“Bringing Up Baby”
Going to the clinic was a disorienting experience for Gretchen. Well, maybe that was because she had spent most of the ride to the place in the trunk for fear of being spotted. Now she knew how that poor Jessica Simpson felt. She contemplated calling her up and sharing their concealment stories over a few drinks before the pregnancy set in. Oops! She wasn’t supposed to think about boozing with a baby inside of her. Sorry, there. She’d almost forgotten.
How could she have forgotten? Ass. She must be suffering from a lack of oxygen and blood to her brain.
The Masterson Fertility Clinic was several miles away from Gracia…and from the avaricious photographers. Sitting high on a hill, the Clinic boasted privacy and protection for its patients as well as a high-quality (read: expensive) medical facility. Gretchen crossed her fingers and hoped for the first two that day. The last was just superfluous, something she didn’t need but didn’t mind having at all. It would have been nice if a buff guy served her grapes for her troubles.
They were going to meet in the lobby. Apparently, Danie and Orlando had to do their thing first–whatever that was exactly, Gretchen didn’t want to entertain the thought–and then Gretchen could come along to complete the process.
By the end of the day, she would be pregnant.
She parked her VW Bug in a space next to a plum-colored Sebring Convertible. Danie. Apparently, she and Orlando must have ridden in together because she didn’t see Orlando’s car anywhere. After cutting the ignition, getting out, and locking the doors, she walked the stone path down to the clinic’s front doors. She nodded at a couple exiting the clinic at the same moment she was entering, happy that she wore sweats and her black hair stuffed into a blonde wig.
When Danie saw her as she entered the cushy waiting room, she raised an eyebrow and tried not to laugh.
“Gretchen,” she began in an even tone. “That wasn’t necessary.”
Gretchen shrugged, not trying to reveal how dumb she felt. “Just taking the extra precaution. You never know who might snitch at any given moment.” She shook her head. “I’m sure I lost any reporters though. I had Melanie’s friend drive me to my car in her car.”
“Are you sure no one saw you?” Danie asked.
“Well, if they did, they have X-ray vision.” Danie frowned. “I was in the trunk.”
Danie sighed again, between wanting to laugh and being exasperated. “Gretchen, I think you’re taking this a tad bit too seriously.”
Gretchen raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? Do you want to rehash the various tabloid articles that have alleged that Heero harmed Shannon because she supposedly was your and Orlando’s love child?” Danie’s eyes gleamed with unshed tears. Gretchen sighed. “I’m sorry, Danie. I just… Well, you know what I mean.”
“I do.” Danie shook her head. “Then I can understand why you went to such lengths to hide yourself.” She took her hand. “And I appreciate them.”
Trying to keep Danie from bursting into tears, Gretchen quipped, “Well, gotta do something unnoticed every once in a while.”
Danie sniffed and chuckled, wiping away a stray tear with her free hand. Gretchen laughed, too, and when Orlando strode into the room, they were laughing.
“What’s so funny, ladies?”
They looked at him. Danie smiled at him, while Gretchen felt a jolt that she didn’t understand. There was something about the fact that she was getting ready to have a child with this man that made seeing him weird, especially since the copulation would be of the clinical sort.
“We were just being silly,” Danie replied. “How did the, uh…”
“It was an experience that I never again want to have,” Orlando admitted, wincing.
“Oh? So you don’t like being forced to masturbate?”
“Danie?!” Gretchen hissed, blushing.
Danie laughed. “Sorry. I was just kidding.”
“I’ll have to admit that I have to answer yes to your question,” Orlando responded, making Danie laugh even harder. Gretchen lowered her head as a nurse walked in.
“Miss?” Gretchen looked up. “It’s time.”
Gretchen lifted her chin and exhaled. Orlando placed a hand on her shoulder and she looked at him. Wordlessly, he offered her his left hand.
Sighing, she took Orlando’s hand and followed the doctor into a room with an unmarked door.
* * *
From THE GRACIA JOURNAL
Here Comes the Pitter-Patter
By Claudia Miercoles
According to a statement released this afternoon, Gretchen Thomas, the precocious, sweet-voiced member of the rock/pop band The Fray is pregnant. While the world is astir with speculation about the male contributor to the other half of genes to this bundle of joy, Miss Thomas just smiles demurely and says, “Now that’s a secret.”
Most of the speculators tie Miss Thomas to British actor and all-around hottie Orlando Bloom, with whom she has been linked ever since an appearance at Kaminari Academy, even though his paternity is her most vehement denial. Sources say that Thomas appeared after one of Bloom’s fans had asked about his marital status and shot the girl’s dreams of being Mrs. Orlando Bloom to the dirt by giving him a rather theatrical kiss. Ever since, the two have been spotted twice together, but both Thomas and Bloom have denied any involvement with the other, calling the kiss in front of Bloom’s fans “a joke.” Even more perplexing are Bloom’s seemingly strong and newly-formed ties to Thomas’s sister, actress, singer, and supermodel Daniella Thomas. The actor revealed in an interview that he met Danie two years ago in London, but they really “just clicked” very recently after seeing each other at the Atlantis exhibit at the Gracia Museum some months ago. (Gretchen Thomas was also on hand at this appearance, but he didn’t make any indications that the two hooked up.) Bloom has been one of Daniella Thomas’s most frequent visitors and most ardent supporters, being there to hold her hand outside of her late daughter’s memorial service, which had been closed to the public. Could Daniella Thomas be trying to hook her sister up with her new friend? Sources say yes, but the two still smile and shake their heads as if the rest of the world is crazy.
Another candidate for Gretchen Thomas’s baby daddy is her bandmate and friend Chris Parker. The two have been forever unlinked in the press, but an undercurrent of buzz has read this line in Thomas’s album thank-yous from their debut as a romantic sentiment toward Parker: “And remember, don’t spill the Olive Juice. It makes a horrible stain.” His reply? “And don’t worry–I won’t spill the olive juice. You’re the clumsy one, remember?” While the two have insisted that it is an inside joke having nothing to do with the two of them being lovers, speculations are running rampant about the meaning behind it.
And at the other side of the possible candidates for the father is a sperm bank. Thomas has never given any indication of wanting a baby with or without a husband or boyfriend, but the scenario could have occurred. It’s one on the bottom of our lists, because believing that Thomas had hot, kinky sex with Orlando Bloom is more fun, and going to the sperm bank is not as imaginative. But only time will tell–and the color of the child’s eyes, if you know what I mean.
* * *
Gretchen threw the paper onto Miranda’s desk in frustration. “This is bullshit.”
Miranda shrugged from behind her desk, wearing a white button-down blouse. It was a few days after the blessed event, and Gretchen figured it was a good time to talk with her public relations guru. She was freaking out, on the inside. Sadly, it was oozing to the outside, little by little. “Gretchen…” she began.
“I know, I know.” Gretchen sat up. “I really should have let Moira or Claudia do this instead. It was too risky in the first place.” She sighed and shook her head. “But there’s something more at stake here than my career, my music, my life. Others, future generations, will be affected if I don’t do this.” She huffed. “It’s like being pregnant with Rosemary’s Baby.”
Miranda grinned, a gleam in her eye. She knew all about the Senshi thing, but she felt the need to tease her friend a little. “Chica, you and I both know this ain’t got nothing to do with somebody named Rosemary.”
Gretchen chuckled, not affected by Miranda’s mirth. “Is that a smart remark about–?”
“I’m just saying. But I’m going to quit badgering you about it. The people in this building are just dying to find something to sell to the tabs, so I’m not going to feed the rumor mill.”
Gretchen raised an eyebrow. “Even in the privacy of your own office?”
Miranda shrugged. “You never know how in the world they’re gonna violate your privacy these days. But at any rate, I have to say, this threw everyone for a loop.” She stared at Gretchen for a long moment before speaking. When she did finally speak, it was in a low voice. “So, officially, is Orlando Bloom the father of your child or what?”
It would make things harder for the both of them. Gretchen shook her head.
Miranda nodded at this. “I agree. Orlando Bloom has enough on his plate. As far as I’ve heard, he’s booked up filming movies until the end of next year. Not to mention that he’s just broken up with his girlfriend. The last thing we need is a scandal.”
Gretchen remembered the most virulent of the tabloid fodder and sighed. “We may already be there, Miranda.”
* * *
The first time was always hard, Irene told her. Gretchen certainly agreed the first time she experienced morning sickness. It was her vantage point, right then and there, as she sat on the toilet seat, that she was never EVER going to have a baby again. Even if Adonis came down and begged her to be the mother of his begotten, she’d show him the door. Well, she’d pinch his ass first for the cheap thrill of it, then show him the door.
Orlando, meanwhile, was on the other side of the world, letting his handsome face be printed on film.
Easy work, compared to this.
If she had been a lesser woman, she would have stumbled out of the bathroom and called Orlando in a frantic rush. But no. She was more than that. So she Gretchen shook her head and resolved to leave him out of it. She wouldn’t call him if things got rough. She wasn’t a little girl needing some man to hold her hand. She was a grown woman nowadays, and she was going to stick to that.
Yes, that was her choice and not something someone ordered her to do. Orlando had enough to deal with, now that she considered it.
The tabs were also cranking out nonsense about him being back with his ex and some stalker business. The first was false, but the second was true. As if tying him to her sister’s dead child wasn’t enough!
So she gritted her teeth and browsed the magazines as her pregnancy progressed and the buzz died out for the moment. She didn’t care if Orlando had fallen into a well. Well, she did, for posterity’s sake. But nothing more. She pretended that it didn’t rankle when the ex-girlfriend reports were proved right in some of the tabloids. It just didn’t matter that much to be truth.
* * *
Nine weeks after the visit to the clinic, Gretchen picked up the Gracia Journal and found an article in the nefarious gossip section that made her stomach turn.
Samantha, who had been scribbling lyrics on a notepad, looked up at the strangled sound that came out of Gretchen’s mouth.
“What?” Gretchen said nothing, and tossed the paper at Samantha. She fled the room before she could lose her lunch in Samantha’s home studio. She’d lost it in the bathroom a few moments later. Slam dunk right in the toilet.
Samantha had read the article and figured first Gretchen needed to be calmed down. Then she’d make a few irate phone calls in the morning and sic her half-cousin Amber on some of these brain-dead journalists.
Ironically, that same night, Orlando finally called her. Well, the truth was, he had been calling for nine weeks and she had been avoiding him, knowing that he couldn’t do anything about it. She didn’t want to see him. If she gave him the silent treatment and he came running to Gracia to see her, the cat would be out of the diaper bag.
It was eleven at night. She was curled up in bed, reading pregnancy books and eating ice cream with Samantha. They’d spent some time working on tracks for their third album and Gretchen was so excited to be thinking about something other than the baby. And its father. When her phone started blaring “That’s Just My Baby-Daddy” (Gee thanks, Nicole, she thought, sighing) Gretchen tried not to bite too hard down on the spoon in her mouth.
Orlando. Damn you bastard. Leave me alone. “Hello?”
On the other line, Orlando sounded tired. There had to be at least a twelve-hour difference between them. “Gretchen? Where have you been? I’ve been trying to–”
“Hold your horses there, Johnny,” Gretchen interrupted. Samantha raised an eyebrow. She knew when Gretchen addressed someone as ‘Johnny’ over the phone, it was Orlando. It was some kind of code she’d made up to keep his identity secret to anyone around if they were trying to eavesdrop. That and she just took her calls in private. Things were simpler that way.
“You need to calm down,” Gretchen continued. “You ought to know what I’m doing over here right down to every visit to the bathroom the way the press has been hounding me over here.”
“That doesn’t fucking matter, Gretchen. You should at least pick up the phone when I call,” Orlando scolded. “I call to check up on you, nothing more. At least until I can come and visit you.”
“It’s the damn baby you care about, not me as much,” Gretchen snapped, anger rising because of his tone. She hated men that thought that a pregnant woman was a damsel in distress. “I’m just a carrier for your progeny. You could care less how I feel.”
“Gretchen,” Orlando began.
Samantha closed her eyes. She could feel the stress coming off of Gretchen. She figured Gretchen was about to say something that she would want to take back later, so she took the phone from her gestating friend.
Gretchen stared at her, wide-eyed. “What the–?”
“Take a bath, cousin,” Samantha ordered tersely. Gretchen didn’t think there was any room to argue with her, so she padded down to the bathroom, frowning.
Meanwhile, Samantha turned to the phone as soon as Gretchen was out of earshot. “Bloom? Samantha, here. Sorry about that. I think the hormones are getting to her early. That or the morning sickness.”
“How is she, Sam?” Orlando asked. “I honestly don’t think she’s going to tell me anything. She’d rather take off my head first.”
“That and a few other appendages.” She sighed. “She’s just emotional right now. I think she accepted this whole thing without really realizing that the consequences would be. Now it’s really sinking in and it’s hard to accept.” Samantha bit her lip before continuing.
“Not to mention…that some of the gossips have postulated that you have intentions that aren’t exactly pure for conceiving this baby.” She shook her head. “The fact that they’re tagging you now is disconcerting, but…”
“Journalists?” Orlando sounded an inch away from disemboweling someone. “Who? And where was this published?”
The article in question had been published in that previous day’s Gracia Journal along with a picture of Orlando with his ex-girlfriend. Samantha inhaled and read it aloud to Orlando, byline and all.
* * *
SOWING THE SEEDS OF BLOOM
By Kay Jamal
Well, folks, it seems that my sources have confirmed what we have known for all along: Orlando Bloom is indeed the father of Gretchen Thomas’s unborn child. According to reports, Bloom and Thomas had a brief affair not long after the Atlantis exhibit made its stop at the local museum. More sources have come out of the woodwork, stating that they spotted a man that looked like Bloom emerging from the house of Thomas’s big sister, multitasker Jessica Thomas, many times in the immediate weeks following the exhibit.
What’s even more thrilling (and disturbing and some ways) is the report from my quite reliable source that Bloom’s on-again, off-again girlfriend —- —- is pregnant with his child also. “She’d been feeling weird for a couple of months, but she didn’t notice it because she was filming her new movie,” blabs the source. “During a doctor’s visit, she’d gotten the wonderful news: she’s pregnant.” Conception was pegged a few days before Bloom ventured to California for the Atlantis exhibit, and reports from the time confirm that the pair was still hot and heavy at that point. Only a day or two before the visit to Gracia did Bloom’s rep issue this statement: “Orlando and —- have broken up. They decided to go their separate ways. It was an amicable separation and they are still friends.”
Now the question is: who is going to get child support? And who is Bloom going to make an honest woman? According to Thomas, who has still denied that Orlando is the father of her child despite reports to the contrary, declared that she raise the baby on her own, so a walk down the aisle will be out of the question, leaving —- as the most possible candidate for the bride of Mr. Bloom. While —-‘s rep has not confirmed or denied the pregnancy, sources say that there’s no reason to believe that this report is not true.
* * *
“Are you serious?!” Orlando bellowed. His head was spinning with the thought of all the phone calls he was going to have to make.
Samantha winced. Her ear was crackling. “Like a heart attack.”
Needless to say, she knew that when Orlando told her that he would call her back, he was going to put the fear of God–or maybe Zeus–into some malicious little journalist. Good.
* * *
In a hotel room several miles away, Orlando flipped his cell phone down and sighed.
It was a trying situation. He was in the height of his career and he was trying his best to make everyone in the world happy. Not only was it costing him some sleep, but it was costing him the woman he loved.
Yes, he loved her. While he wasn’t going to admit that for many reasons, many personal and many professional, he had come to realize it and try to understand it. For the time being, he had a job to do and being in a relationship with Gretchen Thomas would not help him keep his focus. Nor would thinking about the baby at this point.
Ah. The baby.
A startling thought indeed–and a testament to how much his life had changed. He had a child now. Or was going to have one. But it was as good as done. There was a woman thousands of miles away, and she was carrying his child. It would have their genes. Well, his and Danie’s genes. But Danie and Gretchen had the same genetic makeup, so it would be like having a child with her.
He knew his ex-girlfriend (yes, it was his ex now) was not pregnant with his child. Under the radar of the popular media, they had a long heart-to-heart to clear the air about certain matters, including the pregnancy allegations. This Kay Jamal character hadn’t been the first one to suggest that —- was pregnant. But she would be the last.
* * *
A few weeks later, Gretchen turned on the TV. Her older sister had an interview on some celebrity news show, and since she was four-and-half months pregnant, Gretchen figured she’d take some time out of her day of rest by watching it.
Her sister wore a loose embroidered linen top and jeans, looking like pregnancy had not dulled her in the slightest. Gretchen knew better. She knew that Danie had bad morning sickness as she had. The only difference between herself and her sister was that Danie had a loving fiancé. Gretchen had nobody.
She talked about her family and her late daughter Shannon. Danie of course didn’t speak too long on that subject. She talked about music: her next album and the probability of a new album from the Fray.
And then came the burning question.
“I know you’ve been reading the tabloids, Danie,” began the charming interviewer Simon Vincent, “and some of them haven’t been too nice about the situation with your little sister.” Danie commented and they laughed, then he continued. “So tell me and all of America. Is Orlando Bloom the father of your sister’s child?”
Danie laughed without hesitation and shook her head. Her eyes fell to the right for the second, then she looked back up at Simon.
“Actually, no, Simon,” Danie replied. “I hate to disappoint all the people out there that think Orlando’s the father of Gretchen’s child, but it’s just not true. He and Gretchen have never slept together, and the baby’s not his. They’re just friends, as they have been saying.”
“So the baby’s not Orlando’s,” Simon repeated.
“Right,” Danie confirmed. “Orlando knows that if he got Gretchen pregnant that we’d be after him to do the right thing. Not to mention the fact that him having sex with her after knowing her for a grand total of two weeks would really get him on my big sister’s shit list. And that’s not a good place to be.”
As Simon laughed at that and changed the subject, Gretchen sighed. She snapped off the television and reached for her cell phone.
* * *
Halfway across the globe, Orlando gritted his teeth at the sound of the cell phone and rolled over in bed onto his bare stomach.
“Who the fuck could this be?” He swiped up the phone without even looking at the LCD display to see who it was. “Hello.”
“Goodness, Johnny, you sound grumpy.”
He exhaled and rolled over on his back at the sarcastic voice. Gretchen. “Gretchen love, do you realize just what time it is here?”
“No. But then again, I really never got the time zone thing.”
He growled and Gretchen decided she’d better get to the point.
“Okay. Fine. I just called to say sorry. That’s it.”
Orlando’s lids lifted. “That’s it?”
“And you couldn’t do this with email?”
It was Gretchen’s turn to growl. Orlando laughed a little, feeling his headache abate.
“I’m only messing around.” He frowned, then rolled over on his side. He closed his eyes to rest them. “So why else did you call me? I know this wasn’t the only thing. You could have waited if it was just this.”
“I could not!” Silence on Orlando’s end. “Fine, fine. You’re right.” She exhaled. “I have some news, but you’ll probably hear about it when you get up.” Before he could speak, she added, “Calm down. It’s not bad. It might be good in this situation, actually.”
Orlando yawned. “So what is it?”
He could hear and almost see Gretchen smile. “Oh–you’ll see.”
* * *
When Orlando got up that morning to get ready for another day of filming, he turned it on one of the news channels (he couldn’t tell which one). After glancing at the weather, he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth.
“And in entertainment news, it turns out that the tabloids were wrong for once.” An anchor’s wry voice perked up Orlando’s ears, and he didn’t know why. He brought the toothbrush to his mouth as he heard his own name.
“Orlando Bloom is not the father of Gretchen Thomas’s baby, according to her sister Danie. In an interview with —-‘s Simon Vincent, the radiant Thomas refuted all the claims that Orlando Bloom ever slept with her little sister.”
Shocked, Orlando drifted out of the bathroom as Danie appeared on-screen.
With startling sincerity and skill, Danie lied to the entire free world.
Open-mouthed, he watched as the screen switched back to the big-toothed anchor, who made a glib comment about the news. Well, Danie’s statement hadn’t been a complete lie. He and Gretchen hadn’t really slept together. She was just having a baby for posterity’s sake. His posterity. Their posterity.
But Danie… Danie lied. Orlando drifted back into the bathroom and finished brushing his teeth. He was still dazed.
* * *
It took two weeks, but Orlando got in touch with Danie.
She was going to be in Milan for some business and they decided to meet up. Orlando suddenly didn’t care if they were snapped. He had to talk with Danie. He wanted to know the truth.
They sat in Danie’s hotel suite with the television on but unnoticed. Danie’s cell was nearby if her fiancé felt the need to contact her. Orlando sat in a plush arm chair and watched Danie standing at a window. She wore a long royal purple dress and her long hair pulled back from her face. Her long black hair was pulled away from her face, revealing a glowing face and striking violet eyes.
“You know, Danie, I have to say, pregnancy sure has made you more beautiful.”
Danie’s lips curved. “Now I know why so many girls scream when you walk into a room.” She turned from the window. “Do I have to ask you why you’re here, or can we just get to the point?” She placed a hand idly on the top bend of her belly. “Everyone’s been asking me about it. I figured you would want to talk to me sooner or later.”
She patiently waited for him to speak. When he did, she was sitting down on the luxurious couch, observing him with omniscient eyes.
“I appreciate what you’ve done for me and Gretchen,” Orlando said. “It was risky. That Vincent bloke could have figured you out.”
Danie smiled. “Orlando, I can lie better than you think. He wouldn’t have figured me out. It would have taken a seasoned FBI agent to figure me out.” Her smile deepened. “Maybe.”