“I really think it’s too early to be thinking about this.” Andrew said as he stared up ahead at the road going toward Boston where they were attending a birthday party for one of Harriet’s coworkers.
“What about R names?” Harriet mused as she thumbed through a brightly colored book. “I’ve always liked R names."
“Did you even hear me just now?” Andrew asked, glancing at her.
“Riley, Rowan, Rebecca, Rosalie, Rydia, Rayna.” She went on, totally ignoring him. How did she even have the energy to ignore him with such excitement? He was exhausted in his body and lungs and head and heart. A good nap would probably fix it all, but he was in the car instead.
“No, that starts with an H.” He looked sideways at her and she laughed and flipped to the next page “Oh, lighten up Andrew. I’m not saying we’re deciding right now. I’m just looking. Are you not the least bit excited about what we’ll call our daughters?”
yes. “No, not really.”
Harriet almost glared at him. “Good to know.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “You know I didn’t mean it like that. I just think it’s too early is all.”
She sighed and put the name book down. “I know. I’m just getting anxious.”
“We only found out last week.” He reminded her.
Andrew had to force himself not to show any reaction when Harriet’s friend and OB announced it. Andrew still had a hard time swallowing it. Identical twin girls. Though, he didn’t really understand how they were identical and Baby B was still so small. He had expected her—it—to be absorbed or whatever it was by now, but it hadn’t and likely wouldn’t now that twelve weeks had past.
“I know,” was all Harriet said.
They had only just told their parents yesterday. No one knew how to react. They had just given congratulations they pretended weren’t hesitant. Andrew felt the same. He didn’t know how to feel about these things that could one day be his daughters? How exactly did one raise a daughter? He’d been around little boys growing up, but rarely ever girls. A lot of make-up, maybe? Getting a dog so they would know if one snuck out to see a boy?
As Andrew turned the car to the left, his eyes went to Harriet and he saw she was crying. She was a lot more emotional than she had been with Everett. Maybe because there were two? Maybe she was also so tired her limbs felt like they were slowly losing circulation?
“Why are you crying?” He asked dutifully though there might not have been a real reason.
She tried to fan her face free of tears, not wanting to smudge her make-up. “I just…I know you have your reservations about all this. I get it, I do. But it’s hard to do this on my own. I mean, I know you’re here and…”
She buried her face in her hands. She wasn’t crying, but she wasn’t okay either. Andrew took a hand off the wheel and rubbed it over her back, just in little circles the way she had always liked.
“I’m sorry Harrie.” He said. “I know you’re nervous too. But I’m just scared that if we name them and…”
“I know.” She raised her head and sniffed up her tears. “I know.”
They sat in silence for a while, driving along the freeway inland. The name book eventually slid off her lap and onto the car floor. She didn’t pick it up. It was another twenty minutes before they pulled up in the parking lot of the old fliers club.
Andrew parked the car and turned off the engine and they sat there for a while. Music was coming from inside the closed doors and he could see people laughing and drinking and dancing through the window. Harriet was still leaning her head against the car door, staring at nothing.
“Rydia.” He said when he couldn’t take the silence anymore.
Harriet lifted her head and looked at him. “Hmm?”
“I like Rydia.”
Harriet smiled at him and he smiled back.
“I’m sorry.” He told her again as they drove home from the party early.
“It’s fine.” She told HIM again. “It’s not your fault you’re sick.”
“It’s just a head ache.” He told her. It wasn’t though, he felt nauseous too, and his chest felt tight and his hands were shaky. He had felt like this a couple weeks ago when he’d gone to bring Harriet lunch at work. He took one look at all those bright, flickering lights and had felt sick immediately. Maybe he needed to go see the neurologist or something, only that would involve admitting something was wrong. “Really, I’m fine.”
“Either way, thank you.” She said as she turned the car onto the freeway. “I had forgotten how snobby she is.”
“I thought you liked her.” Andrew rubbed his temples.
“I do,” She said. “I just don’t like them in groups.”
Andrew smiled tiredly. “You’re rich people.”
“We’re rich people.” She corrected. “Speaking of which, mister business man, what are you planning to do about Francesca’s suggestion?”
Andrew groaned internally and looked out the window. He’d gotten other investors over the years, but Francesca remained the most loyal. Harriet insisted it was because she was a cougar, but Andrew was under the impression that she was a rich widow with a kind heart and nothing to do. Andrew knew she had she had first taken him on as a little project. Unbeknownst to either of them, the little project wasn’t a little project anymore.
The little fashion show had gone over well, very well actually. Every one there was very interested in his story, so Francesca had started working it from that angle, though he thought it was weird that he was selling himself more than his clothes. Either way, he’d gotten more sponsors and now Francesca and lawyers were negotiating with retail stores about selling some of his clothes. His shop in London had made its way onto the map as a tourist destinations and his LA shop was now one of the highest rated wedding-dressers in the city.
The whole thing was crazy. Now Francesca was wanting him to find a more permanent base, not in LA because he already had one that sold more dresses than anything else, and not Long Island because it didn’t have “story book appeal” according to Francesca who was still working his rags-to sparkly riches story.
He wasn’t entirely sure what “story book appeal” meant, but he had to admit that his little shop was getting crowded and he needed more employees to keep up with the demand. Actually, at this point he was almost in need of a factory.
“I don’t know,” He said at last. “When I went into this, I made shirts and pants and dresses from the middle floor of a brownstone. I never thought it would get to this point. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“That’s why you do what Francesca says and find a way to expand.” Harriet said. “And eventually people who DO know what they’re doing will come to you, and you can go back to the part of the job you like.”
Andrew nodded. He knew these things, but he couldn’t help but feel weird about it. He needed people who knew how to stitch stuff together, and he needed a lot of them to make the clothes he used to be able to make himself. He didn’t like needed other people like that, but the fact was that his little business was becoming a recognizable name and he and Francesca, Seymour and Veronica, Ariana and Leighton…they couldn’t keep it up anymore, not at the rate it was going.
“I sort of wish I could take it back.” Andrew said before he was able to stop himself. “I wish I was just making wedding dresses for people the news would never hear about, outfits that wouldn’t find their way into a magazine. She wants me to start designing jewelry, did I tell you. She saw your ring and I told her I designed it. It’s all crazy.”
“I know.” She smiled and took a hand off the wheel and put it on his leg. “I’m here for you. All of us. Your parents, my parents, Seymour and Em, my cousins and Quinn.” She drew back her hand and rubbed it once over her swelling belly before putting it back on the wheel. “Rydia and Baby B.”
Andrew just nodded and looked out the window.
Andrew awoke to Harriet shaking his shoulder in the dark.
“Wake up sleepy,” She teased. “We’re home.”
Andrew looked at her and then out the right window of the car at the large polished cement house before he realized she meant home in the Hamptons and not home in LA. This was on a whole other planet then his LA home and this neighborhood was one of the cheapest around. The Hamptons—the only place in the world where the Thatchers were almost poor in comparison.
Andrew yawned and opened the car door into the hot, sticky summer night. He hated that about the east coast. He missed his eighty degree, dry LA nights. The mugginess pressed on his lungs, trying to drown him from the inside out.
“Andrew,” Harriet said when she noticed him just sitting there. “Andrew, your seatbelt.”
“Huh?” He mumbled and looked down. Oh, he hadn’t undone his seatbelt. He clicked it and slid out of the car onto the pavement of the fancy driveway. He had always thought round drive ways were as fancy as you could get until he moved here. “Round ones.”
“What?” Harriet was looking at him as he rounded the car. He hadn’t even realized he’d spoken.
“Oh. I—a round drive way. When we move back, if we look for another house, I like round drive ways.”
Harriet blinked. “Okay.”
The next thing Andrew knew, Harriet was pulling off his shoes and tucking the blankets up over him. Had she carried him up here? She laid a cool hand on his head and tried to look in his eyes, but he closed them and jerked his head away.
“You’re a little warm.” She said after a moment. “Maybe I should take you in—”
“’M fine Harrie.” He mumbled and rolled over. “Just tired.”
“You’ve been tired a lot lately.” She said.
“It’s nothing, just can you turn off the lights?” The lights were bright through his lids and it was making his brain feel like it was twitching.
“They are off,” She told him, bemused. “It’s just the nightlight in the bathroom.”
“Oh.” Was all he said before falling back asleep again.
Andrew awoke this time to a sound. It sounded like a cat clawing the walls or mice running across the floor. He opened his eyes slowly, fighting the urge to close them again. He listened for the sound again, but there was nothing there. His ears were probably just playing tricks on his sleepy mind. He huffed out a slow, heavy puff of breath from his nose and rolled over in bed.
When he opened his eyes again, just to see if there was a hint of light outside, his eyes fell on the desk in the corner and he screamed at the dark figure sitting on the chair, watching he and his wife sleep.
“What? What, what?” His shout had awoken Harriet who fumbled for the light. When it flicked on, Andrew’s eyes shut closed on reflex, light assaulting him from all sides. “What’s wrong?”
“Agh.” Andrew grunted and forced his eyes open. He looked at the desk and found nothing there but the jacket he’d worn earlier hanging over the chair. “I—nothing. I just—nothing.”
Harriet raised herself up to her elbow and placed a gentle hand over his rapidly beating heart. Andrew absorbed the cool, calmness from her hand.
“Hey,” She said softly. “Are you feeling alright? You’ve been acting a little odd lately. I’m worried about you.”
“I’m fine.” He promised. “It’s just the stress of…everything. Tell me something.”
It was a thing he’d always ask his parents after a bad dream or whenever he was sick or stressed or sad, just something to distract him. It didn’t have to be good, just as long as it took up thinking space in his head.
“Well,” She said, looking him over one last time to make sure he wasn’t about to up and die on him. “Em called while you were sleeping.”
“Wha’d he want?”
“He was just a bit sad and wanted to talk to you. He’d gone over to the school to polish up all his new instruments in preparation for class in a couple weeks. He learned one of the other teacher’s husbands just got put out of job because the main business of the town just got outsourced.”
“That really sucks.” Andrew said and rubbed his hand up his forehead, pulling his hair back, letting the cool air from the vent waft across his skin.
“Em is worried because if people start having to move to find work, they’ll take their kids with them and the less kids, the less teachers the school needs and the less funding they’ll get for the arts. There’s only around five thousand people in the town anyway. It’s only on the map because it has the only skating rink in a hundred miles. Practically the whole town works in that one building, he said. People literally grow up knowing they’re going to work there. It was an old business and now Regan’s ruined it.”
“That really really sucks.” Andrew thought back to how happy his friend was when the school board had even considered his application. “He loves his job and it hadn’t even started.”
“Yeah, Harriet said and shook her head softly. “Promise me that when you have to start mass-producing stuff in factories and what-not, you’ll keep it in America.”
“I will.” He promised, thinking of all those people whose jobs just went to underpaid, underfed orphans in Korea or wherever. He would never do that to someone. “What was the company that moved anyway?”
Harriet gave him the name of a familiar company, one whose name was on the back of his dad’s work shirts. “They made specialized uniforms for other companies, sometimes even police and fire fighter uniforms. It’s ironic that our blue collar Americans are now going to be wearing uniforms from somewhere else.”
“Yeah.” Andrew agreed tiredly. Even his own dad’s work bought from that company. He wouldn’t be pleased and Andrew knew right away that his mom would have a fit, that is if she ever even pulled her head out of the Bible long enough to realize it. She had gotten worse now that she had no children in the house to bother.
“They made good stuff too.” Harriet said and settled back into the blankets, ready to go back to sleep, as was he. “A lot of our hospital stuff comes from there. All over the country people will be out of jobs. I hope another business buys up the building in Em’s town. Maybe make a mall or something? I don’t know. Good night Andrew.”
“Night.” He said and took one long, glaring look at the desk before Harriet shut off the light. There was nothing there but a coat he’d designed and made himself in his tiny Boston shop.
Hours later, he found himself staring at the ceiling. He knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t sleep with the shadows crawling across the room like they were. The moon was shining through the tree outside the window and the shadows it cast were not pleasant ones.
He thought instead about all those people in Em’s itty bitty town. Em had told him about all the little houses and the way the foot hills to the north-west looked purple in the distance. He told him about the ice rink where all the little town kids had their birthdays and played hockey because there was no YMCA. He talked about how he’d found a one-screen drive-in and had laughed at all the kids making out in the back seats of their cars, just like in the old days. He and Em had kissed some girls to the muffled sound-boxes and flickering lights of drive-ins. Usually they tasted of cherry cola and popcorn.
But with the business gone, the families that stayed would have a hard time finding work in such a small town which meant no hockey for Timmy and no more cherry and popcorn kisses at the drive-in on Friday nights when they should have been doing homework. Andrew forgot about his tiredness and the shadows as he bolted straight up in bed, startling Harriet awake.
He looked at her, realizing the piece of advice she’d unknowingly given him. “You said the people made uniforms?”
She looked at him like he was crazy, and maybe he was. Andrew smiled and kissed her good night, already making plans around the shadows in his head