Just like that, I become the version of myself that I was just two days ago. I am Hannah Martin, a woman who has no idea that she is pregnant, no idea that she is about to lose the one thing she might have wanted her entire adult life.
“Fancy!” I say to him. “It looks like it takes quite a bit of prep.”
“Actually, I just have a few more steps, and then everything goes in the oven,” he says. “I think. Yeah, I think it goes in the oven.”
I start laughing. “You’ve never made this before?”
“Chicken sopa seca? When in my life would I have ever had reason to make chicken sopa seca? I didn’t even know what it was until a few hours ago. I make grilled cheese. I bake potatoes. When I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll make myself a pot of chili. I don’t go around wooing girls with chicken sopa seca.” He is chopping vegetables and putting them into a pot. I hang back and sit down on the stool by the kitchen.
“What is chicken sopa seca?” I ask him.
“I’m still a bit unclear on that,” he says, laughing. “But it involves pasta, so . . .”
“You’ve never even had it?”
“Again, Hannah, I ask you, when do you think I have occasion to have chicken sopa seca?”
I laugh. “Well, why are you making it?” I ask. He is pouring broth into the pot. He looks like a natural.
“Because you are the kind of person who deserves a fuss made over her. That’s why. And I’m just the guy to do that.”
“You could have just made me a cinnamon roll,” I tell him.
He laughs. “Considered and dismissed. It’s too obvious. Everyone gets you cinnamon rolls. I wanted to do something unexpected.”
I laugh. “Well, if you aren’t making cinnamon rolls, then what’s for dessert?”
“Ah!” he says. “I’m glad you asked.” He pulls out a cluster of bananas.
“Bananas Foster. I’m gonna light these babies on fire.”
“That sounds like a terrible idea.”
He laughs. “I’m kidding. I bought fruit and Nutella.”
“Oh, thank God,” I say.
“How’s Charlemagne?” Ethan asks. Charlemagne, the baby, Gabby and Mark—I want to leave all of it at the door. I don’t want to bring any of that here.
“Let’s not talk about Charlemagne,” I say. “Let’s talk about . . .”
“Let’s talk about how kickass you are,” Ethan says. “With a new job starting and a new car and a dog and a handsome boyfriend who makes world-class cuisine.”
This is when I should say something. This is my opening.
But his eyes are so kind and his face so familiar. And so much else in my life is scary and new.
He kisses me. I immediately sink into him, into his breath, into his arms.
This is all going to be over. This is ending.
He picks me up off the stool, and I wrap my arms around him.
He brings me into the bedroom. He pulls my T-shirt off. He starts to unfasten my bra.
“Wait,” I say.
“Oh, no, it’s fine,” he tells me. “The sopa seca has to simmer on low for a while. It’s not going to burn.”
“No,” I say. I sit up. I look him in the eye. I put my shirt back on. “I’m pregnant.”
Dr. Winters comes in to check on me toward the end of the day. Gabby has gone home.
“So,” she says, “I’ve heard you’ve been galavanting around the hospital in your wheelchair.” She smiles. It’s a reproach but a kind one.
“I’m not really supposed to be doing that, huh?” I ask.
“Not really,” she says. “But I have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.”
I smile, appreciative.
“You are healing nicely. We’re almost out of the woods here, in terms of risk of complications.”
“Yeah,” she says, looking down at my chart. “We should talk about your next steps.”
“OK,” I say. “Tell me.”
“One of our physical therapists is going to come in tomorrow, around eleven.”
“And he and I will assess what sort of mobility you have, what you can expect in a reasonable amount of time, what you should know going forward.”
“And we will come up with a program and a tentative timeline for when you can expect to begin walking unaided.”
“Sounds good,” I tell her.
“This is a long road ahead. It’s one that can be very frustrating.”
“I know,” I say. I’ve been sitting in a bed for a week, leaving only rarely and only with help.
“It will only get more frustrating,” she says. “You are going to have to learn how to do something you already know how to do. You will get angry. You will feel like giving up.”
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I’m not going to give up.”
“Oh, I know that,” she says. “I just want you to know that it’s OK to want to give up. That it’s OK to reach a breaking point with this stuff. You have to have patience with yourself.”
“You’re saying I’m going to have to relearn how to walk,” I tell her. “I already know that. I’m ready.”
“I’m saying you’re going to have to relearn how to live,” she says. “Learn how to do things with your hands for a while instead of your legs. Learn how to ask for help. Learn when you have reached your limit and when you can keep going. And all I’m saying is that we have resources at your disposal. We can help you get through all of it. You will get through all of it.”
I felt I had this under control, to a certain degree, before she walked in here, and now she’s making me feel like everything is a disaster.
“OK,” I say. “I’ll let that marinate.”
“OK,” she says. “I’ll come check on you tomorrow morning.”
“Great,” I say. I only half mean it.
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, but I know that if I go to sleep now, I’ll wake up in time to see Henry. So that’s what I do. I go to bed. I only have a few more nights in this hospital. I’d hate to waste one sleeping.
I’m awake by eleven, when he comes in. I’m prepared for him to make a joke about me being nocturnal or something, but he doesn’t. He just says, “Hello.”
“Hi,” I say.
He looks down at my chart. “So you’re going to be taking off pretty soon,” he says.
“Yeah. I guess I’m just too healthy for this place.”
“A blessing if I’ve ever heard one.” He gives me a perfunctory smile and then checks my blood pressure.
“Would you want to help me practice standing?” I ask. “I want to show you how well I’m doing. I stood up almost entirely on my own this morning.”
“I have a lot of patients to get to, so I don’t think so,” he says. He doesn’t even look at me.
“Henry? What is going on with you?”
He looks up.
“I’m being switched to days on another floor. You’ll have a nice woman, Marlene, taking care of you for the remaining nights that you’re here.” He pulls the cuff off my arm and steps back from me.
“Oh,” I say. “OK.” I feel rejected, somehow. Rebuffed. “Can you still stop by just to say hi?”
“Hannah,” Henry says. His voice is now more somber, more serious. “I shouldn’t have been so . . . friendly with you. That is my fault. We can’t keep joking around and goofing off.”
“OK,” I say. “I get it.”
“Our relationship has to stay professional.”
“It’s nothing personal.” The phrase hangs there in the air.
I thought this was personal. Which I guess is the problem.
“I should go,” he says.
“Henry, c’mon.” I find myself getting emotional; I hear my voice cracking. I try desperately to get it under control. I know that letting him know how badly I want to see him again will only serve to push him further away. I know that. But sometimes you can’t help but show the things you feel. Sometimes, despite how hard you try to fight your feelings, they show up in the glassiness of your eyes, the downward turn of your lips, the shakiness of your voice, and the lump in your throat. “We’re friends,” I say.