Thank you: BIG thanks to Jude who encouraged me to put my imagination into story form and kept a fire under me to complete it! I'm also indebted to my betas JoAnn and Mary Elaine. Thanks also to the the many "focused" fans of SMK who keep this show alive and are so encouraging to fanfic authors. I count myself lucky to be included among you!
Timeline: Written August-October 2000
Feedback: I would love to hear positive feedback or constructive criticism.
Setting: This story starts just prior to Labor Day weekend in 1988. The background details are explained in the story. To cover the basic questions, yes, Lee and Amanda have told everyone about their marriage and are still working at the Agency.
Disclaimer: As much as I love 'em, these characters do not belong to m they are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. I make reference to names and events from the show only to keep the story true to character, not to steal them in any way. I am making absolutely no money off this. As a matter of fact, I'm in grad school, totally broke, and deeply in debt to Uncle Sam so I'd appreciate it if you didn't sue me! The story is mine, though. It came totally out of my overly active imagination. Please do not add to or adjust this story in any way. I spent a lot of time on it and I have a vested interest in what happens to it. This story is just for the enjoyment of SMK fans who know that this show ended way too soon and who like to dream about "what might have been." This is part of my answer...hope you enjoy it!
She thought about the life-changing events that had brought them to
this week. Dotty was finally getting remarried to a terrific guy she'd
met at church last Christmas.
Amanda knew that, despite her mother's sanguine exterior, she was very nervous about this turn in the road. To ease the tension a little, she'd planned this garage sale scavenger hunt to keep her mother's mind off the Friday wedding. It seemed like only yesterday that Amanda had been planning some Friday nuptials of her own, yet so much had happened in the last year and a half that it seemed like an eternity had passed since that February day in 1987. Changes Amanda never would have imagined two years ago were now her present reality.
They had finally confessed to their marriage a year ago and life had settled back into a routine. Adjustments...sure, there had been plenty. Lee had moved into the cozy white Cape Cod with Amanda and Dotty last year in July after the boys had moved in with Joe and Carrie. It was a hard decision for Amanda...the boys had been her life. But she knew that Joe, making an effort to remain grounded, deserved a chance to make up for the years he missed. She'd become spoiled, having the boys to herself all these years. Yes, Joe deserved to have them before time ran out. The boys were in high school now, in a few years they'd be off to college. It wasn't as if he'd dragged them to the other side of the world, they were nearby in Alexandria, but it seemed a world away to Amanda. With that thought, Amanda smoothed the baby outfit one more time and came back to reality.
"Amanda, darling, come see what I've found!" She looked to see Mother holding up a clear crystal vase and waving it in Amanda's direction.
"Coming Mother!" Amanda 'ooh'ed and 'ahh'ed over the vase. "That would be just lovely in your new living room."
"You're right, darling, I just have to have it!" Dotty decided and raced to find the lady in charge.
Amanda smiled and let out a sigh. She would miss her mother. What would she have done all these years without her? But come fall, Dotty and Michael would be moving to Florida for the winter. They'd keep an apartment up here, but no doubt the home in Key West would become their permanent residence. Part of Amanda ached for the way things used to be, but when she thought of all the good that the future *might* hold, she could not wish to stop it. There was another secret brewing inside Amanda, one she could not confess to her mother just yet.
"Darling, do you want to join us for lunch?" Mother asked with a sympathetic glance towards Amanda.
"Oh Mother, you and Michael just have yourselves a nice time. Don't worry about me."
"You're certainly welcome to join us, don't feel like you're intruding. We will have the rest of our lives for these lunches..."
"Really, Mother, I'm not that hungry. Besides, I want to get home and wrap that baby gift I got for Joe and Carrie to take tomorrow night."
"You really are a doll," Dotty sighed as she ran her hand down Amanda's cheek. "How many people buy a baby gift for their ex-husband and his new wife?"
"You know I don't think of it that way. Besides, I like shopping for babies."
Dotty just smiled. Amanda knew what she was thinking--that maybe one of these days Amanda would be buying baby clothes for her and Lee's baby. As much as Amanda hoped for that, the nagging fear she'd had since her last doctor's appointment wouldn't leave her alone. If the truth be told, Amanda's lack of appetite was based more in her worry than lack of hunger. She couldn't tell Mother that, though. Tomorrow night, September 2, 1988, Dotty West would become Dotty Harris and that's all the worrying Mother needed for the present.
With a wave, Amanda said good-bye to her mother and Michael, who had just arrived at the Italian restaurant. She was so happy for her mother. Amanda had worried about Dotty since the marriage to Lee. Worried that she was not spending enough time with her mother. But that fear has subsided since Christmas when Michael had taken a seat with them in the crowded pew at church. Carrie was sick so Joe had not been able to make it. Things had turned out, though. Carrie had learned she was expecting a baby in early August and Michael had managed a seat next to Dotty. The rest is truly history now, as she saw the last remnants of the happy couple disappear through her rear view mirror.
At home, Amanda pulled into the driveway of the empty house. It was just her and Lee now. As she came in through the front door she noticed a pile of boxes near the door that would be moved out tomorrow. Dotty would be moving into Michael's nearby apartment until the couple closed on their new home in Florida. Her mother's reassuring words danced in and out of her mind. "Just for the winter. We'll be back in time for the blooms." She scanned the house. Despite Dotty moving out, there was little disturbed in the house. No books or clothes lying about. Lee, bless his heart, must have done the dishes before heading out to the Agency this morning. She loved him like she never thought possible. But she knew that the potential for a strain on their marriage existed.
They had talked about it last March. Although only married for a year, "they were not getting any younger" as Lee had said. He wanted kids. She wanted more kids. Now that their marriage was out in the open and they would have the house to themselves, what was stopping them?
Amanda wondered that same thought. She's been off birth control since then but so far all pregnancy tests had only yielded a big fat "no." She'd given up testing since June, though, when a home pregnancy test had come up negative again. But that's not what worried her. She had not had a period since June and anxiety seemed to be putting her stomach into fits. At the time she had thoughts of rushing out to get a home test kit, but could not bring herself to do it. Probably another "no" she had thought to herself. She was so tired of the disappointment. But when August had rolled around and nothing had changed, she made a doctor's appointment. She thought for sure this time it would come out positive. But when Doctor Reynolds called with the results, Amanda could barely keep the tears from bursting out. She'd had two babies before, it never occurred to her that she would have any problems conceiving again. Lee was strong, but she knew that all week it had caused a quietness between them. What was she going to do? Amanda had seen the sparkle in his eyes when they agreed to try to have children. She could also not erase the look on his face when that test came back negative.
Amanda pushed all these thoughts to the back of her head as she grabbed
her finds from the garage sales and headed upstairs to find the perfect
spots for them. After that chore was done, she pulled out a
shopping bag from the closet. She'd picked up this baby girl outfit for
Joe and Carrie a month ago at the mall on the day Emily Kathryn King had
been born, but with the stresses of the last month, she had not had the
strength to wrap it up. She touched the delicate pink dress with the lace
trimming. How she wanted a girl of her own. Amanda could imagine her already.
Dark eyes and soft brown hair. She would be an angel. Secretly Amanda had
hoped that she could save this dress for her own baby, but it was unrealistic
to do that now. Nope, Emily will look great in this Amanda thought
to herself. That issue resolved, Amanda boxed the dress and wrapped it
with pastel paper and a big pink ribbon, and set it in the hallway to remind
her that it needed to go to the wedding tomorrow.
"Hey, you're home," Lee said in an astonished tone. "I figured you and your mother would still be out bargain shopping at a furious rate." Lee's face contorted in such a funny way that Amanda could not help but chuckle.
"You know us so well. Mother met Michael for lunch so I just came home." Lee nodded like he understood perfectly.
"Ah ha, so you didn't want to join them?"
"I wasn't terribly hungry, anyway," Amanda replied as she plopped one more slice of cheese on her already protruding sandwich.
"Oh really?" Lee questioned as he examined the monumental sandwich in the makings. Mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon, and a hearty dollop of ketchup were joined by the final slice of cheese and a top layer of bread. "All evidence to the contrary."
"Okay, so I wasn't hungry at the time would be more accurate!" Amanda agreed as the butter knife she'd retrieved from the drawer simply was not cutting it. She replaced the dull knife with a quality meat knife and made a clean cut diagonally across the sandwich.
"Mind if I join you?" Lee asked as he grabbed two slices of bread and inserted them into the toaster. Amanda nodded her approval.
"I'm surprised to see you home so early. I thought for sure Billy would have you working 'til supper time with you being off tomorrow for the wedding and the holiday weekend."
"Thank Francine," Lee said with a mischievous grin. "She offered to take a pressing case for me this afternoon." Amanda tossed him a doubtful look.
"Okay, 'offered' is putting it nicely. Billy gave it to her so I could come home early. He thought maybe will all the excitement going on this weekend that I was needed here more than at work."
Amanda let out a sigh as she scanned the quiet house. "Oh ya, a hot bed of excitement," she teased just as Lee came up from behind her and gave her a squeeze and a peck on the cheek.
"Hey, did you check the machine when you got home?" Lee asked as he noticed the red light blinking on the end table.
"I guess not. I went straight upstairs with the garage sale items and just came down as you were getting home," Amanda explained as Lee made his way over to the machine. "If it's Billy changing his mind you call and tell him you're mine until Tuesday."
Lee pressed the button on the answering machine. As a familiar female
voice came on, his ears perked. "Amanda, it's from Dr. Reynolds. I think
you're gonna want to hear this!"
"Hello, this is Doctor Reynolds and this message is for Amanda Stetson. It's early afternoon on Thursday, September 1st...I hope you get this before the weekend...I know your mother was getting married and I don't mean to add stress to that..."
For once, Amanda was on the other side of the fence. She was used to babbling when she got nervous but she was fighting the urge to reach out and strangle this woman if she didn't get to the point...and fast.
"Anyway," the doctor continued, "I called as soon as I heard about the mishap. Amanda, I'd like you to come back into the office sometime to redo your pregnancy test. I was reading your chart and checking the lab work and I think there was a problem. I can explain better when you get here but if you'd call the office and set up an appointment, I'd really appreciate it. We're not open tomorrow and we close at 5:00 tonight so please call as soon as you get this. Thanks."
With a click the message had ended. Amanda could hardly believe what she had just heard. She fought the urge to get too excited but at the same time could not keep from smiling at the thought of what the doctor was implying. Lee checked his watch.
"It's only 1:30--call and see if you can get in today," he urged, a strangled excitement obvious in his tone. Amanda fumbled through the address book searching for the phone number. She'd called the office a million times over the years with stories of earaches and chicken pox but the number was firmly missing from her memory.
"Here it is!" As she prattled off the number, Lee dialed and handed the phone back to Amanda.
After an eternity of ringing, someone finally picked up the phone.
"Hello Becky, this is Amanda Stetson. Dr. Reynolds left a message on my phone earlier and I'm just getting back with her." Amanda listened as Becky explained that Dr. Reynolds was in with a patient but she could check the appointment book for an opening. Another eternity passed before Becky returned to the phone.
"Mrs. Stetson? The only thing we have open today is 4:45. Otherwise we can fit you into a Tuesday morning appointment."
"I'd better take the 4:45 appointment today," Amanda said, with a smile to Lee who was anxiously eavesdropping on the conversation. Becky went on to explain that Dr. Reynolds had to leave early today but that the nurse could be there for the test. "That's fine," Amanda agreed. "I'd like to get this done today." A moment later the conversation was over and Amanda was trying to find a sturdy place to plant herself. Lee sat himself right next to her and took her hand. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that I can't believe this is happening. Lee, honestly I was crushed when that test came back negative last week," Amanda could barely finish her sentence before Lee interrupted.
"I know, I was disappointed too," Lee confessed. Amanda had suspected it but hearing him admit it only made her ache for the power to end this struggle. "Amanda, as much as I want to have a baby with you, I want you to know that you are so much more important to me. If going through all this is going to be too much, we can hold off for a while. Take it slow."
Amanda smiled and planted a kiss on Lee. "You're so sweet. Let's just hope for the best and deal with what happens later. All I want right now is to eat that BLT that's calling my name!"
With a laugh, Lee nodded and joined Amanda in the kitchen where a late
lunch awaited both of them.
"So do you and your mother have any last minute errands to run?" Lee asked as he popped a Pringle into his mouth.
"Not really. Michael's daughters were going to decorate this afternoon before the rehearsal and the country club is taking care of the reception decorations and food."
Lee shook his head in agreement. "What time should we plan on being at the church tonight?"
"Oh, rehearsal's at 6:00 but we're all meeting at Michel's at 4:30 for the rehearsal dinner."
Amanda and Lee were quiet as that fact sunk in.
"Oh no!" they said in unison.
"Well, can you call your mother and push back the dinner?"
"Lee, what am I going to tell her? I haven't said a thing about this and I certainly cannot tell her on the eve of her wedding!"
"It's okay...we'll just call the restaurant and have them give her a message. We'll be there but we're running late."
"Good plan," Amanda said. She flashed back to the years when she'd become adept at making up stories for her mother. Amanda honestly thought those days were over but this was one more secret she had to keep. "Alright, the test shouldn't take long and we could probably be there by 5:00 if the traffic cooperates."
That plan in place, Lee and Amanda busied themselves for the next few hours. The house was clean and the errands done, but suddenly little projects "that I've been meaning to get done" were of prime importance. Amanda reorganized the closet in the spare bedroom upstairs while Lee finally organized that bookcase in the den.
Two hours later, Amanda stood proudly in the spare bedroom. She carefully examined the closet. The little knickknacks collected through the years were now safely stored in boxes at the top. Somehow she'd managed to pack them all to one side! She smiled for a moment before her glance turned to Dotty's room across the hall. The bed was still made but no other remnants of her mother's "special" style were noticeable through the cardboard boxes. She sighed. Mother.
Mother! Amanda caught the time on her watch. 4:20! How could they let time get away from them so fast?
"Lee!...Lee! We're really going to be running late!" She yelled over the banister. Amanda could hear a rush of commotion downstairs as Lee obviously had just noticed the time as well.
"I'll be right up!" he called from the den. Amanda rushed into the bedroom and pulled an outfit out of the closet. Luckily this was just a rehearsal so things were casual but Amanda did not want to meet Michael's family for the first time in the jeans and blouse she'd been wearing all day. A minute later Lee had joined her in the room, and he was grabbing outfits at a pace that paralleled Amanda's. Ten minutes had passed before the couple looked presentable again.
"Alright, we have to be at the doctor's in 10 minutes. You'd better call Michel's and let them know we're late..."
"What, are you afraid we're going to blow our cover?" Lee chucked as he tied the last lace on his shoe and headed down the stairs to look up the phone number. Amanda just laughed as she gave her hair a final fluff and followed Lee down the stairs, backtracking for a minute to grab the baby gift sitting in the hall.
"I know I'm going to forget this," Amanda announced as she entered the kitchen, holding the baby gift. Lee was obviously on the phone with someone from the restaurant and he was only half listening to her. Seconds later the phone was back on the cradle.
"They're all there and the hostess was going to let them know to go ahead without us," Lee informed Amanda who was already digging in the front closet for a sweater. The weather was still lovely, but it was September now and the air turned chilly after dark.
"Amanda..." Lee said with more than a hit of frustration. "Five minutes!" Amanda appeared out of the closet triumphant and clutching a blue sweater.
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" she retorted with an equally strained tone.
Lee locked the back door, turned on a light in the family room, and
joined Amanda on the front steps. She handed him his keys in exchange for
the baby gift she'd left on the counter as they both dashed towards the
silver Corvette waiting for them in the driveway.
"No one's here," Amanda sighed as she scanned the lot.
"Let's see," Lee suggested. "They wouldn't have just left if you had an appointment."
"Alright" Amanda agreed as Lee opened her door and offered his hand to help her out. "But we are five minutes late...maybe they thought I was a no-show."
Lee didn't answer. He could not imagine a whole weekend filled with
repeat performances of the last three hours. When they got to the door
it was open, and they saw a light under the door of Suite 100 where Dr.
Reynolds shared an office with Dr. Harper. A relieved expression was evident
on both their faces as they walked in to see Dr. Reynolds' nurse, Mary,
sitting at the
reception desk thumbing though a magazine.
"Amanda?" she asked with a smile.
"Yes, I'm so sorry we're late." Amanda started to apologize as Mary reached for a packet wrapped in plastic sitting on a shelf behind her.
"No problem. Everyone else has deserted already for the weekend but
my husband can't pick me up until 5:00 anyway so I offered to stay." Lee
and Amanda looked relieved as they realized why the parking lot was empty.
"Why don't you follow me back here?" she motioned. Amanda handed her purse
to Lee who took a seat in the waiting area, and followed the nurse to an
examination room towards the back.
"Did Dr. Reynolds explain the problem?"
Amanda shook her head. "Just that there had been some mishap and she wanted me to retest."
"Yes, we've never had a problem with this lab before, but a week ago when we sent some samples with them....yours included...two of the containers got mixed up. At first we didn't think anything was out of the ordinary until an elderly lady who came in last week for urinalysis....well, her lab report came back as 'pregnancy: positive' so they are asking that we retest everyone from that day to make sure of getting the right results."
Amanda didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This whole afternoon was still a blur as she recalled the phone message and the words of the nurse.
"Well, your blood pressure looks good..."
Amanda had hardly noticed that the nurse was doing some routine checks on her as she told the story.
"Why don't you take this and go into the bathroom. I'll be right out in the lobby watching for he medicvan. They usually don't pick up the lab samples until 6:00, but I called them three times today reminding them we close early!"
Amanda nodded as she grabbed the clear cup with the pink lid and went across the hall to "make a deposit." Minutes later she emerged to find Lee, Mary, and what looked like a pizza delivery boy, chatting in the waiting area. Mary turned to see her and walked back to where Amanda stood. Retrieving the sample from her, the nurse took it back to be labeled and packed with the rest of the samples.
"We should have the results by Tuesday," Mary said as she locked the metal cooler.
"Well, we're not open tomorrow and the doctor's out of town so she won't be able to go over the paperwork until Tuesday morning."
Amanda's disappointment was obvious as she followed the nurse to the outer office where the medicvan driver had been waiting.
"Ready?" Lee asked as he handed Amanda her purse.
She forced a smile. "Yep. We'd better get going. I have a feeling Mother
is going to have a lot of questions for us!"
Lee watched her silently out of the corner of his eye. What was she thinking about? She had been so positive when she'd gone back to the examination room, yet there was a definite mood change in her when she'd come out. He wondered if the nurse had given her any indication of the problem. It couldn't have been good news, judging from the way her forehead was scrunched together into worry lines.
"So, did Mary mention what this mishap was all about?" he asked.
Amanda snapped out of her reverie and forced a smile. "Oh something about getting some samples mixed around and having to retest everyone."
"Was yours one that had been mixed up?"
"She didn't say for sure. Just that some tests had come back weird and it was cause for alarm."
Lee was not getting any straight answers from her. "Well Amanda, did she say something in particular? I mean, you're being so quiet all of a sudden."
"Oh, Lee..." her voice trailed as she felt tears well up in her eyes. Lee gave her an understanding look and grabbed hold of her hand.
"I know. It's frustrating. But these tests don't take long. We'll know soon..."
"Tuesday?" It was no use holding in his shock. "I thought we'd know by morning."
"They're closed," was all Amanda could get out before the tears began rolling. She fumbled with the glove compartment to find something absorbent to catch the flood of tears about to burst from the corners of her eyes. Lee recalled the answering machine message and shook his head.
"Well then, we are just gonna have to make the best of this, Amanda. Okay, so Tuesday we'll know. In the meantime, your mother is going to need you. She has this rehearsal tonight and a wedding tomorrow. Then the brunch Saturday morning, moving out on Sunday. She needs you to be strong. Besides, the weekend will be over before you know it."
Amanda knew he was right. The weekend ahead promised to be full of activity and Amanda was determined to help her mother through this.
"It's a deal? This is our secret until Tuesday?" Lee asked Amanda as the car stopped out front of the restaurant.
Amanda nodded in agreement and looked up to the restaurant now appearing in her window.
"But Lee, what are we going to tell my mother?"
"Oh Darling!" Dotty exclaimed as she saw Lee and Amanda hovering in the entryway. Dotty waved them over to the grand collaboration of tables that held the reception party. "Amanda, let me introduce you two to everyone..."
Dotty went around the table explaining one person after another. Next to Michael was his daughter, Sarah, her husband Max, and their 6 year old, Tyler. Sitting by Tyler was his aunt, Michael's youngest daughter, Leanne. "Leanne's husband couldn't make it tonight," Dotty informed them as she smoothed the hair of the one-year-old baby sitting in a high chair drooling on some crackers. "This is their daughter Megan."
"It's very nice to meet all of you," Amanda said graciously. Lee concurred and moved towards the table to shake Max's hand.
The rest of the group was made up of Dotty's family members. Some family from Vermont was down for the event as well as others Lee recognized from family photos.
"Have a seat you two," Dotty said as she pulled out the chair next to her. Then the words Amanda had just been waiting for came. "What kept you guys?"
"Oh, Lee worked today and then, well, I was tired and when I laid down I forgot to set an alarm..." The made-up explanation was interrupted, though, when the final two guests entered the room, one of them planting a big hug on her from behind.
"Hey mom," Philip whispered into her ear. A look of instant recognition was obvious on her face.
"Oh, Philip, sweetheart!" Amanda got up from her chair to give her first born a big hug. She could hardly pull herself away from him to give Jamie the same bear hug. "I didn't think you guys were gonna make it!"
"Dad dropped us off and is going to pick us up from the church at 8:00," Jamie explained with a push of his glasses. "I've really missed you, mom."
"You don't know how much it means to me to have you here," Amanda sighed as she cupped their faces. She had never missed them so much in her whole life. Somehow holding these boys made her realize how precious her children were to her. What would she do if she could not have this again with Lee? That thought was too difficult to comprehend.
Lee watched as Amanda's face changed into pure joy. He had waited to
see that look on her face again. This was the Amanda he had missed. He
didn't know what it would do to her if this test came out negative. His
heart almost broke for her and in that instant he realized that no matter
what the test results were, he had to support her on the road ahead.
"So when do you expect to close on this dream house?" Sarah asked with a nudge to her father.
Michael smiled. "We're closing on Tuesday."
"Already?" Amanda asked in a tone that surprised even her. She had been counting on having her mother around this month before the move.
"Yes dear, didn't we tell you? The paperwork is basically done we just need to sign the papers." Dotty gave Amanda's hand a reassuring pat. "Don't worry, we're not moving right away...although I am anxious to get settled."
Someone else asked Dotty a question but Amanda didn't notice. Her mind had already slipped from the restaurant to a flash of her life ahead. The boys were gone, Mother was leaving her. What next? With her mother's words, Amanda's life had gone from hopeful to bleak. She knew that sometime this fall they would be moving, but Amanda could see the excitement in her mother's eyes. She was moving on. New husband, new home. New life...without her daughter. If it hadn't been for the reassuring squeeze given by Lee, she feared the tears that she had managed to keep back would come flowing out again.
The rest of the evening progressed as planned. After a delicious meal, the group caravanned to the church for rehearsal. A late start, of course, but after a few marches down the aisle, the party was moving to the wedding music like pros. Before they knew it, the clock read 9:00 and the party dispersed for the night. The boys had left already. Amanda let them go only after they promised to come stay for the weekend once the beginning of school flurry of activity had quieted down.
"I think I really am ready for some sleep," Amanda told Lee with a yawn as they walked back to their car. "This day has been draining on me." Lee knew exactly what Amanda meant. But he knew that this day was only one of five they would have to endure before they got the news they were both waiting for.
"It's only 9:00, though," Lee stated. "What do you say we go home, put on some pajamas, and take a look at all the photo albums I organized on those shelves? I think you could use a good walk down memory lane." Amanda nodded.
Soon the Corvette exited the church parking lot and was heading towards
"Do you want hot chocolate or tea?" She yelled upstairs to Lee who was still changing into a jogging suit.
"Chocolate," came the muffled reply. So Amanda added a packet of hot chocolate to her tea selection and pulled two mugs off the rack. Just as she was humming along to the music playing on the radio she heard Lee come down the stairs.
"Do we have any marshmallows?" he asked as he opened a pantry cupboard.
"You don't expect me to give away my secret just because you look cute in that outfit, do you?" she asked with a sly expression. Lee just grinned.
"Alright, alright. I'll go in the other room and find those albums as long as you put some of those cute mini-marshmallows in my chocolate."
"Yep, but no peeking!"
Lee flashed her an innocent look and gave her a peck on the cheek as he went by. "I promise!"
Moments later Amanda was in the family room with the two mugs. Lee grabbed a big blanket and brought over a stack of photo albums and they cuddled up on the floor.
"This afternoon as I was sorting through the books down here I found a whole pile of these old albums. Do these look familiar?"
Amanda's face lit up. "The baby books--I knew I had these stashed down here somewhere."
"Not only the boys but..." Lee pulled a pink album out from behind him. Amanda just gasped.
"You found my baby book?"
"At first I wasn't sure what it was because it was covered in pink, but I'd recognize that tushie anywhere," he laughed with a bit of mischief in his voice as he pointed to a newborn Amanda.
"You know, I remember the last time I saw this," Amanda said with a chuckle. "In 1982 when Mother moved in here, we put all the baby books in the back of this bookcase cabinet so the boys would not get into them. I'd totally forgotten that they were back there."
"Well I think we should keep them out now. You'll probably enjoy looking at them even more now that the boys aren't living here anymore."
Amanda grew quiet for a moment. "Lee, tell me honestly...do you think it was a mistake to let Joe take the boys? They're just starting high school and I wonder..."
"Hey hey hey," Lee interrupted. "Amanda, you said yourself that Joe has never really spent much time with the boys since he was away so much. He and Carrie have their own home now, and a new baby...it's a good environment for them."
"I know, but seeing them tonight just made me doubt this living arrangement. Sometimes I miss them so much that I wish they could be here. I just don't want to lose them."
"Well, listen, we'll have them over weekends and catch up on what's going on in their lives. Amanda, you won't lose them. They moved a year ago and you can see how happy they were to be with you tonight. You're still adjusting to the arrangement." Lee gave her a squeeze. "Besides, I like having you to myself."
"Life has just changed so much."
"For the good, though, too Amanda. Our marriage is in the open, your mother has found someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with, and the boys are well adjusted and finally getting to spend some time with their father."
Amanda could not argue those points. She knew deep down that the decision was the right one. It was days like today that made her doubt that. Her arm rested on her stomach for a moment. She wondered what other life changing events were in store for her. Good news. Please let it be good news she thought to herself.
Lee and Amanda spent the next hour scouring over old photo albums and
baby books. Philip asleep on a toilet, Jamie equally as zonked out while
mid-bite in the high chair. Amanda remembered those days so well. They
were happier times before the
separation and divorce. For so long she'd felt guilty about the divorce and the change it brought to their home. Now those worries seemed silly as she thought about how life had turned out. No matter how much she missed the boys and how much she would miss her mother, things had really turned out for the best. It was with a contented sigh that she closed the last book at 11:00.
"We'd better hit the sack," Lee finally said as he uncurled from under the blanket. "Tomorrow is going to be a big day so we'd better start out rested."
"I'll grab the mugs if you'll turn off the lights," Amanda said as she
herself got up off the floor. After Amanda deposited the mugs in
the sink, Lee turned the lights off in the den. In a flash the downstairs
was bathed in darkness and soon the last flicker of light went off upstairs
as the Stetson family called it a day.
She rolled out of bed and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Just what she had suspected. Bed head. She was grateful for just a moment that her husband was not around to witness this picture. After stumbling into the bathroom to run a brush through her hair, Amanda ventured over to the closet to lay out their clothes for the wedding. She pulled Lee's black tux out of the far end of the closet and hung it on a hook in the closet. Grabbing her new dress, still wrapped in plastic from 3 weeks ago when she and Mother had picked it out, Amanda hung it next to Lee's.
Amanda turned to see her husband pop his head into the bedroom.
"Did you just get up?"
"Yeah," Amanda replied with a swipe of her hair just to be sure the strands she had brushed were staying in place. "I guess I was more tired than I thought."
"Today's the big day," Lee said with a charming smile. "Wedding's at 5 o'clock."
"I thought we could get there a little early," Amanda said with a smirk. "No matter what Sarah and Leanne say, there is always something to do right before a wedding."
"That's fine. I was just going to jump in the shower real quick and get dressed. You wanna aim to leave by 4:00?"
"Should get us out of here by 4:15," she laughed. Lee emerged from the bathroom momentarily to give her a knowing glance.
Ten minutes later the shower turned off and Lee busied himself getting dressed. Amanda was at the vanity putting the finishing touches on her makeup when the phone rang.
"Amanda? Oh thank goodness you're home!"
She listened intently as her mother excitedly explained that the florist could not deliver the flowers after all and they were ready if someone could pick them up.
"Mother...I'm sure we can...no really....is it the one on Peak Street?" Lee tossed Amanda a questioning look as he listened to her side of the conversation. Some emergency had apparently come up and Dotty was desperate for help.
Amanda hung up the phone and turned to Lee. "We need to go to Judy's Floral Shop and pick up the attendants' flowers," she explained. "Mother just found out that they don't deliver orders under $75 and she's frantic."
"How many are there?"
"Just the boutonnieres and the rose sprays for Sarah, Leanne, and me."
"That shouldn't be a problem."
"I told her it wouldn't be. She's very stressed, though, and running on very little sleep."
"What time did she get home last night?"
"It must have been after we went to bed because I never heard her until this morning when I went down for breakfast. She was dressed and running out the door by 8:00. Plus they were hauling those boxes out all morning, the ones that went to the apartment."
"Then she's entitled to a little insanity!"
Amanda nodded as she unwrapped her dress. This little side errand meant they needed to be out of the house by 3:30 and she was anxious to get going. After de-tagging the pale skirt and jacket, she slipped it on and stood next to Lee in his tux.
"You know, we look pretty good...you could almost mistake us for the bride and groom." Amanda rewarded Lee's sweet gesture with a firm kiss on the lips.
"No thanks," she sighed. "Watching my mother get married is about as much excitement as I can take for one day."
"Let's hope these few hours before her wedding aren't *quite* as exciting as the ones before ours was" Lee said with a laugh. "Picking up flowers is a cake walk compared to getting a stranglehold on Nick Grant and the McMasters' art collection!"
Five minutes later the couple was on their way. After a quick stop at Judy's Floral Shop, the silver Corvette found its way to a bricked church on Virginia Avenue. The calm exterior was by no means a reflection of what was going on inside. Lee and Amanda entered to find Sarah and Leanne desperately pinning flowers to the end of the pews while Tyler and Megan were playing some version of tag down the center aisle. The ladies already had on their attendant dresses and were frantically trying to maintain their hair-dos and composure.
"Can we help?" Amanda asked. A relieved expression crossed both ladies' faces.
"The other florist was late so we just now got these flowers," Leanne explained as she scooped Megan off the floor, only to put her down when she squirmed.
"We're here to help," Lee offered. He set the wrapped flowers he and Amanda had just picked up in a pew at the back. "What would you like us to do?" Both Sarah and Leanne's glances were directed to Tyler, who was running in circles around his mother, and Megan, toddling behind him.
"No problem..."Amanda insisted. "There is a playground right behind the church..."
"Thanks," Sarah replied gratefully as she caught hold of Tyler and gave Lee his hand. "About 4:30 we'd like to get them dressed but until then...if you'd entertain them..."
Amanda picked up Megan and smiled. "We'd be happy to."
With that the foursome headed out to the playground to get some much
needed exercise and left Sarah and Leanne in peace.
"Tired of the swings already?" Amanda questioned.
"Are we young enough to do this?" Lee asked as he gave the wheel Tyler was spinning on another big push.
"Are you kidding? They keep you young!" Amanda retorted as Tyler let out a happy squeal. Lee gave him a push and let the merry-go-round come to a slow stop. Tyler promptly jumped off and ran over to the monkey bars, climbing and swinging until his face was hot with excitement. Megan just watched her cousin and clapped her hands. The next 10 minutes proceeded much the same way. Tyler running from one activity to another as Lee, Amanda, and Megan followed to play audience to his gymnastic feats.
"Is it 4:30 yet?" Lee asked as he noticed Tyler heading back to the swings.
Lee let out a sigh and motioned for Tyler to join them. After a few more seconds of pleasure, Tyler jumped off the swing and sprinted towards the church. His three companions had just caught up with him when the door to the church opened.
She turned to see a sight so funny she wished her camera was handy. There before her stood Dotty West, decked in jeans and a shirt. Her hair was done up elegantly and blond curls spiraled in and out of her ivory veil.
"Mother, what are you doing out here?"
"Amanda, I need your help getting the dress on. Michael will be back any moment and he can't see me like this!"
"Okay, where is your dress?" Amanda asked as she escorted her mother back into the church. Lee accepted Megan into his arms, grabbed Tyler's hand, and followed Amanda back into the church to find Sarah and Leanne. He followed the sounds of the organ and discovered the ladies on the platform of the church admiring the decorations while the organist pumped out some familiar tunes. Even Lee had to admit that the sanctuary looked much better than it had 20 minutes ago. The minute the two women were in view, Tyler and Megan set off towards them.
"Thanks Lee!" Leanne said with a wave as Megan finally made it to the front of the church. He just nodded and went back out to the foyer where things were getting a little more interesting. It was now 4:30 and he could see cars pulling into the parking lot. He had not seen Michael yet and Dotty's current condition did not make him feel at ease about this wedding starting on time. The church was ready, though, and all the female attendants were dressed. They were really only awaiting the arrival of the minister and the groomsmen--Dotty's brother, Chester, plus Philip and Jamie. As if on cue, the boys and Amanda's uncle came through the church doors. It was obvious that none of the three were very adept at getting bow ties straight. Lee let out a chuckle as he shook their hands.
"Here are your boutonnieres," Sarah explained as she handed each of the men a red rose splashed with baby's breath. "Daddy and the minister should be here any minute. We're heading downstairs to dress the kids and help Dotty." That said, the three girls and Tyler disappeared down the stairs towards the changing rooms. This left Lee and the three groomsmen to greet the guests that were now arriving. At first it was just Joe, Carrie, and Emily, but soon the relatives and other guests from the rehearsal dinner were piling into the church.
What a relief it was, 10 minutes later, to see Michael come through the church doors. He was conversing with what Lee assumed was the minister.
"I hope we're the last ones to arrive," Michael said as he shook hands with the men gathered around the wedding book.
"The ladies are downstairs...basically ready," Lee said with a slight hesitation. He could only hope that the last 10 minutes had been good to Dotty and that she was now dressed and ready to go.
"Great," Michael replied. "Dotty's sister was just pulling up when we came in and she is supposed to be greeting guests and handing out programs."
"You need me to check on the ladies?" Lee asked.
"Would you? I should probably show these men where they'll need to stand after the processional,"Michael said. Lee nodded. Michael, Jamie, Philip, and Chester slipped through the church to the front pews and Lee headed down the stairs to see if the ladies were ready.
"Knock, knock," he said as he peeked through the door. "Come in!" he heard someone call.
Lee opened the door to see Dotty standing in front of a mirror. She was looking considerably more balanced than she had been merely 15 minutes before. She was fully dressed in a long evening gown. Tyler's appearance was much more subdued as well. He was sitting in a chair in a suit and bow tie. Meanwhile Megan was lying on the floor in a blue dress, a white pair of lace tights hugging her chubby legs. All that was left to finish were Megan's feet, which Leanne was still in the process of dressing, much to Megan's dismay. "Michael and the minister are here," Lee announced. Dotty looked genuinely relieved. "They are down front waiting for you ladies."
"We're just about ready" Leanne said as she grabbed Megan's other foot and attempted to plant the other dress shoe on it.
"How many guests are here?" Sarah asked.
"I'd say about 50," Lee replied. "It looks like everyone is in their places."
"We'll be upstairs in 5 minutes," Dotty said with a nervous flip of her hair. Lee just gave Amanda a reassuring smile and closed the door behind him. As he reached the top of the staircase, he noticed that the church had really filled up in the few minutes he'd been gone. The foyer had emptied out leaving the guest attendant standing alone near the table, now stocked with wedding gifts.
"They'll be up here in five minutes," he told Philip, who had snuck out to get a drink. "Tell Michael that they're ready." Philip agreed and resumed his place at the front of the church. A moment later there was a commotion behind Lee as Dotty, Amanda, Sarah, Tyler, Leanne, and Megan made their way up the stairs to the lobby. They were soon joined by Chester, Jamie, and Philip.
The moment had finally arrived. Lee took Megan from Leanne and went down front to where Max and Leanne's husband, Kyle, were sitting. The guest coordinator gave the organist a signal to start the wedding processional. Tyler was the first to go down with the rings, and he was followed by the wedding party. Two by two they marched....Philip and Sarah, Jamie and Leanne, Chester and Amanda...until the attendants were in place at the front of the church.
In that moment, Dotty appeared at the back as the doors were opened. The organ played a familiar tune as she walked down the aisle, enjoying every moment of the journey. It was finally her turn to start a new life.
The next 30 minutes were a blur to Lee. He sat there transfixed by what was happening. It was a wedding, just like the many he had attended in his life. But he could not keep his eyes off of Amanda. There she stood, calmly watching her mother go through one of the biggest changes of her life. Lee knew this was hard for Amanda, watching her mother slip into another life, but he admired the gusto with which she'd attacked this problem.
Amanda was quiet, herself, as the ceremony proceeded. It almost seemed unreal to her. Here she stood at the front of a chapel in the midst of her new family. Everything changed from here on out. As soon as Mother said those two little words, the world would change. Holidays would be split between Amanda's family and Michael's two daughters. Her thoughts drifted. Maybe they could work something out? Sarah and Leanne only lived an hour away up in Baltimore...Dotty and Michael would have the apartment to stay at during vacations...maybe between the two they could house Sarah and Leanne. She turned to see Megan asleep on Kyle's lap...Tyler stood anxiously between Philip and Jamie. Perhaps these newfound relatives were really a blessing. Maybe this was a sign that no matter what happened with the test results, Amanda had been blessed with a new family. Maybe not in the way she had expected, but a new family nonetheless. She wanted so much for this new arrangement to work.
Amanda was brought back to the moment by the organist who had started the recessional. She looked up to see Uncle Chester coming towards her with a big smile on his face. She reciprocated and grabbed hold of his arm and she marched back down the aisle, Jamie and Leanne and Philip and Sarah in close pursuit. Soon Michael and Dotty Harris were coming down the aisle themselves waving to guests and stopping occasionally to shake hands.
The group formed a line in the foyer as the wedding guests were dismissed and made their way to congratulate the new family. This process took the better part of half an hour. Before long, though, most guests were through the line and making their way to the Fairfax Country Club for the reception.
"How are you feeling?" Lee asked as he gave Amanda a squeeze.
"I'm very ready for another nap," she replied frankly. "But, Mother and Michael want to get some family portraits before we head to the reception."
"That's fine. I am ready to eat, though."
"Oh Lee, and there's one more thing I forgot to tell you." Lee looked confused for a moment. "Mother thought that Joe and Carrie would feel most comfortable sitting with us since they don't know any of Michael's family and Carrie doesn't know any of my family..."
"Hum, well, I guess for the sake of family unity I can try to be charming for the evening."
"Not too charming, mind you," Amanda said with a giggle. "But I do appreciate your willingness."
Lee planted a kiss on Amanda's cheek before the two joined the rest of the West/King and Harris family on the platform of the church. What Lee and Amanda didn't know, though, was that sitting with Joe, Carrie, and Emily was not to be the biggest news of their evening. Five miles away at 4247 Maplewood Drive, an answering machine light was blinking...
The clock in the Corvette read 6:30 as Lee and Amanda pulled onto Virginia Avenue. The family pictures had taken about half an hour and now the families were on their way to the country club for the reception.
"I'm so happy for Mother," Amanda sighed as she adjusted the baby gift on her lap. "You know, she and Daddy never had a big wedding."
"Yep, neither family had any money at the time so their parents went down with them to the city hall and they just got married."
"I never knew that."
"Well I'm sure that's why she wanted a bigger wedding this time," Amanda said. "She never had the gown, attendants, flowers, any of that..."
"It certainly went off without a hitch--the ceremony anyway," Lee agreed. "Nice and short."
Amanda laughed. "I was wondering if you were timing it."
"Not exactly timing it," Lee defended. "I just happened to notice that you guys walked down at 4:58 and went out at 5:27."
"Spoken like a true spy. We should have synchronized our watches," Amanda said as the car pulled into the driveway of the country club.
The car came to a stop in a parking space and was followed by several more cars as the caravan also arrived. Lee joined Kyle, Megan, and Max...the lone members of the family that were not in the wedding party...and found seats in the reception hall with Joe and Carrie while the rest prepared to enter together. The group was lucky enough to be seated right near the banquet table that held all the food. After the wedding party was announced, Lee, Kyle, Megan, Max, and Joe slipped into line behind the wedding party while Carrie stayed with baby Emily at the table.
"Hungry?" Leanne asked as she saw Kyle approaching with Megan.
"She's starving," Kyle said with a laugh as he handed the baby over to her mother.
"Oh yes, I can see that she's just out of control with hunger," Leanne said with a chuckle as she took hold of a contented Megan sipping on her bottle.
"I'd guess it was another baby that was hungry," Sarah laughed.
"I think we certainly have priority here," Max said in defense of Kyle. "We're family and we have children at our table."
The word children got the attention of Sarah, who was busy filling plates for herself and Tyler.
"Oh, Philip was telling me that there is a new baby in the family" she said with a look to Joe. "A girl?"
Joe beamed. "Yep, Emily Kathryn."
"Oh, she looks sweet. When was she born?" Leanne asked.
"August 6th," Joe replied with a glance back to the table. Apparently an elderly lady had spotted Carrie and Emily and was at the table trying to coax Carrie into letting her hold the baby.
"Looks like Aunt Edna has spied her," Dotty said with a grimace. "You'll never get her back now."
"At least not until her table is dismissed for the food," Amanda interjected.
Soon the group has done their damage on the buffet table and headed back to their seats. While the wedding party went up to the designated tables at the front, the men (and Megan) joined Carrie, Emily...and Edna...at the table.
"You have such a lovely baby, Joe," Edna said as she cradled Emily.
"Thank you Aunt Edna," he replied. "She has been a good baby." No sooner did the words escape Joe's lips than Edna spied her fellow tablemates making their way to the buffet table.
"Well, I don't want to hog the baby all night," Edna said as she got up and hurriedly handed the baby back to Carrie. "Talk to you all later..." And with a wave, Edna was dashing up to the table in record time. In a true race, Edna would have had the gold medal for sure.
The group laughed and made small talk throughout the meal. Lee learned that Sarah and Max owned their own graphic design company up in Baltimore and had recently moved into a new building. Kyle was an architect with a firm and Leanne had been an interior design consultant before Megan was born. She was now staying at home with the baby and taking care of Tyler afternoons.
"We were so excited for Daddy when he met Dotty," Sarah explained. "We tried to keep him busy after Mom's death three years ago, but we are all so preoccupied with our work, we felt like we were neglecting him."
"I know Amanda's mind was put to ease after they started dating," Lee added. "Dotty is such a social person it was hard for her when Amanda and I married and the boys moved out."
"Things have turned out better than I expected," Leanne said. "You never know with second marriages...but we're thrilled that Daddy has married into such a nice family."
Lee smiled. "The feeling is mutual. We'd love to have you all down for the holidays."
The meal portion of the evening was soon over and part of the room was cleared for dancing. The bridal party had dispersed from their tables and were visiting with the guests. Amanda had come to sit by Lee, partially because she missed him but mostly because he had been stuck sitting with her ex and Michael's family all night.
Lee was excited to see Amanda appear at the table. "Well hello!"
"I thought I'd come visit the table with the best looking people first," she said with a laugh. "Second best, anyway."
"How sweet of you."
"Well, I did have one ulterior motive," Amanda confessed. "I have not had a chance to hold this baby girl I've been hearing so much about." Joe and Carrie just beamed as Carrie lifted the baby across the table to Amanda's outstreatched arms. Amanda sat down and settled in next to Lee.
"Isn't she adorable?" Amanda asked. Lee could not deny it.
"She sure is."
"Oh Lee, the baby gift... I left it in the car." She tossed Lee a pleading look.
"I'll run and get it."
"Amanda, you didn't have to get her anything..." Joe stammered.
"Joe, you know I love shopping for babies. Besides, I couldn't let the birth of Philip and Jamie's first sister pass without some recognition."
"That's really kind of you, Amanda."
"First sister?" Carrie asked. "I don't suppose that means you have some news for us, does it?"
Amanda blushed. "Nope, as far as I know, there is not another little sister on the way." That was as much as she was willing to let out. She didn't didn't even know if there was a baby on the way, let alone if it was a girl or boy. Amanda turned towards the baby and rubbed her cheek. "You know, if you two want to hit the dance floor, we're perfectly okay here."
Joe and Carrie exchanged looks and then nodded to Amanda.
"Thanks, that would be great. It's been months since I've had the girth or energy to dance," Carrie said with a michievous smile. With that, Joe and Carrie joined the rest of the dancers on the floor.
Meanwhile, Lee had retrieved the gift from the car and had re-entered
reception room. His
eyes immediately landed on Amanda holding baby Emily. What a cute picture
he thought. He
didn't know if he could wait until Tuesday to find out if that test
back positive. He knew
one thing for sure, if it came back negative, he was more and more
to try again until he
could see Amanda holding not Joe and Carrie's baby, but their baby.
It was a weary Lee and Amanda Stetson that pulled out of the country club at 10:00 that Friday night. Their home was only 10 miles away, but the weight of the day pressed heavily on Amanda.
"Well, I'm relieved to be ending this day instead of starting it," Amanda sighed.
"Me too. But I have to say that if your Mother had to remarry, she picked a pretty nice fellow."
"She sure did. And Michael's family is so nice...Lee, I really want to make an effort to be close to Sarah and Leanne. I've never had any sisters of my own and this is the closest I'll ever come."
"They are really nice. I talked with Max and Kyle quite a bit tonight."
"Seems they are doing very well for themselves up in Baltimore. I told them we'd like to have them down for the holidays."
Amanda laughed. "Did I tell you that?"
"You know, that exact thought went through my head earlier."
"I guess I can read your mind."
"That could be trouble," she said with a chuckle as she reached over and gave him a kiss.
After the Corvette pulled into the driveway, Amanda and Lee grabbed their souvenirs from the night and headed into the dark house. Dropping the load on the couch, Lee plopped himself down and began taking off his shoes.
"I think I'm going to soak my feet in that foot massager we got for Christmas."
"Not if I get to it first," Amanda said as she tossed off her high-heeled shoes and raced for the front closet.
"No fair!" Lee called as he jumped off the couch towards the entryway. He was just about to the stairs when something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye.
"Hey...Amanda, did you see that someone left a message?"
Amanda appeared from around the corner holding the foot massager. "Who would have called? All our friends and family members were at the wedding tonight. You think Billy needed something?"
"No way, that case was closed when I left this afternoon. Besides, he knows I'm off duty until Tuesday."
"Well, only one way to find out," Amanda said as she headed towards the end table where the answering machine sat and pushed the button. With a beep the message began.
"Amanda, this is Dr. Reynolds. I know it's the holiday weekend but I have some news for you. Our car broke down as we were leaving yesterday so we're still waiting to go out of town. Anyway, I stopped by the office to see if your lab report had come in yet--and it had."
Lee and Amanda stood frozen as they realized what the doctor was talking about. Her pregnancy test had come back already. Amanda could scarcely believe it. She had psyched herself up for a weekend of not knowing and suddenly the answer was right in front of her.
"Amanda, it looks like we have a positive result."
The words that changed her life.
"I wouldn't make any big plans for the first week in April. Although, I'll want to see you in here to the office soon so we can establish a due date."
April? Office? Due date? The words made her head spin. She looked over to Lee. At first his face was expressionless as the weight of the doctor's message sank in, then his face broke out into a big smile.
"Amanda, we're having a baby!" he yelled as he took hold of her into a big bear hug. She simply let herself be swung around until he put her back on earth. "Can you believe it?"
"I do now!" she said with a big smile of her own. "Oh Lee..." She pulled herself back into his arms while the doctor finished her message. "So, congratulations you two, I'm really excited for you. We'll look forward to hearing from you on Tuesday." With a click, the message was over.
They didn't know what to do with themselves.
"Who do you want to call first?" Lee asked as he went over to the phone.
"For tonight," Amanda said as she took the phone out of Lee's hands, "let's keep the news to ourselves. We can tell people once we know a date and are sure everything's going well."
"Not even Billy?" Lee asked. "You know he'd be thrilled."
"Oh Lee, everyone will be thrilled. But just for tonight, let's just enjoy this."
Lee smiled mischievously. "Okay, I was just excited. We'll keep it to ourselves. But, can we at least pull out the baby name book?"
Amanda looked shocked. "What baby name book?"
"The one you bought in July that you hid in your nightstand drawer."
She shook her head. "I've been busted."
"I know you got it and I didn't want to say anything. But I think it's safe to see what name you have already chosen..."
"Lee, I'd never just chose a name and not at least consult you."
"I wouldn't. But, I will go get the book. There are some cute names I was thinking about... unless you are set on "Lee Stetson, Jr."?
"Just get the book," Lee said with a roll of his eyes. Amanda laughed
bounded up the stairs
to her room, grabbed the book, and moments later was back on the couch
next to Lee looking at
1987's most popular baby names.
The rest of the weekend was a blur to Lee and Amanda. Saturday morning at the brunch they had managed to avoid the subject of babies. It wasn't easy, though. Joe, Carrie, Jamie and Philip had brought Emily with them and it was all they could do to not stare at her. She was such a miracle...and they would have their own in months. Amanda could hardly wait until Tuesday. She felt like she was holding her breath...unable to breathe deeply until she saw the tests results for herself. That message had seemed like a dream to her.
Sunday and Monday had been filled with activity as well. All weekend Michael and Lee brought loads of Dotty's things to the apartment while Dotty and Amanda tried to keep up with their unpacking. It all seemed unreal that by the end of the month, Dotty would be living in Florida until March. They'd be back up here for the holidays, but the arrangement was more permanent than Amanda liked. Now that she knew about this baby, it saddened her that Mother would not be around to help her through.
"Amanda dear, why are you so quiet?"
"Oh, I guess I'm just thinking about how much I'm going to miss you."
"Uh huh." Dotty was not convinced. "Amanda we've gone over and over this. I'll just be gone in the winter. We'll be living up here from April until Labor Day. I thought you were okay with this arrangement."
"Oh, I am...I really am. I just...it's such a big change, that's all."
"Are you sure that's all there is to this?"
Dotty tossed her a look that bore right through Amanda. She didn't know how much longer she could keep this secret inside of her. Mother could read Amanda's mind like a book and Amanda was afraid that book was wide open.
On Labor Day they topped off their efforts with a big barbecue. It started out just being dinner with Michael and Dotty because the apartment was in such disarray, but soon it included Jamie and Philip, plus Michael's family who were not heading home until Tuesday. Amanda was glad she and Lee had that cleaning marathon Thursday afternoon because they had about 20 guests on Monday. An emergency trip to the local shopping center had saved them, though. Other than some bread and toppings, most of the groceries Amanda had bought on the previous Tuesday were gone.
It was a grateful Lee and Amanda that said good bye to their last guests
at 8:00 that night. It had
been an exhausting weekend and they could scarcely believe that it
almost Tuesday. After
some quick cleaning, all lights were out at 9:30. The Stetson family
need its rest for what
the next day would hold.
"Uh oh, Lee...look at this," Amanda said as she pointed to the baby book. "Dear Abby frowns on juniors."
"Let me see that..."
Amanda handed Lee the book with a chuckle. Since Friday night they had been toting the baby name book around with them. Of course, keeping it safely from view of any family members, but when they were alone, out popped the book. Right now they were hardly alone, though. It was mid-morning on Tuesday, September 6, and they were not so patiently waiting in Dr. Reynolds' outer office.
"Hum, well, you know, I was thinking that it wouldn't have to be Lee necessarily..." he agreed.
"I thought we could pick a name and put Lee as the middle name. Like Matthew Lee or Christopher Lee or William Lee."
"So, you want a British name?"
"Well, my mother was British and I think they sound good with Stetson."
"Yeah, they do. Hum, well, what about girl names. You know, it could be a girl."
Lee and Amanda began to peruse the list of the most popular names in England. They were mostly down the list before they could find one they liked.
"Elizabeth, that's pretty," Lee said. "Elizabeth Stetson."
"I like Elizabeth for a middle name, though" Amanda said.
"Oh really?" Lee asked. "Well, I was thinking of putting my mother's middle name in the middle if it's a girl."
"What is your mother's middle name? I know Hamilton was her maiden name."
"That is pretty. And I think it would be a nice way to remember your mother."
"I guess that just leaves a first name for a boy and girl," Lee sighed as he shut the book.
"And I think we have a little time to decide that," Amanda interjected.
"Only about...7 months....Wow, that seems like an eternity away."
"It may to you, but I've had babies before. It takes at least that long to get ready for them! We have to get a nursery ready, get clothes and supplies. Oh, and mother will want to throw a baby shower for the family..."
"Okay, okay, 7 months isn't that long," Lee consented as he squirmed in his chair and looked around nervously. "Is it Wednesday yet? It seems like we've been waiting forever."
"She's fitting us in, Lee," Amanda said as she patted his hand. "She thought she'd have an opening about 10:30..." Before Amanda could finish her sentence, a door opened and Mary appeared.
"Amanda? Dr. Reynolds is ready for you." They gathered up their things and followed her to the last room on the left. Amanda hopped onto the examination table while Lee found a seat near the scale. "Let me just get your pressure real quick," she announced as she wrapped the cuff around Amanda's arm. "I hear we've had some good news."
Amanda smiled. "Very good news." The room was quiet while Mary took the reading.
"Congratulations. Looks like we'll be seeing you two around here more often, then," Mary commented as she noted 118/78 in Amanda's chart. "The doctor will be in in just a moment--I just saw her down the hall finishing up with a patient."
Lee and Amanda nodded as Mary left the room. For the first time all weekend Amanda's nerves were in a bundle. She quietly examined her hands for a minute until Dr. Reynolds peeked her head in the doorway.
"Hello you two!" She said as she grabbed Amanda's chart off the pocket in the wall. "Are we excited yet?"
"We are very excited," Lee interjected.
"We can hardly believe it."
"Well, this is what I suspected all along. I'm just glad I finally got the lab to agree with me!"
"So, we were wondering about a due date," Amanda said. The doctor pulled out a wheel from her coat pocket and double-checked Amanda's chart.
"Based on the information you gave me last week, I put the date at April 4, 1989. Does that look about right?" She asked as she handed Amanda the wheel. Amanda nodded. "That's a Tuesday as well so I'm putting you at 10 weeks as of today. You'll want to get these prenatal vitamins..."
"When will we know for sure that the baby is fine?" Lee asked.
"We'll probably do an ultrasound on her at 20 weeks to see how things are. Amanda is at an age where we like to do some extra checking. She's not high risk necessarily, but there tend to be more birth defects in older mothers. And twins..."
"Oh yes, Amanda. But, it's really too early to tell that. We'll hear the baby's heartbeat in a few weeks and take it from there. There is really no reason to suspect anything abnormal so don't worry until there is a reason."
"No problem. Go ahead and make an appointment around the 20th and then we'll try to get you in for the ultrasound the week before Thanksgiving."
Ten minutes after they walked in the door of the examination room Lee and Amanda were walking back out.
"That was quick," Lee noted.
"Sure was. What do you say we stop at the pharmacy on the way home and pick up these prenatal vita..." Amanda stopped in her tracks. Standing before her at the counter was Mother.
"Mother, what are you doing here?" Amanda asked.
"Just getting some referral papers for a doctor in Florida," Dotty said as she grabbed her papers from the assistant.
"Amanda darling, what are you doing here?" Dotty asked. "You didn't mention an appointment last night."She did not have to wait long for the answer. She glanced down to see Amanda holding a prescription note and Lee carrying a baby name book.
"Amanda, are you pregnant?"
Amanda stood frozen. It seemed that all eyes were on her. She glanced to Lee who was busy examining a button on his jacket.
"Mother, could we talk about this outside in a minute?" Amanda whispered. She handed her paperwork to the assistant, who made some notes.
"Mrs. Stetson, we have a 9:00am and a 2:45pm appointment on that day," the assistant asked.
"The morning appointment would be great," Amanda replied. The lady scratched out some numbers on a card and handed them over to Amanda with a smile.
In the meantime, Dotty had not lifted her gaze from Lee and Amanda, who were busy avoiding eye contact. In a hurry, made their way out of the waiting area, down the long hallway, and out into the sunshine of the warm September morning.
"Amanda, why won't you tell me what's going on? I am your mother and I think I have a right to know about something like..."
"Mother....Mother," Amanda said softly, trying to avoid the frenzied state that Dotty was quickly approaching. Dotty stopped and stared deliberately. "We didn't tell you because we just found out ourselves Friday night. We had the appointment this morning with the doctor to confirm a due date and get some..."
"Due date? Amanda!" Dotty squealed and wrapped her arms around Amanda. "Oh darling, I'm thrilled! But you knew all weekend and you didn't say anything?" Lee gave Amanda an "I told you so" look before answering.
"Well Dotty, we didn't want to steal your thunder. Besides, we kinda wanted to wait a bit before we announced it. We didn't have a due date or anything so we thought it was best to keep it to ourselves."
"You do?" Amanda asked with unmistakable surprise.
"Of course, darling. I know how you two are about secrets. I'm just thrilled that I'm the first one to know. So, when is the big day?"
"April 4...approximately," Lee added.
"Oh, I know I won't be able to keep this from Michael but I promise I'll be good as gold the rest of the time. When do you plan on breaking the news to everyone else?"
"We have an appointment in two weeks where they will listen to the baby's heartbeat and then I'll be 12 weeks along, so I think after that point it will be safe," Amanda said.
"Well, it's up to you but two weeks may be my limit on secret keeping," Dotty warned. Amanda nodded. Keeping a secret was definitely not Mother's strong suit. "Have you decided how you are going to tell everyone?"
"Hum, I think we'll tell people as we see them," Lee said. Dotty just shook her head.
"Well, that gets the message out but it's not very original," Dotty said with a sigh.
"What do you mean? You think we should throw a party or something?" Lee asked. The minute the words slipped from his mouth he knew he'd regret it.
"That's exactly what I had in mind."
Two weeks later...Friday, September 23, 1988.
The Stetson home was brimming with people, food, and excitement. On Saturday Michael and Dotty would be heading to Florida for the winter, so their families were hosting a going away party as a send-off. The weather had already turned decidedly towards autumn and the gathering was confined to the home's kitchen, den, and dining room. Philip and Jamie were in the kitchen with Amanda, while Lee played host and greeted visitors as they arrived. Michael's family had come down from Baltimore and other close friends in the area were slowly arriving.
"Amanda, this food is great," Francine said as she picked up a few more finger sandwiches off the platter. "Thanks for inviting me. I get so bored when Jonathan is out of town on business."
"You're welcome," Amanda sighed as she placed more sandwiches in the space Francine had just emptied. "We really wanted you here."
"Billy and Jeannie should be here anytime, too," Francine said between bites. "He was stopping at home to pick her up."
"Maybe that's them now," Amanda observed as the doorbell rang and she heard some commotion at the door. Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw Billy and Jeannie enter the den.
"Well, quite a party you two have going here," Jeannie said. "It was nice of you to invite us."
"Of course you're always invited to any party we have," Lee replied.
"It's just that Dotty and I didn't meet under the best of terms," Billy said with a laugh.
"Oh, that's all in the past. What's important is that you are practically part of the family," Amanda interjected. "We couldn't have this party without you."
Lee gave Amanda a wink as he took the tray of sandwiches to the dining room table. Philip and Jamie followed with bowls and more platters heaping with food. Moments later they had returned and joined the group hovering in the den.
"If I can have your attention," Lee said in his most authoritarian voice. The crowd of about 20 murmured for a minute before settling down. "Amanda and I want to thank you for coming this evening. As you know, Dotty and Michael are leaving for Florida tomorrow afternoon and they'll be living there until Spring so we wanted to give them a nice send-off. Now, Florida is a very nice place. Amanda and I were concerned that they may not want to come back. But, we had a plan." With this comment, Lee gave Amanda a squeeze before continuing. "We came up with something that will ensure that they will be back by...Dotty, what was that date?"
"April 4th, that's right. Now some of you might want to write that date down on your calendar for next year. Of course, Dotty and Michael will most likely be in town, which is reason enough. But there is another reason why this date is important. Dotty even has a picture of the reason." The room fell silent and cast its collective gaze toward the entryway where Dotty was standing on the stairs leading into the den. She held up a small 3x5 black and white image to the crowd.
"This," Dotty began, "is my new grandchild in production." Sighs raced around the room like dominos as the guests realized that this was not just a going away party, but a party to announce that Lee and Amanda were having a baby. "The reason you get to see a picture of this baby is because he or she gave Mommy and Daddy a scare on Tuesday," Dotty continued. "The doctor thought she heard two heartbeats so she did an ultrasound. Much to my disappointment, and their relief, there is just one baby." The crowd laughed.
"Now that we have that in the open," Lee said once the chuckles had died down, "Let's eat!"
"Please help yourselves to the dining room. There is pleanty of food so don't be bashful," Amanda added.
As people walked by they exchanged hugs and handshakes with the expectant parents. Jamie was the first. He gave Amanda a big hug as Philip shook Lee's hand. After most of the guests had made their way into the dining room and taken seats, Lee and Amanda made their way over to Dotty and Michael, who were examining the ultrasound photo with Billy, Jeannie, and Francine.
"Congratulations, you two," Billy said with a big grin. "I was beginning to wonder why your feet had not touched ground in weeks."
"We wanted to tell you as soon as we found out but we wanted to make sure things were okay first," Amanda said. "Well, next time you drop a bomb like this," Francine sighed, "would you please make sure I'm sitting down? Here I innocently thought I was coming to a farewell party and you make this announcement. I nearly fell on the floor."
"I don't know how many more announcements like this we'll be making, but I will make sure you are firmly planted before making them," Lee laughed.
"So Lee, can you tell if it's a boy or girl from this picture?" Jeannie asked as she held the shiny photo closer to her face.
"Oh no, I mean, we'll have another one done around Thanksgiving to make sure everything is growing correctly, but it will probably be April before we know for sure."
"I am just glad this secret it out!" said Dotty with a relieved sigh. "I was about to bust!"
"Well, I'm going to starve if I don't get some more of those sandwiches," Francine interrupted. "Is anyone going to join me?" Six very hungry people nodded an affirmative as they made their way to the dining room.
For the first time in months, despite the chill outside, Amanda had a warm feeling about the road her life was on. As she slipped the baby photo behind a refrigerator magnet, she knew that this baby was more than just a collection of cells or the cause of her nausea, but a pleasant link from the past to a very bright future.