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THE PIGEON COOED AT ME, staring me down with its beady little eyes. It perched on top of our kitchen cabinets, lifted its tail feathers, and let a big glob of greenish pigeon poo drop right on top of our new marble countertops.
“You did that on purpose,” I said, narrowing my eyes at the bird.
It cooed in response, then turned pruned its feathers as if it owned the place. I gripped the towel in my hands a bit harder, ready for another attack. All the doors and windows were open, and all I needed to do was herd the bird out through one of them.
With a deep breath, I launched at the pigeon. I flung the towel toward it, but it flapped out of the way at the last second, the edges of the fabric just brushing its wings. The towel fluttered to the floor as the pigeon took up another perch on the far side of the room.
Freddy came in the door, his tool belt hanging low on his hips and two boxes of tiles under either arm. “How’s the pigeon extraction going?”
“Not great.” I glanced at him as I picked up the towel. “This stupid flying rat is laughing at me, I think.”
Freddy laid the two boxes of backsplash tiles on the counter and nodded to me. “Let me try.”
“Watch the poo on the counter.”
He glanced at the pigeon’s latest present and shook his head. “That’s the last straw, Mr. Pigeon. It’s time for you to go.”
For the next four or five minutes, I watched as Freddy chased the pigeon around our half-renovated kitchen. He tried the towel strategy, and then moved to a broomstick. Finally, after flailing the broom at the bird over and back, breaking the light fixture and sending mountains of dust flying through the air, Freddy gave up.
“Maybe we should call animal control.”
I leaned against the counter and let out a groan. “If we call animal control for a pigeon who won’t fly out the open windows and doors, I don’t know that I’ll be able to live with the embarrassment.”
“It’s better than keeping him as a pet.”
“I think it’s a girl pigeon,” I said, glancing at the bird as it preened. “I just have a feeling.”
The pigeon looked at me, and I swear its eyes narrowed. Then, it took off and landed on the open windowsill, staring the both of us down.
“Grab the towel. Grab the broom,” I said, breathless. “Come on, bird, get out of here!” I ran toward it, but the pigeon didn’t even flinch.
Then, at the very last second, it let out a soft coo and flew out into the sunshine.
“Door. Windows,” I panted, breathless. Freddy and I scrambled to close them up, and then leaned against each other, sighing. I turned my head to the kitchen to take in the carnage.
There were two big globs of bird poo on our brand new countertops. The light fixture was smashed, and there was a thin layer of dust coating everything.
“Who knew one pigeon could cause so much damage,” Freddy said, hooking his arm around my shoulders.
I snorted. “One pigeon and one very large man,” I said, pointing to the broken light. “Swinging that broom around like you were trying to win the World Series.”
Freddy laughed, squeezing me close. “What’s a kitchen renovation without a bit of excitement.”
“I could do without,” I said, wrapping my arms around him. He crushed his lips to mine and kissed me. I tangled my fingers into his hair and shivered. His hand ran down my spine and he cupped my ass, giving it a rough squeeze.
“Come on,” he growled, pulling me to the living room. “I need you.”
“I don’t care.”
His tool belt dropped to the ground and we both hurried to rip our clothes off. We made love on the living room sofa, sweaty and dusty and tangled into each other. When it was over, he kissed the tip of my nose and smiled.
“You were cute in there,” he said. “I’ve never seen you that mad.”
“What can I say, pigeons bring out the worst in me.”
“Better the bird than me.” He kissed me again and I melted into him. Being in his arms was the sweetest joy, even when I was sweaty and tired and I’d spent the last hour being out-witted by a pigeon.
Freddy pulled away, sliding his hand down to my stomach. “I want a baby, Hailey.”
My eyes widened. “What? I thought you didn’t want kids.”
“I didn’t. But I don’t know…” he trailed off, staring into my eyes. “After we got married, I just started thinking about it more and more. The past couple months, I think about it every time we have sex.”
“You do?” My heart fluttered, and a smile curled my lips. “You want a baby?”
Freddy nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I want a baby with you. You’re going to be the best mother, I just… I just want to have a family with you.”
“Freddy…” I took a deep breath. “Are we ready? I mean we got married a year ago, shouldn’t we take it slow? I have another exhibition coming up and your work at the IT company is getting busy…”
“If you’re not ready, I’ll wait,” Freddy said, pulling away from me the tiniest bit.
My heart thumped in my chest, as if it was protesting my words. I hooked my arms around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss. Then, leaning my forehead against him, I nodded. “Okay,” I said simply.
His eyes widened and he pulled away to look at my face. “Okay?”
“You’re not just saying that? You really want a kid?”
“We’re in a good place financially, and we’ll have nine months to get the renovations done. We could turn the office into a nursery.”
I’ve never seen Freddy smile so wide. Well, maybe on our wedding day, but the way his face beamed at me when I said I was ready to have a baby was unlike anything I’d ever seen. He kissed me fiercely, wrapping his arms around me.
“I love you, Hailey.”
“I love you too.” Nervous excitement flooded through me and we both laughed.
I FELL PREGNANT THREE MONTHS later, and we were able to convert the office into the baby’s room well ahead of our child’s arrival. It was a difficult pregnancy, and I ended up on bedrest for the last four weeks. Freddy’s forehead was permanently etched with worry lines and by the time it was time for the baby to come out, his hair was peppered with grey.
The doctors recommended I have a C-section, so we went ahead with it on schedule.
“You won’t mind the scar?” I asked, glancing at Freddy from my hospital bed.
Freddy smiled. “I’ll love your scar because it’ll be part of you. Scars don’t scare me.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m scared.”
“Me too.” He squeezed my hand, and I felt his love flowing through me. It settled my nerves so that when the nurses came to tell me it was time, I nodded. “I’m ready,” I said.
Our baby girl was born screaming her little lungs out. We were brought into the recovery ward and I held her tiny body to mine as tears streamed down my cheeks. Freddy was there every step of the way. His eyes shone bright as he put his finger into our daughter’s little hand. I looked at her impossibly tiny fingers curled over his finger and my heart felt like it was going to explode.
The recovery was hard, but I never regretted it for an instant. As soon as our daughter was born, I couldn’t believe that I’d ever hesitated. She became the center of our world. Freddy even set up a little easel for me in the nursery, so I could paint beside her.
One evening, a couple months later, when the baby was asleep in her cot, Freddy and I laid on the couch. He had his arm around my shoulder as my head rested against his chest. He ran his fingers through my hair and kissed my forehead.
“She might sleep through the night again.”
“Let’s hope so,” I said, my eyes closing of their own volition. “I need some sleep.”
We fell asleep on the couch, waking up two hours later cramped and sore as we stumbled to the bedroom. When we passed the nursery, Freddy paused. He put his arms around me and held me, staring at our daughter with so much love in his eyes that it made my heart ache.
“We made her.”
“We did,” I whisper-laughed. “Now don’t tell me you want another one already, because my body is not ready for anything baby related. Not making it, or carrying it, or giving birth. Not for a while.”
Freddy smiled, pressing his lips to mine. “No, not right now. I’ll wait as long as you need, and if you only want to have one, that’s okay too. I’m already nervous about her,” he said, nodding toward the nursery. “I’m scared I’ll mess her up, or she’ll get hurt, or…” he shook his head. “I don’t know if I can handle feeling like that about two of them.”
I smiled, hugging him tighter and inhaling his scent. I’d lost my family when I was a teenager, and I always thought I’d live my life alone. I thought I’d be isolated forever, and that pain was a part of my life that I’d never get rid of.
But now, with Freddy and our daughter, I knew that wasn’t true. They were my family, now and forever. Freddy led me into the bedroom and all three of us slept through the night, waking up to little baby cries as the sun came streaming in through the window.
“Your turn,” I groaned, still needing more sleep.
Freddy kissed my forehead and slipped out of bed to go see the baby. I let a smile drift over my lips as I slept a few more precious minutes, feeling grateful and happy for everything that we had.