Walking in the front door of his home at the end of a longer than normal day, Mark set his briefcase down on the small table, slipped out of his shoes, hung his jacket on the coatrack and loosened and removed his tie. Hearing sniffling coming from the sitting room, he walked over and peeked in, only to see Bridget with a tissue in her hand and tears streaming down her face. Heart racing, he quickly moved over to where she sat, pulling her to him, fearful of what could possibly be wrong. She was only three months along in her pregnancy and his stomach was in his throat as he gently asked, “What’s wrong, darling?”; waiting on her answer and silently praying that neither she nor their baby were in any way sick or worse.
“Mark, I missed you so much.”
Smiling at her in his relief, he replied, “Bridget, I only just saw you this morning. Is that all that’s bothering you? Everything else is all right?”
Leaning back, she looked up into his face as if he were crazy and said, “I meant while you were married. When you were with Camilla.” Tears started spilling from her eyes once again as she said this and her sniffling began once more.
“I have a confession to make. I missed you too.”
Wiping her eyes, she looked up to him and said, “You did? How often did you think of me?”
Sighing heavily, he replied, “Too often. And definitely more than was good for my marriage.”
At his answer, she burst into tears once more, sobbing into his shirt as he drew her to him. He ran his hands over her back, whispering calming words into her hair as he rocked her gently back and forth. “Shh, darling. I’m here now. It’s you I love.” It seemed to him that the more he reassured her, the more upset she became and now she was in the midst of a good, old fashioned crying jag. Continuing to gently rock her in his arms, she finally seemed to stop her crying and became quiet. Holding her this way for several minutes, he looked down on her tranquil face, realizing she had fallen asleep in his arms. Carefully he picked up her feet and moved her legs onto the sofa, removing her shoes and covering her with the blanket that was kept there, tucking her in warmly. All he could think of at that moment was thank heaven for both Jeremy and his mother; if his mother wasn’t warning him daily about the mood swings and mercurial emotions of a pregnant woman, his partner Jeremy was going on about his wife Magda having dealt with the same ups and downs during her pregnancies. Forewarned is forearmed, he thought as he grinned, walking upstairs to change clothes and order her favorite takeaway pizza as a surprise for when she woke.
Mark didn’t often eat dessert but after a heavy dinner of steak, potato and salad, he was craving something sweet. Looking down at Bridget sleeping next to him in bed, he quietly got up and tiptoed out of the room and toward the stairs, heading to the kitchen. He first grabbed a large glass of water and drank it in its entirety. Next, he moved to the pantry and started rummaging through the shelves, looking for a small chocolate bar or perhaps a biscuit to satisfy his hunger. Laughing softly to himself, he thought, I wonder if I’m having sympathy cravings. Not finding anything that caught his attention, he opened the refrigerator, perusing the shelves but finding nothing to his liking; the dill pickles that Bridget so loved almost made him go back to bed unsatisfied, as he looked at them and felt his stomach do a flip flop.
As a last resort, he pulled open the door to the freezer, not wanting to partake of her reserve. There on the shelf facing him were three small containers of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. He had picked them up at the petrol station for her, just two nights ago. After spending a pleasant evening at home, watching classic movies on the telly, just as they were getting ready to head upstairs for bed, she had told him she was craving ice cream again. They had just recently run through their supply as she seemed to be going through it at record speed. Bridget had begged him to go out for snacks and he had returned with several bags of crisps, some biscuits and the ice cream, having spent £25 on everything but petrol. He thought she’d be very pleased with his choices for ice cream; Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Therapy and Chubby Hubby. The last one had her laughing until she cried, making Mark start to feel uncomfortable as he had gained three pounds with all her extra eating and therefore his own. Knowing her affinity for anything chocolate, he grabbed the container of Chubby Hubby and quickly finished off the little that was left. Feeling very satisfied, he rinsed the spoon, tossed it in the dishwasher and went back to bed, slipping silently in again, without waking her.
A few hours later, in a deep sleep, he felt rather than heard someone standing over him, causing him to stir. Opening his eyes and trying to focus in the dim light, he finally made out his wife’s silhouette.
“Where’s my ice cream?” she questioned, holding up a finger and pointing at him. The edge on her voice made it clear that death was imminent. Not her death.
Hiding his laughter, since she seemed very serious, he replied just as earnestly, “Bridget, there are still two pints left. Both chocolate, if I’m not mistaken.”
“But I wanted the Chubby Hubby.”
Trying to figure a way out of the fact that he now had a hormonal, pregnant wife upset with him at half one in the morning, he decided humour was the best way. “Your ‘chubby hubby’ is right here in bed. Just lie back down and I’ll go fix you a bowl of both chocolates. Will that do?”
Seeming to have calmed down at his suggestion, she replied, “Of course, Mark. I’m not a monster, you know. You realize you have Couvade Syndrome, don’t you?”
“I have what?!”
“Couvade. Sympathetic pregnancy. That’s why you’ve gained weight and crave ice cream. Lots of men get it.”
“Bridget, I do not have...whatever it is you called it. I’ve gained three pounds because I’m eating more, since you are.”
She just stared at him, with an expression that conveyed ‘that’s exactly what I just said.’
As Mark went downstairs to get her the promised ice cream, he made a quick detour into the loo. Standing in front of the full length mirror and turning sideways, to see his profile in it’s entirety, he pulled up his vest to expose his stomach. The three extra pounds did seem to have gone directly to his belly. Laughing lightly to himself, he muttered, “Maybe she’s onto something.” He then went to the kitchen for her treat, smiling to himself as he prepared his pregnant wife a very large bowl of both ice creams, grabbing two spoons before heading back to their bedroom.
“So, how far along is Bridge now?” asked Jeremy of Mark over a glass of wine. It was a Monday evening and the two mates were having their evening meal at a local pub, after a scheduled late meeting in Chambers. Mark had phoned Bridget and asked if she’d like some takeaway brought back but she informed him she had grabbed a bite earlier as she was feeling a little peckish, adding that since eating for two, it was difficult to wait. Jeremy’s wife Magda was at her parents’ home with their children and had plans to spend the evening there.
“Six months. Only three to go. Thank God and all his seraphs in heaven. I seem to be in the doghouse lately and not entirely sure why,” he replied with a good natured laugh. “Jeremy, I swear to you, this is what Bridget said yesterday. At 10:00 AM, I’m the best husband in the world. By 10:02, and I quote, ‘Why the fuck did I ever marry you?’ and by 10:04, I’m best husband in the world again. Do you know what I did in those four minutes? Absolutely nothing! I’m now at the point of waiting for several seconds before I reply. It gives her time to change course so I’m absolutely sure what direction she’s headed in. I think you’d be very proud of my ability to roll with the punches now. If I hadn’t adjusted, I’m sure she’d be in prison for murder.”
Laughing, he replied, “I’m very sympathetic. Wait til number two. The first is all new, but they know what to expect with a second. That makes it worse! I remember with our last, Magda was so irate at something I had or hadn’t done, I was relegated to the guest room for two nights. Then, for no apparent reason, I’m officially back in the master and I’m even allowed my own pillow. To this day, I still don’t recall having done anything that would have remotely caused this. Trying to make up for my supposed indiscretion, I set up a snack station next to her bedside and stocked it every night with biscuits, crackers and a small ice chest filled with fruits, water and juices. I think that’s why I was finally allowed the pillow!” He then poured himself another glass of the wine, shaking his head and laughing at the memory while watching Mark’s eyes grow wide in terror. Continuing, he said, “So, were you able to learn the sex of the sprog? Or is Bridget still determined to surprise us all and make everyone purchase very gender neutral onesies? Your new baby will look like a banana if Magda’s purchases are any indicator. No pink or blue so far.”
“She’s terrified that the amniocentesis could hurt it. God, I hate calling it an it, but can’t yet say he or she,” he laughed. “Have I told you about the Chinese gender predictor chart she’s recently discovered?”
Jeremy’s look of mortification told Mark all he needed to know. “Jeremy, don’t tell me it’s Magda that exposed Bridget to this falderol?” he asked in astonishment. It was usually Bridget’s friend Magda, out of all her many confidants, that he could rely on to give his wife sound advice.
“Well...,” he replied, looking down in embarrassment. He then seemed inspired, glancing up at Mark once more and exclaiming, “Come to think of it, it’s never been proven wrong with our three.”
Mark interrupted. “Not you too! Enlighten me then,” he said with as straight a face as he could manage.
“It goes back some 700 years, when according to legend, a calendar was discovered in a royal Chinese tomb. It essentially involves plugging a woman's birth date and the date of conception, or the baby's estimated due date in some versions, into the calendar, which converts the numbers to her lunar age when she got pregnant and the lunar date of conception, and then tells you whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.
Followers of Chinese astrology believe the charts do a pretty good job of telling the sex of your baby. Of course, there’s not much information out there from credible sources — either about the chart itself, whether it actually works, or how accurate it really is. In short, it’s really just an old wives’ tale for guessing a baby's sex. But it has predicted all three of ours correctly, mate.”
Later that evening, as they were lying in bed, Mark spooned up to Bridget’s back. Taking his hand, she held it over her protruding stomach, letting him feel the baby’s movements, as it was particularly active tonight. She could feel Mark catch his breath when the baby’s motion seemed to increase suddenly, asking with awe in his voice, “Does it hurt, love?”
Shaking her head no, his hand continued to reverently run over her taut skin, feeling the swell of their child as he snuggled into her neck, saying in a very emotional way, “I love you, Bridget Jones.” She laughed softly when he called her by her maiden name, fondly remembering the memories it conjured of their earliest times together, when they had first met.
“I love you too, Mark Darcy.”
Just as she thought he had fallen asleep, since his breathing had become very regular, he surprised her with a question, whispering it into her ear, “What does your Chinese gender prediction calendar say is the sex of our baby?”
She hadn’t divulged to him what she and Magda had calculated as far as boy or girl, knowing that he was very sensible and not prone to putting any stock in these kinds of superstitions. She was caught on the hop when he asked again, saying, “Bridget, I’m sure you and Magda have figured this out six ways from Sunday. Since she and Jeremy swear by it, I’d love to know.”
“A boy,” she replied, timidly. She knew Mark would be ecstatic no matter the sex, but couldn’t help but feel emotional as she told him, knowing the traditions that the Darcy men held close to their heart, that his mother and father would especially like a grandson to carry on the family name.
Gently pulling her over so she was resting on her back, he laid his head on her chest, so he could talk to the baby and began speaking low. “Hello. I hope you have your mum’s blue eyes and temperament, her ability to see good in people and the world. And love football like your dad. I wonder if you’ll be a musician, or a doctor?”
“Or a barrister, like your father?” Bridget added quietly, tears pricking at her eyes. Mark had told her that she had taught him how to be vulnerable. She had never seen him stripped bare as he was now, talkng to their unborn child, showing his emotions as she’d never seen them, not even at their wedding. He was revealing a part of himself that she didn’t know existed; maybe he hadn’t known himself. Combing her fingers into his hair, sentimental tears slipped onto her cheeks.
Continuing, he said softly, “Can’t wait to meet you, spend time with you. Your mum and I will always be there for you.” He then started humming softly. Bridget listened to him for several minutes, before realizing how she knew the tune. “Mark, is that from our wedding?” she asked.
Stopping, he looked up to her and nodded, as if afraid he’d wake the baby if he spoke.
“Don’t stop, it’s beautiful.”
At her prompting, he started again, picking up where he had left off.
“Is that Pachebel?”
Smiling up at her, he nodded yes.
“Canon in D?” she asked.
His eyes widened in surprise that she remembered not only the composer but the name of the piece.
“Mark, will you play your classical music nightly for me, us,” she amended, “I’d really like it if you did.”
Once he finished, he moved back up to lay beside her, keeping his hand on her stomach, over the baby, feeling the continuing movement, the sporadic kick.
“Of course, darling. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms. You’ll both love it.”
Laughing at the passion she heard in his voice, she replied, “We’ll even listen to someone whose last name doesn’t start with a ‘B’!” She leaned over to kiss his cheek, feeling so very close to him, thinking again how lucky they were to not only be together, but married and with a child imminent. Never in her wildest imagination would she have thought this possible, after their breakup; that she’d be lying in bed with him, as his wife and soon to be a mother. He must have been thinking along the same lines. As she pulled away from the kiss, she felt dampness on her lips. Reaching over, she wiped away the tear he had shed.
“Mark, are you all right?” she asked, concern in her voice. She’d never seen him cry before although he had become misty eyed when she first told him of her pregnancy.
“Never better,” he answered, pulling her into a tight hug.
Bridget and Mark took their seats at a large, round-top table with the name “Darcy” scrolled in black calligraphy on marbled paper emerging from a centerpiece of beautiful flowers. Mark pulled the chair out for her, sitting directly to her left. They were the first of his group to arrive and he was waiting for the penny to drop, once Bridget figured out he may have slightly exaggerated the time the event began; saying he had left the paper invitation with the details at his office. Her propensity for lateness seemed to have grown in proportion to her ever expanding waist. He was reticent to push her about it so had resorted to little white lies. She always seemed to forgive him when she discovered the truth, even laughing at his harmless machinations. From his point of view, better to ask her forgiveness after than permission prior, at least where law council dinners were concerned. This was the first such event that Bridget would be attending with him since they were back together and married; her prior aversion to these dinners was infamous, so he hoped that as his wife and soon to be mother of their child, she would feel more comfortable than she had in the past. She was just three and a half months pregnant and only slightly showing, although he swore in the last week she was looking decidedly larger and certainly glowed with her pregnancy, never looking more beautiful to him. He felt very proud to be attending with her and the new black gown she and Magda had chosen seemed to accentuate her figure and show how hard she was still working to maintain her fitness. He assumed that at some point she’d be forced to cut back, but had insisted that she would at least continue to walk for her exercise.
As the barristers that were part of Mark’s team arrived, he introduced them in turn. She had met the majority of them at their wedding; only one of the group of eight hadn’t been able to attend due to a prior commitment. The event tonight was the annual British Legal Awards, hosted by Legal Week in association with The City of London Law Society. The glittering awards ceremony would be attended by 700+ lawyers, representing the crème de la crème of the UK’s legal community. As such, it acted as a showcase for the achievements of one of the country’s most successful sectors. Seated at the table next to them was her friend Magda and husband Jeremy, who was Mark’s partner in Chambers, Maurice Lewis, the senior partner, along with several additional tables representing their firm.
Mingling prior to the start of the ceremony, Bridget excused herself from the table to say hello to Maurice and his wife. The last time she had spoken to him was their wedding and she wanted to thank him personally for the gift he and his wife had given she and Mark.
Walking over, she first hugged her friend Madga and then Jeremy, greeting them with kisses. Maurice and his wife Nicola jumped up to welcome her, kissing her on both cheeks, with Nicola exclaiming, “Bridget, you look absolutely stunning in that dress. May I say that pregnancy suits you? I wish I had looked like that prior to having a child, much less a third of the way in!”
Maurice too hugged her while congratulating her on the baby, saying, “You and Mark deserve every bit of happiness this baby is going to bring you. Where is the father anyway?” as he looked around for Mark.
“He’ll be over shortly; he’s in a heated debate with Rory and Christian,” she said with a laugh.
“Bridget, you must tell Mark that talking business at these events is forbade. After all, as wives, we hear it constantly. This is an evening for celebrating!” said Nicola, clearly pulling her leg, as it seemed when lawyers got together they couldn’t help but talk shop.
“Actually, they’re arguing over the football! Seems one of the teams is embroiled in a cheating scandal,” she said. “Luckily, it’s one they all dislike, so more like they’re rather enjoying that team’s misfortunes.”
Just then Mark joined them, greeting Nicola with a kiss on the cheek and shaking hands with Maurice.
“Mark, congratulations on your baby! We’re so happy for you! I was just telling Bridget how amazing she looks; both the dress and motherhood become her!” gushed Nicola, causing Bridget to blush at the other woman’s effusiveness.
Putting his arm around Bridget’s shoulder, he pulled her close and placed a kiss in her hair, telling her that she really did look amazing tonight. Bridget spoke up then, remembering to thank Mark’s boss and wife for their gift of a silver picture frame, engraved with their names. It was truly a lovely present and was prominently displayed in their foyer with a candid shot of them taken at their wedding.
Heading back to their seats, Bridget let Mark know that he too looked fit, telling him, “You look very tidy tonight in your tux and you know I absolutely love you in those glasses. Phwoar, Mr. Darcy, or should I say Professor Darcy?” This caused Mark to laugh out loud and Jeremy to double over as he overheard Bridget’s comment when they passed by. Groaning, Mark whispered to Bridget, “You know I’ll never hear the end of that, don’t you?”
“Is he really that bad?!” she asked, kissing his cheek as they sat. In response, Mark rolled his eyes, reminding her of his Best Man’s speech.
The awards were presented directly after the dinner service and began just as the servers had finished clearing the tables. The major categories being presented that evening were U.K. Law Firm of the Year; International Law Firm of the Year; Chambers of the Year; Legal Department of the Year (in several categories); Boutique Law Firm of the Year, along with many other classifications. Not only was Mark’s firm nominated for Chambers of the Year, his new group was also put up in the Human Rights and Civil Liberties category.
A defining feature of the awards was the credibility of the judging process as the winners would be decided by an independent judging panel, led by Edward Deakin, Chair of the City of London Law Society. The panel was made up of general counsel and other senior members of the legal community, including several former law firm managing partners.
Although Mark’s firm did not win Chambers of the Year (they had actually won it the previous two years), Mark’s group won based on a case they fought and subsequently won a unanimous judgment delivered by Lord Justice Leggatt, whereby the Court of Appeal had declared that the “same roof rule” was incompatible with article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The “same roof rule” had been something of a cause célèbre for four decades: a provision whereby those who suffered criminal injury at the hands of a member of their family with whom they lived at the material time were excluded from compensation. The exclusion has been challenged numerous times in the courts, most recently in the Court of Session (Inner House) in Scotland and in the High Court in Northern Ireland. For the first time, a challenge against this unfair and discriminatory exclusion had succeeded.
After much celebrating and congratulations from members of not only their own firm but many others, the evening ended with some dancing to a small band. Thinking that Mark would want to skip this, Bridget leaned over and asked if he’d like to leave, seeing several others from adjoining tables heading for the exits.
“I was hoping to be able to dance with my wife tonight, but if you’re tired, I’ll get the car,” he replied.
“No! I’d love to have a dance. After all, not sure how much longer I’ll be able to,” she laughed.
Grabbing her hand and leading her onto the dance floor, Mark pulled her close to him, swaying to the music. “Enjoying yourself?” he asked, as she seemed to have been in good spirits all evening. “I realize these events can be insufferably long and I do appreciate you joining me.” Without realizing it, his hands had slipped low on her back and she felt him move to cup her arse in the darkness, squeezing her tightly.
“Mark! What’s gotten in to you?!” she exclaimed. “We’re at a work event!” Her eyes flew wide at his boldness, as he was usually much more reserved when with his co-workers.
“Shit! Sorry, darling. Got carried away,” and he quickly moved his hands up higher.
Laughing at his embarrassment, she surprised him by asking, “Was I intolerable before?”
“Before what?” he asked, clearly confused by her non sequitur.
“When I came with you to these events prior. They’re really not bad and I’ve quite enjoyed myself tonight. I always felt your workmates didn’t like me and I didn’t feel as if I belonged. But everyone was so nice and genuinely seemed to be glad to see me again, and are so excited over the baby!”
“To be fair, barristers can be a pretentious lot. But I think you’ve always been liked. Even if your views are a little more liberal than most in this room, you always were able to instill a breath of fresh air. Although you did have a propensity to succumb to Chinese whispers,” he finished, smiling down at her.
“I think there were definitely a few women who weren’t very friendly to me at all. Natasha comes to mind, for one.”
“Ah yes, Natasha. I just heard she’s moving back to London, from the States. Got divorced, I believe. Giles keeps in touch with her and said she’s taking a position in Chambers again.”
“Mark Darcy, are you taking the piss with me?!”
“Yes, I am. But she is divorced,” he laughed. “You certainly realize I only have eyes for you?” The look he gave made her knees wobbly.
“Should we -” At that moment, Jeremy cut in, saying to Mark, “Professor Darcy, may I dance with your wife?”
Stepping back and laughing amiably at his friend, Mark turned and headed for the bar to get he and Bridget a sparkling water; since she wasn’t drinking alcohol during the pregnancy, he had joined her and was abstaining also, when in her company. As he turned to leave the bar, his arm was lightly caught, causing him to stop.
“Mark Darcy! How are you?” Natasha Glenville then gave him a kiss on his cheek, lingering for what seemed like a moment longer than necessary.
Caught totally off guard, he stammered a reply, “Natasha, so nice to see you again. Funny, Giles was just telling me that you were back in town.”
“Oh, he was? Hopefully he let you know that I was single again?”
Not wanting to be ambiguous about his feelings towards her, he immediately said, “I honestly don’t recall. If you’ll excuse me please, I was just heading back to my wife.”
He wasn’t sure, but thought he saw disappointment flash across her countenance. Just as quickly she recovered, saying with a bright smile, “Hope to see you around Mark!”
Bridget was now seated next to Magda, so he delivered the water and sat down next to her, in an empty chair. As the next song was an old hit by Madonna, both women jumped up to dance, leaving Mark and Jeremy at the table.
“So, congratulations again on the win. Well done! You’ve got to be chuffed over the recognition your team’s garnered so quickly.”
“Thanks, Jeremy. It’s certainly rewarding to be singled out amongst so many other well deserved candidates. The work the group’s been doing is some of the best I’ve seen. I truly enjoy my role as manager and sounding board. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results and for them to be recognized for it so quickly, I think it validates their hard work.”
“Not to mention your skill at organization and directing them. Have you thought about managing partner? I’ve heard Elenor is contemplating retirement. You’d be a natural fit, Mark.”
“Eventually. I can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind. Although I’d like to continue in this capacity for a while longer since we’ve something special started.”
Just then, Magda and Bridget arrived back at their table, slightly breathless and laughing. They had pulled poor Giles onto the dance floor with them. He had been a good sport about it, but practically ran off as the song ended, sweating profusely and heading for the bar.
The band then announced that this next song would be their last for the night. Bridget stood and pulled Mark by the hand, leading him slowly to the dance floor, as Magda did the same to her husband. Winding their way through the tables, heading to the front of the room, all four were stopped momentarily when they encountered Natasha on her way out.
“Mark, nice to see you again, and Jeremy!” she said, giving him a hug in greeting. “Magda, so wonderful to see you too. And Bridget! How are you? Mark told me his wife was here tonight. I had no idea you two had managed to get back together. And it looks like congratulations are in order; new baby on the way?”
Bridget’s features remained very neutral as she and Magda responded to Natasha’s questions, while Magda couldn’t help but let Natasha know just how beautiful Mark and Bridget’s wedding had been, never having liked the woman in the first place.
Once dancing, as Mark put his arms around her, he waited for the outburst that he felt was sure to come. Bridget had just been talking about Natasha earlier and with the fluctuating state of her hormones, and Natasha’s obvious attempt at rudeness, he honestly wouldn’t have blamed her.
With nothing forthcoming, as she laid her head on his chest, he asked, “Bridget? Everything all right? You’re being awfully quiet. You do realize that I literally just ran into her at the bar, while getting our waters?”
“Mark, I’m fine. In fact, never better. After all, I’m your wife. I guess I got the last laugh!” and with that, she let her hands slip down his back, grabbing his arse with both hands, under his jacket, causing him to laugh out loud.