After college I ended up moving to Boston, not necessarily because I was hoping to find him, but because I had to see for myself if Boston really was better. Plethora held nothing for me anyway, and I wanted to get as far away from my father as I could. Even though he was sick and could no longer hurt my mother, he still somehow made me want to escape the entire state of Maine, so that’s exactly what I did.
Seeing Atlas in his restaurant for the first time filled me with so many emotions, I didn’t know how to process them. I was glad to see that he was okay. I was happy that he looked healthy. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit heartbroken that he never tried to find me like he promised.
I love him. I still do and I always will. He was a huge wave that left a lot of imprints on my life, and I’ll feel the weight of that love until I die. I’ve accepted that.
But things are different now. After today when he walked out of my office, I thought long and hard about us. I think our lives are where they’re supposed to be. I have Ryle. Atlas has his girlfriend. We both have the careers we’d always hoped for. Just because we didn’t end up on the same wave, doesn’t mean we aren’t still a part of the same ocean.
Things with Ryle are still fairly new, but I feel that same depth with him that I used to feel with Atlas. He loves me just like Atlas did. And I know if Atlas had a chance to get to know him, he would be able to see that and he’d be happy for me.
Sometimes an unexpected wave comes along, sucks you up and refuses to spit you back out. Ryle is my unexpected tidal wave, and right now I’m skimming the beautiful surface.
“Oh, God. I think I might throw up.”
Ryle puts his thumb under my chin and tilts my face up to his. He grins at me. “You’ll be fine. Stop freaking out.”
I shake my hands out and bounce up and down inside the elevator. “I can’t help it,” I say. “Everything you and Allysa have told me about your mother makes me so nervous.” My eyes widen and I bring my hands up to my mouth. “Oh, God, Ryle. What if she asks me questions about Jesus? I don’t go to church. I mean, I read the Bible when I was younger, but I don’t know answers to any Bible trivia questions.”
He’s really laughing now. He pulls me to him and kisses the side of my head. “She won’t talk about Jesus. She already loves you, based on what I’ve told her. All you have to do is be you, Lily.”
I start nodding. “Be me. Okay. I think I can pretend to be me for one evening. Right?”
The doors open and he walks me out of the elevator, toward Allysa’s apartment. It’s funny watching him knock, but I guess he technically doesn’t live here anymore. Over the last few months, he just sort of slowly began staying with me. All of his clothes are at my apartment. His toiletries. Last week he even hung that ridiculous blurry photograph of me up in our bedroom, and it really felt official after that.
“Does she know we live together?” I ask him. “Is she okay with that? I mean, we aren’t married. She goes to church every Sunday. Oh, no, Ryle! What if your mother thinks I’m a blasphemous whore?”
Ryle nudges his head toward the apartment door and I spin around to see his mother standing in the doorway, a layer of shock on her face.
“Mother,” Ryle says. “Meet Lily. My blasphemous whore.”
Oh dear God.
His mother reaches for me and pulls me in for a hug, and her laughter is everything I need to get me through this moment. “Lily!” she says, pushing me out to arm’s length so she can get a good look at me. “Sweetie, I don’t think you’re a blasphemous whore. You’re the angel I’ve been praying would land in Ryle’s lap for the last ten years!”
She ushers us into the apartment. Ryle’s father is the next to greet me with a hug. “No, definitely not a blasphemous whore,” he says. “Not like Marshall here, who sank his teeth into my little girl when she was only seventeen.” He glares back at Marshall, who is sitting on the couch.
Marshall laughs. “That’s where you’re wrong, Dr. Kincaid, because Allysa was the one who sank her teeth into me first. My teeth were in another girl who tasted like Cheetos and . . .”
Marshall doubles over when Allysa elbows him in the side.
And just like that, every single fear I had has vanished. They’re perfect. They’re normal. They say whore and laugh at Marshall’s jokes.
I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Three hours later, I’m lying on Allysa’s bed with her. Their parents went to bed early, claiming jet lag. Ryle and Marshall are in the living room, watching sports. I have my hand on Allysa’s stomach, waiting to feel the baby kick.
“Her feet are right here,” she says, moving my hand over a few inches. “Give it a few seconds. She’s really active tonight.”
We remain quiet while we both wait for her to kick. When it happens, I squeal with laughter. “Oh my God! It’s like an alien!”
Allysa holds her hands on her stomach, smiling. “These last two and a half months are going to be hell,” she says. “I’m so ready to meet her.”
“Me too. I can’t wait to be an aunt.”
“I can’t wait for you and Ryle to have a baby,” she says.
I fall onto my back and put my hands behind my bed. “I don’t know if he wants any. We’ve never really talked about it.”
“It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t want any,” she says. “He will. He didn’t want a relationship before you. He didn’t want to get married before you, and I feel a proposal coming on any month now.”