When Mia awakened the next morning, she turned towards where she imagined her new husband should be: next to her. However, Chris wasn’t there, and she could tell that he had never been there. Immediately, she could feel her stomach begin to tighten. Rising from the bed, she searched the apartment, hoping that he had returned late, and fell asleep in another part of the suite. He wasn’t there. Finding her phone, she texted and then called him. No response. Checking the time on her phone, she noted that it was 8 am; a little later than her normal habit of rising, but… she HAD no normal habits anymore. Walking to the window, she looked out to a sunny day, the morning light reflecting beautifully off the Manhattan skyline that she could see. Suddenly, she felt a slight movement from within her abdomen.
“Yes, I know… You are hungry.” She said to the tiny form inside her. Finding a room service menu next to a phone on one of the end tables, she decided on a light breakfast, and ordered. She returned to the bedroom to find her robe, so she wouldn’t show the hotel staff-person bringing her breakfast her honeymoon attire before her husband saw it. Finding the robe and shrugging into it, anger began to build; taking the place of sadness.
“What kind of man is this, that I have married?” She asked herself. At this point, she didn’t like any of the possible answers. Her first thought was to eat breakfast, pack her bags, and go home.
As she picked up a croissant, and opened it to place a thin slice of cheese inside, she thought of the life Chris had described for her in so much detail while they laid in the back of his pick-up last summer, searching the darkening sky for each new star. He said they would share mornings in just this type of setting, with just this kind of meal. However, he forgot to tell her that “sharing” didn’t mean that he would actually be in the same room, at the same table. “I wonder what else he forgot to tell me.” She said aloud to herself.
As she took a drink of orange juice, she heard the door of the room open. Turning, she saw Chris slowly enter, turn, and softly close the door. He wore the same suit she had last seen him in yesterday morning. Although wearing the suit would be an exaggeration. He carried the coat wadded under his arm, and his shirt was buttoned incorrectly, with two buttons standing out awkwardly at the top. The beautiful tie she helped him pick out was nowhere to be seen, and he only wore one shoe. As soon as she saw him, she quickly rose from the table and walked past him to the bedroom and pulled the door closed with a loud thud. Chris winced at the noise, but slowly hobbled over to the closed door, grasped the knob, and pulled it open.
“Uh… Mia…” he began.
“How was Miss Madison Avenue?” Mia asked sarcasticly.
“Actually, she lives in Greenwich Village…” As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Chris realized they were the wrong ones.
“Oh… Greenwich VILLage…” Mia fumed. “Does she have a nice place? Maybe you should see if she needs a roommate!”
“It wasn’t like that, Mia…” Chris said.
“Oh, then what WAS it like, Chris?” She countered.
“First of all,” Chris began. “I am incredibly sorry, Mia! I ruined our wedding night. Everything I promised you fell apart. I am…was…am stupid…just stupid! I wanted this to be a perfect night, where we danced, and kissed, and shared the beauty and excitement of New York…our new life. I screwed up! I am an idiot for leaving you alone!”
“Yes you are!” Mia said, her tone hard, but her heart softening to his penitent words. “I was just getting my stuff together. Would you get my suitcase for me?”
“Why?” He asked incredulously.
“Because I am going home…” she responded matter-of-factly.
Chris reached out and gently grasped Mia’s shoulders. When he did, his wadded-up coat fell to the floor with a thud. When Mia heard it, her subconscious mind tried to place the sound of its landing with the material of which it was made. While she sorted through the various options, her thoughts were interrupted by Chris’s voice.
“Mia, I’m sorry…and I promise…I PROMISE…that will never happen again. I will never leave you alone again! This is a really lousy beginning to what will be a wonderful life for the two of…I mean… the three of us! Twenty years from now we will look back and laugh about what an idiot I was, and how patient and loving and kind you were to keep believing in me…in Us! Don’t go, Mia… I love you…I promise…I’m an idiot!”
“The other shoe… that’s what dropped” She thought. Suddenly smiling slightly, she said, “You don’t have to promise… I KNOW you’re an idiot!”
Sighing heavily, Chris enveloped her in a huge hug. Mia wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed him close to her, burying her face into his chest. Taking another deep breath, Chris exhaled deeply through pursed lips and turned his eyes to the ceiling in relief.
That was the first of many broken promises which Chris was to make to Mia. To be sure, he wanted to keep the promises, or at least he told himself he did… while he made them. But time, his new job, new acquaintances, two martini lunches with clients which turned into pitchers of martinis and meandered into dinner… all these led to broken promises and repeated regrets. There were lapses between each broken promise. And the intervening life between each was good, even happy. In the days before the birth of their child, life was really good. They found an apartment: a two bedroom just a couple blocks from Chris’s office. The two of them worked on preparing for the new life they had imagined would bring joy and stability. Chris worked hard learning the business and received high marks for his efforts from Mercer and his father. Mia was proud of him, and began to allow herself to let memories of their wedding night to pass into the fog of busyness from preparing the nest for their child.
One spring day, in late May, Mia mentioned to Chris that she had an appointment with the doctor. “I’d love it if you could come.” She said at breakfast.
“What day? And what time?” Chris responded.
“Thursday, at 9:30 in the morning.” She said.
“Hmmm… I have an important meeting with a client that morning… Can you change it to Friday?” He asked.
“I can’t.” She responded. “She is so busy that the next date open would be in two weeks, and I’m not supposed to wait that long.” She was also going for an ultrasound to find out the sex, but she didn’t want to tell him that now, especially if he couldn’t be there. She would surprise him with that, later in the evening.
“I’m sorry, Mia… I wish I had known earlier…”
“That’s OK,” Mia said. “There will be plenty more visits. You can come to one of those.”
“OK… Let me know how it goes.” He said quietly. “Do you know that I love you?” He said, looking deeply into her eyes.
“I think… yes… I know that you do!” She said, with just a moment of hesitation.
“Well, I want to make SURE you know it.” He said, rising out of his seat and reaching into his coat pocket. He pulled a jewelry box out of his pocket, and set it on the table in front of her.
Looking up into his eyes, Mia said, “Chris…” Mia reached for the box, and looked at it, savoring the moment.
“Open it!” Chris said with boyish excitement.
Tugging open the top, she gasped when she found a pendent; a silver bell, with small diamonds outlining the shape. She removed it from the box, and squealed, “Put it on me…”
Taking the chain, Chris walked behind Mia, undoing the clasp as he moved, and draped it around her neck and closed the clasp. Afterward, he bent over and hugged her from behind, kissing her neck.
“I wanna see it, I wanna see it!” She squealed again.
Chris pulled her chair back, and followed her to the mirror in their bedroom.
“It’s beautiful, Chris!” She said.
“YOU are beautiful!” Chris responded, hugging her again. “YOU are the bell that tolls for me!” He said.
“Aww…” she blushed, and turned to hug him the best she could with her growing abdomen providing an ample obstruction.
“OK,” Chris said. “Gotta go to work!” He released Mia and straightened his tie in the mirror.
“Thank you…” Mia said in a playful voice, her head tilted to the side.
“You’re welcome, Love.” He replied
“Do you want to know the sex of your baby?” The ultrasound technician asked.
“Yes!” Mia answered almost as soon as the words came out of the tech’s mouth.
“You are having a baby girl…” She said. Mia smiled and remained quiet, while a tear trickled down her cheek.
The remainder of the appointment passed very slowly for Mia. She was anxious to get home and prepare her surprise announcement for Chris, and she barely heard the technician’s pronouncement that the child seemed to be fine, and everything appeared to be progressing normally. While she dressed after the examination, she began to think about names for the first time.
“The first time…” she thought. “Why haven’t I thought about names before? That’s strange…” She first thought about what would sound good with “Dresden”. Suddenly, the child’s name just exploded into her mind with such force that she knew the child simply MUST have it: “HOPE”.
The months in New York were rounding into a wonderful experience. Although it had a rocky start, she was learning to love the city. She had found a wonderful coffee shop near their apartment with the cutest little bookstore next to it. Just across the street, was a family owned, neighborhood grocery store, run by the friendliest woman, named Maggie. Maggie was a middle-aged woman with an ample waist and a hearty laugh. Although before she had moved here, Mia had always heard how rude and unfriendly New Yorkers were. She found Maggie to be anything but. When she saw Mia was pregnant, and heard that she lived right around the corner from her store, Maggie stopped by one evening and brought her a loaf of Italian bread, and a bottle of sparkling apple juice.
“It’s a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift!” Maggie had said. “Wine would be better, but this keeps the spirit, without the spirits… which you DON’T need!” Mia had laughed deeply, and the two had become fast friends.
So it was on this day, the day of her child’s naming, that Mia stopped by Maggie’s store to tell her friend the news that she just HAD to tell someone.
“Hope Dresden… Hope Dresden! Get your hand outta that cookie jar! You’ll spoil y’ supper!” Maggie said, trying the name on for size. “That works! But you KNOW that Aunt Maggie will be right there with all the cookies she will EVER need!” She said, and then ended her promise with a laugh which shook her whole frame.
Just watching Maggie’s mirth started Mia laughing so hard that she had to shuffle to the bathroom behind the counter of the store, which caused Maggie to laugh even harder. As she scooted past Maggie and rushed through the door to the backroom, Mia could hear Maggie exclaim, “Mia child, you have to be the cutest little thing alive! If that boy ever hurts you, he better watch his back, ‘cuz I’ll be after him with a baseball bat!”