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Sisterland(9)
Curtis Sittenfeld

As we turned onto DeMun Avenue, I said, “Courtney looked good on TV. How’s she feeling?”

“Not too bad. She wants to get the results of her CVS, just for peace of mind, but she hasn’t been nauseous for a while.”

Courtney was eleven weeks pregnant, expecting in April. When we’d gotten to know the Wheelings, they’d been in agreement that they were having only one child, and in fact, Rosie had been the beneficiary of Amelia’s pricey hand-me-downs, which Courtney had told me with such certainty they’d never want back that I hadn’t worried when Rosie ripped or stained them. And then, the summer after she got tenure, Courtney decided she wanted another child. Not only wasn’t it difficult for her to persuade Hank, it was so easy that I suspected he’d have preferred two kids all along. Courtney was then thirty-seven, and when they hadn’t conceived within six months, she began taking Clomid; after another six months, she decided to have IVF but hadn’t yet started the first cycle when she discovered she was pregnant.

I’d had Owen during the time Courtney and Hank had been trying for a second baby, and I had never spoken to Courtney about their fertility troubles; Courtney herself still hadn’t told me she was pregnant, and everything I knew had made its way to me via Hank. Courtney also hadn’t broached the subject with Jeremy, though they were closer than Courtney and I were. Once it had seemed slightly strange to me that our friendships with the Wheelings broke down not along gender lines but along professional ones—like me, Hank was the stay-at-home parent—but these days I rarely thought about it.

“So this morning Amelia wakes up at five-fifteen,” Hank said. “Not like wakes up crying in the night, but wakes up wakes up, in a great mood, wanting to eat breakfast. And she’d slept through the earthquake, but Courtney and I had been up then, too, so I was so tired I felt hungover. It was like all the downside of a hangover without any of the fun. I started thinking about getting up in the night with a newborn, and I seriously don’t know if I have it in me again.”

I laughed. “I think that train has left the station.”

“It’s been a while for us,” Hank said. “And we aren’t spring chickens anymore.”

“Oh, please.” Hank and Courtney were only four years older than I was, and they were in great shape. Every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning, they saw a trainer together, and they had met because they’d both played varsity squash as Harvard undergrads, a fact I was glad I hadn’t known until my friendship with Hank was established—not the squash part, though it was a sport with which I was totally unfamiliar, but the Harvard part, which made Hank not quite the same breed of stay-at-home parent I was.

“Call me when you turn thirty-five,” Hank said. “I swear something changes.”

“All right, geezer.”

“I will say this: Your son is an excellent advertisement for babykind.” Hank stepped around the stroller, so he was facing Owen, and started walking backward. “We want to order one just as easygoing as you, O,” he said.

“Not to confirm your fears, but you know he’s not sleeping through the night yet, right?” I said. “He still nurses every three or four hours.”

“For real?” Hank looked incredulous. “You’ve got to let him cry it out.” Hank was still walking backward in front of the stroller, and he said to Owen, “You don’t want your mom to get a good night’s sleep, huh? Kate, you should see the shit-eating grin your son has on his face right now.”

I laughed, though beneath the levity of the moment, I felt a sudden uneasiness that wasn’t related to our conversation. It was the realization I hadn’t allowed myself to have earlier, choosing instead to be distracted by how disheveled Vi had looked on the local news: My sister had received a warning that something bad was going to happen. I wasn’t yet entirely convinced that there would be another earthquake, though I wasn’t convinced there wouldn’t. Either way, she’d sensed something.

I said to Hank, “Do you and Courtney keep emergency supplies?”

“Not a one. Do you guys?”

I shook my head.

“You planning to go buy a generator now?”

A generator, no, but maybe a crank radio, and definitely water and canned food. Aloud, as if the possibility amused me, I said, “I might.”

“I have a confession,” Hank said, and I felt a kind of tingle, a nervous anticipation. I was both surprised and unsurprised when he said, “I know how you feel about Vi’s whole gig, but there’s a part of me that believes in that stuff. ESP, psychic predictions—the world’s a pretty weird and cool place, so why is it impossible?”

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