Folie à Deux Ch. 03

Nisan 25, 2024 Yazar admin 0

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The room we were ushered into was clearly a makeshift arrangement that had been made semi-permanent after the fact. There were uneven wear stains on the floor, where some equipment had clearly stood in place for many years before being moved when the entire room was repurposed. The nurse closed the privacy curtain behind us, and we were alone. Natalie grunted softly as she sat up on the bed, and then turned slowly to lay on her back. She wiggled for a moment, and then pulled up on her loose-fitting top to expose her swollen belly. I sat down in the chair beside her.

The TV was on. I reached back behind the top of her bed, grabbed the all-in-one controller, and turned the volume up a few notches. It was nice to have the distraction, but Natalie hardly seemed to notice. She was staring at her belly again. She did that a lot.

The curtain being drawn broke the silence in a jarring way.

“Hello hello,” the technician said, not looking up from her clipboard. “How are we doing today?”

“Good,” Natalie said. Her voice was hoarse. She cleared her throat and shifted on the bed, and repeated, “Good,” more clearly.

“Alright alright. Where are we… twenty weeks! Okay!” She smiled and looked up. “This is a big one.” She set the clipboard into a slot and sat down on the other side of Natalie. “This is gonna feel cold at first,” she said, as she reached for the bottle of jelly.

The technician didn’t say much else as she worked. They never did. That wasn’t their job. She drew some lines on the screen, made some measurements, and then noted everything. The whole thing took less than five minutes, and then we were alone again.

I turned the TV back up, and it was just as jarring when the doctor opened the privacy curtain ten minutes later.

“Hello… Natalie,” the doctor said, her long hair back in a ponytail. “How are you feeling today?”

“Good,” she replied woodenly.

“That’s wonderful to hear. Wonderful. Looks like we saw you about ten weeks ago. Is that right?”

“I think so.”

“Okay…” The doctor said down and smiled. “Have you two decided if you want to know the gender?”

Natalie and I both paused and looked at each other, but probably not for the same reason the doctor thought.

“It’s very common to want to wait,” she added.

“You can say,” Natalie said, carefully. “I don’t want that to be a secret, but what I really want to… um… Is everything—”

The doctor smiled, and placed a hand gently on Natalie’s forearm. “Your baby is healthy. All the tests I’ve got here,” she said, looking down at a tablet, “are clean. We’re negative on all the chromosomal testing. Everything the tech checked is right on target for a little girl at twenty weeks.”

“Is that enough testing?” Natalie asked urgently. “I was reading online, and it seemed like there were a lot of things that the blood or amniotic fluid couldn’t possibly test for.”

The doctor waited patiently, nodding as she talked herself down, and then smiled. “I hear what you’re saying,” she said, “and I don’t want to be dismissive of how you feel. Can you take a deep breath for me?”

Natalie nodded, laid back against the bed, chest rising and falling slowly. Her eyes looked misty.

“You’re right. We don’t test for everything. We can’t. What I can tell you is that we test for all the most likely conditions. We cover as many things as we can, with as few tests as we can, and we try not to put the mother through any more tests than are medically necessary.”

Natalie nodded and looked down, clearly still worried.

“I know that pregnancy can feel like a… like a neverending list of things to worry about, but one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, is your health. Do you know what I mean?”

Natalie nodded half-heartedly.

“There’s a line between healthy fear and unhealthy fear.” She leaned forward and made direct eye contact while clasping both hands around my sister’s. “It’s natural to worry. Trust me. I have three. I’ve been where you are. Every pregnancy is different, but even with my third I was having to stop from diagnosing myself with every little thing. It never gets easier.”

She smiled, and Natalie gave a whimpered laugh.

“The parenting does, but the pregnancy is always nerve racking. Fortunately, you have a team of doctors looking out for you, okay?”

Natalie nodded.

“The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. If something feels wrong don’t let anyone tell you it’s nothing. Your body knows. On the other hand, don’t let your head tell your body how you feel.”

At that, Natalie laughed and wiped at her eye.

“Be honest with me,” she said, moving one stretched-open hand over Natalie’s belly. “How have you felt?

“Really good,” Natalie said, nodding and wiping at the other eye.

“Okay.” Both of them nodded again, and the doctor reached for the bottle of jelly. “Good. Remember to speak up, even if that means asking for things you would normally just do bağdatcaddesi escort for yourself around the house. I’m sure Dad here is aching to be useful.”

Natalie and I looked at each other.

“No, I’m… uh…”

“He’s my brother,” she said.

Without missing a beat, the doctor smiled broadly. “That’s wonderful that you have supportive family, and so rare. Almost every woman that comes in here does it alone, and I know that can be scary.

“Now,” she continued, “this is going to feel cold for just a second.”

My sister nodded and licked her lips, only wincing slightly. The doctor turned her chair and pulled a monitor out away from the wall. Natalie and I both stared at the shadows and flashes of gray.

“She is about nine point seven inches long,” the doctor lilted, “which is perfect. She’s tracking right where we’d expect given your height.”

“She?” I said.

The doctor smiled and looked back at us. “Her heart rate is about a hundred and fifty five. Girls are almost always higher than boys, and… if she’ll sit still for just a second…”

The doctor narrowed her eyes as she slid the wand back and forth. Natalie’s eyes grew wide.

“There’s her spine,” she said, as a wave of ridges splashed across the screen. “And that’s her leg… and if we slide around just a little bit…” She turned around to us and smiled. “No penis. It’s a girl.”

My hand found Natalie’s, and she squeezed tightly.

“A girl,” she said softly.

The doctor beamed, gave us a moment to breathe, and then showed us more.


Mom made a point of looking down at her phone just as we came through the wide, sliding double doors and then pretended to react to seeing us afterwards to let us know we were late. Natalie smiled weakly, and I managed little better.

“Thanks for coming,” Natalie said.

“Of course,” Mom replied, smiling graciously. “I’m only too happy to help out.” She turned, arms folded, and looked deeper into the furniture store. “So what are we looking for specifically?”

Natalie sighed. She’d been sighing a lot recently. “Honestly, I was hoping you could help with that too. I keep thinking of things and forgetting. And then sometimes I’m thinking about something I need and go to write it down because my memory is just shit lately, and by the time I find a pen and paper or my phone I’ve forgotten what I was doing. I know I need a crib, but… I’m just… I’m so tired.”

“Yeah,” Mom said, smiling slightly. “I don’t miss that.”

Natalie made a sound in her throat and rummaged through her purse, producing a small three-by-three card after a moment.

“Is this…” Even after her most recent round of botox, Mom still looked pretty shocked.

“A girl,” Natalie said softly. “It’s a girl.”

Mom stared down at the ultrasound picture, barely more than a shadows in the dark, and smiled. “Thank you for this.”

Natalie nodded.

Mom held the card in her hand and, after taking a moment to compose herself, turned sharply. “Alright. Well.” She cleared her throat sharply, fooling no one, and started walking. Natalie and I moved to follow her.

“So,” she said loudly, so as to be heard without having to turn to face us. “You two look like you’re back to hating each other.”

“We don’t hate each other,” my sister groaned.

“Could have fooled me.” She took a sharp turn, moving through an office furniture display, and added, “When are you going to kick him out?”

“Mom, we don’t hate each other. Can we please move on?”

She stopped and turned to face us. The botox softened her smirk, but it was still there. “He’s been living under your roof for almost two years. Isn’t he ready to get back on his feet yet?”

“I’m standing right here,” I say.

“And I’m not kicking him out. What is your problem?”

She had the gall to look insulted. “Don’t get mad at me for being the realist in the room. You have three bedrooms in your house. You’re in one, he’s in one, and Blake is in the other.”

“We’re going to have her share a room with Blake,” Natalie said tiredly, “alright? At least for now.”

“That’s going to get cramped.”

“They’re both really young. Blake doesn’t spend much time in there as it is. All his toys are out in the den. We just… we need a crib and I’m not sure what else.”

“Don’t you know what to buy?” Mom asked, looking at me.

“Felicia bought everything,” I said sheepishly.

“That girl had a head on her shoulders. I always liked her.”

“Mom, you hated Felicia.”

She rolled her eyes and clucked her tongue, and then started walking again. She walked up and down the three aisles of cribs, changing tables, and pack-n-plays. The more we walked, the more frustrated Natalie looked.

Suddenly, our mother turned around and narrowed her eyes. “Blake is going to be four soon. Have you thought about just getting a bed for him?”

“No,” Natalie said. “Oh my god, how did I not think of that?”

“Pregnancy beykoz escort brain is real. When I was pregnant with your brother, there were days where I couldn’t have made toast if I tried. I’m more surprised that Jason didn’t think of it.”

I blinked, dumbfounded, and shrugged. “I, uh… I’ve had a lot on my mind. Sorry.”

“You know,” she said, turning back to Natalie, “when I was pregnant with him, your father used to find any excuse to be anywhere else. Men always do. Even when they’re with you, you get nothing. It’s like their brains just turn off for nine months.”

Natalie smiled thinly and stared down at the floor.

“Okay,” our mother said, looking around. “Now where are the beds?”

“I think the next aisle,” Natalie said. When she looked at me, I shrugged. We walked around the corner and found a small section of toddler beds.

“Is a race car bed too obvious?”


“What?” I said, looking up.

Natalie glared. “Did you not hear me?”

“Yeah… what?”

“Would Blake like a race car bed?”

I blinked. “Um… yeah maybe.”

She grunted and turned. “What about this one?” It looked like some kind of tree fort bed.

“He might like that,” I said. Natalie groaned in frustration.

“Oh yeah,” Mom interjected, looking disgustingly pleased with herself. “You two are doing great.”

“Mom,” Natalie cried. “I don’t hate him! Now can we just pick a bed and go?”

“What about a changing table?” she asked, smirking. “Dresser? Some —”

“Please, Mom. Just the bed. I’m tired and I want to go home.” She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head. “It was a long day.”

“Okay,” Mom said. “You don’t have to be so dramatic about it.”


“Wake up!” Natalie shouted. I jerked awake from my dreamless sleep, and a moment later her pillow landed against my chest. I looked toward the wall our bedroom shared with Blake’s, but then I remembered he was at Felicia’s.

“What the fuuuck,” I groaned, recoiling and sliding back against the headboard.

Natalie was sitting up, legs crossed, in the middle of her side of the bed. Her hair was extra messy. The clock said 3:18, so she’d been tossing and turning. She pulled the pillow back over her belly and held it against herself tightly. Like armor.

“Something needs to change,” she said, voice quavering. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m at my breaking point.”

“O-okay,” I stammered.

“I am… freaking out, okay? I have been freaking out for four friggin’ months, and I’m only halfway done? I can’t take this. I can’t take twenty more goddamn weeks of this!”


The pillow flew at me again, hitting me in the shoulder, as she cried, “Don’t just sit there and tell me okay!”

“Alright!” I shouted.

“That’s not better!”

Again the pillow struck me, though this time I had my arms out to stop it. “What do you want me to say?! I just woke up!”

“Are you hearing what I’m saying, Jay? I’m saying I have been fucking miserable for months! There is no answer you can give me, right now, that fixes how I’ve been feeling!”

How miserable I had been, over the same period, almost made it off my tongue, but that would have made everything worse and I knew it. Instead, I sat up more and pushed the covers off of me.

“I am… I am… I mean it, I am… I’m at the end of my rope. I really am.” She paused to sniff and shook her head. “I’m losing my mind. All I do is worry. I’m afraid all the time. I haven’t stopped clenching my teeth in months, and the sleep! I haven’t slept in weeks!”

“Weeks?” I repeated, jaw slack.

The pillow assaulted me again, with a half-grunted string of obscenities mostly muffled by the sound of the pillow hitting me repeatedly.

“I wasn’t supposed to do this alone!” she roared. “You were supposed to be with me!”

“What are you talking about?” I cried. “I’ve been to ever—”

“You checked out,” she snarled. “You’ve been like a zombie, Jay! You’re here, yeah, but… I need more, Jay. I need more than you’ve been giving me. If you can’t give more… if I can’t count on you to be here for me, when I need you the most, then what the fuck are we doing?”

My shoulders sank a little deeper with every word. It was true. Every word of it.

“I have been losing my goddamn mind worrying about our baby. It is taking… everything I have… to keep myself held together and-and-and now on top of that, with you drifting away little by little, I have to start worrying about the future?”

“What do you mean?”

“What am I gonna do if you leave me?”

My jaw fell. “Nat, I… I’m not—”

“You haven’t touched me in months, Jay. Months.”

“That can’t be right.”

“It was right before my first ultrasound. I remember because, the next day, you pointed out that my belly was starting to show.”

“Oh God,” I said, recoiling.

“Yeah,” she said, voice breaking, “so here I am carrying our child of first degree incest and freaking caddebostan escort the fuck out about that and then, as if that weren’t enough, I’m getting fatter! Normally I wouldn’t care about putting on weight but its happening at exactly the same time that you pull away.” Her voice started to pick up steam, voice rising, and her two index fingers pointed to some shape she was constructing in the air. “So now those two things are linked in my head and every damn day that goes by without you saying something sexy about me, or touching me, or doing fucking anything is further proof! Every day I get a little bit bigger, and I feel worse about myself! And I know… I know that’s not true, but I’m in such a goddamn bad place that I can’t fight these thoughts anymore, Jay. I’m tired.

“I’m so goddamn tired.” She buried her face in her pillow and sobbed. “I’m so tired.”

I sat there, feeling more limp and impotent than I ever had in my entire life, and listened to her cry. I needed to hear it. I needed to let it hurt.

“I, um…” I cleared my throat and tried to look up at her, but it was too much. “I shut down.”

Mercifully, Natalie said nothing, but her curled lower lips said she wanted to unleash.

“I feel like I did this to you, and… and that it’s my fault. And everytime you look more stressed out, that’s my fault too. I’ve just been spiralling further and further for weeks.”

“Months,” she growled.

“Months,” I repeated. “Yeah. No, you’re right. Months. I… It’s killing me, and I hate myself.”

“That doesn’t sound like you,” she said, eyes narrow.

I shook my head. “I don’t know how to explain how much you mean to me. Like, it’s crippling when it gets to me. I feel so worthless right now. I can’t stop it. I can’t fix it. I can always fix it, and this… I…”

“Jay,” she said, placing one on her belly. “You didn’t do this to me, we did this together. I was on birth control. We were taking precautions, and it happened.” She took my hand and held it to her belly. “We did this together. There’s no undoing her. You can’t get hung up on that, but if you want to be responsible about it, then I need you to be here for me.”

Everything became blurry, and I nodded.

“We dodged some bullets, Jay, but there’s more coming. We’re going to be dodging them for years to come. There are some things we won’t know about until she’s in school, or getting closer to puberty. There are some things we may never be able to rule out. That’s done, and we just have to deal with it.”

I nodded again and took a deep, steadying breath.

“We’ll need to love and support our baby, no matter what, but I can’t do that alone, Jay. I need you. I need you more than I’ve ever needed you and you can’t go away. You just can’t.”

I laughed and nodded, and wiped at the corner of my eye with the back of my hand. “I won’t.”

“You have to promise me, Jay.”

“I promise,” I said, shifting to turn more toward her. She laid her wrists against her calves, palms up, and I reached forward to take both of them in my hands.

“I’m sorry I’m so needy.”

“Nat, come on. If there was ever a time in your life to need someone, this is it.”

“Noo,” she groaned. “I mean… I’m…” She rolled her eyes and frowned. “I’m needy. I… I push your buttons to get reactions. I do it all the time.”

“You’re an amazing button pusher,” I laughed.

“Jay, I’m trying to be serious here!”

“I know what you’re getting at,” I said, “and I don’t care.”

She looked down. “I don’t like that about myself, and it’s hard not to think about that all the time.”

“About what?”

“About the things we pass on,” she said, looking up and making very direct contact. “Directly and indirectly. The examples we’ll set.”

“You mean the things we’ll fuck up?”

“Yeah,” she said, chuckling morbidly. “It was easier to be righteous and indignant about it with Mom and Dad when I didn’t have that same responsibility in turn.”

“I remember… I think Blake was like three weeks old, and I wanted to turn off his night light. Felicia started freaking out at me, that he was too young to turn off the night light, but we’d never tried. We had no idea if he realized it was there, or cared, or what. We had a screaming match about it.

“And then,” I continued, “I started thinking that through to like… when is he old enough? What if we leave his night light on for a year, and then he can’t do without it? What if he can’t ever sleep in the dark, without a nightlight, because of this moment right here where I didn’t put my foot down. What if Blake is forty years old and still needs a nightlight.”

“Are you serious?”

“I had a legitimate panic attack worrying about completely screwing him up. Like, that was the moment it all hit me. Felicia was, of course, outraged—”

“Because that’s what she does,” Natalie laughed.

“—and I went into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of rum, and just sat down.”

“A cup of rum!? Who does that?!”

I shook my head and chuckled. “It’s scary. It never stops being scary, and knowing that will not prepare you.”

“See?” she said. “This is what I needed! I need you to help talk me down from this shit!”

“She can hear you now.” I teased, reaching for her belly.

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