It’s rather convenient only having to take an elevator to get home from Allysa’s, as much as I want to move out of my own apartment at times. It’s still strange living there. We only lived there a week before we split up and Ryle left for England. It never even had the chance to feel like home and now it feels a little tainted. I haven’t even been able to sleep in our bedroom since that night, so I’ve been sleeping in the guest room on my old bed.
Allysa and Marshall are still the only ones who know about the pregnancy. It’s only been two weeks since I told them, which makes me twenty weeks along now. I know I should tell my mother, but Ryle will be back in a few weeks. I feel like I should tell him ﬁrst before anyone else ﬁnds out. If I can just somehow hide my baby bump from her until he gets back to the States.
I should probably just accept the fact that I’m more than likely going to have to call him and tell him long-distance. I haven’t seen my mother face-to-face in two weeks. It’s the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other since she moved to Boston, so if something doesn’t happen soon she’ll show up at my front door when I’m not prepared.
I swear my stomach has doubled in size these last two weeks alone. If someone sees me who knows me well, it’ll be impossible to hide. So far, no one at the ﬂoral shop has asked about it. I think I’m still on the cusp of “Is she pregnant? Or just chubby?”
I start to unlock the door to my apartment, but it begins to open
from the other side. Before I can pull the jacket over to hide my stomach from whoever is on the other side of the door, Ryle’s eyes land on me. I’m wearing one of the shirts Allysa gave me and it’s kind of impossible to hide the fact that I’m wearing a maternity shirt when he’s staring right at it.
Ryle is here.
My heart begins to smash against the walls of my chest. My neck begins to itch, so I bring my hand up and rest it there, feeling the pounding of my heart against my palm.
It’s pounding because I’m terriﬁed of him. It’s pounding because I hate him.
It’s pounding because I’ve missed him.
His eyes slowly crawl from my stomach to my face. A hurtful expression takes over him, like I’ve just stabbed him straight through the heart. He takes a step back into my apartment and his hands come up to his mouth.
He begins to shake his head in confusion. I can see the betrayal all over his face when he barely forces out my name. “Lily?”
I stand frozen, one hand on my stomach in protection, the other
hand still ﬂat against my chest. I’m too scared to move or say anything. I don’t want to react until I know exactly how he’s going to react.
When he sees the fear in my eyes and the small gasps of breath I’m barely inhaling, he holds up a reassuring palm.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Lily. I’m just here to talk to you.” He swings the door open wider and points into the living room. “Look.” He steps aside and my eyes fall to someone standing behind him.
Now I’m the one who feels betrayed. “Marshall?”
Marshall immediately holds up his hands in defense. “I had no idea he was coming home early, Lily. Ryle texted and asked for my help. He speciﬁcally told me not to say anything to you or Issa. Please don’t let her divorce me, I’m simply an innocent bystander.”
I shake my head, trying to understand what I’m seeing.
“I asked him to meet me here so you’d feel more comfortable talking to me,” Ryle says. “He’s here for you, he’s not here for me.”
I glance back at Marshall and he nods. It gives me enough reassurance to enter the apartment. Ryle is still somewhat in shock, which is understandable. His eyes keep meeting my stomach and then ﬂicking away like it hurts to look at me. He runs two hands through his hair and then points down the hallway while looking at Marshall.
“We’ll be in the bedroom. If you hear me get . . . if I start to yell . . .”
Marshall knows what Ryle is asking him. “I’m not going anywhere.”
As I follow Ryle into my bedroom, I wonder what that must be like. To have no idea what might set you off or how bad your reaction will be. To have absolutely no control over your own emotions.
For a brief moment, I feel a minuscule amount of sorrow for him. But when my eyes fall to our bed and I remember that night, my sorrow diminishes completely.
Ryle pushes the door shut, but doesn’t close it all the way. He looks like he’s aged an entire year in the two months it’s been since I’ve seen him. The bags under his eyes, the furrowed brow, the sunken posture. If regret took human form, it would look identical to Ryle.
His eyes fall to my stomach again and he takes a slow step forward. Then another. He’s cautious, as he should be. He reaches out a timid hand, asking for permission to touch me. I nod softly.
He takes one more step forward and then places a steady palm against my stomach.
I can feel the warmth of his hand through my shirt, and my eyes snap shut. Despite the resentment I’ve built up in my heart toward him, it doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t still there. Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.
He moves his hand over my stomach and I open my eyes again. He’s shaking his head, like he can’t process what’s happening right now. I watch as he slowly sinks to his knees in front of me.
His arms snake around my waist and he presses his lips against my stomach. He clasps his hands around my lower back and presses his forehead against me.
It’s hard to describe what I feel for him in this moment. Like any mother would want for her child, it’s a beautiful thing to see the love he already has. It’s been hard not sharing this with anyone. It’s hard not being able to share this with him, no matter how much
resentment I hold toward him. My hands go to his hair while he holds me against him. Part of me wants to scream at him and call the police like I should have done that night. Part of me feels for that little boy who held his brother in his arms and watched him die. Part of me wishes I would have never met him. Part of me wishes I could forgive him.
He unwraps his arms from around my waist and presses a hand into the mattress next to us. He pulls himself up and then sits on the bed. His elbows rest on his knees and his hands are drawn up to his mouth.
I sit next to him, knowing we have to have this conversation, but not wanting to. “Naked truths?”
I don’t know which one of us is supposed to go ﬁrst. I don’t really have much to say to him at this point, so I wait for him to speak ﬁrst.
“I don’t even know where to start, Lily.” He rubs his hands down his face.
“How about you start with, ‘I’m sorry I attacked you.’ ”
His eyes meet mine, wide with certainty. “Lily, you have no idea. I am so sorry. You have no idea what I’ve been through these past two months knowing what I’ve done to you.”
I clench my teeth together. I can feel my ﬁngers as they ﬁst around the blanket beside me.
I have no idea what he’s been through?
I shake my head, slowly. “You have no idea, Ryle.”
I stand up, the anger and hatred spilling out of me. I spin, pointing at him. “You have no idea! You have no idea what it’s like to go through what you’ve put me through! To fear for your life at the hands of the man you love? To get physically sick just thinking about what he’s done to you? You have no idea, Ryle! None! Fuck you! Fuck you for doing this to me!”
I suck in a huge breath, shocked at myself. The anger just came
like a wave. I swipe at my tears and spin around, unable to look at him.
“Lily,” he says. “I don’t . . .”
“No!” I yell, spinning around again. “I am not ﬁnished! You don’t get to say your truth until I’ve said mine!”
He’s grabbing at his jaw, squeezing the stress out of it. He drops his eyes to the ﬂoor, unable to look at the rage in mine. I take three steps toward him and drop to my knees. I place my hands on his legs, forcing him to look me straight in the eyes while I speak to him.
“Yes. I kept the magnet Atlas gave me when we were kids. Yes. I kept the journals. No, I didn’t tell you about my tattoo. Yes, I probably should have. And yes, I still love him. And I’ll love him until I die, because he was a huge part of my life. And yes, I’m sure that hurts you. But none of that gave you the right to do what you did to me. Even if you would have walked into my bedroom and caught us in bed together, you still would not have the right to lay a hand on me, you goddamn son of a bitch!”
I push off his knees and stand up again. “Now it’s your turn!” I yell.
I continue pacing the room. My heart is pounding like it wants out. I wish I could give it a way out. I’d set the mother-fucker free right now if I could.
Several minutes pass as I continue to pace. Ryle’s silence and my anger eventually just fold together into pain.
My tears have exhausted me. I am so tired of feeling. I fall desperately onto my bed and cry into my pillow. I press my face so hard against my pillow, I can barely breathe.
I feel Ryle lie down next to me. He places a gentle hand on the back of my head, attempting to sooth away the pain he’s causing me. My eyes are closed, still pressed into the pillow, but I feel him gently rest his head against mine.
“My truth is that I have absolutely nothing to say,” he says quietly. “I’ll never be able to take back what I did to you. And you’ll never believe me if I promise it won’t happen again.” He presses a kiss against my head. “You are my world, Lily. My world. When I woke up on this bed that night and you were gone, I knew I would never get you back. I came here to tell you how incredibly sorry I am. I came to tell you I was taking that job offer in Minnesota. I came to tell you goodbye. But Lily . . .” His lips press against my head again and he exhales sharply. “Lily, I can’t do that now. You have a part of me inside of you. And I already love this baby more than I’ve ever
loved anything in my whole life.” His voice cracks and he grips me even harder. “Please don’t take this away from me, Lily. Please.”
The pain in his voice ripples through me, and when I lift my
tear-soaked face to look at him, he presses his lips desperately to mine and then pulls back. “Please, Lily. I love you. Help me.”
His lips brieﬂy meet mine again. When I don’t push him away,
his mouth comes back a third time.
When his lips meet mine the ﬁfth time, they don’t leave.
He wraps his arms around me and pulls me to him. My body is tired and weak, but it remembers him. My body remembers how his body can soothe everything I’m feeling. How his has a gentleness in it that my body has been craving for two months now. “I love you,” he whispers against my mouth. His tongue sweeps softly against mine and it’s so wrong and so good and so painful. Before I know it, I’m on my back and he’s crawling on top of me.
His touch is everything I need and everything I shouldn’t.
His hand wraps in my hair and in an instant, I’m transferred back to that night.
I’m in the kitchen, and his hand is tugging my hair so hard it hurts.
He brushes the hair from my face and in an instant, I’m transferred back to that night.
I’m standing in the doorway, and his hand is trailing across my shoulder, right before he bites into me with all the strength in his jaw.
His forehead rests gently against mine and in an instant, I’m
transferred back to that night.
I’m on this same bed beneath him when he slams his head against mine so hard I have to get six stitches.
My body becomes unresponsive to his. The anger begins to roll
back over me. His mouth stops moving against mine when he feels me freeze.
When he pulls back and looks down on me, I don’t even have to say anything. Our eyes, locked together, speak more naked truths than our mouths ever have. My eyes are telling his that I can no longer stand being touched by him. His eyes are telling mine that he already knows.
He begins to nod, slowly.
He backs away from me, crawling down my body until he’s at the edge of the bed with his back to me. He’s still nodding as he comes to a slow stand, fully aware that he’s not getting my forgiveness tonight. He begins heading toward my bedroom door.
“Wait,” I say to him.
He half-turns, looking back at me from the doorway.
I lift my chin, looking at him with ﬁnality. “I wish this baby wasn’t yours, Ryle. With everything that I am, I wish this baby was not a part of you.”
If I thought his world couldn’t crumble more, I was wrong.
He walks out of my bedroom and I press my face into my pillow. I thought if I could just hurt him like he had hurt me, I would feel avenged.
Instead, I feel vindictive and mean. I feel like I’m my father.