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“I can’t believe the school year’s almost over.” Joey said.
“I can’t believe we lived through it.” Jen added.
“Don’t celebrate just yet.” Tatum told them “We still have three more days to live through.” she groaned and shifted her heavy backpack to her right shoulder “I am getting too pregnant to lug this piece of crap around.”
Joey reached over and took the bag away “What are you doing? You’re right, that thing is way too heavy for you. Here, let me take it.”
“Thanks.” Tatum said.
“No problem.” Joey replied. She handed the bag to Dawson “Here.”
“I think we should have a party or something.” Abby suggested “An end of the school year thing.”
“That’s a good idea.” Andie agreed.
“Or maybe we should just get in our cars and drive off in any random direction and see where the road takes us.” Tatum laughed “I’m kidding, of course. We’ll save that for the end of senior year.”
* * * *
“Pacey! Hey, Pacey! Wake up!” Tatum whispered.
“Tate, it’s one in the morning.” Pacey moaned “Is the house on fire?”
“No.” Tatum replied.
“Are you in labor?”
“Then why did you wake me up?”
“The baby just moved!” Tatum whispered excitedly. She grabbed his hand.
Pacey waited for a minute “I don’t feel anything.”
“Just wait a second, it’ll move again.”
* * * *
“Dawson, a little advice.” Pacey said the next day at school “Someday, hopefully not in the very near future, when you and Joey are married and she’s pregnant, do yourself a huge favor and never, ever say you can’t feel the baby moving. I waited for two hours and then my arm fell asleep.”
“Ouch.” Dawson said.
“What are you guys talking about?” Tatum asked.
“I was just explaining to Dawson what it’s like to be pregnant.” Pacey replied.
Tatum laughed “Right. As soon as you spend the better part of a year gaining weight and getting kicked in the ribcage, then you can talk!” She put her hand over her stomach “Oh. This girl just won’t stop kicking.”
“Girl? I thought you guys were going to find out what it is this afternoon.” Dawson said.
“Oh, we are.” Tatum told him “But, you know, mother’s intuition.”
“Right.” Dawson chuckled “My mom told me she said the exact same thing with me.”
* * * *
“So,” Abby said “I was thinking that maybe for the party, I could blackmail Chris into letting us use his house.”
“How would you do that?” Andie asked.
Abby laughed “Please, Andie. You underestimate me. You remember how I used to be- a selfish, stuck-up, pain in the ass- I’ve got some dirt on him that he would trade his precious beat-up, ratty old baseball cap collection to keep quiet.”
“Go for it.” Tatum said, stuffing some more cream cheese and cheddar potato chips into her mouth.
“God.” Joey muttered “Don’t you ever stop eating these days?”
“I try.” Tatum sighed “But this is one hungry baby. Speaking of which, the baby is totally craving meat. And you know I can’t eat meat! It’s murder, it’s cold-blooded murder! So today I made a soy burger, you know, so maybe I could trick the baby into thinking it was getting meat. And I got nauseous.”
“So?” Jen asked “Soy burgers make me nauseous all the time and I’m not pregnant. It probably has more to do with the fact that soy burgers suck.”
Tatum slapped her arm playfully “Shut up. You try dealing with this shit and then we’ll see who’s laughing.” “So why don’t you just eat meat until the baby’s born?” Abby asked
“Hello?” Tatum replied “Five more months, three meals a day. I’d eat like, a hundred cows or something. And while we’re on the subject of my pregnancy, I’ve got some good news.”
“Really? Do tell.” Jen said.
“Ok,” Tatum began “remember how you’ve been after me to sue my mom’s family for cheating me out of my inheritance to get some extra money?”
“Well, last night,” Joey cut in “we found out-”
“I’m telling it!” Tatum interrupted “Anyway, we found out that they’ll be willing to settle out of court as I don’t go public about this.”
“What did I tell you?” Abby asked “I told you that they’d pay you to keep quiet. How much are you getting?”
“Well, right now, they’re still checking and re-checking everything with their lawyers, including the amount. But considering I stood to inherit about 321 grand, I made it crystal clear to them I wouldn’t settle for any less than 100,000. No point in getting greedy, and I want to have it over with as soon as possible. I just want at least some of what I’m entitled to. They’ve got a choice between paying up and being humiliated.”
“And you’ll stick to it?” Jen asked “I mean, if they don’t pay, you really will go to the newspapers?”
Tatum laughed “You know me. I won’t just go to the newspapers. I’ll call People Magazine. I’ll go on ‘Dateline NBC’ and ‘Hard Copy’ and tell the whole country about 16 years of abuse, getting kicked out so fast I didn’t even get to go to my own mother’s funeral, and being refused the money that I’m entitled to and need to support my child. And you guys know what a great actress I am.” she burst into tears “Oh, I’m so sad!” then she started laughing “I can turn it on and off like a faucet.”
“They won’t stand a chance against you.” Abby laughed.
* * * *
“Is that the heartbeat?” Tatum asked.
Dr. Hawthorn nodded “Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?”
“Sounds like a dishwasher.” Tatum observed.
“Great. If it’s a boy we can name it Kenmore, and if it’s a girl we can name it Maytag.” Pacey suggested.
Tatum laughed and turned to Dr. Hawthorn “So what is it?”
“It looks like,” Dr. Hawthorn said, staring closely at the screen “no, scratch that, it’s *definitely* a girl.”
“Really?” Tatum gasped “See, Pacey? I told you so!”
“Would you like to see her?” Dr. Hawthorn asked, turning the screen towards them.
The two young parents stared at the tiny, shriveled looking little creature.
“Oh, wow.” Tatum whispered “She looks so funny. Oh! Look at that! She’s sucking her thumb.”
“If I didn’t know any better,” Pacey said “I’d say that she was mooning us, too.”
Tatum giggled “Yup, she’s definitely our kid.”
“Is your sister here?” Dr. Hawthorn asked “I’d like to speak to her about something.”
“Yeah, she’s out in the waiting room.” Tatum replied. She detected more than a little worry in the doctor’s voice “Is everything alright?”
“I’m not sure.” Dr. Hawthorn admitted “You two sit tight for a minute, I’ll be right back.” She left the room before Tatum could ask any more questions.
“I don’t like the sound of that.” Pacey said “I wonder what’s up.”
Tatum didn’t answer. She just stared at the image on the screen. The tiny, helpless creature sucking its thumb and shifting around looked more like an alien than a baby. But it was a baby, her baby. And the thought of anything happening to it frightened her.
* * * *
“So the doctor isn’t sure if there’s anything wrong with the baby?” Joey asked the next day at the party.
“Not really.” Tatum sighed “She wants me to come in for another checkup on Monday, and she wants me eat more foods with iron and potassium, and stay off my feet as much as possible.”
“I’m sure everything’s just fine.” Andie reassured her.
“I know.’ Tatum said “I just want to do whatever’s best for my baby. And hey, school’s out. That means no dragging around a heavy backpack, no trudging from one class to the next, just lying around the house as much as possible and resting.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re so calm.” Abby told her “If it were me I think I’d be a total spaz from all the stress.”
“I would be too.” Tatum admitted “But Dr. Hawthorn said to avoid stress at all costs, so I can’t. Besides, I got some really great news last night.”
“About the settlement?” Jen asked.
“I’m getting 150 grand.” Tatum announced, grinning brightly “I would have settled for 100 thou and an apology. But hey, I can hardly complain!”
“That is so great!” Abby shrieked “I told you it would work out!”
“You did.” Tatum admitted “And I know it’s great. I can put some of the money towards going to college, I’ll never have to worry about where my baby’s next meal is coming from, and talk about a great way to stick it to my snotty, holier-than-thou family!”
“And now you’ve got practically nothing to worry about.” Jen told her.
“Except mood swings and water retention.” Tatum pointed out “But, yeah. Knowing that I’ll have enough money really is comforting.”
“Come on.” Andie said “Enough of this heavy talk. Let’s watch the boys make asses out of themselves.
In the pool, the guys were all playing “Marco Polo”
“Marco!” Chris yelled, standing in the middle of the pool with his eyes closed.
“Polo!” Pacey, Dawson, Jack, Tyler, and Jose replied as they crept past the girls.
“Cheaters.” Tatum giggled.
“Shh!” Dawson whispered.
“Marco!” Chris yelled again.
“Polo!” the others yelled as they crept up the steps and into the house, shutting the door quietly behind them.
“Marco!” Chris waited for a response “Marco! Uh, Marco? Hey, guys, Marco!”
Tatum laughed as she leaned back in the lawn chair she was sitting in “It’s gonna be a great summer.”
* * * *
“Tatum?” Joe said softly as she walked into the kitchen that night “Tate, it’s midnight, what are you doing up?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Tatum sighed.
“You’re worried about what the doctor said, huh?” Joey asked as she sat down at the kitchen table next to her sister.
Tatum nodded “It kinda freaked me out.” she put her hand over her stomach “I guess I just thought that as long as my baby’s in here I could protect it from anything. Now I find out that there might be something wrong and there’s pretty much nothing I can do to help it.”
“But it isn’t your fault.” Joey told her “And there’s plenty you can do. Just follow all the instructions your doctor gives you and try not to worry about it. Your baby will be just fine.”
Tatum nodded “You’re right. Hey, how about some hot cocoa. That always helps me relax.”
“Good idea.” Joey agreed. She stood up and took a carton of milk out of the refrigerator “Oh. It looks like this milk’s gone bad.”
“Oh my God, your right.” Tatum said softly “I can’t believe I didn’t notice that.” she sat down and buried her face in her hands “What kind of mom am I going to be? I can’t even remember to buy fresh milk.”
“Tate, it’s ok.” Joey insisted, sitting down and put her arm around Tatum’s shoulder “You can’t just expect to be a good mom immediately. It takes time, but you’ll get it. You’ll be fine.”
“You really think so?” Tatum asked, wiping her eyes.
“Really.” Joey said firmly “You’re gonna be a great mom. Maybe not at first, but before you know it. At least by the time the girl enters college.” there was a short pause “That was a joke.”
“Sorry.” Tatum sighed “I’m just not in a joking mood.”
“You need to get some rest.” Joey told her “Everything will seem so much better in the morning when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Come on.”
“You’re right.” Tatum said as she followed her sister up the stairs “Thanks, Jo.”
“You got it, kid.” Joey replied.
* * * *
Part 24 coming soon!
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