Julia hoists herself around on the bed until her head's at the
bottom, then sticks her legs straight up in the air and leans them
gently on the headboard.
"You know, you look ridiculous," Mark snorts, walking out of the
bedroom to grab some toilet paper from the bathroom, because that
is their deal: She will allow the wet spot to be on her side of the
bed as long as Mark is the one to clean it up, and she is only
allowing it at all because she is thrilled, delighted, amazed that
Mark has even agreed to this baby in the first place.
She was thrilled. Nine months ago. Nine months ago when she first
broached the subject and told him that she was desperate for a
baby, that at thirty-three time was definitely running out; that
her mother had problems conceiving her, and it took her two and a
half years. That last part was actually a bit of a white lie. Her
mother conceived her on her wedding night, but that was the
clincher, and Julia finally got her wish.
She watches Mark as he comes back from the bathroom. Tallish,
broadish, green-eyed and mousy-haired, he would produce adorable
children. They, together, would produce adorable children. They
would have Julia's dimples and Mark's eyes. Julia's hair and Mark's
physique. Mark's gentleness, calmness, and Julia's tenacity,
They would have so much, if Mark and Julia were able to produce at
Ironic, isn't it?
If they had been successful that first time they decided to leave
the condoms in the drawer, they'd be having a baby right about now.
To be more specific, Julia would be having a baby next Thursday.
Thursday the 30th of January.
He or She, or Baby of Mine, as Julia has termed the life that isn't
yet growing, would be an Aquarius. Her Secret Language of Birthdays
book says the following about people born on the 30th of
Those commanding personalities born on the 30th of January are born
to lead. They have a great talent for guiding, entertaining,
teaching, explaining, and in general making their ideas clear to
Julia's baby would have shared a birthday with Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, Vanessa Redgrave, Gene Hackman, and a whole host of
people allegedly famous but not worth repeating.
But Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Well. You can just imagine what
Julia's thinking. She lay in bed for hours that first night, eyes
wide open, thinking about her son, the future Prime Minister, or
her daughter, the next head of the United Nations. Not that she'd
planned it, but really, she had thought, is there a better sign in
Baby of Mine would have been lucky enough not to have inherited
Mark's Cancerian moodiness or her dodgy Pisces sentimentality.
According to Linda Goodman, Aquarian boys and girls can be calm and
sweetly docile on the surface, but the north wind can turn them
Expect your February child to have a dream, she says, and hold it
fast--until he gets another one. Your little Uranian is,
apparently, very special. He's a humanitarian. He loves people. Do
you know how rare that is? As society moves into the Aquarian age,
his unprejudiced wisdom is leading us. Aquarian boys and girls have
been chosen by destiny to fulfill the promises of tomorrow.
All in all, not a bad deal. So rather devastating that Julia's baby
chose not to make an appearance.
The first couple of months it was no big deal. It only became a big
deal when Sam, Julia's best friend, fell pregnant without even
trying. Of course Julia was delighted for her, could not have been
happier or more excited, but somehow it raised the stakes, began to
put pressure on, and suddenly Julia found this was no longer fun,
this was business. For the first time in her life she found herself
failing at something.
Julia had always been Golden Girl. Through university, then into
her first job on a graduate trainee scheme at London Daytime
Television. Someone somewhere must have been smiling on her,
because she was quickly promoted to the better series, and now
she's the executive producer of a leading early-evening chat
Lunchtimes she finds herself sitting with the President of
Entertainment. He digs his fork into her chicken for a taste, in a
manner that implies equality and intimacy. And possibly more,
although she's not interested. The Head of Drama--much to her
continued amazement--calls Julia to bemoan her love life. They sit
in the bar after work, as production assistants try to worm their
way into their affections by buying them drinks and feeding them
Of course Julia has nothing to bemoan. This is what people say
about her: I would like to be in her shoes.
She has always had what everyone else has always wanted. From her
glossy dark hair--easily her best feature--to her small feet tucked
into beaded slippers or sexy pointed slingbacks; from her
spotlighted career--she is regularly included in those magazine
features on "Ones to Watch"--to her large Victorian house in
Hampstead (actually it's Gospel Oak, but given that it's
practically on top of the Heath, and that all the estate agents
call it Hampstead, Julia is now doing the same thing). And, most of
Julia and Mark met four years ago. He was the company lawyer, had
been with the firm for about six months, had become the heartthrob
of the office. Julia, to her credit, was blissfully unaware of
this, being embroiled in a relationship with one of those dreadful,
difficult men who pretend that they love you, but who are actually
far too busy with their friends and their lives to give you the
time of day.
Perhaps blissfully unaware is not quite true. She was vaguely aware
of a new lawyer who had set hearts a-fluttering, and vaguely aware
that her fellow female researchers kept dashing upstairs to get
something "legalled" that was quite patently legal in her opinion,
and even though she knew she had met Mark, had even spoken to him,
she didn't think of him as a man.
And then one lunchtime he came and stood by Julia's table, an
overflowing plate of spaghetti threatening to tip off his tray, and
asked if he could join her. She was Miss Doom and Gloom, having
realized that the Dreadful Difficult man was turning out to be too
dreadfully difficult, even for her, but within minutes Mark had
made her smile. The first time she had smiled for weeks.
Julia never bothered ringing the Dreadful Difficult man to tell him
it was over. Then again, he never phoned her either. She is
sometimes tempted, four years on, to ring and say the relationship
doesn't seem to be working, just for a laugh, but even though the
thought makes her smile from time to time, it's not something she
would ever actually do.
They were friends for a while, Julia and Mark. She was working all
hours, researching a fly-on-the-wall documentary about women having
plastic surgery. Mark was, at that point, the junior lawyer. He
pretended he was also working late, and would go to her office to
persuade her to get a bite to eat after work.
But gorgeous as everyone else seemed to find him, Mark simply
wasn't her type. Even now she's not entirely sure he's her type.
She tells people she fell in like with him. Because he was kind to
her, and treated her well, and because he was such a nice guy. And
maybe, just maybe, because she was slightly on the rebound,
although the only person she's ever admitted that to is Sam.
And if that were really true, there's no way she'd be with him four
years on, is there?
They still work together, and everyone still loves him. The
researchers, much like policemen, may be getting younger and
younger, but they still cluster round in excitement as he passes,
or scurry down the corridor to his office, an endless stream of
fluffy blonde chicks, desperate to impress. It makes Julia smile.
It always did. Thankfully she is not the jealous, or suspicious,
They say the ones you have to watch are the quiet ones. That it is
always the ones who are least likely to have the affairs that end
up having the affairs, and sometimes Julia thinks this will be the
case with Mark. But the truth is that she doesn't really care. If
Mark had an affair, she's not sure she could even be bothered to
deal with it. Maybe she would. Maybe it would be an excuse to end
Not that she's unhappy, exactly. But she's not happy either. She
just is. For the last couple of years Julia has felt as if she's
lived her life floating on a cloud of apathy, and she's really not
certain what the problem is. Everyone tells her she's the luckiest
girl in the world, and Mark does, did, everything for her, although
now when she catches his eye as they sit on the sofa watching
television, it shocks her to recognize herself in there; she turns
away and blinks, unable to bear the thought that Mark is equally
numb, because if that is the case, then what is the point?
A baby is the point, she decided nine months ago, when the numbness
threatened to overwhelm her. Because while she may not be entirely
happy with Mark; while they may not make each other laugh anymore;
while they hardly talk anymore, except to argue, and they don't
even manage to do that properly, Mark being the gentle,
nonconfrontational creature that he is . . . while she refuses to
acknowledge that surely there is, there must be, more to life than
this, there are things about Mark that she loves.
She loves the fact that he will make a wonderful husband. A
heart-stoppingly amazing father. He is loyal, trustworthy, and
faithful. He adores other people's children (even though he always
said he wasn't ready for children. Not by a long shot. Not yet), he
grew up with three brothers and one sister, and his parents are
still married. And happy. They sit on the sofa and cuddle like a
couple of teenagers.
"Too Good to be True," Sam stated firmly, after she had first met
him, and been well and truly charmed.
"You think?" Julia was blase, affecting a nonchalance it is easy to
have when you are being chased by someone every single one of your
colleagues would kill for, and you are not particularly
"Too Good to be True, and In Love with You." That was how Sam said
it. As a caption. As a statement that would not, could not, be
questioned. A short and simple fact of life.
Julia had shrugged but Sam continued. "Don't let this one go," she
warned, and Julia took it to heart. After all, Sam was the expert.
Sam had already found Chris, the man she was to marry, so when she
told Julia that Mark was a keeper, she took her advice and kept
He is a keeper. Sam was right. Julia watches him wash up every
night, listens to him whistling as he carries the shopping home,
and she knows he deserves better than this. She thinks she might
deserve better than this too.
They have found a way of living side by side, without ever really
communicating. It had been funny, at the beginning, how different
they were. They had laughed and said how lucky they were that
opposites really did attract, although even then Julia wasn't so
They told all their friends that the key to their relationship was
exactly that they were so different; they thought they would never
be bored, each of them having their own interests. Only now can
Julia see the chasm that's opened up between them, the chasm that
was always there, but, as a hairline crack, was too difficult to
see at the beginning.
Mark loves being at home. Julia loves being out. He loves his
family, his close friends, and Julia. She loves being surrounded by
people, strangers, anyone--the more the merrier. Mark loves
puttering around the house and garden, finds true spiritual
happiness in Homebase, whereas Julia is at her best in a noisy bar,
chattering away over a few Cosmopolitans. Mark would have a panic
attack if he ran out of slug pellets. Julia has panic attacks when
she can't get reception on her mobile phone.
When they first met he was renting a small flat in Finsbury Park;
she owned a tiny, messy terraced house just off Kilburn High Road.
Neither of them can quite remember how it happened, but a couple of
months after they met Mark had moved in. They don't remember
discussing it, just that one day he wasn't there, and the next he
And Julia loved it, in the beginning. She'd been on her own since
leaving university, and suddenly there was someone to talk to,
someone who would listen if she'd had a particularly good, or bad,
Mark quickly assumed the role of housekeeper, chef, organizer. The
unopened envelopes piled in the hallway disappeared overnight, and
Mark dealt with stuff. Grown-up stuff that Julia had never got
around to dealing with herself. He fixed the leaking showerhead, a
small annoyance she'd learned to live with. He created a terrace
out of a courtyard filled with rubble. He turned her house into a
home, and when, after a year, it became too small for both of them,
he bought a huge house just up the road in what was then very
definitely Gospel Oak.
And now they rattle around together in this big house that is far,
far too big for Julia. Julia loved her tiny house, loves small,
cozy rooms, has never felt comfortable in this house, never felt
Mark, on the other hand, loved it instantly. Because Julia thought
she did not really care where she lived, thought if Mark was happy
she would be happy, she agreed, even though she now finds she has
always been intimidated by the vast rooms, the high ceilings, the
floor-to-ceiling bay windows.
They meet in the kitchen, the one place Julia does like, the one
room that makes her feel as though she belongs, the only room in
the house that bears witness to the occasional times that Mark and
Julia laugh together. Talk. Communicate.
Because every now and then they do have a fantastic time. Both of
them are still clinging on, hoping that those fantastic times will
increase, that they will be able to recapture some of the magic
that was there at the beginning.
Which is why Mark agreed to the baby. Julia knew he wasn't keen,
wasn't ready, but she has come to believe this baby is their best
shot. Of course it's not right to use children as a means of
grouting up the cracks in a relationship, but Julia is convinced
she'd change if they had a child together. She'd be settled. Happy.
They would be a family.
Excerpted from BABYVILLE © Copyright 2003 by Jane Green.
Reprinted with permission by Broadway Books, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved.