Chapter no 33

It Ends with us

“What am I going to do with three car seats?”

I’m sitting on Allysa’s couch, staring at all the stuff. She threw me a baby shower today. My mother came. Ryle’s mother even flew in for it, but she’s in the guest room sleeping off her jet lag now. The girls from the floral shop came and a few friends from my old job. Even Devin came. It was actually a lot of fun, despite the fact that I’ve been dreading it for the past several weeks.

“That’s why I told you to start a registry, so none of the gifts would be duplicated,” Allysa says.

I sigh. “I guess I can have Mom return hers. She’s bought me enough stuff as it is.”

I stand up and start gathering all the gifts. Marshall already said he’d help me carry them down to my apartment, so Allysa helps me throw everything inside trash bags. I hold them open while she picks everything up from the floor. I’m almost thirty weeks pregnant now, so she doesn’t get the easier job of holding open the trash.

We have everything bagged up and Marshall is on his second trip down to my apartment when I open Allysa’s front door, prepared to drag a trash bag full of gifts to the elevator. What I’m not prepared for is Ryle, who is standing on the other side of the door looking back at me. We both look equally as shocked to see each other, considering we haven’t spoken since our fight three months ago.

This encounter was bound to happen, though. I can’t be best friends with my husband’s sister and live in the same building as him without eventually running into him.

I’m sure he knew I was having the shower today since his mother flew in for it, but he still looks a little surprised when he sees all the stuff behind me. It makes me wonder if him showing up just as I’m leaving is a coincidence or a suitable convenience. He looks down

at the trash bag I’m holding and he takes it from my hands. “Let me get this.”

I let him. He takes that bag and another one down to the apartment while I gather my things. He and Marshall are walking back inside the apartment as I’m preparing to walk out.

Ryle grabs the last bag of stuff and begins to head toward the front door again. I’m following behind him when Marshall gives me a silent look, asking me if I’m okay with Ryle going downstairs with me. I nod. I can’t keep avoiding Ryle forever, so now is as good a time as any to discuss where we go from here.

It’s only a few floors between their apartment and mine, but the elevator ride down with Ryle feels like the longest it’s ever taken. I catch him staring at my stomach a couple of times and it makes me wonder how it must feel, going three months without seeing me pregnant.

My apartment door is unlocked, so I push it open and he follows me inside. He takes the last of the stuff to the nursery and I can hear him moving things around, opening boxes. I stay in the kitchen and clean things that don’t even need cleaning. My heart is in my throat, knowing he’s in my apartment. I don’t feel scared of him in this moment. I just feel nervous. I wanted to be more prepared for this conversation because I absolutely hate confrontation. But I know we need to discuss the baby and our future. I just don’t want to. Not yet, anyway.

He walks down the hallway and into the kitchen. I catch him looking at my stomach again. He glances away just as quickly. “Do you want me to assemble the crib while I’m here?”

I should probably say no, but he’s half responsible for the child growing inside of me. If he’s going to offer physical labor I’m going to take it, no matter how angry I still am at him. “Yeah. That would be a big help.”

He points toward the laundry room. “Is my toolbox still in there?”

I nod and he heads toward the laundry room. I open the refrigerator and face it so I don’t have to watch him walk back through the kitchen. When he’s finally in the nursery again, I close the refrigerator and press my forehead against it as I grip the

handle. I breathe in and out as I try to process everything that’s happening inside of me right now.

He looks really good. It’s been so long since I’ve seen him, I forgot how beautiful he is. I have an urge to run down the hallway and jump into his arms. I want to feel his mouth on mine. I want to hear him tell me how much he loves me. I want him to lie down next to me and put his hand on my stomach like I’ve imagined him doing so many times.

It would be so easy. My life would be so much easier right now if I would just forgive him and take him back.

I close my eyes and repeat the words my mother said to me. “If Ryle truly loves you, he wouldn’t allow you to take him back.”

That reminder is the only thing that prevents me from running down the hallway.

• • •

I keep myself busy in the kitchen for the next hour as he remains in the nursery. I eventually have to walk past it to grab my phone charger from my room. On my way back down the hallway, I pause at the door of the nursery.

The crib is assembled. He even put the bedding on. He’s standing over it, gripping the railing, staring inside the empty crib. He’s so quiet and still, he looks like a statue. He’s lost in thought and doesn’t even notice me standing outside the doorway. It makes me wonder where his mind has wandered.

Is he thinking about the baby? The child he won’t even be living with when it sleeps in that very crib?

Until this moment, I wasn’t sure if he even wanted to be a part of the baby’s life. But the look on his face proves to me that he does. I’ve never seen so much sadness in one expression, and I’m not even facing him straight on. I feel like the sadness he’s feeling in this moment has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with thoughts of his child.

He glances up and sees me standing in the doorway. He pushes off the crib and shakes himself out of his trance. “Finished,” he says, waving a hand toward the crib. He begins putting his tools back inside the tool case. “Is there anything else you need while I’m here?”

I shake my head as I walk over to the crib and admire it. Since I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, I decided to go with a nature theme. The bedding set is tan and green with pictures of plants and trees all over it. It matches the curtains and will eventually match a mural I plan to paint on the wall at some point. I also plan to fill the nursery with a few live plants from the shop. I can’t help but smile, finally seeing it all start to come together. He even put up the mobile. I reach up and turn it on and Brahms’s Lullaby begins to play. I stare at it as it makes a full spin and then I glance back at Ryle. He’s standing a few feet away, just watching me.

As I stare back at him, I think about how easy it is for humans to make judgments when we’re standing on the outside of a situation. I spent years judging my mother’s situation.

It’s easy when we’re on the outside to believe that we would walk away without a second thought if a person mistreated us. It’s easy to say we couldn’t continue to love someone who mistreats us when we aren’t the ones feeling the love of that person.

When you experience it firsthand, it isn’t so easy to hate the person who mistreats you when most of the time they’re your godsend.

Ryle’s eyes gain a little bit of hope, and I hate that he can see that my walls are temporarily lowered. He begins to take a slow step toward me. I know he’s about to pull me to him and hug me, so I take a quick step away from him.

And just like that, the wall is back up between us.

Allowing him back inside this apartment was a huge step for me in itself. He needs to realize that.

He hides whatever rejection he’s feeling with a stoic expression. He tucks the toolbox under his arm and then grabs the box the crib came in. It’s filled with all the trash from everything he opened and put together. “I’ll take this to the Dumpster,” he says, walking toward the door. “If you need help with anything else, just let me know, okay?”

I nod and somehow mutter, “Thank you.”

When I hear the front door close, I turn back and face the crib. My eyes fill with tears, and not for myself this time. Not for the baby.

I cry for Ryle. Because even though he’s responsible for the situation he’s in, I know how sad he is about it. And when you love someone, seeing them sad also makes you sad.

Neither of us brought up our separation or even a chance at reconciliation. We didn’t even talk about what’s going to happen when this baby is born in ten weeks.

I’m just not ready for that conversation yet and the least he can do for me right now is show me patience.

The patience he still owes me from all the times he had none.

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