Ethan called me twice yesterday, and I didn’t call him back. I texted him telling him that I couldn’t talk. I fell asleep last night knowing I’d have to face him today. I mean, if I keep avoiding him, he’ll know something is up.
So I woke up this morning, resolved to work this out. I called Ethan and asked if he was free tonight. He told me to come by his place at around seven.
Which means I have the rest of the day to call Michael. I want to have answers for Ethan’s questions when he asks. I want to have all of my ducks in a row. And this is a big duck.
I take a shower. I take Charlemagne for a walk. I stare at my computer, reading the Internet for what feels like hours. When it’s six o’clock in New York, when I know Michael will be leaving work, I pick up my phone. I sit down on my bed and dial.
And then it goes to voice mail.
On some level, I’m relieved. Because I don’t want to have to have this conversation at all.
“Hi, Michael. It’s Hannah. Call me back when you have a minute. We have something we need to talk about. OK, ’bye.”
I throw myself backward onto the bed. My pulse is racing. I start thinking of what I’ll do if he never calls me back. I start imagining that maybe he will make this decision for me. Maybe I’ll call him a few times, leave a few messages, and he will just never call back. And I will know that I tried to do the right thing but was unable to. I could live with that.
My phone rings.
“Hannah,” he says, the moment I say hello. His voice is stern, almost angry. “We’re done. You said so yourself. You can’t call me. I finally have things back on track with my family. I’m not going to mess that up again.”
“Michael,” I say to him. “Just hold on one minute, OK?” Now I’m pissed.
“OK,” he says.
“I’m pregnant,” I tell him finally.
He’s so quiet I think the line has gone dead. “I’ll call you back in three minutes,” he says, and then he hangs up.
I pace around the room. I feel a flutter in my stomach.
The phone rings again.
“Hi,” I say.
“OK, so what do we do?” he asks. I can hear that he’s in a closed space. His voice is echoing. He sounds as if he’s in a bathroom.
“I don’t know,” I say.
“I can’t leave my wife and children,” he says adamantly.
“I’m not asking you to,” I tell him. I hate this conversation. I have been working to put this behind me, and now I’m right back in the middle of it.
“So what are you saying?” he asks.
“I’m not saying anything except that I thought you should know. It seemed wrong not to tell you.”
“I can’t do this,” he says. “I made a mistake, being with you. I can see that now. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have done it. It was a mistake. Jill knows what I did. We’re finally in a good place. I love my children. I cannot let anything ruin that.”
“I’m not asking anything of you,” I say to him. “That’s the truth. I just thought you should know.”
“OK,” he says. He is quiet for a moment and then, timidly, asks me what he’s probably wanted to ask me since I brought this up. “Have you considered . . . not having the baby?”
“If you’re going to ask me to have an abortion, Michael, you should at least say the word.” Such a coward.
“Have you considered having an abortion?” he asks.
“No,” I tell him. “I’m not considering having an abortion.”
“What about adoption?”
“Why do you care?” I ask him. “I’m having the baby. I’m not asking for your money or your attention or support, OK?”
“OK,” he says. “But I don’t know how I feel about having a baby out there.”
These are the sorts of things that people should really be thinking about before they have sex, but I’m one to talk.
“Well, then, step up to the plate and deal with it or don’t,” I say. “That’s your business.”
“I suppose it’s no different from donating sperm,” he says. He’s not talking to me. He’s talking to himself. But you know what? I don’t want him to help me raise this baby, and he doesn’t want to help me. Clearly, he’s just looking to absolve himself of any guilt or responsibility, and if that’s what it takes to make this simple, then I will help him do just that.
“Think of it like that,” I tell him. “You donated sperm.”
“Right,” he says. “That’s all it is.”
I want to tell him he’s a complete ass. But I don’t. I let him tell himself whatever he needs to. I know that this baby could ruin his family. I don’t want that. That’s the truth. I don’t want to break up a family, regardless of who is right and wrong. And I don’t need him. And I’m not sure that my child is better off having him around. He hasn’t shown himself to be a very good man.
“OK,” I say.
“OK,” he says.
Just as I am about to get off the phone, I say one thing, for my unborn kid. “If you ever change your mind, you can call me. If you want to meet the baby. And I hope that if he or she wants to meet you one day, you’ll be open to it.”
“No,” he says.
His answer jars me. “What?”
“No,” he says again. “You are making the choice to have this baby. I do not want you to have it. If you have it, you have to deal with the child not having a father. I’m not going to live my life knowing that any day a kid could show up.”
“Classy” is all I say.
“I have to protect what I already have,” he says. “Are we done here?”
“Yeah,” I tell him. “We’re done.”
We are lost in the maternity ward, and we can’t seem to find our way out. First, we were stuck in the delivery department. Now we’re outside the nursery.
The last thing I want to do right now is look at beautiful, precious babies. But I notice Gabby is no longer behind me. She’s staring.
“We are going to start trying soon,” she says. She’s not even looking at me. She’s looking at the babies.
“What are we going to start trying to do?”
She looks at me as if I’m so stupid I’m embarrassing her. “No, Mark and I. We’re going to try to have a baby.”
“You want to have a kid?”
“Yeah,” she says. “I was going to ask what you thought when you got here, but I didn’t get a chance before the accident, and . . . and then, when you woke up . . .”
“Right,” I say. I don’t want her to say it out loud. The inference is enough. “But you think you’re ready? That’s so exciting!” My own ambivalence about a baby doesn’t, for a minute, take away from the joy of her having one. “A little half Gabby, half Mark,” I add. “Wow!”
“I know. It’s a really exciting thought. Super scary, too. But really exciting.”
“So you’ll be . . . doing the ol’ . . . actually, is there even a popular euphemism for trying to have a baby?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “But yes, we’ll be doing the ol’ . . .”
“Wow,” I say again. “I just can’t believe that we are old enough to the point where you’re going to actually try to get pregnant.”
“I know,” she says. “You spend your whole life learning how not to get pregnant, and then, one day, you suddenly have to reverse all of that training.”
“Well, this is awesome,” I say. “You and Mark are so good together. You’re going to be great parents.”
“Thank you,” she says, and squeezes my shoulder.
A nurse comes up to us. “Which one are you visiting?” she asks.
“Oh, no,” Gabby says. “Sorry. We are just lost. Can you point us back to general surgery?”
“Down the hall, take your first right, then your second left. You’ll see a vending machine. Follow that hall to the end, take a left . . .” The directions go on and on. Clearly, I took us much farther away than I meant to.
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