Home > On Second Thought

On Second Thought
Author: Kristan Higgins

Chapter One

Kate

If I had known how things would play out on the evening of April 6, I would’ve brought my A-game that morning.

I would’ve set my alarm early so Nathan and I could make love. We’d been married for only four months, so that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I would’ve brushed my teeth first and my hair. Afterward, I would’ve kissed him lingeringly, cupped his face in my hands and said, “I love you so much. I’m so lucky to be your wife.” This would’ve probably caused him to give me the side-eye, because such gooey proclamations weren’t my style, but the feelings were there just the same.

I also would’ve added, “Don’t get me that second glass of wine tonight, by the way.”

Instead, I did what I’d been doing almost every morning of our marriage; when Nathan’s alarm went off—at 6:00 a.m., mind you, a cruel hour—I pulled the pillow over my head and muttered darkly. Nathan got up every day to spend forty-five minutes on the elliptical, which proved the old “opposites attract” theory, since I viewed walking down the block to get a coffee as my daily workout.

As I grumbled, Nathan laughed because my hatred of predawn wake-ups had yet to grow old for him.

However, I did get up after he finished dressing, and I stumbled down to the kitchen in my plaid flannel pajama bottoms and NYU sweatshirt, the thrilling, awkward sense of newness at seeing my husband off to work still with me. I loved him like crazy, despite his addiction to exercise. At least he was healthy. (The Fates laughed merrily, the capricious bitches.)

He was already at the kitchen table.

“Morning,” I said, tousling his still-damp hair. Hard to believe I’d married a ginger, which had never before been my type. And yet we’d had fantastic sex just last night. I leaned down and kissed his neck at the memory. See? I wasn’t exactly in a coma, even if it was still too early to blink both eyes simultaneously.

“Hey,” he said with a smile. “How’d you sleep, honey?”

“Great. How about you?” I took out a mug and poured some life-giving coffee, wondering if the fact that I still liked the smell meant I wasn’t pregnant.

“I was very happily exhausted,” he said with a smile. “Slept like the dead.”

Nathan put his cup in the dishwasher, which he emptied every night before bed. He always used the same cup and put it in the same place on the top rack. He was an architect. He liked things neat and square, and his house was a showplace, after all. A literal showplace of his workmanship.

“We have Eric’s party tonight, right?” he asked.

“What? Oh, yeah. His ‘To Life’ party.” I took a long pull of coffee and suppressed a grimace. Eric, my sister’s eternal boyfriend, was celebrating his cancer-free status, and while I was obviously glad he’d recovered, the party seemed to smack of hubris. His health status wasn’t exactly news, either—he’d kept us all up-to-date in searing detail on his blog, Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, Tumblr and the Pinterest board with photos of himself, his IV bag during chemo and, yes, his affected, er, area.

“He’s a good guy. I’m so happy for him,” Nathan said.

“I wonder if he’ll run through a photo of himself, like they do on that weight-loss show,” I said. Nathan laughed, his eyes crinkling with attractive crow’s-feet, causing a warm tightening in my stomach.

Our togetherness still occasionally caused me a slight prickle of alarm. It was like waking up in a hotel room, that second when you don’t know where you are before realizing you’re on a wonderful vacation.

We looked at each other a minute, and the mood shifted slightly. Don’t ask if I’m pregnant, I ordered telepathically. My gaze shifted to the window to dodge the unspoken question. Outside, a lion’s head sculpture spit water onto a pile of rocks. I can’t say I was comfortable living in a house that had “water features” just yet.

In a few weeks, we planned to survey my stuff, currently in storage, and see what we wanted to bring here. But for now, the house was Nathan’s, not mine.

Nathan, too, did not yet feel like he was mine. After all, we’d known each other less than a year, and yet we’d vowed to love each other till death did us part.

So I did what I always did when I felt awkward—lifted my Nikon, which was always close at hand, and took his picture. I am a photographer, after all. Through the lens, I saw that he, too, felt a little shy, and tenderness wrapped my heart as I pressed the button.

“You’ll break that thing, Kate,” he said with a rather adorable blush.

Now, if I’d known what would happen later, I would’ve said, Are you kidding? You’re gorgeous, even though his face was kind and interesting rather than gorgeous. Or even better, I want lots of pictures of the man I love. Even if it was smarmy, it was also true. Love had surprised me at the age of thirty-nine.

But in my ignorance, I said, “Nah. It’s really strong,” and smiled at him. He kissed me, twice, and I gave him a long hug, breathing in his good clean smell, then patted his ass, making him smile again as he left.

The minute he pulled his BMW out of the driveway, I bolted up the stairs and into one of the guest bathrooms, where I’d stashed the pregnancy tests. The lights there were motion sensor for some reason, and a little picky, so I jazz-handed and flapped until they went on.

Why the guest bathroom? Because Nathan was the type to sit on the edge of the tub and watch me go through the whole thing, stick in hand, trying not to pee on myself. I’d let him watch the first two times, but I really didn’t want an audience.

Because no matter what the literature said, a negative pregnancy test still felt like my fault.

“Two lines, two lines, two lines,” I chanted as I peed. After all, I’d be forty in a few months. No time to waste. We’d been trying since we got married.

I set the test on the edge of the sink, not looking at it, heart knocking. Three minutes, the instructions said. One hundred and eighty seconds. “Come on, two lines,” I said, channeling my sister’s cheerleader attitude toward life, minus the sugarcoating that she seemed to put on everything. “You can do it!”

A baby. Even now, the cells could be multiplying inside me. A mini-Nathan on the way. A boy. The image was so strong I could feel it in my heart, my rib cage already expanding with love—my son, my little guy, with blue eyes like his daddy’s and brown hair like mine. I could see his little face, the soft blue newborn cap on his perfect head, a beautiful baby, warm in my arms. Mrs. Coburn—Eloise, that was—would look at me with newfound admiration (an heir!), and Nathan Senior would cluck with pride over Nathan IV (or perhaps a different name. I was partial to David).

One hundred and seventy-two. One hundred and seventy-three.

I decided to go for two hundred to give the pregnancy hormones a chance to really soak in. To give those two lines a chance to shout their news.

A baby. A husband was already pretty surreal after twenty years of singleness. Somehow, it felt greedy to be asking for a baby, too.

But I did want a baby, so much. For the past six or seven years, I’d been telling myself I was perfectly fine without one. I’d been lying.

One hundred and ninety-eight. On hundred and ninety-nine.

Two hundred.

I reached for the stick.

One line.

“Well, shit,” I said.

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