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?”