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Titled? - 68

April 12, 2018 07:59PM

Chapter Sixty-Eight

On Monday morning Anna Margaret was picked up by the car that had been arriving at the same time for the last two weeks. She had not called it off, so it arrived promptly. Her bag was larger today, although she had not even stuffed everything in it that she might need. Frederick would bring the rest.

He had looked up when he could register the birth and planned to do so as early as possible. He had a bag with the baby’s things. The travel cot was already in Anna Margaret’s office and had been there for weeks. She enjoyed being prepared. It gave her so much positive energy to have it all under control. Everything would go well.

She left her things in her office and left for the debate. If Alexander cooperated it would finish before he got hungry, if his rhythm of the past two days was anything to go by. Luckily she would not be expected to speak. At least, she counted on that. It would make it easier to slip out.

She greeted her staff and her colleagues as if nothing had happened over the weekend, although she was slightly self-conscious about the wide blouse and equally wide long cardigan that obscured her belly – or the loss of it – but no one was saying anything. They all assumed that if she was here, nothing was happening yet.

It was good to be seen attending, although she gave the public gallery only a few glances. Those people had not come for her. She was not speaking, although there was always a chance that someone would ask her a question. If Jeannine answered her questions well, there would be no need.

This was one of the files she had kept. She had read it through yesterday and was tolerably up to date. It occurred to her that there now had to be a deadline: after a certain period of time she would have to take all of her tasks back. Louis and she had tentatively put this at three months, the standard for other people. She had gradually done less, but she would now have to build up her workload again. The difficult question was: starting when? She could not yet say how the following weeks would go, based on her experience of only two days – at home, at that.

Frederick had said she should come home this afternoon. He seemed to think she should do that all of this week. Therefore this week was not yet a good time to increase her load. Her mind wandered, but she was not worried. Everyone’s mind wandered at times during debates. Some even replied to emails and she had known people to play solitaire.

George messaged her as if she was not distracted enough. He’s here! That would be Frederick or Alexander or both. They should be heading for her office, where she had stopped only briefly without exchanging more than the customary greetings. If Frederick arrived with a baby it would indeed be a big surprise. She stifled a smile.

Still no one here had caught on. She had already been sitting when most arrived, of course. Planning was everything.

There was a break. She would need to change the pad – goodness knew when the next opportunity might be – and clutched her bag to her stomach. They were hell, those things. Hardly fit into the sanitary waste containers, as if new mothers ought not venture out of the house anyway in such a state. The world outside was not equipped to deal with them. Hopefully she would only need the pads for another day or two.

Jeannine cornered her when she was washing her hands. “What happened?”

“What do you mean?” Anna Margaret asked obtusely.

“You look thinner. Did it go wrong?”

Did it go wrong? Anna Margaret pondered that question. If it had gone wrong, would she be here? Already? Because she had last been here – or somewhere at work, at least – on Friday.

“I’m sorry,” said Jeannine. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I…”

“No, it’s OK. It’s just…would I be here if it had gone wrong?” Was she perceived as being so unemotional that she could do that?

“Well, er…”

“He’s – I don’t know, really.” She was going to say he was in her office, but maybe by now he was on his way over here.

“He? Who?”

“The baby.”

“But – what about him?”

“He’s with Frederick.”

“You gave birth?” Jeannine looked astonished.

Anna Margaret was confused. “But you noticed. You brought it up.”

The women’s lavatory was still the best place for secrets. Coming out of it there were so many more people strolling and waiting for the debate to resume that it would have been difficult to hold a private conversation. Jeannine had said she would be quiet about it, not that anyone would think it acceptable for the debate to be interrupted for an announcement to such an effect. Anna Margaret thought not, anyway. It was not that important.

People trickled back into the room. They had about half an hour to go if no one came up with any delays. That would work, although Anna Margaret began to feel that Alexander should really drink within the next hour.

And indeed, when about half an hour had passed she began to feel uncomfortable. The debate did not show any signs of finishing soon, what with yet another irrelevant interruption. She wished this was a meeting she chaired. She would have been able to break it up then.

Anna Margaret slipped out via the back door. It was in full view of everyone, of course, and it was hardly a good moment, but she had to go or she would start to leak. Now where was Frederick? He had a pass; he could come here. She had instructed him to. It did not take long for him to come into view.

He was not alone, though. George was with him, looking incredibly excited. “Madam!” he said as always, but he hugged her quite uncharacteristically.

“Sshh,” she said, looking over her shoulder and hoping he was not squeezing any milk out of her with that hug.

“This is so wonderful!” George gushed.

“I don’t know you. What happened? You knew he was coming. And I bet you knew I wouldn’t stay home.” She felt a little self-conscious.

“I’ll leave you now. I was told he needs to be fed.”

She looked for a seat. The little boy was not making any noise yet, not until she positioned him in her arms. Then he began to fuss and move his small mouth. It was fascinating how he instantly knew.

Frederick had announced the birth on Facebook on his official account, when the debate was over and Anna Margaret was back in her office. He had wanted her to go home sometime in the afternoon, but that turned out to be impossible: Louis was ill and he had been due to meet an ambassador.

“We’ll just have to stay,” Anna Margaret decided. Someone had to do it.

The ambassador was a very nice lady, who had no objections to a baby being present during a serious conversation, very likely because she understood serious conversations could perfectly well be held with babies present.

The baby was seen by the official photographer who came to record the meeting, but he was not photographed at Anna Margaret’s request. She did not know if his travel cot could be seen in any of the photos, but at least the little noises he made could not be heard in them.

When the ambassador was gone, she packed everything up and had her staff ring for the car.

By now the news had spread. She realised that when the car turned into her street and it was unusually crowded. She suppressed a slightly uncivilised exclamation. “What do you propose we do?” she asked the driver, leaning forward from the back seat. She was sitting next to the baby, of course.

“Oh, it will be all right, madam,” he reassured her. “I’ve seen worse.”

She had too, but that was on official visits when there were people around her to ward off any pushy individuals. Not that she could not deal with pushy individuals, she told herself, but they took too much time. And in this case she did not want people to stick cameras into the baby’s car seat. Would they? She had no idea. People here were not as hysterical as in some other countries, but magazines still competed with each other.

“You get out,” instructed the driver. “Take the baby out and go inside. I’ll be in the way.”

She glanced at the door that they were now approaching. It was still closed. She had her key and got it ready in her hand. People would not follow her through the gate. It was small and it was always open, but it was nevertheless a gate and it signalled that beyond lay private property.

The door opened to a crack when she carried the car seat towards it, though, and she gratefully slipped in. Thankfully it was Frederick holding it open and not someone else. “The rest,” she said, referring to the enormous load of things they now had to shift around.

“I’ll get it,” he said and stepped out to get the bags. Apparently he did not care about the people out there, or they had already talked to him.

“What time did they appear?” she asked when he had brought everything inside.

“I wasn’t home. I went for a run after I posted the news. They were here when I got back – well, some of them were – but they were bugging your parents at that moment. I went in when they were. They missed me running right past. And then I showered and I checked our food supplies.”

“But you went out there as if they had already talked to you.” This had surprised her.

“The neighbours came to bring us a pan of soup. Well, one of them and she didn’t want to come in, so I was just standing there, really, while she went back to her house to fetch the pan – she had first checked with me – and some people shouted questions at me.”

Anna Margaret had finally unwrapped herself and the baby. “Oh.” He must have answered some questions then. “What did they ask?”

“Predictable things, like if it was true that the baby had come. Yes. And when? And where? And did I have photos? I said I had posted the news with a photo, so I assumed they were there because they had seen that photo.”

“They were not?” Automatically she wondered who could have talked, not that it was a serious offence in this case.

“They said there was no text.”

“There was not?” Anna Margaret had not checked. He had texted that he had posted, but she had been too busy to look it up.

“I didn’t know what to write. Which tone. I meant to think about it and add it later,” Frederick defended himself.

She laughed. “So…you just posted a picture and let everyone draw their own conclusions?”

“Yes. But really, there was only one conclusion they could draw! And they showed up here, didn’t they? So I suppose it was all clear. But to humour them I sat down on the fence and added some text.”

“You didn’t tell them the text?”

“That too,” he reassured her. “I did say something.”

Titled? - 68

LiseApril 12, 2018 07:59PM

Re: Titled? - 68

Sarah WaldockApril 13, 2018 07:45PM

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AlidaApril 13, 2018 01:41PM

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JenniferHApril 13, 2018 03:34AM

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NickiApril 12, 2018 09:38PM


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