“Call the doctor tomorrow,” he said.
“The doctor says Sascha has moved in for light housekeeping,” she said over the phone the next day.
“Great!” He stopped. “I guess.” He considered their bank deposits. “No. First thoughts count. Great! When do we meet the Martian invader?”
“October. He’s infinitesimal now, tiny, I can barely hear his voice. But now that he has a name, I hear it. He promises to grow, if we take care.”
“The Fabulous Invalid! Shall I stock up on carrots, spinach, broccoli for what date?”
“People will claim we planned him and my vampire book to arrive that week, things that go bump and cry in the night.”
“Oh, Sascha will surely do that! Happy?”
“Frightened, yes, but happy, Lord, yes. Come home, Mrs. Rabbit, and bring him along!”
It must be explained that Maggie and Douglas Spaulding were best described as crazed roman-tics. Long before the interior christening of Sascha, they, loving Laurel and Hardy, had called each other Stan and Ollie. The machines, the dustbusters and can openers around the apartment, had names, as did various parts of their anatomy, revealed to no one.
So Sascha, as an entity, a presence growing toward friendship, was not unusual. And when he actually began to speak up, they were not surprised. The gentle demands of their marriage, with love as currency instead of cash, made it inevitable.
Someday, they said, if they owned a car, it too would be named.
They spoke on that and a dozen score of things late at night. When hyperventilating about life, they propped themselves up on their pillows as if the future might happen right now. They waited, anticipating, in seance, for the silent small offspring to speak his first words before dawn.
“I love our lives,” said Maggie, lying there, “all the games. I hope it never stops. You’re not like other men, who drink beer and talk poker. Dear God, I wonder, how many other marriages play like us?”
“No one, nowhere. Remember?”
He lay back to trace his memory on the ceiling. “The day we were married-“
“Our friends driving and dropping us off here and we walked down to the drugstore by the pier and bought a tube of toothpaste and two toothbrushes, big bucks, for our honeymoon … ? One red toothbrush, one green, to decorate our empty bathroom. And on the way back along the beach, holding hands, suddenly, behind us, two little girls and a boy followed us and sang:
“Happy marriage day to you, Happy marriage day to you.
Happy marriage day, happy marriage day, Happy marriage day to you…
She sang it now, quietly. He chimed in, remembering how they had blushed with pleasure at the children’s voices, but walked on, feeling ridiculous but happy and wonderful.
“How did they guess? Did we look married?”
“It wasn’t our clothes! Our faces, don’t you think? Smiles that made our jaws ache. We were exploding. They got the concussion.”
“Those dear children. I can still hear their voices.”
“And so here we are, seventeen months later.” He put his arm around her and gazed at their future on the dark ceiling.
“’And here I am,” a voice murmured.
“Who?” Douglas said.
“Me,” the voice whispered. “Sascha.”
Douglas looked down at his wife’s mouth, which had barely trembled.
“So, at last, you’ve decided to speak?” said Douglas.
“Yes,” came the whisper.
“We wondered,” said Douglas, “when we would hear from you.” He squeezed his wife gently.
“It’s time,” the voice murmured. “So here I am.”
“Welcome, Sascha,” both said.
“Why didn’t you talk sooner?” asked Douglas Spaulding.
“I wasn’t sure that you liked me,” the voice whispered.
“Why would you think that?”
“First I was, then I wasn’t. Once I was only a name. Remember, last year, I was ready to come and stay. Scared you.”
“We were broke,” said Douglas quietly. “And nervous.”
“What’s so scary about life?” said Sascha. Maggie’s lips twitched. “It’s that other thing. Not being, ever. Not being wanted.”
“On the contrary.” Douglas Spaulding moved down on his pillow so he could watch his wife’s profile, her eyes shut, but her mouth breathing softly. “We love you. But last year it was bad timing. Understand?”