The kitchen is dark, but Frank Campanelle knows his way around. He pours himself a second glass of milk, puts the carton back in the refrigerator and settles himself at the kitchen table. He downs the milk in one long continuous gulp. With the empty glass still firmly gripped in his hand, he tilts it slightly, studying it for a good minute and a half before setting it back down on the table. “Okay milk, do your stuff; work your magic,” he says in a whisper. He leans back on the kitchen chair, waiting to get sleepy. His mother had insisted that a glass of milk at night would put him right to sleep. “Well Mom, I’m on my second glass and nothing’s happening; I’m still wide awake,” he says out loud as if his mother was standing right there in the room with him. He’d give her a call in the morning, tell her it didn’t work, see what other suggestions she might have.
All Frank wants to do right now is sleep. It’s well-beyond midnight, but his mind won’t rest. He works way too many hours at a job he doesn’t particularly like. But it pays well, so he endures the stress. He has to. It isn’t just him and his Beloved anymore. Now they are three. And the new baby makes all the stress at work, worth it. He worries so much about his baby boy. He wants to make sure his son gets a good start in life. He wants to be sure he and Amanda always have enough money so their son will never want for anything.
He heads down the hall and pokes his head into the baby’s room. There he is, sleeping peacefully in his own cheerful little space, so tiny, so trusting, so content. He wants his son to always feel this content.
How careful they had been, preparing for the baby, with parenting books and baby paraphernalia and advice from all corners. How ready they were, when the baby arrived. The baby’s room, completed months in advance, all done up in baby-boy blue with a brand-new crib and a smattering of toys already in place.
And now it is real. They have a son, Michael Charles Campanelle. Frank feels so proud just to look at him, this new little life that now consumes his and Amanda’s constant attention. They aren’t just Frank and Amanda any more. Now they are Daddy and Mommy -- Michael’s Daddy and Mommy. The baby is still too young to talk, but Frank knows it won’t be long before he starts saying “Daddy” and “Mommy” and a slew of other words; Frank can hardly wait.
Frank continues down the hall and stands in the doorway of the master bedroom, studying his Beloved; she too is sleeping contentedly. How beautiful she looks, this brand-new mother, the true love of his life -- his Beloved in every sense of the word. Amanda’s long red hair is sprayed across her pillow, wisping against her pale alabaster skin. Just her head and shoulders are poking out from under the covers, but Frank can picture every inch of her in his mind. He imagines her milky white thighs, soft and smooth, safely tucked underneath the satin sheets.
Frank slides into bed and settles himself under the covers. Then he gives her a gentle nudge. She twitches, but doesn’t wake up. Softly, he claps his hands. Her eyes remain shut. He nuzzles in closer and slides his hand down under the sheets; he caresses her inner thighs.
She wakes up. “What are you doing?” she asks in a groggy voice. He doesn’t say a word. She props herself up just slightly and strains her eyes to look at the clock. “What time is it?” she asks in a whisper. She stretches her neck to see the clock. Again she asks: ”What time is it?”
He laughs slightly. “It’s morning,” he tells her. He nuzzles in a little tighter. “Hey my Beloved, let’s have us some fun,” he whispers.
“Huh,” she says, still groggy. “Morning?” she asks. “Morning?” she asks a second time. “It feels like I just fell asleep.” She looks toward the window, expecting to see the morning sunlight filtering through the curtains. But all she sees from the window is darkness. “It’s not morning,” she says sternly, looking directly at him. He smiles a boyish grin with that “aw c’mon” look on his face that she’s seen so many times before. He puts his face on top of hers. “Okay it’s not quite morning yet. More like the middle of the night. But I can’t sleep.” He kisses her forehead. “I’m just a man who loves his wife,” he says playfully. And then he kisses her cheek and her neck, working his way down. He kisses her right breast, her stomach, then tickles her down lower.
“Stop it,” she says with a slight laugh. “Stop it,” she says again, even less convincingly. He strokes her thighs, then switches his direction, moving upward, caressing her torso and kissing her left breast. Then he plants one hard kiss square on her lips. “Okay,” she says, kissing him right back, harder. “But what about me Frankie, then I’ll be wide awake.”
“Nah,” he says, “you’ll sleep just fine. And if you are wide awake, you can always count sheep. Here, let me get you started.” He starts to count, slowly, rhythmically, as he enters here.
“One, two, three, four.” His breathing grows heavier. “Five, six, seven, eight.” His smile grows broader. “Nine, ten, eleven...”
They grunt and moan; the bed squeaks. “We’ll wake the baby,” she says.
“No we won’t,” he assures her. She throws her arms up, high in the air, to hug his neck, but knocks over the lamp instead. They both laugh, but do not stop.
When they’re finished, he kisses her on the forehead, then strokes her cheek. He smiles contentedly. “Finally I can get some sleep,” he tells her.
He stays on top of her and kisses her breasts. “Be careful,” she tells him. “They’re so tender from all the breast-feeding.”
A broad smile stretches across his face. “And they’re so big and bouncy now that they’re all filled up with milk,” he tells her.
“Like a big cow with enormous utters,” she says matter-of-factly.
“Like melons,” he says teasingly, “like two big beautiful melons.”
“Oh stop, you flatter me so,” she says in a mock charm-school voice. For a few more minutes, they amuse themselves with playfully banter back and forth.
Within 15 minutes, Frank is groggy; at 20 minutes he’s fallen sound asleep. He lays on his stomach next to her, his right arm sprawled across her breasts.
Now it is Amanda who cannot sleep. Gently, she lifts his arm off of her body and props herself up, studying his face. She wonders, when the baby grows, will he have thick wavy hair like Frank? Or Frank’s strong jawline? Will he have Frank’s swagger when he walks? She smiles at all the possibilities. Frank wakes up briefly, long enough to shift to his side. She studies his handsome facial features. Baby Michael really does have his father’s eyes. And the nose too. “Yes, he has his Daddy’s nose,” she whispers. She had always thought it a bit silly when people would say that sort of thing. “Oh, the baby’s got your eyes.” But it was true. She could see her baby in Frank’s face and she could see Frank in Michael’s precious little face. There was more to it, more than just the nose or the eyes. There was just an undeniable something in the baby’s face that made it clear he was Frank’s son.
Amanda continues to survey Frank’s face for a few more minutes, then slides herself out of the bed. She leans over her husband. “Thanks Frankie, now I can’t fall asleep,” she says in a whisper. She bends down and kisses him softly on the cheek. He smiles sweetly, or maybe it’s a smirk; his eyes remain shut.
She goes into the small bathroom, just off the master bedroom. She tends to herself, then brushes her hair. She goes back into the bedroom where Frank continues to sleep, his heavy breathing serenading her, as she slides open the closet door and surveys her nightgowns. She selects the cream-colored one her mother had given her last Thursday. “Mom, not another present for the baby?” she had asked taking the gift. “No,” her mother said with a broad grin. “This is for you honey. Go ahead, open it. We’ve all been fussing so much over the baby and I just wanted you to know, I still think about my baby every now and then.” Her mother laughed warmly, then added: “And cream is such a great color for us redheads; you’ll look just beautiful in it.”
Amanda feels a little bit pampered as she drapes the nightgown over her shoulders and checks herself out in the mirror. Her mother was right, it does look good with her red hair. She does a few ballet steps, letting the sheer nightgown flutter with her gestures. She dances her way out of the bedroom and heads for the kitchen, but stops first to peek in on the baby. The two men in the house are sound asleep; she smiles at the thought. She looks at her precious little son. She leans on the doorway, smiling contentedly at this little life, secure in his crib, like a tiny, innocent version of Frank. She begins to think about her maternity leave, how short a time it is. She wonders how she will ever summon the strength to return to her job and leave her baby in someone else’s care. At this moment, such thoughts seem unbearable.
She continues up the hall to the kitchen. She turns on the light and sees the empty glass Frank left on the table. “He couldn’t rinse the glass or at least put it on the counter,” she says out loud. She shakes her head at the glass, trying her best to muster up annoyance, but cannot. Instead the glass seems in its rightful place on the kitchen table, waiting there for her, like some tell-tale sign that Frank was just in the room where she now stands. It makes her feel completely content. She picks up the glass and studies it. She caresses it, running her finger around the edge, knowing his lips were just on it. She opens the refrigerator door, shakes the milk carton vigorously and pours milk into Frank’s glass. She sits at the table, leaning forward on the kitchen chair, slowly sipping at the milk, savoring it’s wholesome flavor. How delicious it tastes, full of purity and goodness. She lets the milk drizzles down her throat. It’s icy cold, yet it makes her feel all warm inside. She savors the last few drops, then runs her tongue contentedly across her lips. She clasps her hands together, forming a valley and rests her chin in it. There is complete stillness in the house, yet it feels so full of life. Amanda stands up and dances her way over to the refrigerator, letting her nightgown flutter with her movements. She pours herself a second glass of milk and again settles herself, comfortably, contentedly, at the kitchen table.
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