Doug left before the sun came up the next morning. Ana woke up to his alarm but stayed in bed for another hour. Her pajamas were twisted and the collar of her shirt was wet from her tears. At one point in the night she had been shaking so hard, Doug woke up and grunted. She said she was fine, and he rolled back over and started snoring again. She thought about telling him. She dreamed about telling him. But when she reached up to her chest and felt that her breasts were still there she couldn’t. The curtains started glowing as the sun came up and a short time later the television in the living room started blaring cartoon music. Ana took a quick shower and got dressed, deciding to wear the tightest shirt she owned. Cate and Bella were snuggled together on the couch. She asked them what they would like for breakfast and then walked into the kitchen. She got the cereal out of the pantry and the girls’ favorite bowls off the shelf. Her favorite aunt had died because she had chosen not to do anything about her own diagnosis. She poured some cereal into each bowl and then opened the refrigerator for the milk. Her aunt’s breasts had killed her. The milk spilled onto the floor. Ana cursed and ripped off some paper towels. Ana was certainly not ready to die. Bella walked into the kitchen, dragging her blanket behind her.
“Mommy?” Ana looked up and stopped wiping the floor. “What are you doing?”
“I spilled some milk so now I’m cleaning it up.”
“Oh.” Bella stuck her thumb in her mouth and rubbed the silky edge of her blanket across her cheek. “Is my cereal ready now?”
Ana scooped up the wet paper towels and dropped them in the garbage can. Then she went to the sink and rinsed her hands. “Can you get Cate and come to the table?”
Bella turned around and went to find her sister. Ana placed the bowls on top of the rubber placemats in the shape of the United States and then sat down and put her head in her hands. She could feel her breasts pushing against the backs of her arms. The girls climbed up into their chairs and started slurping their breakfast. She didn’t even know how to tell them. Mommies were supposed to have breasts. That’s how you knew they were mommies. How do you talk about that with a four year old and a two year old? Bella started counting out loud the number of marshmallows still floating in her bowl. Ana thought about the breast milk still frozen in the basement freezer. She didn’t need it anymore. Cate had been weaned for almost a year. When the girls started splashing more cereal onto the table than they were eating Ana took the bowls over to the sink.
“It’s time to get ready for school, girls.” The sisters climbed down from their chairs and shuffled their socked feet across the floor. Ana smoothed down their hair and bent down to kiss them each on the forehead. “I love you both very much.”
“We love you too, Mommy.” Bella was quick to reassure her mother.
Cate smiled and said, “Wes, we do.” Ana knelt on the floor and pulled them close. Their heads squished against her breasts. Ana thought that her bones would not be so comfortable.
“Okay guys, let’s get ready now.” She patted their butts and sent them out the door to start picking out their clothes. Then she called Doug and asked him out for lunch. He checked his calendar and said that he could meet her at noon. She figured that he probably thought she’d gotten a call from the doctor. But she didn’t tell him anything yet. After dropping the kids off at preschool, Ana raced back to the house to get ready for lunch. She curled her hair and put on a short skirt that matched her tight top. She skipped the mascara but made sure to wear the pearls Doug had given her for her last birthday. Her hands were so shaky she could barely work the clasp. She checked the clock as she slipped on her shoes. An hour before she had to leave. She went downstairs and sat on the couch. Her shoes dropped to the floor as she tucked her legs up underneath her bottom. The girls had left the television on, so she picked up the remote and flipped through the channels. Soap operas and infomercials. She stopped on a woman advertising a yoga video. She was on a mat stretching in a purple leotard. Ana’s yoga classes were on Tuesday mornings. She turned the television off and threw the remote against the wall. Then she called Doug and told him that she wasn’t going to make it to lunch. When he asked her why, she told him that she had forgotten about a homeroom mother’s luncheon for Bella’s class. He didn’t say much, just asked her if she was okay. She apologized, told him that she was fine and that she would be home in time to have dinner ready.
Ana hung up the phone in the kitchen and stood, staring out the window for a moment. She took the barrette out of her hair and laid it on the counter. Her hair fell down and grazed her shoulders. She walked into the hallway and took her shirt off. She dropped it on the floor and then reached up to unhook her bra. The air was cold. Wrapping her arms around her breasts, Ana walked up to her bedroom and got into bed. She closed her eyes and tried to forget.
The phone rang.
It was her mother. Just calling to chat. Ana grabbed a t-shirt from her closet and slipped it over her head while balancing the cordless phone between her chin and her shoulder.
“No. I haven’t heard yet.” Ana started straightening out the clothes on Doug’s side of the closet. “No, Mom. I’m not going to call them again.” She hung the empty hangers on her hand. “Maybe next week.” Ana walked downstairs to the laundry room and tried to change the subject. “Can you pick the girls up after school today?” She flipped the light switch on the wall above the dryer. “Do you think they can spend the night with you?” She hung the hangers on the bar attached to the wall. “I just thought it would be nice for Doug and I to have an evening together.” She hopped up to sit on the washer. “Nothing’s wrong. We just haven’t really seen each other much recently.” Her feet swung and banged against the metal side. “They should have clothes at your place. And since they don’t have school tomorrow you can just call whenever you need me to come get them.” Ana slumped against the wall. “Thanks, Mom. I’ll call the school and let them know you’re coming. The girls will be excited.”
Ana called the school and let them know about her mother and then went to the grocery to buy some things for dinner. She picked out the chicken and tomatoes she needed for Doug’s favorite dish, Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken and Prosciutto. He probably wouldn’t even know what to say when she told him. He’d just hold her. Ana checked her cart and thought about the ingredients she already had at home. But would he look at her differently? Hold her more gently? Garlic. She needed garlic. And maybe something for dessert. Her mother’s motto was bad news is always better over something sweet.
When Doug got home, he stepped inside and called out for his wife. Ana heard him and tried to finish getting ready faster. She had turned off the lights downstairs. And when she didn’t answer, she heard him set his briefcase down and walk towards the kitchen. Good, maybe he would sit at the table and wait for her. She had lit candles on the dining room table and left the pasta warming on the stove. He called out for Cate and Bella.
She heard him walk towards the stairs as she stepped into her dress.
“Ana.” He started going up. “Ana.”
“Be there in a sec.” She had the zipper halfway up when she looked up and saw him standing there. He was smiling.
“I can help you with that.” He walked over behind his wife and removed her hands from the back of her dress. She curled her toes on the linoleum. He took the zipper in his fingers and slowly moved it down. He bent his head down and his breath was hot on her neck.
“Doug.” His name came almost like a moan.
“The kids aren’t here, are they?” He smiled at her through the mirror.
She tried to wiggle away from him. “No, but dinner is—“
“I don’t really think I care right now.” He grabbed her waist and turned her to face him. “I don’t even remember the last time…” He weaved his fingers through her hair and tipped her head up. His kiss was long and hard and Ana’s knees felt weak. Her dress slipped off her shoulders and rested on her waist. Doug ran his hands down past her shoulders and fumbled to unfasten her bra. He pulled the straps down and released her. Ana closed her eyes and raised her head towards the ceiling. Doug pushed her against the counter and crushed his hips to hers. She reached her hands back, placing them on the counter as she arched her back. Her husband’s hands were warm against her skin. His lips hovered near the curve of her neck. His hands embraced her breasts and Ana decided to tell him tomorrow.