CHAPTER 6: NEW BEGINNING
Penny woke to that familiar nauseous feeling. For the fifth time in her 38 years, she was pregnant. Her bed was warm and inviting, but she knew she would need to throw up in mere moments. Every pregnancy was the same. She was ill for the first three or four months and then her body would adjust. Today was her three month ultrasound and she was thankful to be in the final few weeks of feeling like a wreck. She headed to the bathroom and promptly vomited into the too-familiar porcelain bowl in the master bedroom’s ensuite.
Jack came to her side, “You okay, love?”
“Fine, fine,” Penny groaned, “Just morning sickness.”
Jack kissed her head and gave her a squeeze. “Want me to make breakfast today? It’s the first day of school; kids need to eat something…”
“No… I can do it,” Penny weakly replied.
“If you insist,” Jack smiled and slunk into the shower, readying himself for another day at the office.
Penny flushed and washed her hands and face off before brushing her teeth to get rid of the acidic taste of last night’s dinner. Then she headed downstairs to make breakfast. She looked in the fridge, her stomach churning at the thought of eating eggs or toast. All she could bring herself to prepare were bowls of Mini Wheats. She felt bad, but knew she would surely throw up if she even smelled eggs. Penny sat down at her usual chair in the dining room, holding her head in her hands. Not only was the nausea paralyzing, but she was fearful that her little child would be born as dependent as five, nearly six-year-old Ezra, who was completely nonverbal and wheelchair bound. Penny knew that 38 wasn’t too old to have children, but she and Jack had had the conversation about what they would do if their new baby had Down Syndrome recently, and it tore her up inside to think of another child that would never be able to live independently. Penny buried her head in her hands and tried not to cry. She was so tired.
“Mommy!” Esther shouted, “Where are my eggs?!”
Penny sat up straight and tried to gather herself. “Sorry, sweetpea. Just Mini Wheats today… I’m not feeling so well.”
Esther looked like she was going to cry. “But I’m so, so hungry…”
“Mini Wheats will fill you up until recess, my love. You’ll be okay. Have a glass of orange juice or…” Penny trailed off, feeling another wave of nausea rattle through her already feeble body.
Esther grumbled something about wishing Daddy would make her his famous eggs, but Penny wasn’t listening. She was trying to keep from projectile vomiting all over the breakfast table. She weakly got up from the table and headed to the main bathroom without a word to her youngest daughter. Penny and Jack had decided to keep the pregnancy a secret from their children until they knew for sure that it would be healthy.
She heard Elias’s heavy teenage footsteps as he lazily slunk downstairs for breakfast. He yawned loudly, “Ess, where’s Mom?”
Esther babbled something about hating Mini Wheats.
Elias groaned. He was old enough to know that his mother was likely expecting another child. He had seen this three times before. He said nothing, not wanting to upset his little sister.
“Eli, which teacher did you have in grade four?”
“Mr. Browning. He used to ring a little bell instead of yelling at us to shut up. Weird guy. I think he keeps horses now. He retired last year…”
“Oh,” Esther guzzled a second glass of orange juice. She looked nervous.
“Don’t be all freaked out about being in the intermediate grades. Grade four is super easy,” Elias reassured his sister, “Just try your best. You’re not an idiot; you’ll probably be fine.” Elias didn’t have a ton of anxiety about grade ten; all of high school seemed the same. He was just excited to finish the half day at school and come home to his Xbox and Halo.
Esther smiled and finished her soggy Mini Wheats.
Jack came down the stairs, carrying Ezra (who was nearly too big to be carried even by his father, who was a reasonably strong guy). He gave the kids a tired grin. Behind him came a sleep-deprived Edith, who had been up all night worrying about what to wear on her first day of grade seven.
Jack set Ezra down in his chair and scooted him to the table. “Ready for some breakfast, kiddo?” Jack smiled at his son, who made little to no eye contact. Ezra smiled and cooed, looking in the opposite direction. Jack scruffed up his son’s ginger hair, “Looks like eggs and bacon, Ez.” He lifted his son’s shirt and administered the syringe of liquid into the tube attached to Ezra’s stomach. Ezra had to be fed through a feeding tube due to dysphagia, a result of his cerebral palsy. “Yum,” Jack gave his son another warm smile.
“What does that stuff taste like anyway?” Esther made a disgusted face.
“It’s just different nutrients in liquid,” Jack explained, “Kind of like milk but with more stuff in it. Your brother can’t eat normal food like you guys do.”
“Oh,” Esther replied, “I hope it tastes okay.”
Jack smiled but wasn’t sure what the formula tasted like. He looked to his disabled son, wondering what the boy was thinking about, if anything. He wondered what Ezra would say, or whether he would get along with his siblings if he could speak to them.
Penny emerged from the bathroom, dark circles evident under her eyes. Her back ached from sleeping at a strange angle. “Hi kids,” she mumbled.
“Penny, you should head back to bed,” Jack warned his wife. He could tell she wasn’t up to sitting at breakfast this morning.
“I need to eat something,” she weakly replied, taking her place at the head of the table. She took a few bites of the cereal and tried her hardest to keep it down. Penny could feel her guts rejecting the Mini Wheats and ran back upstairs to the ensuite.
“It’s about time for you three to head off,” Jack said, almost ignoring his wife’s rapid exit, “I’m going to get Ezra ready to go to your aunt’s. Elias, you’re in charge. Make sure the girls get to school safely.”
“Me and Esther don’t need him! I’m old enough,” Edith tried to reassure her father.
“Safety in numbers,” Jack warned as his three able-bodied children left for school.
Esther sat down in her new, empty desk. It was a bit different than last year’s third grade class. The desks were arranged into five rows each with three pairs of desks. The curly-haired blonde girl sitting next to her was completely unfamiliar to Esther. She looked around to see where her best friend, Addison, was sitting. She was all the way across the room and was seated next to Flossie Ambrose, who was always incredibly mean to Esther during dance class. Ever since Esther had accidentally wet herself when she tried to do the splits, Flossie would talk to her as if she were a baby, asking if a baby who needed diapers could even be in their dance troupe. Flossie and Addison were completely engrossed in conversation and hadn’t noticed that Esther was even in their class. Esther was sure the blonde girl was nice, but she wished she could just sit with her friend instead. She couldn’t believe Addison would even engage with the enemy like that. She felt her face go sour and her heart freeze from perceived betrayal.
The blonde girl shyly looked at Esther, and then looked away as if she wanted to ask something but couldn’t get up the courage. She looked like she was shaking from fear. Esther started to feel bad. Starting a new school was probably pretty hard, not that she knew from experience.
“Hi,” Esther said.
The blonde girl pushed her curls out of her face, “H-hi,” she quietly replied.
“I’m Esther. Are you new?”
“What’s your name? Where did you move from?” Esther stopped herself from asking another question, hoping she wasn’t overwhelming the poor girl.
The blonde girl continued to shake. “Annie. M-my name’s Annie. Um, I came from, I mean, we moved from…” she stopped shaking for a moment putting her hands in her lap, “M-Markham.”
Esther nodded, pretending she knew where that was. “Cool, I’m from here.”
Annie awkwardly grinned and then looked away, shaking again. Her hands were pressed in her lap, arms rigid.
The blonde girl didn’t look up at all; it seemed as though she was completely ignoring her desk mate.
“Annie, are you okay?”
“F-fine.” She stared down at her desk and hid under her thick mop of blonde curls, continuing to shake and jiggle her legs.
Esther looked to Addison again, who still hadn’t noticed her. Flossie and Addison were laughing like old friends. Esther wondered if she would ever get to see her best friend.
“Hello grade fours!” the teacher greeted her students from the wooden podium at the front of the class, “I’m Mrs. Ireland. I’m going to do a quick attendance check and then a short rundown of our classroom rules and a summary of what you’re going to learn this year. Okay. Florence?”
The class was silent. Esther could hear hers and Annie’s desks bumping together as Annie jiggled her legs.
“It’s Flossie,” Flossie huffed, angry that her parents had given her such a long and ridiculous name.
“Sorry!” Mrs. Ireland apologized, flattening her black pencil skirt. She called a few more names. “Esther Dolman?”
“Here!” Esther called. She looked over at Addison, who still hadn’t noticed her.
“Here,” Addison responded, sounding bored and unapologetic as if to impress her new best friend, Flossie.
“Here,” Annie spoke just louder than a whisper. She had stopped jiggling her legs and had crossed one over the other, hands buried in the crotch of her pleated skirt. Annie didn’t even correct Mrs. Ireland on her name.
Mrs. Ireland continued to list off the names of their classmates as Esther took another peek at Annie. She looked incredibly uncomfortable. Her legs squeezing together as she scuffed the soles of her black maryjanes together. Annie let out a tiny whimper.
Esther gave her desk mate a poke and whispered, “Are you okay?”
Annie finally turned to Esther, tears in her eyes. She shook her head, no. “I have to go to the washroom really, really bad…” Annie whispered so quietly that Esther didn’t quite hear.
“What?” Esther mouthed.
Annie let out a horrified gasp, so loud that the whole class heard. She lifted her hands from her crotch to reveal a growing wet spot. She quickly tried to cover it up with her sweater, but there was no use. There was a small stream of pee that wasn’t being absorbed into Annie’s uniform trickling down and hitting the brown carpeted floor. She looked to Esther, completely mortified.
Mrs. Ireland looked to the two girls, instantly realizing what was going on. “Esther, why don’t you take Annabelle to the nurse to get cleaned up…”
With that, Addison and Flossie turned to see what had happened. The two girls began giggling amongst themselves. The rest of the class stared at Annie, shocked but amused by her misfortune.
Esther took her new friend’s hand and they did their walk of shame out of the classroom.
“You need a full bladder for us to do a proper ultrasound,” the receptionist said.
Penny sighed. She knew the feeling all too well and wasn’t looking forward to the discomfort. At least the morning sickness had subsided. She looked to Jack as the receptionist handed her a cup of water. Jack wore an incredible grin. The ultrasound was his favourite part of the pregnancy journey.
The bell rang for recess and Esther grabbed a ziploc baggie of carrots and her water bottle. She saw Annie had the same thing. “I got carrots too,” Esther said.
Annie didn’t say anything.
“Do you wanna hang out?” Esther asked, taking a big sip of her water.
Annie shrugged. “I didn’t think anyone would want to hang out with me…”
“Cause you peed?” Esther whispered.
Annie nodded, her blonde curls bouncing and partly covering her face.
“It’s okay,” Esther looked around to make sure nobody was listening, and then whispered, “Don’t worry. I peed my pants once too.”
Annie looked uncomfortable and meekly replied, “Let’s not talk about it.”
The two wandered the school grounds, eating carrots and talking about Annie’s old school in Markham. Whenever Annie brought up her hometown, she looked like she was going to cry. Esther couldn’t help but feel bad for Annie, but as she eyed Addison and Flossie from across the playground, she felt extreme jealousy. Esther wished she could swap places with Flossie as she saw the two girls giggling and pointing at her and Annie.
“They’re laughing at me,” Annie self consciously whispered.
Esther didn’t want to lie to her new friend, so she said nothing and led Annie in the opposite direction of the playground. She took another gulp of water and realized she hadn’t gone to the bathroom since before breakfast. Esther felt a little tingle in her bladder, but just as she was going to excuse herself, the bell rang and the girls made their way back to class.
“Are you ready?” Jack asked, Cheshire cat grin across his face.
Penny gritted her teeth, trying to keep from leaking. “Yup,” she quickly retorted.
“Mrs. Dolman? The doctor is running a bit behind. He’ll be with you in the next twenty-ish minutes,” the receptionist interrupted.
Penny let out a sigh, squeezing Jack’s hand.
“I know it’s uncomfortable, but it’ll be over before you know it,” the receptionist tried to comfort Penny.
“Yup. I know,” Penny was a bit short at this point, but her urine was ready to escape and resistance was futile. She pressed her legs together, trying not to make it obvious how badly she needed a release.
Jack rubbed his wife’s back. “Just hold on,” he seductively whispered.
“I hope you all had a nice little break,” Mrs. Ireland warmly greeted her grade four class. “Our next class is gym. Please grab your gym clothes and head down to the change rooms. I’ll meet you in the gymnasium.”
Esther smiled giddily. “I love gym!” she told Annie. Esther got bored sitting at a desk for too long, especially when she had to write out math problems or find grammar corrections. Even reading was a struggle for her, unless the book was incredibly captivating. It was part of the reason her parents put her in dance instead of music lessons. Esther and Annie went to their cubbies and grabbed their uniformed gym strip.
“I don’t really like gym,” Annie admitted.
“But it’s easy and all you do is run around and play games!” Esther tried to get her new best friend on board with her favourite class. She felt another twinge in her bladder, but was incredibly thankful that she had time to pee before class.
Annie shrugged. “I’m not good at running and stuff.” She looked down at her shoes.
“It’s okay,” Esther replied, “Just have fun!” She was trying not to do the potty dance in front of her new friend, but she felt herself getting more and more desperate as the moments went by.
Before she could use the bathroom, Esther decided to change into her gym clothes. She sat down on the wooden change room bench and pulled down her blue pleated skirt. Her legs were jiggling now, trying to keep her pee at bay. She squeezed her legs together, holding on as best she could. Pulling on the matching blue shorts proved to be a bit more difficult. Her thighs were pressed tightly together and loosening them made her leak just a little into her panties. Esther gasped, feeling a spurt of wetness. She quickly pulled on the white t-shirt and set down her gym bag, her uniform safely tucked away inside. “I’ll be right back,” she told Annie and walked briskly down the hall to the girls’ bathroom. With each step, her bladder bounced around inside her, desperately wanting to release its contents into her blue cotton shorts. Esther stopped for a moment, trying to adjust herself, one leg wrapped around the other.
“Esther!” Mrs. Ireland called, “What are you doing? We’re starting a game of dodgeball.”
“I just needed to go-”
“Come with me, there’s no escape from your first PE class of the year,” Mrs. Ireland ignored Esther’s plea, pulling her arm and forcing her into the gym.
Esther held tighter, her knees pressed together, one ankle wrapped around the other.
“Where were you?” Annie asked.
“I tried to go to the bathroom, but Mrs. Ireland said I had to come to class,” Esther replied, pressing on her crotch. She adjusted herself again. Maybe she could make it for a little while.
On the other side of the gym, Addison and Flossie were snickering and pointing at Annie, pretending they needed to go pee and miming Annie’s actions. Flossie threw a ball in Annie and Esther’s direction, missing them by a hair. Esther shot her ex-best-friend an angry stare and threw the ball back to them with little to no force or accuracy. Usually she was much better at sport, but today her efforts were focused elsewhere. She felt another spurt leak into her panties and squeezed harder. Esther knew she wouldn’t make it much longer.
Esther grabbed herself and sauntered over to her teacher. “Mrs. Ireland?”
The teacher looked down at her desperate student, “Yes?”
“Can I go to the bathroom?” Esther asked, barely able to keep still.
“Esther, you just had recess. I think you can hold it at least until the end of the game. Can you wait five minutes?”
Esther pressed harder on her crotch. “But-”
“I need you to wait,” Mrs. Ireland replied, “You’re a big girl. You can hold it.”
Esther whimpered and headed back to her friend.
“I thought you needed to use the washroom,” Annie said.
“She wouldn’t let me go,” Esther whined, “And I have to go so bad…” Esther danced, rubbing her thighs together. Her potty dance wasn’t helping. She didn’t think she would make it another second, let alone another five. Esther knew there wasn’t any point in asking again. She dug her hand into her crotch and bent her knees, trying to hold on.
“Are you okay?!” Annie gasped, feeling instant empathy.
“N-no… I have to go pee really bad…” Esther whimpered. Her legs were shaking. She felt another gush of pee soak her panties.
Mrs. Ireland walked over to Esther and grabbed her arm, “Esther, if you really need to go that badly, then go ahead.”
Esther was shaking, both hands pressing hard on her crotch. She could barely move, but tried to shuffle off as quickly as she could to the bathrooms. She felt another fierce spurt soak her panties and shorts. Esther could see the door to the girls room just a few feet away. Another pang of desperation hit. It was too much for Esther to hold in. She sprang a leak, trying to plug it with her hands, but failing. Pee soaked her blue cotton shorts and dribbled a few drops onto the laminate floors. Esther tried to keep holding as she entered the bathroom and pushed open the first stall. She had to go so badly, she didn’t even close the door. Esther squeezed herself one last time and tried to pull down her shorts, but it was too late. Her bladder could take no more, and burst from her hold. Pee rushed through her already sopping underwear, drenching her absorbent cotton gym shorts. She sat down on the toilet, pee dripping from her clothes into the toilet. Then the bathroom door swung open, revealing a stern looking Mrs. Ireland. Esther looked up at her new teacher, then down at her wet shorts and began to cry a river of tears.
Penny’s legs were shaking. “How long is this going to take?” she asked, trying to hide that she was bursting.
“Not long,” the doctor replied, applying the cold jelly to her patient’s abdomen, “You must be ready to burst.”
Penny shivered, leaking a bit into her underwear. She tried to smile in response, but just looked uncomfortable. The ultrasound machine began to make its familiar whirring heartbeat sounds as her baby was revealed.
The doctor wore a look of mild concern, moving the transducer around and searching for abnormalities. Her expression went from concerned to intrigue. “Looks like you two are expecting twins.”
“Twins?!” Penny was shocked, but excited.
Jack tried not to think about the complications of two babies and their already very dependent six-year-old son and feigned joy.
“Everything looks good so far. Do you want to know the sexes?”
Penny looked to Jack, whose once blissful state seemed to fade.
Jack exhaled, trying to focus on the task at hand. “Yes please.” He smiled at his wife, thinking of the evening of their child’s conception. His pants soaked in her urine. Their passionate exchange in a dark alley. Jack realized he would never be able to tell this story to anyone and began concocting a lie about the twins’ conception, should he ever have to tell that story.
Penny and Jack sat at the kitchen table, holding hands and beaming at each other. Ezra sat next to his father, dazed in his wheelchair. Esther had just come home from school with her wet bag of gym strip and underpants that she had thrown directly into the washing machine in hopes that nobody would know about her accident. She sat next to her brother, Elias, who looked just as put-out as she was. Elias sat boredly with his elbows on the table, hands holding his face up in a blank stare. He wasn’t excited for another kid. Where were they going to sleep? His room was far too small to share. Ezra needed the other small room. Edith and Esther were already sharing a room… Elias sighed and looked to Edith, who had no idea what was going on. She was sitting at the edge of her seat in excited anticipation. Elias wished he was still in grade seven and had her innocence.
“Kids, I have something to tell you,” Penny excitedly said.
Elias rolled his eyes. He knew exactly what was being announced. It made him angry. It seemed irresponsible to be having another child when they already had the burden of looking after Ezra.
“I just wanted you all to know,” Penny began, trying to downplay her excitement, “the reason I’ve been sick lately is because… I’m pregnant! You’re going to have two little sisters in March.”
“Are you excited, Daddy?” Esther asked.
Jack gave her a half-smile, “I’ll be excited when we know for sure that your little sisters are healthy. For now, I’m trying not to think about it too much.”
Elias had never seen his father look so concerned about a pregnancy. Even when Ezra was diagnosed, Dad never seemed too put out. He didn’t want to ask Dad any more about it. His sisters remained silent as well.