“I hope it won’t induce vomiting. Come see.” I said, walking her out to my pickup. I gestured to the glistening heap of oranges nestled in the box in the back of my truck. “What do you think about these?” I asked, my gaze never once leaving her. She smiled as she cautiously leaned into the tailgate and examined the citrus fruit.
After a moment of admiration, she exclaimed with delight, “They’re perfect!” Ever protective, I watched her carefully since my first attempt at feeding her had gone so far afoul. The warmth and sparkle in her eyes made me proud that I had chosen something she might actually be able to eat.
I opened the tailgate, hefting the twenty-five-pound box, and turned to see her ogling me. I quizzed her, “How come you’re so giddy after your visit to the vomitorium?”
“Your bulging biceps always look delicious.” She said. “Never puke worthy.”
Her words made my chest swell like a peacock displaying its plumage.
“Careful complimenting me too hard, princess. It might go to my head.” I wagged my eyebrows at her and she gave a meaningful glance at my at my zipper area.
Back inside, I set the box on her oak table. “You mentioned you were craving them, so I thought I’d lay in a supply for you. These are fresh from Visalia, organic navel oranges. Nothing but the best for my baby. Both of you.”
Unfortunately, my comment made her burst into tears. “Gee, I didn’t expect you to be so emotional about citrus.” I responded.
Faith gave me a watery smile and never looked more beautiful in my eyes. “It’s the hormones. I read in a pregnancy book Luna got for me how they drive you crazy, and for me, it was already a short trip.”
I grabbed the hem of my jersey and yanked it up and over my head in one swift movement, appreciating the way she admired the ripple of muscles flexing beneath my skin. “You cry all you need to, pretty girl. Use my shirt for a hanky. I’ll never wash it.”
She reluctantly dragged her gaze away from my pecs. I straightened my spine and puffed my chest out before murmuring, “Let me slice some of these up for you while run a bath.” I tossed one of the fragrant fruits from hand to hand, showing my muscles off for her. Hey, what guy could resist being sexualized by a bombshell like Faith?
“Fine,” she sighed. “You make it easy to depend on you.”
“Get used to it.” I commented.
While she took a bath, I tidied up the kitchen, chuckling to myself at the random chaos I found inside her cupboards and drawers. It wouldn’t be long before we lived together. Once she realized we were meant to be I’d help her with daily struggles like this. I didn’t become fire chief, without having some kick butt, organizational skills.
“Don’t make it too tidy, or I won’t be able to locate anything.” She murmured, and I turned to stare at her, loving how she was pink and dewy from her soak in the tub. She wore yoga pants, which showcased her voluptuous bottom to perfection, and a graphic shirt that read, “Bad Bitch Energy Only.”
“Sorry. Guess it’s in my nature to straighten up. I find it relaxing.” I said.
A smile crept across her lips, and she raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You, Mr. big, bad, fire, fighter, doubles as Susie homemaker?” She asked incredulously.
“What of it?” I asked. “Our baby is fortunate enough to live in an era where they can express both the feminine and masculine sides of themselves. No contradiction there,” I declared.
Faith’s eyebrows furrowed, and her lips formed a scowl as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, so not only are you a homemaker, you’re a child psychologist?” She cocked her head to one side and stared at me with unblinking intensity.
I distracted her, pointing to the stacks on the dining room table. “Where did you get these?”
“Auntie Luna sent them. She said reading aloud benefits the baby even while it’s in the womb. She brought over a shit ton of children’s books on her last visit.”
Although it was just past lunchtime, I could see her eyelids drifting shut. She yawned and stretched out her arms. I took her hand in mine, marveling at how delicate she was compared to me, and led her to the sofa. “Come, lay on my lap and I’ll read you a story, baby girl.” I sat down, extended my legs and exhaled, relaxing. I had a million things to do today, but none mattered as much as making sure she was happy and safe.
Completely worn out, she fell asleep during the first chapter ofSloths: A Celebration of the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammal. I carefully dislodged myself, tucked the blanket up around her shoulders, and brushed a strand of hair away from her beautiful face. She snored gently, and I felt a surge of protectiveness as I gazed down at her sleeping form. Quietly, I locked the door securely and locked it behind me.
One week later, I accompanied Faith on a stroll around our small town of Briarville. She stood in front of a craft table at the farmer’s market, which was covered in handmade items: knit scarves, embroidered aprons, and tiny, pastel-colored baby sweaters. I dipped my head and asked, “ What are you thinking?”
I wanted to discover everything about her and always know what was on her mind. Even before finding out she carried our child, I wanted to know what she liked, what annoyed her, what made her laugh and frown. What got her hot-tempered or upset so I could avoid doing any of those things.
“How is this possible?” she puzzled. “One minute everything is normal as all get out: marketing our handmade goat soap, obsessing over custom-decorated coffee mugs on my favorite site, tending to the veggie and flower garden, and next, there’s a baby in my belly.”
She sucked down the last of the fruit smoothie I’d insisted on paying for, the sound reverberating loud enough to earn stares from more than one passerby. “Hey.” I cupped her chin, forcing her gaze to meet mine. And in that moment, I let her see the truth. “Listen to Daddy. You’re not doing this alone. I’m right here.”
She placed her hand on my forearm, then hastily drew it away, evading my stare.