Emma and Heidi became fast friends when they met in the maternity ward at Emberville Regional Hospital. Each had just welcomed their first child into the world (a boy for Emma, a girl for Heidi) and immediately began imagining their children growing up together.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if they became best friends?” Emma asked Heidi after their visitors had gone home for the day.
“Maybe they’ll grow up and go to the same college! Or even better, fall in love and get married!” Heidi said.
“We could be in-laws,” Emma then said. “And share the same grandchildren!”
“I think they should both become doctors. Imagine the powerhouse couple they’d be then,” Heidi said just before falling asleep.
It was the first of many goals Heidi would end up placing upon young Ashley. Parenting was about more than just raising a healthy, happy child to the new mom. It was a competition. When Ashley rolled over at five months, Emma was one of the first people Heidi called.
“My little princess just rolled over! Has Carter started to yet? No? Oh well, I’m sure he will soon,” she said, all the while filled with glee that her daughter reached such a big milestone before her friend’s son.
Emma also received a call the moment Ashley got her first tooth at six months of age, started crawling two weeks later, and when she took her first steps at ten months of age.
“I swear, my daughter is a genius. I wouldn’t worry about Carter, though. Every kid develops at their own pace. I’m sure he’ll be a going concern in no time. If not, there are specialists for these sorts of things.”
Emma found Heidi’s need to turn everything into a competition annoying, but she kept her mouth shut so as not to rock the boat. Perhaps that was why the calls kept coming over the years. Emma heard all about Ashley’s child beauty pageant wins, about every goal she scored in soccer and hockey, and about every academic award. The one phone call Emma didn’t receive from Heidi, however, was the one informing her that the now twenty-year-old Ashley had been admitted to hospital after overdosing on prescription medication. It was her son who had called from Boston, where both he and Ashley were attending college.
“She said she just couldn’t take the pressure of having to be Little Miss Perfect,” Carter told his mother.
Emma immediately rang Heidi to offer her support.
“Sweetie, I just heard from Carter,” Emma said to Heidi, who was crying on the other end of the phone. “If there’s anything you need, just let me know. I’m here for both of you.”
Emma kept her word and was a rock for both Heidi and Ashley throughout the long recovery period that followed. Carter was there for his best friend as well. Neither he or Ashley ever became doctors, nor did they marry. That was their mothers’ fantasy. They wanted something else entirely, and now that the pressure was off to fulfill other peoples’ expectations, they were happy and free to live their own lives.