Standing at the coffee bar, I discreetly tear open two yellow packets of sweetener. I watch as the sparkling granules swirl into my English breakfast tea, dissolving easily.
Only after my paper cup has been securely sealed do I take a seat at a tucked away table. You greet me a wide easy grin.
We’ve gone out for tea many times, you and I. Yet I’ve never prepared that steaming cup in front of you. I suppose it’s because I wonder whether you would judge me for that teaspoon of artificial sweetness, given whatever life-threatening illness it’s causing this month.
Within seconds, you ask how I’m feeling, your eyes scanning my four months along belly. It can no longer be concealed by my ratty oversized sweatshirt, or blamed on a late night Mini Eggs binge.
I pause before answering. I really like you, you know. I so want us to be close. But a niggling voice in my head tells me to pull away, to not share too much, to not scare you away.
So I don’t say I feel like I’m drowning. That the nausea that has been relentlessly churning my stomach for months forces me to bed for hours a day. I don’t mention that if you peeked at my web browser, you’d see a history of research on pre-natal depression. I don’t tell you I feel like a failure as a wife and mother to my two-year-old son. I certainly don’t say I cried moments before walking through the door today.
I don’t say that I’m scared.
I say none of these things. Instead, I manage a bright smile.
I buoyantly admit this pregnancy has been tough, but that I’m hoping to turn the corner soon. I couldn’t bear it if you thought me a burden in our budding friendship.
So you chatter brightly on about the brilliant message your pastor preached on Sunday, and how you’re looking forward to delving into it more with your care group. You ask what my church is up to these days.
Again, I pause.
I don’t tell you I haven’t been to church in months.