2.7. Dramatic Irony
It’s Leisure Day in Aurora Skies, a holiday usually reserved for rest and relaxation. But there’s no way Lark can unwind--she’s several days past her due date, and she has come to the irrational conclusion that she’s going to be pregnant for the rest of her life. It’s a dismal prospect, and the thought of it is taking a toll on her already fragile morale.
In a misguided attempt to cheer her up, Nikolas persuades her into visiting Björn Café. But the walk to the café tires her, and none of the expensive, fatty drinks look appealing. Citing the need for fresh air, she excuses herself to the balcony. It overlooks the eastern shores of the island, providing an endless view of the sea, a sublime sight of deep blues and greens. But even the view, a normally reassuring sight for Lark, can’t take her mind off her discomfort.
Nikolas follows her to the balcony, a look of concern on his face. “Are you okay?”
He pulls her in for a hug. He’s been very affectionate recently, probably due to their upcoming bundle of joy and his corresponding excitement. “You look beautiful,” he says softly.
“I feel like a cow,” she sneers, “and I’m sweating like a pig. So I’m basically the two ugliest farm animals combined into one.”
“Hey, I happen to think you’re a very beautiful farm animal.”
“It was a compliment,” he laughs.
“You’re not supposed to agree with any part of what I said!”
“But you are sweating a lot,” he clears his throat, “it’s sexy, though, I swear.”
“Can we please go home,” she pleads, “I get you’re trying to be sweet and take my mind off of stuff, but I really want to just go home and sleep or something.” Or cry, possibly.
“I just want to to talk to you about something first. Um, do you remember when we first met?”
She raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, I do. You bumped into me at the Summer Festival.”
“No, I mean when we officially met. Downstairs, in the cafe. It was a couple of weeks after I moved here. Maker, that was so long ago--you still had your afro, and you were wearing that striped crop top,” he trails off and blushes.
He puts his hands up, “I just wanted you to keep that in mind when I show you this.”
But he doesn’t answer--instead, he kneels down.
“Isn’t it obvious?” He grins as he produces a ring box from his back pocket. He opens the box, revealing a sparkling diamond ring.
Lark’s heart stops. “No,” she says, “it isn’t obvious.”
“Are you serious?”
She could respond with a “yes,” or an “I will,” or a “couldn’t you have proposed without wearing that beanie I hate?” But all she can manage is a vigorous nod. He slides the ring on her finger, fumbling in the process and eliciting a tear-choked laugh from Lark. She then throws her arms around him, rubbing away her tears on his shoulder.
“Thank you,” he murmurs as he squeezes her, “for saying yes.”
“I had to,” she whispers back, “it’s the only way I can be an honest woman.”
“Believe me, Lark, your moral decay isn’t going to be fixed by this,” he laughs, “if anything it’ll be worse--it’s me you’re marrying after all.”
The couple celebrates their engagement with a round of bubbles, another throwback to the night they met. Lark wonders momentarily if this is wise--after all, she’s abstained for her entire pregnancy because habitual bubble use has been linked to birth defects. But she decides it’s so late in her pregnancy that very little damage--if any--can be done.
Perhaps it’s because of the amount of time since she last partook, but the high is phenomenal: everything is brighter, shinier, more enticing. Moreover, it’s an incredibly pleasant diversion, the kind of leisurely activity the exemplifies the holiday.
Once they finish, Nikolas suggests visiting the Summer Festival. Lark eagerly agrees, her earlier complaints having been erased by a combinations and love, excitement, and bubbles. Besides, there’s a hot dog eating contest starting soon, and she’s awfully peckish.
The prize for the contest is a week’s worth of hot dogs, which would be quite the bounty in the Bee-Oskarsson household--seven days of dinner is a godsend for soon-to-be parents. But both Lark and Nikolas are lethargic, and their competition is fierce. Ultimately, Lark comes in second, and Nikolas is third.
After her stunning hot dog defeat, Lark bumps into Lydia. It feels like forever since she has talked to her older sister, who has been busy building up her family and career. Shortly after Lydia moved out, she married her high school sweetheart, Kristofer Vinter. She also began to climb the political ladder, and with that came her son, Laurence Vinter-Bee, conceived and birthed purely to prove Lydia’s commitment to family values.
Lark has also been avoiding her family. Luke made it clear that he doesn’t approve of Nikolas, and she’s fairly certain her parents dislike him as well. And while Lydia hasn’t said anything critical of him, Lark had decided that she was guilty by association. But tonight she’s excited to see Lydia, possibly because her high--both bubble and engagement--is still going strong.
“Lydia, guess what,” she beams.
“Oh, hi! Guess what?”
Lydia wrinkles her nose, “really?”
“Yes, really,” Lark rolls her eyes.
“Sorry, I’m just surprised is all. I’m happy for you,” Lydia says, but it sounds insincere, “when’s the wedding? I want to plan ahead--after all, midterm elections are coming up so I need to make sure I have time in my schedule.”
“We haven’t decided yet,” Lark shrugs, “he barely proposed today. And I think we’ll probably wait until the baby is here.”
Lydia is more than happy to shift the topic of conversation to the baby, deftly offering advice and reassurance: “it’ll be surreal at first,” she says, “but you’ll get used to it. Just sleep when the baby sleeps, make people bring food when they visit, and have Nikolas do all the cleaning.”
While the two women talk, Nikolas plays at the claw machine, hoping to win a toy for his daughter or son. Lark decided not to find out the sex of the baby beforehand, citing her family’s tradition for “being surprised.” He wisely acquiesced to her desire, but his impatience is building.
The rest of the night passes idyllically. Nikolas gleefully sets off fireworks, much to the delight of the children in attendance of the festival.
Lark, on the other hand, opts for stuffing her face with snow cone after snow cone. The festival boasts a free, unlimited supply of do-it-yourself snow cones, an amenity she happily takes advantage of.
Her happiness increases when Luke shows up the at the festival. She knows she should be angry with him--he is relentlessly obsessed with arresting her fiancé, after all--but it feels nice to be with family like this: just the three of them idly chatting on a pleasant summer night.
As a child, she was annoyed and even hurt by how frequently she was overshadowed by her talented older siblings. She often wished she could have been an only child. But right now, as she listens to Lydia and Luke bicker about some obscure city ordinance, she’s thankful for her family. Without her brother’s unerring commitment to the law, she wouldn’t be as moral and honest as she is--a frightening thought considering her chaotic neutral alignment--and without her sister’s political interest, she would know little about current affairs.
When Lark first found out she was pregnant, she was obviously distraught. One child seemed like too much, and even the thought of more made her despondent. Nikolas’ joy didn’t help, nor did his babbling about the large family he had always dreamed of. But right now, that large family seems entirely possible, even desirable. At the very least, she can’t let her unborn child be an only child. Of course, she needs to get this baby out of her before she thinks of having any more.
Fortunately, Lark goes into labor just a couple of hours later. “Nikolas,” she shouts as she scans the park for her fiancé, “Nikolas, we need to go.”
While Nikolas is nowhere to be found, she does manage to draw Luke’s attention. “Oh shit,” he yells, “shit, shit, shit!”
“Luke,” she inhales deeply, “I know this is upsetting but I need you to shut the fuck up and go find Nikolas.”
His screams do manage to get Nikolas’ attention. He calls a taxi and offers the cabbie extra to speed, which gets them to the hospital in record time.
A few hours later, they leave the hospital, their newborn son in Lark's arms. And it turns out Lydia is incredibly correct: it’s a very surreal experience. Lark can hardly fathom that there is now a tiny, useless human in her care.
When they get home, Lark gently rests her son in the crib. “Good night, Bjorn,” she whispers as she pats him on the stomach. But he’s already asleep, his eyes fluttering behind the lids.
All is right in the world.