“Hey, Sunshine,” Brian Ottomas hugged Meadow Thayer. He couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t her usual happy self though. Meadow had called him up over at his mother’s house to ask him to come over for dinner. He hadn’t seen her in a few months—the last time he’d been in town.
“Hi, Brian,” she finally smiled, “Gee, it’s good to see you.”
Brian had called her Sunshine ever since they were in middle school. He'd said she had sunshiny hair and a sunshiny personality.
“I come bearing gifts, and good news, too. Well, it’s good news for me; I don’t know that it will be good news for you.” The gifts were doughnuts from the bakery that he retrieved from his car. Meadow exercised religiously, but she had a real sweet tooth.
While she prepared their meal Meadow kept up a running dialogue of small talk, and Brian refrained from asking what was really on her mind.
“So what’s the good news?” she asked as they sat down to eat.
“I’m going off the road.”
“Really? What about Wayne and Tim?
“That’s part of the good news: Dylan wants a house band at the club and he wants us to be the band. Therefore, all three of us are going off the road; which makes Tim’s wife and my mother very happy.”
Dylan was Brian’s older brother and the owner and manager of Club Dante.
“That’s wonderful, Brian! I hope this means I’ll get to see you more often.”
“If you’d like; you know how your every wish is my command, kiddo.”
Meadow grinned, Brian always cheered her up; and then she grew serious.
“I have some news, too,” she paused for a moment and then rushed on, “I’m going to have a baby.”
Brian never missed a beat, “Fantastic, I love kids.”
“It’s not an accident, I want to have a child, but perhaps I didn’t think it through when it came to how and who,” she spoke slowly.
He waited for her to explain further, since she had brought it up but when she didn’t, Brian started to change the subject to something innocuous.
“I have enough money to do this on my own,” Meadow interrupted him in her gentle voice, “And you know how independent I’ve always been. But now it turns out I’m suddenly a little scared of it all. I haven’t told anyone but you, Brian. I just needed someone to talk to about it. I’m not really close to any of our old friends anymore. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course I don’t mind. If there is anything at all I can do to help, I want you to let me know. Remember, I’ll be right in town from now on and, except for when I work, I can come over whenever you need me.”
After supper Brian helped Meadow clear the table and they moved out to the living room.
She still didn’t enlighten him as to who the father was.
“I guess it was a selfish move on my part—I didn’t tell the guy what I planned, but I really wanted a child before it was too late for me. I wanted to carry my own child.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to tell him? I mean, I’d want to know.”
“I can’t tell him now; he’s married. I mean he wasn’t married then, but he got married after. He has a new baby, too.
“Well, he’s a regular Johnny Appleseed, isn’t he?” Brian let his sarcasm roll out. Meadow didn’t mind; that was just Brian.
A question occurred to her now,
“Brian, do you have any children?”
He smiled, “Not that I’m aware of—I’ve always been pretty careful. But it’s possible I suppose; I sure haven’t lived a monk’s life”
It was odd for Meadow to think of Brian in a sexual way; he was her good friend and, except for his tragic romance with Corinne, she’d never seen him with a woman.
“You should have found someone by now and got married,” Meadow smiled, “I’ve always said you’re the sweetest guy that nobody knows about.”
“I beg your pardon; there are two women--besides you--who have said I was sweet.”
“Really? I know Corinne must be the first; who’s the second?”
Brian could at last not tighten up when Corinne’s name was mentioned. It had taken years. He looked embarrassed now though.
“The second one, well, she never really knew me, but she thought she did. She thought I was wonderful. Poor deluded girl.”
“What went wrong?” Meadow asked pointedly.
He shrugged, “Just not meant to be, she was underage. She just had a teenage crush on me, nothing could come of it.”
“Really?” Meadow was somewhat astonished.
“I know, I’m a perv,” Brian rolled his eyes and blushed, which made Meadow even more surprised.
“I’m sure you are not. Brian, you haven’t forgot her, have you.”
Only Meadow could get away with probing like this. His sister used to infuriate him when she tried.
“Don’t be silly, she was just a kid…it was just, well, there was something about her. For one thing she looked a lot like Corinne, but after I talked to her a while I forgot the similarity completely. The girl was a joyful soul.”
“Did you ever see her again?”
“Well, she went off to university, but I saw her once when she came to shop at Goth’s. Just for a minute.”
It was a little bit of a relief to talk about it to Meadow.
“Oh, she was practically engaged. I’m sure by now she’s probably married.”
“She haunts you, doesn’t she.”
“No, she does not haunt me, you dodo bird.”
“What did she look like?”
“Black hair, she wore it like yours, actually, a very sweet smile and blue eyes. Laughing eyes they were.”
Meadow smiled; Brian didn’t even have to think about it or search his memory.
“What are you grinning about?” Brian demanded.
“Oh, nothing.” She haunted him all right Meadow thought.
So the schedule that was first decided on was that twice a week Brian would stop by Meadow’s house just to see if she wanted anything or needed cheering up. She began to really look forward to his visits, much more than Brian would ever have guessed. Whenever he came through the door asking “What’s happenin’, hot stuff?” her anxieties melted away, at least for a while. Sometimes, but not often, he talked her into going with him to a movie or to the park.
Meanwhile, Meadow went to her obstetrician regularly and took all her vitamins. She worked in her greenhouse every day and painted in her studio on rainy days. She wanted to be sure she was really taking good care of herself. One uncomfortable day she was getting groceries and the man in question was there. He was friendly as always; obviously he could have no idea about the baby, Meadow was barely showing. In fact he seemed to be in an extra good mood as he showed pictures of his baby to anyone who would look. Maybe someday she would tell him about his other baby, but not for a long time.
For his part, Brian began to schedule his time around both work and going by Meadow’s home. The visits to check on Meadow were a little more often now. She was such a sweet kid and seemed so alone that he couldn’t figure it out. She was intelligent and beautiful, what was wrong with the eligible men in this town? Her little tummy had suddenly pooched out and she finally looked pregnant. She seemed more hesitant to go out of her home into town than ever and Brian realized she was afraid of running into the father who might guess when he saw she was pregnant.. One night Meadow decided to explain a little more about the situation, while still keeping the name of her baby’s father out of it
“I guess you’ve been wondering all this time about who the father is and how this all came to be.”
“Sunshine, it’s none of my business.”
Meadow smiled, “You’re my friend, Brian, and you’re going to some trouble to help me out. I think you deserve to know the truth.”
“If that’s what you want.”
“I do. Now how to start? I knew I wanted a child some time ago. I thought about artificial insemination, but couldn’t decide. Of course, I hadn’t dated anyone in about five years.”
“What? Why not?”
“Oh, I was so involved in my career then, Brian. And there just wasn’t anyone in Pleasantview that I was interested in at the time. Then I met this guy and eventually he asked me over for lunch. He was fairly new in town. I was aware that he was kind of a player, but I didn’t mind; I was not looking for a serious romance. The next time he asked me over I had made up my mind. He was attractive and intelligent and I figured he had good genes. I convinced him that I was on the pill—which I’m not—and he, well, he didn’t worry about protection.”
Brian sat forward in his chair and leveled his grey eyes on Meadow’s blue ones.
“My sweet Meadow. You need a good spanking. Do you realize how dangerous that was? You said he’s a player and that you barely knew him.”
She looked ashamed,
“I know but I took the chance. Of course, I had no way of knowing if I’d conceive, so I saw him a couple more times. I really did kind of like him, it just was not serious. Anyway, he sort of disappeared for a while there. But I did get pregnant. I know you must think I’m awful.”
“I do not think you're awful. But shouldn’t you let this guy know so he can maybe help out? I know he’s married, but still.”
“I told you—he has a new baby. And he has no idea I tricked him.”
“Well, I’m here to help out so not to worry,” Brian took her hand because she had begun to cry. He could have kicked himself for bringing it up again.
"So, okay, how about I start supper so we don’t starve?” he added.
After the meal they relaxed playing video games and Meadow realized again what a fantastic person Brian was. But she’d never before thought about howgood-looking he was or how beautiful his light gray eyes were. He’d always just been Brian, her buddy. But suddenly she thought he looked rather virile. What was wrong with the women he met--were they blind? And he was a talented musician to boot!
Meadow got up the nerve that night to discuss with Brian what she’d wanted to ask for a week now; if he would stay at her home full-time until the baby was born.
“I realize it’s a lot to ask. Now that I’ve finished with the nursery, I don’t even have a regular bed to offer you. You’d have to stay on the sofa. Brian—I wouldn’t even ask this but I need someone here when I have the baby and it’s your own fault that you’ve been so helpful!” she laughed and blushed at the same time.
Brian smiled, “It’s not a problem. I’ve slept on a sofa before. I’ve probably even got a sleeping bag at home somewhere. Actually I’m honored that you want me here when the baby comes.”
So Brian moved in with Meadow. He was more help than ever. The first night he slept over Meadow sneaked downstairs to check on him. He was in his shorts and undershirt curled up on the sofa. He had no blanket and it looked to Meadow as though he was huddled against the cold. She had no idea WHERE his afore-mentioned sleeping bag was. Getting an old, but warm comforter from the extra room upstairs she quietly brought it down and carefully draped it over Brian, trying not to wake him. Fortunately, he seemed to be a heavy sleeper. She felt better then and went back upstairs to her own bed.
When Brian realized Meadow was having trouble crouching down to weed her plants, he began going out early every morning to tend the plants and the orange trees. For her part, Meadow noticed that when Brian became aware of a household repair problem, whether she told him or he discovered it himself, he was on top of it immediately. He also made her get outside to sit in the yard occasionally. Sometimes it was just to take a dip in the pool while Brian went going down the water-slide in various silly positions just to make her laugh. Meadow felt comfortable enough with Brian there to finally get in the pool and relax. Back when he was coming by just a couple times a week she would never get in the pool. Brian did not know that then. She just had a morbid fear of the water since she’d found out she was pregnant. Also the smell from cooking made her nauseous so Brian frequently made the meals on the nights he was off from work. Meadow existed on sandwiches and instant meals the rest of the time. Meanwhile she was diligently studying a book on parenthood.
Meadow entered her third trimester and mentioned to Brian that speaking to the fetus was good for it, so pretty soon he was talking at her stomach all the time. He got a thrill when the baby kicked while he rubbed Meadow’s belly. He’d never been around a pregnant woman before. He and his twin, Bridget,were the youngest children in his family before his parents adopted Damon. So everything Meadow experienced and did was magical to him. The baby was becoming a reality to him and that was even more amazing.
During the last days of her pregnancy Meadow’s back gave her some trouble and when he found out Brian would give her a quick massage. He definitely spoiled her a little, but she would never forget all that he'd done for her during these days. Meanwhile, Meadow kept up on the news of the day while Brian was the one who boned up on childcare.
Then, one morning while Meadow was picking oranges, she went into labor.
“Man, I knew I shouldn’t have let you pick oranges!” Brian cried.
Meadow was in too much pain to tell him it was just her time and she would have given birth anyway, no matter what she was doing. Within moments, the baby was in her arms; a little boy. Meadow had already chosen the name, Heath. She held her beautiful boy up to look at him and snuggle him a moment. The very next thing she did was hand him to Brian. He was startled that she would let him hold the baby. Heath was a perfect little baby, too, beautiful dark skin like his mother; and brown eyes like, hmmm. Brown eyes like whoever. Meanwhile smiling neighbors had come from all over when they heard the ruckus.
When things calmed down Meadow gave her baby his first bath; then it was time for his bottle. Once he was tucked in for a couple hours she went down to the living room where Brian was sitting as if in shock. He quickly stood up when she entered the room.
“Thanks so much for being my friend, Brian. Thanks for everything,” Meadow said and she hugged him and kissed his cheek.
Brian wanted to say that he didn’t do anything; she did it all, but he was too overcome. Overcome at being part of the baby’s birth; overcome at Meadow handing him the baby right away, and overcome at her thanks and her kiss. He realized it was time for him to go to work and he knew it would be a welcome distraction. He had a lot to think over, but he didn’t want to do it right now.
It had now been 4 months since the baby was born and Brian was going to be moving out. He had quickly become almost as good at caring for Heath as his mother. The baby recognized Brian and went to him happily. Meadow was back to her strong, capable self. She was so happy that she could cook again without holding her hose.
Brian was to leave the next day; tonight was his last night at the house. Worse luck, he had to work tonight. He did some yard work and then Meadow wanted to talk to him. They sat at the dining room table, however; the conversation wandered all over and went nowhere. She acted tongue-tied and when she did get any words out she just made small talk. Brian wasn’t sure what this meant, but it was frustrating.
Finally it was time for Brian to go to the club. He was not concentrating and dropped the lyrics on two songs. Wayne looked over at him and smacked his own forehead with a grin, indicating Brian needed to wake up. Brian shrugged and smiled, but he felt like a fool. Dylan was standing across the room and he pretended to wiped his brow, translation: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, little brother”.
Brian had been half hoping that Meadow would get a babysitter and come down to the club. He didn’t know why he should even think this. She’d never been to the club. Of course she'd been hiding during her pregnancy. But it was his last night and he had to work. If she came to the club they'd at least have a little more time. After each set he’d swung briefly through the room, talking with various people who came up to him, it was good P.R. and usually he enjoyed talking with them. Some of them were new fans who just wanted to congratulate them because they liked their performance, others liked the dubious privilege of having the band sit at their table and there was always a woman here and there who hoped to charm band members. His eyes kept sweeping the crowd though, looking for Meadow.
When he first began playing in a group, years ago, Brian had been flattered by the female attention he’d garnered. He must be one attractive and charismatic guy, he couldn’t help but feel. Then he began to realize it wasn’t him. It was his persona as the “guitar player”. Even small, unknown bands collected their groupies. Many women were excited by making it with any band member, but catching the attention of the guitar player in any group seemed to have extra status for some reason. It made it easy to have a sex life on the road, but Brian had long ago stopped thinking he was some kind of stud.
Finally they finished the last set and Brian left for Meadow’s house. Suddenly he went from high anxiety to this incredible letdown feeling. His plan was to stay at his parents’ house while he built a small house for himself. He reflected that he sure didn’t need a big one. The idea had seemed exciting a year ago, now he felt only mild interest.
He moved slowly up the walk. It was late and Meadow was sure to be asleep; babies wake early. He sat down dispiritedly on the sofa he’d called his bed for nearly nine months, his mind was numb. All the lights were off. He might as well go to bed. Then…
“Brian?” Meadow’s soft voice floated down from the landing.
“Hey, Sunshine, come on down.”
She crept down the stairs almost timidly. She was wearing a little blue satin teddy. Brian was surprised, she was usually extremely modest around him; wearing a robe or pajamas as a rule. So NOW she decided to wear something sexy?
“I guess you’re all packed?” she asked, sitting in the adjacent love seat.
“Yes, all packed. Man, it’s going to seem strange not to see Heath and you every day.”
He thought that sounded gloomy so he teased,
“You’ll let me visit from time to time, right?”
She nodded silently.
“When I get my house started you’ll have to come by and check it out.”
Then she almost whispered, “Stay with me, Brian.”
He was startled, “You mean…stay here like I’ve been doing?”
“I mean, STAY WITH ME, Brian!"
It was dark but Brian could see the glitter of tears welling up in her eyes.
“Why?” he asked flatly.
Meadow swallowed hard, “Well, fall is coming; there’s yard work. And you know Heath loves you.”
Brian shook his head, “You're talking about a gardener and a babysitter. Not good enough.”
She started to cry.
“I know you’re independent and proud, but I need something more,” Brian's voice was implacable.
Her voice broke,
“I’m in love with you Brian. Just eaten up with it, I guess," she paused and then spoke barely above a whisper, "So maybe could you think about if you might love me too?”
“I don’t have to think about it, Sweetheart. I’ve been in love with you since the third week I came here.”
He pulled her to her feet and they shared a very tender kiss. Then he took her in his arms and several kisses later Meadow asked,
“Then you won't go? You’ll stay with Heath and me?”
“Just try and stop me. But let me tell you; I’m not sleeping on that couch ever again.”
“By the way, I definitely think we should get married and I do not believe in long engagements,” Brian said as she led him up the stairs, “Or are you too independent for that?”
“Brian, that is a sweet idea.”