“I’ve got something to tell you,” she said, purposefully. She paused, biting her lip tentatively. She looked me straight in the eye and then, as if slightly ashamed of her directness, looked down at her coffee which was sitting, half finished, on the table between us.
I wondered with mild curiosity what was coming and I waited for her to speak.
“I’m pregnant,” she said. Then she cast her eyes down again and picked up her coffee, taking a mouthful and swallowing before coiling her fingers around the cup as if to seek comfort from its warmth.
I didn’t speak. I needed a moment to process the information and then to decide how to react. What I thought was immaterial but before I spoke I needed to gauge how she was feeling. As these thoughts motored round my brain, she smiled. Not a half smile that plays around your lips but a full ear to ear grin.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” she said. “Are you pleased for me?”
I relaxed slightly. At least I knew how I was expected to react. I was used to saying the wrong thing, missing the point of a story, failing to recognise carefully crafted signals.
“That’s incredible!” I said, smiling as broadly as I thought would be expected to.
“And I assume from your general manner that this is a good thing?” I tried to keep my tone light, jocular and not give her any indication of the alarm bells that were now sounding unavoidably in my head.
“Well,” she was saying. “I have had a couple of weeks to get used to the idea but, overall, yes. I think it is a good thing.”
“Well then, I’m delighted for you.” I replied, hoping that nothing about my expression would betray my true feelings and the sense of foreboding that was creeping over me.
I stood up and reached across the table to hug her. We didn’t often touch and this, combined with the proximity of the table between us meant that the gesture was more awkward that I had anticipated. After what I hoped was an appropriate time I let go, sat back down and spoke again.
“How has everyone else taken the news? Your parents? Mark?” I could tell instantly that I was the first to know. Whilst part of me felt a childlike pleasure that I had been carefully selected as her confidant over her girlfriends, I knew that it wasn’t really my opinion that she sought. I was a guinea pig, a trial run for the much more difficult confessions to come. She had chosen me because she had anticipated, correctly it seemed, that I could be relied upon to say what she wanted to hear and not to voice the obvious and enormous difficulties that flowed from her predicament. And this made me feel used and unworthy, as if my own thoughts counted for nothing. I
continued to smile.
“Well, good for you!” I said.