“You.” Her blank stare and heavy silence made him look up, seeing the disbelief in her eyes. “Are you not pregnant?”
“Not unless sperm can get through a sash window, why?”
“Ow. Oh hang on a minute, all my bras got frozen last night. I don’t normally wear this one. It’s been digging in all day it drives you barmy.” She commented, pulling out the uncomfortable underwire. “Sorry, what were we saying?”
“No idea.” Tony replied, looking the most amused he had all day. “Come on, let’s have a flipping drink.”
“I was going to ask you.”
They gathered their things up and left through the main entrance, forgoing the catering entrance they usually used, their good natured banter lasting until they’d reached the pub over the road and settled in, drinks in hand. Finally, Tony spoke of something that had been bothering him since he’d found she wasn’t pregnant. “So, Bren, I’m not being funny but, why wouldn’t you give blood then, as you’re not pregnant?” He took note of the way she quickly paled at the topic he’d brought up.
“I, uh,” Bren sighed, knowing she had no way of getting round it, but dreading the idea of bringing up something that she hated, that made her seem so weak, at least in her eyes. She’d genuinely wanted to do it for Tony, but every time she’d tried to tell herself it would be okay, and that there was nothing to be scared of, she’d think of, or be reminded of, the needle used, and she’d go pale and clammy and slightly dizzy all over again. She definitely didn’t want to tell Tony, fear of him leaving her, even as just a friend, too much for her to bear contemplating. Still, his steady gaze over the rim of his pint informed her that there would be no getting out of telling him something, at least, and somehow, she knew he wouldn’t settle for anything less than the whole truth, not this time. “I have a…”
“Pet gerbil? Tattoo? Salmonella?” Tony guessed in an attempt to both help and lighten the situation, moving one hand from where it dangled by his side to cover Bren’s slightly shaking one on the table. “Bren, come on. You can tell me anything, you know that.”
Not everything, Bren thought, her gaze automatically moving to her ring finger, she couldn’t tell him everything. He’d never forgive her for that. She forced herself to look at him, her mind returning to the topic at hand. “Needles. I, uh, I have a phobia of needles.” She told him eventually, her voice barely more than a whisper.”
“Oh, Bren.” Tony’s hand tightened over her own, giving her a little comfort. “So, when everyone kept banging on about the blood donations…?”
“I couldn’t, I can’t-”
“Ssh, it’s okay.” Tony offered her a small half smile. “Don’t worry about it. Though you may want to do damage control in the morning.”
“Why?” She asked, confused at the sudden change in the conversation.
“The girls will need to know something.” Tony pointed out. “They’ve been convinced you’re pregnant all day.”
“Really, is that-? Oh.” Bren cut herself off, a lot more things making sense to her, such as why everyone seemed to be treating her with kid gloves, and why she’d been told things were too heavy for her and she should have a sit down. They’d all been trying to be helpful without letting on that they knew about her pregnancy, even though she wasn’t pregnant. It was simultaneously irritating and sweet. “That explains a lot, actually.”
“Yeah, been driving me nutty all day, telling me I should order you to take breaks and the like.” Tony agreed, lifting his pint in order to take a gulp. “I did tell them it were none of their business, but you know what they’re like when they get started on something.”
“Yeah, and you’re right, I should probably tell them, at least that I’m not pregnant.”
“Would you have told us if you were?” Tony asked curiously.
“Yeah, I probably would. You at least, anyway.”
“Well, that’s something, I guess. Now, let me give you a lift home.”
“You don’t have to do that, I can get the bus.”
“Yeah I do. The weeny nutcase is still on the loose, so consider me a chauffeur until he’s caught, okay?”
“Am I going to win if I argue this with you?”
“No, probably not.”
“Alright fine, but only until the Blender is caught.”
The following morning, Tony gave Bren a lift into work, though they still got there before everyone else because Tony deliberately showed up half an hour earlier than he usually would, correctly guessing that she’d try and get a bus before actually calling him for a lift like he’d told her to. She’d pulled her face a bit, but he’d held firm and she’d caved rather easily, considering he knew what it was like to be at odds with Bren, and he’d never won an argument they’d had in the eight years they’d worked together.
He went for a fag whilst she signed for the bread delivery, mainly because he couldn’t bear to hear Norman bemoan his acrophobia once again (“I fell of a diving board in Guernsey”) and because he knew his hovering was starting to get on her nerves. He couldn’t help it, knowing that the conversation she had to have when the girls got in would be difficult. He was surprised she’d told him so easily, but on the way home she’d told him that she was grateful he’d took it so well. He was just happy she wasn’t pregnant, because he honestly didn’t know how he’d pretend to be happy she was knocked up by some other bloke, one that wasn’t him.
She was putting the bread away when he walked back in, just happening to close the fire escape door at the same time that Dolly and Jean walked in, bickering as always, with Twinkle and Anita coming in from the other entrance, all four catching sight of Bren at the same time.
“Don’t do that!” Four voices called out at once, startling Bren into nearly dropping the crate she was holding, half bent to slide it under the counter. Tony rolled his eyes as the four women turned to him accusatorially, telling him with their eyes and expressions what they thought of him letting her lift anything heavier than a tea cup.
“Why?” Bren asked in confusion, finishing what she’d been doing as they walked in and straightening up.
Tony shot her a look. “Don’t act thick, mate.”
“What?” Oh, yeah, that.” Bren rolled her eyes as realisation dawned on her. She’d forgotten that they all believed her to be pregnant. “Relax guys.”
“No, you need to relax.” Jean bustled forwards. “Go sit down and I’ll make you a tea.”
“I don’t need to do that.” Bren protested, glancing at Tony for a little help, as it looked like they were about to quash any protestations she may have on the subject.
“She doesn’t need to have a rest. Leave off her a bit.” Tony told them, before glancing at Bren again when they levelled glares in his direction. “See? This is what I get for helping. I’m going to go order some brown sauce.”
“I’m not pregnant.” Bren blurted out before he reached his office. “I know you all thought I was, but really, I’m not.”
“What?” Dolly managed as all four glanced between the manager and his second.
“Did you tell her?” Twinkle asked Tony, something of a knowing look shining in her eyes.
“No, it kind of just slipped out.” Tony defended himself.
“It’s not his fault.” Bren pointed out. “ I was never pregnant in the first place. I just… I don’t like needles, that’s all.”
Twinkle shrugged, automatically accepting it for what it was as the other three wrapped their heads around it. “Alright.”
“Just changed into that?” Tony asked, gesturing to her overalls.
“Do you want the truth?”
Bren smiled as the canteen settled into its usual everyday banter. No-one had made a big deal out of it, and had stopped believing that she was pregnant as well. And Tony had been sweet, both when he believed she was pregnant and when he found out the truth. Soon, she swore to herself, her fingers absentmindedly playing with her ring finger. Soon, she’d have the divorce she’d set into motion, and she would finally tell Tony everything, hopefully with him still feeling the same way about her as she did about him. Until then, there was still time.