You know those days when you wake up and just *know* that you shouldn’t get out of bed? Well, for some reason that hadn’t happened to me this morning. But maybe it should have.
It started out as a usual sort of morning. I woke up, thought of my son, as I have done every day since he died. Then I thought of my husband, well I guess I should start saying ex-husband, as I have every morning since I met him. Then I got up, showered, ate breakfast, all of the usual morning activities.
Since it’s Saturday, I didn’t have to go to work. It’s still a hard thing to do after being a housewife and a mother. But there’s no point being a housewife with no husband, or a mother with no child. Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself.
I decided to do a little shopping. They say that shopping’s good therapy, and I’d have to say I agree. I needed a new coat with winter approaching and I had to buy a present for a friend’s baby shower.
I bought a lovely full length wool coat. It was a charcoal grey colour and cost a small fortune, but it was warm and it was classy and would probably last me the rest of my life. I also picked up a new black skirt for work and a yellow dress. It was just the right yellow so it made me look browner than I actually am and didn’t make my blonde hair look too washed out. I planned to wear it to the baby shower.
Having thoroughly spoiled myself, and spent a lot more money than I had planned, I decided I had better find a present for Gracie’s baby. I thought about going to Wal-mart or one of those other stores that sell absolutely everything, but then I thought I’d check out the new Babies ‘R’ Us store that had opened recently.
I decided to buy her something practical. I remember from my own shower that you seem to get teddies and clothes and cute little things that you never use. I thought maybe a change table or even one of those neat carry bags that you can fit everything bar the baby in.
As I looked around the store, I couldn’t believe how much things had changed from the days that my own child was born. Sure you had the traditional items that would never grow old, but there was so much that you could buy a newborn. The variety in the store was almost mind blowing. I briefly considered heading to Wal-mart, but figured that I may as well buy something since I was there.
I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I first saw him. He was standing alone, looking at cots. Naively, and perhaps more than a little hopefully, I thought that maybe he had heard about Gracie and Roger’s baby. After all, the four of us had been inseparable at one time. Gracie hadn’t mentioned they still talked to him, but perhaps they thought they were protecting me.
As I drew closer, I noticed him grinning at something, a grin that still managed to make my heart skip a beat. Heaven help me, but I still love this man. He looked up as I neared him, and I saw the grin freeze on his face. “Sara,” he gasped, looking like a man caught doing something he shouldn’t.
“Hi, Jack,” I replied, feeling like a teenager talking to her first crush.
“Uh... hi,” he replied, looking around nervously. “What brings you here?”
“Just looking for something for Gracie and Roger’s baby. Is that why you’re here too?”
He shook his head, and I saw him swallow. “I didn’t realise that they were expecting another kid,” he eventually replied, obviously trying to avoid the question. It was something that Jack O’Neill had become a master at, and it had me more than a little curious.
“Yeah, it’s due in a couple of months. Gracie’s sure it’s a boy this time, and Roger’s praying there’ll finally be another male in the house.” Jack laughed, although it sounded a bit forced. “So, if you’re not here to buy them a present, what are you doing here? If I remember correctly, I had a hard time getting you into a baby store when I was pregnant. Something about it being bad for the image?”
I’d meant it as a joke, but it seemed to have affected Jack tremendously. He looked to the floor and blinked a bit. Then he looked back at me and I saw what looked like determination on his face.
“I guess a guy’s gotta grow up some time, right?”
I didn’t understand the look until we were interrupted by a striking blonde. She was tall, with short hair and dazzling blue eyes, and she was quite obviously pregnant. She didn’t see me at first, and I watched as she slid an arm around Jack’s waist. “Sorry, Jack. I swear I spend half the day in the bathroom now.”
Despite his apprehension, I saw how Jack’s face softened as he looked at her, a loving smile crossing his handsome face. It was a look that I had once seen directed at me, a look that now tore at my heart. My Jack had found someone new.
The woman saw me then, and I watched as her eyes widened and she looked quickly back to Jack. It was only then that I realised I had seen her before. When all of the weirdness had happened with the ‘other’ Jack. She was in the Air Force and, if I remembered correctly, under Jack’s command. Even *I* knew that was a no no.
“I think we’ve met before, haven’t we?” I asked, deciding I better not be bitchy. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name.”
“This is Sam,” Jack told me, absently rubbing her lower back. “Sam, you remember Sara?”
“Of course,” she replied, having seemingly got over her surprise. “It’s nice to meet you under better circumstances.”
Her smile was genuine and friendly, and I found I couldn’t hate her. It didn’t stop me trying though.
“Yes. That was a bit of a strange day, wasn’t it?” I looked at her bulge, which she seemed to be protecting with her hand. “When are you due?” Call me a masochist, but I was curious.
“In nine weeks,” she replied, and I saw Jack smile at the thought. It was the happiest I’d seen him in years, maybe more. It was another reason not to hate this woman. She’d made Jack happy. She’d taken his pain away when I couldn’t.
Sam looked at me then at Jack. “I’m going to keep looking around, okay? It was nice to see you, Sara.”
I returned the sentiment and both Jack and I watched as she wandered off, touching things here and there and smiling at all the cute items that surrounded her. I looked at Jack but he continued to watch her, grinning and shaking his head.
“What?” I asked.
He looked embarrassed at having been caught out. “Sam seems to have decided that the nursery needs to be finished today. I didn’t think she’d get so excited over it. It’s cute, and a relief.” He seemed to realise who he was talking to and clamped his mouth shut.
I reached out and touched his hand. “It’s okay, Jack. You can talk about it. I admit I’m surprised, but I guess I haven’t seen you for over a year. I have no idea what’s going on in your life.” I gazed at him reassuringly. “Why is it a relief?” I wanted to take it back as soon as I’d said it. Not because I didn’t want to know, but because I only wanted to know to try and find a flaw in her.
He sighed, looking around and ensuring that Sam was out of range. “It’s nothing, really. Just that the baby wasn’t really planned and came at a bit of a bad time with work. Sam was very sick early on and...” He trailed off but I got the gist. He had been worried that Sam hadn’t wanted to keep the baby.
I looked at the woman we were talking about. She was looking at change tables, her hands caressing her stomach as she scrutinised each one. I knew I was watching a woman who wanted her child. Again, I couldn’t hold this new piece of information against her. It had been terrifying in the beginning with Charlie, and he was planned. I couldn’t imagine how it would be to find out you were pregnant when it was the last thing on your mind.
A thought struck me, and I quickly looked down at his hand. No ring. “Are you getting married?”
He looked surprised that I’d asked. Finally he nodded, looking apologetic. “I was going to come and see you about it. I didn’t want you to find out from someone else. We only really decided a few weeks ago, and Sam wants to wait until after she’s had the baby. Something about not wanting to look like she’s got a basketball shoved up her wedding dress.”
“Congratulations,” I replied. It took me a moment to realise that I actually meant it. I was happy for them, because Jack was happy.
He looked around at Sam and I followed his line of sight, noticing that she was talking to one of the store assistants. “I better get going, Sara,” he said finally.
I nodded, a little relieved that the ordeal would soon be over. I could go home, cry and figure out what I was going to do. “Yes, you better. Your family’s waiting for you.”
The look he gave me then almost made me burst into tears. It was so full of compassion and remorse. I couldn’t bare the thought of him feeling guilty for being happy. “I’m pleased for you, Jack,” I told him honestly. “I thought after Charlie... well I’m just glad that you’re finally happy again.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “For everything.”
He kissed my cheek and smiled at me, before walking away. Leaving his old life and embracing his new one. My last picture of them was standing in front of a row of change tables, talking to the assistant. Jack had moved to stand behind Sam and I saw his hands caressing her gravid
stomach as she leaned into him. I turned and fled.
I drove home through a veil of tears and it was a miracle that I made it without having an accident. After a few hours of crying, looking at old photos and crying some more, a calm has come over me.
I realise that maybe it wasn’t such a bad day. I discovered that the all consuming guilt and grief that had torn our marriage apart is gone, on both sides. Jack has moved on, maybe it was time I did the same. I hunt around and find my address book and look for a phone number. Picking up the cordless phone, I punch in the digits and put the phone to my ear. “Hello, Michael? It’s Sara. About that dinner invitation...”