He pulls me even closer, wrapping an arm around me while I rest my head on his shoulder. He tucks the blanket around both of us. It's cold, but the warmth from both him and the fire make it bearable. Comfortable, even.
I've never seen Graham more at peace than when he's out here, listening to the sounds of the ocean. I love how he looks out over the water as if it holds all the answers to every question in the world. He looks at the ocean with the respect it deserves.
"What a perfect day," he says quietly.
I smile. I like that a perfect day to him includes me. It's been six months since we started dating. Sometimes I look at him and feel such an overwhelming appreciation for him, I almost want to write thank-you notes to our exes. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
It's funny how you can be so happy with someone and love them so much, it creates an underlying sense of fear in you that you never knew before them. The fear of losing them. The fear of them getting hurt. I imagine that's what it's like when you have children. It's probably the most incredible kind of love you'll ever know, but it's also the most terrifying.
"Do you want kids?" I practically blurt the question out. It was so quiet between us and then I sliced through that quiet with a question whose answer could determine our future. I don't know how to do anything with subtlety.
"Of course. Do you?"
"Yeah. I want a lot of kids."
Graham laughs. "How many is a lot?"
"I don't know. More than one. Less than five." I lift my head off his shoulder and look at him. "I think I would make a great mom. I don't brag on myself, but if I had kids, I'm pretty sure they would be the best kids ever."
"I have no doubt."
I lay my head back on his shoulder. He covers my hand that's pressed against his chest. "Have you always wanted to be a mom?"
"Yes. It's kind of embarrassing how excited I am to be a mother. Most girls grow up dreaming of a successful career. I was always too embarrassed to admit that I wanted to work from home and have a bunch of babies."
"That's not embarrassing."
"Yes it is. Women nowadays are supposed to want to amount to more than just being a mother. Feminism and all that."
Graham scoots me off his chest to tend to the fire. He grabs two small logs and walks them over to the fire pit, then reclaims his seat next to me. "Be whatever you want to be. Be a soldier if you want. Or a lawyer. Or a CEO. Or a housewife. The only thing you shouldn't be is embarrassed."
I love him. I love him so much.
"A mom isn't the only thing I want to be. I want to write a book someday."
"Well you certainly have the imagination for it based on all the crazy dreams you have."
"I should probably write them down," I laugh.
Graham is smiling at me with an unfamiliar look on his face. I'm about to ask him what he's thinking, but he speaks first.
"Ask me again if I want kids," he says.
"Why? Are you changing your answer?"
"I am. Ask me again."
"Do you want kids?"
He smiles at me. "I only want kids if I can have them with you. I want to have lots of kids with you. I want to watch your belly grow and I want to watch you hold our baby for the first time and I want to watch you cry because you're so deliriously happy. And at night I want to stand outside the nursery and watch you rock our babies to sleep while you sing to them. I can't think of anything I want more than to make you a mother."
I kiss his shoulder. "You always say the sweetest things. I wish I knew how to express myself like you do."
"You're a writer. You're the one who's good with words."
"I'm not arguing about my writing skills. I could probably write down what I feel for you, but I could never put it into words verbally like you do."
"Then do that," he says. "Write me a love letter. No one's ever written me a love letter before."
"I don't believe that."
"I'm serious. I've always wanted one."
I laugh. "I'll write you a love letter, you sappy man."
"It better be more than a page long. And I want you to tell me everything. What you thought of me the first time you saw me. What you felt when we were falling in love. And I want you to spray your perfume on it like the girls in high school do."
"Any other requests?"
"I wouldn't be opposed to you slipping a nude pic in the envelope."
I can probably make that happen.
Graham tugs me onto his lap so that I'm straddling him. He pulls the blanket over us, cocooning us inside of it. He's wearing a pair of cotton pajama pants, so I get a clear sense of what he's thinking right now. "Have you ever made love outdoors in thirty-degree weather before?"
I grin against his mouth. "Nope. But funny enough, that's precisely why I'm not wearing any underwear right now."
Graham's hands fall to my ass and he groans as he lifts my nightgown. I rise a little so that he can free himself, and then I lower myself on top of him, taking him in. We make love, cocooned under a blanket with the sound of the ocean as our background song. It's the perfect moment in a perfect place with the perfect person. And I know without a doubt that I'll be writing about this moment when I write my love letter to him.
* * *
He kissed another woman.
I stare at the text I'm about to send Ava, but then I remember she's several hours ahead where she lives. I would feel bad, knowing this is the text she'll wake up to. I delete it.
It's been half an hour since Graham gave up and went back inside, but I'm still sitting in my car. I think I'm too wounded to move. I have no idea if any of this is my fault or if it's his fault or if it's no one's fault. The only thing I know is that he hurt me. And he hurt me because I've been hurting him. It doesn't make what he did right in any sense, but a person can understand a behavior without excusing it.
Now we're both full of so much pain, I don't even know where to go from here. No matter how much you love someone--the capacity of that love is meaningless if it outweighs your capacity to forgive.
Part of me wonders if we'd even be having any of these problems if we would have been able to have a baby. I'm not sure that our marriage would have taken the turn it did because I would have never been as devastated as I've been the last few years. And Graham wouldn't have had to walk on eggshells around me.
But then part of me wonders if this was inevitable. Maybe a child wouldn't have changed our marriage and instead of just being an unhappy couple, we would have been an unhappy family. And then what would that make us? Just another married couple staying together for the sake of the children.
I wonder how many marriages would have survived if it weren't for the children they created together. How many couples would have continued to live together happily without the children being the glue that holds their family together?
Maybe we should get a dog. See if that fixes us.
Maybe that's exactly what Graham was thinking when he sat in my car earlier and said, "Why did we never get a dog?"
Of course, that's what he was thinking. He's just as aware of our problems as I am. It only makes sense our minds would head in the same direction.
When it grows too cold in the car, I walk back into our house and sit on the edge of the sofa. I don't want to go to my bedroom where Graham is sleeping. A while ago he was screaming that he loves me at the top of his lungs. He was so loud, I'm sure all the neighbors woke up to the sound of him yelling and the pounding of his fist against metal.
But right now, our house is silent. And that silence between us is so loud; I don't think I'll ever be able to fall asleep.
We've tried therapy in the past, hoping it would help with the infertility issues we struggled with. I got bored with it. He got bored with it. And then we bonded over how boring therapy was. Therapists do nothing but try to make you recognize the wrongs within yourself. That's not Graham's issue and it's not my issue. We know our faults. We recogni
ze them. My fault is that I can't have a baby and it makes me sad. Graham's fault is that he can't fix me and it makes him sad. There's no magical cure that therapy will bring us. No matter how much we spend on trying to fix our issue, no therapist in the world can get me pregnant. Therefore, therapy is just a drain on a bank account that has already had one too many leaks.
Maybe the only cure for us is divorce. It's weird, having thoughts of divorcing someone I'm in love with. But I think about it a lot. I think about how much time Graham is wasting by being with me. He would be sad if I left him, but he'd meet someone new. He's too good not to. He'd fall in love and he could make a baby and he'd be able to rejoin that circle of life that I ripped him out of. When I think about Graham being a father someday, it always makes me smile . . . even if the thought of him being a father doesn't include me being a mother.
I think the only reason I never completely let him go is because of the miracles. I read the articles and the books and the blog posts from the mothers who tried to conceive for years and then just as they were about to give up, voila! Pregnant!
The miracles gave me hope. Enough hope to hang on to Graham just enough in case we ever got a miracle of our own. Maybe that miracle would have fixed us. Put a Band-Aid on our broken marriage.
I want to hate him for kissing someone else. But I can't, because part of me doesn't blame him. I've been giving him every excuse in the world to walk out on me. We haven't had sex in a while, but I know that's not why he strayed outside of our marriage. Graham would go a lifetime without sex if I needed him to.
The reason he allowed himself to fuck up is because he gave up on us.
Back when I was in college, I was assigned to do an article on a couple who had been married for sixty years. They were both in their eighties. When I showed up to the interview, I was shocked at how in tune they were with each other. I assumed, after living with someone for sixty years, you'd be sick of them. But they looked at each other like they still somehow respected and admired each other, even after all they'd been through.
I asked them a number of questions during the interview, but the question I ended the interview with left such an impact on me. I asked, "What's the secret to such a perfect marriage?"
The old man leaned forward and looked at me very seriously. "Our marriage hasn't been perfect. No marriage is perfect. There were times when she gave up on us. There were even more times when I gave up on us. The secret to our longevity is that we never gave up at the same time."
I'll never forget the honesty in that man's answer.
And now I truly feel like I'm living that. I believe that's why Graham did what he did. Because he finally gave up on us. He's not a superhero. He's human. There isn't a person in this world who could put up with being shut out for as long as Graham has put up with it. He has been our strength in the past and I've continually been our weakest link. But now the tables have turned and Graham was momentarily our weakest link.
The problem is--I feel like I've given up, too. I feel like we've both given up at the same time and there may be no turning back from that. I know I could fix it by forgiving him and telling him I'll try harder, but part of me wonders if that's the right choice.
Why fight for something that will likely never get better? How long can a couple cling to a past they both prefer in order to justify a present where neither of them is happy?
There is no doubt in my mind that Graham and I used to be perfect for each other. But just because we used to be perfect for each other doesn't mean we're perfect together now. We're far from it.
I look at the clock, wishing it would magically fast forward through tomorrow. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be so much worse than today was. Because tomorrow I feel like we'll be forced to make a decision.
We'll have to decide if it's finally time to open that wooden box.
The thought of it makes my stomach turn. A pain rips through me and I clench at my shirt as I lean forward. I am so heartbroken; I can actually physically feel it. But I don't cry, because in this situation, my tears cause me even more pain.
I walk to our bedroom with dry eyes. It's the longest stretch of time I've gone in the last twenty-four hours without crying. I push open our bedroom door, expecting Graham to be asleep. Instead, he's sitting up against the headboard. His reading glasses are at the tip of his nose and he's holding a book in his lap. His bedside lamp is on and we make eye contact for a brief second.
I crawl in bed beside him, my back turned to him. I think we're both too broken tonight to even continue the argument. He continues reading his book and I do my best to try to fall asleep. My mind runs, though. Several minutes pass and just knowing he's right next to me prevents me from relaxing. He must realize I'm still awake because I hear him as he closes his book and places it on the nightstand. "I quit my job today."
I don't say anything in response to his confession. I just stare at the wall.
"I know you think I left for work this morning and that I just left you here, locked up in this bedroom."
He's right. That's exactly what I thought.
"But I only left the house because I needed to quit my job. I can't work in the place where I made the worst mistake of my life. I'll start looking for a new job next week."
I squeeze my eyes shut and pull the covers up to my chin. He turns out the lamp, indicating he doesn't need a response from me. After he rolls over, I let out a quiet sigh, knowing he won't be working around Andrea anymore. He stopped giving up. He's trying again. He still believes there's a possibility that our marriage will go back to how it used to be.
I feel sorry for him. What if he's wrong?
These thoughts plague me for the next hour. Graham somehow falls asleep--or I think he's asleep. He's playing the part well.
But I can't sleep. The tears keep threatening to fall and the pain in my stomach gets worse and worse. I get up and take some aspirin, but when I'm back in the bed I start to question whether emotional turmoil can actually manifest as physical pain.
Something isn't right.
It shouldn't hurt this much.
I feel a sharp pain. A deep pain. A pain strong enough to force me onto my side. I clench my fists around my blanket and curl my legs up to my stomach. When I do this, I feel it. Slippery and wet, all over the sheets.
"Graham." I try to reach for him, but he's rolling over to turn on the light. Another pain, so profound it makes me gasp for breath.
His hand is on my shoulder. He pulls the covers away. Whatever he sees sends him flying off the bed, the lights are on, he's picking me up, telling me it'll be okay, he's carrying me, we're in the car, he's speeding, I'm sweating, I look down, I'm covered in blood. "Graham."
I'm terrified and he takes my hand and he squeezes it and he says, "It's okay, Quinn. We're almost there. We're almost there."
Everything after that runs together.
There are glimpses of things that stick out to me. The fluorescent light over my head. Graham's hand around mine. Words I don't want to hear, like, miscarriage and hemorrhaging and surgery.
Words Graham is saying into the phone, probably to his mother, while he holds my hand. He whispers them because he thinks I might be asleep. Part of me is, most of me isn't. I know these aren't things he's saying might happen. They've already happened. I'm not going into surgery. I've just come out of it.
Graham ends the call. His lips are against my forehead and he whispers my name. "Quinn?" I open my eyes to meet his. His eyes are red and there's a deep wrinkle between his brows that I've never noticed before. It's new, probably brought on by what's currently happening. I wonder if I'll think of this moment every time I look at that wrinkle.
The crease between his eyes deepens. He brushes his hand over my hair and carefully releases his words. "You had a miscarriage last night," he confirms. His eyes search mine, preparing for whatever reaction I might have.
It's weird that my body doe
sn't feel it. I know I'm probably heavily medicated, but it seems like I would know that there was a life growing inside of me that is no longer there. I put a hand on my stomach, wondering how I missed it. How long had I been pregnant? How long has it been since we last had sex? Over two months. Closer to three.
"Graham," I whisper. He takes my hand and squeezes it. I know I should be full of so much devastation right now that not even a sliver of happiness or relief could find its way into my soul. But somehow, I don't feel the devastation that should accompany this moment. I feel hope. "I was pregnant? We finally got pregnant?"
I don't know how I'm focusing on the only positive thing about this entire situation, but after years of constant failure, I can't help but take this as a sign. I got pregnant. We had a partial miracle.
A tear slips out of Graham's eye and lands on my arm. I look down at the tear and watch it slide over my skin. My eyes flick back up to Graham's and not a single part of him is able to see the positive in this situation.
"Quinn . . ."
Another tear falls from his eye. In all the years I've known him, I've never seen him look this sad. I shake my head, because whatever has him this terrified to speak is not something I want to hear.
Graham squeezes my hand again and looks at me with so much devastation in his eyes, I have to turn away from him when he speaks. "When we got here last night . . ."
I try to stop listening, but my ears refuse to fail me.
"You were hemorrhaging."
The word no is repeating and I have no idea if it's coming from my mouth or if it's inside my head.
"You had to have a . . ."
I curl up and hug my knees, squeezing my eyes shut. As soon as I hear the word hysterectomy I start crying. Sobbing.
Graham crawls into the hospital bed and wraps himself around me, holding me as we let go of every single ounce of hope that was left between us.
* * *
It's our last night at the beach house. We leave in the morning to head back to Connecticut. Graham has a meeting he has to be back for tomorrow afternoon. I have laundry to do before I go back to work on Tuesday. Neither of us is ready to leave yet. It's been peaceful and perfect and I'm already looking forward to coming back here with him. I don't even care if I have to kiss my mother's ass for the next month in order to plan our next getaway. It's a price I'll gladly pay for another weekend of perfection.