Practice: A Patrick and Sarah Short Story
A note on chronology: This story takes place after The Chocolate Temptation and Shadowed Heart. The main characters are Patrick and Sarah, from The Chocolate Temptation. This is a story for people who loved those characters and that book. I would recommend reading it and, ideally, Shadowed Heart and “Heart’s Gift” before you read this story.
Five-year-old Lucie looked up as Patrick came in, whipped cream streaking her face and splotches of it in her black curls. She held a pastry bag in such perfect miniature imitation of her father, Luc, that it kind of seized Patrick’s heart and twisted it, for reasons he didn’t know how to articulate.
Sometimes he thought that maybe Lucie was the happy childhood he and Luc had never had.
“Bonjour, Tonton!” Lucie said radiantly.
“Coucou, crevette.” Patrick tweaked cream off her nose and kissed the top of her head. She bent her head to focus fiercely on her work, like her father did, and crooked out an elbow.
He grinned and obediently gave it a little shake. She must have seen Luc do the elbow offer when he was in the middle of something and for hygiene reasons couldn’t shake hands. Of course, a little girl didn’t normally shake hands with her honorary uncle, but when Lucie was in her “professional pastry chef” mode, she was pretty damn adorable.
Sometimes she was so adorable it almost made his eyes sting, made him want to go find his wife Sarah and just cuddle up with her, holding on tight.
“Mmm. What are you making us today, chef?” Patrick asked Lucie, dipping a finger in the leftover cream in the bowl beside her. Something that speckled through it gave it a little hint of crunch and texture, a suggestion of rusty brown and earth green, but the ingredient was already growing soggy. Lucie was probably a little young for him to be correcting her technique, though, right? Or should he mention to her that she should add her crunchy thing last minute on the top, just before she served it? He took another swipe of it from the bowl, trying to figure out what it was.
“Wait, don’t eat—” Luc stopped in the doorway as Patrick looked at him, his finger in his mouth. Luc held Océane in one arm, probably as the only way of keeping her out of Lucie’s endeavors. At two, Océane knew in principle certain rules of behavior, but she was exceptionally stubborn.
Patrick’s gaze went from Luc, frozen and fighting a grin, to Lucie, who had set her pastry bag to the side and was now carefully sprinkling tuna along the edges of her mold. Tuna?
“It’s for the cats,” Luc said, and his grin broke out, the one that used to be so rare but now just seemed to flare out of him all the time, like a diamond catching all that light around him and flashing it back out to the world. “That’s, ah, cat food in the cream, lightly roasted in the oven and then food processed. The pâte sablé is made out of ground cat food, too.”
“You have to wait, Tonton,” Lucie said sternly. “If you want a piece. I want the cats to see it first.”
Patrick’s gaze swept from serious Lucie to her grinning father again. And back. “Ah—”
“You do want to try it, don’t you?” Lucie asked happily and with just a little wariness deep in her dark eyes, like a pastry chef realizing she was holding her heart out and someone could break it.
Oh, hell, it was only cat food and tuna. In a very nice crème chantilly, too. “Definitely.”
“It’s really for the cats, though,” Lucie said apologetically. “You can’t have much.”
Well, thank God for that.
“I’ll make a bigger one next time,” Lucie said.
Patrick ruffled her hair, resigned, and went to take Océane from Luc, because she was reaching for her uncle. He held her up high to make her laugh, then kissed her and settled her in the crook of his arm to give the parents a break.
Plus, he liked the warm weight of her.
It just made him feel…happy.
Sometimes so happy it hurt.
Sometimes so happy that he wanted to think about…well, think about…well, but then he started hyperventilating, and he usually stopped thinking.
Sarah came in, her black hair coiled up on the back of her head, the sapphire earrings he had given her dangling in her ears. She paused at the sight of him with Océane in one arm, gazing at him.
For some reason, these days, when she stopped and watched him holding one of Luc’s girls, his cheeks heated, and he had no idea why. He hoped to hell he wasn’t developing the habit of blushing at this age in life. Luc would never let him hear the end of it.
Especially when it came on for such inexplicable reasons. Just because Sarah was looking at him? He did love it when Sarah looked at him, but still…that usually made him flex his muscles, not blush.
Océane was reaching for Lucie’s dessert. He found a bit of the leftover cream that seemed relatively free of fine speckles and fed it to her off his finger, but she leaned down suddenly, in that unpredictable wiggle motion she had, and plunged both hands into the bowl of surplus cream, coming up with fistfuls of it that she immediately got on Patrick’s shirt and all over her own face.
“You buy good quality cat food, don’t you?” Patrick asked Luc, as Océane stuffed some of the cream mixture into her mouth.
“Only the best,” Luc said solemnly, a crease showing in his cheek.
“You want some?” Patrick asked Sarah, proffering her the fingerful he had just wiped off his shirt.
She laughed, her eyes brightening in that way that made him feel so damn special, as if she was standing at the end of the aisle again, staring straight through his confident demeanor at the altar to see his heart trying to beat its way out of his chest, and entirely willing to make that walk all the way to him. And lay her hand over his frantically beating heart and soothe it.
After five years of marriage, anyone would think he could get used to it, and yet there were moments when being married to Sarah made him feel as if he was getting a panic attack from pleasure.
She came up to him, tucking herself into the side that didn’t hold Océane, and sucked the bit of cream off his finger, a quick, teasing hint of sensuality, there and gone. Ever-observant Luc had caught it, smiling and glancing away, but the girls were oblivious, beyond the existence of the affection between the adults as just one other element in the happiness that surrounded them.
Sometimes he felt so damn good about the way they were raising these kids, about how happy he and Sarah and Luc and Summer were, that he wondered if a meteor was going to hit and send him and Luc back to scrabbling for survival to protect their own.
He looped his arm around Sarah and pulled her in snug, tightening his hold around Océane, just making sure he could hold on.
“Thanks for coming over for dinner,” Luc said.
“Hey, if I’d known I could get a decent dessert in this house, I would have come sooner,” Patrick said, and everybody laughed, because the room currently held three of the top pastry chefs in the world. Patrick and Luc shared head chef responsibilities at the restaurant Luc had opened years ago, its name now LE ROI ET LE CHEVALIER, and Sarah was head pastry chef for Daniel Laurier. And apparently they had a fourth very young pastry chef in training, although her preferred clientele seemed to be four-legged at the moment.
Patrick slid a glance down at the top of Sarah’s black head. She had grown hugely into her talent in the past five years, thanks to an innate gift but mostly to her intense hard work and perfectionism. She carried assurance with her now, and when she walked into her pastry kitchen, even though she was quiet and kind, she was also firm, and she made sure her desserts went out exactly the way she wanted them to. She had continued training under Patrick and Luc for two years after they joined forces in Provence, then taken on the pastry chef position at Daniel Laurier’s second restaurant when he reached out to her about it three years ago, and from there moved up to head pastry chef at his flagship three-star restaurant only last year.
So while Luc and Patrick had figured out a way to maintain some kind of work-life balance by splitting duties at their restaurant here in the south of France and taking on an excellent second, Sarah still struggled with the need to be present in person, getting everything exactly right, every hour the restaurant was open. Had she had enough yet? At twenty-eight—twenty-nine next month–was she ready to shift her focus? Maybe open that jewel-like pastry shop she had once talked about, something with more manageable hours if a woman wanted to…well, wanted to…
His mind slid away in relief as Summer came in, smiling and moving to kiss his cheeks, to ruffle Lucie’s hair and calmly taste her cat food cream, and then to take Océane when the little traitor decided that now she wanted her mommy. And then, as soon as she had her, promptly changed her mind and reached for Patrick again, then for Sarah, then for her daddy, playing a little game of musical cuddles.
Or possibly plotting a path back toward Lucie’s cream. Océane didn’t talk nearly as much as Lucie had at that age, but sometimes she gazed with big, dark eyes at a man, sucking on one finger in her mouth, and all the hairs on the back of that man’s neck rose as he tried to outguess whatever trouble she was going to get into next.
Summer smiled in this quiet, peaceful way, her blond hair pulled back in a simple ponytail, which had been pretty much her default hairstyle ever since baby Lucie first started yanking on her mom’s hair.
A little bit of age suited Summer, or maybe it was maternity. Or maybe it was the work she was doing. She was still utterly lovely, but the hint of maturity now gave that loveliness weight and presence, making it a little harder to objectify her and dismiss her as a “beautiful spoiled brat”. Summer had originally tried to establish a place for herself here by starting a company for maternity and baby products, but she had long since ceded the control of that to the four students from Caltech and Berkeley who had helped get it started. She still funded start-ups that she believed in. But when the Syrian refugee crisis hit, it had been right on their shores, and that was when Summer had really just…surged up, was the best way Patrick could put it. As if all her energy and strength responded to the sight of children drowning and to torn and broken families. She had used her own notoriety to help draw attention to the crisis—the media loved her—and now headed an organization dedicated to helping refugee children, originally in Europe but now increasingly around the world.
Even her father had followed her lead. The man was a complete bastard when dealing with his own daughter, and probably hundreds of rival businessmen cursed his name, but if you hit a sufficient mass of people—a minimum of thousands, typically—it seemed to trigger some sense of noblesse oblige or responsibility in him. The main problem with that was that taking his money meant Summer had to deal with him. She did it, though, for the refugees’ sake, and with a surprising amount of strength and grace.
Every time Patrick crossed paths with one of Summer’s parents, he grew more grateful for Sarah’s mother and stepfather. Sure, they’d screwed up some things, but they loved her with a genuine love. The first time they had finally gotten Sarah’s mother to come to France, and she had seen Sarah in her kitchen, such beautiful food blossoming in every direction at her command, her mother had quietly started to cry. Patrick had had to hug her. And the older woman seemed to have adopted him as her son ever since.
It felt surprisingly good to be someone’s son.
Since it had felt so damn crappy the first time around, with his biological mom, he hadn’t been expecting the second time to be so disconcertingly warm and fuzzy.
Hell, his whole life felt warm and fuzzy. Sometimes, after dinner at Luc and Summer’s house, he stood on the terrace with Luc, gazing not out over the Mediterranean so much as at the stars overhead, making sure he didn’t see some giant one streaking straight toward them.
And so, after dinner that evening, Patrick took slow breaths, his hands in his pocket, and pulled his gaze from the sky directly overhead to the Mediterranean stretching out south of them, the lights of yachts and the stars on the horizon.
“Everything okay?” Luc asked quietly, coming out to stand at the terrace wall near him. Luc had just gone to put Lucie to bed for the second time. That little girl never had liked to sleep.
Sometimes it was so okay that it reached up from his insides into his throat and tried to choke him. So Patrick just shrugged and smiled and reached out surreptitiously to scratch the teak table, touching wood.
Luc nodded and took a deep breath. As if sometimes the beauty of okay tried to choke him, too, and he had to breathe carefully through it.
Sarah and Summer came out, and Patrick looped Sarah in under his arm, standing gazing at the view for a while before they sat sideways in the hammock, Sarah comfortably against his side, his toe swinging them gently as they talked quietly to Luc and Summer, stretched out together on a lounger.
It was a good life. There was no reason at all to mess with it.
Which was why Patrick was surprised to find himself, around four in the morning back at his and Sarah’s place, sitting on the floor with his back against the refrigerator, hyperventilating.
He’d only gotten up for a glass of water.
And now he couldn’t get up again. He closed his eyes and bent them into his folded arms.
“Are you okay?” Sarah asked, and he looked up to find her standing over him, her face full of that concern that came from love, and his heart expanded that way it did sometimes with her, as if it was going to burst his body around it like staves off a swelling barrel.
He breathed quickly, focusing through the panic on her face. “Just, ah…thirsty.”
Sarah nodded, even though a man clearly didn’t have to sit on the kitchen floor for thirty minutes to get a glass of water. Instead of saying that, though, she just watched him a moment in the soft light coming from the under cabinet night lights, while he tried a weak smile, and then she sat down on the floor between his legs and slipped her arms around him.
That was so like Sarah. If a feeling was so big inside him that he didn’t want to admit its existence, she didn’t make him. He could be quiet about it if he wanted. But she didn’t pretend to believe his bullshit either. She just accepted both parts of him, the inside that always felt too big for the outside so that he had to dissipate it in jokes and flippancy as best he could.
The weight and scent of her eased everything about him. His arms closed more tightly around her, and he bent his head into her hair. She snuggled her nose into his chest, as if the scent and texture of him eased things about her, too.
He stroked her back, drawing little hearts over and over. She smiled and kissed his chest and drew a heart there, too.
“You’re so pretty,” he whispered.
She ran her thumb over the roughness of his jaw, a gentle, affectionate savoring of his textures that always made him feel so damn…wonderful.
He took another deep breath.
Almost got it out.
Had to stop and take another.
She kissed his chest again. Petted over where she had drawn the heart.
“Sarah,” he said and stopped.
“I love you, too,” she said, and all the tension in him unclenched again, in a sudden release.
“So damn much,” he whispered into her ear. “But that’s not what I—well. I mean, maybe it is. Really. I just—”
He stopped again.
Sarah kept quiet, listening to his heartbeat. It had been a long time since her surfer-prince-charming of a husband had gotten so afraid of his own wants that he needed to put his head between his knees to try to breathe. She understood his code now, that easy, charming code that let him say I love you so much I sometimes can’t breathe with the way he smiled at her when she came into a room, with the little heart of raspberries that might appear on her plate, with the way he ran out of the sea to her, scattering droplets off a hard body, when he finished windsurfing.
He didn’t have to say things out loud, when he couldn’t, for her to understand. He just showed them to her, all the time. I love you so much I’m scared to say it out loud in case someone steals you from me. I love the scent of you and the touch of you and holding you in my arms. And that’s why I do those things, all the time.
“Do you want to use sign language?” she asked, running her hand through his streaked gold hair.
He was silent and still for so long that she thought he was saying no.
And then his hand slid, warm and strong and afraid, between their bodies to rest on her belly.
He didn’t say anything at all. But under her ear, his heart raced so hard she might have to call 112.
A jolt ran through her, a shock of want and terror. She lifted her head to stare at him.
He stared back, mute, like a gagged prisoner begging her to understand his need for water.
His fear was communicating itself to her, sending her own heart into overdrive. She pulled her arms from around his waist to wrap them instead around herself, pulling her own knees up, making herself a ball inside his hold. Conscious of how slim her belly was, to let her easily do that. Nothing intruded there, big and demanding. Nothing blocked who she was and how she moved.
Patrick stroked her curved back. In her belly, she felt things stir, queasy, insistent things that forced her into their own shape.
They wouldn’t do that to him, those things. That one…not thing. It wouldn’t change his body, it wouldn’t take over his hormones and make even his emotions into something else. He’d just get to watch, strong and easy, always relaxed and charming while she got more and more awkward, less and less able to handle even the simplest things, like keeping down breakfast or getting off a couch without a strong hand to pull. Or turning out top desserts in eighteen-hour days.
She lifted her head to stare at him, turned mute herself.
“Do you think I will be bad at it?” Patrick asked, almost too low to hear.
What? “Patrick.” She had to laugh a little. “God, no.” She petted his jaw, rough and strong now, and hiding under that roughness a silk softness that was revealed on those erratic occasions when he was fresh-shaved. “You’ll probably have her under your charm just like everyone else.”
And she’d be the one left out, maybe, wishing she knew how to be a mother just as easily, while Patrick became the adored parent and…
“I love Luc’s kids,” Patrick said. “They’re adorable. But I want your kid, Sarah. I want you and me to, you know, to…” He made a twisting motion against her belly, like swirling flour into the well of liquid when making dough on marble. “And…and…and grow.”
Her knees crunched against her flat belly again, squeezing his hand there. “It would grow inside me.”
He wrapped his arms around her again and pulled her in tight to him. “I know,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Summer got so sick the first time,” she said. “Remember? And she was so big.” And afterwards, she had lost most of the weight, but not all of it, and her belly still to this day was just…softer. A little wrinkled from all that stretched skin. Sarah remembered Summer working pretty darn hard to get back in shape after Lucie—obsessively hard, even, as if her identity was threatened by not being perfectly thin—but with Océane, she had been more…relaxed. More accepting of the way her body changed and the fact that those changes didn’t undermine her worth. They might even, like the fine lines at the corners of her eyes that came from experience and her work in the tropics, be part of that worth.
“I know.” Patrick buried his face in her hair. “I’d try to help. I’d do everything I could.”
“I know.” They wouldn’t even be talking about this, if she didn’t know that. They wouldn’t be married. She did know, absolutely, that Patrick would always do everything within his power on behalf of those he loved. “You’d make a wonderful father,” she said very softly.
All the ways he led and guided, corrected, coached, and defused tempers, within the kitchens. Patrick might turn out to be the one father in the world who could raise a teenage girl without her slamming doors every five minutes.
“Really?” He sounded hopeful and surprised. She lifted her head again to meet open insecurity in his.
“Patrick.” A little puff of frustration. “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m the one going to be weighing every gram that goes into my body, trying to make sure I have exactly the ideal nutrients for the baby. I’m the one who will be losing my mind trying to get everything perfect after she’s born, but screwing up all the time. Probably screwing up from that very effort to try to get it perfect. Because you’re not supposed to do that—try to make your baby perfect.”
Patrick was silent for a moment. “Well…Luc and Summer seem to be doing all right. And they are way more screwed up than we are.”
She had to laugh at how hopeful he sounded about that.
He grinned wryly. “You know damn well they are.”
She stifled a snicker. “I’m not sure they think so. I’m pretty sure they think we’re more screwed up.”
Patrick waved a grand hand. “They are far too screwed up to have any accurate judgment about that.”
She shook her head against his chest, burying herself there ruefully.
Patrick squeezed his arms around her in a little nudging cuddle. “And besides,” he murmured, “they’re much better now. Nearly sane. Don’t you think?”
Sarah thought about the happiness that filled Summer and Luc’s house overlooking the Mediterranean. The way the warm light of it just glowed through all the rooms, glowed in their eyes, rang in two little girls’ laughter.
“What if I can’t get pregnant?” she whispered. Or did and then…lost it. She would tear herself up about a failure like that. Just tear and tear at herself, blame herself for it no matter how many people told her it wasn’t her fault or her failure, she knew it.
Patrick said nothing. His arms tightened and his head bent to hers. There was nothing, after all, to say. He knew her, too.
“Or what if there are problems, and I need bed rest or something, and I have to quit my job?” She lifted her head and met his eyes.
“I don’t know,” Patrick said helplessly. “I’ll do everything I can.”
She gazed into those blue eyes a moment. Her whole being softened. The anxiety in her loosened into his promise. “I know you will.”
He always would.
“I love you so much,” she said, and he took that quick breath he always did, whenever she said it, as if the words hit him in the belly every time.
“You could come work with us,” Patrick said, a little warily. She had been firm about setting out on her own three years ago. He had understood why. It was the only way she could create her own space for herself, her own strength and reputation. “We’ve figured out how to make space for life amid work.”
They had, that was true. She was a little envious of that. But it was hard for her to relax her own drive for perfection enough to find a similar balance herself. Plus, she just couldn’t, as head chef pâtissière in a three-star restaurant.
Was she strong enough now not to get overwhelmed by Patrick and Luc?
Yeah, right. Nobody could not get overwhelmed by Patrick and Luc. “I’d always be secondary in the world’s eyes, there,” she said. “You know how macho this field is. The way people’s assumptions work.”
Plus, those two just took over a kitchen space and filled it to the last atom with their presence. The Second Coming might get overlooked, if it tried to happen in a kitchen where Luc and Patrick were working.
Patrick hesitated a very long time, and when he spoke, it was as if he was picking his way across a mine field he knew he shouldn’t go into. “You used to want to open your own jewel-box of a pastry shop. You remember?”
Yes. She smiled a little. She would walk by Ladurée and Lyonnais in Paris, or this little magical chocolate shop in the Île Saint-Louis, and she would dream of her own place. Not witchy, like that chocolate shop, not as grandiose as Lyonnais, but lovely. Its own kind of magic.
“With boutique work, the hours are more manageable,” Patrick said. “And I could help you, if you’re so sick you can’t even smell food without throwing up, like Summer was, or if the doctor tells you you need to get off your feet. I could fill in for you, lighten the load.”
“On top of your own job?”
His gaze flickered to hers, startled and a little hurt. After a second, his body eased fractionally back from hers, that lazy smile flashing. When he went into amused charmer mode, he was almost ridiculously handsome. It helped him distract people from the truth all the time. “Well, when it’s too calm for windsurfing, of course. I have to prioritize.”
“Patrick, you idiot. I know you’re not afraid of work. I just meant—it’s a lot.”
“I work half the time you do right now, Sarah.” Another long silence, the kind that meant he was going to say something he had kept himself from saying for a long time. “I—hate it, actually. I mean, I like working with Luc. Somebody has to keep that man sane. But I hate having all that time to take off and play and be with the people I love when the person I love the most is working herself into exhaustion eighty to a hundred hours a week.”
She didn’t know what to say. She knew she worked a lot. But it was part of the career, part of rising to the top.
Of course, she’d been at the top for a couple of years now. It wasn’t unusual for a top chef to burn out of the restaurant hours and re-focus in a way that allowed more space for a normal life. Boutique work, for example.
“So yeah on top of my own load. Merde, Sarah. That’s my point. You would be doing something I can’t do, something that makes you sick, that makes you tired, that changes your body, that makes you scream when you—can you get an epidural? Please?”
Sarah smiled. “I don’t know,” she said. Good lord, there would be a lot of things to think about. Decisions. Things to get wrong. Ways to fail to do the absolute best by her daughter that any woman could possibly do.
Hold on, Sarah. Hold on. Relax. Your mother tried to do that. That doesn’t mean you should.
“Oh, God,” Patrick said, and his arms flexed hard around her. “So fuck yes, I want to do all I can do to help out. I couldn’t go into another restaurant to take over your job.”
She winced at even the thought.
“But if you have your own boutique, I could let myself in at four in the morning and make all your choux while you’re trying to get your stomach to calm. Or nursing the baby. I could pitch in any way you need me to. Maybe I could be part owner or something. Twenty percent.”
Twenty percent sounded about right. If she gave him fifty, he might accidentally take over and never realize.
But it would be kind of fun to have Patrick inserting himself into her jewel shop. Popping in all the time. Coming up with one of his own beautiful pastries for her windows that she could name in some subtle way after him. Brainstorming, suggesting, all his energy and ability to relax her warming the space.
It would be a lot of fun.
And it hit her again hard how terribly she missed him these days. Missed having him in the kitchens teasing her and de-stressing her. Missed the brush of his body. Missed time with him outside the kitchens, too.
If they had a family, all her balance would have to change. But maybe the three—four? five?—of them would settle together again in a balance that was exactly right.
She could see them sometimes, like a photo: A golden head and a black one bent over a little baby that stayed blurry in the vision, arms around each other and around the baby, too. She could see Patrick lifting his own baby high above his head to make her laugh, tweaking cream off his own baby’s nose. She could see him helping her, Sarah, with everything he could. Being there, involved. She hadn’t had any kind of father until her mother married her stepfather, a very good man, when she was seven. How wonderful, to imagine giving her baby such a good father from the very first breath she took. Before she even took a breath, in fact—Patrick was promising to be there through all the ups and downs of pregnancy, too.
“But I know it’s not my decision,” Patrick said. “I’m not trying to tell you how to manage your career, Sarah. Or to abandon it to have my-my-my baby or anything like that.”
He was stuttering. Sarah touched his cheek, heart gone to mush.
“I just wanted to lay some different options on the table. Brainstorm,” he said.
“Brainstorm all the ways of getting what you want?” Sarah teased.
Again that quick, vulnerable look. “You—you don’t?”
She took slow breaths, one, and then when that wasn’t enough, two, and three, letting them relax her muscles the same way the heat of his arms around her relaxed her. Breathing her way through anxiety and fears back to her center. Where her strength was. Where she knew what she really wanted. “I do,” she said quietly.
Patrick took a harsh breath. His arms tightened around her spasmodically.
Her lips tweaked up unexpectedly. “Mostly because you’re going to be so damn cute as a father, Patrick. Are you going to pass out?”
He shook his head firmly, his lips pressed hard together. But his eyes were enormous in the pale light.
Her smile grew. Now, somehow, his growing panic at getting what he wanted was reassuring her. Making her feel vaguely smug, knowing. Maternal. She rested her hand on her belly and thought of all the faint, contented, and, yes, rather smug Madonna-like smiles she had seen on pregnant women’s faces. She caressed her own flat belly, imagining it stretching, imagining maybe one day a flutter or a kick.
Patrick linked his fingers with hers. Like he would, when she told him she’d felt the first kick. She could imagine his expression, as he pressed his beautiful face to her belly and closed his eyes and waited and waited for another kick, and then his lips parted with awe and joy.
She could see it all so clearly. And it was the most beautiful thing she had never seen.
And then she saw herself. Her baby tucked against her breasts, so close, and so tiny. That would be beautiful, too.
She took a big, big breath. It felt as if that breath was expanding her bigger than anything she had ever been. Until she could touch mountaintops with her fingertips. Until she could hold a world inside her, in the form of one tiny life.
“Let’s do it,” she said firmly, and Patrick actually gasped. He stared at her for a long moment, as if she had turned into a creature from outerspace.
All at once, his face lit with happiness. He hugged her to him and pressed his face against the top of her head. “Oh, hell, I think I’m—” He sniffed surreptitiously and rubbed his eyes against her hair.
“It will be fun,” Sarah said, because suddenly she knew it would be. Fun and hard and really hard and full of joy and hope and trying and courage.
“So much fun,” Patrick said, his voice vibrant and deep with happiness. He twisted them suddenly, until he was lying on the floor of the kitchen and she was astride him. “God,” he said. “You’re so pretty.”
She smiled, and suddenly her nose and eyes were stinging, too. This weird, happy trembling of water, like when she’d stood at the end of the aisle at their wedding and looked down it to Patrick waiting for her. Golden and glorious and staring at her as if he’d never seen anything so beautiful in his life. “I love you, too.”
He seized her hands, a squeeze of calluses and strength. “Can we start tonight?” Now he was like a child at Christmas. Actually, Patrick had always been like a child at Christmas. He’d get so excited about the presents he had got her and start begging her to open at least one of them the night before. A brief, gloriously colorful kaleidoscope whirl through her head of how Christmas would be when Patrick had kids to get presents for.
“I think I have to go off the pill first,” she said gently.
His face fell.
“You could maybe practice tonight,” she said, amused.
His face lit.
She drew her fingers through his golden hair, brushing it back from his forehead. “Because, you know, you always have to practice something ten thousand times to get it right.”
“I’m so damn happy, Sarah,” he whispered.
She nodded solemnly, and lifted one of his hands and kissed it and pressed it against her heart.
“You’re going to make the most wonderful mother in the world,” he said, so heartfelt that her eyes stung again, even harder. He believed in her more than she believed in herself. And she believed in him more than he believed in himself. And maybe…that was beautiful.
“Let’s practice somewhere a little softer than this kitchen floor,” he said, and carried her to the bedroom. Where they did practice. This tender, intimate, wondering practice, as the moonlight graced over bodies and stroking hands and sliding bedsheets and brilliant, brilliant eyes.
Because you could never get too much of that, really.
© 2016, Laura Florand