I’m nine months pregnant with my first child, and the snow in NYC has been beaten into submission. I’ve just come off a packed subway, where I cradled my stomach against elbows and briefcase edges while nobody offered me a seat. I’m trudging towards home when I come to a patch of ice spanning the length of two abandoned store fronts. I'm scanning its mottled surface for a safe route across when I see the two men leaning against the wall. They're dressed in dark, ragged layers and even in the disappearing light it’s apparent that they’ve had a long battle with the elements.
“Evening, mother," one says, lowering a bottle-shaped paper bag to his side.
“Evening,” I nod.
“Be careful on that ice,” the other adds. "People been going down all night. Wouldn’t want to see you fall with those precious goods on board.”
“Thanks,” I say, my hand instinctively going to my belly.
“Boy or girl,” the first one asks.
“You can take my arm if you want help across,” he says, crooking his elbow as if offering me a dance. "Though I understand if you don’t want me to touch you.”
I tell him thanks but I think I'm okay, before plodding slowly across. When I get to the other side, I turn to say goodnight and find their eyes still on me, as if they’d been waiting to catch me the whole time.
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