“But what if abstract’s truth hurts someone else in the process?” I asked.
He leaned forward, resting his forearms on the desk. His fingers clasped together. “One truth stings far less than a thousand lies.”
“We can’t keep him, James.” I sat beside him on his porch swing, watching as my truth stung his soul.
He repeatedly tapped his fingers against his jeans. “We can do this, Aria. I know it will be hard, but we can do this.”
I shook my head. “That’s not true.”
“Why? Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we have him?”
“We don’t get what we want anymore. We don’t make choices for ourselves. Everything we do is for him. Every choice we make is to give him a better life. So, we don’t get to keep the baby.”
“Because that would mean we were going after our own selfish wants and needs. For him we have to be selfless. For him, we have to let go. You and I would never be a couple, James. If we were, we would hate each other. Do you really want to raise a kid like that?”
He didn’t answer.
“Keira and Paul are already amazing parents. It’s not like the baby is going to someone we don’t know. I’ve known them my whole life, and they are good people. They’ll love him. He’ll be safe and loved.”
The porch swing squeaked as he and I swayed back and forth on it. The chilled night sky was sprinkled with stars, and he stared at them as if trying to make a wish on each one.
“The night I slept with you was the night after I tried to fix things with Nadine,” he whispered at a volume that was almost mute. “We were already broken up for over a month, and she had no plans on getting back together with me. I came over to talk to Mike about it, and we ended up going to a party and getting drunk. I felt lost, broken.”
“So you were drunk when we slept together?”
“No,” he said quickly, turning my way. “No. I sobered up. But I was still lost. I didn’t handle things after she told me she had a miscarriage. I was still missing something I never really had. Something I never wanted. That nearly destroyed me. I was leaving Mike’s room and when I walked past yours, you smiled at me in a way that almost made it seem like everything would be okay. And then after you got pregnant, I reacted the same way I did with Nadine, searching for a quick fix. But, as time went on and I saw your stomach and that this whole baby thing was really happening, I guess I felt like it was a second chance to do the right thing.”
“You are doing the right thing,” I said, placing my hand on top of his. “It just so happens that sometimes the right thing sucks.”
He snickered and went back to staring at the stars. “So what do we do now?”
“You finish your senior year, then you go off to Duke and make something of yourself.”
I learn to breathe again.
* * *
I started homeschooling the first week of the New Year. Mom and Dad both worked random hours, and since they didn’t want me home alone during my online classes, I stayed with Keira each day.
Every day around lunchtime, I saw Mr. Myers walk outside toward the woods. By the time I left Keira’s in the afternoon, either Daisy or Lance showed up to spend the evening with him.
When the curiosity got the best of me, I packed up my lunch and followed him to the woods one day.
He stood on the snow covered ground, staring up at the old tree house.
“Did you build that for him?” I asked.
He slowly turned around to look at me and sneered. “You’re trespassing.”
“Yeah, I am, but I brought you lunch if you’re hungry.”
He huffed and walked back to his house, slamming the door in my face.
* * *
I showed up at lunchtime each day for three weeks. It wasn’t until February that Mr. Myers let me inside. Actually, his nurse let me in, but it was good enough for me.
“You’re really annoying, you know that, right?” he muttered, sitting in his chair watching black and white shows.
“I brought chicken noodle soup.” I smiled.
“Your nurse said you haven’t eaten much today.”
“Probably because I’m not fucking hungry,” he growled. He was grumpy a lot, but being that I was thirty-two weeks pregnant, carrying around Jicama, I had my grumpy days, too. I opened the soup, grabbed a spoonful, and hovered the spoon in front of his mouth. “What’s your problem?!” he hissed. “Why won’t you let me alone?”
“Because no one should spend their lunchtime alone. Not even grumpy men who think they deserve to be lonely.”
He huffed and puffed some more, grumbling at me, but he opened his mouth and took the soup.
“Your son’s ignoring all of my text messages, and I don’t know why,” I said after a few more spoonfuls of soup.
“His mom said it’s because he thinks you’re better off.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Why would he think that?”
“I don’t know. But everything Levi does is always to help. It’s just who he is.”
Mr. Myers’ words ran through my head for a while longer, but I didn’t speak about Levi anymore. “I didn’t know you and his mom still spoke.”
“She calls me every night,” he said. “She wants me to know that I’m not alone.”
I ate lunch with Mr. Myers each day until the last day of his life. Sometimes he stayed in his bedroom, so I would play the CDs that Levi made for me and the baby, which always helped Mr. Myers sleep better.