“You can also twist and turn and injure yourself,” she said, and continued. She made me raise my arms and then came around to run the sponge over my breasts. She paused to study them.
“Now what’s wrong?”
“You need a larger maternity bra. Why don’t you tell me when you have discomfort?”
“I didn’t have any.”
“Of course you did,” she said, and continued to wash me.
I felt very foolish sitting in the tub and letting her go over every private inch of me, but she was working me over as if she were washing a car, turning and pressing my body until she dropped the sponge into the water and told me to get out carefully.
She held up a bath towel. I started to dry myself, but either she was impatient or she thought she had to be part of everything. She took another towel and worked on my back, rear, and legs.
“I’m going to have Dr. Denardo come look at your swelling,” she said. “We must be very careful about potential blood clots. Thromboembolic disease is the leading cause of death of pregnant women in the United States,” she recited.
“What is that?”
“A clot blocks an artery. If you die, naturally, the baby will,” she added, without any emotion but making it clear that the baby was more important. “Get dressed, and get back into bed. I’ll go see about your breakfast and call the doctor.”
Holding the towels with two fingers, she dropped them into the hamper as if they were filled with disease and walked out. I stood there trembling, feeling she had handled me like a baby. I sensed that I was losing control of myself. She controlled what I wore, what I ate, when I ate, and when I slept. Soon, that woman would tell me when and how to breathe, I thought, and went out to get dressed.
Whatever she said to Señor Bovio about me put him into an immediate state of panic. He rushed up to my bedroom just as I had finished dressing.
“Please, get off your feet,” he told me. “Dr. Denardo is going to get over here as soon as he can.”
“I don’t feel sick, señor. There’s no reason for all this panic.”
“There is much you don’t know about yourself right now,” he insisted. “You must follow Mrs. Newell’s orders.”
He stood there until I got back into the bed.
“I’m all right, Señor Bovio. Please.”
His hovering over me with a look of deep concern was actually beginning to frighten me. When Mrs. Newell squeezed my leg, it did hurt. Was I really in some danger?
“You didn’t do too much at Fani’s yesterday, did you?” he asked. “Too much exercise, perhaps?”
“Oh, no, señor.”
“This is why it’s good to have someone like Mrs. Newell on the job,” he told me. He squeezed my hand gently.
Teresa entered with my breakfast tray. She looked more timid and afraid than ever. I couldn’t imagine what Mrs. Newell had said to her. I hoped she hadn’t blamed her for anything. Señor Bovio stepped aside, and she set up my breakfast on the bed table. He insisted on arranging my pillows himself and remained there watching me as if he half expected I might keel over with every new bite. Finally, he smiled, patted my hand again, and left.
Teresa had gone into the bathroom to clean up. I finished eating, although my stomach had tightened up because of my nervousness. Teresa took the tray.
“When you were told to prepare that guest suite, did you know that Mrs. Newell was moving into it, Teresa?” I asked.
“No, Miss. No one told me anything, and I don’t ask questions,” she said.
“She didn’t yell at you for anything, did she?”
Teresa looked away rather than respond.
“She just told me I was to spend less time in here now. I have to look after her suite as well. Not that I’m complaining,” she added quickly. “I have the time, of course.”
“Why would she tell you that? You don’t spend all that much time in here with me as it is.”