By Elisa Rosario
The house smelled of chocolate and clean wood when we stepped inside. A strange smell, yet refreshing. I didn’t think there was anything remarkable about this house when Daniel showed me the pictures online. But I never expected a stone fireplace along with the other decor---simple and cozy with a splash of teal paint and polished wood. We found our room not long after, with Daniel setting our suitcases against the bed. Following a round of unpacking, I went back to the kitchen to stock the empty fridge with food from the crate.
I may have overestimated how much stuff was actually needed for this trip. Then again, how often will we have alone time together once the baby comes? There’s a reason you don’t take an opportunity like this for granted. That being said, maybe I’m also eager because I can finally rest without having to stress over the final draft of my essay (which isn't due until next month) and keeping track of our inventory of baby items.
And I have been under a lot of stress. I still felt bad about snapping at Daniel in the parking lot the other day. It was the week following the day when Daniel pulled up an ad for a rental home he found on Airbnb and asked for my opinion. I must’ve stared at the screen for an awful while since he asked me if I was okay; I’d been zoning out. My brain was busy weighing the options; whether to go for it or bail.
“If you want, you can bring your work along to finish,” he said. “The way I see it, we have the whole week. Plus, I convinced my boss to allow for an extra day off on Monday.” Like a judge exclaiming the verdict, I said, “I’m in.”
I would’ve been content with working from home, but a change of scenery is just what I needed. Away from the hustle and bustle from Atlanta.
The house was in a secluded part of Tobyhanna. You could see almost nothing beyond the expanse of trees and brush erected behind it. At least there was a road in front of us, just in case we went out. “Which means the best place for us to do anything is either in East Stroudsburg or Scranton,” I told Daniel after researching nearby cities on my laptop.
“Any points of interest?” Daniel asked as he busied himself with washing the dishes.
“Just several thrift stores, a record shop and a pizzeria---most of which isin Stroudsburg. But there’s also On & On in the other city, which looks pretty cute.”
Daniel threw the dish rag over his shoulder and walked over to sit next to me on the couch and peered over at the laptop.
“What do you want to do, Nic?”
“Stroudsburg first, and then Scranton. Not all in one day but definitely during this week.”
“Works for me,” he smiled, kissing my temple.
Weekends are for one thing and one thing only: relaxing.. I don’t mind staying in. Hell, I don’t mind staying in for the entire week. I know Daniel feels the same, too. Maybe this week won’t be so bad.
Why can’t I put down any words?
It shouldn’t be that hard but my fingers are hovering over the keyboard, not making a move. It’s Saturday and I’m coughing up dust. I’m supposed to write a 5-page research essay for my Culture of Health Care class. I’ve only managed to produce 2 and a half pages. I had just enrolled in med school and couldn't wait to absorb everything they taught me.
Once I finally settled on being a pediatrician,. But when I got pregnant at the start of my second year, some of my classmates and professors suggested I drop out and come back another time. But, in typical Type A fashion, I stayed, though this does nothing to ease my qualms. Daniel reassures me time and again, I shouldn’t be ashamed of my decisions and that it’s solely up to me whether or not I continue my education, not some judgemental prick, who, by the way, is what we call my professor who assigned me this essay---behind his back, of course.
I’m on the couch staring at my laptop, nothing coming to mind. Needing a little motivation (or just a respite), I turn on the TV. The owner must’ve fixed the channels because all that’s available is the 24-hour news, CMT, Animal Planet, Kitchen Nightmares On Demand and ABC. I chose CMT since they’ve got back-to-back episodes of Nashville. My attention was divided between reading online articles and the television. I didn’t notice Daniel entering the living room.
I finally looked up when I heard him mutter a curse under his breath. He was at the table typing away on his own laptop, frustration gracing his features. Apparently, he too couldn’t leave his work behind. Frankly, I’m neither surprised nor chagrined by this observation.
I went back to my paper, managing to squeeze in a citation from the article I read. There was a disturbance next to me, and I glanced to see Daniel who unceremoniously fell onto the couch. I was about to ask him what’s wrong but he blurted out: “It’s not my job to fact-check every piece that comes through. He has to do it himself.”
“Is this about the new hire?” I asked.
“Assistant editor. It’s his first time on a big project. He’s really insecure about his work, so he messages me for feedback. I’m just trying to show him the ropes but I don’t want to write for him.”
“Shouldn’t he talk to one of the other contributors instead?”
“That’s what I told him but he assumes that I know it better than anyone because I’m the head of publication, which, technically, I’m not. I only manage the design and presentation of the whole thing. It’s fucking ridiculous.”
I let him vent for a bit. “Come here,” I say after a moment. He lays down vertically, not before grabbing a nearby pillow and propping it against my protruding belly with the purpose of resting without crushing it. His eyes fluttered shut as I tenderly brushed my fingers through his hair with one hand while the other continued typing. My heart swells upon noticing his own hand caressing my stomach.
Eventually, I put down my laptop and rearranged myself on the couch so that we could lie together.Our position basically involves Daniel covering half of my body with his, our legs entwining like vines and his head buried in the crook of my neck. I wrap my arms around him as tight as humanly possible. Now this is more like it.
“mute your phone the next time he calls,” I murmured.
“I will.” Ten bucks says he’ll sneak a phone call to someone on Unscripted’s management team by midnight.
“I’m serious. You do so much for everyone, but you must take some time for yourself. Isn’t that the whole point of this trip? Forget about our responsibilities every once in a while before we become parents? Because I’m telling you, having a baby---that’s a whole other ballgame.”
“No kidding,” he chuckles. “Dirty diapers, round-the-clock feedings….”
“And next thing you know, she’s a teenager and leaving without a word and we’re staying up all night wondering where she went,” I added.
“Ugh, please don’t remind me about my little princess growing up.” His hand remained connected to my stomach. “How’s your paper coming along, by the way?”
“Still a long way to go but I’m getting there, don’t you worry about it,” I said with a wink.
We stay like this for quite a while, just in that blissful state between napping and watching TV. If I had brought my Polaroid camera, I’d capture this scene and press it in a notebook so as to not lose it.
“She’s going to turn out great, you know. She’s got a wonderful daddy, she’s got me. We have each other.”
“Yeah, we do.” He looks into my eyes with a soft smile. I lean forward and plant a small kiss on his forehead.
In that one moment, it was just us and our unborn daughter in an intimate embrace, the TV playing in the background like white noise as the whole house lulls into a comfortable silence. We relish it because who knows when we will be able to steal moments like these anytime soon? For now, I enjoy myself and tune out my worries, finally relaxing as I have everything I need right here in front of me.