It's a little bit colder tonight than the last two nights we've been here, but I kind of like it. I have the heater turned up high in the house. We freeze our asses off for hours near the fire pit and then cuddle up in bed to thaw out. It's a routine I would never get bored of.
I just finished making us both cups of hot chocolate. I take them outside and hand Graham his, then sit down next to him.
"Okay," he says. "Next question."
Graham found out this morning that, even though I love looking at it, I've never actually stepped foot in the ocean. He spent the majority of the day trying to figure out other things about me that he didn't know. It's become a game to us now and we're alternating questions so we can find out everything there is to know about each other.
He mentioned the first night we were together that he doesn't talk about religion or politics. But it's been six months now and I'm curious to know his opinions. "We've still never discussed religion," I say. "Or politics. Are those still topics that are off the table?"
Graham edges the cup with his lips and sucks a marshmallow into his mouth. "What do you want to know?"
"Are you a Republican or a Democrat?"
He doesn't even hesitate. "Neither. I can't stand the extremists on either side, so I sort of hover in the middle."
"So you're one of those people."
He tilts his head. "What people?"
"The kind who pretend to agree with every opinion just to keep the peace."
Graham arches an eyebrow. "Oh, I have opinions, Quinn. Strong ones."
I pull my legs up and tuck them under me, facing him. "I want to hear them."
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything," I challenge. "Your stance on gun control. Immigration. Abortion. All of it."
I love the look of excitement on his face, as if he's preparing for a presentation. It's adorable that a presentation would even excite him.
He sets his mug of hot chocolate on the table beside him. "Okay . . . let's see. I don't think we should take away a citizen's right to own a gun. But I do think it should be one hell of a difficult process to get your hands on one. I think women should decide what to do with their own bodies, as long as it's within the first trimester or it's a medical emergency. I think government programs are absolutely necessary but I also think a more systematic process needs to be put in place that would encourage people to get off of welfare, rather than to stay on it. I think we should open up our borders to immigrants, as long as they register and pay taxes. I'm certain that life-saving medical care should be a basic human right, not a luxury only the wealthy can afford. I think college tuition should automatically be deferred and then repaid over a twenty-year period on a sliding scale. I think athletes are paid way too much, teachers are paid way too little, NASA is underfunded, weed should be legal, people should love who they want to love, and Wi-Fi should be universally accessible and free." When he's finished, he calmly reaches for his mug of hot chocolate and brings it back to his mouth. "Do you still love me?"
"More than I did two minutes ago." I press a kiss to his shoulder and he wraps his arm around me, tucking me against him.
"Well, that went better than I thought it would."
"Don't get too comfortable," I warn. "We still haven't discussed religion. Do you believe in God?"
Graham breaks eye contact and looks out at the ocean. He caresses my shoulder and thinks about my question for a moment. "I didn't used to."
"But you do now?"
"Yeah. I do now."
"What changed your mind?"
"A few things," he says. He nudges his head toward the ocean. "That being one of them. How can something exist that is that magnificent and powerful without something even more magnificent and powerful creating it?"
I stare out at the water with him when he asks me what I believe. I shrug. "Religion isn't one of my mother's strong suits, but I've always believed there was something out there greater than us. I just don't know exactly what it is. I don't think anyone knows for sure."
"That's why they call it faith," he says.
"So how does a man of math and science reconcile his knowledge with his faith?"
Graham smiles when I ask him that question, like he's been dying to discuss it. I love that about him. He has this adorable inner nerd that appears sometimes and it makes him even more attractive.
"Do you know how old the earth is, Quinn?"
"No, but I bet I'm about to find out."
"Four and a half billion years old," he says. His voice is full of wonder, like this is his absolute favorite thing to talk about. "Do you know how long ago our specific species appeared?"
"Only two hundred thousand years ago," he says. "Only two hundred thousand years out of four and a half billion years. It's unbelievable." He grabs my hand and lays it palm down on his thigh. He begins tracing over the back of my hand with a lazy finger. "If the back of your hand represented the age of this earth and every species that has ever lived, the entire human race wouldn't even be visible to the naked eye. We are that insignificant." He drags his fingers to the center of the back of my hand and points to a small freckle. "From the beginning of time until now, we could combine every single human that has ever walked this earth, and all their problems and concerns as a whole wouldn't even amount to the size of this freckle right here." He taps my hand. "Every single one of your life experiences could fit right here in this tiny freckle. So would mine. So would Beyonce's."
"When you look at the earth's existence as a whole, we're nothing. We haven't even been here long enough to earn bragging rights. Yet humans believe we're the center of the universe. We focus on the stupidest, most mundane issues. We stress about things that mean absolutely nothing to the universe, when we should be nothing but grateful that evolution even gave our species a chance to have problems. Because one of these days . . . humans won't exist. History will repeat itself and earth will move on to a different species altogether. Me and you . . . we're just two people out of an entire race that, in retrospect, is still way less impressive at sustainability than a dinosaur. We just haven't reached our expiration date yet." He slides his fingers through mine and squeezes my hand.
"Based on all the scientific evidence that proves how insignificant we are, it was always hard for me to believe in God. The more appropriate question would have been, 'Could a God believe in me?' Because a lot has happened on this earth in four and a half billion years to think that a God would give a shit about me or my problems. But, I recently concluded that there's no other explanation for how you and I could end up on the same planet, in the same species, in the same century, in the same country, in the same state, in the same town, in the same hallway, in front of the same door for the same reason at the exact same time. If God didn't believe in me, then I'd have to believe you were just a coincidence. And you being a coincidence in my life is a lot harder for me to fathom than the mere existence of a higher power."
Wow. I'm breathless.
Graham has said so many sweet things to me, but this wasn't sweet. This was pure poetry. This was beyond an expression of his intelligence, because I know he's incredibly smart. This was sacrificial. He gave me purpose. He made me incredibly relevant--crucial--to him, when I've never felt relevant, vital, or crucial to anyone else before. "I love you so much, Graham Wells." It's all I can say because I can't compete with what he just said. I don't even try.
"Do you love me enough to marry me?"
I lift off his arm and sit up straight, still facing him.
Did he seriously just ask me that?
It was so spontaneous. He probably hasn't even thought it through. He's still smiling but in a few seconds I think he's probably going to laugh because he accidentally blurted it out without even thinking. He doesn't even have a ring, which proves it was an accident.
"Graham . . ."
He slips his hand under the blanket. When he pulls h
is hand back out, he's holding a ring. No box, no gift wrap, no pretenses. It's just a ring. A ring he's been carrying in his pocket for a moment he obviously did think through.
I bring my hands up to my mouth. They're shaking because I wasn't expecting this and I'm speechless and I'm scared I won't be able to answer him out loud because everything is caught in my throat but I somehow still whisper the words, "Oh my God."
Graham pulls my left hand from my mouth and he holds the ring near my ring finger, but he doesn't attempt to slip it on. Instead, he dips his head to bring my focus back to him. When our eyes meet, he's looking at me with all the clarity and hope in the world. "Be my wife, Quinn. Weather the Category 5 moments with me."
I'm nodding before he's even finished speaking. I'm nodding, because if I try to say yes, I'll start crying. I can't even believe he somehow made this perfect weekend even better.
As soon as I start nodding, he laughs with a heavy sigh of relief. And when he slips the ring on my finger, he bites his lip because he doesn't want me to see that he's getting choked up, too. "I didn't know what ring to get you," he says, looking back up at me. "But when the jeweler told me that the wedding ring symbolizes an endless loop without a beginning, middle, or end, I didn't want to break up that endless loop with diamonds. I hope you like it."
The ring is a delicate, thin gold band with no stones. It's not a reflection of how much money Graham has or doesn't have. It's a reflection of how long he believes our love will last. An eternity.
"It's perfect, Graham."
* * *
". . . cervical ectopic pregnancy," she says. "Very rare. In fact, the chances of a woman experiencing this type of ectopic pregnancy are less than one percent."
Graham squeezes my hand. I lay back in the hospital bed, wanting nothing more than for the doctor to leave the room so I can go back to sleep. The medicine has me so drowsy, it's hard to pay attention to everything she's saying. I know I don't have to though, because Graham is focused on every word that comes out of her mouth. "Bed rest for two weeks," is the last thing I hear her say before I close my eyes. I know Graham is the one who loves math, but I feel like I'm going to be obsessing over that less than one percent. The chances of me getting pregnant after so many years of trying were greater than the chances of a pregnancy resulting in a cervical ectopic abruption.
"What was the cause?" Graham asks.
"More than likely the endometriosis," she replies. She goes into a little more detail, but I tune her out. I tilt my head toward Graham and open my eyes. He's staring at the doctor, listening to her response. But I can see the worry in him. His right hand is covering his mouth, his left hand still has a grip on mine.
"Could . . ." He glances down at me and there is so much worry in his eyes. "Could stress have caused the miscarriage?"
"Miscarriage was inevitable with this type of pregnancy," she says. "Nothing could have been done to prolong it. It ruptured because ectopic pregnancies aren't viable."
My miscarriage happened nineteen hours ago. It isn't until this moment that I realize Graham has spent the last nineteen hours thinking he was somehow responsible. He's been afraid that the stress from our fight led to this.
After the doctor leaves the room, I brush my thumb across his hand. It's a small gesture, and one that is very hard to make due to the amount of anger I still hold, but one he notices immediately. "You have a lot to feel guilty for, but my miscarriage is not one of them."
Graham stares at me a moment with vacant eyes and a broken soul. Then he releases my hand and walks out of the room. He doesn't come back for half an hour, but it looks like he's been crying.
He's cried a few times during our marriage. I've never actually seen him cry until yesterday, but I've seen him in the aftermath.
Graham spends the next few hours making sure I'm comfortable. My mother comes to visit, but I pretend to be asleep. Ava calls, but I tell Graham to tell her I'm asleep. I spend most of the day and night trying not to think about everything that's happening, but every time I close my eyes I find myself wishing I would have just known. Even if the pregnancy would have ended the same way, I'm angry with myself for not paying more attention to my body so I could have enjoyed it while it lasted. If I had paid more attention, I would have suspected I was pregnant. I would have taken a test. It would have been positive. And then, just once, Graham and I would have known what it felt like to be parents. Even if it would have been a fleeting feeling.
It's a little morbid that I would go through this entire thing again if I could have just known I was pregnant for one single day. After so many years of trying, it seems cruel that our payoff was a miscarriage followed by a hysterectomy without the cushion of feeling like parents, if even for a moment.
The entire ordeal has been unfair and painful. More so than my recovery will be. Because of the rupture and the hemorrhaging, the doctors had to perform an emergency abdominal hysterectomy, rather than a vaginal one. Which means a longer recovery time. I'll likely be in the hospital another day or two before I'll be discharged. Then I'll be confined to our bed for two weeks.
Everything feels so unfinished between us. We hadn't resolved anything before the miscarriage and now it just feels like the decision we were about to make has been put on hold. Because I'm in no place to discuss the future of our marriage right now. It'll probably be weeks before things are back to normal.
As normal as things can get without a uterus.
"You can't sleep?" Graham asks. He hasn't left the hospital all day. He only left the room earlier for half an hour, but then he returned and has been alternating between the couch and the chair next to my bed. Right now he's in the chair, seated on the edge of it, waiting for me to speak. He looks exhausted, but I know Graham and he isn't going anywhere until I do. "Do you want something to drink?"
I shake my head. "I'm not thirsty." The only light on in the room is the one behind my bed and it makes it look like Graham is in a spotlight on a lonely stage.
His need to console me is warring with his awareness of the tension that's been between us for so long. But he fights the tension and reaches for the rail. "Do you mind if I lay with you?" He already has the rail down and is crawling into the bed with me when I shake my head. He's careful to turn me so that my IV doesn't pull. He fits himself into less than half the bed next to me and slips a hand under my head, sacrificing his comfort for mine. He kisses me on the back of my head. Part of me wasn't sure I wanted him in the bed with me, but I soon realize that falling asleep in our shared sadness is somehow more comforting than falling asleep alone.
* * *
"I'm flying home," Ava blurts out, before I even have the chance to say hello.
"No you aren't. I'm fine."
"Quinn, I'm your sister. I want to come stay with you."
"No," I repeat. "I'll be fine. You're pregnant. The last thing you need is to spend all day on an airplane."
She sighs heavily.
"Besides," I add. "I'm thinking about coming to visit you, instead." It's a lie. I haven't thought about it until this very moment. But my impending two weeks on bed rest makes me realize how much I'll need to put space between our house and myself when I'm finally recovered.
"Really? Can you? When do you think you'll be released to fly?"
"I'll ask the doctor when she discharges me."
"Please don't say that if you aren't serious."
"I am serious. I think it'll do me some good."
"What about Graham? Won't he be using all his vacation time during your recovery?"
I don't talk about my marriage troubles to anyone. Not even Ava. "I want to come alone," I say. I don't elaborate. I haven't told her Graham quit his job and I didn't tell her about him kissing another woman. But by the pause Ava gives me, I can tell she knows something is up. I'll wait to tell her about everything until I actually see her in person.
"Okay," she says. "Talk to your doctor and let me k
now a date."
"Okay. Love you."
"Love you, too."
After I end the call, I look up from the hospital bed to see Graham standing in the doorway. I wait for him to tell me it's not a good idea to plan travel after just having surgery. Instead, he just looks down at the coffee cup in his hand. "You're going to visit Ava?"
He doesn't say we. Part of me feels guilty. But surely he understands that I need space.
"Not until I get cleared to fly. But yeah. I need to see her."
He doesn't look up from his cup. He just nods a little and says, "Are you coming back?"
I don't say it with a lot of conviction, but there's enough in my voice to assure him that this isn't a separation. It's just a break.
He swallows heavily. "How long will you be gone?"
"I don't know. Maybe a couple of weeks."
Graham nods and then takes a sip from his cup while kicking off the door. "We have some airline miles on our card. Let me know when you want to leave and I'll book your flight."
* * *
I don't remember Ethan's and my wedding plans being this stressful.
That might have been because I let my mother take the reins back then and had very little to do with the planning. But this is different. I want Graham and I to decide on what flavor of cake we want. I want Graham and I to decide who to invite and where it should be and what time of day we want to commit to each other for the rest of our lives. But my mother won't stop making decisions that I don't want her to make, no matter how many times I ask her to stop.
"I just want your day to be perfect, Quinn," she says.
"Graham can't afford these things, so I'm only trying to help out," she says.
"Don't forget to have him sign a prenup," she says.
"You never know if your stepfather will leave you an inheritance," she says. "You need to protect your assets."