She would have to endure the winter to get through to the spring, though: four months of impending sleet and snowclouds hovering in blue skies made gray. But four months was hardly that long. She could handle it.
November had Thanksgiving, and that would be fine. Her family was all coming to town. Grandma said it was going to be her last one before bowing out onto her Heavenly reward, but Grandma said that every year and 79 wasn't really that old, all things considered. She'd be able to make that huckleberry pie with the garden-grown crop that her aunt Amy was going to bring from the small farm they had just annexed in rural Washington. Darren and the rest of her cousins would bring their puppy--she could never remember its name, just the feeling of its fur beneath her bite-riddled fingernails--and everyone would feel nice.
December had Christmas, which would be nearly a repeat of Thanksgiving, but on a smaller scale. John was bringing his new girlfriend home for the first time, and everyone would be distracted with how pretty and smart and unlike the rest of John's girlfriends she was. Like the last four years, Dad would make everyone tell their favorite story about Mom and they'd all stare wistfully into the snap-crackle-popping fireplace and pretend to be longingly recollecting in their minds when they were really just avoiding eye contact with each other. But they'd have a nice goodbye at the airport, John would start crying like he always did, and she and Dad would drive home in silence.
January would be the new year. Fresh start. Clean slate. Enough resolutions to bleach the last year away. She'd start working out again, go out more often, make new friends, get to church every Sunday (or at least every other Sunday, since burnout is, like, a documented phenomenon) and things would slow down. She'd take her time cleaning the house from the Christmas festivities, and Dad would eventually start to retreat into the recesses of his brain again. Which was better than his other methods, all things considered. The utilitarian in her commended the resourcefulness that propelled him to action, even if it was primarily that of holding back. She knew how hard things had been for him.
But February would be hard. And not just because it was the last hoorah of winter and, accordingly, the toughest. No, that was when she was due. She had already found all of the maternity clothes that she wanted, dreading her future belly bulge with a fear reserved for prison time. And February would be the peak of that. She wouldn't really be able to work out much after all, would she? And where would a eight-and-a-half-months pregnant single girl go out, anyway? Most of her friends had left her behind--she understood why, but it didn't make it sting any less--and she had certainly started a prenatal diet, which would be into full swing by Halloween, let alone Valentine's Day.
She didn't know how Dad would deal with that. Quietly, probably. And given her due date (February 17th), he'd probably have more on his mind. He would most likely ask her not to say anything to the family--they had been through so much and this might really bother some of them--so she'd keep it mostly to herself, but she couldn't imagine that he'd be anything but helpful and supportive. Holding hair back during morning sickness-induced, hands-and-knees-and-porcelain throwup, driving her to Lamaze class and waiting patiently outside (he'd probably draw the line at coming in with her), and taking her to the hospital when her close little family was about to add another.
Everything of Mom's had gone straight to Dad, and she figured that, as the sole living female in the immediate family, she was entitled to her wardrobe. But despite Mom's dresses, coats, and even the three pairs of cowboy boots she found hiding behind a shoe rack of bland pumps, the only thing she decided to take out of the closet was that cashmere sweater that she always remembered her wearing on cold days. The one that looked terminally ironed and pressed, like it used oxygen as a professional-grade steam cleaner. Its blue complimented the green of her eyes and the gold of her hair and even after all this time, it still smelled like her. No matter how many times she wore it, no matter how often she cried to sleep in it, no matter how many times the nice woman at the dry-cleaning place told her to keep it in mothballs, it always smelled like Mom.
She stretched the material over her head and inserted her arms into sleeves like stuffing in a turkey. It fit like a prayer and she put a small hand onto the stomach that, like the trees that'd just be beginning to blossom in the next eight months or so, would be growing soon.
You're growing in there, aren't you, she thought, slender fingers drifting across the cloudy blue sweater reaching just above her waist. Maybe I'll name you "Petal."