Still looking shocked and confused, Justin quietly slipped out of the room.
I spent the rest of that night surfing the Internet for information on what to expect in the next six months. I had to figure out how I was going to tell Adam. He might not want anything to do with it, but he still needed to know.
Justin and Jade were packing up the car. I’d already said my goodbyes to Jade over an early breakfast but hadn’t had a chance to speak to Justin. They would be taking off back to the city any minute. I couldn’t believe this day was finally here. It was both dreaded and a relief all at once. Seeing him every day would have been even harder, knowing that without a shadow of a doubt, there was no longer the chance of a future for us. Justin didn’t want kids of his own, let alone to raise someone else’s. This pregnancy was the final nail in the coffin. Maybe I would take him up on that schedule for next summer. Better yet, maybe I would need to sell him my half of the house. As much as that thought was heartbreaking, I didn’t know what kind of financial situation I would be in after the baby came.
Standing at my bedroom window, I looked down as they placed suitcases and boxes into the back of the Range Rover. At one point, Justin happened to look up at me. He held up his index finger as if to tell me to wait for something. Soon after, I noticed that he whispered in Jade’s ear. A few seconds later, she took off in the car.
The sound of his footsteps soon followed. Then, he appeared at my door.
Looking morose, he said, “Hi.”
“How are you holding up?”
“Not too good.”
“I asked Jade to go get gas so that I could say goodbye, find out if there is anything you need before we leave.”
“No. I’m fine. You need to get back to your life.”
“I feel bad leaving you like this.”
“I’ll be heading home in a couple of days anyway. The sooner I get back to Providence and prepare for this new reality, the better I will be.”
“Don’t call me that name anymore.” Tears sprung to my eyes. “Not because I’m mad at you…it just makes me sad.” My lips trembled.
“Okay,” he said softly.
“What were you going to say?”
“If you need anything…anything at all…please call me. Promise me you’ll keep me updated on what’s happening.”
“Let me know when I’m allowed to tell Jade.”
“Okay. It’s not like I can hide it much longer.”
His eyes wandered to the bed. Earlier, I’d been looking at the snapshots from the ultrasound and had left them lying out in the open. He walked over and picked them up. He stared at the images and looked mesmerized. “That thing is inside of you? You’re hardly showing.”
He shook his head while examining the photos. “God, this is so strange. I think I’m still in shock.”
“You wouldn’t be the only one.”
He placed the pictures back on the bed and was staring into space, deep in thought. He reached his hand into his pocket and took out the red pocketknife. “I want you to keep it. You need it more than I do. Keep it by your bed at night. It’ll make me feel better because I feel fucking helpless right now.”
I wasn’t going to argue with him. “Okay.”
His gaze moved to the window. We could both see that Jade was pulling in.
I wiped my eyes. “You’d better go.”
He didn’t move.
We stared long and hard into each other’s eyes until we heard Jade entering the house.
Then, he slipped away.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
I felt like I was breaking into someone’s property, even though it was half my own.
Everything looked the same as we’d left it. The beach house was freezing. The heat needed to be turned on. It was the middle of May and still fairly cool on the island. I wasn’t supposed to return until the end of June, but the house where I rented an apartment got sold, forcing me to leave. That gave me no choice but to head to Newport early, otherwise we would have been homeless. I was already on maternity leave through the end of the school year, so it made sense.
We’d been unable to find temporary tenants in the off season here, so the beach house stayed empty. An unexpected feeling of longing overwhelmed me. This place used to remind me of Nana; now it reminded me of Justin. I could practically smell his cologne in the kitchen. It was my imagination, but it felt real. I also imagined him standing near the coffeepot, smirking while stirring his coffee fusion…his bare muscled back as he looked out the window toward the ocean…the lick, slam, suck as he drank tequila. Gazing toward the living room, I remembered our awkward final night before Jade returned.
Closing my eyes for a moment, I imagined it was last summer when life was so simple. Then, the little cry coming from the baby carrier strapped to my chest snapped me back to reality.
Bea’s head wiggled back and forth in search of my breast. “Wait…wait. I have to take you out of this thing first.” Removing her from the Baby Bjorn, I babbled, “You were so good during the ride. You must be starving, huh?”
Shit. Most of my stuff was still in the car. I carried my two-month-old daughter outside to retrieve the breastfeeding pillow from my backseat. Tracy had bought it for me, insisting it was the one item I’d need the most, and she was right. It was bright pink with white daisies and an absolute necessity in order to feed this constantly hungry baby without breaking my back. I stopped for a moment to admire the ocean before returning inside.
Bea was short for Beatrice. She was named after my grandmother. My baby girl was born in mid-March, one week before her due date. Adam chose not to be there. He said he wanted proof that the baby was his, and until then, he wasn’t going to acknowledge her as his daughter. Because we’d used condoms, he assumed that it was unlikely that he could be the father. He was the only person I’d slept with before getting pregnant, but there was simply no way to prove that to him if he didn’t take my word for it. I didn’t want the stress of having to get Bea’s blood drawn right now, and he was in no hurry to be there for us, so I chose to put off dealing with him. His bitch, Ashlyn, was surely working this situation behind the scenes, and I was sure she was telling him that I was a liar. With much bigger fish to fry, I didn’t need that shit right now. Life was too stressful as it was.
When Bea finished feeding, she fell asleep again. I slowly pulled her off of my breast and placed her in the infant seat. I used the rare break to head back outside and retrieve the rest of our items. Most of my stuff was in storage back in Providence. But I did bring all of our clothes and Bea’s bassinet. I would have to purchase a crib and figure out how to assemble it.
A man with dark curls who looked to be in his early thirties approached me. His big brown eyes beamed. “Hey, neighbor. I saw your car. I was wondering when I’d get to meet the occupants of this gorgeous home.”
I pointed to the house just to the right of mine. “You live in that one right there?”
“Yes. Moved in back in the fall. I’m one of the rare year-round folks, apparently.”
“Well, you’ve met Cheri, right? She’s also year-round.”
“Yup, but I think that’s about it.”