Ms. Kangaroo Pouch

“Are you going to wear that?” Bailey’s eyes skim over me once, and then pass over me a second time. Her eyes are focussed on my stomach as she waits for me to answer.

“Errr,” I eloquently answer. Bailey’s one of my closest friends. I’ve known her since kindergarten when we would tell each other secrets and then, pinky swear we’d never tell anyone else.

Bailey appeared to be in a particularly foul mood today when she arrived at my house. She threw her purse on the couch and flopped down beside it. I know it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but if you knew Bailey, you’d know she’s never like that. She’s poised and gentle and always in control of every situation. It’s one of the reasons I admire her so much.

I don’t really understand the reason why she’s so upset. After all, it’s a let’s-have-lunch-and-then-shop-day versus a 9-to-5-why-is-the-copier-jamming-AGAIN?-day.

“Yes,” I finally say after locating my verbal skills. “Why?”

Bailey peers at me with an “inspector’s look” as if I were a cow that was about to be sold at market. She says, “I wouldn’t if I were you. You’ve got a kangaroo’s momma’s pouch going on there!” she points at my belly and tosses her head back in laughter.

I place a protective hand over my swollen tummy. Okay, maybe granola for breakfast was a bad idea. Or, maybe I just eat too much. I shift uncomfortably and keep my hand on my stomach, trying to block her view of it.

Bailey gives me a half smile. Silence hangs heavily in the air between us. A few seconds later she says, “We have time. You could change.”

“Okay,” I answer as I blink back tears that sting my eyes.  I take the stairs two at a time while taking a deep breath in.

Bailey’s never like that. I must look really terrible if she felt like she needed to say something. When I arrive in my bedroom I stare at myself. In horror, I realize she’s right: Oh god! I look like I’m pregnant – with twins!

I’ve been upstairs for nearly ten minutes. Pulling on a pink dress, control top pantyhose, and matching Gucci shoes, I take a peek at myself in the mirror. I don’t want Bailey to see me if I don’t look perfect. Turning sideways, it’s still there.

Why don’t I own any loose fitting dresses?

I yank the shoes off, slide out of the pantyhose, and wiggle the dress off over my head.  There’s a mountain of clothes that I’ve thrown across my bed. I stare at the heap and pull one of my bulky grey winter sweaters out of the pile with a baggy pair of jeans. It’s a little warm for it, but not by much. The forecast is ten degrees, not twenty-five degrees. I won’t look like I’m hiding something. It’s springtime, I argue with myself. You can still wear sweaters in the spring.

“Hey, Mackenzie, are you almost ready?” Bailey bellows from downstairs. We need to leave now, if we’re going to make our reservation!” her voice booms from the family room.

I emerge from my bedroom still pulling the sweater over my head. But it’s just me and Bailey here, so there’s no chance someone else will see my pink flabby skin. Charging down the stairs, I race down the steps with too much speed. I misjudge with the last two stairs where one step starts, and the other ends, and my heel slips and I skid to the bottom of the foyer.  The only thing that saved me was that for the first time in my life, I had my hand on the railing.

Bailey’s seated on the couch and is flipping through my National Geographic Traveller magazines.

I mumble, “Sorry,” as I enter the room. She tosses the magazine aside when she sees me, stands up and says, “That’s better,” as she nods her head with approval.

Then she raises a finger to my eye and brushes it while saying, “You just have a smudge of eyeliner there. It kind of makes you look like a racoon,” she says with a snort.

I scrunch my face at her as heat rises in me.  “Maybe we should go to the farm,” I retort with bitterness that seeps through me.

“Sorry,” Bailey says while taking her hands off my face and backing up.

“Maybe, we should go to the farm. After all, you’ve already called me a kangaroo and a racoon.”

“Listen,” she says. “I’m just trying to help you. Would you really want to go out looking like you did?”

I shrug my shoulders at her. No. But I don’t say that. As a matter of fact, I got nothing. So I stand there stupidly. And everyone knows the problem with silence, is that if you can’t come up with a snappy come-back, it automatically implies the other person’s right, and you’re wrong.

“And seriously, your eyeliner was all smudged. You could make more of an effort!”

I rub my eye. “It probably smudged when I was trying on clothes,” I say grabbing my purse. “Are you ready to go?” I ask turning around to face her.

“Yeah,” Bailey huffs as her heels hit the floor and she clip-clops towards the front entrance.

As I stick my key in the door and begin to pull it closed, Mrs. Chrystenson walks up the front path.

“Dearie,” she says carrying a plant up my walkway.  “Here’s one of the ferns from my garden. I just pulled it out right away after we talked this morning. So, I wouldn’t forget. Oh…” her voice trails off, “what happened to the lovely blue dress you were wearing this morning?”

“Oh,” I glance at Bailey and answer, “it was a little tight.”

“Where?” Mrs. Chrystenson asks. Her face is the lovely smoothness of calm that woman of a certain age get when they’ve seen it all. She genuinely looks like she has no idea. It’s not that “look” people give you when they know, and they’re just being nice; or they’re secretly trying to get you to say how terrible you looked, so that way they can quietly snicker at you.

Bailey hangs onto her purse and leans against the stone wall of my house. Breathing out, she announces, “in the tummy.”

Embarrassed, my cheeks turn pink, and I drop my head. I wish I were somewhere else.

“Oh,” Mrs. Chrystenson says. I raise my eyes and notice my neighbour’s lips purse together at Bailey. “Did you tell her that?” she asks Bailey.

Bailey stands up straight as her shoulders square off towards Mrs. Chrystenson. “Yes,” Bailey answers, “I’m trying to live more honestly. So, I’m going to say what I think from now on.”

“Huh, well… I’ve always found that there are versions of honesty. Depending on who’s giving the version of the truth, it’s peppered by things that have happened in their own lives.”

I blink at Bailey and watch her jaw tighten and tears fill her eyes. She’s a good friend. I need to defend her. “No, she was right. The dress made me look like I was at the end of my first trimester with twins. I didn’t notice it at first, until she pointed it out.”

“Oh yes, well…” she says as she continues walking up the path and places the fern down on my front porch.

She glances over at Bailey and me, and nods.

“Well, you have a very astute friend. Good of her to look out for you. Have a nice day,” she says as she walks down the pathway.

“You too,” I say. I glance down at the fern and add, “And, thank you for the plant.”

“Quite welcome, my dear,” she says turning to me as she pulls her flowered gardening gloves off. “You know, it’s interesting what people see.  My son had a motorcycle accident years ago.  Terrible things. They should ban them!” she says shaking her head. “Anyways, he broke his helmet and he had a three inch scar down the side of his face. He was lucky to be alive. After the accident, he didn’t want to date. Thought that he looked too hideous. But I would make him go to the grocery store and get my groceries after my husband died. He met a beautiful young woman there who happened to be the whole package as well.” She turns and begins to walk down the pathway.

I hate it when old people do that. Don’t finish a story. Just leaving you hanging… It’s like they feel like you should know. But we want to know, for certain, how the darn thing ends.

I’ve been baited, and I know it. Reluctantly, I sigh and say, “And?”

Laughing she says, “She never saw the scar until he pointed it out. It had faded with time. But for him, it was as big as the day it was when the Doctor stitched it up. They’re happily married now. Baby number two is on the way. It will be my fourth grandchild.”

“Congratulations,” I beam at Mrs. Chrystenson.

“Thank you,” she says. For a second she pauses, and then says, “in the name of honesty, I didn’t notice. I thought the dress looked lovely on you.” With a shrug of her shoulders, a gentle smile, she then turns, and walks away.

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