Nora closed the boys' bedroom doors quietly and felt her way down the stairs, grateful for moonlight through the windows at the top of the double-story entrance foyer. In the kitchen she toasted a slice of bread. Dry toast was her only reliable remedy for the morning queasiness. That, and ginger. She could eat a whole bag of Australian crystallized ginger at a time when the nausea got bad, and it did get bad, often. In the first trimesters of her other three pregnancies the nausea had virtually incapacitated her. She had needed to avoid stores that sold food. In her own kitchen she had sealed her nose with a swimmer's clip. Just the trace smell of coffee or anything fried had the effect on her of poison. Her stomach would seize, her head would cloud, and her vision would blur so that there was no escape even in television. The condition was compounded during the first pregnancy by worry that something was wrong; surely no baby could survive this. She could barely survive it. But then she read it was healthy for a pregnant woman's sense of smell in the first trimester to become sensitive to food potentially toxic to a new embryo.
The rain had begun lashing. An inspired wind was making miniature twisters of sodden fallen leaves. She would have liked more toast, but she dusted her fingers over the sink and started through the rooms to check the windows. She thought she heard car doors closing out front, but it must have been claps of thunder or a tree branch knocking at the roof. A window in the laundry had been left open and she slipped on a circle of rainwater on the floor. She steadied herself against the wall, but felt shaken for a moment. She closed the window and threw some towels over the puddle and thought about warming milk and going back to bed for a while. But the telephone rang and she went back into the kitchen to answer it. She presumed it was Evan's car service confirming a car en route; she would need to make Evan a coffee and get him under the shower. But when she put the phone to her ear she heard only a dial tone. She idly took a bite of cold toast, expecting whomever it had been to ring back momentarily. Then the ringing sounded again, only it was not the telephone at all. It was the doorbell; Evan's car must be in the drive.