Pregnancy is exhausting, Coralie thought as she snuggled up on the couch. Why doesn’t anybody ever tell you that pregnancy is exhausting?
Every pregnant woman she’d ever known, including her own mother, acted like pregnancy was some kind of heaven on earth.
I loved being pregnant! they said.
I never felt better! they said.
It’s just so amazing growing a new life! they said.
But none of them were growing an alien baby. Maybe human babies didn’t cause unrelenting indigestion, aching hips, sleepless nights,or constant nausea. Maybe human babies tickled your insides like a feather, or produced some kind of baby-bliss hormone. Not that she would know – her baby was an alien. All Coralie knew was that she was in desperate need of a nap.
Closing her eyes – just for a minute – she reminded herself to be grateful. Not that conceiving had ever been difficult for the Hasslich women, but Coralie knew that it wasn’t always so easy. With any luck, her little diabolical little monster would be a girl monster. She rubbed her tummy affectionately. A diabolical little girl heir monster.
She only meant to rest her eyes a moment, but when a knock at the front door jolted her awake, Coralie realized she must have nodded off. She sat up slowly, carefully, and peeked over the back of the couch and out the window. She didn’t want to be seen. She couldn’t take that chance.
She dove back into the sofa, out of sight, and held her breath as he knocked again. This wasn’t the first time he’d been by the house, and it wasn’t the first time she’d hidden from him. His calls and texts were easily avoided, but these unexpected house calls were trickier. Her mother said she couldn’t dodge him forever, but Coralie begged to differ. Avoidance was her only option. She just couldn’t bear to see him – to see the hurt on his face when he saw her big pregnant belly, to watch him crumble at the thought of her betrayal. He’d never believe the truth – who would? What would she say? There’s no one else, silly. I got knocked up by an alien, is all! Want some coffee? No, she couldn’t put him through that. And she couldn’t bear the rejection.
And so she hid.
Coralie lay frozen with her eyes squeezed tight until she heard his footsteps descend the porch steps, until she heard them fade far into the distance. She sighed, pulling herself out of the couch cushions, and cradled her head in her hands. She missed him. She wanted to be with him. But there was nothing to be done. She took a deep breath and went upstairs to change. A good workout would make her feel better – it always did.
Coralie headed upstairs to change, and was headed out the door when she ran into Xander. He was humming with excitement, a ball of boundless teenage energy, but he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the look on her face.
Xander: That was Kody at the door again, wasn’t it?
Coralie grimaced by way of an answer, and Xander mussed her hair affectionately.
Xander: Chin up, big sister! There are plenty of fish in the sea. And when I say plenty, I mean PLENTY! I’m going fishing right now, if you catch my drift, and I’m a plum good wingman! You should come with me, catch yourself a Kissing Gourami! Get it? Ha ha!
Coralie couldn’t help but smile at her goofy little brother. Xander fancied himself quite the ladies man, but she never could tell how much was fact and how much was fiction.
Coralie: Maybe next time? I’m just feeling kind of…off.
Xander: Suit yourself!
He shrugged and took off down the sidewalk. Pausing briefly on the corner, he inhaled deeply, a smile playing on his lips. It would have been fun to have Coralie along, but he was fine flying solo, too. Nobody to cramp his style that way.
It wasn’t long before he ran into his cousin Ada, along with a cute blonde Xander had never met before. He didn’t like Ada much, but quickly decided he could tolerate her long enough to meet her friend, whose name turned out to be Sherry L’Amour.
L’Amour, Xander thought. Well that’s very convenient.
They chatted for a bit, Xander making the requisite small talk until he got an opening to make his move. Unfortunately, Xander’s distaste for his cousin was returned twofold – Ada shot him a look to kill, and then turned Sherry’s attention back to herself.
Ada:Hey Sherry, can you show me that picture from Tony’s party last night? You know, the one you were talking about?
Sherry shook her head in confusion, her eyes still on Xander.
Sherry: I wasn’t talking about any–
Ada: Yes, you were! Um, you know that one? Maybe if you show me your phone, it’ll jog your memory?
She glared again at Xander. Her eyes were clearly ordering him to leave immediately. But Xander was not easily deterred.
Sherry pulled out her phone for Ada, but as Xander dropped to the ground for a set of push-ups, he could feel her eyes on him. Oh yeah, he thought. This one wants the Xan-man!
He stood up and brushed himself off. Now, he would casually wave goodbye (Later, babe), and saunter off without looking back – the absolute epitome of cool.
Except, his phone buzzed in his pocket. Couldn’t hurt to check the text before he left – let Sherry think (no, know) he was in high demand. And then he would saunter off without looking back. But when he glanced at the text, his purple skin blanched.
He looked up at the girls, terror written on his face.
Xander: My sister’s in labor!
And with that he ran off. He didn’t need to remind himself not to look back.
It was morning by the time Coralie felt ready to go to the hospital. Coralie hated hospitals – they reminded her of something, but she wasn’t sure what. She only knew she didn’t want to be there any longer than necessary.
This plumming HURTS! Coralie thought as she walked up to the hospital alone. Why doesn’t anyone ever tell you how much this HURTS?!
She hunched over as the next contraction came over her in a wave.
Aurora had watched from the doorframe, wringing her hands, as Coralie left for the hospital on her own. Her baby was having a baby, and there was nothing she could do to help. Coralie insisted she go by herself, and despite her mother’s emphatic protestations, Coralie was adamant. There was no father (or if there was, he was probably somewhere on Sixam, the big sherb), and she was going to do this – all of it – on her own.
But as she stood outside the hospital, gasping for air between contractions, Coralie began to question her decision. She ordered her feet to move, willed her legs to carry her inside. Nothing happened. She inhaled deeply, and tried again. Still nothing.
Maybe she needed her mother after all. She pulled out her phone and dialed Aurora’s number. She listened as it rang, praying her mother would answer. It rang once, twice, and with each ring, it sounded closer.
And when she heard her mother’s voice, it wasn’t over the phone line.
Coralie: Mom! What are you doing here? I was just calling you, to see if – to ask if… I wanted you to come.
Aurora: I just couldn’t let you do this by yourself, honey. I know you can do it by yourself. But you don’t need to. And I wanted to be nearby. You know – just in case you needed me.
Coralie smiled through the pain. Yes, she was going to be a single mother. Just like all the Hasslich heirs before her. But just like them, she wasn’t alone. Not really. And with her mother’s support and reassurance, Coralie found she was ready.
She checked in at the front desk, and the doctor led her down the hall to the delivery room.
And a few hours later, Coralie cradled her first child – her adorable, sweet, diabolical little monster – in her tired arms.
It was a boy, and his name was Leo.
Happy Birthday, Leo Hasslich!