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Titled? ~ 65

September 24, 2017 10:32AM

Chapter Sixty -Five

“I heard,” said her father, “that you’ve dropped a few tasks.”

Anna Margaret did not know who exactly his source was, but she knew he had a few. In this instance it did not matter. It was hardly confidential information and she did not have to follow it up. “Yes,” she replied. They were standing in the street and she did not know if she wanted to stand there for long, so she did not elaborate. It was winter, after all, and fine for walking, but not so much for standing.

“So you’ll be going on leave soon? Or is this it?” He looked a little confused, as if she made these things especially mysterious on purpose.

“It’s possible.” She still did not want to commit to a date because she would like the freedom not to stick to it.

“It’s five o’clock,” he said.

“Yes, I stopped early.”

“Are you going down to zero?”

It kept being the same question in different forms, she reflected. When was she due? Was it very soon? She hoped her belly was not that impressive under her winter coat. It looked large enough to her naked, but objectively speaking it was all right. At any rate she did not think her father had the ability to tell from her size how long she still had to go, so all he could do was ask. “Don’t know.”

“You should not be walking. I assume you walked?”

“Yes, I did. Walking is good for me.”

“You should not be taking the risk.”

“Of what?” She looked left and right. There was no danger here at all. He did not have to be worried that she did not think of these things herself. She was not walking through deserted parks after dark. These were relatively busy city streets at a time when a lot of people were on their way home. And she had always walked and nothing had ever happened, except that some people might walk a little way with her.

“People might do something to you.”

“They could do that anywhere. And they haven’t, so why now?” She was never particularly worried during the day and she considered saying that, but then she wondered if that was what worried him or something else. “And births don’t happen as you walk.”

“Are you taking your leave after the birth?”

“I don’t know yet.” She could explain that it would depend on what sort of baby she was going to have, but she expected him to know. It was of course possible that he had been mostly absent when there had been babies in his family, but she could not remember that far back. It was, however, a fact everyone should know: not all babies were the same.

“But you have to know.”

And she did – it would depend. “Yeah. I’ve got that all covered. Maybe your sources don’t know.”

“My sources?”

“The people who give you inside information.”

“Anna, you make it sound as if I pay them.”

“They might think it will pay off for them in the long run, I don’t know.” They could be counting on favours. She had no idea. They had to have some reason for telling him.

“Will you send Aunt Marie a card?”

The sudden change of subject perplexed her. “Aunt Marie? I hardly know her.”

“She would appreciate it, given how you didn’t tell her about your pregnancy.”

He was channelling her mother now, even if it was an aunt on his side of the family. “A card? I don’t think they send cards.” She assumed the news would leak out and the media would publish it and then no one would need a card. The purpose of a card, in the days before everyone went online, was to inform people that a baby had been born. Now, such cards would arrive long after everyone heard about it. There was no longer any need.

“Do you have to do as they do?”

No, but it was convenient at times. “But I won’t send to people I never see.” Or maybe that was exactly the point of a card. “But we’ll see. Not everyone can be a part of this. I don’t want that. If I’d married the local baker Aunt Marie wouldn’t have wanted a card.”

She discussed it with Frederick at home. “What about all the people who want a part of the baby?”

“My family?”

“No, mine. Pretty distant too, an aunt.”

Frederick found that funny. “Distant. An aunt.”

“If you never see them, they’re distant,” she defended herself.

“True. But what do they want? Or what does your aunt want?”

“I don’t think they would have wanted anything if you hadn’t been you. I can’t explain it otherwise.” It was easier to deal with strangers, she reflected, than family, because they might make her feel as if she had some sort of duty towards them just because she was related.

“Oh, that.” Frederick did not look surprised. “That won’t go away probably. Not even if I ditched the title, because then I’d still be related to my sister.”

“My father said I should send her a card after the birth. Maybe you could set up a Facebook page. I don’t know, for photos? And then people like Aunt Marie could see a photo.” Except people like Aunt Marie were probably not digitally inclined and they would not know how to find it.

“We’re going to have to share the baby with enough people as it is. Let’s not add useless others,” he said after a moment. “A photo would be all right and I rather fear the public will want one or two as well – and we might actually like to show off – but I don’t really see the need to have everyone come over for a look if they are not people who would otherwise come over.”

“You do not believe in blood ties and things like that?” Anna Margaret did not think there was much else that tied her to her aunt. “Your family are pretty close.”

“With the ones they see. You don’t think that a half-cousin would be welcomed with open arms, do you?”

“I don’t know. Do you think there are some?”

“Yes. Well, I’ve heard rumours that my uncle may have been indiscreet, but I don’t think anyone has ever come forward to ask for money. So I don’t know for certain. They may not have told me about it. Anyway, I’ll set up an account already and then you can have a look.”

“At nothing?”

“I’ll post a picture of something else. But then you could add people you would like to be in the know.”

Maybe it was time she started using social media to a greater extent. She sighed. It might actually be useful for keeping them informed about the baby. “All right. But we’re not going to tell them when it starts.”

“I didn’t think you’d want to.”

“But there’s no need to include Aunt Marie yet. I don’t even know if she complained herself or if it was my parents’ idea. She might not be seriously interested and if we then include her, she might think we’re including her.”

Frederick gave that piece of logic a frown. “Uh. In any case, we can’t mindlessly throw pictures on it, because you never know who might pass them on or sell them. Are your parents online?”

“I have no idea.”

“I’ll first add my nieces and nephews then, because they definitely are, and then you can see how it works. It’s really easy. We have a secret family group too.” He sat her down and made her watch.

Anna Margaret was approaching her due date, although she was still determined not to say it. She did not really know why she was so stubborn about it, but she felt she should keep it up. So far there had not been great problems with passing on some tasks to others. The media and the public had not been able to catch any areas that were neglected, although they had tried.

She had been ahead of them, however, and she had very carefully catalogued and delegated her duties. There was a document that people could access that showed which duties were now taken care of by whom. Since she had always needed to take some time to prepare her weekly schedule, it only took a little bit more effort.

The amount of work was not decreasing after a certain point, so people could not infer anything from that. But there was no need to get rid of all of her duties, she thought, as long as she was conscious and mentally fully functioning. Modern communication possibilities ensured that people could always get a hold of her within three hours. Although she knew her schedule by heart, it had taken her a week to defer people immediately to others if they approached her on an issue that she had delegated. Initially it had taken a bit longer and she had either felt guilty or felt that it would save time if she handled this last little bit herself. But it had become easier and faster.

There were things that she wanted to be updated on and those emails she read in the evening at home. It was too much work to ask for summaries of everything, since some civil servants were constitutionally incapable of being concise, so she usually scanned the texts quickly. It was better to read a few emails each night than to have to work through piles of documents that she had to catch up on when she was back to working her regular hours. Because she did want to stay on top of things.

From interviews people would know that she did stay on top of things. Reporters still asked her questions – if they caught her leaving the building – and she always answered. What she did not do anymore was travel across the border. She could do places like Brussels distance-wise, but the evening programmes were too fatiguing. She would simply not stay awake. It was better to let Louis handle such things. Even meetings at home that ran late were a problem. The first time the media had still written extensively about it; the second time it was merely a mention. She was doing better at having herself replaced and represented than a minister who suddenly came down with the flu, after all.

Isabelle did not have as much to do publicly and she did not seem to cut down on her engagements at all. It only looked that way, however, because it was all planned very carefully. People had had opinions in the beginning and it had gradually become too repetitive to be deserving of attention, but Isabelle knew that if she took too much time off she would not only receive sympathy.

She was paid too much tax money to take time off.

Anna Margaret assumed that Isabelle would do a little less after the birth, although it was Isabelle who was offering suggestions about taking her baby to the office and it was logical to think she would do the same. Isabelle, however, had more trips and visits. It was more difficult to take a baby then. Anna Margaret did not know how that would work out for herself either, except that it would need to involve Frederick in some way. Frederick and Philip shrugged at the problem, it seemed, and perhaps one had convinced the other that there was no problem at all.

Anna Margaret, on the other hand, thought babies pooped and needed to be fed regularly. She did not bring ladies-in-waiting to places, although she doubted that ladies in Isabelle’s entourage would volunteer to change a baby. Would it be passed down the chain even further? And would a baby changing room be included in the list of requests that was sent to a location before an official visit?

Frederick thought it would all work out. She reminded him of what he would have to do if he accompanied her and he still thought it would all work out. Strangely enough she thought he might indeed prefer removing himself to a quiet place with a baby over continuing to be part of an official visit. In fact, they would probably never come back until it was time to leave.

It was only when he would have something to do of his own – rowing, for example – that she worried about. He had a few things planned, but she did not yet know about her own agenda. She still liked to be in control and to have it all sorted out beforehand, even if expecting a baby had been a good lesson in that regard. It worried her that they might not have anywhere to leave the baby and she really did not want Frederick to give up his own amusements. He was already extremely pliable.

He said they could always leave the baby with Isabelle and Isabelle herself had said as much as well, but Anna Margaret was still wondering what would happen if they all had something to do. Frederick was more worried what she would do if the baby did not sleep, but he tried not to mention that.

Anna Margaret had felt the occasional discomfort, but she had paid little attention to it. As her work day came to a close, she had more time to notice the cramps. Sometimes she felt one, but she had not timed the intervals – if there were regular intervals at all. She walked towards the exit and waited for her car. Apparently it could happen as a sort of practice. She could only assume that was what this was, because she could continue work without serious problems.

They had wanted her to use cars, for her safety, but she had only agreed when she felt it was too tiring to walk home from work at the end of the day when there was a layer of snow on the pavement. It had seemed lazy to travel such a short distance by car.

The car dropped her off outside her house and she went in. Frederick was still out. He always told her if he was away at night and he had not done that, so she supposed he was due home soon. The cramping in her stomach was more frequent now. She drank something and walked in small circles.

Then it occurred to her to phone. “What time will you be home?”

“I’m already on my way. What’s wrong?”

“Just a little uncomfortable, really,” she said brightly, trying to keep her breathing under control. She could not tell him these were contractions if she did not know they were contractions. It would be silly if she was wrong. And how could she know they were contractions? On television women always made a lot of noise. He might drive too fast and have an accident if she worried him unnecessarily. “I was wondering when you’d come.”

“A little?” Frederick sounded sceptical. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

She walked around some more and went upstairs to run a bath. This house had a bath, contrary to Frederick’s previous apartment, but they rarely made use of it. While she was there, the cramping became more frequent and less bearable. She supposed she could not deny that these were indeed contractions, although she still did not feel the need to scream and pant and fall to the floor.

When Frederick came in, she hardly noticed him, though.

“Have you called the midwife?” he asked. “Should I take you to the hospital?”

“I didn’t call, in case these were not contractions.”

Frederick rolled his eyes. He left the bathroom. Anna Margaret wondered what he was going to do, but after a few seconds she could only focus on her body and getting towels and things like that. When she had gone through three of those excruciating moments and she had a few seconds of clarity, he was back.

“She says contractions. She wanted to know how far apart, but she’ll come over to see you anyway.”

“Not that it will help much.” Anna Margaret tried several different positions in the bath. Bath tubs were supposed to be comfortable, but they were far too hard and far too small for it. She had no idea what was supposed to be comfortable about a bath tub.

“Not far apart,” Frederick concluded. “Why are you in a bikini?”

“Someone’s coming over. And if I have to leave – whoa!”

“Whoa?” He was concerned.

“It’s a bit painful,” she said with a gasp.

He had to wait for her next remark, but he held her hand in the meantime.

“I don’t feel like getting into a car anymore.” She certainly did not feel like getting out of the bath and into clothes.

“No?” His hand was squeezed.

“If I stand up he will fall out.”

Titled? ~ 65

LiseSeptember 24, 2017 10:32AM

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