. You're just a random anonymous sperm donor. I'll be raising the baby myself. You won't be involved at all."
"Will George be involved?"
I snorted. "Paul, George is my best friend. He's my roommate. Of course he's going to be involved in my baby's life."
"Is he going to act all baby-daddy for your baby?"
"To be honest, that's none of your business. You're not involved in this situation anymore and what I do is none of your business."
"You're willing to let someone else raise my baby."
"You don't want the kid so I don't see how your opinion makes a difference in this situation."
Paul shrugged. "I just don't like the idea of you and George together."
"You walked out of my life, Paul. You don't get to make that decision anymore."
He sighed. "I see your point, but if you and George raise this child together you'll probably name it something literary and bonkers like Alice-in-Wonderland or Ishmael."
"Well, Alice is a darn sight better than Ophelia," I replied. "Maybe we'll pick that instead of OpheliaÉalthough I was rather coming to like the sound of Ophelia Georgia Woodhouse."
Paul's jaw dropped, which allowed me a moment to turn and see Mark Williamson walking into the shop. Seeing Mark wasn't much of a shock since he and his wife owned the Knit 'n' Lit, a small caf/bookshop/yarn store near campus. It was a quirky, sweet place and one of my favorite escapes in Ann Arbor. But that morning, Mark's warm smile was the most welcome sight on earth. But surprisingly, Mark had something even that was more welcome to me. "Whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese and a cinnamon-vanilla latte," he said, holding out a cup and a bag to me. "It's on the house, kiddo."
I smiled. "Thanks, Mark; you're a peach. I'll pay you back sometime soon."
"No worries," he replied. "I can handle the hit of a free breakfast for Emma Woodhouse every now and then."
"I'll still pay you back when I have a chance. And tell your lovely wife I said hello. I'll have to call her and arrange a meeting of the Austen heroines sometime soon."
He laughed. Mark's wife, Lizzie Bennett-Williamson, and I had bonded over our Jane Austen-inspired names at a faculty meet-and-greet when I first arrived at Michigan before Mark and Lizzie were married. Ever since they, we've tried to have a sort of support group for each other. George likes to tag along since he also has a name ripped straight from the pages of Austen. However, unlike Lizzie's name and mine, his name was unintentionally Austentatious; George was named after his grandfather, George Clancy, rather than a character in a novel.
I worked all day. It was exhausting to teach a three-hour class. It always has been, but it's harder when one is pregnant. By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was crash into George's recliner and go to sleep. Unfortunately, when I got home, George was in his recliner, asleep. He had a dried drool trailing down his chin and a copy of Titus Andronicus on his lap. He was, in short, adorable.
So I resisted the temptation to wake him up and went to my own room. I threw myself on my bed with my laptop, intending to check my email. Instead, I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew, I could hear George's voice in my ear. "Wake up, sweetheart. We need to leave for dinner with your dad in fifteen minutes."
I pulled my arms out from under my pillow and stretched. And then I punched George in the face. I covered my face and gasped, "Oh gosh, I didn't mean to hit you. Are you all right? Did I hurt you? Are you okay? I'm sooo sorry."
George laughed. "I'm fine, Emma. It's nothing time and love won't fix."
I ran a hand over his jawline and smiled. "I'll always love you. Now lay down with me. I'm cozy here."
He laughed and lay down next to me. "You look adorable, Emma-Clare, but we need to leave soon."
I stuck out my bottom lip. "I don't want to tell my dad I'm pregnant. I want to stay here and eat brownies."
"Mark called and said you saw Paul this morning," George said.
I sighed. "Mark called you?"
My best friend shrugged. "He told me a few days ago that he'd been seeing Paul around the Knit 'n' Lit a lot lately, and he and Betsy were concerned. So I asked them to keep me posted if you ever ran into him there."
"Because Mark thinks of you like you were his little sister," George replied with a smile.
I sighed. "Good gravy, Mark already has four sisters. Why does he need me too?"
"He doesn't need you, Em, but he wants you to be his sister because he cares about you."
"Like you," I said.
"Sort of," George replied. "Now get up and get dressed. We need to leave in about, oh, say, eight minutes."
"You're late," my dad announced as soon as we were on his front porch. He had been watching for us from the front porch. He lived, and still lives, in an enormous colonial-style house that he and my mom built when my younger sister was born. After their divorce, he had kept the house so that my two sisters and I would always have a place to call home.
"Sorry, Mr. D, but we hit traffic," George said flatly. "You know how rush hour can be."
"You should have factored into your plans when you were leaving."
"Yes, we should have, but Emma was exhausted and desperately needed a nap."
"Oh, Emma, my dear Emma, you work too hard," my dad said, turning to hug me. "How are you? Oh, you look like you've gained weight. Haven't you been watching what you eat? You don't want to get fat, Emma."
I sighed and looked at George. "I suppose we ought to just tell you, Chuck. We were going to wait until we got to the restaurant, but I suppose that now is as good of a time as any."
"What are you going to tell me? You wanted to have dinner with me to tell me that Emma's gaining weight?"
"No, Daddy," I sighed. "We wanted to tell you that I'm pregnant."
"But that's impossible!"
"How is it impossible?" I replied. "George and I are adults who live together. Adults can have babies. I'm having a baby. I'm due in November."
"But you're my baby."
I sighed. "Daddy, Cassie is your baby. And she's twenty-six. I'm almost twenty-nine years old. And I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby."
"And we're very excited about it," George added, taking my hand.
"Very excited," I repeated.
My dad shook his head. "I don't like this. This is something that your mother would do, having a baby when you're not married. A baby is a big deal, Emma. Are you really sure you want to do this?"
I sighed. "Yes, Dad, we're very sure that we want to have this baby together. And we're not going to get married just because I'm pregnant. And we think that we can take care of a baby and do a good job of it."
"If you're certain," my dad sighed. "But I'm still against it."
If you care, he spent the entire two hours we were at dinner talking about the price of raising a baby and the dangers children face and the dilemmas of educating children in today's world. And when we dropped him off back at his house, he still wasn't convinced that George and I were mature enough to raise a baby. And he was very concerned that I was going to get fat.
My mother, on the other hand, was thrilled. "A grandchild to spoil," she replied with a grin. "I can't wait to buy the baby all sorts of wonderful things. Are you having a boy or a girl?"
"A girl," George told her.
"Marvelous," she beamed. "I'll have so much fun spoiling her. And hopefully for you George, she won't be like Emma was as a child."
"You always said I was a good baby," I protested.
"Oh you were. You were a marvelous baby. You were sweet and you loved to sleep. You were so much better than Cassie and Bella. Cassie didn't sleep through the night until she was about a year old. And Bella was a sickly baby. And of course your father spoiled both of them. But you, you were a sweet and happy baby. All you wanted was a clean diaper and a full stomach."
"Then what was wrong with me?" I asked.
My mother took a sip of wine. "Oh, as a baby, there was nothing wrong with you. It was when you got older that we had issues. You were stubborn, and you had quite the temper if you didn't get your way. We used to joke that you had all the personality of a bulldozer."
"But she was cute," George said. "You were a cute little kid."
"Great, I was a cute bulldozer."
"So you haven't really changed all that much," George teased.
I sighed. "You're going to earn a ton of early morning feedings if you don't watch it, buster."
My roommate and best friend put his arm around my shoulders. "You know you love me."
I smiled. "I can't help myself. It must be pregnancy hormones."
"You two are going to be wonderful together, " my mom said with a smile. "You're going to have an amazing life. And you had better name that baby after his mother and not me because I hate my name."
We laughed at that because we had to, but as we laughed, I felt the baby kick. And I wondered if, perhaps, we were supposed to name the baby Madeline like my mom suggested.
Posted on: 2012-12-23
When I was two years old and he was seven, George's family spent Christmas in Michigan. George and his brother, John, were always running around and playing. And naturally, my older sister, Bella, was included in everything because she was five, like John, and "old enough to play." I, on the other hand, was not allowed to play because I was "slow and boring and chubby, and besides, Mum, she chews on everything. And you can't understand a single word she says. It's awful. She's so annoying. But she is cute. She has the most adorable eyes in the world. But she's annoying, seriously annoying."
I highly doubt that seven-year-old George ever would have guessed that someday, we'd be living together and raising child together. Mercifully, I no longer chewed on everything, and apparently I had outgrown being boring. However, I was becoming chubby again-at least from my own perspective. While George disagreed, I spent much of July and part of August complaining about being fat.
"You're adorable," George replied to one such rant. "You're pregnant, and you're showing, and I think you're gorgeous."
"I'm fat," I replied, slapping my growing belly ruefully. "I mean, look at my face. My face is getting fat."
"You have dimples again," he replied. "Dimples are cute on you."
"And I've gained twenty pounds."
"You're pregnant. There is a baby growing inside of you. Of course you're going to gain weight. That doesn't mean you're getting fat. It means you're growing a baby inside your body."
"I'm not quite six months pregnant, and I've already gained twenty pounds. What am I going to do in the next three months?"
"You're going to be fine," George said. "You're beautiful. And after the baby comes, you can lose the weight if you want. But for now, you're pregnant. Enjoy it."
"Fine," I moaned, flopping on the couch. "Pass the ice cream. If I'm going to gain weight, I might as well enjoy it."
George laughed at me.
"I need to move," I told George one evening in mid-August a few days after my weight-related meltdown.
"You're standing up," he replied from the comfort of his recliner. "How hard is it to move when you're already moving?"
I smiled. "I mean that I need to move to a bigger space."
"What's wrong with this apartment? I like this apartment."
"So do I," I replied, leaning against the counter. "But I need a place that has enough room for the baby and me. This place only has two bedrooms."
"Won't that be fine for the first few months?" he asked. "Won't you want the baby in your room anyway?"
I nodded. "At least at first, I suppose. But eventually, we will need more space."
"Eventually," he replied. "But you don't have to move right now."
I sighed and sat down. "No, but we do need to start thinking about it."
"So you're expecting me to move with you?"
"Of course," I replied. "I thought you wanted to be around for everything."
"I do," he replied firmly.
"And besides, we still have the pact, don't we?" I asked.
George grinned. "You bet. If you aren't married by July 19 of next year, then you and I are going to make this official."
I laughed. "You don't have to marry me, you know."
He nodded. "Oh, I know. You're not forcing me to do anything against my will, Emma Clare."
"I highly doubt that I could force you to do anything against your will."
George smiled. "It is highly unlikely."
Three days after that conversation, I had lunch with Betsy Williamson, Hannah Taylor-Churchill, and Hattie Smith. Hattie was full of some guy she'd met two nights earlier named Rob Martin. Rob was, as it happens, one of George's best friends. He was a research analyst, and I never completely understood what he did. But he and George were good friends, and so I just let him be.
Hannah was thrilled because she and Weston had decided to start trying to have a baby. She wanted to have a girl first. "I mean, boys are wonderful, but I'd really love to have a girl first. I want a girl who can be West's princess. But I do want a boy later."
"Girls can be wonderful," Betsy said softly. She had four sisters and now a daughter of her own. "But boys have a charm all their own."
"Well, I'm starting with a girl," I inserted, resting my hands on my firm belly. "And we'll see what, if anything, comes later."
Hattie sighed. "You and George will definitely have more children. I mean, it's you and George. You guys will be perfect parents. You have to have more than one kid."
"I'm glad to know that Mark and I won't be perfect parents," Betsy said, bouncing almost eight-month-old Natalie on her lap. "It takes so much pressure off my mind."
"Oh, it's nothing personal," Hattie protested. "It's just that you know George and Emma. They'll be the best parents ever. This baby is so lucky to have them."
"Whereas Mark and I will probably screw our children up by exposing them to too much coffee or yarn or too many books," Betsy said.
Hattie sighed. "I'm not criticizing you. I just think that Emma is perfect. If it makes you feel any better, I think that Mark is better looking than George."
I laughed. "Hattie, it is a truth universally accepted that Mark is the most attractive man on earth. He looks like Henry Cavill's twin brother; he's gorgeous. George, on the other
hand, looks far more like Laurence Fox than Henry Cavill. He's tall and angularly thin and his ears stick out." I didn't, however, admit to them that as my pregnancy progressed I had been finding myself more and more attracted to George-angular thinness and all.
"And he has one of the kindest hearts on earth," Betsy said. "Mercifully, he doesn't have Mark's temper."
"But Mark makes better coffee," I said.
"Hey, I thought you weren't supposed to be drinking coffee while you're pregnant," Hannah scolded.
I shrugged. "That's more George's rule than my rule. I'm trying to reduce my caffeine intake; he's trying to eliminate my caffeine intake."
"It's better for the baby if you don't have caffeine while pregnant." Hannah's voice began to take on a maternal, preaching tone.
"And it's better for the baby if I'm not exhausted, overwhelmed, and cranky all the time. The caffeine stays," I replied firmly.
Betsy smiled. "You don't need to worry. I drank coffee when I was pregnant with Natalie, and she seems to be doing just fine."
"I'm sure that Emma's baby will be perfect just because she's Emma's baby," Hattie sighed.
Hannah shrugged. "I just want you to have the healthiest baby ever."
"I'm doing everything that the doctor tells me to do," I replied.
"I'm just sick of people telling me how to manage my pregnancy," I told George that evening. "I'm sick of being told what to eat and what to do and what to drink. I just want to enjoy being pregnant without worrying about what everyone else thinks."
"But people love to give advice," my roommate replied, sitting down next to me. "And for some reason, everyone loves to give pregnant women advice. My mom sent me an email of ten helpful hints for pregnancy the other day that she wanted me to pass on to you."
"Why didn't you give it to me?"
He shrugged. "I figured you'd find it intrusive or annoying or over-the-top."
"What did she stay?"
"She talked about the amount of water you should drink and how much exercise you should get," he said.
I scrunched up my nose. "No thanks. I've heard all of that from my doctor."
He patted my belly. "I think you're doing a fabulous job taking care of Baby."
"Even if I am getting fat?" I said, semi-jokingly.
George laughed lightly. "You're not fat. You're lovely."
"I just feel all big and blech right now," I told him. "And hanging out with Hattie and Hannah doesn't help. They've got these perfect bodies. I mean, Hattie can eat anything and it won't do a thing to her. I never could eat like that. I never was a stick. And now, I'm big, and I'm only going to get bigger between now and November. I know you think I'm still lovely, but I just don't feel very lovely right now."
"Come here, Emma Clare," he replied.
He put a long, thin arm around my shoulders. "Because you are lovely, and I am going to make sure that you don't forget it."
I sighed and buried my face in his bony shoulder. "You don't have to do this, George. I know what I look like."
"I don't think you do," he replied, his breath soft again my ear. "I don't think you know how gorgeous you are. I don't like stick-thin girls like Hattie or Hannah. I love your curves. I love your dimples when you smile."
"I hate my big butt," I sighed.
"Too bad," he said, his hand sliding lower on my back. "I love it, and I would miss it if it was gone."
"You like my backend?" I asked.
George smirked mischievously. "Real women have curves, Emma Clare."
It was probably just second-semester hormones, but when he said that, I really wanted to kiss him. I wanted to really kiss him and kiss him good. But instead, I just buried my face further into his shoulder.
George ran a finger down my cheek. "Emma, what's wrong?"
I poked my head up. "You're embarrassing me."
He smiled that mischievous grin that was totally not helping my pregnant hormonal brain. "I think you're cute when you blush."
"You're not helping me at all," I replied.
A concerned look fell on his face. "What's wrong? I just want you to know how beautiful you are."
And then my hormones overtook my better sense. "I really want to kiss you right now."
George's reaction was thoroughly unexpected. He leaned his face down next to mine. "And why is that a bad thing?" he breathed.
I didn't answer him. Instead, I kissed him.
When we pulled apart, I ran to my room and shut the door. I had probably just ruined my relationship with my best friend.
Posted on: 2012-12-29
After kissing him, I was determined to avoid George at all possible costs. I was convinced that I had ruined our friendship with my behavior and that there was no way George would ever want to see me again. I hid my room or on campus as much as possible and did everything in my power to avoid speaking to him. He tried to talk to me, but I would only give one or two word answers. I knew he was getting frustrated with me, and after about three days of this, I was expecting him to confront me about my behavior.
But on the morning of the fourth day after my rash kiss, I stepped on the bathroom scale after my shower to discover that I weight 171 pounds, thirty-one pounds more than I had weighed in February. And I started to cry. I sat down on the floor and sobbed.
It wasn't seven in the morning yet, since I had to be on campus before eight o'clock. George didn't have to be up at any particular time since he didn't work on Tuesdays, but I was not so lucky.
And I was even more unlucky when George came into the bathroom wearing only a pair of low-riding pajama bottoms. "Emma, it is six-forty in the morning. What on earth could have gone wrong this early in the morning?"
I glared at him. "That thing says I weigh one hundred-seventy pounds."
"And you're six months pregnant," he replied, slowly lowering himself to the floor. "What's wrong with weighing one hundred-seventy pounds when you're six months pregnant?"
I sighed dramatically. "I'm fat, George. I'm a big, fat whale. I'm only six months pregnant and I still have three more months until the baby comes. If I've already gained thirty pounds, how much more weight am I going to gain? Am I going to become obese?"
He tentatively put a hand on my arm. "Emma, we keep coming back to this. You think you're fat, and I think you're lovely. I think you're attractive, and I don't understand why you're hiding from me."
"Because I kissed you and I'm an ugly, fat whale," I blubbered back.
George moved his hand from my arm and put it around my shoulder. "Why is it a problem that you kissed me?"
"Because I'm an ugly, fat whale," I repeated.
"That's a load of crap," he replied. "You are stunning. I mean, right now, your face is a little tear-stained, and your eyes are a little red from crying, but that's no big deal. I think you are lovely."
I put my hands on my belly. "Even with this?"
"Good gravy, Emma," he sighed and put his free hand on my belly. "I don't mind this one bit."
"But I kissed you."
"Again, I don't see why that's a problem. We're already planning on raising this baby together and probably getting married next summer. What's wrong with a kiss?"
"Because you're not in love with me and I don't know if I'm in love with you or if that was just the result of pregnancy hormones."
He smiled. "I'm not saying we need to define our relationship right now, but there was nothing wrong with that kiss. I have no objections to kissing you every now and then as the urge hits or sleeping in your bed sometimes if that makes you more comfortable."
I smiled and leaned my head against his chest. "You're perfect; you do know that, don't you?"
"I snore," he replied.
"As long as I have earplugs, I'll survive."
"Oh good," he said with a smile. "Now, will you and Baby be able to make it through the day without me to hold your hand all day?"
I nodded. "Please just keep reminding me that you think I'm beautiful."
"No problem, sweetie," he replied. "I have no problems reminding you of the truth. But maybe we should hide the scale from now on?"
"But how will I know how much I weigh?" I asked.
George laughed. "Emma, I don't want you to know how much you weigh if you're going to keep having meltdowns over your weight. You're pregnant; enjoy it."
"George told me to enjoy being pregnant and not worry about my weight," I told Betsy Williamson over lunch the next day.
"That's good advice," she replied.
"But I'm getting fat," I protested.
"You're pregnant. It happens."
I sighed. "Betsy, I've gained thirty pounds already, and if I gain another thirty in the next three months, I'll weigh two hundred pounds."
"Full disclosure, Emma," Betsy said. "I gained almost seventy pounds when I was pregnant with Natalie, and eight months later, I still haven't lost all of it. Nursing helps. Exercising helps. But losing seventy pounds is hard."
"I know," I sighed morosely.
She smiled. "But Mark doesn't seem to mind a little extra padding around my midsection or thighs. And from what you're saying, I don't think George is minding that on your body either."
I put my hands on my belly. "I just don't want to end up being Hattie or Hannah's fat friend."
She laughed. "I have a sneaking suspicion that Hannah will end up gaining just as much weight as you or me when she gets pregnant. She talks a good game, but she's used to eating whatever she wants, and someday that may backfire for her."
I smiled. "I kind of hope you're right."
Betsy smiled. "George is right. Enjoy being pregnant. Don't overdo it, but don't deny yourself all pleasures just because you're afraid of the scale. It's just a number. And you can lose the weight after you give birth."
"George, we need to start talking about baby names," I announced on Friday in late August.
"Georgia," he replied without blinking.
"I am being serious," he said. "And if you don't like Georgia, there is always Georgiana."
I sighed. "George, we're not naming the baby after you."
He pouted. "You're no fun."
"Do you have any serious suggestions?"
"Alice," he replied.
"No," I said firmly. "I'm not a big fan of Alice."
"What about Nora?"
"Maybe," I said. "Add it to the list."
"What names do you like?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I like Madeline."
"That's a possibility," he replied as he pulling out his phone.
"And I like Beatrice."
George grinned. "I love Beatrice. It's an awesome name."
"Or there's also Audrey," I said.
"Slow down," he said. "I'm making a list in my phone. So far I have Nora, Madeline, Beatrice, and Audrey."
"I think we like old-fashioned names," I commented.
"I think we do. What do you think of Jane or Frances?"
I shook my head. "They're too bland."
"What about Amelia?"
"Amelia Pond," I said.
He laughed. "So are we keeping it?"
"Naturally," I replied with a smile.
"Do you have any other ideas?"
"Never," he replied.
"But that was my grandma's name."
He shook his head. "I hate that name. It sounds like a grandma name and not a baby name."
"What about Evelyn?" I asked.
George smiled. "I like Evelyn. That was my grandma's name."
"There's always Felicity."
"Uh, no," he replied. "We're not naming our daughter after a WB show."
I laughed. "How do you feel about Charlotte?"
"It's a maybe."
"Another maybe," George replied. "How do you feel about Abigail?"
"That's Paul's mom's name."
"Well, strike that from the record. We're definitely not naming any of our kids after anything even remotely connected to Paul Churchill."
"Aren't Baby and I at least remotely connected to Paul?" I asked.
He sighed. "I suppose. Why don't we rephrase to we're not naming any of our kids after any members of Paul's family or anyone else to whom he is particularly close?"
I smiled. "I'll agree to that. Hannah might not like it, but I'll agree to it."
"Who cares what Hannah thinks?" George replied. "She married West. And while West is a perfectly nice guy and I like him, he's still Paul's brother and that makes me not like him so very much."
I shook my head. George had never been a big fan of West, Hannah, or Paul. "We'll stick with the list, and we won't ask Hannah for any input on Baby's name. Can you live with that?"
He shrugged. "I suppose so."
The Friday before Labor Day, George and I had to attend the English department's semester opening party. The party was held at the department chair's home, and under our current department chair, Chris White, it was a lovely affair. I was looking forward to the delightful company of colleagues such as Art Johnson and Mark Williamson. (In case you haven't picked up on this before, I love working with Mark Williamson. I've heard it said that there are two kinds of geniuses-those who make you feel like you can never be enough and those who help you to become better at whatever it is that you do. And Mark is decidedly of the second kind; working with him makes me want to be a better instructor and a better researcher. He's also a great friend.)
While I was looking forward to the event itself, I was not looking forward to buying a dress to wear to the party. It was a casual event, held as a strolling supper in the Whites' backyard. But it was expected that men would wear shirts and ties while women ought to wear dresses or nice slacks with a dressy top. I opted for a dress-even though I didn't own any maternity dresses.
So, I plucked up my courage and called in Hattie Smith to go shopping with me. I figured that Hattie was a sweet soul and she would have fun shopping with me.
In retrospect, this was a poor choice. Hattie did enjoy the outing-immensely, in fact. I, however, did not enjoy it one bit. Yes, I found a dress. But I didn't enjoy spending two and a half hours at the mall listening to Hattie prattle about her potential future with Rob Martin. She enumerated on each of his good points. He had no flaws; of that she was certain. He was far superior to Blake Elton in every way imaginable. In fact, every major world religion was probably at that very moment considering elevating Rob to sainthood-or perhaps even declaring him a god. She had even decided that they would have three children together-two sons and a daughter. They would name their sons Jacob Robert Martin and Mason Edward Martin. And their daughter would be named Bella Anastasia Martin. When I pointed out that Bella Anastasia's initials would spell BAM, Emeril Lagasse's signature phrase, she told me I was being too practical and not having enough of an appreciation for romance and true love. No, they had to name their children Jacob, Mason, and Bella. It was fate. "We're destined to be together," she insisted. "This is like Edward and Bella, West and Hannah, you and GeorgeÉit's fate. He is my soulmate."
And this was all after going on two dates with him. Hopefully, it's needless to say that she drove me nuts. I don't believe in fate or destiny. I just believe in the power of perseverance and endurance. And all I really wanted was to find a beautiful navy blue dress that would look classy with black ballet flats and my most comfortable black sweater.
I did find the dress. It was simple and elegant, and it didn't scream, "Behold, I am almost seven months pregnant and I wear 170 pounds." George told me that I looked "ravishing" in it. "In fact," he told me while I was getting ready for the party. "The dress is giving me ideas. It's got just the right amount of cleavage. It's telling the world that you've got curves. And it's got some good old-fashioned Emma Woodhouse flair."
I smiled. "Hattie made me try on so many dresses. She said I was being too conservative and apparently being discreet with your pregnancy is pass. Nowadays, you're supposed to flaunt your baby bump to the world."
"I hate the term baby bump," George sighed.
"I know. You've told me before," I said, resting a hand on my large belly. "And besides, this is way more than just a bump. This is more like a hill than a mountain."
He smiled and put his hands on my belly. "It's our baby, and I love her."
I put my arms around his shoulders and pressed my face against his neck. "You're amazing, George. You are an amazing man, and I'm so lucky to have you in my life."
He kissed my forehead. "Are you ready to go to the party?"
The party was fine. You could have even described it as lovely. Sure, it was a little awkward how almost every single woman felt the need to touch my belly and offer me a few words of advice about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. I had been confidently assured by five different women, four of whom have never had children, that I had to go with a midwife and a water birth. "It's just more natural that way," Dr. Joan Wright told me. Dr. Wright was known for being a devout feminist who had never married or had children. "It allows you to have a more intimate connection with your child and your partner starting at the moment of birth."
"But is it safe?" George asked.
"Of course it is," the older woman replied with a reassuring smile.
"Thank you for the advice," I said. "But George and I are going to make this decision on our own based on our research and the input of medical professionals we know and trust."
"Wow," George said as we walked away. "That might be the most diplomatic thing I've ever heard you say, Emma. I'm impressed."
"It's all Baby. Apparently, she's very diplomatic, and so she expects her mother to be diplomatic too."
He snorted. "You're ridiculous, Emma Clare."
"And yet you still love me."
"More than you could ever understand," he replied.
I smiled and leaned my head against his shoulder. "I do appreciate you, George."
"And I appreciate your appreciation."
Before he could say anything more, Art and Ellie Johnson came up to us. Art and Ellie are Betsy Williamson's godparents. They're in their mid-seventies, and Art is probably the oldest professor in the English department. He only teaches two classes anymore, but his two sections of Shakespeare's Tetralogy: Fact vs. Fiction are always the first classes to fill up and have waiting lists as long as George's leg.
"You two really are darling," Ellie told us, greeting each of us with a kiss on the cheek and not touching my belly. "It's always delightful to see you together."
"We do try to be delightful," I replied. "And we're always glad to see you."
"Then you ought to come for dinner some evening next week," Art said. "We love company. Perhaps we could invite Mark and Betsy the same evening. I love young and lively company."
"That would be wonderful," I said. "We'd love to come. And we're always glad to see Mark and Betsy."
"And Natalie," George added. "We love seeing Natalie. We think she's the most delightful little girl on earth."
"But you won't be holding that view much longer from what I hear," Ellie said. "Someone has been buying up a great deal of pink yarn lately."
"And purple yarn too," I said. "I like pink and purple best on little girls."
"And if this little one looks anything like her mother, pink and purple will be utterly charming on her," George said.
Ellie's eyes glanced over my honey-brown hair and George's dark blond hair, never knowing that the baby could inherit Paul's dark brown hair. "I'm sure that whatever the baby wears she will look utterly charming."
"Well, given who her mother is, she'll have no choice in the matter," George said. "She will be born to be delightful."
"You shouldn't say such things," I scolded. "I'm not nearly as delightful as you think I am."
"Oh Emma Clare," George sighed. "What will I do with you?"
Posted on: 2013-01-08
During the second week of the fall semester, I had a meeting with Chris White to discuss my maternity leave. While it was settled that I would have six weeks from the day I gave birth, we needed to discuss who would cover my classes while I was on leave and how we would handle grading.
"You have essentially two options. Either we can have graduate students cover your classes or you can have other professors each take a section of your classes. Either way, it's probably best if you do your own grading."
"Either option works for me," I replied. "I don't want to create too much extra work for someone else, so I think it'd probably be best to have my grad students do my teaching and then do my own grading with George's help."
"I know that Mark and Art have both said they'd be willing to cover your Brit Lit intensives."
I smiled. "And I appreciate that. But I don't want to put that much pressure on them during the second half of the semester."
Chris nodded. "I understand. Personally, I think it would be best to have your grad students cover your classes for you and then have you do all of your own grading. It isn't ideal."
"But having a baby in the middle of the semester isn't ideal either," I said, resting my hands on my belly. "I know it's not ideal, but life doesn't always go the way you plan."
My department chair smiled. "So you can handle grading the coursework."
"With the help of my grad assistants," I replied. That year, I had three grad students I was mentoring. One was a second-year grad student and the other two were first-years. All three were working on doctorates in nineteenth-century British literature, which was my specialty.
"And you'll have George too," Chris said with an almost teasing smile.
I shrugged. "He will be around."
"And inevitably your mothers will show up."
"I don't know about that."
"Oh trust me," Chris replied. "I have four children and I can guarantee you that mothers always materialize when grandchildren arrive."
I must have grimaced because Chris chuckled. "Those first few weeks will be some of the hardest of your life. The only time that's harder is the week before your oldest daughter's wedding. That week is a little heartbreaking. I know Lisa and I were both a little overwhelmed the week that Rebecca and Oliver got married."
"Chris, I haven't even given birth to this baby yet. I'm nowhere near ready to think about her getting married."
"You'll have to deal with it someday," he said. "And it will be really hard on George. Trust me."
I smiled. "Oh, I have a feeling that George is going to be the ideal daddy to a little girl."
"He will," Chris replied. "I have three daughters, and I can guarantee them that George could potentially be a better father than I could ever been."
I had heard that comment from various people ranging from Hattie Smith to my mother to now my boss. Even George's sister-in-law (and the mother of his brother's children) thought that George would be a better father than his own brother.
"We'll see what happens," I replied casually. "But I do see great potential in him."
When I arrived home that evening, the man of great potential was sitting in his beloved recliner without a shirt on while drinking beer and reading playing Mario Kart. I sighed. "George, do you know what you look like?"
"An exhausted professor who desperately needs an explanation of why he always ends up with classes that are ninety percent female," he replied without looking up.
"No," I replied. "You look like a college student."
"Ouch," he grimaced, dropping the game control and clutching his ribcage. "That hurts."
"Sometimes, they say that the truth hurts."
George sighed, paused his game, and looked up at me. "You look fabulous today."
"Now you're just trying to sweet-talk me after I insulted you."
He shook his head. "Come here. You genuinely look fabulous. Your skin is glowing, and that shade of blue looks stunning with your hair."
"Did you spill coffee on my bed again?" After occasionally sharing my bed with George over the past few weeks, I was starting to wonder if the reason he was perpetually single was his propensity for spilling coffee while having his morning coffee and a novel session in bed.
He grinned. "I didn't do anything too bad."
"Did you tell your mother things like this when you were a kid?"
He laughed. "What do you think?"
"Poor Madeline," I sighed.
"Don't you think you should honor her by naming her first granddaughter after her?" he asked teasingly.
"Okay, shirtless man, what exactly is up with you? You're being odder than normal."
"Odder than normal?" George repeated. "Emma Clare, I'm going to take that personally."
I laughed. "Please do. Now what did you do?"
"I bought pink paint," he replied.
I was confused. "Why?"
"I had an idea. Baby needs her own space. And I'm not exactly sure how we're going to create it in this mousehole, but we'll do it. And we're going to paint it pink."
I smiled as I sat down next to him. "You're a dear. Now put on a shirt."
"Do you want me to stop playing Mario Kart too?"
I rested my hands on my belly and sighed dramatically. "Well, Baby wants to watch Doctor Who, if it's not too much trouble."
"I don't believe you," he replied with his cheeky grin. "I think you want to watch Doctor Who. I think it's far more likely that Baby wants to watch The Princess Bride."
"I'm sold," I replied. "Now put your shirt on."
"You wouldn't tell Orlando Bloom to put his shirt on."
"Well, Orlando Bloom isn't here. He's off with his Victoria's Secret model wife. So, put your shirt back on until he gets here."
"What am I going to do when he gets here?"
"Leave," I replied. "You're going to leave me alone to fulfill all of my Legolas-fangirl dreams."
"You have a thing for Legolas?" he asked. "I always saw you as an Aragon girl."
"Oh tosh," I sighed, putting a hand on his bare shoulder. "I'm a sucker for blondes without chest hair."
"You're describing me," he said. "I'm not sure if I should be offended or not."
"Well, let me know when you decide, but while you're working on that, put the shirt on please."
George laughed and put his shirt back on. I kissed him quickly. It probably wasn't the best thing for him to have me kissing him or snuggling with him if he wasn't attracted to me, but he wasn't complaining, which was a relief.
The first time I ran into Paul during fall semester was September 21. I had successfully avoided him for three weeks, but that Friday, I ran into him after teaching my only Friday class. I had lunch plans with Hannah, and apparently she had decided to invite Paul along. So when I walked into Cosi for lunch, there was Paul sitting at a table with Hannah. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
The minute she saw me, Hannah stood up and hugged me. "It's so good to see you, Emma. You're looking amazing. Paul, doesn't she look amazing?"
"She looks like she swallowed a basketball," he replied without rising.
"Have a seat," Hannah said to me. "Paul doesn't mean that. He's just teasing. I mean, you really do look fabulous. I hope when I'm seven and a half months pregnant, I look that good."
"You're enormous," Paul said to me without a hint of teasing or irony in his voice. "I mean enormous."
I rolled my eyes and rested my hands on my belly. "Thankfully, George doesn't tell me things like that."
"You should have listened to me and terminated back in April," Paul persisted. "Then you wouldn't be letting your figure go to crap like this."
"And I'm out of here," I said as I struggled to my feet.
Hannah put a hand on my hand. "Em, he's kidding. He's just teasing. He doesn't really think you look fat or that you should have terminated the pregnancy."
"Uh, yeah he does," I replied. "Are you listening to him?"
"It's his sense of humor," she insisted. "Paul, tell her that you don't really think that she's fat."
"Hannah, get a clue," Paul replied bitterly. "I told her to terminate the pregnancy, and she didn't do it. And now, she's fat. If she had listened to me, she wouldn't be fat and she wouldn't be having a baby. And she's insane if she really thinks that George is going to stick with her from here to eternity. I mean, has he seen you lately? Sea World has whales who are smaller than you."
"And that's my cue to leave," I said. "Hannah, call me when you're ready to be reasonable."
Half an hour later, I walked into the Knit 'n' Lit to find Jamie Malloy behind the counter and Betsy stocking shelves. "You look like you could use a drink," Jamie said with a warm smile.
I sighed. "I'd love a drink, but unfortunately, that's going to have to wait until mid-November."
He smiled. "Would an Irish cream latte do any good?"
I grinned. "That would be lovely."
"Make her a turkey and pesto while you're at it, Jamie," Betsy called out. "She needs a good lunch."
"How do you know that?" I asked.
"The look on your face, the tone of your voice," she replied. "While Jamie makes your lunch, do you want to come over here and tell me about it?"
I smiled and made my way over to one of the store's comfortable rocking chairs. As I eased myself into it, I sighed. "I know that I still have seven weeks until my due date, but I'm not sure how I can handle it. I'm not sure how I can get any bigger or any more uncomfortable."
Betsy smiled. "Been there, done that; got the baby to prove it."
I laughed. "Where is Natalie?"
"Asleep in the pack 'n' play," she replied. "And let me tell you, Emma. That thing is a lifesaver. That and the sling-carriers make it possible for me to have her at work with me."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Do," Betsy said with a smile. "Now, please tell me what's wrong. Did George do something stupid?"
I shook my head. "Hannah did."
"Oh dear, what did she do?"
"We made plans to have lunch together today, and she invited Paul along in an attempt to broker peace and maybe even a reunion between us. And instead all he did was insult me and call me a whale."
"Jerk," Betsy said softly.
"And I don't even get why she feels this need to broker peace between us. We broke before he knew I was pregnant. And he doesn't want kids. So why does she want to fix us?"
Betsy shook her head. "Hannah is very much the sort to believe in happy families and happily-ever-after. She doesn't understand dysfunctional and complicated like you do. I know that you and Mark both come from broken and semi-dysfunctional families, so you're used to confusing and complicated. You're adaptable to this sort of complication. And George is just plain adaptable."
"He's a chameleon," I said with a soft smile.
She nodded. "He really is. And he understands that you come from a complicated background. But Hannah doesn't get that. She believes in fairy tales. She wants to see you and Paul live happily ever after. She doesn't understand that's impossible."
Just then, my phone started ringing. When I checked the caller ID, I saw that it was Hannah, so I ignored the call. "Hannah," I said to Betsy's questioning look. "Let her talk to my voice mail. This enormous whale isn't ready to talk to her."
Betsy smiled. "You're not a whale; you know that, right?"
"Yeah, but that's what Paul called me, so I thought I'd use it against her for a little while."
"You really are the vindictive middle child, aren't you?"
"I had to be. Have you met my sisters?"
When I got home later that afternoon, George had one question for me. "Why does Hannah keep calling me and asking to talk to you?"
"Because I'm ignoring her phone calls," I replied flatly.
"She said that she wants to talk things through with you."
"Yeah, that's nice," I replied as I plopped on the couch.
"Emma, what happened?"
"She brought Paul along on our lunch date in an attempt to broker peace between us."
He sighed. "Why?"
"I told you. She wanted to broker peace between us. Apparently my baby needs a daddy."
"What am I? A rooster?" he asked.
"Beats me," I replied.
George sighed. Then he asked me a question that I would have found strange from most people, but from him it was completely typical. "You've known Hannah since, what, first grade? And you met Betsy less than four years ago. Why is it that you are so much willing to trust Betsy than you are Hannah?"
"Because Betsy isn't trying to fix me," I told him quickly. "She wants to help me and support me. Hannah is trying to change me. She's my friend, George, but she acts like she's my governess or something sometimes. I don't need her to meddle in my life or anything like that."
George nodded in a way that reminded me that he had known me since I was born. He knew things about me that not even Hannah and Betsy knew about me. He knew that I hated it when people tried to fix me or interfere in my personal life. And he knew that sometimes I just want someone to listen to me and hold my hand. So that is exactly what he did. He knew that I'd talk to Hannah when I was good and ready.
Posted on: 2013-01-26
Unlike George, Hannah did not seem to understand that I would talk to her when I was good and ready. She wanted me to be ready to talk to her as soon as possible. She called me. She sent me text messages. She called George. She sent emails. She wanted us to both know that she was "soooooooooo sorry" and she was certain that if we could all talk she could sort everything ought and make everything better.
"Horse hockey," had been George's reply to one such email. "She betrayed you. She needs to learn to deal with the consequences. It's just part of life."
I nodded. "That's what Betsy says."
"Smart woman," he replied with a smile. "I knew I liked her. To tell you the truth, if she wasn't already with Mark when I met her, I might have tried to marry her."
I looked at him. "George, I don't like that idea."
"What idea?" he asked.
"I don't like the idea of you with Betsy."
I shivered. "I don't know. It just makes me uncomfortable. It makes my skin crawl. I don't know why it does, but it just bothers me."
He smiled. "Well, you don't need to worry about it because she's got Mark already. And I think they're a pretty fine match for one another."
"So, have you had crushes on any of my other friends?" I teased.
"Why, are you jealous?"
"I'm curious, George."
"No, I'm curious George. You're Emma."
I stuck my tongue out at him. "Just behave yourself and tell me if you've had crushes on any of my friends."
"Well, I thought Hattie was cute the first time I saw her."
I was aghast. "Hattie? I thought you didn't like her."
George smiled. "I said I thought she was cute as in attractive, adorable. But then she opened her mouth, and I knew that she was not for me. She talks too much and there's no sense in anything she says. She's just plain silly."
"And whatever I might think, men of sense do not want silly wives," I said.
"Thank you, Jane Austen," George answered with a smirk. "But yes, I don't want a silly wife. I want a wife who will have an intelligent conversation with me about the articles I write, and Hattie probably only cares about articles in People or Cosmo."
I smiled. "George Knightley, you can be nasty when you want."
"When I want," he replied.
A week after our ill-fated lunch, I came home from work to find Hannah sitting outside my office. "Can I help you?" I asked grimly.
"I want to apologize," she replied sweetly. "I'm sorry about Paul. He wasn't being himself. He's just angry. I didn't realize how angry he was. I didn't realize that he would say things like that. I thought he would be more polite when he was face-to-face with you. I thought that seeing you pregnant would help him to move past his anger."
I cut her off as I led her into my office and shut the door. "Hannah, last week was not the first time that Paul has seen me pregnant. He's not going to move past his anger just because he sees my enormous belly or my swollen ankles. He doesn't want a baby. He doesn't want me to be pregnant. He doesn't want a relationship with me."
"He doesn't have to date you. You're not dating George. He just needs to be in the baby's life."
"But he doesn't want to," I replied firmly. "He doesn't want the baby and he doesn't want to be in her life. Nothing will change that."
"But don't you believe in true love, soulmates, and destiny?" Hannah asked.
I shook my head. "Not a bit, have you met my parents?"
"Hey, your mom is happy with your stepdad," she replied.
"And yet none of my mother's children can stand the jerk."
Hannah sighed. "You're not helping."
"Why should I help you prove me wrong?" I asked her.
"Why are the walls in this office purple?"
I rolled my eyes. Trust Hannah to change the subject when things got difficult. "It's not a big deal to me," I replied. "It's leftover from whoever had this office before me. But I fail to see what that has to do with your interference in my life."
"We're friends, Emma. We're supposed to interfere in each other's lives. You interfere in George's life all the time."
"How?" Hannah's hands were set firmly on her bony hips, and she was glaring at me.
"I may interfere in George's life occasionally by changing the brand of coffee we buy or telling him when he should go back to England for Christmas. But I would never do something that he had specifically told me not to do."
"I was trying to help you."
"And you didn't help me!" I yelled. "You put me into a situation where I would get hurt. And I did get hurt. And instead of apologizing for hurting me, you're defending yourself and acting like it's my fault that this happened."
"Well you're the one who slept with Paul. George told you that was a bad idea."
"And you told me it was a good idea," I snapped. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm having lunch with George. I'll see you later when you're ready to apologize."
"Emma," she started, extending a hand towards me.
"No," I said. "I'm done with your act, Hannah. I'm done with your interference. If you want me to be happy, you'll leave me alone. I have George, and that's good enough for me. I don't need or want Paul. And the baby doesn't need him either. Now you need to leave so I can lock up my office."
As I walked out of my office, Hannah followed me out with her mouth just hanging open in the exact way that my father had spent much of my adolescent years criticizing.
Betsy and my sisters threw a baby shower for me the first week in October. It was a great opportunity to see my two sisters, Bella and Cassie. Neither of them lives in Michigan, so I don't get to see as much of them as I might like. But they were both in town for my baby shower and I was really excited to see them-and to see Bella's two daughters, Grace and Norah.
The baby shower was held at Betsy's house, a sweet little place that she and Mark had bought after Natalie was born. The guest list was entirely people I wanted at the shower. Hannah was there, which I was entirely crazy about, but I had put her on the list before our falling-out and I was hoping that we would, with time, be able to heal our rift. Betsy had invited a few family members and my closest friends. It was just the women who I wanted to help me and support me as I brought my daughter into the world.
I wore a plum dress that George told me made me look "utterly fabulous. I mean, to be honest, I'd probably grab you and snog you right now if I thought you wouldn't deck me for it."
I laughed. While I still loved George as my best friend and we were even sharing a bed, the third semester had killed any interest I had ever had in any man. I just felt massive and enormous and ready to give birth. "Yeah, right now, I'd deck David Tennant if he tried to kiss me."
"Now that's a sign that you're just not at all in the mood," George said.
"True story," I replied. "If I wasn't pregnant, I'd let David Tennant do whatever he wanted to me whenever he wanted."
"I really don't need to hear about this."
"But you're my best friend."
George clenched his jaw and shook his head. "That doesn't mean I want to know about how you feel about David Tennant. I know you have a massive crush on him. That doesn't mean that I want to know what you'd let him do to you when and where. I don't tell you about my celebrity crushes."
I smiled. "Sorry."
"It's all right. I just chalk things like this up to pregnancy hormones."
I shook my head. "What are you going to do after I give birth?"
He shrugged. "Then I'll just go back to calling it good, old-fashioned Emma Woodhouse crazy."
I laughed. "George, I don't know why, but some days, I love you more than I love anyone else in the world."
"It's my hair. You love my stunningly blond hair. It blinds you to all other possibilities in life."
I laughed and hugged him. "George, you're the best friend a girl could ask for."
He smiled. "I do it all because I love you."
The shower was lovely. My mom and sisters were so supportive. My nieces could not wait for the arrival of a baby girl cousin; they already have a brother and four boy cousins on their dad's side. Everyone was there to focus on the amazing event that was going to turn my world upside-down in early November. They were also full of advice on how to raise the baby and suggestions for what George and I ought to name the baby.
"Isolde," one friend from work suggested. "It fits perfectly with your degree and George's."
"Or you could go with something out of Jane Austen to fit with Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley," my mom proposed.
"Uh, no," Betsy Williamson said. "I think we need to put that sort of naming pattern out of commission."
"What's wrong with Elinor Knightley?"
Before Betsy could anything, I smiled. "I don't want to say this, but I actually like that name. I like the sound of Elinor Madeline Knightley."
"It is pretty," my mom said.
"Very pretty," Betsy assented. "I have to admit that I really like it."
"I really like Abigail," Cassie told me. "If Jonah and I ever have a daughter, we're totally naming her Abigail."
"Then why do you want me to use it?" I asked.
Before Cassie could answer, Bella had to throw in her two cents. "What makes you think that you and Jonah are ever going to have kids? You guys haven't been together for that long and you don't know how successful things are going to be for you guys yet."
And then my sisters went off on each other in a fashion that only Isabella Woodhouse-Knightley can go off on Cassie Woodhouse. (Bella, if you're wondering, is married to George's cousin, Jack. We try not to copy Jane Austen too much in our personal lives.) Bella and Cassie had spent most of the past twenty-five years vying for attention. As the typical middle child, I spent my life on the sidelines.
But before Cassie and Bella could really start to rip each other's head off, Betsy announced that it was time for gifts.
When George came to pick me (and Baby's gifts) up, his jaw dropped. "How the heck am I supposed to get all of this stuff into the car? And if I can get it into the car, how am I supposed to get this into the apartment? And why does the baby need all of this crap?"
Betsy smiled. "Do you want me to call Mark and have him swing by with the Escape to help you take stuff back to the house?"
"That's not the point," George sighed. "Why does the baby need all of this stuff? What is all of it anyway?"
"Oh, things like a crib and a pack 'n' play and clothes," I replied. "Just the little things that the baby will need. There are sheets and other things for bedding. There are toys."
"But she'll just be a little baby. She won't need toys."
"Not right away," I said, resting my hands on my belly. I was feeling particularly enormous that day. "But she will get bigger and she'll want toys and books. Just ask Betsy. She'll back me up on this."
"We need a bigger place, Emma," George sighed. "We don't have enough room in apartment for the baby."
"I've been saying that for two months."
"And you're right. You're absolutely right."
"Can I have that in writing, signed and dated?"
George snorted. "You're so funny, Emma Clare. But I'll start looking for a new apartment soon. And for now, we need to talk about rearranging things so that we can fit the baby into the apartment."
"Do you want me to call Mark?" Betsy offered again.
As George nodded, Hannah came up next to us. "If you need help, West would be glad to help."
"Mark is enough help, thanks," George replied thickly. He didn't like Hannah or West much before I got pregnant, and now with their connections to Paul, he almost seemed to hate them.
"I'm a helpless, useless whale," I moaned to George that evening. I was sprawled on the couch with a book while he was trying to put the crib together. Mark had offered to help him put it together but George had steadfastly insisted that he was a real man and he could do it without anyone's help.
"I can put this dumb crib together. I don't need anyone's help," George grumbled.
"I'm not talking about the crib. I'm talking about the fact that I can't stand up without help anymore. I'm an enormous whale."
George pulled away from the crib and sat down next to the couch. He rested a firm hand on my enormous belly. "You are pregnant. Yes, you are very pregnant, but still you're just pregnant. In a month, you'll give birth and then you won't feel like a whale anymore."
"Do you promise?" I whined.
He smiled. "You have my solemn word."
"Lovely," I moaned. "But George, how am I going to get bigger?"
"Huh?" he had started to move back to the crib.
"How am I going to get bigger?" I repeated, pulling my shirt up to expose my enormous belly. "The doctor said that I'll get bigger in the next five weeks before the baby comes, and I believe her because the baby has to get bigger before she's born. But I'm huge. Like, I'm enormous. I weigh one-eighty now. And I'm supposed to get bigger in the next five weeks. I don't know how I could get bigger. How can there be more of me? How can I get any bigger without exploding?"
George scrambled back to me and rested his hands on my belly again. "Emma Clare, you are beautiful. I know that you think you're enormous. I know that you feel like a whale right now. But you know what? Your body was designed for this. Your body was made for making babies and bringing them into the world. So if the female body is designed to carry a baby through forty weeks of pregnancy, then somehow your body will continue to expand and grow for the next five weeks. I don't know how, but that's one of the wonders of the female body."
"But I feel fat," I moaned. "My hands are swollen. My feet are swollen. My face is all puffy and fat."
He kissed my cheek. "You are beautiful. I know you don't believe me, but you should."
"It's just weird being this huge."
He smiled as he rubbed my belly. "Oh, Emma Woodhouse, there are some things on which you and I will never see eye to eye."
"I don't know why you put up with me. I'm whiny and cranky and I dated Paul Churchill. You should be canonized for putting up with me. I really don't know why you do it."
"Because I love you," he replied. "I've known you since you were a baby and you've always been lovable."
"Even when I was a chubby, annoying two-year-old?" I asked.
He smiled. "You were a cute, chubby, annoying two-year-old. And now you're a cute, chubby, annoying twenty-nine-year-old."
"Did you just call me fat?"
"Chubby, Emma Clare," he replied, tracing circles on my belly. "And as I've been telling you since you were about fourteen, I like girls with a little meat of their bones."
"But I spend half of my time whining about how fat I am. How can you handle that?"
"It's a combination of love and patience," he replied. "I love you. I'm excited for the baby. And I understand that this is just your personality mixing with hormones. I know that most of this will be gone after Baby comes."
"Baby needs a name," I sighed. "She'll be here in five weeks and we still don't have a name for her."
"Emma," he replied. "After all M and A are the two letters that spell perfection."
"You're pathetic," I moaned. "That is truly awful. I may be a beached whale who whines about her weight all the time, but you are truly pathetic. You have the worst lines of any man alive."
"It made you smile though, didn't it?" he said with a glint in his eye. "You liked it even if you thought it was cheesy."
"I did like it."
George smiled. "Admit it, Emma Clare. You love me, warts and all."
I kissed his cheek and ran a hand over his blond head. "You are the most wonderful man in the world and I would be lost without you."
"Wow," he sighed. "That's a bit over the top but I'll remember that for future arguments. But now, do you have any ideas about Baby's name?"
"What do you think about Elinor Madeline Knightley?"
"No Woodhouse?" he asked.
I shook my head. "I'm going to marry you in July anyway, so why bother with my last name?"
"Emma Clare Woodhouse, I think that you might love me more than you are willing to admit right now," George replied with a smile that some might call adoring.
"I'm raging with pregnancy hormones right now," I replied. "Let's talk about love some other day when I'm not pregnant."
Posted on: 2013-02-04
In mid-October, Mark Williamson raised a concern that neither George nor I had ever really considered. "What will you two if Paul ever comes back and wants access to the baby?"
"George's name will be on the birth certificate and she will have his last name. We'll be fine."
"Emma," Mark replied gently. "The baby will still have Paul's DNA."
"Well, I can't change that."
"No, but you can marry George."
"Would that make a difference?" I asked as I tried to make myself comfortable in my chair. We were sitting in my office talking in between classes on a Thursday in mid-October.
He nodded. "If paternity is in question, it's easier to protect the father's rights if the parents were legally married at the time of birth."
I took a deep breath. " I suppose George and I could just get married at the JP one afternoon. I'd have to talk to him about it first though. And I still want a big, fancy wedding in the summer when I'm not enormously pregnant."
Mark laughed. "Of course, we can't let your wedding planning Pinterest board go to waste, now can we?"
I smiled and blushed. "I want my wedding day to mean something more than a piece of paper, Mark. But I also want to make sure that my baby is safe from Paul."
"Then marry George."
George, to my surprise, didn't protest the idea of getting married in October. He seemed rather nonchalant about the whole thing, if I am being entirely honest. "We'll get married sooner and it'll be better for Baby," he said. "It's fine with me."
"Are you sure about this?"
He shrugged as if getting married was no big deal. "It's not as if we're not already having a baby together. How much of a difference can a piece of paper make?"
"So we'll get married?"
"Sure, next Thursday if you like," he replied.
"I teach all afternoon on Thursday," I said. "How does Friday work for you?"
He pulled out his phone and looked at it for a few moments. "I'm free. Do you want me to see if Mark can be our witness?"
"Tell him to bring Betsy and Natalie with him," I replied. "And then we can go out for dinner or something."
"Don't you have a doctor's appointment that day?"
"At one," I confirmed after checking my phone.
"Then we'll shoot for a four o'clock wedding?"
"Sounds good to me," I replied.
On Friday, October 26, 2012, I taught my lecture session of British Literature, Part One. Then, I had a quick lunch with George at Panera before heading to my doctor's office. "You're three weeks from your due date," she said. "But if things continue as they are currently going, I want to induce you in the next two weeks, probably two weeks from today."
"May I ask why?" George asked.
"It appears that the baby currently weighs almost nine pounds," Dr. Fulton replied. "If I let Emma continue to go, the baby could hit ten pounds or even beyond and I don't want to see that happen."
"Nine pounds?" I said. "I have to push a nine-pound baby out of my body?"
Dr. Fulton nodded. "She's a big baby, which isn't surprising given her parents."
George squeezed my hand. "You can do it, Emma. You'll be great."
I rolled my eyes. "Dr. Fulton, if you want to induce me on Monday, I'll give you my full blessing."
The doctor smiled. "We'll continue to monitor you, but I don't think we'll be inducing you on Monday."
"Next Friday?" I suggested. "I'm ready to not be pregnant anymore. And I'm full-term technically."
She patted my belly. "We'll see how the next week goes."
I rested my hands protectively on my belly. The only person I wanted touching it was George. "What about my weight? Are you concerned about that?"
Dr. Fulton took a deep breath, which made George raise his eyebrows and squeeze my hand. I knew that he didn't like her. He thought she was too medical and not personal enough. The doctor looked first at my records on the computer and then back at my figure. "You've only gained forty-five points since your last physical in January. You haven't developed gestational diabetes. The baby is a big baby. And with your age and your activity level, I don't think that it'll be too hard for you to lose the extra weight."
"And I will be breast-feeding," I added. "So while that's not my primary motive, it should help with weight loss too."
The doctor pressed her lips together and nodded. "Are you concerned about your weight, Emma?"
"I feel fat," I said. "And I've felt that way since the middle of the second trimester."
"This is the first time you've mentioned this to me."
"This is the first time you've asked her about it," George said grimly. "She's been concerned about her weight for months."
"I wish you'd said something sooner," the doctor replied, patting my great belly again. "Yes, you've gained forty-five pounds and will gain a bit more in the next few weeks, but I'm not worried about it. You're well within the bounds of reasonable gain."
I nodded, rubbing my belly protectively.
"Now do you have any other concerns?"
I shook my head, still rubbing my belly. "I'm just ready to get her out of me. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for motherhood, but I'm ready to be able to see my feet again and to go more than an hour without visiting the restroom."
George smiled. "You still won't be sleeping through the night though."
I laughed. "George, I'd rather be getting up with the baby than getting up to go to the bathroom and then drink more water."
Dr. Fulton nodded. "Most moms feel that way by this point in gestation. Now, if you have no further questions, I'll see you next Friday."
"I still think I'm fat," I told George as we made our way to the car. "And I know that I waddle."
"Emma," he sighed. "Emma Clare Woodhouse, shut up and marry me please."
"Well that's a romantic proposal," I replied.
"Emma Clare, this is not exactly a marriage born out of boundless love. Also, you're the one who proposed to me. Now let's go get married."
So we got married. It didn't change anything in our relationship. It was just a piece of paper that said that George was my husband and I was his wife. We didn't even kiss at the end of the ceremony, which the judge seemed to think was odd, but I was eight and a half months pregnant and didn't feel like kissing anyone.
"So we're married," George remarked casually as we walked towards the car.
I nodded as I put the marriage license into my purse. "I'm Mrs. George Knightley."
He snorted. "Emma Clare, you're still Dr. Emma Woodhouse."
"But we're legally married. Don't you want me to change my last name or something so people know?"
"Em, I don't need you to change your last name. The baby's last name will be Knightley. My last name is Knightley. If you want to change your last name, that's fine, but I'm not going to force you."
"Maybe after the baby is born," I said as I climbed into the car. "I need to think about it. I mean, this is a marriage of convenience, not a love match. I have to figure out the rules of this."
"We have to figure out the rules," George said firmly. "And we'll do that as we go along. Don't worry. We've got each other for good."
"For good," I repeated.
George looked at me and smiled. "You're my best friend, Emma Clare. I love you. I'm not going anywhere. I'm here until death parts us."
"You love me," I said flatly.
"Well, yeah, you're my best friend. I've known you since you were a baby. You're my roommate. We talk about pretty much everything. We're going to raise a baby together. We got married for the baby and because we've had a marriage pact together for the past few years. Of course I love you."
"George, you love me romantically, like truly, madly, deeply kind of love. And I don't know if I can handle that. I don't know if I love you like that. I've got all these pregnancy hormones," I explained.
George sighed. "Em, you've been using the stupid pregnancy hormones as an excuse since August, but here's the thing that I've noticed. Pregnancy hormones don't change your personality. It's not a personality transplant. You're still you. So I think either you love me or you don't. Now, we're married now. We're going to raise this baby together. And I love you. I don't need to know right now if you return those feelings, but I need you to start thinking about them because I can't spend the rest of my life married to someone who doesn't love me like I love her."
I looked at him. I think it might have been the first time in my life that I had really looked at him. Long, thin face-a face so dear and beloved to me that words couldn't describe how I felt when I saw that face. A long bony nose, average lips and ears, lovely blond hair, fair English skin; George was a handsome man but probably one who wouldn't be considered extraordinary by most people.
But then there were his green-gray eyes, eyes that were intense and lovely; they reminded me of soulful marble. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's how I saw them. They were looking at me with more feeling, more intensity than I had ever seen there before. Those eyes told me that this man loved me.
And my heart told me that I was in deep trouble because I was falling for him. I was pretty certain that I was falling in love with my husband. And I had come to this startling realization on my wedding day. Weird, very weird, I tell you.
Posted on: 2013-03-17
Normally, I probably would have spent days stewing over the nature of my feelings for George. But after his confession of love, he told me that he didn't need an immediate response. "Just think about it," he said. "I know that this is a big deal and it's hard on you. So take some time and think about it."
"George, you're putting your heart on the line. I can't leave you hanging."
"Why not?" he asked. "Paul did it to you all the time."
I smiled. "But I don't feel right about it."
"Emma, I sprung this on you. You weren't expecting this in the slightest and I just threw it at you out of nowhere. I have no right to expect an immediate response from you."
"But a girl should have an immediate response when I guy tells her that he lvoes her."
I smiled. "We don't have a normal relationship. We never have. We don't have to do things the way that normal people do."
The real reason, beyond George's kindness, that I didn't stew over his confession was the birth of our daughter. On Saturday morning, the day after our wedding, I went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby girl around three o'clock Sunday morning. She weighed nine pounds, three ounces and was twenty inches long. "She's a chunk," was George's first response to holding her. "She's a chunk all right. But she's a beautiful chunk. And she's got your hair, Em. She has your gorgeous light brown hair. It's gorgeous. I love her."
I was tired. I was in pain. And I was completely and totally in love with George. I knew that as soon as I saw him walking around my hospital room cooing to Elinor. And so I whispered the only thing I could say at that moment. "I love you."
George's head snapped from Elinor to me. "You what?"
"Love you," I replied. "I love you. I love you so much, George."
"You love me," he said flatly.
"I love you like you love me," I persisted. "I love you like a wife is supposed to love her husband."
I've never seen George smile like he did at that moment. He had my baby-our daughter-in his arms and he was beaming like all of his Christmases had come at once. "You love me?"
I nodded. "I love you, and I swear by all I hold dear that this isn't just hormones making me say that."
"Are you sure?" George asked. "I know I must be pretty attractive right now with Elinor in my arms right now."
"Do you know how much I love that I don't have to carry her around all the time now? Now you can share the burden."
He grinned. "She is amazing, Em. She is utterly amazing. And you are fabulous. You did an amazing thing today. I am in utter awe of you. You were brilliant."
"The epidural didn't hurt."
He laughed. And then he kissed me.
Chris White had been right when he said that once a baby arrives, so do the grandmothers. My mother arrived the morning that Elinor was born and Madeline Knightley arrived the following day. There was no room for them in the apartment, but that didn't keep them from taking up residence there. Madeline took over George's bedroom and my mom commandeered the living room couch.
Elinor moved into the master bedroom with George and me. "This place is too small," George pronounced on Tuesday night. "We need a bigger place."
"We need a bigger bedroom," I replied. "We're too squashed in here."
George nodded. "There's no room in this place. I mean, it was fine when it was just you and me, but now with Elinor, we need more room."
"Do we need to buy a house?" I asked.
"Oh gosh, I don't even want to think about that." George sighed. "I mean that we need a house. But I don't want to think about buying one right now. That's just not what I want to think about right now. It's such a big thing. And I'm so tired with work and the baby and everything right now."
I nodded. "I know. But we will need a houseÉor something bigger than this apartment. There just isn't enough room for you and me and Elinor and all the people in our lives."
"Maybe it will get better after our mothers leave? Maybe it will be easier to navigate this place when it's just you, Elinor, and me."
"Maybe," George replied. But I could tell that he was becoming restless in the apartment. It shouldn't have surprised me. George was nearly thirty-five years old. Since starting university more than fifteen years earlier, he had moved from apartment to apartment. While we had lived in the same apartment for the past few years, we had moved in there with the intent that it would be a temporary arrangement. And I could see that George was becoming tired of temporary arrangements. He wanted a permanent arrangement. And while at that moment, when he was tired after a long day, the idea of buying a house might have seemed like it was too much, but I knew that a day was rapidly coming when he would not be so tired and he would want to buy a house.
A week after Elinor was born, Hannah and Weston arrived at the apartment with Paul in tow. When my mom let them into the apartment and I saw Paul's dark head of hair, my heart leapt into my throat. George had gone to the grocery store. Mercifully, the baby looked, as my mother was almost overly-fond of reminding me, like a perfect clone of me as an infant. I had never really seen any indication of Paul in her at all.
But Hannah had different thoughts. She barely even acknowledged me before taking my baby out of my arms and cooing over how beautiful "darling little Elinor Churchill" was.
"Her name is Elinor Knightley," I replied firmly.
Hannah smiled condescendingly at me. "That is ridiculous. This is the most Churchill baby I have ever seen."
"I don't see my daughter wearing bowler hat or smoking a cigar."
"Oh, Emma, you're so funny. Elinor looks just like Paul's baby pictures. Don't you agree, West? Paul, come see your baby."
Paul and West were standing stiffly by the apartment door as if they weren't sure what they were supposed to be doing. I could tell from only a few moments' observation that they had not come to my apartment of their own volition. This had decidedly been Hannah's idea.
"I'm all right," Paul said to Hannah. "If she wants the baby to be a Knightley, that's fine with me. I don't care."
"No, you have to see her, Paul. She's darling. West, come here."
I stood up and looked at my friend. "Hannah, could I please have my baby back?"
"I'm her aunt."
"Only if George and I choose that for you two," I replied. "She is our daughter."
"She has Paul's DNA."
"And Paul doesn't want children," Paul called from his spot by the door. "Can Paul leave now?"
"Fine by me," I snapped. "I didn't invite you anyway."
"I just want him to see his daughter," Hannah insisted.
"She isn't his daughter," I said. "She's George's daughter."
"How do you figure that?" Hannah asked.
"Well, she's my daughter, and George is my husband. Therefore, she must be George's daughter."
"You married George and you didn't tell me?"
"Based upon the way that you've been trying to run my life of late, I didn't feel the need to tell you. Mark and Betsy came to the wedding. They'll be Elinor's godparents if we decide to have her baptized or whatever."
I knew that last comment was a low blow considering my long friendship with Hannah, but she was bothering me. She kept dragging Paul back into my life despite my attempts to eliminate him from it and his attempts to avoid me. She couldn't see what was plain as day in front of her face. Paul and I did not want to be near each other. We wanted nothing to do with each other. He wanted nothing to do with Elinor. There was no reason to continually try to reunite us. That ship had sailed. Now, George was the only show in town as far as I was concerned.
And then that show walked through the front door with his arms full of groceries. "Paul? West?" he said flatly. "What the hell are you two doing here? Hannah, who invited you over?"
"Oh, I didn't realize that we needed an invitation to see our niece."
"I would really rather not have people coming in and out of the house unannounced. It doesn't help with trying to establish a sleep schedule for Elinor."
"A sleep schedule?" West repeated. "How old is she again?"
"A week old," I replied.
"She's a week old and you're already working on a sleep schedule for her? Are you two crazy?"
I shrugged. "I just like the idea that maybe, just maybe, I'll get to sleep for more than five minutes together at some point in the next year."
"Control freak," Paul muttered.
I rolled my eyes at that comment, but I could see immediately that George's reaction was far more dramatic. Before I could see anything else, however, the baby stated crying.
"What does she want?" Hannah asked.
"To be fed," George and I said at the same time.
"Oh, can I feed her?" Hannah begged. "Please?"
"No," I said firmly. George was still glaring at Paul.
"Because I'm the only one who can feed her," I replied flatly.
"Control freak," Paul said again.
"Try breast-feeding mom," George said in a clipped tone. "Now, Hannah, give my wife the baby so she can feed the poor thing."
"Your wife?" Paul repeated. "You actually married her? Man, you're even more pathetic than I thought you were. It must be a result of coming from the same nation that produced Jane Austen."
"Get. Out." George barked. "Get out of my home right now, or I won't be responsible for my actions."
Paul wisely tucked his proverbial tale between his legs and fled the apartment. Hannah, shaking slightly at the revelation of George's darker side, handed me Elinor. "I'm sorry about him, Emma. I really thought that he was better than this."
"He's a scoundrel," George said. "Actually, he's far worse than a scoundrel but I refuse to curse in my daughter's presence."
I pressed my lips together as I fed Elinor and looked up at Hannah. "Perhaps it would be better if you and West left. Call me in a week or so, and we can make arrangements for a time when you and West can come over. And please never bring Paul here again."
"I understand now," she said. "I really thought that seeing the baby would change everything."
I shook my head. "Nothing would change that man. He doesn't want to be a father, and that's fine with me because Elinor already has a wonderful father."
Hannah left with a genuinely chastened look. She finally understood what I had wanted her to understand for months.
After West and Hannah left, George put the groceries away and then came back into the living room. "How are you, darling?"
I shrugged. "I'll be fine soon. And you're wonderful. You truly are the best man in the world."
"What brings this about?"
"You're so good to me and to Elinor. You take such good care of us."
He put a bony arm around me and pulled Elinor and me to his chest. "You're my girls. You're the most important things in my world. Without you, I'm nothing, so I'm going to fight for you to the end of the world."
"I love you, George."
He smiled. "I love you too, Emma Clare."
Posted on: 2013-04-11
Little Elinor quickly distinguished herself as being very much so my daughter. She looked like me, and as George was more than willing to remind anyone who cared, she acted like me. She was strong-willed and she had no interest in sleep if there was fun to be had. However, she did sleep well when she actually slept. She could sleep in four or five hour shifts-if she wanted. But, like I said, she was my daughter, and sleep was not her highest priority.
However, she was also like me in that she was willing to surrender to George pretty easily. George could make that baby girl fall asleep like rubbing butter on a bald monkey. It just came naturally to him. Every time that I couldn't get her to fall asleep, he could just pick her up, settle himself in the rocker, sit there for a maximum of thirty minutes, and our daughter was peacefully asleep. I swear that man knew witchcraft when it came to that little girl. I also hoped that this magic touch would last long into toddler years and beyond. I was hoping that this magic would last for at least the next eighteen years.
In the true spirit of family and togetherness, George and I spent Elinor's first Thanksgiving with my mom, stepdad, and sisters. It wasn't an ideal celebration, but I knew I had to do what was best for my family. I had to make people happy. And since we were taking Elinor to England for Christmas, we had to make an appearance with my family for Thanksgiving.
My mom adored Elinor. True, she has other granddaughters, but they don't live in the area. They're not easily accessible. My daughter was easily accessible. I had seen more of my mother in the month between Elinor's birth and Thanksgiving than I had in the previous three years. She even volunteered to babysit my daughter at least once a week when I went back to work. And my mother was infinitely preferable to my father in that she had not once made a comment about the extra thirty-five pounds of baby weight I hadn't lost yet. My dad, on the other hand, was very concerned about the fact that I hadn't lost all of my pregnancy weight in the first four weeks of Elinor's life.
"You look great, Emma," Bella told me when George and I came in with Emma. "Seriously, you look great for having had a baby four weeks ago."
"You're just saying that to be nice," I replied as I hugged her.
She laughed. "Honey, you're in better shape than I was five weeks after Norah was born. I'm still carrying a good chunk of my baby weight, and Grace is two and a half."
I smiled. "And you're still gorgeous."
"The point is that you seem to want to lose your baby weight more than I wanted to lose mine. George says you've taken up running."
I nodded. "It's more like jogging in place, but I find that I like it. It's a nice stress release."
Bella smiled. "I'm glad. I'm glad to see that you're doing well post-baby."
"It almost makes me want a baby," Cassie pronounced as she came into the room.
"I thought that was what Elinor was for," I replied. "In fact, I'd far rather that my daughter motivates you to reproduce rather than the state of my body."
My sisters both laughed. "Come on," Cassie said. "Mom is looking for us. And our husbands are alone with John."
We found our husbands in the kitchen with all of the grandchildren and my mom. Grace and Norah were playing in the breakfast nook while George was holding Elinor. I grinned at the sight of my husband, the man I love, holding our daughter in his arms. While my brother-in-law was leaving his children to their own devices, my husband was being an involved parent.
"Emma, my darling," my mother beamed as she hugged me and kissed my cheek. "How are you? You look wonderful. And little Elinor looks wonderful. You look like you might actually be getting more than three hours of sleep a night. When Bella was a baby, I didn't get more than an hour at a time. You're so lucky."
"Breathe, Dianne," John ordered my mom. "Take a breath and let Emma think."
I smiled as my mom sighed. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I'm just so excited to see little Elinor."
"She's not your first grandchild, Mom," I said.
"I know." Mom threw a loving glance at Gracie and Norah. "But she's the newest one. And she lives close by so I get to see her the most."
"Doesn't it stand to reason that you would be spending more time with Gracie and Norah today then?" my stepfather asked.
My mom shrugged. "Maybe, but right now they're playing and I'm trying to get dinner ready to go on the table. And it's easier to ooh and aah over the baby while I'm doing that."
"Dianne, I love you, but you're crazy."
"You're not going to like this, but you're a lot more like your mom than you are like your dad," George told me on the way home.
"I'd rather be like my mom than my dad."
My husband gave me a sideways look. "Really? I thought you didn't like your mom."
"I'm not her biggest fan. None of us kids are. I mean, she left my dad for John." I spat my stepfather's name in the same way that someone might say a swear word. "I've never understood that. But at least she's not a hypochondriac who tells her children that they're fat."
George smiled. "Your dad means well."
"I understand that. I just wish that his good intentions could come across in a more positive manner, in a manner that doesn't sound quite so insulting."
"He does love you, Emma. He's just not always the best at showing it."
I sighed. "I know. I just want something more for me, for Elinor."
"I promise that I will do my level best to make sure that Elinor has something better from me. But I can also guarantee you that I'm not perfect and I might screw up from time to time."
I smiled. "Sometimes, George, I think that you might actually be too perfect. I'm not sure if you're real. Or maybe you're hiding some deep, terrible secret flaw."
"Sometimes I forget to floss my teeth."
I rolled my eyes. It was about the only thing I could really do with my husband sometimes.
Early the next morning, I went for a long walk while Elinor was sleeping and George was keeping an eye on her. It might sound odd, but I love Ann Arbor in November, and I wanted the chance to enjoy it. I love the crisp breeze and the crunch of leaves under my shoes. It's relaxing. And running in my neighborhood could keep me away from any potential Black Friday craziness. Downtown gets crazy on Black Friday. And yet, somehow, I have a standing agreement with Betsy that I will help her out in the shop on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. I even volunteered to help her that year. She said that I didn't have to since I was only four weeks post-baby, but I said I would still come. Elinor could hang out in the pack-n-play with Natalie, and I could make myself useful.
When I got home, I found a shirtless George in bed snuggling a contented Elinor. "I fed her and changed her," he informed me when I came into the bedroom.
"Aren't you cold?" I asked.
"Nope," he replied with a smile. "I'm a living furnace."
"I thought guys outgrew that after adolescence."
He shrugged casually. "I didn't. Come on, Em. You've lived with me for more than three years. You share a bed with me. You should have noticed that I don't wear shirts unless I am socially obligated to do so."
"George, you are preposterous."
"And you love it, darling." He had a terrible smile on his face. It was cocky and self-assured. And it was, in fact, something I loved. I loved his confidence and his (almost arrogant) firm belief that he was right and his life was on the right track. I loved his firm belief that he was always right-even when I knew him to be wrong.
Since Elinor's birth, I had begun to occasionally question whether or not I really wanted to be a full-time professor any more. I began to wonder if I might not be happier in a career that allowed me to have more access to my daughter. I knew that I couldn't leave the university until the end of the academic year, but I was starting to think about the possibility of stepping back a little bit professionally. It was a decision that my twenty-three-year-old self would have wanted to kill my twenty-nine-year-old self over. But my twenty-three-year-old self didn't know how much she loved George and she'd never met Elinor. She didn't realize how much one little baby could change my life and open my heart. Suddenly, being Mommy had become far more important to me than being Dr. Woodhouse, professor of British literature. But at the same time, I knew that I couldn't just give up working completely. George wanted to buy a house, and to buy a house in the kinds of neighborhoods where we wanted to live we needed two incomes.
I spent about six hours at the Knit 'n' Lit that day. Elinor slept through most of the day. I loved working there. I loved all of the personalities of Betsy's employees. Jamie Malloy, the college girls, Mark-it's a great group of people. I also loved that Betsy and Mark had gotten to know their customers. I loved how Jamie could look at a regular and know what they would want to drink. I knew that George and I needed to talk about our future soon. And that idea scared me a little bit.
That afternoon, I was surprised to see Hattie and her boyfriend, Rob, in the Knit 'n' Lit. Hattie isn't a knitter or much of a reader. But, admittedly, she does like coffee. And she was very excited to see me. "You haven't met Rob yet, have you? I know he hasn't met Elinor yet, and he has to meet Elinor. She's the dearest little baby on earth. Everyone should have a baby like Elinor."
Before Rob or I could say anything, she dragged him over the pack-n-play to see Elinor and Natalie. Natalie, even to me, was more entertaining than Elinor. Elinor, for all of her cuteness and sweetness, was asleep. And there's only so much entertainment you can derive from a sleeping newborn when there's a very alert eleven-month-old sitting next to her with a stash of board books.
"I want a baby," Hattie informed Rob.
He looked at her, more than a bit dazed. "You want a baby?"
"Babies are cute," she replied brightly.
He sighed. "Okay, so you can go visit Elinor."
"I want my own cute baby."
"Some people have ugly babies," he offered clumsily.
"But we wouldn't," she replied firmly, putting a hand around his arm.
He looked at her like she was a flesh-eating monster. "We? Us? Have kids together? We've only been dating since summer. I have to finish my doctorate before I think about kids. I'm not ready for kids or marriage or commitment."
"But sweetie, I love you."
Rob looked like he wanted to melt into the floor. And then, he said the four most dangerous words a man can say to a woman. "We need to talk."
"About what?" she squealed.
He sighed. "I would rather not have this discussion in public."
She sighed and stomped her foot. "Are you dumping me? This sure sounds like dumping. I don't need to be dumped again this year. I was already dumped once this year. I thought we had a good thing going."
"Let's not do this in public."
"My gosh, you ARE dumping me."
Rob put a tentative hand on Hattie's shoulder. "Honey, I don't want to do this in public. Let's go back to your apartment."
"Why? So your ghost can haunt me forever? Every time I move, I'll see you dumping me. How can you do this to me?"
Rob sighed again. "Hattie, I don't want to do this like this. I don't want to have this conversation in public."
Tears were pouring down her cheeks. "You're dumping me! You don't love me."
"Well," Rob hesitated.
"I knew it!" she screamed.
"Should we tell them to leave?" Betsy asked.
I nodded. "We probably should. But I know that would only make her mad at me."
"I know. And I'm really not in the mood for ticking her off."
"But we really should get them out of the shop. This is bad for business," I said.
"Let's have Jamie take care of it."
I smiled. "That sounds like a brilliant idea."
Jamie did ask them to leave. Hattie hit him. But they did leave, thankfully. I knew that I would be hearing about the whole thing soon enough. I would hear about how I didn't stand up for true love and how broken-hearted poor Hattie was. I felt badly for her, but it wasn't my fault that she had behaved like a complete fool in public. Yes, we all make mistakes, and we all do stupid things. But Hattie really had gone too far. It wasn't that surprising; it was part of her personality.
I don't know. I really don't know. I love Hattie; she's a dear girl. But she can be a fool. She makes decisions in the heat of the moment that aren't in her best interest and ends up in a world of trouble she never planned on.
When Elinor and I got home, we found her daddy looking at houses online. "We need to move," George pronounced after I kissed his cheek.
I smiled. "Is this news?"
"No, but I'm thinking it needs to happen sooner rather than later."
"George," I said slowly as I sat down and settled Elinor in my lap. "We don't have time to look for a house or to pack up our stuff and move."
"We could make it work," he replied casually. "It would be rough, but we could make it work."
"When does our lease end on this place?"
"May," he replied.
"Then let's wait until then. We can survive here for five more months."
"Survive, yes, but it won't be fabulous."
I sighed. "We've lived in survival mode before. And Elinor probably won't be crawling by May, and she definitely won't be walking. We will be fine."
"When did you become the rational one, dearest?"
"When it was necessary," I replied. "You're being ridiculous, so I have to balance you out."
He laughed. "I love you, Emma dearest. And I'm not entirely sure how I ever survived without you."
"Oh, you survived," I said with a teasing smile. "But until you moved in with me, you didn't truly love."
"Oh shut it, Em."
"Or what?" I asked with raised eyebrows.
"I'll just have to silence you myself."
"I'm always willing to learn a new lesson."
George smiled and leaned over to kiss me.
Posted on: 2013-06-11
You know how sometimes you find yourself agreeing to do something that you don't really want to do but you agree to do it because you feel like you have to?
Yeah, that was how George and I felt about our Christmas 2012 plans. We were going to England to spend two weeks with his family. Now, we love his family, and we were looking forward to seeing them and introducing them to Elinor. His mom was the only person from the Knightley family who had actually met our darling girl, and I couldn't wait for the rest of the family to meet my baby.
But I was NOT looking forward to spending eight or nine hours on an airplane with a baby. There was no way on earth Elinor was going to sleep for that long. She didn't believe in sleeping for more than four hours at a time. Betsy's mother-in-law said that Benadryl would be my best friend, but I was terrified of that idea. "Fortunately," Betsy told me over coffee in mid-December. "Ellie is still young enough that you can nurse her during the flight. If you feed her periodically, it will help."
"Is that what you did?" I asked. Mark's family lives in Minnesota, and the previous summer, Mark and Betsy had flown with four-month-old Natalie to visit his family.
She nodded. "I mean, St. Paul is a lot closer than London, but it's the same concept. And you know how much Ellie likes to eat."
I laughed. "My little chunk, she apparently inherited that from her mother."
Betsy shook her head. "You're losing weight. I don't see why you're so concerned about your weight."
"I was always the chubby Woodhouse sister," I replied with a sigh. "Everyone always made sure that I knew that I was fatter than Cassie and Bella. I know that I'm not fat, but I was bigger than them. And now, I'm squishier than normal."
"Does George mind?" Betsy asked with a twinkle in her eye.
I laughed. "Not a bit, he says I've never looked better."
"Then don't overanalyze it. Don't complain. Just take it. Sure, work on losing weight, but if you've got George Knightley worshipping the quicksand you walk on, take it and don't worry about it. Just enjoy it."
Betsy was not the only person to suggest that approach to me. Even though not everyone (Hattie and Hannah, for example) agreed that George was sexier than Hugh Jackman, they agreed that if he loved me, I couldn't really complain. "Everybody just wants to be loved," Hattie told me.
"That sounds like a song," I replied flatly.
"Maybe it is, but that's not the point. The point is that everyone wants what you have and you don't seem to appreciate it enough. You have a man who adores you and your baby, and you only just love him."
"Yes, I love him," I said. "I love him, and we're married and we have a kid together and we're going to have more kids. What else should I do?"
"Worship him," she swooned.
I rolled my eyes. "I can't worship George. He'd hate it. And furthermore, it's against my better judgment to worship anyone."
"But he's George freaking Knightley. He's awesome."
"And he's my husband who burps and farts as he feels the urge."
Hattie sighed. "See, there you go again. You treat George like he's just another person."
"He is just another person."
"No, he isn't!" Hattie protested. "He's a god among men."
"Who hogs the blankets in the middle of the night," I replied flatly. Understand this, dear readers, I love my husband dearly. Nothing will change that. But that love doesn't keep me from wishing that he wasn't such a blanket hog or that he wouldn't fart in the middle of an episode of Downton Abbey.
We went to England for ten days. Naturally, everyone loved Elinor. She didn't love the airplane, but we all survived with most of our sanity in tact. She also wasn't crazy about the time change, but we couldn't help that. And she adjusted to it reasonably well.
After our return from England, George began looking for a house for us. This was exclusively a George mission because I was busy with Elinor and work. Trying to be a mother and a professor and a wife was consuming all of my energy. I had nothing left for house-hunting. I promised George that he would have my full attention for that in May.
My relationship with Hannah and West remained on unsteady ground. Hannah was disappointed that Paul was not involved in Elinor's life, and she made sure that George and I knew this. West, on the other hand, confessed to George in January that he thought that his brother would never be a good husband and he didn't see the point in dragging Paul into Elinor's life. "He'd do her no good at all. She's better off with you, and Emma is better off with you. They're both better off without my idiot of a brother in their lives."
"I agreed with him, of course," George told me when he recounted the story to me later. "I have to think that I'm better for you than Paul was because I'm your husband. I'm naturally biased in my own favor."
I laughed and squeezed his hand. "George, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. At the risk of sounding like Hattie, you make me a better person."
George smiled. "You don't sound like Hattie. And I have been trying to make you a better person since you were about five. I'm glad to know that all of my efforts have not been in vain."
"George, you really are wonderful. I don't know what I would do without you."
"You'd be less than awesome," he replied with a smile.
"Well, then it's a good thing that you spent twenty-five years of your life trying to fashion the perfect wife for yourself."
My husband laughed. "That wasn't my goal. I just wanted to make you a better person. The wife bit was a fortunate side effect of my actions."
I then asked him something that I had been wondering about for quite a while. "George, when did you start seeing me as a woman?"
"What do you mean?"
"When did I stop being annoying like Emmy Woodhouse to you and start being someone you could see yourself having a serious relationship with?"
"I'm not sure," he began softly. "I know that I didn't realize that you were really a woman until you moved to England when you were twenty-two. But I don't think I started seeing you as a potential love interest or life partner until we started living together."
"Whereas I first considered marrying you when I was in elementary school," I replied with a blush.
George shrugged. "We all come to love in different ways. And I'm glad that I knew you as a young girl. I loved the child that you were. But I'm also glad that I got to know you again as an adult. I'm glad that I didn't see much of you when you were in high school or college. I'm glad that when I met you at age 22, I didn't really know you as a tempestuous teenager. I'm glad that I got to reacquaint myself with you all over again."
I smiled. "I had grown up."
"And I am so proud of you for becoming the person that you have become. You escaped all of the insanity of your parents' divorce and turned into a remarkably normal young woman."
"George, I'm a college professor. I have a doctorate in literature. How on earth does that even remotely qualify as normal?"
He laughed. "All right, I'll amend my statement. Considering your childhood AND that you are an academic, you are remarkably normal."
I smiled and kissed his cheek. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Good," he replied firmly. "It was intended to be nothing more or less."
Hattie's break-up with Rob had been a tough blow for her. For two months, every conversation I had with her inevitably wound its way back to Rob. She had dozens of questions for me. Had I known that Rob was unhappy with her? (Answer: Not explicitly) Why didn't I stop their break-up? (Answer: Because it wasn't my place to do that) Why wasn't I more supportive of their relationship? (Answer: I couldn't have been more supportive unless I had tattooed "Rob+Hattie4ever" across my face.) Did Rob miss her? (Answer: I had no earthly clue.) When would Rob be ready to take her back? (Answer: Again, no earthly clue) Why didn't Rob call her? (Answer: Still without an earthly clue) Was Rob seeing someone new? (Answer: That was none of my business.)
But then, suddenly, in early February, those questions stopped. All of a sudden, Hattie stopped talking to me about Rob. In fact, she stopped mentioning her love life to me in general. "It's not that I'm complaining about that," I told George. "And I sure as heck don't miss listening to her whine about Rob. But I am confused. Why isn't she telling me anything about her love life anymore? It's just odd."
"Maybe she's given up on love," he replied flatly.
"Or maybe she's hiding something from me."
"Doubtful, I'd wager that she finally realized how whiny she is and just decided to refocus her energies on something else."
"Maybe she's dating someone who she knows I wouldn't like."
"Or maybe she's just not dating at all," George replied. "Now let's go for a walk with Elinor. That's far healthier than sitting around musing about Hattie's love life."
"I still think she's hiding something from me," I said as I took our coats out of the closet.
He sighed. "Emma, my darling, you are incorrigible."
It would, in the end, turn out that I was right, but we didn't find that out until April.
Posted on: 2013-07-06
Hattie was dating Paul Churchill. George discovered this one windy April afternoon as he stood in line at Amir's Caf. At first, he thought he was just standing in line behind two people who happened to look like Hattie and Paul, but then he heard Hattie's laugh. He immediately knew that it was them. And then Hattie turned around and saw him. She greeted him with an enthusiastic hug. "George!" she squealed. "Have you met my boyfriend, Paul?"
George claimed that he could see Paul bristling at the word "boyfriend." Regardless of how Paul reacted, George quickly replied that he had in fact met Paul before-when Paul was dating me. He then made some excuse as to why he couldn't get his lunch from Amir's anymore and then headed across the street to Cosi.
I wasn't entirely surprised to learn that Hattie was dating Paul. He was the sort of man to enjoy a fluttering, flattering girlfriend, and Hattie was exactly the sort of girl who would stroke his ego and laugh at even his lamest jokes. Hannah was pleased to see one of her "dearest friends" making her "darling brother-in-law so happy." West didn't say anything to me about his opinions. George and Mark were steaming mad and had both called Hattie a fool. Betsy, like me, wasn't surprised by this new relationship, but she definitely wasn't pleased.
Because Hannah was happy about Hattie's new relationship, I avoided talking to her about it. Hannah loved talking about it, but I knew better. I had dated Paul. I knew what Paul was like. He could be sweet and kind when he wanted to. He could be the boyfriend of Hattie's dreams. But he would never give her the commitment she craved. The three most magical words in the English language would be used without sincerity as a way to get her into his bed. I knew this from personal experience.
Hattie didn't tell me that she was dating Paul until about two weeks after George saw them at Amir's. And then she only told me because I ran into the two of them together at the Knit 'n' Lit. I had stopped in for a latte and some yarn on my way home from work. George had Elinor at home with him; this was probably for the best. The first indication that I had that Hattie and Paul were there was hearing Paul's voice say, "Man, is that Emma Woodhouse? She looks pretty darn good considering that she had a baby six months ago."
"Oh, I don't know," Hattie said softly. "I think that Emma always looks pretty."
"Are you serious? She was majorly fat after she had that brat. But now, now she looks great. You'd never even know she was ever pregnant."
It was true that I had lost all of my baby weight, something that I was chalking up to my newfound love of running and Elinor's newfound love of the baby jogger. I knew that I looked good. George had told me that he thought I looked great. But there was something uncomfortable about hearing my ex-boyfriend talk about me like I was an animal at a farm auction.
"If you want, I can show you pictures of the so-called brat on my phone," I said without turning around. "That way, you can know that I really did have a baby."
"I've seen the baby!" Hattie added in a tone of voice that was far too perky for the situation. "She's adorable. She looks just like Emma."
Paul rolled his eyes. "I hate babies. They're stupid."
"They grow up to be adults, Paul," I said flatly. "You were once a baby, you know."
"That was a long time ago, and I'm sure I was a very well-behaved baby."
I raised my eyebrows. "Well, as it happens, my daughter is also a pretty well-behaved baby. And some day, she will be an adult, and hopefully, she will have better manners by the time that she's your age than you do right now. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to buy a cup of coffee and go home to my ridiculously adorable baby who is one of the two greatest things to have ever happened to me."
"And what is the greatest?" Paul asked bitterly as I turned away from him.
"George Knightley," I replied without turning around.
"I can't believe you would speak to my boyfriend like that," Hattie ranted to me over the phone later that evening.
"Why?" I asked. "Long before he was your boyfriend, he was mine. And I'll gladly tell you that Paul Churchill is no saint."
"But he loves me!" she protested. "He said that he never really loved you."
"Oh that's sweet of him," I replied, leaning against George's chest.
"It's okay," she said quickly. "Paul said that you never loved him either. He said that you've always only ever loved George and that you were just using Paul as a placeholder until George was finally actually interested in you."
I was flabbergasted. "Are you serious? Paul actually said that."
"Yep," Hattie replied sweetly. "But it's okay because you have George now and he's perfect for you. But I think that Paul is perfect for me."
"Just be careful," I sighed. "I don't want to see you get hurt."
"Don't worry about me, Emma. I won't get hurt. Paul would never hurt me. He's too perfect for that."
"She's an idiot," George said after I ended the call. "I mean, she's sweet and she's cute. But she's an idiot."
I looked up at him. "Hattie is many things and one of them is my friend."
"Yeah, well, darling, your friend is an idiot."
I sighed. "I don't agree with her dating Paul, but I'm not sure that dating Paul makes her an idiot. If it did, then I would be an idiot too because I dated him."
George smiled. "It isn't dating Paul that makes her an idiot. It's the fact that she believes everything that he tells her blindly. You were never that gullible."
I shrugged. "I knew better than to just blindly trust him. To be honest, it probably had something to do with you."
"Is it because I'm so completely awesome that you were secretly in love with me?"
I snorted. "That's not what I meant. I meant that you were the voice of reason in my life."
He smiled. "I always wanted to make sure that you never really screwed up your life."
"And while I've done some pretty stupid stuff over the years, you never let me screw my life up completely."
"That's because I love you," he replied with a smile.
Hattie and Paul were still together and going relatively strong when May of 2013 rolled around. George and Mark had come to the conclusion that Hattie was genuinely interested in Paul and Paul was interested in Hattie because she reinforced his own opinions of himself. "She's hot and easy," Mark said. "It's a terrible thing to say, but it's true."
"I just want her to find someone who is actually worth her time," Betsy said.
"Honestly," I began slowly. "Honestly, I wish that she could find a way to get back together with Rob Martin. He was so good for her."
"But she blew it," Betsy protested. "There's no way that will ever work out after what she did."
"What if we could fix things?" I suggested. "We could explain things to him. We could convince him that she really is worth his while and that he really does want to spend the rest of his life with her."
"Emma, do you remember what David Tennant told Martha Jones in the season three episode, The Shakespeare Code?" my husband asked.
I looked at George with frustration. "Yes, I know. We're not supposed to interfere with established timelines except in the case of cheap tricks. But what does that have to do with me trying to fix things between Rob and Hattie?"
"You can't change the past," he replied flatly. "We can't change what's already happened."
"But we can change the future. The Doctor does that all the time. He changes the past too!"
George sighed. "Emma, if Hattie and Rob get back together, that will be their decision. We can't force it."
"But we could encourage it."
My husband wrapped his arm around my shoulders and kissed the top of my head. "Emma Clare, I love you for many reasons, but without a doubt, one of my favorite things about you is your optimism. You are always looking for the good in things and seeing the best in people."
I smiled. "I believe that all people are inherently good. It's life that screws them up."
He laughed. "Is that why you dated Paul?"
"Sort of," I replied. "Paul was my bad boy. Paul was the boy I thought I could change."
Mark snorted. "You thought you could change Paul Churchill?"
I shrugged. "All girls go through that phase. It's like Rory with Jess on Gilmore Girls. We meet a really attractive bad boy. We know that he's flawed. We know that we shouldn't be able to fix him. We know that we probably won't be able to fix him. But we still try. We know that we probably can't change him, but we still want to try to change him."
"And that was your relationship with Paul?" Mark asked, skepticism consuming his voice.
I nodded. "And now it's Hattie's relationship with Paul. I learned my lesson the hard way. I couldn't change Paul. I didn't change Paul. But if a girl is lucky, there's a good boy waiting to catch her when she falls after the bad boy pushes her too far."
"And that was George for you?"
I nodded again. Call me a bobble-head if you must.
Mark turned to his wife. "Did you have a bad boy in your dating career prior to me?"
"Not unless you count Jamie," Betsy replied. "He's the only guy I ever really dated besides you. I mean, I had a crush on a couple of bad boys in high school, but none of that ever went beyond the crush phase."
"Betsy was always the Good Girl," I explained. "She was never the sort of girl who would do the sort of stupid things that I did when I was younger."
Betsy shrugged. "I think I just managed to scare all the bad boys away with my yarn store. Bad boys don't want to date a woman who owns a yarn store."
"But college professors are attractive to bad boys?" Mark asked.
His wife nodded. "It's the same principle as the one that leads your crazy-girl students to hit on you. You're hot, therefore you're fair game to them."
Mark rolled his eyes. "I am not hot. I don't know why everyone thinks I'm hot."
"You look like Henry Cavill," I explained flatly. We had been over this far more times than I could count or even try to remember. "Henry Cavill is hot. Ergo, you are hot."
He shook his head. "I don't look like Henry Cavill, and I'm not hot."
"You can think whatever you want," I told him, patting his shoulder. "But Betsy and I know the truth."
The semester ended the last week of April. Three weeks later, George and I bought our first house together. It was a big step for both of us, especially for me. I began to feel as though, since ending my relationship with Paul, I had finally evolved into an adult. I got married. I gave birth to my first child. I bought a house. I gained a more adult perspective on my emotions. I learned a truer, more incredible love than I had ever known before, a love that I learned from George. If it weren't for the end of my relationship with Paul, I never would have realized the depth of my love for George. He wasn't just a friend. He wasn't just an older brother figure. He was the great love of my life. He protected me. He defended me. He listened to me. He respected me. He held my hand in dark moments and laughed with me in good moments. He was the most important person I could or would ever know. I would never stop being grateful that I had him in my life. He hade made and was making my life and my daughter's life a better life than I could have ever imagined.
Posted on: 2013-07-29
My thirtieth birthday would fall on Friday, July 19, 2013, and George and I had decided it was the perfect weekend to celebrate our marriage. We aren't religious, so we felt that the legal wedding was enough for us in that regard. But we wanted to have a big party to celebrate our marriage and our family. And I wanted to wear a pretty white dress.
So we were having a wedding reception at a friend's house that had an amazing backyard (three acres) and a swimming pool, which would be great for our friends who had kids. We set the date for Saturday, July 20, 2013. My mom and stepdad immediately offered to pay for it because "it's your wedding, and we have to pay for that, sweetie. George's family would be coming from England. We decided that we didn't need a best man or maid of honor since we weren't having a ceremony. "No toasts," George said. "We don't need toasts. We just want a good party to celebrate the fact that we're married."
Most of our friends seemed to be fairly accepting of that idea. And our families were more than open to that idea. Mostly, they just wanted us to be happy.
At George's advice, I stopped talking to Hattie, which caused Hannah to stop talking to me. Apparently, I wasn't allowed to act in the best interests of my family if it hurt Hannah's feelings. At first, I was offended, but I came to realize that it wasn't my problem if Hannah didn't agree with my life choices.
George and I moved into our new house over Memorial Day weekend of 2013. That, coincidentally, was the same weekend that Paul dumped Hattie. I hate the word "dumped." It's callous and somewhat demeaning. But it is the only word to describe the way that Paul Churchill ended his relationship with my friend, Hattie Smith. It was an abrupt and heartless. It was, as George said, an action not befitting a gentleman. "But then no one has ever accused Paul Churchill of being a gentleman."
Now, I have to explain to you that I wasn't there when Paul and Hattie terminated their relationship. I didn't see it or hear it. Paul has never seen fit to share his side of the story with me. All that I know of the story is what Hattie has told me. It may not surprise you to learn that I first heard this story through sobbing, sniffing, and sighing. Most of it was incoherent. But I knew that Paul had told her that he never really loved her. "I thought that he loved me. He said that he had never loved you, but he said that he loved me. I thought he really meant it."
I tried to sound sympathetic during that first phone call, but she called while I was trying to direct the sorting of the latest load of boxes from the apartment out. It's kind of hard to listen to a sniffling girl while trying to move boxes and tell other people what to do.
Hattie, still sniffing and sighing, came over to our new house around nine-thirty that first night in the house. The place was a pit. There were boxes everywhere. Nothing was unpacked. And the only things that were genuinely where they were supposed to be were the pieces of furniture. Everything else was just haphazardly piled in the rooms matching the names George had scrawled on the lids and sides of each box.
"I need you," Hattie sobbed when George opened the door.
"I hope you mean my wife," he replied grimly as he led her into the house.
"Oh, George, I wasn't expecting you. Yeah, Emma, I want to see Emma."
"She's upstairs," George replied softly. "She's putting Elinor to bed. You can see her after that."
"I need to talk to her."
"I understand," my husband said coolly. "But she needs calm while she puts Elinor to bed, so I need you to please be patient."
Patience wasn't easy for Hattie, but George managed to convince her to sit down. When I came downstairs, I found her sitting up ramrod straight, staring at the wall. She was clutching tissues in each hand, her eyes red and tears sliding down her cheeks. "Emma," she choked out. "I need you."
"George, out," I ordered.
My husband nodded as he rose from the couch. "I'll be in our room trying to unpack things."
I kissed his cheek. "Thanks, darling."
I sat down on the couch next to Hattie and took one of the tissue-coated hands in mine. "Tell me what happened."
She sighed and sniffled. "Oh, Emma, it was awful. You were right about Paul."
"What do you mean?" I asked tentatively.
"He never loved me. He never said that he loved me. I'd said dozens of times, but he'd never said it. Tonight, we went out for dinner together, and I mentioned that. He said that he never tells girls that he loves them. I said that he must have told you that he loved you considering how long you two were together, but he said that he'd never said it. Is that true?"
I nodded. "He never said it. Honestly, I'm not sure that I ever did either. I mean, we were serious about each other, but we never talked about it in those kinds of words. That's not his style."
"And then, I asked him if he wanted to maybe take a step back, and he said that sounded like a good idea. He said that he wanted to reevaluate his priorities. He said he wasn't ready for a serious relationship right now. He said that he needed to sort through some stuff before he could really get serious with anyone."
I squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry. You're better off without him."
She sighed and whimpered. "I know that you're probably right, but I loved him, Emma. I loved him, and he didn't love me. Why does this keep happening to me? Why do I keep loving men who don't love me back? There was Blake. Then there was Robbie. And now there's Paul. Everyone finds love easily except me. Why doesn't anyone love me? Why doesn't anyone want to be with me?"
"Hattie, you've had a rough run with guys. But the thing is that you find the wrong guys. You keep going after guys who aren't right for you, who can't care about you the way that you want."
"What do you mean?"
I bit my lip and took a deep breath. "You saw my relationship with Paul. You saw how I tried to have a serious relationship with him for almost two years, but he always kept me out. He never really let me in. I don't think that he is capable of a real, deep love. He just can't do it."
"So it's not me, it's him?" Hattie asked hesitantly.
I nodded. "More or less, yes; he's just not capable of being in a real relationship and that's what you want."
There was far more that I could have said to her about her relationships, but the timing wasn't right. I knew that was not the night to tell her that she was too clingy. She needed to calm down and let things flow more naturally. Guys tend to get uncomfortable when you start naming your future children on the third date. They don't really like it when you confess your love for them and start planning your future together when you haven't even met their parents.
"Can I spend the night here?" Hattie asked. "I don't want to be alone."
I looked around my living room, which was littered with boxes. "I don't know where we'd put you," I began softly. "I'm really sorry, Hattie. But this house is a mess. We just moved today."
"I know, but I don't want to be alone."
I sighed. "Hattie, look around my living room. It's a mess. I don't know where we could put you. I'm sorry, but I just don't know."
Her face fell and she started crying again. "I just don't want to be alone."
At the sound of Hattie's sobs, George came creeping down the stairs. "Hattie," he said softly. "I hate to be rude. I know you've had a rough day, but I need to ask you to please quiet down."
"But my heart is broken!" she wailed.
I looked at my husband and raised my eyebrows. He pressed his lips together and shrugged. I knew we were both beginning to wonder why I was friends with this girl. I put my hand on Hattie's arm, trying to be gentle. "Hattie, sweetheart, I know you're heartbroken. George and I understand. But the baby is asleep upstairs. I really don't want her to wake up. She needs her sleep. If you wake her up, then she won't fall back asleep, and then George and I won't get any sleep."
Hattie sighed loudly before loudly wailing, "Is your daughter more important to you than me? Why don't you love me? Why doesn't anyone love me?"
Somewhere in the middle of that, Elinor began to cry upstairs. I looked at George and sighed.
"I'll get her," he said. "But she's probably going to want Mama."
After George headed upstairs, I looked at Hattie. "I think it would be best if you found somewhere else to stay tonight. Maybe Hannah would be willing to put you up?"
"But West is Paul's brother! I can't go to them."
"Hattie, George and I just moved. We've had a long, difficult day. And now, our baby is awake. I want to help you. I really do. But my husband and my baby have to be my first priority."
Hattie rose to her feet quickly, losing her balance momentarily in her anger. "You don't care about me. You don't love me. You're just like Paul. Forget you. I'm out of here."
I stood up as she made her way towards the front door. "Hattie, I'm sorry that you feel that way. I really am. And when you're calm and ready to see reason, I'll be waiting to talk to you."
I spent three hours trying to get my fussy baby to fall back asleep. Elinor had a strong will. She only went to sleep when she wanted to, and once she had woken up, she didn't like going back to sleep-especially if noises had woken her up. She was curious and she always had to know what was going on. When I put her back in her crib, she started wailing. She wailed and screamed for almost three hours before finally falling asleep. I tried walking with her. I tried rocking her. George tried both of those things. I tried nursing her, but she didn't want to be fed. It was after midnight when she finally stopped fussing and let me nurse her to sleep.
"She really is your daughter," George said to me at one point in the fussing.
"Let's hope our next child inherits your disposition," I sighed as I flopped my head into the pillow. "Your mother said that you were a placid and calm baby."
"Please God, I'm begging you," he replied. "Elinor was so easy in the beginning but now she's always alert. She always wants to know what's going on."
"Em," he replied, pulling himself up slightly and running a hand over my face. "She's your daughter. Of course she always wants to know what's going on. You stayed up until two in the morning when you were three years old mere because you wanted to know if Santa was really going to come down the chimney."
I sighed. "It's times like this that I wish you didn't know so much about my childhood and couldn't remind me that Elinor is my mini-me."
"At least she's a cute mini-me."
The next morning, I received a text message from Hannah that read: You were right about Paul and Hannah. West and I will be at your wedding.
"That's as close as you're going to get to an apology from her," George remarked flatly when I showed it to him.
I smiled. "I know. And I'm going to treasure it for that."
On July 1, about three weeks before our wedding celebration, Chris White emailed all members of the English department to announce the hiring of a new linguistics professor, Jane Fairfax. She had just finished her doctorate at the University of North Carolina, which coincidentally was where Paul Churchill had been employed until about four years earlier and where Paul still went on vacation at least twice a year. Jane also, according to Chris, had a three-year-old son named Oliver.
Posted on: 2013-08-10
June flew by us in a flash. Elinor started crawling towards the end of the month, which left George and I scrambling frantically to baby-proof our new house. My little baby was starting to grow up. "She's only eight months old," George told me blandly when I complained one evening.
"But she's becoming more independent," I sighed.
He looked at me. "Are you telling me that you really want to go back to living with your parents?"
"What do you mean?"
George smiled. "You're sad because Elinor is becoming more independent from us, and that is hard to see. But it's also part of the natural flow of life. You used to need your parents for everything, but you grew up. You don't need them to feed you anymore. To be honest, you don't really need anything in the way of material goods from them anymore. You gradually became more and more independent, and now Elinor is doing that. You wouldn't want to undo your own independence, would you?"
I looked up into his blue-green eyes and shook my head. "When you put it like that, I'm glad that she's growing up."
Hannah contacted me about two weeks before my wedding claiming that she "desperately" needed to talk to me. I knew from George, who was still speaking to West, that Hannah and Hattie had fallen out. "Everyone's a mess," George had sighed one afternoon. "Except for me, I'm not a mess."
I looked at him. "Are you calling me a mess?"
"No," he said. "You're not a mess either. Everyone else is a mess though. We're lucky that we're us."
I shook my head. "You're ridiculous."
George shrugged. "It happens to the best of us, but in my case, I think that it stems from my relationship with you. I was perfectly normal before you were born."
I snorted. "You were a little boy. You probably ate worms and dirt. That is not normal."
"I was a British little boy. I ate only noble worms and aristocratic dirt."
I laughed. "Be serious now, George. Should I meet with Hannah?"
"If you want," he replied. "It's up to you. She's been your friend for years, but she hasn't been a good friend to you of late. If you want to continue that friendship, that's your choice."
"I have to give her a chance."
"Em, you've given her dozens of chances. You've been too kind to her. She's been awful to you. No one would look down on you if you walked away from the friendship."
"But we've been friends forever."
"It's your decision. I'm still friends with West."
I sighed and looked up at my husband. "I just don't want to lose one of my oldest friends over something stupid like Paul."
"But is Hannah willing to see things your way?"
"I don't know," I replied flatly. "But she said that this is desperate, so I want to know what's going on."
"Then go and talk to her. It can't kill you."
George was right. Meeting with Hannah couldn't kill me. But the things that I learned over lunch that day startled me.
We met at Hannah's house because she didn't want to have the conversation we "needed" to have in public. I brought Elinor along because Hannah was begging to see my daughter. And Hannah was thrilled to see my little darling. "She is so cute," my friend enthused when she greeted us at the door. "She looks just like you. If I didn't know better, I'd say that she's just your clone and there's no father involved at all."
I laughed as I followed her into the house. "George says that she acts just like I did at that age. He says that she's just my perfect little mini-me."
Hannah beamed. "You know, I'm glad that you and George ended up together. He really is the best possible guy for you. I always wanted you to marry Paul because he's my husband's brother and I wanted us to be related. But over the past few months, I've realized that Paul isn't what I wanted him to be, and I shouldn't have kept shoving him in your face even when you had made it unavoidably clear that you had chosen George."
I looked at her. "Do you understand what it did to me when you kept shoving Paul at me even when both of us had told you that we didn't want to be together?"
"I thought I was helping!" she protested as we reached the living room. I sat down on the seat nearest the door. I wasn't entirely sure that I trusted her.
"And instead, you hurt me over and over again."
Hannah sighed. "I know that now. I know that I should have listened to you. And I shouldn't have pushed Hattie towards him. I should have listened to my friends instead of trying to control the situation."
"Is that an apology?" I asked as I adjusted Elinor on my lap.
Hannah blushed and looked down at her hands. "I'm sorry about what I did. I was wrong, and you were right. Are you happy now?"
I nodded. "I am. But that's more because of the life that George has given me than because of your apology."
"You really love him, don't you?"
I looked at her firmly. "I think I always have. I think that I've known for years that he was exactly what I wanted, but I never really realized what I knew until last summer."
"And you're happy with him."
"Completely," I replied. "He is able to be the kind of husband and father that Paul never could be."
"I wish I could have seen that sooner."
I shrugged. "What's done is done. I forgive you, and I still want to be your friend. But," I cautioned seeing the enthusiastic grin on my friend's face. "I need you to trust my opinions. Don't try to control my life or tell me what to do. That didn't work as well as you thought it would."
"Of course," Hannah said quickly. She looked at me with an odd expression on her face, as if she didn't know what to do. She seemed almost lost.
"So what was so important that you had to talk to me in private?" I asked her, deciding that I ought to simply cut to the chase.
My friend bit her lip. "Can I get you anything to drink?"
"I'm fine," I replied. "What did you need to talk to me about?"
Hannah looked around the room, almost as if she was trying to avoid my eyes. After a quick intake of breath, she asked an odd question. "Have you heard about the new professor in the English department at Michigan?"
"You mean have I heard about the new professor in my department?" I queried. "Of course, her name is Jane Fairfax. Her office is right by mine. I've met her in passing once or twice. She seems sweet."
"And you probably know that she got her doctorate at UNC, which is where Paul also got his doctorate."
I nodded. "Yeah, I heard that. But Paul finished his a few years back, and his is in chemistry, so it's not terribly likely that they would have known each other."
Hannah sighed. "But they did. Or they do. They know each other."
"Okay," I said softly. "So they knew each other. What's the big deal?"
"They're married," she spat out as if those words were a disgusting food she couldn't bear to have in her mouth anymore.
"They're married?" I repeated. "Paul is married to Jane Fairfax?"
"And they've been married for five years."
I raised my eyebrows and unintentionally tightened my grip on Elinor. "Paul Churchill has been married for five years?"
"And he was married the whole time I was dating him?"
She nodded again.
"And he was married when I got pregnant with his baby and he rejected me?"
A third nod came from Hannah.
"Doesn't she have a baby?" I asked. "I think she said he was about three. His name is Oliver?"
"Oliver Paul Churchill," Hannah said softly. "He's Paul's son. Now you see why I feel so terrible about all of this. I pushed you two together and he was married the whole time. And he had a kid. I feel terrible about making you the other woman."
I wasn't completely paying attention to her. "He told me that he never wanted kids. He told me that he hated kids. He told me that babies were disgusting. And he had a baby the whole time. He just didn't want to make a commitment to me."
"They had to be apart while she was finishing her doctorate. Michigan was the only school that offered him a tenure-track professorship, so he had to come here. But Jane had to stay at UNC to finish up her doctorate. So they decided to live apart until she finished her doctorate. And then they would do everything they could to live in the same place once she was done so that they could live together as a married couple. But they lived apart for most of the past three years. She's been almost completely on her own with Oliver."
"And he's been dating other women, claiming to be unattached. Does she know about that?"
"I don't know," Hannah said. "I don't know what he's told her. All I know is what they told West and me about two days ago when they came over for dinner. I figured she was just his new girlfriend, but then they told us that they were married and they introduced us to their son, Oliver. It was overwhelming. I was so shocked that I didn't know what to say or how to ask him about his relationships with you and with Hattie."
"He was a married man who was dating other women."
"I know that it's awful. And I'm so sorry."
"He never told West? He didn't tell his own brother?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Paul said that his parents would have approved of them being married while living apart, so they decided to keep it secret. I suspect that his parents probably wouldn't have liked it or agreed with it. But I don't see the point in lying to everyone. He lied to his parents, to us, to you, to so many people."
"He's a scumbag," I said, flatly. "That's all I can say about him in front of my daughter. He's a scumbag."
Hannah smiled slightly. "I'm really sorry, Emma. I wish that I had known. I wish I could have helped you."
I shook my head. "How could you have known? I mean, okay, he was the wrong guy for me, and you shouldn't have pushed him at me. I can see that. But how could you have known that he was married and that he had a kid already? He was lying to everyone. You couldn't have known. It's not your fault."
She still looked distressed. "West and I just feel so bad about it. We wish we could have protected you."
"I appreciate that, but you didn't know. You couldn't have. And George took care of me and of Elinor when the time came for that." I kissed the top of my daughter's head. "George took wonderful care of both of us."
"You're so lucky to have him, Emma. I hope you know that."
I smiled. "I know. I wonder how I got so much to have someone like him love someone like me."
"Paul Churchill is married," George said flatly. "Paul Bleeding Churchill who told you that he didn't want kids and didn't want to get married; he's married and has a kid?"
"There is something seriously wrong with this world," my husband sighed. "That jerk can get any girl he wants even after he got married, and I had to sit by and watch him mess with my best friend with no hope of ever actually getting the girl I wanted."
"What?" I asked. "What did you just say?"
"Paul was married, and he still managed to win first your heart and then Hattie's heart. And I know he's had other girlfriends besides the pair of you. He's been able to get any girl he wants with the snap of his fingers. And meanwhile, I sat by for nearly five years waiting for you to see me as something more than your best friend."
"You had a crush on me for five years?" I asked. "You were interested in me for five years before I got married?"
"Didn't you ever wonder why I was always single?" he asked gently. "Didn't you ever wonder why I hated Paul so much and why I was so willing to agree to our marriage pact?"
"I just figured it was because we were best friends." Even as I said that, I knew how lame it sounded.
"We were best friends," he replied. "But Emma, I wanted more. I've known that since you were twenty-four, when we both spent the summer at my parents' house. It was the first time that I'd properly spent time with you since you were a teenager. And I saw how much you had grown up and changed. You weren't my little sister anymore. You weren't the annoying little girl I'd watch grow up. You were a woman. And you were a smart, beautiful woman. You were funny and strong and good-hearted. After that summer, I knew that you were what I wanted."
I stared at me as if I was seeing him for the first time. So many things were making so much more sense as he spoke. "Why didn't you say anything sooner?"
"I knew that you wouldn't listen to me. You were dating someone that summer. And then we were on opposite sides of the Atlantic for a few years. And then even when we moved in together, you always had someone. And I was just your old friend, your best friend. And I decided that had to be enough for me. I decided to fit myself into whatever hole was available in your life."
I stepped towards him and took his hands in mine. "Oh, George, I'm so sorry."
"Don't be sorry," he replied, squeezing my hands. "Over the five years I spent waiting, I got to watch you become an incredible woman. I got to be your friend, and while that wasn't always the happiest thing, it worked. The waiting sucked at times, and I hated Paul like I have never hated anyone in my life. But now, I have you and Elinor."
"I just wish I had known sooner."
"But you fell in love with me naturally. It wasn't out of guilt or a feeling of obligation," he said. "Don't you see? That's what I wanted for you. I didn't want you to feel obligated to love me. Instead, you fell in love with me on your own."
"How did I get so lucky?" I asked.
"You were born under a dancing star," George said with a teasing glint in his eye.
I kissed him. "You are ridiculous, George Knightley."
"And you love it, Emma Clare Knightley."
"All the days of my life," I replied firmly before kissing him again.
We celebrated our marriage on a hot July day, the Saturday of the hottest week of the year. I wore a knee-length strapless gold/cream lace dress with gold flip-flops while George wore beige dress pants and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. And he complained that was too warm for the day. He was probably right, but he didn't change clothes. And he looked so handsome.
"You two really are perfect for one another," Betsy told us.
"And I'm really lucky to have him," I told her.
"We're both really lucky to have one another," George said.
"I know I told you this before," Hannah told me. "But I was wrong about so many things. I'm so glad that you two finally found your way to one another."
"Do you know how things are going with Paul and his wife?" George asked.
"West accidentally let a few things slip in front of Jane," Hannah admitted. "And it might not have been as accidentally as he might want his brother to believe."
"So she knows about his extracurricular relationships?" I asked.
Hannah nodded. "And I don't know how things are going to work out for them, but I think that Paul is finally being forced to face the music. I wouldn't be surprised if he finds himself as single as he was pretending to be."
"Poor thing," I said sarcastically.
"I suppose," George said lightly. "Sometimes things work out just the way that they ought to. Sometimes, the good do end well, and the bad really do end badly."
I smiled and kissed his cheek. "Things could not have ended better for me than they have."
"I love you," he replied. "I could not have imagined a better ending to our silly marriage pact."
"The best but most ridiculous decision of our lives," I said.
"The pact and Elinor brought us together."
"Then, I'd like to propose a toast to your stupid marriage pact and to your wonderful daughter, " Mark Williamson said. "Without those two, we never would have made it to where we are today."
"Hear, hear," Betsy said. "That's a toast I'll gladly second. Congratulations to all three of you."
"May you have many happy and healthy years together," Mark continued. "And may you always be surrounded by loving family and friends."
"I'll drink to that," George said. Then he took a sip from my glass as I took a sip from his. Then he kissed the top of Elinor's head, and she giggled, reaching out for him. He took her in his arms and kissed her head again. Then, he kissed me.
After we pulled apart, I looked into his green-gray eyes and smiled. "I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you."
Posted on: 2013-08-21
Reader, I married her. I, George Knightley, married Emma Woodhouse. We had four children together. Although I had known her since she was born when I was five, I fell in love with her when I was twenty-nine and she was twenty-four. Three years later, I made a pact with her to marry her when she was thirty if we were both still unmarried at that point. I made that pact knowing that I would still be unmarried when she was thirty because the only woman I would ever marry was the same woman with whom I was making this pact.
I watched her fall in love other men. I watched as they hurt her. And I accepted the fact that I would never have her heart. She would never love me the way that I loved her. I would survive. I had my job, my beloved job. I would be fine. Maybe someday I would meet a woman who would love me the way that I wanted to be loved. But for now, I had Emma as a friend.
Then, a year before her thirtieth birthday, Emma found herself single and pregnant. And somewhere between June and October, she discovered that she loved me. And I discovered that there is nothing more beautiful in this life than to love and be loved. Our first child, Elinor, was born in the fall of 2012, a mere two days after I married her mother. Her brother, Maxwell George, was born in April of 2015. Audrey Caroline was born in July of 2018, and our youngest, Evelyn Beatrice, was born in October of 2020.
Paul Churchill and Jane Fairfax, on the other hand, divorced quickly on the grounds of adultery. Jane left Ann Arbor after only one year there and moved back to North Carolina with Oliver. From what I've heard, she married again a few years after leaving Ann Arbor and is quite happy. Paul left Ann Arbor at the same time as Jane, but he headed to West Virginia. I don't know what became of him as he and his brother lost touch after Paul left town. In one of the wiser moves of their lives, Hannah and West did choose to maintain contact with Jane and her son.
West and Hannah remained in our social circle. They had two children; Noah was born in 2014, and Adrienne was born in 2017. Emma probably derived a little more pleasure than she should have from the fact that Hannah gained more weight in her first pregnancy than Emma had with Elinor and then Hannah found herself almost unable to lose that weight. Betsy might have jokingly predicted this possibility at one point in the past, but no one had ever seen it actually coming to fruition.
As to what ever happened to Hattie, I don't know. After her breakup with Paul, Hattie and Emma grew apart until they completely lost contact. To be honest, I wasn't unhappy about that. I never completely liked Emma's friendship with Hattie. I didn't think that they were positive influences on one another-and in the end, Emma came to agree with me.
Emma and I lived a happy life with our family. And oddly enough, I came to thank Paul Churchill's stupidity for bringing such great happiness into my life. Without him, I never would have married my darling Emma or become the father of the four most wonderful children ever born. And thus I learned that even bad situations can bear wonderful fruit.