All We Have

They found the swing at a yard sale. Tim hadn’t wanted to stop. He found pawing through other people’s belongings a sordid activity, like some dirty voyeur peering through the young girl’s curtain across the street. But Cindy had been earnest, and he found it difficult to say no to her. So they’d pulled over and parked.

Tim hovered at the edge, pretending not to look at anything while his fiancée dived right in. It was some treasure hunt for her, the adventure she’d missed out on as a child and now found necessary to pursue whenever chance allowed.

Tim watched Cindy for a few minutes before walking off to admire the river that flowed behind the house. It was spring and the water was rushing by, seeping over the banks. It was an impressive sight, and Tim was so intent upon it he did not hear Cindy approach.

“Hey, look what I got.” She held out a plastic baby swing with a tiny pink sticker on it that read $1.

“Awww. I thought we weren’t going to do that,” moaned Tim.

“But it’s so cute. And it was only a buck.”

“That’s not the point. I don’t want to jinx anything.”

“God. How old are you?” asked Cindy as she dropped her arm, the swing settling in the grass.

“Whatever.” Tim threw his hand up and walked back to the truck.

•••

It had been a surprise for both of them when Cindy found out she was pregnant. She had been married once before – for six years to a used car salesman – and during that time had tried unsuccessfully to have a child. She looked into everything, but nothing had worked, and Cindy had come to believe she wasn’t meant to have kids.

Her period had been late, which wasn’t unusual as her running – between twenty and thirty-five miles a week– kept her body fat low and played havoc with its regularity. But this time she’d felt something was different, and Cindy bought a home test at the local Rite-Aid.

She kept the e.p.t. kit in the top drawer of her dresser for two weeks before getting up the nerve to bring it out. It was a Thursday morning, her day off, and Tim was just getting ready to leave for work. He had freight that day and the sun wasn’t yet up as he did his best to tiptoe around the house in his work boots. Cindy had called down to him as he was just turning out the light in the front room and asked him to wait.

Explaining what she was thinking down over the banister, Tim had just stood at the bottom of the stairs, mute with a confused look on his face. He remained in that spot as Cindy walked into the bathroom and peed onto the plastic stick. A minute later she came back into the upper hall, hands shaking as tears trickled down her cheeks.

With a cracked voice she told Tim, “It’s positive.”

He wasn’t able to move at first, but as the words sunk in, he took the steps two at a time, running up to hug his fiancée. Cindy couldn’t stop crying, and Tim couldn’t tell if she was happy or not. He wanted to ask, but was afraid of the answer. Instead, he’d kissed her on the forehead telling her she should get some rest, and left, noting that he was already running late.

All day at work his stomach had been in knots. But that night he returned home to a candlelit dinner and Cindy happier than he could remember.

•••

“What is wrong with you?” Cindy slammed the truck door as she reached for her seatbelt.

“We aren’t supposed to say anything until after the first trimester. What if something goes wrong?” snapped Tim as he turned the ignition and gunned the engine.

“Jesus Christ! You act like some two-year-old who’d pee his pants if he walked under a ladder or saw a black cat in the middle of the street. I don’t get you.”

“I wish you would have mentioned that before we got engaged.” Tim glared at the road as he spoke.

“Fucker,” Cindy spat under her breath as she slouched down in her seat, wrapping her arms tightly around her body.

It wasn’t long after Tim and Cindy got home that they apologized to one another. After supper they went out and decided on where to hang the swing. Choosing a large oak tree up away from the road, Cindy supervised as Tim threw the ropes over one of the lower branches and leveled the swing.

The next morning, Tim’s parents stopped over, surprising the two of them as they sipped coffee at their kitchen table. The young couple looked up as Tim’s mother came through the door – her mouth twitching slightly, eyes bright and wide – followed by his father whose look of mild disinterest never seemed to change.

“Well,” said his mother. “When were you going to tell us?”

The caffeine had not yet burned away the fog on their brains, and Tim and Cindy found it difficult to understand what she was asking. They looked at each other, finding the same puzzlement in the other’s eyes, and then returned their gaze to Tim’s mother.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom,” said Tim as he cupped the tall mug before him and took another long sip of Colombia’s finest.

“The swing,” she replied, pointing through the dining room toward the side yard.

“Oh, that. It’s just for show,” said Tim, averting his eyes as he spoke.

“You shit,” said Cindy. “I’m sorry Diane.

“We found out a couple of weeks ago,” she continued. “Our first appointment is next Tuesday.”

“Oooohh. I’m going to be a grandma.”

“Yes, Ma,” moaned Tim as he rubbed sleep from his eyes. “But until Cindy sees the doctor next week, we don’t know much. So you can calm down.

“Have some coffee if you want,” Tim offered his mother.

“I don’t want coffee. I want to go shopping for my granddaughter.”

“Ma.”

“Diane,” said Tim’s father, Samuel. His wife shot him a look, which he accepted with a smile.

“Now,” continued Tim’s father. “We just stopped to see if you wanted to go for a ride to Aunt Elvie’s. But it appears you’re not up for any morning activities, and I’ve no doubt you have plans of your own. So, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be heading out.”

“You don’t have to go so fast,” said Cindy.

“No. We’ve got other things to get to today, so we should be off. But it would be nice if you came over to the house for supper tonight,” said Samuel.

“That would be nice. We’ll be over around six,” replied Cindy.

“Good. We’ll see you then.” Samuel directed his wife out the door and nodded to the pair as he pulled the door closed behind him. Tim and Cindy enjoyed the rest of their coffee and then got ready for the day.

•••

The next few months were spent converting the spare bedroom into a nursery – new paint (robin’s egg blue), a crib from Cindy’s parents, cute paintings of cuddly bears and tigers, pastel baskets for outfits, onesies, and blankets, a changing table, and other necessities. It came together relatively fast with help from both sets of grandparents, who also felt it necessary to impart their own parental knowledge (except for Tim’s father). Schedules, “proper” toys, and many other topics were discussed as baby stories resurfaced, many of which both Cindy and Tim would have preferred remain buried. It was hectic but enjoyable.

At four months, the gray blob in the ultrasound pictures cooperated, and Tim and Cindy knew they were having a baby girl. Pink was added to the color mix in the nursery as Tim went to a local craft store and purchased wooden letters to spell out the new girl’s name, A-N-N-E. Cindy had suggested the name, and her husband had no objections.

Month five Cindy began to show, a bump hinted at beneath her clothing. She had continued to work out – running when it was comfortable, walking if it was not – and was constantly getting remarks from co-workers and friends about how small she was. She noted the hint of jealousy in some of the comments, but she had long since gotten used to such things.

They had a baby shower for Cindy at month six, an afternoon full of stories, joking, gifts, and cake. Her older sister reassured Cindy that she’d not allowed their mother to buy the cake (Cindy’s Mom would have gotten one of those sheet cakes from Stop ‘N Shop with the whipped cream posing as frosting). Cindy cut the pieces small enough so she would be able to take a large portion of the cake home with her after the shower.

A week later, Cindy started to have pains in her abdominal area. She had Tim take her to the doctor’s when he got home from work that day.

•••

Friends can’t understand why Tim and Cindy leave the swing up. Cindy’s Mom broached the subject soon after she was discharged from the hospital, but Cindy didn’t want to discuss it.

For weeks, Cindy kept to herself, unable to go back to work, refusing to leave the house most days. She would sit in the front room, staring out the window at the swing as the breeze would rock it back and forth, the ghost of their baby kicking her legs to keep it moving. Cindy would feel a knot twist in her stomach and cry uncontrollably for hours, her voice frail and barely audible at the end of one of these breakdowns.

But after a while, Cindy conditioned herself not to see the swing when she peered through the window or walked in the yard. It became a blind spot, allowing her eventually to return to work some weeks later.

Tim had thrown himself into his work even more than he’d done before. It was his way of coping. He too ignored the swing, as they both also ignored the closed door in their upper hallway. Never one for confrontation, Tim preferred to leave the swing alone and hope that it might fade away on its own.

Or maybe Cindy would get pregnant again. He couldn’t dwell on this thought very much – it hurt too much, dredging up emotions he wanted to keep bottled – but he could hope. It was all he had left.

Hope, and the swing.

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