Draw Down the Moon 3
Most mornings, William awoke first. He would happily babble to himself until he wanted attention and started to cry.
John lay awake with his eyes closed, listening to the baby’s noises. Dana was asleep in his arms, her round bottom pressed against his groin, her breasts heavy in his hands. He wanted to knead them, to rock his hips against her ass and see if they could get in some morning sex—but with William already awake, it was only a matter of time before the day began.
He gave her breasts a friendly squeeze and her shoulder a kiss, and got out of bed. He went into the bathroom, used it, washed his hands, and went back into the bedroom to put on his bathrobe. Dana was still asleep, rolled into a ball and her fist tucked under her chin. John smiled and touched her hair, and went into the nursery.
William was conversing with the ceiling, his hands flailing and his body wiggling like he was being tickled. He squealed when he saw John.
John picked him up and kissed his head. “Hey, Willie boy. Who are you talking to, hm?” He kissed the baby again and laid him on the changing table. “Let’s see if we can’t give mommy a better morning . . .” He unsnapped William’s onsie and made a face at the smell. “Good lord, child! What are they feeding you?” William giggled and kicked his feet. “Oh yeah, you think you’re funny . . .” He tickled William’s tummy and William grabbed at his face again.
They talked to each other like that while John changed William’s diaper and cleaned him up, John joking and William squealing his William-noises. He was a happy child, which amazed John—Dana had been under so much stress during her pregnancy he’d been sure William would be high-strung and difficult. But it was as if he knew how loved he was, as if he knew he had no cause to fear.
Bearing the newly-diapered baby, John returned to the bedroom where Dana was still asleep. He hesitated a moment, then laid the baby on his belly beside Dana’s face. William at once began bumping his head against her as he tried to pull himself closer. Dana woke up after a moment, startled and blinking. “Well, good morning,” she said, her voice still husky with sleep.
“Morning. I changed him but I think he’s hungry.”
“Thanks. How are you, little man?” she said, hauling herself up to sit. She picked up the baby and kissed his plump belly before settling him against her breast. The baby smacked loudly, and Dana’s wince said he clamped onto her breast with vigor.
John sat onto the bed, then lay back on his elbow, watching them, trying not to focus on her morning-golden skin, sex- and sleep-mussed hair and sloping breasts. It struck him as odd sometimes: he’d never known her other than as a mother. Even before he knew of the pregnancy, there’d been gravity and grief and concern for the future in her every step. He’d seen it, without seeing it.
He said, “I’m making it a short day today. Just long enough to make my report.”
“All right.” Her eyes were closed, her head leant back against the headboard.
“So if you want to do something this afternoon . . .”
“Do something?” Her eyelids fluttered open. “Like what?”
“Just . . . something. Anything. Go buy those tomatoes you want to plant, anything.”
“Oh,” she said, drawing the word out in comprehension. “Is this what married life is about, John? Running errands together and squeezing in sex between feedings?” She smiled at him and he smiled back.
“Yup. Sex and groceries, that’s what it’s all about.” He watched her for a moment more, then said, “Do you think you could get a sitter for tomorrow night? I want to take you out on a date.”
“A real date? Like eating at a restaurant with tablecloths?”
“And maybe even seeing a movie. Do you remember movies? They’re giant moving pictures and they even have sound now.”
“Exotic. I’ll see if my mother’s free. ” She stroked William’s head with her fingertips.
“Monica’s offered to watch William if we want to go out, you know.”
“That’s nice of her . . . but I don’t know how much experience she’s had with babies. I’d rather ask my mother, for now.”
“Okay.” He said, “I’d like to buy you an engagement ring.”
Dana looked up, startled. “But I don’t need an engagement ring.”
“But I need to give you one.” He wrapped his hand around the bump in the sheets that was her foot. “I want you to have one.”
“You don’t think the wedding band says ‘I’m taken’ enough?” Her tone was light and teasing but there was a faint furrow between her eyebrows.
“I just want to give you one, that’s all.”
She nodded, focusing on the baby again. “We’ll see. It’s getting late, John,” she added gently.
He sighed and pushed himself up. “I’d rather hang out with you two.”
“We’ll have the weekend.” She arched an eyebrow at him significantly. “Right?”
“Absolutely. Nothing but a national disaster will keep me away.”
Smiles again, and it occurred to John that despite friendship and sex and marriage, they were still uncertain with each other. He went to her and kissed her, caressed her cheek and smiled at her.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, and then went into the bathroom to prepare for the day.
He’d missed this. Waking up next to a warm body, playful talk, planning more ways to spend time together. When he’d come home the night before, even the house had felt different: larger and more sheltering, a place for people to live instead of where one man stopped before leaving again.
And, he decided while he showered, he would surprise her with the engagement ring, sometime when she didn’t expect it. And he’d ask her mother for help choosing it—Dana would like something simple and classic, he thought, but what exactly that meant was a mystery to him.
Dana was still absorbed in nursing when John came out of the shower, toweling his hair. He went to the bureau to dress, and paused. “Dana.”
“Did you do this?”
“Put all my change into piles.”
“No. I didn’t even notice your change, sweetheart.”
“Weird,” he said, and opened a drawer to take out his underwear. “Luke and I, when he was learning to count, we’d divide my change like this, into dollars. He knew how to make change by the time he was six.”
“And you didn’t do it last night?”
“No. Just put it down like I usually do. Weird,” he said again, and went to his closet to choose a suit.
“I like the way you look in blue,” Dana offered, and John laughed.
“Then blue it is.”
Monica greeted him with guarded cheer when John arrived in the office. “How’s your bride?”
“Good. Missed me. How are you?”
“Just fine. ” She shuffled some papers on her desk. “And the baby?”
“He’s great, Monica. What’s with you this morning?”
“Nothing’s with me,” she muttered, but then she looked up and blurted, “Don’t you worry? I worry.”
“Of course I worry,” John said, surprised. “I worry all the time—but I know Dana is doing all she can to watch over him and we’re doing all we can to find the next threat—”
“I know all that,” Monica said, waving her hand. “I mean about Dana.”
“She’s a lot better than she was a few weeks ago,” John replied, still puzzled. “She’s sleeping better and she’s a lot happier—spit it out, Mon. Whatever you’re really trying to say.”
She pursued her mouth. “I’m just afraid this is too soon. That you moved too fast. I mean, she lost Mulder less than a year ago—are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Are you sure she’s being honest with you?”
John clenched his teeth. “Yes.”
“You know I love Dana, John—and you know I’d do anything for Will—but I still can’t convince myself marrying her is really the best thing, for Dana or for you.”
John could say nothing for a moment. It would be a lie to say he didn’t have a few fears about their relationship—but they weren’t the sort of thing he wanted to discuss with anyone.
e fought the urge to tell Monica to mind her own fucking business, and said, “Our marriage isn’t just about Will.”
“Then what is it about? I’m just afraid—”
“Monica!” he said sharply, and she shut her mouth. “I know it was sudden and I know it was fast but it was the right thing to do. I love William. I love Dana. She loves me. That’s all that matters.”
Monica nodded and murmured, “Yes. You’re right. Of course. I’m sorry.”
He bit his lip and said, “Thanks for caring. I mean that. But if you could just see her, Monica, you’d understand.”
Again she nodded, and she started typing on her computer, her brows furrowed with concentration. John watched her for a moment, but the subject appeared to be closed. He turned to his own work, wanting even more to get home soon.
It was nearly one in the afternoon when he arrived home, to the scent of something spicy baking in the oven and the sounds of Dana playing with William on the floor of the front room. “Who’s a baby!
Who’s a baby! Are you the baby?” as she tickled his belly with her hair and he giggled and shrieked.
John smiled despite himself—rehashing what still felt like a failure had put him in a sour mood—and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Look at this girl that I married,” he said, and Dana looked up at him, her face flushed and grinning. “Look at her. You’d think she didn’t have a care in the world.”
“Hello, my husband,” she said, picking up the baby, who kicked his legs, still wanting to play. She came to John and kissed him.
“Hello, my wife,” he said, and took William from her arms so he could give Dana a proper kiss. “I’m yours until Monday morning.”
“Hooray,” she murmured, putting her arms around him. She rested her cheek against his chest. “Aside from buying tomato plants and going out tomorrow night, what do you want to do?”
“Whatever needs doing, babe. Did you get a sitter?”
“My mother will be over at seven, provided she can have us for dinner on Sunday. I think she wants to grill you about your intentions towards me and her grandson.”
“Didn’t marrying you state my intentions clearly enough?”
“She worries,” Dana said as if that explained everything. “And your mother called this morning. She wants to know when we’re coming to visit.”
John groaned. His parents had been surprised, to put it mildly, to hear about the sudden marriage, but he’d hoped they could contain their impatience for a few months. “What did you tell her?”
“I said it would depend on your work schedule. We talked for about an hour. It was very nice.”
“Well, that’s good. I hope you’ll like her.”
“I like her already. Your father didn’t have much to say.”
“He never does.” He kissed her hair and handed back the baby, removing his tie from William’s fist. “I’m going to change clothes. Lunch first, then shopping?”
“Yes. It’ll be ready in about twenty minutes.”
“Thanks.” One more kiss and then he went upstairs.
As usual he put his change from the day on top of the dresser, but then he paused. He drew his fingers through the coins, deliberately scattering the pile. He shook his head at himself and continued taking off his suit.
“Given the choice,” Dana said, “I’d rather have a dog.”
“Than an engagement ring?”
“Yes. What do I need an engagement ring for, John? I hope there’s not a territorial motive behind this.”
“No . . .” John paused to look at a flat of strawberry plants, then shook his head—it was too late in the year to plant those. “It’s just part of the tradition.”
“So are blue garters and throwing a bouquet and dancing the Hokey Pokey, but we didn’t do those.”
“I hope someday we will. And I want to give you an engagement ring.”
“And I’d rather get a dog.” She had put Will’s carrier in the seat of the home store cart, and she dangled plastic keys over his hands for him to grab. “Children should have pets.”
John took her hand as they continued wandering down the aisle. “Big dog or small dog?”
“Medium-dog. Terriers are good dogs for kids, I’ve heard. A German shepherd would be good, too, I think. I’d feel guilty having a big dog in an apartment but with the yard I think a big dog would be pretty happy.”
“So, a medium-to-large dog.”
“Yes. We could go by the Humane Society later and see what puppies they have.” She raised her brows, smiling. “I won’t insist on the name.”
“We’ll talk about that,” John said, but couldn’t resist smiling back. He tickled William’s drooly chin. “What do you think, Willie boy? Would you like a dog?”
“Plus,” Dana added, “plus, dogs can sense things.”
“There hasn’t been an earthquake in Virginia since the Fifties.”
“They can sense more things than earthquakes.”
“Dana, you’re going to start on the noises again, are you?”
“I heard something inexplicable, that’s all. I don’t want to take any chances.”
He sighed and stopped walking, and held tightly onto her hand as he said, “Babe, I know it’s been a hard year for you—an impossible year. But you’re safe now. You’re safe. Don’t go looking for trouble where it doesn’t exist. Okay?” He raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the back. “Okay?”
“I’m not looking for trouble.” She raised her eyes to him. “But I don’t see any reason not to take every precaution we can.”
There would be no arguing with her about this, he could see it in her eyes. “All right. We’ll get a dog.”
When they finished shopping and came home again later that evening, Dana took the sleeping baby up to the nursery and John put the plants and paint in the garage. They had tomatoes and bulbs and late-summer flowers, and pale blue paint for William’s room. She had worried so much about changing things while she was moving in, but that phase had obviously passed.
That chore done, John hesitated, then climbed the stairs and went into the bedroom. It’s ridiculous, he thought, why would someone break in to play with my change . . .
On top of the bureau were four piles of coins, separated into dollars and neatly stacked.
The hairs on the back of John’s neck stood up, and he scattered the stacks. “Weird,” he said again, and decided not to tell Dana.