My bad. Magic is magic, neither Good nor Evil. However, always full of quirks. Sometimes my magic takes me to the places I need to see rather than the person or place I want to watch.
Alice here, she’s not family. She’s only a teacher. One of Aidan’s favorite teachers. But a tiny figure in my family’s life.
Merely her absence creates an opening.
Alice Roman stares at rows of tea and coffee, inhales the deep scent of fresh beans. After the baby, she vows to experience, not just taste, every single flavor, even the ones she had not enjoyed before. Eight and a half months without the fresh herb taste of tea nor the deep richness of coffee…ack! Weeks before she expects Benjamin’s arrival, months of breastfeeding after that…. How much longer should she be expected to live without that which made her days sane?
Oh, but the brightly colored boxes call to her. Chamomiles once paved her path to relaxation and eventually sleep. Green teas once spiced her lunch. Dark coffees mixed with real sugar and flavored cream once greeted her before the sun.
Every trip to the store finds her browsing through the aisle she denies herself during pregnancy, just like all the books, doctors, nurses, midwives, friends and family members instructed her. This is just the first sacrifice, she sighs, for the baby.
Alice slides away from temptation, leaning wearily on the shopping cart to make it go rather than relying on her own self-control. She heads to the checkout, focusing on the items inside the cart rather than the call of the items on the shelves around her. Does she have everything she needs for supper? Everything she needs for the weekend?
Because once she gets home, she promises herself, she is not moving from the sofa, not even for tonight’s game.
Fridays between schools’ fall/winter early releases and the football games always means the grocery is swarming. Alice takes it slow, meandering through the crowd. All she wants now is to make it home, put her feet up, start grading essays and let John cook.
Navigating between a mom with two toddlers held hostage in her cart and a teenager with snacks overwhelming his, Alice stops and places a hand on her bulging stomach. Is that Benjamin moving? Or something else?
The entire lover half of her body feels…strange.
The feeling fades and Alice makes her way to a line that doesn’t look too long. Her feet and ankles are two sizes bigger than usual and while not exactly hurting, the slippers are no longer a nice buffer between her feet and the hard grocery floor. Maybe she will give in and buy some huge sneakers with gel cushions for the few weeks she has left.
The boy at the end of the register offers to help her take her bags to her car. He must see something in her face that begs for help. Alice’s pride shakes her head. It really isn’t too much. She’ll lean on the cart through the parking lot. She had lucked out earlier and grabbed one of the two parking spaces reserved for pregnant women.
Through the sliding glass doors, she focuses on placing one foot in front of the other. A man behind her stumbles into her as a kid pushes past in a rush.
A wave of weariness takes her breath away. She feels the man’s hand cup her elbow, hears him apologizing. She concentrates on pulling air into lungs that refuse the oxygen.
Her water breaks. Her face flushes bright red. Her first full on contraction buckles her knees.
The man catches her before she hits concrete. He lifts her in his arms as if she, at eight and a half months pregnant, weighs nothing. Gently placing her on a nearby bench, he holds her until her breath whooshes back. He lets go momentarily to pull her basket with her groceries and purse closer to her.
“You are going to want to call your husband. Is your cell phone in your purse?”
Alice nods. “Side pocket.”
He retrieves the device and puts it in her hands. The phone lights up and she pushes the icon that is John’s face.
John is already on his way home. He is maybe four minutes away from her. “Wait there. I’m coming. Is someone with you?”
Alice looks up into the most amazing green eyes. Framed by long lashes, they are her focus when the next contraction hits and steals the breath she’d meant to use to tell John she is not alone. She moans. This one is stronger than the first.
The stranger with the green eyes gently pries the phone from her fist. “She is not alone, but you may want to hurry.” He drops the phone into her purse and takes both of Alice’s hands in his. Her focus completely on him, he takes a deep breath. Half a second behind, she does the same.
“You are going to be fine.” He says between rhythmic breathing. “John is almost here.”