Clutching her hand tightly, Ethan led Ivy up the steps out of the underground. He was a little nervous. What if she didn’t like it? What if she was getting bored of life in Bridgeport? He knew of her love of the outdoors, naturally, but there weren’t many green spaces in the city. The odd park, yes, but that wasn’t the same as the hillsides of Sunset Valley – tamed, organised hedgerows and artistic flower bed arrangements didn’t have the same appeal as the rugged, wild outskirts of the small town they had both left behind some weeks ago. Still, he had one more ace up his sleeve, one place he hadn’t yet been able to take Ivy to. Work, work, work. He dearly loved his job, but when he had his beautiful girlfriend mooching around the streets surrounding their appartment all day while he was in the studio he did wish he could take a few weeks off to spend time with her. Still, better late than never.
As they crossed the road, Ivy was faced with a large, glass dome, not unlike the one that lay next to science facility Tristan worked at back home. She was confused. Was this Bridgeport’s science complex? Why was Ethan bringing her here?
Entering the small building to the side of the dome, Ethan took Ivy down the stair case, along the corridor, and up the next flight of stairs. ‘Well, Ivy? What do you think?’ he asked with an air of uncharacteristic shyness.
Amazed, Ivy walked over to the nearest bench and sat down heavily, gazing around her. The glass dome was like a giant greenhouse, full of blooming flowers and palm trees, with butterflies flitting around everywhere. A sweet scent filled the warm air, a far cry from the smell of exhaust fumes usually smelt on the street.
Oh, gnomes. I have to tell him. It’s not fair.
‘Well? Ivy? Is there… Is something wrong?’
Ivy took a deep breath. It was now or never. ‘Ethan… Look. We need to talk. I have to tell you something…’
Ethan’s heart sank a little. ‘What’s the matter?’
Ivy looked up at him. ‘Ethan… I’m pregnant. I took the test yesterday evening. And another.’
Ethan sat back on the bench, watching a butterfly as it landed on a sunflower opposite him. ‘Pregnant. Wow.’
‘Yeah.’ Ivy fidgeted with the hem of her dress, a little unnerved by his lack of reaction.
‘So… We’re having a baby?’
‘Well yes, that’s usually what pregnancy results in!’ she replied a little irritatedly.
‘Huh.’ Suddenly Ethan stood up, dragging Ivy up too and swinging her round in front of him.
‘Well, I had been going to do this tomorrow night when we were out after the show, but I guess now’s as good a time as any. One second.’
Ivy watched in confusion as he rooted around in his pockets, searching for something; her eyes widened as he produced a small, black box and sunk down onto one knee.
‘Ivy Rivers. Ever since I met you, looking so uncomfortable in that tight dress and heels that you drunk yourself into an unholy oblivion, I have loved you. You’ve made me into a better person. I’ve had a pretty successful life, but you are by far the best thing to ever happen to me. And now, we’re going to have a baby. I can’t think of anyone else on this planet who would make a more perfect mother to my children. Will you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?’
‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Whooping with joy, Ethan slotted the sparkling ring onto her finger. He’d barely stood upright before Ivy had flung her arms around him, pulling him into a tight hug.
* * *
‘Did you get hold of your parents yet, love?’
‘No, not yet. I’ve been ringing, but it’s been going straight through to voicemail.’ Ivy frowned at the phone, rubbing her slightly swollen stomach worriedly. ‘I’m a little worried. Hey, why aren’t you dressed yet?’
‘Calm down, I’ve only just got up!’
‘It’s eleven o’clock!’
‘And I have the whole day off, so I’ll be spending the whole day here with my fiancée in my boxers. Eating waffles.’ Grinning, Ethan stubbornly squeezed extra syrup onto his fresh-out-of-the-oven, mid-morning breakfast. ‘You should try them again. Maybe they’ve had problems with their phone or something. Your family needs to know!’
‘I know they do! I have been trying!’
Rolling her eyes, Ivy picked up the phone and dialled the much-dialled number back into the handset as Ethan plonked himself down and began to devour his meal. On the eighth ring, Tristan picked up.
‘Hey Trist, shouldn’t you be at work? Ah, never mind, listen, I’ve got such good news – Tristan? Tristan, what’s the matter? Tristan! What… No… And… No! Tristan, why are you telling me this! Tristan! Oh, gnomes…’
‘Ivy? What is it, what’s happened?’ Ethan looked up just as the phone slipped out of Ivy’s hand as she clutched her heart, tears streaming down her face.’
‘It’s… I… I… I can’t breathe…’
‘IVY!!’ Ethan ran over just as his fiancée collapsed to the floor, consciousness leaving her eyes as they fluttered closed.
‘Ivy?! Oh, thank god! Ivy, Dad died! He just had a cold, I swear I only thought it was a cold! The doctor didn’t diagnose it until it was too late, they only got confirmation the evening before hand… It was llama flu, Ivy, it was too much for him to take… And then… Oh, Ivy…’
‘Mum came down with it too. She was just so weak, she could barely get out of bed. I sat by her bedside, I was willing her to get better, I couldn’t leave her… I couldn’t even get up to answer the phone. She… She…
She died this morning, Ivy. They took her away at half past nine, I’ve just… I don’t know what to do. Ivy? Ivy? Ivy, are you – Ivy!’