She nodded carefully and let me go.
I couldn’t sleep. I kept playing everything over and over in my head, trying to work out what to say to Braden first to make him stop and talk to me. I had it all planned, but dinner passed and he still didn’t turn up.
I texted him and didn’t get a reply. I called. No reply.
I texted Adam but he wasn’t with Adam.
Finally, just after two in the morning, our front door opened. Fury propelled me out of our bedroom and I stormed into the hall as Braden shut the door behind him. His eyes moved to me but it was like he was staring right through me as he started toward the guest room.
Oh, no! Not again!
“Where have you been?” I snapped, grabbing hold of his arm so he’d look at me.
He jerked his arm away from me like he couldn’t stand to be touched by me. “Out,” he told me simply, his tone cutting. And then he disappeared into the guest room, not even aware that I probably looked like he’d run me over with a car.
I had theories as to why he was so angry. I knew he thought I didn’t want his kid. I wondered if he was questioning everything about us. I wondered if he was scared. I wondered why he couldn’t just tell me all that. I thought we had come further than that. No . . . I guess I’d just, probably unfairly, thought he’d see me through anything.
A long time ago he’d almost left me for good for shutting him out. And now he was shutting me out. He’d dived inside his head and he wouldn’t let me near him.
He didn’t even want me touching him, and that hurt and scared me so much I didn’t want to feel anything. I’d sleep to help with that, but sleep was eluding me. Instead I shut myself in the bathroom and undressed. I switched on the shower and stepped into the freezing-cold water, allowing the shock to dissipate into numbness. My mind adrift, my hands covered the small of my stomach protectively, and I closed my eyes. I could be numb everywhere but there.
I thought I heard a muffled “Fuck” and it brought my eyes open just as Braden was sliding the shower door open. He reached in, his features like granite as he switched the nozzle to warm. His eyes cut to me. “Are you trying to catch fucking pneumonia?”
Chittering, I blanched. I hadn’t been thinking. Obviously.
“Stay in there until you warm up,” Braden snapped.
Where was my husband?
Everything I’d been feeling suddenly broke out of the numbness. All the fear, the guilt, the anger, the loneliness of the past few days, and most especially the hurt.
Braden jerked back, confusion and something like fear entering his expression.
But since this man was a stranger . . . I couldn’t give a fuck how he felt.
I reached over, staring at him blankly, shut the shower door, and turned my back on him.
“It’s been a while, Joss. What’s been happening?” Dr. Pritchard asked in that careful voice of hers. She had mastered the art of not sounding concerned. Nor too breezy. Just calm. Soothing.
It used to bug the crap out of me. There was a time I would have given anything to hear her yell at her kids for some wrongdoing just so I could hear a little bit of raised blood pressure in her voice. I wanted proof she was human.
Now I knew she was human. She could be a little on the sarcastic side. That’s probably why I liked her so much.
“Braden and I got married,” I informed her quietly, my hands resting on my stomach.
She smiled. “Congratulations.”
Dr. Pritchard raised an eyebrow. She gave good eyebrow-raising. “Anything else?”
Easing into the reason for my visit, I avoided the subject altogether. “I got an agent.” It was true. Dana had called at the beginning of the week and I’d signed with her. It should have been one of the most exciting moments of my life. “She has a publisher interested in my manuscript.” Already. Again, should have been one of the most exciting moments of my life.
“That’s great news.”
Dr. Pritchard also seemed to fear hyperbole and expressions of excitement. Again, another reason I liked her so much.
The good doctor was quiet a moment as she processed my blurtage. “Is that why you’re here?”
I nodded, trying to ignore the lump of tears in my throat as I thought over the last few days. Our home had been a silent, cold place recently. My whole life had. Ellie and Adam had refused to get in the middle, so they were staying out of it completely. I think Ellie must have talked Elodie into the same because I hadn’t heard from her. I’d gotten tentative texts from my friends but no one wanted to bring the subject up. “It’s slammed up this huge wall between me and Braden.”
“It has or you have?”
“Actually, he has.” I shrugged. “I was scared when I suspected I was pregnant. I was terrified when I found out that it was true. But I knew that wasn’t all. I just . . . I had to get away, go to my place to process. Before I could, Braden got there, I told him, and he took one look at my face and assumed . . . the worst.”
“That I’m unhappy. That I don’t want a child with him. He’s so mad, so hurt, he wouldn’t and still hasn’t let me explain.”
“And what would you tell him if he gave you the chance?”
My hands pressed tighter against my stomach. “That our kid means more to me than anything ever has before. That it scares me to feel that much for anyone. It always will. But that I’m working through it now. That I’m still scared, and I’m scared about screwing it all up, but that I want this with him. I just needed time to work out what I was feeling.”
“And that was?”
I smiled at the irony. “So happy I was paralyzed.”
“You still believe that everything good will be followed by bad?”
“I haven’t for a long time,” I shook my head. “But this is a huge deal. I had a relapse.”
“Joss, you’re allowed to feel this way. You recognized it and you’re working through it. That’s all anyone can ask.”
We were quiet a moment as I studied my wedding rings, twisting the bands on my finger. “He hurt me,” I whispered, not wanting to admit it out loud.
“He’s not perfect, Joss. You’ve always known that he was a family man. It must be hard for him to wonder if he’s married to a woman who could be unhappy about carrying her own child, his child.”
“But he won’t let me explain.”
She cocked her head to the side, giving me a small, reassuring smile. “Maybe he’s afraid to hear what you have to say. So make him listen.”
“I would . . . but . . .”
“When he’s gone I blame myself,” I admitted. “The way I reacted . . . I can see why he would feel this way, act this way. But when he’s right in front of me, looking through me, not wanting me to touch him, unable to bear my touch, I almost hate him. I feel so alone.” The tears spilled down my cheeks. “And he promised I wouldn’t feel that way again.”
Dr. Pritchard leaned over and pressed tissues into my hand, giving it a comforting squeeze as she did so. “You have to try to get past that feeling long enough to talk to him. This is a case of total miscommunication, and you two have come too far to let that derail you.”
I nodded as I wiped the tears.
She smiled kindly. “Congratulations.”
She was the first person to say it to me in person, and although I understood it was my own fault that no one else had, it was still nice to hear it. “Thank you.”
I shutdown the laptop after having just bought up every self-help book Amazon had on being a first-time mom. After my session with Dr. Pritchard I’d come home to an empty apartment and gone into this hyper mode, cleaning and tidying, throwing things out. I’d also ignored reminders that Braden and I weren’t sharing the same bed when I went into the guest room to measure up and saw his stuff scattered everywhere. This was going to be our kid’s nursery. I was thinking yellow or green for a color scheme since those were both gender neutral.
I’d then opened up my laptop to an e-mail from my new agent, telling me she’d sent off my manuscript to the publisher, and she would like me to start thinking up concepts for a new book. For a while I typed up notes for several ideas I’d come back to, to flesh out later.
And then I’d started freaking out that I knew nothing about being a mother and began an online shopping spree.
Nerves frayed, I stood in front of the mirror in our bedroom and lifted my T-shirt.
No bump yet.
I smoothed my hand over my stomach thinking how weird it was that there was a little person inside of me whom I already loved beyond reason.
Now if only my husband would give me a chance to tell him that.
I glanced at the space between the window and the bed and wondered if there was room to put the baby’s crib there for a while. I wanted him or her to be close to us. I already knew I’d find it difficult to sleep if I didn’t know our kid was safe and at arm’s reach.
After a few minutes of fruitless search for the measuring tape, I wandered back into the guest room to see if I’d left it in there. I found it on the bedside cabinet, but as I moved away, the address on a letter half-hidden under a book drew me up short.
Heart beating obnoxiously loud, I slipped the letter out from under the novel and fear prickled my skin in cold shivers as I read it.
My fingers went numb and the letter fluttered out of my grasp to the floor.
It was a letter to Braden’s tenants, asking them to vacate the premise in one month’s time. It was his bachelor penthouse on the Meadows. The one he’d put up for rental when he moved in with me.
The one he could take back from tenants on a short notice if he needed it for personal usage.