Since the middle of last summer when she and her husband first moved in on a hot July day when there seemed no relief from the sun and dry air, Duncan and I have been waiting for Cassie to have her baby. We met her and her husband the night they finished unloading their truck, carrying all of their belongings, which weren't many, up three flights of stairs in a neighboring building. They were taking a walk across the street to the park with their dog Luka, and as we were headed in the same direction we walked a ways together, chatting casually as strangers and neighbors do. When I marveled that they seemed in remarkably good spirits despite moving on such a hot day Cassie blushed, looked at her husband (whose name I can never remember) and confessed, "We just found out we're going to have a baby."
And so began our ritual, passing each other once or twice a week, usually early in the morning before work and then again late at night on our last walk before heading to bed. Duncan and Luka would sniff each other out, walking in circles around each other, forcing Cassie and I to do that awkward dance known to all dog walkers whereby we reach around and under each other to untangle the leashes. We'd laugh and I'd ask, "How's the baby?' I got updates and as Autumn came and turned to winter we watched her belly grow until finally her coat became too small to contain all of her.
And then last night, after the long snow finally tapered off and the low orange clouds drifted away revealing a sky as magnificent as any I've seen in a long time, we passed her again. She was enormous and the coat she'd bought to replace the one she'd worn for so long, wasn't even zipped up. Her belly was massive and low and I couldn't help but see how uncomfortable she was.
"Not yet, huh?" I asked.
"We're a week overdue," she sighed, petting the top of Luka's head. He was being a good boy, staying right at her side, avoiding Duncan and the inevitable dance of leashes.
"I hear that's common the first time around," I smiled.
"But I think tonight is the night." She rubbed her belly with one hand. "She's been moving around a lot all day."
"Hang in there," I said, and when I gave Luka a treat for being such a good boy Cassie let out a little oomph kind of noise, tensed up and then froze. "Is everything okay?" I asked.
She nodded quickly and then began to back away, pulling Luka after her. "My water just broke," she said. "I need to go. Sorry," she offered, as though afraid I thought it rude to depart so suddenly.
"Go," I told her excitedly, a smile wide across my face. "Do you need help? Do you need me to take Luka?"
"Nope," she said. "I'm good. Thank you," and then she hurried away, never turning her back to me.
Duncan sat down in the middle of the parking lot beside me and together we watched her climb the stairs ready to hurry to her side if she needed help. But she made it inside and not long after, after climbing my own stairs and pulling the blinds, looking out on the night from the warm side of my window, I watched her husband help her into their car and pull out of the parking lot, their taillights glowing red on the ice and new snow.