“You’re as white as that wall behind you,” Lucy said. “What’s wrong?”
“I just feel a little faint. That’s all. Busy week. I guess I stood up too quickly.”
“Maybe you should see a doctor.”
“I said I’m fine.”
But later that night when Regina was eating warmed-over pizza while she further revised her résumé at her computer, the black font blurred sickeningly. Her head began to feel thick and funny, and her pulse sped up.
She spit out her pizza and pushed her white wine away. The pizza was spicy, the way she usually liked it, but much too spicy tonight. And the chilled wine, Nico’s favorite, was so dry her mouth felt like cotton after one sip.
When bile climbed her throat, she ran to the kitchen and drank ice water.
Still queasy, she fell onto her bed without removing her jeans. Not that she could sleep. The next morning she woke up with raccoon circles under her eyes. Her skin was pale and clammy, and when she even thought about cooking oatmeal, she felt so sick again she had to lie back down.
As she lay on her back, she grabbed one of the celebrity magazines off her nightstand and studied Nico’s picture and then Viola’s. Bold headlines screamed. Prince and His Princess. Fairytale Marriage.
Their gorgeous faces began to spin.
Regina threw the magazine at the wall.
Suddenly overcome with an urge to retch, she got up and raced to the toilet, where she threw up disgusting chunks of undigested pizza. Her head was still over the bowl, when a life-changing thought occurred to her.
She hadn’t had her period.
Not since Italy.
The phone rang. Still feeling weak, she crawled back to her bed, grabbed the receiver and flung herself on her rumpled sheets, belly up.
“Hi. You there? It’s your mother. Say something, Cara, so I’ll know you’re alive!”
“It’s Sunday. I’m calling about lunch. Joe’s out of town, but Susana and the kids will be there.”
Sunday lunch was a longstanding tradition.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think so. I—I don’t feel well. Nausea.”
“Maybe you should see a doctor. You haven’t been yourself. Not since Italy. Maybe you caught something over there.”
A shocked Regina sat in the doctor’s waiting room with her right hand cupped over her mouth. Her left hand was clutching the armrest of her chair as if it were a life preserver. Her stomach tightened, and she looked down at it and was surprised that it was still so flat.
Nico had used a condom every time, but the doctor had confirmed the results of the pregnancy test Regina had taken at home with more tests and a physical exam.
Nico. How would he react when she told him? And she had to tell him. Would he be pleased?
Was she pleased?
Yes. Or, at least, she would be when the shock wore off. For another long moment, unsure about whether or not she could stand, much less walk out to her car and drive, she simply sat there, adjusting to her new reality.
Pregnant. Nico’s baby.
Baby first. Husband second.
Only she’d hadn’t planned this. For one thing, a job had been a given. How could she raise a baby without a job?
And Nico. She thought about the lovely Viola and his plans to marry her as soon as possible. He had to be told immediately.
Biting her lips, Regina stared up at the ceiling. A baby. Nico’s precious baby, but no job and no husband. And no Nico.
“Thank you,” she whispered, even as she began to shake and feel scared at the same time. “Thank you. With your help, I can do this.” Somehow.
When she finally felt strong enough to drive and was behind the wheel, her thoughts strayed back to Nico. She hated upsetting him, hated telling him over the phone. But this problem wasn’t going away.
When she got to her house, she flipped on the television to CNN, muted the volume and then pulled her cell phone out of her purse. At the thought of calling Nico, what little confidence she had leaked out of her.
Sinking onto her couch in a daze, she punched in his number. Her heart began to beat faster with each ring.
“Ciao,” he mumbled in a cranky, groggy voice.
“Oh, my God! The time!” She looked at her watch in horror.
“Nico, I’m sorry. It’s five-thirty in the afternoon in Texas! I totally forgot it’s twelve-thirty your time! I’m sorry! Sorry, sorry!”
She was still babbling when he said, “Viola?” And then louder, “Cara? Cara! Is it really you, tesorina?”
Did she only imagine that his deep voice had softened?
Viola’s picture flashed on her television screen and was followed with a clip of Nico dining with her at a posh restaurant in Rome, holding her hand, smiling. There was a shot of them on his yacht.