When she asked him about going to Venezuela, he frowned a little. "I can't advise it unless you're absolutely certain about the quality of available medical facilities."
Meredith had spent nearly a month hoping fiercely that if she was pregnant, she'd miscarry; now she was incredibly relieved that she wasn't going to lose Matt's baby... . Their baby.
The thought kept her smiling all the way home.
"Farrell called," her father said with the same disdainful voice he used whenever he spoke of Matt. "He said he'd try to call you again tonight."
Meredith was sitting by the phone when it rang, and Matt hadn't exaggerated when he said the phone connection would be bad. "Sommers's idea of adequate is a joke," he told her. "There's no way you can come down here right away. It's mostly barracks housing. The good news is that one of the cottages should be vacant in a few months."
"Okay," she said, trying to sound cheerful because she didn't want to tell him why she'd gone to the doctor.
"You don't sound very disappointed."
"I am disappointed!" she said emphatically. "But the doctor said miscarriages occur in the first three months, so it's probably better if I stay here 'til then."
"Is there a particular reason you've started worrying about miscarrying?" he asked during the next pause in the static and racket.
Meredith assured him she was feeling just fine. When he'd originally told her he wouldn't be able to call her after the first time, she'd been disappointed, but it was so hard to hear him above the static and shouting voices all around him, she didn't mind so much. Letters, she decided when she hung up, would be almost as good.
Lisa came back from Europe to start college when Matt had been gone two weeks, and her reaction to Meredith's story about meeting and marrying Matt was almost comic—once she realized Meredith wasn't at all unhappy about anything that had happened. "I can't believe this!" she said over and over again as she gaped at Meredith, who was sitting on her bed. "There is something wrong with this picture," she teased. "I was the reckless one and you were Bensonhurst's own Mary Poppins, not to mention the most cautious person alive! If anyone fell for a guy on first sight, got pregnant, and had to get married, it was supposed to be me!"
Meredith grinned at her infectious merriment. "It's about time I got to be first doing something."
Lisa sobered a little. "Is he wonderful, Mer? I mean, if he isn't really, really wonderful, then he isn't good enough for you."
Talking about Matt and her feelings for him was a new and complicated experience, particularly because Meredith knew how odd it would seem if she said she loved him after knowing him for six days. Instead, she nodded and smiled and said feelingly, "He's pretty wonderful." Once she started, however, she found it a little difficult to stop talking about him. Curling her legs beneath her, she tried to explain. "Lisa, have you ever met anyone and then known within minutes that he's the most special person you're ever going to meet in your life?"
"I generally feel that way about everybody I date at first—I'm kidding!" She laughed when Meredith threw a pillow at her.
"Matt is special, I mean that. I think he's brilliant—I mean literally brilliant. He's incredibly strong and a little dictatorial at times, but inside him there's something else, something fine and gentle and—"
"Do we by any chance happen to have a picture of this paragon?" Lisa interrupted, as fascinated by the glowing look on Meredith's face as the words she said.
Meredith promptly produced a picture. "I found it in a family photo album his sister showed me, and Julie said I could have it. It was taken a year ago, and even though it's just a snapshot and not very good, it reminds me of more than just his face—there's some of his personality too." She handed Lisa the snapshot of Matt; he was squinting a little in the sunlight, his hands shoved into the back pockets of his jeans, grinning at Julie who was taking the picture.
"Oh, my God!" Lisa said, wide-eyed. "Talk about animal magnetism! Talk about male charisma... sex appeal..."
Laughing, Meredith snatched the picture away. "That is my husband you are drooling over."
Lisa gaped at her. "You always liked clean-cut, blond, all-American types."
"Actually, I didn't think Matt was especially good-looking when I first saw him. My taste has improved since then though."
Sobering, Lisa said, "Mer, do you think you're in love with him?"
"I love being with him."
"Isn't that the same thing?"
Meredith smiled helplessly and said, "Yes, but it sounds less foolish than saying you're in love with somebody you've known only a few days."
Satisfied, Lisa shot to her feet. "Let's go out and celebrate! Dinner's on you."
"You're on," Meredith laughed, already walking toward her closet to change clothes.
The mail service from Venezuela was much worse than Matt had said it would be. In the following eight weeks, Meredith wrote Matt three or four times a week, but she got only five letters—a fact her father regularly remarked upon with more gravity than satisfaction. Meredith invariably reminded him that the letters she did get were very long—ten or twelve pages. Furthermore, Matt was working twelve-hour days doing hard physical labor, and he couldn't be expected to write as often as she did. Meredith pointed that out to him too. What she never mentioned was that the last two letters had been much less personal than the preceding ones. Where at first Matt had written about missing her and making plans, he began to write more about the scene at the oil rig and the Venezuelan countryside. But whatever he wrote about, he made it come vividly alive for her. She told herself he was writing about these things not because he was losing interest in her, but because he wanted to keep her own interest piqued in the country she'd be visiting.
Trying to keep busy to help the days pass, Meredith read books on pregnancy and child rearing, shopped for baby things, and planned and dreamed. The baby that had not seemed real at first was now making its presence known by causing the periodic bouts of nausea and fatigue that should have occurred earlier, combined with some ferocious headaches that sent Meredith to bed in a dark room. Even so, she bore it with good humor and the absolute conviction that this was a special experience. As the days wore on, she fell into the habit of talking to the baby as if, by placing her hand on her still-flat stomach, it could hear her. "I hope you are having a good time in there," she teased one day as she lay on her bed, her headache finally fading, "because you are making me sick as a dog, young lady." In the interest of impartiality, she varied "young man" with "young lady," since she didn't have the slightest preference.