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By Elin Hilderbrand

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Peter either didn’t notice these obvious symptoms or he chalked them up to Frances Digitt–inspired melodrama. Melanie decided she would not tell Peter—she was resolved in this—until something changed. She wanted Peter to leave Frances Digitt because he loved her, Melanie, and not because there was now going to be a baby. A baby. Their baby. After all that trying, after all the needles, drugs, treatments, counting days, scheduling sex, it had happened on its own. Even Peter would be amazed, even he would shout with joy.

She was confronted by children wherever she turned—at the Stop & Shop, at the packed day care of her gym, at the annual Christmas pageant of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. You’re so lucky, the mothers would say to Melanie. You’re free to do whatever you want. You can sit through dinner and a bottle of wine at Chuck’s without sixteen hundred interruptions, without all the silverware and half the dinner rolls ending up on the floor, without the waitstaff glaring at you like you’re something stuck to the bottom of a mortician’s shoe.

A second later, Melanie appeared. “I think he’s hungry,” she said. She caught a whiff of Brenda’s desperate mien—the hands were still twitching—and she said, “Honey, what’s wrong? ” “Brenda lost her book,” Vicki said, trying to sound grave. “Her old book. ” “That book is my life,” Brenda said. “I’ve had it forever, it’s priceless . . okay, I feel sick. ” Good-luck charm? Vicki thought. If the book really had supernatural powers, wouldn’t it somehow have kept Brenda from sleeping with John Walsh and ruining her career?

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