Last night's New Year's party / Millenium Party (depending on your interpretation of the millenium :-) was a great success, despite Brian's flu and the difficulty of navigating icy streets after midnight. The outfit Brian gave me was perfect, and I wore the gold chain he first gave me.

The party was pretty much dominated by young people and singles, and Brian's family was no exception; his parents and grandparents stayed home and put together a small party, though Patrick and Ann did join us, leaving the kids with their parents.

If I'm susceptible to the flu bug that Brian has, I'll be guaranteed to have it after our midnight kiss. But I think I would already have it by now. And Patrick's New Year kiss was quite enthusiastic. I think Jill may be wrong about Ann. It left us pretty breathless.

And speaking of breathless... Jill was making a point of kissing every guy she knew until his toes curled up. She came back home with us, leaving broken hearts in her wake. She looked stunning in red silk.

There did seem to be a general air of relief when midnight rolled around and power didn't fail, and none of the more extreme year 2000 predictions materialized. Of course, the "danger" time for power companies was earlier in the evening, since they generally use GMT, but no-one else seemed to know or care that the threat was past.

Bob picked us up at about 1:30, he's a good driver in harsh weather, and was not drinking. He said the weather wasn't bad, though with a thaw today and freezing temperatures and some fog tonight, the roads were icy. I wouldn't have wanted to drive on them.

Back at the house, the party wasn't quite over, we all wished one another a happy new year before calling it a night.

I would have liked to continue the celebrations a little more privately, with Brian, but he'd done well just to survive that far, and I let him sleep.


The Subject came up with Brian's mom. I knew it had to, and I was dreading it. I'm glad she waited until we'd accepted one another before she brought it up.

"When's the wedding?"

Well, ummm...

"We haven't decided."

"Well, do you plan a long engagement before you decide?"

"I don't even know that. I know it sounds weak, but I wasn't looking for a husband when Brian came along. Everything happened so fast, now I want to be sure we get things just right, and don't rush."

Cathy's skepticism showed. "You've been engaged for six months now? It's hardly rushing."

"But we were dating for only three months before that," I said. "The thing is, what we have right now works so well, we're both reluctant to make changes. We know we'll get married, but we want to be sure we can handle married life as well as we're doing now, and so much is changing for us, it's hard to know."

That may have been the wrong thing to say, since Cathy isn't as broadminded about our living together as her mother, but she is a tolerant, straightforward woman, so I figured it would be okay. She just wants to be sure, I think, that her son isn't going to be hurt.

"Be sure to give us plenty of notice," she said, "I want to be at the wedding. You're not thinking of running away and getting married in secret?"

"Cathy," I said, "if we were going to do that, we'd have done it. Being engaged for a year and then sneaking away for the wedding would be silly. And mean to our family and friends."

She nodded. "A year?"

I flushed slightly. I hadn't meant to give a date. "It's possible. I'm very tentatively thinking that around the time of my birthday would be a good goal. It would be the anniversary of our engagement, and I think another six months should give us chance to be comfortable with the idea."

"If you're going for June, you're going to need to start making arrangements."

"Don't remind me," I said. "Yeah, you're right, but I wanted to get this last year out of the way before deciding. And Brian's job change."

"He's leaving his job?"

"Oh." Oops. I figured he'd have told her. "Perhaps. He's thinking about going to work for a startup company. They really want him." I didn't mention that it was my brother who had recruited him. "He'd probably have told you about it except for his cough, he's trying not to speak."

"You may be right."

I was, in fact. When I mentioned it to Brian later, he went directly to her, and we all talked for a while.

Tomorrow we're leaving for home. I'm going to miss these people.


Before we left, Martha gave Brian a box of papers he'd asked her to keep a few years back, when he was at college. He doesn't recall why they were there, rather than at his mother's house, but there are letters, class schedules, paperwork. Accumulated personal papers from a year or two of university.

The flight back was easier than the one out. No delays or cancellations.


Slowly recovering here. Brian's cough is almost gone, he has to be careful not to do anything strenuous, because breathing heavily starts it up again. (Yeah, I know :-( )

I'm keeping notes in a temporary page here, because I need to reorganize the "Daydreaming" web to break it into 1999 and 2000. I'll do that this weekend, it isn't going to be easy.

It makes me wonder, though, if I'm going to go to all this effort, do I really want to abandon the journal in February? There are a lot of things I want to experiment with, technically, and this is a good place for it... and the "leaking" effect between the journal and real life seems to be more manageable now. Perhaps just because I haven't been keeping the diary up to date? I don't know, but I think I'm willing to let it play out just a little longer.

Perhaps it's also that I'm feeling less burned out. A new year, settling in at work (well, other than the Darrell issue, which still has me apprehensive), and having given voice to what I'm still very tentatively thinking might be a wedding date... though I haven't talked to Brian about it yet, even though I did mention it to his mother.

It turns out that one year from the date he proposed just happens to be a Saturday...


Finally. The site is rearranged. Now I need to upload three weeks of entries :-)

Apologies to the "Daydreaming" junkies out there. I know there are a few of you...

Brian is finally recovered, though he's still taking cough medicine. Now he's stressed about the possibility of changing jobs. He's going for a formal interview Wednesday.

And I finished my new story. It will be called "Camping Out". It's ready to publish, but I want to be sure these changes are working before I put it online...


I finally put Camping Out online. Let me know what you think.

Our beta program is going very well, and we're on track for the release. I still don't know if I should say anything about Darrell. Perhaps I should at least talk to Susie and find out what's going on in her group.

Brian's pretty excited about his interview tomorrow. At this point, he's pretty certain he's going to take the job. I've only just started to realize how much I'll miss him if he isn't at the office.

I'm writing letters to Martha and Cathy, thanking them for such a wonderful vacation. I think I'll write Jill, too, I like her. I think we recognized something of ourselves in each other. Maybe I should just email her... I'm sure Brian has her address.


Today doesn't seem like January. I'm not usually pessimistic, but when we get days like today, I always figure we'll pay for them in miserable icy days later... This morning was mild and humid, with a spring scent in the air. Today they say it's going to reach eighty-two.

I drive the Miata to work (top down, of course :-) because Brian's taken his vehicle to his interview, which he expects will last all day.



Well, here's evidence that it doesn't take keeping a journal for life to get weird. Because this one didn't happen to me...

Clarice called me at about four yesterday evening.

At about four yesterday afternoon, my cellphone rang. It was Clarice.

Clarice has a rule never to call me on my cellphone. Her own rule, she set it because we tend to get carried away on the phone, and it could cost me a fortune in airtime if we were to forget ourselves. Even in emergencies she'll do her best to find me at home or work first. She's almost superstitious about it.

So I knew something was up.

"I have to see you," she said.

"Sure, how about lunch tomorrow?" I suggested.

"No, tonight. I have to see you tonight."

"I can't tonight," I said. "I'm going out with Brian. Today was the day he went to visit my brother." I didn't want to use the word "interview" around the office, though I was keeping my voice down.

"Please, Helen."

It didn't seem like Clarice. Obviously this was serious. "Okay," I said, "I'll make it up to Brian somehow."

We agreed on a TGI Friday's, further out than we usually travel. I left the office at five-thirty to meet her.

Brian called me when I was on the road.

"Listen," I said, "I want to know what happened today, but Clarice has some kind of emergency. Can you just wait for me at home?"

He was obviously unhappy, but agreed.

Clarice was waiting in a booth, pale.

"You don't look good," I said.

"Thanks for sharing that," she griped, then apologized. "Sorry, I'm on edge."

"What's going on? Are you and Rob fighting again?"

"Shh," she said. "This isn't easy." She fell silent as the waitress approached, and we ordered coffee.

After the waitress had left, she looked around, leaned towards me, and lowered her voice.

"I'm pregnant," she said.

The rush of anxiety I felt was little less than it would have been if it were my problem, not hers. The news hit me so hard I trembled.

"Is it Rob's?"

She frowned at me. "Of course it's Rob's."

I have to admit to a sense of relief. Stupid - and impossible - as it was, I flashed again on Brian's brief liaison with her. Even though I knew he couldn't have gotten her pregnant, and even though it was too long ago to be discovering her state now, her fear and need for secrecy had triggered a corresponding fear within me. I know it was irrational, but I wasn't working on deductive principles.

"Does he know?" I asked.

She shook her head.


"Thanksgiving," she said. "We... had an accident. Some things I guess you shouldn't try with a condom. I thought we recovered okay, but I guess we didn't."

"Have you been to the doctor?"

"No, just a home test. Today. I've been hoping I wouldn't need to, but I couldn't wait any longer. I've been sick with worry these last few days."

"I imagine," I said. "What will you do?"

"Well, you know I'm going to keep it."

I nodded. This was something we've talked about. Clarice may not be a great admirer of children, but she is an lover of life. She's always said that if something goes wrong she's ready to live with the consequences. We both have, though of course neither of us ever believed it would happen. I take birth-control pills, of course. I knew that Clarice didn't, she'd tried for a time, but quit after she started gaining weight.

I was pleased to see that the reality hadn't made her lose her resolve.

The coffee arrived, and we waved the waitress away without ordering.

"I don't know what it's going to do to Rob," Clarice whined.

"In what way?" I asked.

"The California situation, for one thing," she said. "It could undo all the preparation if his wife finds out he's... fathered a child."

I nodded in agreement.

"And what's he gonna do? I don't want him to stick with me because of a kid."

"Maybe he'd want to stick with you anyway," I offered.

"Maybe, but how will I ever know now? And what about me? I haven't decided that I want him around."

"True," I said. "I don't know what to say. But you have to tell him."

She bit her lip. "I know. I know I do. But I can't."

"Sure you can, Clarice. He's going to be shocked, but he's an understanding guy, and he needs to know what's going on. Unless you want to make all the decisions yourself, but I can't see that working unless you kick him out first."

I moved over to Clarice's side of the booth and hugged her.

"It will be fine," I said. "Just tell him as soon as you can."

The waitress returned to hover, so we ordered desserts, and Clarice seemed to relax as we talked.

Leaving her at last, I called Brian, and arranged to meet him at a late-night restaurant. Not exactly the evening out we'd had planned, but I was still hungry, and a little shaken up.

"So, what's going on with Clarice?" he asked, as we sat.

I wondered for a moment whether I should say anything. But he'd know pretty soon.

"Yes, Clarice," I said. "Clarice is pregnant."

"Holy shit."

"Yes, that was my reaction."

"Does Rob know?"

"Not yet," I answered. "Though I hope she's telling him right now."

"Holy shit," he said again, reflectively.

We talked about her for a time, but there wasn't much to say.

"Puts my news in perspective," he said softly, later in the evening.

"Not really," I said, "since I'm still eager to hear what happened."

"They've made me an offer, and I'm going to take it."

"Brian, that's great. I think. If it's what you want."

"It is," he said. His eyes glowed with enthusiasm. "I'll be a lead design engineer. I'll have real responsibility, and great prospects. They're planning to ramp up this facility in a few months. Perhaps even move one of the West Coast divisions out here. I'd be in a great position if that happens. And good enough even if they don't."

"What about travel and working hours?"

"Travel shouldn't be bad, though they'll want me in California occasionally. As for hours, well, you know how that goes. No worse than where we are now, I'm sure."

I reached out and took his hand. "I'll miss you," I said. "It won't be the same at the office."

"We'll just have to spend some extra-special time together away from the office." He smirked at me.

"Pay the bill," I said, "and we'll go try it."

We did, and we were very tender with each other, as if Clarice's problems had left us thinking how precious, powerful and dangerous making love can be. And thinking that one day, we're going to be doing this to make deliberately what Clarice and Rob's love has created. Thinking about how huge that step, when we come to it, will be, made me shudder, and Brian held me more tightly as we led one another more deeply into the joy of love.

Clarice hasn't called yet today, and I'm getting concerned about her.


Clarice finally called late yesterday evening. She invited us over for dinner tonight. Wouldn't say anything else, just not to worry about her.

Of course, I've been on edge all day wondering what she had resolved.

We headed over to Clarice's at seven. Rob greeted us and sat us down with beer.

"Where's herself?" I asked.

"In the kitchen."

I went through to see her.

"How are you doing?" I asked.

"Better," she said.

"How come?"

"I'll tell you when we can all talk."

"Well, let's talk now. I've been on edge all day."

"No, the food's nearly ready. You want to hurry things up, help me out here."

Which I did, enlisting Rob and Brian to help serve.

The food was delicious. And there was a different atmosphere, something definitely had changed between Rob and Clarice. Little looks between them. The way he touched her shoulder when they talked.

"So, what's happening?" I tried again.

"You won't let it rest, will you?"

I shook my head. We were pretty much through with dinner anyway.

"OK, well, we're not getting married."

"That's the news?"

"Yeah, in a way. We talked about it, but we're not going to make any decision until the baby's born. I don't want to ever think we were pushed into getting married. Or for anyone else to think so."

"On the other hand," Rob said, "it brought a lot of things into perspective. We want to stay together. Nothing to do with the baby."

"That's what's different," I said. "I could tell there was something else going on. You've finally realized you're right for each other."

"What's right?" asked Clarice, scowling.

Rob smirked. "You'll never get her to admit to liking the idea. Doesn't mean she doesn't."

"So you like to think," she grumbled, but she reached out and took his hand.

"Has she ever admitted to being in love?" I asked Rob.

"Who with?" he asked. Clarice turned and swatted him with her free hand.

"Yes, I have, dammit," she said. "Before any of this happened. Then it was too late to take it back."

"What about the situation in California?" asked Brian.

"It's just awaiting the judge's signature," said Rob. "This won't change anything. I've already conceded custody, and Pam has made no secret of ner new beau. I'm sure they will get married as soon as the divorce is official."

"That's a relief," I said. Clarice muttered agreement.

"Have you been to the doctor yet?" I asked.

"No," she answered, "not until next week, probably. My insurance doesn't have maternity benefits. I opted out. But Rob has an idea."

"I'm insured in California," he said. "My insurance covers spouses and unmarried partners. Of either sex," he grinned. "It's complicated by the fact that she has insurance, but since she isn't covered for maternity, I think mine will pay. But it means that we have to find doctors for her on my plan. I've no idea which OB/GYNs are on the list."

"What happens if they won't cover her?"

"I'm sure they will," he said, "but if not..." he shrugged, "it isn't a big deal. We can afford it."

Clarice stood and started clearing plates.

"Here, I'll help," I said, "you shouldn't do too much in your condition."

She held a plate as if she were considering throwing it at me, and Brian laughed. "Has she started stocking the fridge with pickles and ice-cream?" he asked Rob.

"Do y'all want rat poison in your coffee?" asked Clarice.

I followed her into the kitchen again, bringing more plates.

"You seem to be handling things well," I said.

"I'm terrified, Helen."

"You don't seem it."

"Not with Rob, not with what we're going to do. With the whole idea. Being sick. Growing huge. Childbirth. Being a mother, for God's sake. It just isn't me."

I hugged her. "I'd never have expected you to beat me to that state. Though I can't see me as ever being ready, either."

We held each other for a few moments. Then I let her go, and put my hand on her stomach. "Can you tell a difference?"

"I don't know," she said. "I think so. A tightness... it might be my imagination, but I think I feel different

She touched her belly, and there was a look in her eyes that I've never seen before. I think it's the beginning of the "glow" that pregnant women seem to have, more of a softening about the eyes, I've always thought. Pride and affection.

"My bra feels too tight," she said. "Surely its too early for that."

I shrugged. "I dunno, Clarice, I've never been pregnant."

"Gah. Well, if that's true, Rob will be happy. Until I get too big for him to touch me."

I started the coffee as she served up chocolate ice-cream for dessert. "No pickles," she said as she thumped a bowl down in front of Brian.

After coffee, Brian helped me wash dishes. Clarice objected, but I assured her it had nothing to do with her state.

I hugged her again as we left, and to my surprise (and Clarice's, I think) Brian hugged her too. "I think you'll make a good mother," he said, quietly.

She kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you. That means a lot to me."

They hugged again, then she stood beside Rob, and pulled his arm around her shoulder. I think more than anything, that one act showed how much their relationship has changed.

"Will they get married, do you think?" Brian asked, in the car.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't even know if it matters. I think what they have is permament, at least as much as a marriage would be. I'm guessing that they're more committed to each other now than Rob and Pam ever were. Ring or no ring."

At home I caught up with most of my email, and finished a story I've been working on. I'm not sure yet whether I'll put it on my site. I promise that you'll be able to read it before too long, but I might be doing things a little differently with this one. I'll let you know when I do.

The DVD we were watching is through, and Brian's working on my neck. It feels good, but what he's doing is telling me it's time to put the notebook down and keep him company in bed... that's fine with me, but now he's started the massage, he's going to work for his reward.