After Mark departed, immediately called Jude and Shaz who, declaring State of Emergency, said they would be round in 20 mins. Grateful, bundled up against cold to purchase chocolate brownies from Mr Christians. As squeezed though bustle of Portobello Market past twinkly lights in Woolworth’s, it was getting dark and all cosy, suddenly felt rush of happiness that impending Christmas – instead of causing traditional stabs of pain, regret and left-outness – made me think of own baby under (or possible on top of, in manner of fairy?) that Christmas tree. Portobello – with its rotting vegetables, Union Jack Y-fronts and salt-of-the-earth cheeriness – seemed symbol of harmony, humanity and joy. Sight of Yummy Mummies in fashionable sheepskin rubbing shoulders with council-house mums made self feel part of a worldwide embrace of Universal Motherhood.
Eyes met those of scruffily pregnant girl. Gave warm, colluding smile as she bent towards her toddler and yelled. “Chardonnay! You *beep* bleedin’, little *beep*
Looked away at a rail of flailing kaftans where policeman was trying to separate two stallholders who were yelling “He called me a *beep* terrorist!”
“Well he called me a Moroccan *beep*
Hurried off to Mr Christians, where felt momentarily more at home amongst those who could afford £5 for a goats cheese crottin, then overheard: “Yar, yar, but the question with playdates is – whose child should be inconvenienced most?” I mean, with Lucy we have to fit round Molly’s whinges, so Ned has to have his lunch late, which means he can’t digest his supper properly so he wakes in the night. And basically I think it would be more appropriate for Lucy to deal with Molly’s whingeing problem than expect me to have broken sleep.”
Suddenly felt overwhelming urge to ask assistant to open bottle of wine so I could swig it on way home. Where in society was I going to fit in as mother? Remembering survey saying even one drink a week can cause baby to have spasms in womb, stumbled out boozeless, but convinced was going to be social misfit and baby thus become obese, bespectacled and picked-on at school.
Got home to find flat smelling Christmassy. Turned out Jude and Shaz had let themselves in and made mulled wine, decided it was disgusting, tipped it out and made Cosmopolitans instead.
“I’ve done a very bad thing,” I said, starting off, as is traditional, with self flagellation, in order to be comforted and supported. “I should have told Mark Darcy that Daniel was the father as soon as I got the call from the DNA clinic.”
“Yes, you should,” snapped Shazzer. “It’s appalling to leave Mark thinking it’s him. Why didn’t you?”
Jude and I looked at her, aghast. What was she thinking? Didn’t she understand why she was here?
“I couldn’t, could I?” I said. “We were euphoric with reunited newly pregnant joy. I could hardly put the phone down and say, ‘sorry, you’re not the father any more. It’s Daniel Cleaver. Bye’.”
“Of course she couldn’t,” snapped Jude. “Daniel shagged Mark’s *beep* wife, for God’s sakes. Listen, Bridget, did Mark even ask you if he was the father?”
“No,” I said uncertainly, wondering if this was good or bad.
“Isn’t that a bit arrogant? Assuming that no one else would want to shag you?”
“Arrogant?” burst out Shaz, mercifully back on message. “It’s *beep* pathological. Who the *beep* does he think he is, ‘oh, oh, look at me … I’m the only person who could possibly bring himself to shag Bridget.’?”
“Bastard, *beep* bastard,” yelled Jude.
“It’s quite funny, really,” giggled Shaz. “Do you think both sets of sperm were slugging it out in the womb? Like fathers, like sperms?”
“Shut up, Shaz,” said Jude. “The point is, what is she going to do?”
Eventual resolution was that I had to tell Daniel before I told Mark. It was therefore resolved that I should call Daniel and and arrange to tell him in person. This is how that phone call went:
Telephone: “Brrrring brrring.”
Me: “Nothing, bye.”
Admittedly immature. But it wasn’t exactly my fault. I mean, who answers the phone barking, “Yes?”. Anyway, two minutes later, he rang back.
“Jones? How old are you?”
“It’s none of your business.”
“No, no absolutely, absolutely. But you’re not – just to pluck an example out of the air – 13?”
“Pity, pity. You’re not of the age, then, where you might dial zero and say ‘Is that the operator on the line? Well get off it quickly, there’s a train coming’?”
I hesitated. He truth is, there was a night a few months ago when Jude, Shaz and I got a drunk and …
“What I’m driving at, Jones, is did you just call me at work and say ‘Nothing, bye’?”
I paused, unsure of my ground.
“Oh, never mind. What colour knickers are you wearing? Are they those big Mummy pant? Are you Daddy’s Mummy?”
For a split second I panicked, thinking someone had told him I was pregnant.
“Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy.”
“I thought you said you were at work.”
“You’re not. You’re at home. I’ve just rung you there.”
“Good Lord! You’re absolutely right. I’m in bed, stark naked. How long will it take you to get round here? Could you fasten your bunny tail to the Mummy pants? Then you’d be a Mummy bunny.”
I frowned, crossly. This wasn’t the right atmosphere at all. Though actually, it would be quite fun to go have a shag. I mean …
Gaaaaaaah! Gaaaaaah! I don’t know what happened. It just popped out. It was like I had absolutely no control over my speech.
There was silence at the other end and then … a click.
I’ll remember this for the rest of my life: the moment I told my baby’s father I was pregnant and he put the phone down on me.
Published: 24 November 2005