Janelle: “Creator, this makes me sick.”
Janelle: “Everything makes me sick right now.”
Janelle: “It’s fantastic.”
I was well along in my pregnancy now, creeping closer and closer to birth. Not that you’d know it by the way things had changed in my relationships—the only mark of time passing was my increasingly massive girth. My family, however—my mother, my husband, even Leo (he hadn’t been impressed with how upset I’d made my mother)—hadn’t much changed.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. I’d stepped it up with Derek, with my wifely duties, with making sure that everything was perfect. And for the most part, I was succeeding. Derek came home each night to a hot meal (and a good one, at that) and though he tried to find things I had done wrong—inspected the bookshelves for dust, left finger marks on the mirrors to see if they’d be gone the next day—he’d not found something to be mad about for a long while. More importantly, since I spent so much of my time working around the house now, I’d not gone out, especially to the shop, so there’d been no ridicule, no stares, no ruining Derek’s good family name.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t pleased with me. He couldn’t find anything to be upset about, but long were the days before we were married, when he charmed me with his charisma and natural sense of romance.
So, for the most part, with my brothers moved away, my parents giving me the silent treatment while they stayed in the pool house, and my husband only speaking with me to quiz me about all the places I’d cleaned and if the doctor had been by the house that day.
Janelle: “Good morning, Derek. How did you sleep?”
Janelle: “Any interesting cases at work today?”
Janelle: “…Wanna tell me about them?”
Derek: “For the love of the Creator, Janelle, must you say “wanna?” You might at least make an attempt at sounding dignified.”
Janelle: “Of course. Sorry Derek.”
This was how my days went. And it infuriated me. When I went to sleep at night, climbing in carefully so as not to wake my already sleeping husband, I felt like kicking myself. I could only replay all the times that day that I’d jumped to an instinctual apology, when I’d rubbed my palms raw with how hard I was scrubbing the floor, when I’d had to sit down on the stairs halfway up, a hand on my aching back, after going up and down them forty times in one day.
I was doing so much, trying so hard, to satisfy my husband. And for what? Because he would leave me otherwise?
Yes. Yes, that’s exactly why I was doing it. Because I wanted his status. Even though I still got looks on the street, no one dared say anything to me. And by the time you kids were born, most of those who’d been patrons at my mother’s store would be dead, and you’d just be the doctor’s kids. Perfect kids.
And on top of that, I had you kids to worry about. I was pregnant. I was quite certain that, if Derek divorced me in favor of a better equipped and well-behaved trophy wife, the children would go with him. I couldn’t let that happen.
Derek: “This is edible, at least.”
Janelle: “Thank you, Derek.”
I just couldn’t. So I worked as hard as I could for whatever small recognition he deigned to give me, and I hated it, but it was what I had to work with.
But I was determined to figure out the secret to his affection. There had to be something that would soften him, that would help me get back in his good graces. I needed there to be, because I was going to have a baby soon, and right now my mother wasn’t allowed in the house (because of her association with the store and a detriment to the family name) and I was hardly allowed out, and I was mad at her and she was mad at me, but she was my mother. I wanted her to be able to meet her grandchild.
Derek: “I’m a little restless this morning, Janelle. Help me out?”
Janelle: “Um… sure? I mean… how can I help?”
Derek: “How do you think?”
Janelle: “Oh… Um, yeah! Sure, I guess. If that’ll help.”
Derek: “Oh, it’ll help.”
Derek: “Let’s get this over quick. I have to get to work.”
Derek: “Fuck, yes.”
Derek: “You’re damn good at that.”
Janelle: “Creator, that was hard to do when pregnant.”
Derek: *shouting* “Janelle! Come to my office, please!”
I figured he wanted to yell at me for not cleaning the office well enough.
Janelle: “What is this all about?”
Derek: “I can’t kiss my wife?”
Janelle: “You sure can.”
Janelle: “Don’t you have to get to work?”
Derek: “I thought I’d stay home today. Help you around the house, maybe send Maya to the store for us.”
(Maya was his assistant).
Derek: “Let me know if you need anything, alright? Baby things? And the concierge doctor is coming by with his ultrasound, right? I think I’d like to support you through that.”
Janelle: “Oh, uh, yeah. Sure. That’d be great.”
It seemed like I’d found Derek’s thing. To be fair, it’s a fairly common thing. I probably should have thought of it sooner. But now that I knew, I was going to use it to my advantage.
It wasn’t long before it was that time:
My baby was coming. And Derek was freaking. But at least he was being nice about it.
Derek: “I’ve already called in my best OB/GYN. You’ll be in good hands.”
Janelle: “Thanks, Derek.”
Derek: “It’s a good thing I’m a doctor. Else I’d worry our fun earlier had hurt the baby or caused your labor or something. Hah.”
Derek: “Anyway, I’ll be waiting out here. Good luck.”
As nice as he was capable of, anyway. He didn’t have a lot of empathetic instinct. I guess that’s a woman’s job.
Janelle: “Hi, baby.”
Janelle: “My sweet baby Leolin.”
I’d promised, hadn’t I? That my miracle baby would be named after my dear brother?
Unfortunately, Derek would veto that. He thought it was improper to name a girl baby Leolin. I didn’t think it much mattered—what was the big deal with gendered names anyway—but he insisted. So I settled on Leolin as your middle name, Jane Anne, and followed the same J naming scheme as the rest of the Newman matriarchs. A good, strong name. After the first Newman, Jane. The original.
It means you’ll do great things, Jane Anne. Not like me.
Janelle: “You’re the future of the Newmans, Jane Anne. I’m making up for my mother, setting the foundation, but you’ll be the one to take advantage of it. You won’t be having bribe sex with your husband just to be able to introduce your child to me. You’ll be a true matriarch.”
Janelle: “I’m settling for the whole, ‘the husband is the head and the wife is the neck’ schtick. After sex, at least. But you’ll be the head. You’ll be in charge. I’ll be sure of it.”
I’d been thinking that a lot lately. That whole, “I’ll be sure of it” deal. But this time… at least I hope I’ve raised you that way, Jane Anne. Maybe not by example, but I’ve tried my hardest to ensure that you’d be raised to be strong and competent and brave. Like my mother tried to raise me.
Derek: “I can’t believe you have the energy for this so soon after giving birth.”
Janelle: “It’s been long enough.”
Derek: “I’m not complaining. I’m just surprised.”
Derek: “Yeah, just like that.”
Janelle: “Hey, Derek, would you mind if my mother stopped by today? I’d like for her to meet Jane Anne.”
Derek: “Hah, I think not. Someone will see her.”
Janelle: “And if no one sees her?”
Derek: “Fine, whatever. If you can get her in here without anyone seeing, do it.”
Janelle: “Hey, mom. I almost forgot you could do this.”
B: “I’m glad you didn’t. I’m happy to be here. Even if I have to sneak around.”
B: “I don’t like how much he pushes you around—“
Janelle: “Let’s not do this today, mom.”
Janelle: “Here, I want you to meet Jane Anne. Your granddaughter.”
B: “Oh, Janelle. She’s precious.”
Janelle: “Isn’t she?”
B: “How did you get your husband to let me in here anyway?”
Janelle: “I bribed him with sex.”
B: “And you don’t mind that? Considering how close it is to what I did?”
Janelle: “Excuse you?”
How had I not made the comparison?
No, I wasn’t going to think about it. I wasn’t like my mother. I was just doing what was necessary, what worked, to get my way, and to start to live the kind of life that I wanted.
Maybe that was just what she had been doing too?
But I was doing it the right way. With my husband. In the privacy of my own home. It was better. I was better.
I was convinced.
Janelle: “I think I need a minute.”
B: “I didn’t mean anything—“
Janelle: “Yes you did. But that’s okay. I’m just going to the restroom. Be right back.”
Janelle: “…well, fuck.”