Chapter no 32

It Ends with us

Of all the secrets I’ve held over the last few months, I’m the saddest about keeping everything from my mother. I don’t know how she’ll take it. I know she’ll be excited about the pregnancy, but I don’t know how she’ll feel about me and Ryle splitting up. She loves Ryle. And based on her history with these types of situations, she’ll probably find it very easy to excuse his behavior and try and convince me to take him back. And in all honesty, that’s part of the reason I’ve been stalling this, because I’m scared there’s a chance she might be successful.

Most days I’m strong. Most days I’m so mad at him that the thought of ever forgiving him is ludicrous. But some days I miss him so much I can’t breathe. I miss the fun I had with him. I miss making love to him. I miss missing him. He used to work so many hours that when he would walk in the front door at night I would rush across the room and jump in his arms because I missed him so much. I even miss how much he loved it when I would do that.

It’s the not-so-strong days when I wish my mother knew about everything that was going on. I sometimes just want to drive over to her house and curl up on the couch with her while she tucks my hair behind my ear and tells me it’ll all be okay. Sometimes even grown women need their mother’s comfort so we can just take a break from having to be strong all the time.

I sit in my car, parked in her driveway, for a good five minutes before I work up the strength to go inside. It sucks that I have to do this because I know that in a way, I’ll be breaking her heart, too. I hate it when she’s sad and telling her I married a man who might be like my father is going to make her really sad.

When I walk through the front door, she’s in the kitchen layering noodles in a pan. I don’t remove my coat right away for obvious reasons. I’m not wearing a maternity shirt but my bump is

almost impossible to hide without a jacket. Especially from a mother.

“Hey, sweetie!” she says.

I walk into the kitchen and give her a side hug while she layers cheese over the top of the lasagna. Once the lasagna is in the oven, we walk over to the dining room table and take a seat. She leans back in her chair and takes a sip from a glass of tea.

She’s smiling. I hate it even more that she looks so happy right now.

“Lily,” she says. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

I don’t like this. I was coming over here to talk to her. I’m not prepared to receive a talk.

“What is it?” I ask hesitantly.

She grips her glass of tea with both hands. “I’m seeing someone.”

My mouth drops open.

“Really?” I ask, shaking my head. “That’s . . .” I’m about to say good, but then I grow instantly worried that she’s just put herself in a similar situation she was in with my father. She can see the worry on my face, so she grabs my hands in both of hers.

“He’s good, Lily. He’s so good. I promise.”

Relief washes over me in an instant, because I can see she’s telling the truth. I can see the happiness in her eyes. “Wow,” I say, not expecting this at all. “I’m happy for you. When can I meet him?”

“Tonight, if you want,” she says. “I can invite him over to eat with us.”

I shake my head. “No,” I whisper. “Now’s not a good time.”

Her hands squeeze around mine as soon as she realizes I’m here to tell her something important. I start with the better part of the news first.

I stand up and remove my jacket. At first, she doesn’t think anything of it. She just assumes I’m making myself comfortable. But then I take one of her hands and I press it against my stomach. “You’re gonna be a grandma.”

Her eyes widen and for several seconds, she’s stunned speechless. But then tears begin to form. She jumps up and pulls me into a hug. “Lily!” she says. “Oh my God!” She pulls back,

smiling. “That was so fast. Were you trying? You haven’t even been married for very long.”

I shake my head. “No. It was a shock. Believe me.”

She laughs and after another hug, we both sit down again. I try to keep up my smile, but it’s not the smile of an elated expectant mother. She sees that almost immediately. She slides a hand over her mouth. “Sweetie,” she whispers. “What’s the matter?”

Until this moment, I’ve fought to remain strong. I’ve fought to not feel too sorry for myself when I’m around other people. But sitting here with my mother, I crave weakness. I just want to be able to give up for a little while. I want her to take over and hug me and tell me it’ll all be okay. And for the next fifteen minutes while I cry in her arms, that’s exactly what happens. I just stop fighting for myself because I need someone else to do it for me.

I spare her most of the details of our relationship, but I do tell her the most important things. That he’s hurt me on more than one occasion, and I don’t know what to do. That I’m scared to have this baby alone. That I’m scared I might make the wrong decision. That I’m scared I’m being too weak and that I should have had him arrested. That I’m scared I’m being too sensitive and I don’t know if I’m overreacting. Basically, I tell her everything I haven’t even been brave enough to fully admit to myself.

She retrieves some napkins out of the kitchen and comes back to the table. After our eyes are finally dry, she begins to crumple the napkin up between her hands, rolling it over in circles as she stares down at it.

“Do you want to take him back?” she asks. I don’t say yes. But I also don’t say no.

This is the first moment since this has happened that I’m being completely honest. I’m honest to her and to myself. Maybe because she’s the only one I know who has been through this. She’s the only one I know who would understand the massive amounts of confusion I’ve been experiencing.

I shake my head, but I also shrug. “Most of me feels like I’ll never be able to trust him again. But a huge part of me grieves what I had with him. We were so good together, Mom. The times I spent with him were some of the best moments of my life. And occasionally I feel like maybe I don’t want to give that up.”

I wipe the napkin beneath my eye, soaking up more tears. “Sometimes . . . when I’m really missing him . . . I tell myself that maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I could put up with him when he’s at his worst just so I can have him when he’s at his best.”

She puts her hand on top of mine and rubs her thumb back and forth. “I know exactly what you mean, Lily. But the last thing you want to do is lose sight of your limit. Please don’t allow that to happen.”

I have no idea what she means by that. She sees the confusion in my expression, so she squeezes my arm and explains in more detail.

“We all have a limit. What we’re willing to put up with before we break. When I married your father, I knew exactly what my limit was. But slowly . . . with every incident . . . my limit was pushed a little more. And a little more. The first time your father hit me, he was immediately sorry. He swore it would never happen again. The second time he hit me, he was even more sorry. The third time it happened, it was more than a hit. It was a beating. And every single time, I took him back. But the fourth time, it was only a slap. And when that happened, I felt relieved. I remember thinking, ‘At least he didn’t beat me this time. This wasn’t so bad.’ ”

She brings the napkin up to her eyes and says, “Every incident chips away at your limit. Every time you choose to stay, it makes the next time that much harder to leave. Eventually, you lose sight of your limit altogether, because you start to think, ‘I’ve lasted five years now. What’s five more?’ ”

She grabs my hands and holds them while I cry. “Don’t be like

me, Lily. I know that you believe he loves you, and I’m sure he does. But he’s not loving you the right way. He doesn’t love you the way you deserve to be loved. If Ryle truly loves you, he wouldn’t allow you to take him back. He would make the decision to leave you himself so that he knows for a fact he can never hurt you again. That’s the kind of love a woman deserves, Lily.”

I wish with all my heart that she didn’t learn these things from experience. I pull her to me and hug her.

For whatever reason, I thought I would have to defend myself to her when I came over here. Not once did I think I would come over here and learn from her. I should know better. I thought my

mother was weak in the past, but she’s actually one of the strongest women I know.

“Mom?” I say, pulling back. “I want to be you when I grow up.”

She laughs and brushes the hair from my face. I can see in the way she looks at me that she’d trade spots with me in a heartbeat. She’s feeling more pain for me in this moment than she ever felt for herself. “I want to tell you something,” she says.

She reaches for my hands again.

“The day you gave your father’s eulogy? I know you didn’t freeze up, Lily. You stood at that podium and refused to say a single good thing about that man. It was the proudest I have ever been of you. You were the only one in my life who ever stood up for me. You were strong when I was scared.” A tear falls from her eye when she says, “Be that girl, Lily. Brave and bold.”

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