Bridget didn't notice her mother had called that morning because she was in bed with Natalie, and then walking the dog with Natalie, stopping for coffee along the way. She brushed her teeth at the sink while Natalie showered, and lingered in the bathroom as it filled with steam, carrying on a conversation about Natalie's boss, taking in the clean soapy scent of her shampoo, pulling back the curtain for a kiss.
Bridget was dressed for the day in jeans, sneakers, a navy blue crew-neck sweater. The same uniform she'd been wearing since the second grade. Natalie wore black high-heeled boots that ended just below the knee, a fitted grey dress and a long black coat open over the top. Red lipstick, a gauzy silk scarf. Her red hair hung to her shoulders.
"Have a good day," they said at the door now.
"See you tonight."
After Natalie was gone, Bridget drank one more cup of coffee alone. Sunlight flooded the windows and the hardwood floors, giving the illusion that it wasn't bone cold outside. The apartment had been Natalie's first. She went with the place. Bridget saw her in the careful details. Framed abstract watercolors on the walls, purchased from a friend with a gallery in Williamsburg. Different ceramic bowls in the cupboards for pasta, yogurt, cereal. A larger bowl at the center of the kitchen table with nothing in it, strictly decorative.
Until she moved in three years ago, Bridget had lived like a bachelor. Her brothers joked that she had taken a vow of poverty. She didn't care much about things. She had nicer than expected mismatched furniture, passed along whenever her sister-in-law, Julia, redecorated. But her prized possessions were an old Trek bicycle, two milk crates full of records and every Celtics game of the 1986 season recorded on VHS.
Her life then had consisted of a date here or there, a short-lived love affair once in a while. Visits to her mother in Boston at the holidays. Work, mostly. At home, it was just Bridget and Rocco, an aging pit bull, together in a dim apartment. Content to be a couple of old grumps forever, until Natalie came along and let in the light.
She tried now to picture a high chair at the end of the table, a baby's toys strewn across the rug. A time when leisurely mornings like this one would be a thing of the past.
In advance of her thirty-fifth birthday, Natalie had announced that the gift she wanted most was not jewelry or tickets to a Broadway show, but a baby.
Bridget had never thought of herself as particularly maternal. She couldn't muster much enthusiasm for baby pictures, or for the fact that one more human being had learned to correctly identify the letter D. When she thought about motherhood, she thought of her own mother and her aunts, who, when she was young, liked to sit around on someone's front porch on summer nights, playing cards, smoking, and drinking Canadian Club. They had always seemed a bit bored, dissatisfied by their own children, yet later, all they spoke about was the desire for grandkids. They had sacrificed everything. The least their daughters could do to pay them back was to suffer in a similar fashion.
Bridget still wasn't entirely convinced. But she believed that Natalie deserved to be a mother, if that's what she wanted. And, to her surprise, at forty-four, she found that the idea of having a baby with Natalie excited her at least as much as it terrified her.
A year had passed since Natalie first raised the issue. It sometimes felt like since then, they had spoken of nothing else.