Short Story – “Expectations”

By Dora Bona

I stand in front of the full-length mirror and wrap my arms around a monstrous mound of belly. I look huge. The bright red top I picked up from the op-shop this morning does nothing for me. It’s comfortable though. And God knows, a girl in this state needs comfort!

I feel the urge to pitch forward, so I lean back, and stick my belly out to compensate for the weight. My back aches with the effort. I practice different poses in front of the mirror. Then I pile my curly black hair on top of my head and pout seductively. Sophisticated, sexy pregnant woman is the look I’m going for. Hairy beachball is the result.

Then I muss my hair, let my shoulders droop and I lurch and heave from side to side. I practise walking up and down with a firm, springy step, head held high. That’s better. Feels good.

When I’ve perfected my walk, I shower and dress. I struggle into a pair of sensible black leggings with a stretchy front panel. I pull the tent-like top over my head and step into black sandshoes. A splash of bright red lipstick and voila! I look like Roseanne on a bad day.

Over a cup of coffee, I consider the direction my life is about to take. I’m supposed to be feeling excitement, but instead I feel trepidation. I should be looking forward to the next few months, yet I feel sick with anxiety. Maybe it’s because I have no-one to share it with.

I’ve been living alone since Damien left. Within a week of telling him the news, he decided he had to go and “find himself”. Two thousand kilometers away!

“You’ve changed Karen” he told me.

“This represents commitment and security to you and I understand that. But it’s going to change things between us.”

Thinking about this now, it makes me laugh. My best friend Sherry tells me she’s heard that he’s shacked up with some dancer in Perth. And guess what. She’s expecting his baby!

I could have moved back in with mum I suppose, but I think I was born with this independent streak. Mum worries about me.

“How are you going to manage the early mornings? You’ve never been a morning person Karen” she fusses. I tell her it’s going to be okay. I’ll manage.

I finish my coffee. It’s early but I don’t want to miss the bus and be late for my appointment.

It’s a crisp, golden morning. People glance at my belly as I make my way down the street to the bus stop and I feel a little self conscious.

It’s interesting to watch the look on their faces and I wonder what they’re all thinking. Maybe they think I look a little young to be pregnant. Perhaps my jaunty walk and radiant smile reflects the excitement I feel about what’s to come.

Half an hour later, I arrive at the office of Blake Jones, whom I’ve come to know well over the last few months. The receptionist scrutinizes me as always through little square, wire-framed spectacles, perched on the end of her nose.

“He’ll be with you shortly. Please take a seat”

There are two other young women like me in the waiting room. They also look uncomfortable as they half sit, half lie on the lumpy waiting room couch. We exchange nervous nods. Then Blake Jones appears at the door of his office. He points to me.

“Come on in Karen”

So I follow him in. Uneasy. I remember what my drama teacher once told me in school. Whenever you’re nervous, take a deep breath and focus on any object in the room. Block everything else out. It helps you relax.

I focus on Blake Jones’ head. Wispy little strands of remnant red hair have been combed creatively across in a vain attempt to hide the patch that is so conspicuously unadorned. It helps.

***

Later in the evening, I sit cross-legged on my bed and sip chilled champagne. It’s an extravagance in which I don’t normally indulge.

The phone rings.

“Well?” says Sherry

“Well what?” I ask innocently

“Don’t DO this to me Karen. How did it go? What did he say? Did you make it through the final audition? Did they do the screen test? Did you get the lead for heavens sake!”

My smile fills the empty room.

“You mean the lead part of a young girl who agrees to be a surrogate mother in Blake Jones latest telemovie? The part that will earn me $150,000 for three months work and skyrocket me – I hope – to fame and fortune? Is that the part you mean?”

Sherry shrieks.

“You GOT THE PART!”

We talk for over an hour. Afterwards, I fumble with the tape that holds on my padded belly and I toss the thing on the floor. Even though I’m supposed to wear it for as long as possible each day, it’s a relief to get it off. I wonder how women who are really pregnant cope with what must be constant discomfort.

I think about my day. The most wonderful day of my life. And I read the contract I’ve just signed with Blake Jones Productions. I know that I’ll have to be up at dawn every morning, and the hours will be long, but I’m ready.

Perhaps it’s the champagne, but I just know I have that special glow.

By Dora Bona