by Cori Falls
Well I just heard
The news today.
It seems my life
Is going to change.
I close my eyes,
Begin to pray,
Then tears of joy
Stream down my face.
With arms wide open,
Under the sunlight.
Welcome to this place,
I'll show you everything.
With arms wide open.
Well I don't know
If I'm ready
To be the man
I have to be.
I'll take a breath,
And take her by my side.
We stand in awe,
We've created life!
With arms wide open,
Under the sunlight.
Welcome to this place,
I'll show you everything.
With arms wide open,
Now everything has changed.
I'll show you love,
I'll show you everything,
With arms wide open.
If I had just one wish,
Only one demand,
I hope she's not like me,
I hope she understands
That she can take this life,
And hold it by the hand,
And she can greet the world
With arms wide open....
-- Creed "With Arms Wide Open"
"We're blasting off again!" Jessie, Meowth, and I cried as we were launched sky-high by the force of Pikachu's Thunderbolt and Squirtle and Team Wartortle's collective Water Gun attack.
It was a scene that was becoming all too familiar...and tiresome.
Oh, well. It had been a pretty shitty day anyway. Seemed only fitting that it should have a shitty ending, too.
The whole misadventure started when we arrived at a port town on a small island that morning. We'd spent the past couple of days marooned on a deserted island while we repaired our submarine, and now that we were back in commission, we were hot on the trail of the twerp trio once again.
Hot being the key word.
It was late July, and the Orange Island dry season was at its peak. Not exactly the best time of year to be wearing uniforms with heavy jackets and gloves or pedaling around in a stuffy little submarine. The heat had been taking its toll on us all summer, and today was no exception.
Normally, I'm pretty laid-back, but my temper had been on edge for the past couple of months. I'd even blown up at Jessie a few times, and I'd rather die than say or do anything to hurt her! But today, I was overworked and overheated again, my head was throbbing, and I had the feeling that I was going to lose my temper if anything went wrong. And as bad as I felt, I knew that Jessie and Meowth weren't feeling any better than I was. Meowth had been even crankier than me lately, and Jessie was sick. For the past week, she'd seemed unusually tired, and she'd complained of being nauseous. Quite frankly, I was surprised that she was still able to work, as bad as she was feeling.
By the time our submarine reached the shore, Jessie's face was flushed, and her uniform was drenched with sweat. She looked like she was going to pass out. When we climbed out of the sub, all I had the energy to do was collapse in the sand and try to catch my breath, but Jessie staggered further down the beach and began to throw up again. I didn't feel like I had enough strength to get up and help her, but seeing how miserable she looked broke my heart, so I forced myself to.
"Jessie, honey, maybe you should go to the doctor," I told her as I crawled to her side. "I've never seen you this sick before, and it's not normal for a stomach flu to last such a long time...."
Jessie shivered. "I'm...I'm okay, James. Really," she muttered.
"Well, you don't look okay," I said, bringing out my handkerchief and dabbing her face. "I'm worried about you, Jess."
"It's just heat exhaustion," she replied. "I'll be fine once I get some rest."
"Then that's what we'll do," I said. "We'll get changed out of these uniforms and into some nice cool clothes, we'll check into a motel with air conditioning, and the three of us will just take it easy for awhile. I think we all need a break...especially you."
Jessie smiled tenderly at me. "Thanks, James."
Mustering all of my strength once again, I got to my feet and gave Jessie my arm to lean on. Relying on each other for support, we made our way back inside the submarine and peeled off our hot, sweaty uniforms. I changed into a red t-shirt and a pair of jeans, and Jessie put on a short blue sundress and a pair of sandals. The cooler clothes instantly made a difference, and I could feel my headache going away.
"James?" Jessie asked as she smoothed back her hair and wiped her face with a damp cloth.
"What is it, Jess?"
"Do you think we could get some ice cream before we check into the motel? I'm really hungry, and I've had a craving for it lately."
This struck me as odd. I know that when I'm sick to my stomach, food is the last thing on my mind, but Jessie seemed to have more of an appetite than ever these past couple of weeks. She always used to complain that food was all Meowth and I ever thought about, and now she was just as bad as us! But I thought nothing of it since it was a hot day, and I was hungry for ice cream, too.
"Of course we can get ice cream, Jess. I'll buy you whatever you want," I replied, grabbing my wallet.
At the mention of ice cream, Meowth, who'd dozed off in his seat at the pedals, perked his ears.
"I'm guessing you want some, too?" I ventured.
He grinned. "Yeah! Me-owth wanna triple-ripple vanilla fudgiecicle!"
"Oooh! I think I'll have one of those, too!" Jessie exclaimed. "And a cheesecake sundae with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream!"
"And I haven't had an ice cream sandwich in ages!" I chimed in, remembering how my family's chef, Dalila, used to give me all the ice cream sandwiches I could eat on Children's Day.
"Den whadda we waitin' for?! Let's go!!!" Meowth cried.
Jessie and I exchanged smiles. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad day, after all.
After buying six triple-ripple vanilla fudgiecicles, a cheesecake sundae with the works, four ice cream sandwiches, and three super-sized sodas to wash it all down, the three of us seated ourselves on a shady park bench and divided everything up. A cool ocean breeze started to blow as we ate, providing even more refreshment. It's amazing what life's simple pleasures can do to restore the spirit.
Once we'd finished our ice cream, we headed into town so we could find a place to rest for a couple of days. However, we soon discovered that there'd been a fire at the local motel, and the entire building had burned to the ground. Apparently, this was a common phenomenon during the Orange Island dry season. The intense heat and lack of rain dried up most of the vegetation in the wilderness and the wood of the architectural structures in the towns. And the dryness transformed the region into a giant tinderbox, just waiting to be sparked.
Forced to make alternate plans, Meowth got out a map and found that there was a cabin further inland, near the foothills. It was pretty far from town, but it would be cheaper than staying at a motel, and we'd have more peace and quiet (and safety) out there than among the crowds.
As we were setting out, however, we caught sight of the twerp trio talking to the captain of the fire department. Seeing a golden opportunity to capture Pikachu, we couldn't resist following them.
Before long, they arrived at the fire station, where Ash's Squirtle and the fire chief's squad of Wartortle entered some kind of contest to see which was better trained. And as we watched the pokemon in action, we got the idea to take Squirtle and Team Wartortle, too! After all, if we had a team of fire-fighting Wartortle with us, we'd be safe if a forest fire broke out while we were at the cabin. (The fire department would still have plenty of Squirtle and Blastoise if there was another fire in town, we figured.) And besides, all of those Wartortle would make a wonderful surprise for the boss in addition to Pikachu -- he'd give us a raise and a promotion for sure!
And so, our plan was put into action.
Returning to the submarine, we got our balloon and some supplies. When we got back to the fire department, I dug a large hole while Meowth assembled a remote control flying saucer to lure the Wartortle away from their trainer. (I was still worried about Jessie, so I made her take it easy for the time being.)
Once everything was set, we positioned the balloon at the bottom of the pit and laid out a live-capture net. Then, we waited. When the skeet-shooting portion of the competition began, I took the remote control and sent out the flying saucer. And sure enough, when the Wartortle couldn't hit it with their Water Guns, they followed it, and I led them towards the pit.
When the Wartortle fell into the pit, we grabbed them in our net and took to the sky in our balloon. Predictably, the little brats started whining about how it was wrong to steal the Wartortle, but we didn't listen. Instead, we just launched into our motto:
"Perpare for trouble -- we've played our role!"
"And make it double 'cause we dug this hole!" (I love it when we rhyme...and we seemed to be doing more and more of these little ad-libs now that we were a couple!)
"To protect the world from devastation!"
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!" (Was it just my imagination, or did Jessie put extra emphasis on the word, "love" when she looked at me?!)
I blushed. "To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now, or prepare to fight!"
"Meowth! Dat's right!"
Once our motto had been recited, the brats started whining again, but we just laughed at them. Then, Meowth took a pair of extending mechanical hands and grabbed Pikachu. After hauling him in, Jessie put him into a shock-proof glass capsule. Ash commanded him to use his Thundershock on us, but the capsule simply absorbed his energy. And as an added bonus, we used the electricity that the capsule absorbed to power our fan and keep us cool!
Jessie, Meowth, and I exchanged smiles. We'd pulled off a flawless heist, and the air from the fan felt wonderful -- just like the ocean breeze when we'd been eating our ice cream that morning! It was the perfect way to beat the heat.
Knowing that we had to make a getaway before the twerps found some way to mess this up for us, I gave them a "freezy-weezy treat," and got Weezing to make a smokescreen. By the time the air cleared, we'd be long gone!
Our day may have gotten off to a rotten start, but it was getting better by the minute.
Once we'd reached the safety of the cabin, the three of us started making arrangements for sending our haul off to the boss. Before Meowth could call him, however, I suddenly got an idea.
"I don't see why we have to send all of these Wartortle to the boss," I remarked. "Why don't we keep one for ourselves?"
Jessie smiled at me when I said this. "That's a great idea, James! You're not as dumb as you look!"
What?! What the hell was that supposed to mean?! I asked myself, unable to believe what I'd just heard. Why would Jessie be insulting me? I didn't do anything wrong...did I?
As I watched Jessie trying to decide which Wartortle she was going to take, I found myself getting mad. I know she hadn't been feeling well recently, but neither had I, and I was doing my best to take care of her. I'd even bought ice cream for her and planned a couple of days off so she could recuperate from her illness! Where did she get off insulting me?! Normally, I could let a rude remark like that slide -- the three of us poke fun at each other all the time, but we never mean anything by it. Today, however, I just wasn't in the mood, and I wasn't going to let her get away with it.
"Wait just a second!" I snapped, racing over and intercepting her before she could claim one of the Wartortle. "This was my idea, so I should be the one to keep it!"
Jessie scowled at me. "No! I should be the one to keep it!" she snapped back. "Digging that hole was MY idea!"
"Yeah, and I was the one who dug it!" I retorted.
Jessie and I argued back and forth like this for several minutes, but our screaming match was interrupted when we saw Meowth sneaking by us and trying to take one of the Wartortle for himself.
"Oh, no you don't!" Jessie shouted, stomping him with the heel of her boot. "You stay out of this, Meowth!"
Well, this only made Meowth angry, and he retaliated by Fury Swiping both of us across the face.
And that only succeeded in making me and Jessie even angrier than we already were.
After that, the argument degenerated into an all-out fight. The three of us just started punching, slapping, clawing, pushing, and kicking for all we were worth, screaming about who should get to keep the Wartortle all the while.
Looking back, I know it was a stupid thing to fight about, but at the moment, I didn't care. Pikachu had stopped making electricity to power our fan, and it must've been at least 100 degrees in that cabin. I was getting sweaty again, and the confines of my bulky uniform only made the heat worse. The fighting wasn't doing anything for my headache either.
While we were fighting, Squirtle and the Wartortle decided to gang up on us, and we suddenly found ourselves being hosed down by their Water Gun attack. The blast of water cooled me off instantly, but before I could apologize to Jessie and Meowth and try to get the situation under control, the cabin flooded, and the three of us were washed out the door.
As we tried to get our bearings, the Wartortle made their escape, moving the net along by leap-frogging over each other and making sure to trample us into the dirt as they passed by.
Enraged, Meowth brought out his claws and slashed at them, but they quickly withdrew into their shells, and he ended up cutting them loose from the net.
Once the Wartortle were free, the fire chief pulled up in his jeep, and Ash and the new twerp, Tracey, were with him. Ash made some kind of stupid remark, as usual, and the fat kid got his Venonat to tackle us.
The force of the tackle sent us sprawling into the dirt again, but once we were back on our feet, we released Arbok and Weezing. We weren't going to let those kids take the Wartortle we'd worked so hard to capture without a fight!
But once again, the Wartortle decided to gang up on us. Putting their Water Gun attack together once more, they slammed Arbok and Weezing back into us. At some point, Ash managed to find Pikachu and set him free from the shock-proof capsule, and as soon as he was free, he zapped us....
....And you know the rest.
As usual, after being blasted off, we landed several miles away. Fortunately, the branches of a tree broke our fall, and our impact was relatively easy this time.
I slowly got back to my feet, but as I stretched my aching muscles, I looked over at Jessie and saw that she was still lying on the ground. Her hands were on her stomach, and she was moaning softly.
"Jessie, are you okay?" I asked, coming to her side.
She pulled herself into a kneeling position and looked up at me. All of the color had drained from her face, and her breathing sounded labored.
I gently placed my hand on her cheek. "Jess...."
As soon as I touched her, a fire sparked in her eyes, and she slapped my hand away.
"Jessie, what's gotten inta you?!" Meowth cried when he saw her reaction.
"J-just leave me alone," she said weakly.
The look in her sapphire eyes was one of confusion and sadness...and fear. She was probably still upset about the argument we'd had earlier, and I couldn't blame her for that. As angry as I'd been, I'd taken care not to strike her during the fight (I'd never raise a hand to my Jessie, no matter what), but I'd still pushed her away from me in self-defense, and I'd yelled at her and said some pretty harsh things, too. I knew that I had to apologize for hurting her feelings, but I also knew better than to press the issue while she was in such a dark mood. So, I backed off and gave her the space she needed, hoping she'd be willing to work things out later.
It was a long walk back to the cabin, and since we'd blasted off at sunset, we had to find our way there in the dark.
And as we walked back, I got to thinking about what had happened between the three of us earlier. A Wartortle really was a stupid thing for us to get into a fight over, and I honestly couldn't believe how we'd blown up at each other.
It was the heat -- I was sure of it. Our tempers were never this bad before we came to the Orange Islands, and the scorching summer weather was only making it worse.
But there was more to it than the weather.
As I looked over at Jessie, I could tell that something was on her mind. I remembered our bike gang days, when the boys she'd dated had used her and dumped her for not sleeping with them. And I remembered what she'd told me a few weeks ago about her ex-boyfriend, Antonio, and how he'd abused her. They'd all acted like they loved Jessie at first, but they'd all ended up hurting her and leaving her.
Now, she was probably asking herself if history was repeating itself with me. I'd been losing my temper and yelling at her a lot lately, after all. I knew that my foul mood was just because of the heat, and my flaring temper didn't really have anything to do with her, but I wasn't sure if she knew that or not.
I also think the tension was being caused by our relationship. We'd undergone a lot of changes in recent months, and it was pretty unsettling, to say the least! For years, we'd been "just friends," and now, over the course of a few short months, we'd started dating, become lovers, and made plans to get married!
The sudden changes in our relationship had changed our personalities as well. I know that before all of the romance began, I wouldn't have dared raise my voice to Jessie, no matter how angry I was or how bad I was feeling. The one exception to this had been the time she stole those badges and tried to leave me, but other than that, I'd always kept my mouth shut and let Jessie be the one in charge. Now that we were a couple, however, I'd taken more control. Ever since the badge incident, I found that I was speaking up more often, making more decisions for the team, and taking more action. Now, we were more like equal partners -- a true team -- rather than a leader and a follower.
This was definitely a healthy change for us, but perhaps I'd been taking too many liberties with my new degree of control. Just because I had a stronger voice now, it didn't give me the right to lash out at Jessie. We had to find a better way to communicate with each other when we weren't feeling well.
When we finally got back to the cabin, I decided to see if Jessie was ready to talk to me yet. I wasn't angry anymore, and I didn't want her to be angry either. The sooner we worked this out, the better.
"Jessie?" I said as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my red rose. "Jessie, honey, can we talk?"
"Jess, I know I said some awful things to you today, but I didn't mean any of it," I told her as I placed the rose in her hand. "I...I just wasn't feeling well, and I took it out on you. I'm sorry."
Jessie slapped me across the face and threw my rose to the floor. "Like hell you are!" she shouted.
I placed a hand to my stinging cheek. "But, Jessie...."
"No!" she interjected. "Just leave me alone, James!" With that, she turned and headed for the bedroom.
Not wanting the discussion to end on such a bad note, I followed her. "I won't," I replied, putting my hand on her shoulder and stopping her. "Not until we talk."
"There's nothing to talk about," she said coldly, still not facing me.
I turned her around and forced her to look up at me. "I think we both know that's not true," I replied. "I'll admit it -- I was a jerk today. That's not an excuse. It's just the truth, and I'm sorry for what I did."
"What do you want from me, James?" she whispered.
"I just want you to know that I didn't mean to hurt you...that I'm sorry," I told her. "I love you, Jessie...and I do mean that."
Tears welled up in her eyes. "I know...but I just want to be by myself for awhile. Please, James."
"Okay," I said softly, removing my hands from her shoulders. "I'll still be here when you are ready to talk. And we will talk about this. Right?"
Jessie nodded and brushed her tears away. Then, she went into the bedroom and closed the door behind her.
"Heh. Looks like Jimmy's in the dog house tonight." I looked and saw Meowth standing at my feet.
"Oh, shut up," I grumbled.
He frowned. "I'm sorry."
"I don't know what's gotten into her," I sighed. "Meowth, I know that fight we had was about more than just a Wartortle. Did...did I do something to make her mad?"
"Not dat I know of," came his reply.
I sighed again.
"Ah, don't worry about it, James," Meowth said. "Ya know how Jess has her moods every now and den. Ain't no different from you -- she probably just had a bad day and needed ta take it out on somebody."
"I guess. But if that's the case, then why didn't she want to talk to me about it?" I asked. "I apologized for what I did, so why couldn't she?"
"Heh. Women. Damned if I ever figure 'em out," he chuckled.
"Well, I'm still working on it," I told him.
"Not tonight, ya ain't," he said. "Tonight, the men sleep on the couch!"
"Come on, ya big loser. I'll make some room for ya."
After taking off my boots, gloves, and jacket, I stretched myself out on the couch, and the cat curled up on my chest.
"Meowth?" I ventured after a moment of silence.
"I'm sorry for hitting you earlier."
He smiled at me. "I know. And I'm sorry for scratchin' youse guys."
I returned his smile.
"I'm glad we're cool now," he continued.
"Yeah," I agreed. "I just wish I knew what was bothering Jessie."
"You and me both."
After a few minutes, Meowth dozed off and began to purr. Alone with my thoughts, I found myself wondering about Jessie once again. She seemed to have forgiven me when I apologized to her, but why was she still so upset? Was she too proud to admit that she'd been wrong too, or was she still mad at herself and too ashamed to face me?
I knew that speculation wouldn't do any good, but I was determined to find out what was going on in the morning. I wasn't going to let this turn into another situation like the one we were faced with on the day we tried to capture those Nidorans. I'd be damned if I ever let Jessie shut me out again when something was wrong.
The next morning I was up at dawn, and I took the time to prepare a nice breakfast. French toast always seemed to help me break the ice when there was something Jessie and I needed to discuss, I noticed.
While it was cooking, Meowth awoke and joined me in the kitchen.
"Ah! French toast! The big, I love ya, Jessie breakfast!" he remarked. "Good thinkin', James!"
"I hope ya made enough for Me-owth, too!"
"Nope! I was going to let you starve," I replied sarcastically.
He stuck his tongue out at me.
"Here you go," I chuckled, bringing out a large plate that I'd already prepared for him. "You want it with powdered sugar or maple syrup?"
Meowth grinned. "Both!"
"How'd I know?" I asked as I sprinkled his French toast with powdered sugar and drizzled some maple syrup on top of it.
As he ate his breakfast, I made two more plates for me and Jessie. By the time it was ready, the aroma of the cooking food lured her from the bedroom, and she quietly seated herself at the table. There were dark circles under her eyes, and they looked a little red and puffy, as if she hadn't slept at all last night.
"Morning, Jess," I said, planting a kiss on the top of her head and handing her a plate of French toast.
She smiled weakly at me. "Good morning, James."
As I gazed into her weary eyes, I could tell that she really did want to talk to me about what was on her mind. I wasn't going to have to force it out of her, after all.
The three of us ate our breakfast in silence, but once we'd finished, Jessie looked over at Meowth. "James and I have something important to discuss...in private," she told him.
Meowth nodded and excused himself from the table. Before he left, however, he gave me a sly smile and a playful nudge. "Way ta go, Jimmy!"
This only made him laugh.
"What are we going to do with that Meowth?" Jessie sighed once he was gone. Her face was as red as mine.
"Oh, he doesn't mean anything by it, Jess," I told her.
She smiled again.
"Now," I said, seating myself next to her and taking her hands in my own. "What is it that you wanted to tell me?"
Jessie's smile faded, and she looked down at the floor.
"This isn't about that argument we had yesterday, is it?" I prompted.
She shook her head. "No. Though I am sorry about saying that you were dumb-looking, and everything. I just...haven't been myself lately."
"I noticed. Now what's going on?"
She bit her lip and turned away from me.
I gently cupped her chin in my hand and forced her to look back at me. "Tell me. Please."
Jessie remained silent as she stared into my eyes. After a moment, however, her lip quivered, and she spoke. "James...I'm...I'm pregnant."
My eyes widened. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard! "P-p-pregnant?!" I stammered.
She nodded and looked down at the floor again.
"Jessie, are...are you sure?" I asked.
"Pretty sure," she muttered. "I...I didn't really think anything of it when I started getting sick. But then I started being hungry all the time, too, and I'm late...."
I ran a hand through my hair and sighed.
"That's when I really started getting suspicious," she continued. "So I took a pregnancy test last night...three, to be precise."
"And they all came up positive?"
"I got a pink stick, a plus sign, and a blue stripe. Yeah, I'd say they all came up positive."
"Oh, boy," I muttered.
Jessie hung her head.
"How...how did this happen, Jess?" I asked. "I thought you were on the pill."
"I am," she replied meekly. "But...you have to take those things every day in order for them to work, and there were a couple of times when I...forgot."
Suddenly, I found my thoughts drifting back to the night that Jessie and I made love for the first time. When the afterglow of the beautiful experience we'd just shared diminished a little, I'd suddenly realized that in the heat of the moment, we'd forgotten to use protection. I'd been worried that Jessie would get pregnant...or that she'd resent me for being so careless. When she saw how upset I was, however, Jessie told me that when we became a couple, she'd started taking birth control pills. She knew from the very beginning that it was true love and that I was the one she'd been saving herself for, so she'd been prepared when it happened.
But just like any form of birth control other than abstinence, they weren't completely effective.
"I...I think it was that night on Mandarin Island. The night I told you about my ex, and we talked about getting married," she continued. "I was up all night making those bride and groom costumes, and I was so tired the next morning that I forgot to take my pill at breakfast. And I forgot to take it during the day because everything was so hectic, and...." Her voice trailed off, and she began to cry.
"Jessie," I whispered, placing my hand on her shoulder.
"I'm so sorry, James," she sobbed.
"Don't be," I said.
Jessie looked up at me.
"I'm just as responsible for what happened as you are," I told her. "We're in this together, Jess."
"Y-you mean you're not mad at me?" she said in disbelief.
"Of course not!" I replied. "Why would I be mad at you?!"
Jessie frowned. "Momma was about the age I am now when she got pregnant with me," she explained. "She and my dad had been together for a couple of years, but as soon as he found out that she was expecting me, he left her...."
"And you were afraid I'd do the same?" I asked.
Her face turned red, and I knew that the answer was yes.
"Jessica," I said firmly, taking her by the hands again, "how could you think such a terrible thing?! How could you possibly think I'd stop loving you or leave you over something like this?!"
She closed her eyes and sighed.
"Your dad may have run out on your mom, but I'm not your dad...and you're not Miyamoto," I continued. "We've been best friends for almost half our lives, and we still are, Jess. Nothing can ever change the way I feel about you...unless it's something that makes me love you more."
Jessie opened her eyes again and smiled.
"I love you, Jessie," I said, moving closer and kissing her on the cheek. Then, I leaned down and kissed her stomach. "And I love our baby, too. I promise I'll do whatever it takes to be a good dad."
Her smile grew even wider. "I know you will," she replied. "I'm sorry I doubted you, James. It's just that...."
"I understand," I told her. "It's hard to trust after everything that's happened, but you can trust me, Jess."
Jessie put her arms around me. "I love you, James," she said. "And I do trust you."
I returned her embrace, and the two of us sat together in silence for several minutes.
"Come on. Let's get you back to bed," I said at length. "You look like you didn't get any sleep last night."
"No, I didn't," she muttered. "I was up all night worrying."
"I didn't sleep well either," I admitted. "I was worrying about you. God, I wish I knew what was happening. You should've told me, Jess -- you didn't have to go through it alone!"
"I know that now, James," she told me. "Thank you."
I nodded and helped her to her feet. "We'll talk about this more a little later," I said as we headed for the bedroom. "Right now, let's just get some rest."
Jessie fell asleep almost instantly when we got into bed, but I remained awake, a thousand thoughts racing through my mind as I reflected on everything she'd told me.
"I can't believe it!" I whispered. "Jessie is going to have a baby...my baby! I'm going to be a dad!"
I smiled at Jessie as I ran my fingers through her sea of crimson hair and gently placed a hand on her stomach. She smiled in her sleep when she felt my touch, and I found myself wondering how she could've been afraid that I'd run out on her.
I suppose it's because not all children are conceived in love. Too often, the man is only interested in sex and not willing to face the consequences of his actions. But I just can't comprehend how a man could do something like that. I don't understand how so many men can share their bodies and be so intimate when they don't truly love the woman that they're with...how they could not want to be a part of their own child's life!
That's one of the reasons I just couldn't bring myself to marry Jessiebelle (aside from the fact that she was a psychopathic bitch who kept me locked in a torture chamber). I knew that my parents wanted me to marry her so that I could continue the family line and give them more heirs, but the idea of conceiving children with that woman is just too repulsive! I could never give myself to Jessiebelle, and I'd never inflict such a rotten mother on my children. She wouldn't be any better than my parents -- she'd boss the children around and pick apart everything they did...maybe even torture them and marry them off to more revolting rich people, all for the sake of family name and propriety. No, I definitely couldn't do something as horrid as that.
But as I looked again at my beautiful Jessie, resting peacefully in my arms, I was reminded that I'd never have to. She was going to be the mother of my child, not Jessiebelle. I was still continuing the family line, and my parents were going to be grandparents soon, but just like everything else in my life, it was going to be on my terms rather than theirs.
Suddenly, my thoughts began drifting back to my parents, and my mind became troubled once again. I tried to love them when I was a little boy, and in my heart, I still care about them, but it was hard for love to flourish in the cold place that I used to call home. I remember wanting to make them happy...wanting to do whatever I could to see them smile at me...hear them say, Well done, James! We're proud of you, son! But every time I drew pictures for them, my dad would always say, Dammit, boy! Why can't you get your head out of the clouds and start actin' like a proper gentleman? Every time I picked flowers for them, my mom would cry, Oh, dear! You've gotten grass stains all over your new suit! Whatever will our guests think of us?! Every time I mastered a new lesson and wanted to share my accomplishments with them, Hopkins would always say, Not now, master James! Your parents have important matters to attend to!
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about my childhood. I'd always complained that Quentin and Judith were lousy parents, but could I do any better with my own child? Could I really be a better parent than they were? The tears rolled down my cheeks as I closed my eyes and pictured myself turning a cold shoulder when my daughter picked flowers for me or yelling at my son for wanting to show me his drawings.
But I quickly brushed my tears away as I banished those thoughts from my mind. I could never do something like that to my children! If my daughter brought me flowers, I'd tell her how sweet she is and help her find a vase of water to put them in. If my son drew a picture for me, it would be more priceless than a DaVinci, and I'd proudly hang it on the refrigerator with a big magnet. If my children did something right and behaved themselves, I'd tell them how proud I am and how good they are. I'd have patience with them when they made mistakes. And I'd always tell them how much I love them. I'd tell them every day!
I won't make the same mistakes my parents did, I promised myself as I dozed off and joined Jessie in sleep. I may make completely different ones, but at least my children will know I love them....
While I was asleep, I had a dream. Jessie was lying in a hospital bed, and I was by her side. She was holding a tiny baby wrapped in a pink blanket in her arms, and her white nightgown was unbuttoned as she let the baby drink her milk. It was the most wonderful sight I'd ever seen.
When she finished feeding the baby, Jessie looked up at me and smiled. "Would you like to hold your daughter, James?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied, extending my arms.
Jessie handed me the baby, and as I held her in my arms and looked down at her, I felt more joy than I ever thought possible. She was the most beautiful baby imaginable. Her hair was a deep shade of purple -- the perfect blend of Jessie's red and my blue-violet, and a little wisp of it was hanging in her face, just like mine! Her large, blue-green eyes sparkled as she looked up at me and smiled.
"She loves you already, James!" Jessie said. "She loves her daddy."
I returned my baby's smile and kissed the top of her head as she began to coo happily. Her hair was softer than silk, and she smelled like roses. "I love you, too," I whispered. "I love you so much...my little angel...."
When I awoke, Jessie was sitting at the edge of the bed and talking on the phone.
"Yes...yes, I can wait a couple of days...Friday will be just fine...Thank you...."
"Who was that?" I asked when she hung up the phone.
"Doctor's office. I was making an appointment," came her reply. She blushed and placed a hand on her stomach. "No way around it now."
"They would've been able to see me today, but the appointment had to be postponed," she continued. "There was another fire in town last night. It started at an apartment complex downtown, and it spread to their office. Fortunately, the fire department's Wartortles were able to put it out before any serious damage occurred, but they'll still be closed until the end of the week."
"Then maybe it's a good thing those Wartortles escaped from us," I said.
"Jessie?" I said, taking her hands in my own and twining our fingers.
"I really am sorry about yelling at you yesterday," I told her. "If I knew about this, I wouldn't have...."
"It's okay, James. Really," she replied. "I said some pretty nasty things, too. I'm the one who should apologize."
"I guess we were both having a bad day."
She nodded and put her arms around me. I responded by pulling her closer and resting her head on my shoulder. After a moment, I felt the sleeve of my shirt getting wet. When I looked, I saw that Jessie was crying.
"Jess? Hey, what's the matter?"
"I'm scared, James," she whimpered. "Now that I've made that appointment, I'm afraid...."
"Of what?" I asked.
"That something may be wrong with the baby," she replied. "I mean, we've been electrocuted and blasted off an awful lot in the past few weeks! What if....?"
Panic seized me when I heard this, but I couldn't break down. Not now. I had to be strong for Jessie...I had to be a man. "Don't worry about it," I told her. "You're tough, and it's still really early. I'm sure the baby will be fine."
"But what if it happens again?" she asked. "I can't get blasted off now...not with a baby! I don't want her to get hurt!"
Her, I said to myself. So, Jessie thinks it's a girl, too. Maybe there's more to that dream than I thought.... "It's okay, Jess. I'll make sure it doesn't happen."
Jessie looked up at me.
"I'll protect you and our baby. I promise."
"But I don't want you getting hurt either, James!" she protested. "All of the punishment you already take for my sake is bad enough -- I can't let you risk yourself even more! I love you too much for that...."
"Jessie, I'll do anything if it means keeping my child safe. I'd even sacrifice my own life if I had to...."
She shook her head. "Don't even go there, James! I mean it!"
"What should we do, then?" I asked. "If we keep following that kid around, we're going to keep getting hurt." Images of Jessie getting blasted off in her third trimester and Pikachu electrocuting our baby came unbidden to my mind, and I shuddered.
"We can't do this anymore," Jessie sighed. "We need to find a different job...a safer job."
"We need to get married, too, Jess," I told her. "I want us to be married when our baby is born."
"So do I."
"Problem is, I haven't saved enough money for us to have a decent wedding yet," I continued. "And we need to keep saving anyway -- providing for the baby is more important than a dream-wedding. This is going to be trickier than I thought...."
Jessie smiled. "It's okay. We'll manage somehow, James."
I smiled back. "You're right. As long as we stick together, we'll find a way."
Jessie and I embraced once again. And as we sat there together on the edge of the bed, I suddenly got an idea.
"Do you remember Salon Roquet?"
"How could I forget?"
"I think we should try it again," I said. "For real this time...not a scam!"
Jessie looked up at me, and her eyes widened. "You think it could work?"
"It worked last time," I replied. "We had a lot of fun, it was safe, and we turned a huge profit!"
"We also got run out of town after Meowth blew our cover," she sighed.
"But that's my point -- the salon won't be a cover this time!" I told her. "And we wouldn't go back to Celadon City to do it. We could set one up in The Big Orange, or something. Someplace where we're not wanted criminals, and the people actually like us!"
Jessie's face lit up. "You're right, James! That's a wonderful idea!"
"I guess I really am not as dumb as I look," I chuckled.
She blushed. After a moment, however, she became serious again. "But starting a business takes money. Money that we don't have."
"We could ask the boss for a loan," I suggested. "If Salon Roquet II works out as well as the first one did, we can pay him back in no time. And we'll finally be free to earn our living and raise our family in peace!"
"I suppose," she sighed. "But I'm just not comfortable with asking something like that of the boss. I'd rather do it on my own."
"So would I, but we don't really have a choice," I said. "Don't worry about it. As much as he complains about us, I'm sure the boss would jump at an opportunity like this to get us off the team!"
Jessie smiled again. "Yeah!" she laughed. "We'll be doing him a favor!"
Now we were both laughing. Things were starting to look up.
After discussing our plans for the next Salon Roquet a little more, I noticed how late it was and that I was famished. We hadn't eaten since breakfast, and I was sure Jessie was even hungrier than I was.
"Why don't we get some dinner, Jess?" I suggested.
Jessie nodded. "Yeah. I'm starving!"
"What would you like?" I asked. "I'll make anything you want."
Jessie closed her eyes and thought about it for a moment. "Anything with apples is fine by me," came her reply. "I've had a craving for apples lately, too."
When she said this, I thought back to something that had happened about a week ago. It had been the day before pay day, and we were all out of money and groceries. After being blasted off by the twerps in another failed attempt to catch Pikachu, we were all tired and hungry, but the only food to be found was a single apple growing on a nearby tree. The three of us had gotten into a fight over the apple, and after beating us up, Jessie suggested that we share it. She'd then proceeded to eat all of the fruit and share the core with me and Meowth. I remember, I'd been so angry with her for being so greedy and letting us go hungry that I hadn't spoken to her for the rest of the night. Now that I knew she was eating for two, however, I felt guilty for being mad at her.
"Apples it is, then," I said as I took her by the hand and led her from the bedroom.
When we got to the kitchen, we found Meowth sitting at the table. A look of mild annoyance was on his face.
"Uh, hi, Meowth," I said.
"Youse two work things out?" he asked.
"Dat's nice. Woulda been nicer if you'd let ME know!" he said sarcastically. "I was sittin' outside all day, waitin' for youse guys ta finish discussin' yer private matters! If I wasn't so damn hungry, I'd probably still be sittin' out dere!"
Jessie and I exchanged looks.
"Should we tell him?" I whispered. "He has a right to know."
"Yeah. But let's wait and tell him over dinner," she whispered back.
"Hey. What's goin' on?" he asked.
"We'll tell you in a minute, Meowth," I replied. "Right now I need to get dinner ready."
He nodded. "Good."
Since we were all hungry and wanted to eat as soon as possible, I kept dinner simple and just made some baked chicken and a fruit salad (with lots of apples). Once we'd all helped ourselves, Meowth put his question to us again.
"So, what's the deal, here?" he queried. "What's goin' on with youse two?"
Jessie blushed and turned away from him.
"Come on!" he prompted when he saw her response. "Me-owth is sick a bein' outta the loop on everything!"
I smiled at Jessie and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. Then, I turned to face the cat again. "Meowth...Jessie and I...are going to have a baby."
Meowth's eyes widened, and he began to choke on the apple wedge he'd been eating. "A b-b-b-baby?!" he stammered once he was able to stop coughing.
Jessie blushed again and nodded.
"H-h-how did dis happen?!" he asked.
I smirked. "Well, you see, Meowth, when a guy and a girl really love each other...."
"DAT AIN'T FUNNY!!!" he screamed.
I couldn't help but laugh, and Jessie began to giggle, too.
"Jeezus Christ on a motorcycle! What the hell is wrong with youse two?!" he shouted.
We stopped laughing and looked back at him.
"How could ya?" Meowth asked, giving me an angry look. "How could ya knock her up like dat, James?!"
Now I was starting to get angry. Why was he being so accusatory and judgmental?! "Well...well, I didn't plan to!" I said defensively.
"Yeah, yer damn right, ya didn't plan!" he said. "I know youse guys've been havin' sex, but ain't ya been usin' protection?!"
"Of course we've been using protection, Meowth!" Jessie shouted.
"Yeah! Do you think we're stupid?!" I chimed in. "Wait a minute. Don't answer that."
"I've been on the pill," Jessie told him. "But birth control doesn't always work, Meowth."
"Nature just decided to give us a little surprise," I said, wrapping my arms around Jessie and placing my hands on her stomach.
Jessie smiled at me and put her hands over mine.
"Well, whaddaya gonna do now?" Meowth asked. "Ya got a lotta choices. None of 'em easy."
"We're going to keep it, of course!" Jessie replied. She looked up at me, her blue eyes filling with tears. "I'd never get rid of our baby! And I don't want to put her up for adoption either." She then looked back at Meowth and scowled. "James and I are going to have this baby, and we're going to raise her as best we can! Shame on you for thinking we'd even consider doing otherwise!"
Meowth closed his eyes and sighed. "I wasn't tellin' ya ta get rid of it, and I'm glad ya wanna take responsibility and keep it. I'm just tryin' ta be realistic, dat's all. Let's face it -- babies are a lotta money! How are youse guys gonna provide for it when we can barely keep ourselves fed?! And what about dose twerps?! Ya think dey'd go easy on Jess, even if dey knew she was pregnant?! Dey probably wouldn't even care!" His voice cracked, and I could tell he was doing his best to keep from crying.
"Don't worry about it, Meowth," I said. "Jessie and I have already talked about this, and we have a plan."
He looked up at me. "Y-ya do?"
Jessie nodded. "If we can get a loan from the boss, we're going to try our hand at reopening Salon Roquet. James says it'll be a lot safer, and we'll be earning a lot more money."
"Hmmm. Dat just might work," he said after considering it for a moment. "I wonder why we didn't think of it sooner."
"Well, actually, I have," I told him. "Been thinking about it ever since the last Salon Roquet. It's just that we haven't earned enough money to get it off the ground yet. Asking the boss for a loan is kind of our last resort."
Jessie smiled at me. "And I thought I was the only one who liked Salon Roquet enough to want to try it again."
"Great minds think alike," I said, kissing her on the cheek.
Meowth smiled at us.
"So, are you okay with this now?" I asked.
Tears welled up in his midnight-blue eyes, and he launched himself at the two of us. "Meowth! I can't believe it!" he cried, throwing his arms around Jessie and nuzzling into her stomach. "I'm gonna be a uncle!"
"Ack! Get off of me!" Jessie shouted.
But Meowth didn't listen to her. He just hugged her more tightly and began to purr.
Jessie continued to protest, but after listening to Meowth purr for a moment, her frown faded, and she began to laugh. Then, she hugged Meowth back.
"Youse two are gonna have such a cute little baby," he said.
"Thanks, Meowth," Jessie whispered.
"I'm sorry I yelled at youse guys. I was just worried. Dat's all," he continued.
"It's okay," I replied as I folded him and Jessie into an embrace.
"Yeah. We don't blame you for being concerned," said Jessie.
Meowth smiled again.
And that's how the three of us spent the rest of the evening -- in a big group hug. The warmth of Jessie's embrace and the sound of Meowth's purring comforted me and reminded me that no matter how bad things got, we were still a family. Being a family was what always saw us through the bad times, and now our family was going to have a new member. Things were definitely starting to look up.
When the three of us finally broke from our embrace, Jessie and I went back to bed, and Meowth came with us. He curled up on Jessie's stomach and fell asleep there, his purr a gentle lullaby for us and our baby.
The next morning, however, Meowth was gone when we awoke. When we saw that he wasn't in bed with us anymore, we became worried -- he usually slept in later than Jessie and I did. It wasn't like him to be the first one awake, and we couldn't help but wonder what happened to him. When we went to go and find him, however, we saw that he was just in the living room. He was standing next to a large box wrapped in brightly-colored paper.
"Meowth, what is this?" I asked.
He grinned at us. "I got youse guys a present!" he exclaimed.
Jessie and I gave him a quizzical look.
"I felt bad for yellin' at ya last night, and I wanted ta get ya somethin'," he explained. "Go ahead! Open it!"
The two of us pulled away the wrapping-paper and opened the box.
"Oh, my God!" Jessie gasped when she saw what it was.
Meowth had gotten us an ornate white baby carriage with red roses painted on the sides. A layette of baby clothing and a couple of pink and blue baby blankets were inside.
"Meowth, they're beautiful!" I exclaimed. "Where did you get these?!"
"I went shoppin' last night after youse guys went ta sleep," he told us. "Like I said, I wanted ta get somethin' nice for ya...I wanted ta do somethin' for the baby."
Jessie swept the cat into her arms and planted a kiss on his golden charm. "Meowth, you are so sweet! Our baby is going to love you so much!"
"Yeah! You'll be the best uncle ever!" I said.
Meowth smiled at us and hugged back. "Thanks, guys."
After setting Meowth down, Jessie opened the layette and took out the baby clothes. A smile spread across her lips as she held up the tiny baby booties and the pajamas. I took the pink baby blanket and held it to my cheek.
Meowth chuckled when he saw us. Then, he began to sing:
James and Jessie, sittin' in a tree,
First comes love, den comes marriage,
Den comes a baby in a baby carriage!
A vein popped out on Jessie's forehead, and she scowled when she heard him singing, but she blushed when she looked back at the baby clothes she was holding and realized that it was true.
"Sorry, guys. Couldn't resist," he laughed.
I began to laugh, too. The song had reminded me of a conversation that Meowth and I had on the day he found out that Jessie and I were a couple. He asked us when the wedding was, and if we were finally going to get around to telling him we were in love when the first baby showed up. He'd only been joking around at the time, of course, but now it was all coming true!
"Hey, Meowth?" I said.
"I have a confession to make...Jessie and I are in love."
He gave me a quizzical look for a moment, but then he started laughing again.
"What's this all about?" Jessie asked.
"Private joke," Meowth told her.
Not wanting her to be left in the dark, I told her about my conversation with Meowth. Now that she knew what we were talking about, she began to laugh, too. "So, that was the guy talk you didn't want to let me in on!"
Meowth and I chuckled.
"Still, it's pretty amazing when you think about it," she continued. "That just a few months ago, it didn't seem like I'd ever be able to tell you how I felt. And now...."
"....And now this," I said, placing my hand to her stomach.
Jessie blushed. Then, holding up the baby clothes again, "I can't wait to dress her up in these!"
I picked up the baby blanket once more. "And to bundle her up, and hold her, and rock her to sleep!"
The two of us smiled at each other and rested our foreheads together as we continued to daydream about our baby. She was going to be a lot of work...we weren't kidding ourselves about that. There were going to be sleepless nights, two o'clock feedings for Jessie, diapers for me to change, teething -- taking care of a baby isn't easy! But then, nothing worthwhile ever is. As difficult as it was going to be, the joy of having and raising a child with the woman I love was going to be one of the most wonderful things imaginable! Watching her learn how to crawl, holding her hand while she took her first steps, hearing her say "mama" and "dada" for the first time...it would be worth all of the hard work!
As I gazed into Jessie's eyes, however, I saw sadness in them, and I realized that the thought of becoming a mother was probably making her think of her own mother again.
"Don't worry, Jess," I said, taking her hands in my own. "We won't have to make the same choices that Miyamoto did -- we'll be there for our child forever. I promise."
"I know," she whispered. "But I still miss my momma. It hurts that she'll never know her own grandchild...that she'll never be a part of her life."
"Jessie, for what it's worth, I'm sure yer mom would be real proud of ya," said Meowth. "She'd of been the best gramma."
"Thanks," she replied.
"I think it's even more of a shame that the grandparents she does have will never know her either," I remarked. "After the way my parents treated me, I don't want them anywhere near my child."
"You don't?" Jessie asked.
I shook my head.
"Good," she said. "No offense, James, but I can't stand your parents!"
"None taken," I told her. "I can't stand them either!"
She smiled weakly.
"Well, grandparents or no, she'll still have us," I continued.
"And Me-owth!" the cat chimed in.
"Yeah!" I said. "We'll be the best family ever!"
"The best," Jessie echoed as she put her arms around me.
The next couple of days passed peacefully for the three of us. Aside from making plans for our new arrival, we just took it easy, like I'd promised Jessie we would. And the down time seemed to be doing her a world of good -- her morning sickness and intense food cravings had abated, and she seemed to have more energy, too. I'd been right -- all she needed was a little rest.
It was still a wonder to me, to think that Jessie was pregnant. It amazed me that my child was growing inside of her, and I constantly found myself placing my hands on her stomach and showering it with gentle kisses. It made me a little sad that there was nothing I could do to ease the burden of carrying and delivering the baby, but I knew that I'd do my best to keep Jessie as comfortable as possible and that I'd be right next to her, holding her hand while it was being born.
I don't think my dad was with my mom while she was having me -- he's one of those old-fashioned guys who thinks it's improper for a gentleman to be in the same room with a lady while she's birthing a baby. He was probably just sitting out in the hall, waiting for the nurse to tell him whether I was a girl or a boy so he'd know whether to hand out the cigars with the pink wrappers or the blue wrappers to all of his buddies. But that's where I'm different from my dad -- I was determined to be a part of my child's life as much as possible and to be there for Jessie at the time when she'd need me the most.
My parents would probably be mortified if they knew about any of this, but then, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. If I did the opposite of everything they did when it came to raising a child, I'd do just fine.
When Friday finally came and it was time for Jessie's doctor's appointment, Meowth and I went with her. She was getting nervous again, worrying about the baby's health, and she needed as much moral support as possible. Besides, we wanted to be there with her anyway.
After arriving at the doctor's office, we sat in the waiting room for what seemed like an eternity. Meowth must have flipped through the channels on the TV at least a hundred times while Jessie and I solved all of the hidden-picture puzzles in the Highlights magazines and read all the back-issues of Mad.
Once Jessie was called into one of the examining rooms, I had the feeling it was going to be another waiting-game, only this time there was no TV to watch and no magazines to read.
After a few minutes, however, a nurse came in and handed Jessie one of those paper gowns that you see hospital patients wearing. Meowth and I turned around in order to give her some privacy while she took off her clothes and put it on. The nurse then handed her a questionnaire to fill out.
"You the dad?" she asked me.
Dad. I still had to get used to that! "Yeah," I replied.
"Then you should fill one of these out, too," she said, handing another questionnaire to me. "Makes prenatal care a lot easier if we have the medical history of both parents."
I nodded and seated myself next to Jessie on the examining table.
Filling out the questionnaire was a simple matter -- neither one of us had any allergies or family history of disease, neither one of us had ever smoked or used drugs, and we didn't drink either. Considering how much punishment we take and how resilient we are, I'd say we're pretty healthy. The only thing that Jessie really had to mention on her form was her prescription for birth control pills.
When we finished filling out the questionnaires, the nurse took them and informed us that she and the Ob/Gyn would be back shortly.
"Heh. Shortly. Dat's two or three hours in doctor time," Meowth remarked once she was gone.
Jessie sighed. When I looked over at her, I saw that she was shivering. "Why do they have to make it so cold in here? Don't they know I'm naked under this damned thing?!" she grumbled.
I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. She responded by wrapping her arms around my waist and resting her head on my shoulder. As she continued to shiver, however, I realized that it wasn't just because she was cold...it was because she was nervous, too.
"Don't worry, sweetheart," I whispered into her ear. "We're in perfect health, and I'm sure our baby is, too."
"Yeah!" Meowth chimed in, jumping onto the table with us and seating himself in her lap. "Yer gonna be just fine."
She smiled weakly at us. "Thanks, guys."
Before long, the nurse returned and shooed me and Meowth off of the table. She then proceeded to shine a little flashlight into Jessie's eyes and ears, take her temperature, check her heart-rate and blood-pressure, and poke and prod her on various parts of her body.
Poor Jessie looked like she wanted to be on another planet while it was happening. She doesn't like to be touched...especially not by a stranger and especially not while she's only wearing a rumpled piece of paper. Meowth and I are the only people she really trusts...we're the only ones who are allowed to touch her. I didn't blame her for being so nervous!
Once she'd finished examining Jessie, the nurse jotted down some notes on a chart. She then handed Jessie a small cup. "I need a specimen. We just have to run a couple of tests, that's all," she explained.
Jessie nodded and went into the bathroom.
After she was gone, Meowth and I tried to get a look at the nurse's chart.
"Don't worry," the nurse told us. "She looks fine so far. Everything checks out normal."
When Jessie returned a few minutes later, she handed the cup back to the nurse. The nurse nodded and took her leave again.
"Well that was fun," Jessie said sarcastically, wrapping her arms around herself and sitting back on the table.
"Ah, look at the bright side, Jess. Ya only gotta do dis for eight more months," Meowth told her.
Jessie facefaulted. "Ha, ha," she grumbled.
I chuckled and seated myself next to her again. "Take it easy, Jess," I said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "The nurse said you're just fine."
"That's good," she sighed. "But I'm still worried about the baby...and this is so embarrassing!"
"Hey, it's not like me and Jimmy ain't never seen ya naked before," Meowth said, joining us on the table.
Jessie's face began to turn as red as her hair.
"You're not helping, Meowth," I said through clenched teeth.
"I...I just don't like feeling so vulnerable...I don't like not knowing," she whispered.
"We'll know what's going on soon enough, Jess," I reassured her.
"And yer not vulnerable as long as ya got yer friends with ya," Meowth chimed in.
She smiled at us again.
"I love you, Jessie," I told her as I took her in my arms.
"And Me-owth loves ya, too," the cat said as he hugged her.
"I love you, too, James...Meowth. I love you both," she replied as she returned our embrace.
The three of us must have sat there like that for a couple of hours, hugging and calming each other's nerves. Meowth and I were every bit as curious...and worried about the baby as Jessie was, and all of us were on edge. But sitting there together while we waited to hear the news about the baby, I suddenly realized how unimportant everything else was. All of our bickering over simple everyday matters, the screaming-match and fight we'd gotten into over the Wartortle -- none of it mattered...not compared to this!
All families have disagreements every now and then. All families get mad at each other and fight from time to time. But in the end, families always stick together, and the love they share for each other is what sees them through the hard times. And that's what Jessie, Meowth, and I were -- a family. I may have been scared at that moment, but in my heart, I knew that whatever happened, Jessie and Meowth would still be there for me, and I'd still be there for them. And as I looked at Jessie and Meowth -- my family -- somehow, I could tell they were thinking the exact same thing that I was!
Joining hands (and paws), the three of us gazed into each other's eyes and knew that no matter what happened, we'd always stay together and that our love for each other would see us through. And suddenly, we weren't afraid anymore. We knew that everything was going to be okay.
Just as we were making this revelation, however, the doctor came into the room. She was carrying Jessie's chart in her hand.
"Jessica Parker?" she asked.
"Yeah?" said Jessie.
"Hey! Are ya gonna put one of dose sonogram thingies on Jessie's tummy?!" Meowth interjected. "I wanna see the baby on TV!"
The doctor raised an eyebrow.
Jessie and I couldn't help but laugh. Meowth was adorable in uncle-mode!
"We're kind of curious about that, too," Jessie said after regaining her composure.
"And that's what I'm here to talk to you about," the doctor told her.
I felt my chest and throat tightening as I watched the color drain from Jessie's face. Shit! Something is wrong, after all! I said to myself. Please don't let it be something serious! Please don't let anything bad happen to my baby!
"Wh-what's wrong?" Jessie asked nervously, placing a hand to her stomach. "What's wrong with my baby?!"
The doctor smiled at her. "Nothing is wrong with the baby...."
"Oh, thank God!" Jessie, Meowth, and I said in unison, heaving a collective sigh of relief.
"....Because there is no baby," she continued. "You're not pregnant, Jessica."
"But...but that's impossible!" Jessie stammered. "There must be some kind of mistake!"
The doctor shook her head and handed the chart to Jessie. "No mistake. You can see for yourself."
Jessie and I looked at the chart, which gave a reading of all the chemicals and hormone levels in Jessie's body.
"I don't understand," Jessie said at length. "I took three pregnancy tests the other day -- three different ones -- and they were all positive! How do you get a negative from all of this?!"
"Were they over-the-counter pregnancy tests?" the doctor asked.
"That's why," she replied. "They're not as accurate as actual medical testing."
"That still doesn't make any sense, though," I remarked. "Why would Jess get three false positives from three different tests? What are the odds?"
"It's the birth control pills," the doctor explained. "Birth control pills prevent ovulation by making the body think it's already pregnant. You have elevated levels of pregnancy hormones because you're on the pill. That's what caused the positive readings on the other tests. The difference is, your progesterone levels are still lower than those of an actual pregnancy, and you had a negative HCG reading."
"So that means I'm definitely not pregnant?" Jessie ventured.
"That's what it means."
"Den how d'ya explain the mornin' sickness and food cravins?" Meowth asked. "Ya can't tell me she was just fakin' dose!"
"Have you been under a lot of stress lately?" the doctor asked her.
"A lot of stress? That's putting it mildly!" came Jessie's reply.
"That could have something to do with it," the doctor informed her. "Stressors in the environment probably made you suceptible to the side-effects of the pregnancy hormones. Birth control pills also supress the monthly cycle, and it's not uncommon to skip a month every now and then."
"Oh," she said.
"False pregnancies happen more often than you think," she continued. "You kids were lucky, but if you're going to be sexually active, you have to remember to take those pills every day, Jessica. Otherwise, it may not be a false alarm next time."
Jessie nodded and hung her head.
Once the doctor had taken her leave, everything she'd told us finally registered with me. Jessie wasn't pregnant. We weren't going to have a baby after all.
I know I should've felt relieved, but I didn't -- I was disappointed. All of my hopes and dreams over the past few days had amounted to nothing.
The three of us didn't say a word to each other as Jessie got dressed again and paid the receptionist. The walk back to our cabin was made in silence as well.
I guess this is for the best, I said to myself. But why does it hurt so much? Why do I feel so empty?
I looked over at Jessie and Meowth. They seemed every bit as dejected as I was. The news had hurt all of us more than we cared to admit.
It wasn't until we got back to the cabin that the silence between us was broken.
"I...I can't believe this. I'm really sorry, guys," Jessie said contritely. She hung her head, too ashamed to look us in the eye.
"Whaddaya apologizin' for Jess?" Meowth asked.
"Because I feel awful about this," she sighed. "I told you that I was pregnant, and I'm not. I feel like I lied to you...."
"You didn't lie to us, Jessie," I told her. "You really did think you were pregnant. You didn't know any more than we did."
She looked up at me. "So you're not mad at me? You're not disappointed with me?"
"Never," I replied, cupping her chin in my hand.
Jessie smiled and put her arms around me. "Thanks."
I hugged back and ran my fingers through her silky red hair.
After a moment, Jessie yawned. "Well, pregnant or not, I'm still tired. I think I'm going to go and lie down for awhile."
"That sounds like a good idea," I said.
"You coming, too?" she asked.
I nodded. "Yeah. But I have a couple of things to do first."
"Okay," she said, heading for the bedroom.
Once she was gone, I seated myself on the floor and looked at all of the baby paraphenalia that Meowth had gotten for us. The adorable baby clothes, the fuzzy baby blankets, the beautiful baby carriage -- each gift was wonderful, and now we weren't going to get to use them.
"Guess I should return all dis stuff ta the store and get our money back," Meowth sighed as he sat next to me.
"You'll do no such thing!" I snapped.
Meowth's eyes widened, and he backed away from me.
"I'm sorry," I said, lowering my voice once again. "I didn't mean to yell at you, Meowth. It's just that I really don't see a point to getting rid of this stuff since Jessie and I are still going to have a baby someday."
"Good point," he said, coming to my side once again.
"Besides, these were really beautiful presents, Meowth," I told him. "It means a lot that you'd get them for us. We'll just hang on to them so you won't have to get us anything when Jessie really does get pregnant."
Meowth hung his head.
"Disappointed?" I asked.
"Yeah," he whispered. "I was really lookin' forward ta bein' a uncle."
I placed a hand on his shoulder. "You will be. And you'll be a great one, too."
Meowth sniffled and brushed away the tears in his midnight-blue eyes. "Scuse me," he said in a broken voice. "I...I think I need ta be by myself for awhile."
"To clear your mind?"
"Same here," I whispered as he left to take a walk.
Once I was alone, I found myself picking up the pink baby blanket again. I thought about the dream I'd had the other day when Jessie told me that she was pregnant -- the dream where I was cradling my newborn daughter in my arms, and she was smiling up at me. She'd been wrapped in a blanket exactly like the one I was holding now.
I know it was only a dream, but something told me that was what our baby was really going to be like when she was born. She was so sweet and so beautiful, and I'd fallen in love with her.
But now that dream wasn't going to come true.
Jessie and I weren't going to get to feed her or hold her or wrap her in the pink blanket and rock her to sleep. There'd be no learning to crawl, no first steps, no hearing her say "mama" and "dada" for the first time.
I tried to tell myself it was crazy to be so upset and that it wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be, but it didn't work. Try as I might, I just couldn't stop dwelling on those thoughts. And as I sat there, hugging the pink baby blanket and thinking about the baby I wasn't going to have, I began to cry.
Suddenly, however, I got the feeling that I wasn't alone. When I looked, I saw that Jessie was kneeling next to me. Her eyes were a little red and swollen, as if she'd been crying too, but she didn't look sad anymore. "James," she said softly.
Unable to reply, I just sniffled.
"Oh, sweetie," she whispered as she put her arms around me and rested my head on her shoulder.
"Jess...." I muttered.
Jessie held me closer and began to rub her warm, soft hands along my back. "It's okay, James," she told me as she slowly rocked me back and forth. "It's okay."
I returned Jessie's embrace and closed my eyes as I concentrated on her touch. I loved the feeling of her body next to mine and the gentle way her hands were massaging my back and shoulders, and I soon relaxed.
"I know it hurts," she continued. "But it's not like I had a miscarriage or a stillbirth. We didn't lose the baby...because we never had one in the first place."
"That doesn't matter, Jess," I said, looking up at her through the tears that blurred my vision. "It seemed so real -- that baby was real to me, and it feels like we really did lose it."
"Hey, if it was real to you, just think how I felt!" she chuckled. Then, her voice becoming serious again, "But I understand. When that doctor told me I'm not pregnant...well, that hurt as much as if she'd said I'd lost the baby."
I sniffled again.
"I was really upset about that," she said, brushing my tears away. "But then, I got to thinking...and I realized that this is for the best."
"It is?" I asked.
She nodded. "I know we would've loved our baby and done our best to raise her, but let's face it -- we're only seventeen, James! We may be ready for sex, but we're still way too young to be having children. We're not ready for that kind of responsibility...not yet, anyway."
"I guess you're right," I sighed.
"I think this is best for our child, too," Jessie continued. "We'll be better able to provide for her...and we'll be better parents if we wait awhile before having her. I know it's disappointing right now, but it's a parent's responsibility to always do what's best for their child, no matter how difficult or painful it may be...."
I knew from the tone of her voice that Jessie was thinking about her mother again. Miyamoto had been a good parent, but because of circumstance, she hadn't always been able to do what was best for her daughter. But when I saw the light shining in Jessie's sapphire eyes at that moment, I could tell that Jessie wanted to do better with her own children. She didn't want to have to make the same choices that her mother did, just like I didn't want to make the same mistakes with my children that my parents made with me. And in my heart, I knew that as long as we had each other, Jessie and I wouldn't repeat the mistakes of the past with our own children.
"We will have that baby someday, James. I promise," Jessie said, taking my hands in her own and twining our fingers. "It'll just be a few years, that's all. First, we need some time to ourselves...time to finish growing up...time to plan things a little better...."
I couldn't help but smile. Jessie was right -- we hadn't lost our baby...we just had to wait a little longer before she showed up. I was going to get to wrap her in that pink blanket and rock her to sleep, after all. I'd still get to see her learning how to crawl, hold her tiny hands as she learned how to walk, be her audience when she said her first words.
"Yeah," I replied. "Good things are worth waiting for."
Jessie ran her fingers through my hair and returned my smile. "You know, James, I think this may have happened for a reason."
"I think so, too," I said. "When we were at the doctor's office earlier, I was thinking about all the arguing we'd been doing lately...especially that big fight over the Wartortle. But compared to having a baby, it just didn't matter anymore. Remembering that we're a family...it reminded me that quarrels every now and then are normal and that they're not important."
"Yeah. That's what I was thinking, too," she told me. "Sitting in that examining room, wondering whether or not our baby was going to be okay...it really put things in perspective for me."
"Then maybe everything that happened really is for the best," I mused. "We've been so caught up in the little daily annoyances lately that we've been losing sight of what really matters. I think we needed this...to remind us."
"We sure did," Jessie agreed. "And...I learned something else from all of this, too."
"Oh? And what would that be?" I asked.
Her cheeks turned pink, and she smiled shyly at me. "That I trust you more than ever now," came her reply. "On that night I took those tests and thought I was pregnant, you have no idea how scared I was! We'd spent all afternoon fighting, and I was afraid you'd be angry with me again...that you'd leave me just like my dad left my mom...."
My eyes widened. "Jessie, I already told you I'd never...."
She silenced me by placing a hand to my lips. "I know that now," she said. "But I wasn't so sure at the time. I know that sounds kind of crazy, considering everything we've been through together, but it's not easy for me to trust, James. But you always prove that I can trust you...especially this time."
I put my arms around her waist and pulled her closer to me. "Jessie, nothing will ever make me want to leave you...especially not a baby! If we had a child, it would only bring us together even more! I can't imagine not wanting to be a part of your life, or a part of my child's life!"
Jessie brushed aside the loose wisp of hair in my face and kissed me gently on the forehead. "And that's what makes you so special, James," she whispered. "Any guy can be a dad -- all it takes is one lucky sperm cell. But it takes a real man to be a father...to take responsibility and do what's best for his woman and his child. James, you're going to be the best father ever when we have children. After everything you've done these past few days, I'm sure of it!"
"You think so?" I asked.
"I know so!" she told me. "Our kids will be so lucky to have you. I know I am."
I smiled again as I thought about what Jessie had told me. I did, indeed want to be the best boyfriend...and husband possible for Jessie and the best father possible for our children. And wanting to do what's best...accepting responsibility...that's the best place to start. Now I was sure that I could be a better parent than mine were to me!
"So, are you going to be okay now?" Jessie asked.
I brushed the last of my tears away and nodded. "Yeah. I'll be just fine."
Jessie grinned. "Good. Then start getting ready!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Ready? For what?"
"Well, I couldn't get to sleep when I went to lie down, so once I was feeling a little better, I made reservations for us at a nice restaurant in town," she explained. "I figured I'd give you a break from cooking and treat you to dinner. It's the least I can do, considering how wonderful you've been."
"Jess, you didn't have to...."
"But I want to!" she said, cutting me off. "James, you're so sweet, and you're so good to me. I don't feel like I do nearly enough to show you how much I care about you."
"Hey. Don't you ever worry about that," I told her.
She chuckled. "Okay. But I still insist. Now let's hurry up and get changed! The reservations are for seven!"
With that, Jessie led me into the bedroom so that we could get changed, and I offered no protests.
"Oh, there is one slight problem," Jessie said as she smoothed the skirt of her short, red dress.
"What's that?" I asked, adjusting my tie and straightening the lapels of my blue jacket.
"None of the restaurants in town allow pokemon," she replied. "I don't know what we're going to do about Meowth! He'd feel left out if we went without him."
I took Jessie's hand in my own and gave it a gentle squeeze. "We could just tell him we're going out on a date," I told her. "He understands when the two of us want to be alone together."
"That's just it, though -- I didn't want this to be a date dinner. I wanted it to be a family dinner," she sighed. "Meowth really came through for me, too. It wouldn't be right to exclude him. I wish I'd thought of that before...."
At the mention of the word, family, I got an idea. "Don't worry about it, Jess. I know something we can do...."
"Now way! Yer crazy! I ain't doin' it!" Meowth protested when we told him about my idea. "Youse two just go on yer date, and bring me back a doggie-bag, or somethin'!"
"Oh, no you don't!" said Jessie. "I made reservations for three, and you're coming with us!"
"Do I hafta?"
"Come on, Meowth. How bad could it be?" I asked, holding up the blue baby outfit from the layette he'd bought for us.
"Please? It'll only be for a couple of hours!" I said.
"And I still want to be a mommy," Jessie added, a hint of sadness in her voice.
"And a daddy," I chimed in.
The two of us made big, wobbly eyes at Meowth.
"Oh, all right," he sighed when he saw us.
"Yes! Got him!" Jessie giggled.
"I just know I'm gonna regret dis," the cat grumbled as I picked him up and started dressing him in the baby clothes.
"May I help you?" the host asked when we arrived at the restaurant.
"Yes. We have reservations," Jessie replied. "Parker. Party of three."
The host looked in his book and located our names. "Right this way."
"Oh, may we please have a high-chair for our son?" I asked, holding up the little blue bundle in my arms.
Meowth poked his head out from the folds of the baby blanket. "Goo-goo, ga-ga," he said.
The host gave us an odd look.
"You got a problem with our baby?" Jessie asked defensively.
"N-no. Not at all, madame," he replied, taking his leave.
"What's with him?" Meowth asked once he was gone. "Guy acts like he never seen a baby before. Sheesh!"
Jessie and I exchanged smiles. There wasn't really much we could do to conceal Meowth's cat face, but his ears and golden charm were hidden under a baby bonnet, and his tail and most of his fur were hidden by the baby clothes and the blue blanket we had him wrapped in. Except for the fangs and whiskers, he made a cute baby.
When the host returned with a high-chair, we seated Meowth in it and took our menus.
"What are you going to have, Meowth?" I asked him. "We have to order for you, you know."
Meowth facefaulted. "Youse guys owe me. Big time! I feel like an idiot in dis getup!"
"But you look so adorable!" Jessie said, reaching over and tweaking one of his whiskers. "You're mommy's little pookie!"
"You scare me," Meowth said. "I wanna go home now!"
"Aw, cut us some slack, Meowth!" I said. "We're still in parent-mode!"
"Fine," he sighed. "But I got a helpful hint for youse guys -- when ya have a baby for real, don't EVER call it pookie!"
"Hmmmph! I think I'm going to NAME our baby Pookie, just to piss you off!" Jessie retorted.
"Hmmm...Pookie Parker-Woodson. Has a nice ring to it!" I commented.
"GAH!!! NOOOOO!!!!!" Meowth screamed.
Several people turned and stared at us.
"Heh, heh, heh. Kids," I chuckled. "What are you going to do with them?"
Jessie smirked. "Yeah! Temper-tantraums are a big no-no, you naughty baby!" she said reproachfully, waggling her finger at Meowth.
He made a nasty face at her.
"Oh, come on. You know we're only joking around," she told the cat as she lifted him from the high-chair and took him in her arms.
I smiled as I watched Jessie cradling Meowth like he was a real baby. She was going to be such a wonderful mother someday. I moved closer and began to scratch under his chin.
As Meowth looked up at us, his sour expression faded. "I just realized somethin'," he whispered. "Youse guys are actin' just like I did with Togepi!"
Jessie and I exchanged looks.
"When I was takin' care of Togepi's egg, I felt like a mommy expectin' her baby," he continued. "And when I lost him, I was crushed. Youse guys are goin' through the exact same thing I did!"
I thought back to when Meowth had Togepi's egg and realized that he was right. He'd been like a mother to that egg, and even though Jessie and I had teased him to no end about that at first, we really did love what he was doing, and we stuck by him throughout the entire ordeal. We'd also been there to comfort him when he lost the tournament. I remember at one point when we were making fun of him, Meowth told us to wait until we had a baby of our own, and then we'd know how he felt. I'd been so embarrassed when he made that remark, but now it had all come true...in a way.
"Losin' Togepi was one of the worst things dat ever happened ta me, but youse two didn't let me down," he said. "I guess things is just comin' full-circle now, and it's my turn ta be dere for you...."
Jessie smiled. "Does that mean you'll stop complaining and be our little pookie for awhile?"
Meowth sighed. "Yeah. I'll be yer...little pookie."
Jessie and I snickered. "Thanks, Meowth."
The two of us hugged the cat and put him back in the high-chair.
And I have to give Meowth credit -- he was a really good sport about being our substitute baby for the evening. He played along and spoke in baby-talk whenever the waiter came to our table, and he did his best not to wince whenever we called him by some saccharine baby name. Sure, people gave us some weird looks when Jessie and I ordered the deep-sea deluxe platter for an infant, and they were even more shocked that the furry baby ate it all up and still had room for dessert, but it didn't matter. We were just having fun.
"Ah! Now dat was whisker-lickin' good!" Meowth said once we'd left the restaurant.
"See. Aren't you glad you swallowed your pride and came with us tonight?" Jessie asked as she pushed him along in the baby carriage.
"I sure am. Thanks, guys."
"No. Thank you, Meowth," I said. "Jess and I were really upset about not having a baby. Playing along with us really means a lot."
"Plus, you're giving us great practice for when we have our real baby!" Jessie added.
Meowth smiled. "Well, for what it's worth, youse two are gonna be the best mommy and daddy a baby could ever ask for."
Jessie and I looked at each other and smiled.
"So, we still gonna hit the boss up for dat loan sos we can open a new Salon Roquet?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Probably not," I replied after thinking about it for a moment. "It'd definitely be safer than what we do now, and we'd make more money, but I think we'd be better off doing it on our own. Now that we actually have time to plan things, we can still save our money, and we don't have to get the boss involved."
"Yeah," Jessie agreed. "We'll do it our own way...without help from anybody else."
"And by the time we are ready for a baby, I'll have already saved up enough for us to get married and start our business," I continued. "It's still a few years down the road, but...."
"But at least we know we won't be doin' dis forever," Meowth said, finishing the sentence for me.
Jessie nodded. "That's right. We have a plan now...and something to look forward to."
The two of us draped our arms across each other's shoulders as we continued to push Meowth down the street in our new baby carriage. And as we made our way back to the cabin, I thought again of how lucky I was to have Jessie and Meowth in my life and how wonderful getting married and having children with Jessie was going to be.
Each day with my family brought new joys...and the best was yet to come!
"So...you really have been thinking about getting married?" Jessie asked me as the two of us laid together in bed that night.
"I sure have," I replied. "Been thinking about it for ages, but now I've started making plans, too."
"Ever since that night on Mandarin Island," I continued. "After you fell asleep in my arms, I just laid there and looked at you for the longest time, Jess. I thought about all we'd been through and how much I love you...and how I meant what I'd said about wanting to make you my wife someday. Jessie, I want to give you a beautiful diamond ring, a gown fit for a princess...the best wedding money can buy! That was the night I started saving for it so I could make those dreams a reality."
"Oh, James," she whispered. "You don't have to...."
"But I want to," I told her, taking her hand in my own. "Jessie, you deserve a perfect wedding."
Jessie leaned closer and kissed me. "As long as you're the groom, it will be perfect!"
"You know, I think I should start setting money aside, too," she remarked after a moment.
"No, Jessie," I said, cutting her off. "Our wedding is going to be my gift to you...."
"I'm not talking about our wedding," she replied. "I mean saving up to get our new Salon Roquet started...and for our children. This whole experience...it taught me that we have to start managing things a little better and start planning for our future."
"That's a good point," I told her. "I guess money's going to be tighter than usual for awhile, with both of us setting extra aside, but it'll be worth it!"
"I think we've done a lot of growing up over the past few days, James," Jessie continued. "And now more than ever, I know that this is right -- I can't picture my future without you. There's nobody I'd rather marry or have children with...nobody I'd rather share my life with."
"Me either," I replied.
Jessie smiled and ran her fingers through my hair. "James, the more I learn about you, the more I love you," she told me. "And I've learned so much about you because of this. I've always known that you're different from all the others...that you care about more than just sex." She paused for a moment and blushed again. "That's how I knew you were the one I'd been saving myself for. And now, that's how I know you're going to be the best husband when we get married. The way you handled things this week...well, it really proved just how committed you are. You have no idea how much that means to me, James."
I returned Jessie's smile and pulled her closer. Words couldn't describe how good it felt to hear her tell me how much she trusted me! Jessie isn't the kind of person who trusts easily, and the fact that she trusted me spoke volumes.
As Jessie rested her head on my shoulder, I closed my eyes and reflected on how much things had changed between us...how much we'd grown. I could scarcely believe that only a year ago we'd been just friends, too afraid to tell each other how we felt, and now, we were lying in bed together and discussing our future!
I remember I used to be afraid of everything. I'd always been like a child, looking to Jessie for protection. But now I seemed to be learning how to take care of myself...and even protecting Jessie when the need arose.
It was the day that Jessie stole the badges from me that really turned things around for us. Looking back, I realize that it had happened for a reason -- if I hadn't been angry with her, I never would've found the courage to tell her how I felt. I'd have just kept being that child. Jessie was probably still ashamed of herself for what she'd done to me, but truth be told, I'm glad she did it. We both needed that wake-up call, and our relationship was all the better for it. She needed to push me to my limit...make me realize that in order to be worthy of her love, I had to stop being afraid and start taking action.
We'd found our love on that day because the incident had brought balance to our relationship. But we were still getting used to that balance, and it was going to take us a little time before we could fully grow into our new roles. I knew that Jessie and I were still going to have our quarrels...maybe even fights, but in the end, nothing would ever break us up or make us love each other less. It was all part of being a family, and learning...growing was an ongoing process. In my heart, I knew that we were going to do all of our learning and growing together and that every experience we shared would make our love for each other stronger.
Suddenly, I felt Jessie's warm breath on my lips as she kissed me. "I love you," she whispered.
I opened my eyes and smiled again. "I love you, too."
Jessie slowly unbuttoned my pajama top and began to trace patterns on my bare chest with the tip of her finger. My heart fluttered at her touch.
"I've been really good about taking my pills ever since that day I forgot," she told me, her cheeks turning pink. "I don't think we'll be making a baby anytime soon...but I'd still like to get in a little practice...."
My smile became a grin. "Does that mean what I think it means, Jess?" I asked slyly.
Jessie giggled and laid herself on top of me. "You know it does," she whispered, pressing her lips to mine once again.
I began to giggle too as I returned her kiss and melted into her warm embrace. "That's what I was hoping...."
It's always beautiful when I make love with Jessie, but that night seemed more special than usual. I know I always seem to say that, but it's the truth. Every time we make love, it keeps getting better and better, and it always brings us closer. It's the ultimate expression of our love for each other...the ultimate bonding experience.
As we made love, in the back of my mind I kept thinking about how we were going to have children someday. Our love for each other...our closeness was the very thing that would bring us children. I couldn't imagine anything more amazing than that!
Our children would never doubt that we loved them...because Jessie and I loved each other, and they'd be the most precious gift we could ever give to each other. That's how I knew Jessie and I would succeed where our parents had failed. Our children wouldn't be conceived by accident or out of duty -- we'd have them because we truly wanted them. I'd never leave like Jessie's father left her and her mother, and I'd never hurt or neglect my children the way my parents did to me. Jessie and I may have suffered because of our parents' mistakes, but we'd also learned from them, and the family we were going to make one day would be better off because of it. If we can make our children happy, we won't have suffered in vain.
But having children was still a few years down the road for us. Right now, all that mattered was my lover's touch. The feeling of her long, delicate fingers running through my hair, her ruby-red lips covering me with soft, velvety kisses, the feeling of her smooth, bare skin next to my own. Complete union with Jessie was the most wonderful feeling in the world, and it would only bring us more and more happiness as time went on.
After making love, Jessie and I fell asleep in each other's arms, and I had another dream.
It was the exact same dream I'd had on the day Jessie told me she was pregnant -- the dream where she'd just given birth, and we were holding our newborn daughter. But something was different this time.
When I'd first had the dream, I'd actually been there, sitting by Jessie's side and holding my baby. This time, however, I was apart from the action -- it was a scene being played out before me...almost like a movie.
Being a spectator rather than a player this time, I noticed things that I'd missed before. Jessie and I weren't teenagers in this scene -- we looked more mature, like adults in our early twenties. The two of us were also wearing ornate wedding bands on our left hands.
I had the feeling that everything I was seeing in this dream was going to come true, and that when it did, Jessie and I would be ready for it. We were going to be all grown up and married when we had that baby. Waiting until then was definitely the best thing to do...for us and for her.
I smiled as I watched Jessie unbutton her nightgown and give her milk to the baby. The expression on her face was one of pure love, and even though she looked weary from labor, her long crimson hair hanging limp and dark circles under her sapphire-blue eyes, she was more beautiful than ever to me. Then, I looked at myself, smiling down at my wife and child. Tears of joy were streaming down my face.
When Jessie finished feeding the baby, she handed her to me, and I watched myself holding my daughter for the first time. She looked up at me with her sparkling blue-green eyes, and the two of us smiled at each other. I'd fallen in love with that baby, and she'd fallen in love with me, too.
A sense of peace came over me when I awoke from the dream. Somehow, I knew that what I'd just seen really was a vision of our future. Jessie and I still had a few years to ourselves, and when we were older, we were going to be married and have a beautiful baby girl together.
I'd been so moved by the vision that I couldn't resist getting out of bed and grabbing my sketchbook. By the light of the moon streaming through the window, I drew the scene of me and Jessie holding our new baby, smiling down at her as she smiled up at us.
When I finished my sketch, I held it up and smiled. Someday, this picture will be real, I said to myself. Someday, a little angel will come to be a part of our family....
I smiled again as I got back into bed and cuddled next to Jessie once more. It would be awhile before that dream became a reality, but it was something to look forward to. In the meantime, Jessie and I would enjoy every moment together, and our love would keep growing. One day we'd need that baby to share all of our love with, but for now, we're better off waiting.
Good things are always worth waiting for.
Special thanks to my friend, Shigeru1313, for the adorable illustration of "Baby Pookie" Meowth! ^_^
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