“Marry me!” He’d said when he found out. Eyes swelling and hands outstretched expectantly. “Let’s do this!” I felt the start of an ugly cry. First came the frown, then the downturned mouth and then the sickness in my stomach rising to my throat. “What?” I managed to blurt out before a hot, salty stream made its way down my face and nestled wetly in my chest. “What?” I repeated incredulously, before the tears suffocated me.
Nick waivered. He opened his mouth to speak, then stopped himself. Frowning. “Babe?” he said, moving towards me. His left hand planted on my shoulder and his right hand grasping lovingly for my stomach. This wasn’t happening, this couldn’t be happening. “No!” I shouted with such venom that I shocked myself. I wriggled roughly out of his grasp, shoved his hand away from me and backed towards the door.
We stared at each other, breathing in each other’s hurt. I wanted to reach out to him and grab greedily at his love handles, to make him sweat and giggle and give him sloppy kisses on his forehead. I clasped my hands together, half scared that I’d reach out to him and half scared that I wouldn’t. As I stood staring at him in indecision, his face crumpled. “I don’t get it” he breathed heavily “you love me. Why are you doing this?”
I laughed. As tears streamed down my face and I asked myself how the fuck I ended up here. I laughed a loud, ugly laugh. This beautiful man who I thought understood me and understood us and shared everything I wanted for our future was fighting me. Why couldn’t he see me? How many times had we had this conversation? “Why am I doing this?!” I choked through laughter. “Are you kidding me?”
I could see his love for me getting burned up behind his eyes. They got blacker and blacker until he finally said it. “Is it mine?” His words and his voice were so hideously predictable that I couldn’t bear to look at him. I winced and took a further step back, “There it is.” I said, still laughing in exasperation. “Can you not even say his name, babe?” I teased. “Have you forgotten? It’s Dean. Dean, Dean, Dean, fucking Dean!” Before I could process what had happened, broken glass and water spread across the floor, pooling around the end of season tulips that my mum had sent last week. Irregular gifts were her way of letting me know I was still in her thoughts despite our distinct lack of contact. I looked at Nick with disgust. “You’re pathetic.”
“I’m sorry,” he dropped to his knees “just tell me.”
He was sorry for smashing the vase. He was sorry I was upset. He was sorry for all the ways in which I disappointed him. He wasn’t sorry for fighting me. He thought I just needed bringing around, to sleep on it, to give it a week, a month, nine. To marry him with a big, bulging belly and grateful eyes.
“I don’t want a fucking baby, Nick! It’s got nothing to do with you. I don’t want your baby, I don’t want Dean’s pissing baby, I don’t want any fucking baby! I don’t want it!”
“We can make it work! We can do this, I lo-”
“Don’t you dare.” I interrupted. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
I turned and hit my arm on the door handle. “For fuck sake!” I shouted, tears streaming down my face again. I ran for the bedroom and began to chuck fistfuls of pants and socks into a flimsy plastic bag, blearily searching for my favourite pyjamas among the chaos. Nick was still shouting at me from the other room but I didn’t care anymore. His cracked, tearful voice had no effect on me. I couldn’t clean up the shitty nappies of my baby and my husband forever. Even thinking the word husband made my skin crawl.
I took in a long, deep breath and the pit of my stomach wobbled, betraying my anger and disgust. Deep down I was already feeling the regret and remorse which accompanied a tearful reconciliation but this was bigger than an apologetic hand reaching out to touch his. No amount of talking or crying or fucking could bring us to a compromise. I picked up my hastily packed overnight bag, put on some shoes and stood beside the living room door, stroking the smooth painted wood of the frame to soothe me. “I’m sorry.” I said, “I can’t.”
Looking like a woman on a rampage I darted through the streets, not knowing where I was going or how I was going to get there. I counted my breaths, 1, 2, 3, my lip wobbled uncontrollably, 4, tears fell again. There was no stopping it. Panicking about making a scene and operating entirely on autopilot, my legs drove me to the botanic gardens. I desperately scanned for an empty bench and eventually found one. I let out a flustered, tearful sigh as I sat down and began to rummage through my bag to occupy my mind with something other than crying, something other than Nick.
Pants, socks, t shirts, pyjamas, no jeans? Shit. Of course no jeans, why break the habit of a lifetime and stop showing the world my ass? My hand grabbed something alien and hard. What was it? I pulled it out and began to laugh uncontrollably. Wine! It was a plastic glass of wine with a foil top from some festival or other – Leeds maybe? – recovered from the bottom of my too long unloved overnight bag. I swiftly peeled the foil off, sat back and convinced myself that I could feel the weight of expectation lifted from me. No one was waiting for me at home. No one was texting You be back soon babe? We need to go shopping xx. No one was messaging me to ask how my day was. No one. No one. No one.