Читать онлайн «An Almost Perfect Moon»
‘I’m sure it won’t take long,’ said Ben.
‘It better not. I can hardly walk and I’ve got a flabby, over-stretched stomach. You don’t know how lucky you are,’ she told him.
‘You’ll feel better once you’ve slept properly,’ suggested Ben. Thomas chose that moment to start crying again, prompting Lucie to pick him up hurriedly and try and calm him down.
‘Well, you’re very beautiful even if your mummy’s gross and unattractive, aren’t you, darling?’ she said, gently kissing her son’s puce little head.
‘I think you’re both beautiful,’ said Ben.
‘Creep. Isn’t Daddy a great fat liar? Here,’ she said, lifting Thomas, ‘you take him.’
Carefully, Ben cradled his son in his arms. So tiny. Tiny but perfect.
‘He looks even smaller in your great big arms,’ said Lucie.
‘He does, doesn’t he? But I meant what I said, darling. I don’t think you look gross at all.’
Having settled back down in her bed, Lucie reached out for Thomas once more. Rocking him gently, she stared pensively ahead, while Ben wondered whether he should say something sympathetic or begin phoning again. He was just reaching for the phone when Lucie said, ‘Do you think I’m going to be a natural mother?’
‘Course you will. What a stupid thing to say,’ said Ben immediately.
She paused again, then added, ‘I hope so. I just feel so …’
‘I don’t know.’
‘No, honestly. I’m being silly. I suppose I just don’t feel ready for this. I wasn’t prepared for the birth, really. It was horrible. You know, I couldn’t get out of that place soon enough.’
‘Well, you’re safe now. You did it, you know. You should feel bloody proud. I do.’
‘Hm,’ said Lucie, and closed her eyes.
Thomas had calmed down and, like his mother, seemed to be sleeping. Ben had to admit he did look rather tiny and fragile. And it did feel odd and slightly unnatural when he held him and tried to soothe him. His head seemed so floppy, his body so weak: Ben wasn’t sure if he was hurting the little fellow by clasping too tight. But they’d be all right, he was sure. It was only natural that parenthood should seem a bit strange to begin with, just like anything new. Lucie was going to be a perfect mother. How could she not be? Leaving his wife and son asleep, he quietly opened his lap-top and began poring over the first draft of the press release.
It was blatantly obvious Julia had a natural affinity with babies. While Harry kept hugging both Lucie and Ben and telling them he felt emotional, Julia immediately dropped into baby-talk and Thomas stopped crying instantly. Then from her bag she produced a present, a gift-wrapped Tiffany’s silver rattle.
‘Oh Julia, how brilliant of you!’ exclaimed Lucie, ‘Tiffany & Co – my favourite!’
‘However did you find the time to get there?’ asked Ben incredulously.
‘Ah ha!’ Julia winked, then confessed, ‘I bought it last weekend actually.’
Ben kissed her again on the cheek. ‘That’s very thoughtful of you – and really appreciated.’
‘Mine’s coming,’ Harry told them, his flowers already swamped by the florist shop emerging from the living room.
There was a slightly nervous pause as they all regarded Thomas, who, miraculously, was still not crying.
‘He’s gorgeous,’ Julia told them.
‘Perfect,’ agreed Ben.
Lucie looked proudly down at him. ‘Yes he is, and all curled up, bless him, wishing he was still inside. It must be such a shock arriving in the outside world. Would you like to hold him?’
‘I’d love to – if you’re sure you don’t mind?’ Julia replied, leaning over carefully and unleashing a waft of scent despite the abundance of flowers.
‘You’re a natural,’ said Ben, full of admiration as Julia, elegant as ever, bobbed Thomas up and down to an accompaniment of soothing superlatives.
Lucie turned to Harry. ‘Would you like to hold him too?’
‘Me? Oh no, it’s fine – I’d probably only go and make him blub.’
As Julia handed Thomas back, he screwed up his tiny face before slowly turning red, and beginning to cry once more.
‘He wants some dinner, don’t you, darling?’ cooed Julia.
‘I think you might be right,’ said Lucie, looking about uncertainly.
‘Are you OK, darling?’ asked Ben.
‘I’m embarrassed – I think I should go into another room.’ Lucie made to lift herself up from the sofa.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, it’s only us. Anyway, you’ve got to get used to it,’ Ben told her.
‘Yes, don’t mind me,’ added Julia.
‘OK, but no sniggering, agreed Lucie, gingerly lifting her shirt as discreetly as she could.
Ben could see Harry looking at Lucie quite mesmerized, and then she noticed too.
‘Harry, stop staring,’ said Lucie sharply.
‘Sorry, I can’t help it. I’ve never seen anyone do that before.’
‘Well, what do you think happens? You know, Harry, this is painful enough as it is without you gawping.’
‘OK, OK, sorry, but it’s fascinating – seeing breasts used for something other than sex.’
‘Harry, honestly,’ chided Julia.
‘It is. I mean, look at the way he just knows what to do. But I’ll turn my back if it bothers you.’
‘It did this morning – in the hospital, with everyone there – but Ben’s right, I’m going to have to get used to it. He’s needs a lot of feeding so I’ll have to overcome my embarrassment and whip my tits out whenever. You see how my standards are already slipping.’
‘Come on, Luce, you’ve just given birth, for God’s sake. What do you expect?’ Ben put an arm round her.
‘Anyway, we should probably let you get on with it,’ said Julia.
‘Yes, leave the new family to their first night together,’ added Harry, standing up and clapping his hands together.
‘No, it’s OK, stay a bit longer,’ said Lucie quickly.
‘Yes, why don’t you?’ put in Ben. ‘You’ve only just got here. We could maybe watch a video or something. And anyway, aren’t you staying for supper?’
Harry looked expectantly at Julia.
‘No,’ she said firmly, ‘the Chinese is for you two. Honestly, you should be on your own. With Thomas.’ She smiled at Thomas again. ‘You’ll be fine,’ she added to Ben and Lucie.
They smiled weakly. Ahead lay the daunting prospect of parenthood, and their first night with Thomas under their roof.
CHAPTER FIVE Gloucester sojourn (#ulink_03c31eaa-6135-5d11-bf80-91539d2c532f)
The weekend after Thomas was born, Harry had agreed to drive up to Gloucestershire with Julia to meet her father for the first time. He’d already met her mother, Bobby, a trim soft-spoken lady of fifty-two. She’d been divorced from Julia’s father for ten years now, and on doing so had moved back to town, taking up residence in what used to be their town house on the King’s Road. Harry had crossed that hurdle without too much fuss as Bobby was friendly, welcoming and clearly so much a part of Julia’s everyday life. But her father, Charles, was quite a different proposition. He lived on a huge estate south of Stow-on-the-Wold, had married for a second time to a woman only eight years older than Julia, and now had another son, Dominic, to add to his other two by Bobby. Julia was clearly slightly scared of him, and did little to assuage Harry’s growing apprehension.
‘Do you mind terribly?’ said Julia, as they headed out of town.
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