WHO knew that not going to work could be so stressful? The day had begun well, with an early morning cup of tea and Radio Four while the rest of the house slept. But then Noel had rolled out of bed in a foul mood, bemoaning the 363 days remaining until his next birthday. And presents. And party. I began to say something about Easter and Christmas but in search of vengeance he turned on me, asking why I was still at home on a Monday morning and whether I’d been fired. Six going on sixteen.
And now we’re in a gleaming consulting room. Emma is recumbent, her belly exposed. I watch it rise and fall. It doesn’t seem five minutes since we were in the adjacent consulting room looking at the tadpole with the fierce heartbeat that would become Noel.
And even less time since – well, since the miscarriage 18 months later. I realise Emma must be anxious. I take her hand. She turns to me. The young Australian sonographer approaches, drying her hands on a towel. “OK, we have all your details. Now, let’s have a look shall we?”
Emma squeezes my hand. The sonographer applies lubricating jelly and rolls the probe firmly over Emma’s belly. The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau suddenly comes alive on the screen. Caverns and gullies loom.
“Well, well” says the sonographer thoughtfully. She looks up from Emma’s belly. “Is there a history of twins in either of your families?”
We stagger out onto the street, photographs and video in hand; evidence for the prosecution. Pedestrians, cars and buses go about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. I need a cigarette. I pat my pockets. I haven’t got a cigarette. In fact, I realise I haven’t smoked in ten years.
“Global warming. Cyber terrorism. Double dip recession,” I ramble. “What kind of world is this to bring a child into?”
“Or two” answers Emma, mischievously.
My phone rings. In a daze, I answer. It’s Sandy.
“What the hell did you say to Ringel?” “Sandy…” I begin but am entirely lost for words.
“Anyway, what the hell,” he bellows. “Doesn’t matter. Good work. They’ve just doubled the size of the issue.” The phone goes dead.
I turn to Emma. She is beaming. We embrace. On the street. Oblivious to the rest of the world.
“How shall we tell Noel?” she asks. “Six years an only child. He’s not going to find this easy.”
“Never mind Noel. How are we going to tell Maria? She’s certainly not going to be happy and if she leaves we’re going to be outnumbered.”
One step at a time” says Emma, reassuringly.
I cling tightly to Emma. “I love you,” I say.
City Dad continues next week.