I tuck the phone under the pillow and drift off into a peaceful sleep, thankful for Pace's presence in our lives.
Little did I know that everything would change the following day.
The morning starts with Pace getting ready for work quietly while Max and I sleep in his bed. Well, Max sleeps and I drift in and out to the sounds of the shower running, to the scent of aftershave wafting from the steam-filled bathroom. I rest quietly with a smile on my mouth remembering last night.
When Pace steps out of the walk-in closet, he's dressed in navy suit pants, and a crisp white shirt with a gray tie. He looks smart, and put together and ready to take on the world. I'm reminded of his proclamation that he could take care of us both—me and Max. I imagine what it would be like to welcome a man like him home every evening. Someone to eat with, play with, and daydream about the future with.
I swallow a lump in my throat at the sudden rush of emotion threatening to overwhelm me.
"You're staying right?" Pace whispers.
I nod. "Yes. What time will you be home?"
"Mondays after work I normally meet my brothers for a drink. It'll just be me and Collins. I can cancel," he says.
"No, go. It's fine. I'm used to this, remember?"
"Yes, but not one-handed, you're not. I'll be home by eight."
We keep our voices low in an attempt not to wake a sleeping Max.
"Okay," I say. "Have a good day."
"You too." He leans down and kisses my forehead, then looks thoughtfully at Max and does the same to him.
He doesn’t mention last night, and I don’t know what I expected him to say, but the fact that he doesn’t acknowledge it at all makes me feel uneasy. Did last night mean as much to him as it did to me?
I want to pull him down onto the bed with me and tell him that last night was amazing, but I don't. Instead, I watch him leave from my warm spot in the bed and wonder what he's thinking.
Later, I shower, careful to keep my cast dry, catch up on some work, and play with Max. But then something strange happens around lunchtime.
Utterly shocked, I ignore it, but he proceeds to call seven more times.
On the eighth phone call, I pick up, thinking something terrible must have happened. I have no idea why he'd be trying to get ahold of me.
"Kylie…" His voice is immediately familiar and comforting.
I hate it.
"Elan? What's going on? Has something happened?" I ask, ignoring the feelings that flood my system when he speaks my name.
"Yes." He releases a heavy sigh and pauses. "I've made a terrible mistake."
I listen, waiting for him to continue, my eyes on Max where he plays on the carpet at my feet.
"You, and my … my son… I…" his voice cracks.
"How did you know it was a boy?" I ask.
"I had a dream. A beautiful dream about you both. I pushed you away because I was afraid, and now I fear it's too late."
I sink down onto the couch. Of course it's too late.
I want to scream at him, I want to hang up the phone and not give it a second thought, but I'm unable to. For months and months I wanted nothing more than for Elan to come around, to know that someday Max could have a relationship with this man. I've accepted that Elan and I are through, but I never wanted my son to suffer this loss.
I listen, numb, while Elan relays a story to me about his parents and how they lost a baby—a baby meant to be his younger sister—when she was just a newborn, and how the loss was so devastating, so tragic that they never recovered. Not only did their marriage fall apart, but his mother was committed to an institution when he was six years old and remained there for three years. He tells me all of this and explains that is why he had been terrified of bringing a new baby into this world with me. My brain spins and spins. I hand Max a stuffed animal and make it dance around, but the phone stays glued to my ear, and my brain is elsewhere.
"I want to see you, to meet my son. I want a chance to build back what we had."
"What are you saying? You left us. You sent someone by with a check! You weren't even man enough to come by yourself. To look me in the eye…" I lower my tone, realizing I'm on the verge of screaming and take a deep, calming breath. I stand and pace the room, heading into the kitchen to get some distance from Max's little ears.
"What did you name him?" he asks, his voice whisper-soft unlike I've ever heard it before.
"Maxwell," I say. "But I call him Max." I don't explain that I'd chosen the name as a constant reminder to myself to maximize every moment and to never feel sorry for myself over the situation.
"It's perfect," he says. "Kylie? What do you say? I'd like to meet my son."
I open my mouth to refuse his request, but my eyes wander over to my son—my son who looks exactly like his father and a sense of stillness washes over me. I know that for Max's sake, I need to hear him out. I have no legal right to refuse Elan. It occurs to me that if I try to deny him access to Max, he could get lawyers involved and try to get joint custody. I don't want that.
"I… I don't know, Elan. I've met someone," I say. "I'm happy." The image of Pace's intense gaze as he sunk into me last night, so concerned with my arm, and my pleasure, rips through me making me shiver.
"Please," he begs. "Wouldn’t it be best for our son if we were together?"