i'm gonna give all my secrets away Who: Kate & Isobel. What: Isobel shares her burden with Kate, from whom she's looking for advice on a weighty decision. Where: Kate's apartment, D1. When: March 11, midday.
Isobel folded her arms gently over her chest, watching Kate putter in the kitchen; her attention was pulled away for a moment by the sound of short, small yips. Hanni and Kate's own canines were in the living room, the smaller poof having regained enough energy from their lengthy walk to tease the larger dogs. They paid the small pom no mind. Isobel rolled her eyes after shushing Hanni for the umpteenth time.
"I'm sorry he's being like this, I think he's just excited. I'll have to take him to the dog park more often I think. Get him some face time with dogs more his size. Are you sure there's nothing I can do to help?" She pushed off of the doorway that she'd been leaning against, letting her arms drop to her sides as she felt vaguely useless.
Having filled the clear glass teapot and a couple of mugs with hot water to warm, Kate was setting some shortbread cookies she had baked that morning onto a serving tray while she waited for the water in the kettle to boil. “Oh, it’s okay. I just wish he could share some of that energy with me,” she joked as she glanced at Hanni pretending he was bigger than her own ever-patient pets.
She turned and set the tray on the kitchen table. “Really, there’s not much to do. Besides, you’re my guest! Sit, enjoy. The tea will be ready soon.” She sat down herself, inviting Isobel to join her. Kate was excited to entertain the rare guest to her home, especially since it was Isobel. After multiple dog walks and events with her neighbor, she was glad to have formed a friendship with the sunny, easy-to-smile woman.
Isobel did not hesitate at the invitation, sliding a chair back and perching on its seat edge. She folded her arms on the tabletop, feeling at ease inside the other woman's abode. It seemed strange, how quickly she felt comfortable with an apparent stranger, but the sense that she knew Kate from elsewhere refused to leave the back of her mind.
"Have you and Percy talked? Since the festival," she nudged, steering the conversation into more personal waters. She felt no small sense of excitement at the idea that her friend could be embarking on her own romance soon, though her gauge of such things was terribly askew. "I was thinking, if you guys were interested, we could do a double date. Obed and Percy know each other. It could be fun, don't you think?" The fleeting desperation that always seemed to line her words whenever she was talking about her relationship with Obed was present, as much as she tried to muffle it.
Kate blinked at the sudden mention of another of her neighbors. “No, actually. I’ve seen him around--he always seems to be coming in when I’m going out, or vice versa--but we haven’t spoken much.” She’d noticed Isobel’s interest in her and Percy at the festival and would have to nip that in the bud, so to speak, before Isobel got carried away. Although she needed to work through her own small interest in Percy, in spite of or because of her adamance against such a thing during their first conversation at Casket. She’d had no indication of real interest from Percy, his seemingly instinctive flirting cute but ultimately impersonal and freely given to anyone he noticed.
The tea kettle started to whistle. Kate got up from her seat and took the kettle off the burner to cool down to the right temperature. “So I don’t think there will be a double date. But how is Obed doing?” She dumped the water from the now lukewarm glass teapot and mugs and dropped in the tea ball she had specially bought for having Isobel over. She usually bought her loose leaf tea from American Tea Room, but they didn’t have the blooms she suspected Isobel would appreciate. She poured water from the tea kettle into the teapot, brought it to the table, and set an empty mug at each of their seats. “Watch,” she said, nodding toward the glass teapot, a slightly mischievous glint in her eyes as she examined Isobel’s reaction to the flowers slowly opening under the water’s hot caress.
Isobel's eyes, perhaps as expected, widened in the same, slow burning effort as the flowers. She leaned toward the sight, the small smile on her mouth indicative of her delight.
"That's so lovely!" She inhaled the scent. "And it smells wonderful. I've heard of these, but I'm more of a coffee person than tea. I might have to change that." Her attention was momentarily diverted by the simple pleasure of a pretty flower to look at, but Kate's question was not forgotten. Isobel leaned back in her chair, chewing the bottom corner of her lip.
"Obed's well. Everything..." She stopped short of saying everything was fine when it so clearly wasn't. Isobel glanced up from her glass to Kate's face, her expression growing more stoic than the situation called for. "Can I.... Can I tell you something? I... I would really appreciate some advice."
Kate felt great satisfaction from Isobel’s expression. She picked up the teapot and poured into first Isobel’s then her own mug, the filter in the spout keeping any stray tea leaf pieces from coming out. “I don’t know that the flavor or lower amount of caffeine will convert you,” she said as she poured, “but it’s worth a try at least. And I find the ritual of making tea so relaxing.”
She put down the teapot and was bringing her mug to her lips when something in Isobel’s voice made her stop and look up. The other woman’s expression had changed dramatically from when she had looked at the blooming tea leaves just moments before. “Of course,” Kate said immediately, putting down her mug and giving Isobel her full attention. “What is it?” Something about this dynamic, Isobel somber and requesting advice, a table with food, seemed oddly familiar, but Kate mentally waved aside the feeling to focus on Isobel, concerned.
Isobel wrapped her hands around her mug, searching for the words to what should be so simple. "I... I think I'm pregnant. I haven't, I haven't done a pregnancy test yet, but this should be impossible, I have an IUD and it's supposed to be 99% effective, plus condoms and just..." Her words burst out in a quick rush, and Isobel inhaled, trying to calm herself. Her next sentence was quiet. "I don't know how to tell him."
Leaning back in her seat, Kate studied Isobel while she formulated an appropriate response. She ordered her thoughts into logical steps as she assessed the situation. A possible pregnancy wouldn’t cause such an emotional issue if it were wanted, and add in the multiple forms of birth control, clearly it wasn’t. Isobel felt more comfortable telling Kate about it first than her fiancé--Kate frowned at that conclusion, but who was she to judge the stability of relationships when she hadn’t worked on one herself? Everything about Isobel’s body language said she was scared, and Kate hated that her friend was in pain.
“I’m glad you told me,” she said gently, hoping to soothe some of Isobel’s fears away, to tell her Kate was on her side, whatever form that might take. “What do you want to happen?”
"I just...I want it to go away." Her voice cracked a little, and Isobel closed her eyes for a minute, withdrawing into herself as she struggled to not crumble. When they opened again, she looked more reserved, but still as eager to explain her situation. "I don't want it. I don't even know if he wants children. I..." She stopped for a minute, considering her next words, and then charged forward.
"Before Obed, I was with someone else. I got pregnant; I was young, 21, 22. I wasn't ready for a baby, I had so much I wanted to do, and I didn't see a future with...him." She danced around using the man's name, at least for the moment. "So I got rid of it. I didn't tell him, I didn't think it was important. It was my decision, my body. But he found out. Some paperwork from the clinic came in the mail, he went through my things and he found out. And things...got really bad." She stopped, taking a sip of her tea. Her hand shook a little as it descended back to the table.
"I don't want to think that will happen with Obed, and things aren't...they're not perfect, but they're good and I don't want to ruin that. But I'm still not ready for a baby; I don't know if I ever will be. Does that make me a bad person? Aren't women supposed to want to have children?" Her gaze narrowed at Kate as she leveled the incredibly personal question at the other woman.
“Oh, Isobel.” Kate exhaled sharply, anger rising up in a flood, not at her neighbor but at what she had gone through and the messed up ideas it had planted in her. “I don’t want kids,” she said tersely, waving a hand to indicate her mostly empty apartment. “Do you think less of me?” She didn’t believe for a second Isobel did, but Kate wanted to make the point clear.
“At least,” she continued, desperately trying to reign back her fury at the injustice Isobel was doing to herself, “not kids that aren’t the four-legged kind.” She gave Isobel a small smile, took a deep breath, exhaled. “And you said so yourself, it’s your body. Only you get to decide if and when you’re ready. Why don’t you think so anymore?”
"Because," she started, trying to form the words correctly, "because it's not just me anymore. I want to be with Obed. I know we haven't been together that long, I just... Nothing has ever felt as right or as good as he does. I want to marry him, and be his wife, and I know that probably means kids, but we haven't talked about it... We haven't talked about a lot..." She trailed off, leaning back to sag a little into her chair. "And no, I don't think less of you. I think you're amazing, you have this whole place to yourself, your work, you're happy doing all of this on your own. I didn't even think I wanted to get married until after I met him.
"I just keep worrying that we're doing something wrong. Everything's so easy. I feel like I'm constantly waiting for something to happen, for that, I don't know, aha moment where the shitty part of everything is revealed."
Kate took a sip of tea and focused on the warmth running down her insides before responding. “I...well. You’re talking to someone with little experience in relationships,” she said with a self-deprecating smile, trying to relieve the tension in the room. “So maybe it is as difficult as you say. But I would think if you know what you want and don’t want, you yourself and not based on anyone else, then you could decide whether or not Obed fits into that or not. But since you haven’t talked to him, you don’t know. And,” she continued, latching onto the thought as it occurred to her, “you’ve been so concerned about molding yourself to his ideal, don’t you think, if he loved you like you think he does, he’d do the same for you?”
Isobel nodded, taking another sip of her tea as well. She took another, draining her glass halfway before putting it back on the table.
"I think he would. I know he loves me. I guess I'm just scared of what that might make him do." Her fingers ringed her mug, fiddling with it before looking back to Kate. "I also feel like this might end our relationship, and... I guess I'm just putting that off as much as I can. I mean, six months... If he does want kids and if I am pregnant, if he wants me to keep it?" Her grip on the mug tightened. "I just feel like I'm about to lose the best thing I've ever had."
Kate felt for Isobel. She was still wrapping her head around the info dump Isobel had dropped earlier, trying to match the frightening past with the woman who left flowers at her new neighbor’s doorstep. Kate’s practical mind said, Well, leave him behind if he’s not the right match for you, but clearly that was too simple for reality. “That’s a lot of ifs,” she said instead, pouring herself more tea and topping off Isobel’s mug. “I think you need to find the answers, from Obed and from here.” She tapped a finger against her skull, symbolizing Isobel’s own mind.
Isobel laughed dryly, one arm splayed on the tabletop. "Obed said the same. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be dropping my problems on you. But thank you for listening. I don't know why it is... But it's so easy to talk to you." Wrapping one hand around her tea mug, she lifted it in salute to Kate. "And you make great tea, too. I don't know what more I could ask for, in a friend." Her small smile was shaded over by the mug rising to her lips, another sip wetting her mouth.
"I guess I should start looking into therapists. You wouldn't have any suggestions, would you? Lawyers and psychologists aren't exactly the same, I know. I just think a personal recommendation would be helpful."
Waving away Isobel’s apology, Kate chuckled at her comment about the tea. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten so mad.” She rarely lost her temper, and today showed her just how much she had come to care about Isobel. “I don’t know any therapists personally, but I can ask around at work if you’d like.” She picked up her phone and took a note to do so.
After putting down her phone, she said, “I just want you to be happy. You know better than I do if Obed will make you happy, but if he doesn’t…” She trailed off, then looked up at Isobel. “My spare bedroom and my ears are always open to you,” she finished finally.
Isobel canted her head gratefully, her smile looking far more cheerful than she had previously. "I hope it doesn't come to that, but I appreciate the offer. It just feels...it feels so much better to be able to talk to someone about this. I don't know many people in the building yet. And I hope you feel the same about me, if anything's bothering you. I'm sure I could dredge up some kind of advice if you needed any."
“I do,” Kate said sincerely. “And thank you.” She nudged the tray toward Isobel. “Shortbread? Or one for Hanni?” she asked, smiling.
"I'll take one," Isobel replied, her smile widening briefly. "Hanni can have a little bit of mine, I don't want him filling up on treats before dinner." She raised her mug to her lips once more, the warmth of the cup filling her bones.