His words fill me with guilt. Despite what has happened between us in the past, he’s still this baby’s father. He has the legal right to be a father, no matter how I feel about it. And I want him to be a father. I want him to be a good father. But deep down, I’m still holding on to one of my biggest fears, and I know I need to talk to him about it.
“I would never keep you from your child, Ryle. I’m happy you want to be involved. But . . .”
He leans forward and buries his face in his hands with that last word.
“What kind of mother would I be if a small part of me doesn’t have concern in regard to your temper? The way you lose control? How do I know something won’t set you off while you’re alone with this baby?”
So much agony floods his eyes, I think they might burst like dams. He begins to shake his head adamantly. “Lily, I would never . . .”
“I know, Ryle. You would never intentionally hurt your own child. I don’t even believe it was intentional when you hurt me, but you did. And trust me, I want to believe that you would never do something like that. My father was only abusive toward my mother. There are many men—women even—who abuse their significant others without ever losing their temper with anyone else. I want to believe your words with all my heart, but you have to understand where my hesitation comes in. I’ll never deny you a relationship with your child. But I’m going to need you to be really patient with me while you rebuild all the trust you’ve broken.”
He nods in agreement. He has to know that I’m giving him much more than he deserves. “Absolutely,” he says. “This is on your terms. Everything is on your terms, okay?”
Ryle’s hands come together again and he begins to chew nervously on his bottom lip. I sense he has more to say, but he’s doubting whether or not he should say it.
“Go ahead and say whatever you’re thinking while I’m in the mood to talk about it.”
He tilts his head back and looks up at the ceiling. Whatever it is, it’s hard for him. I don’t know if it’s because the question is hard to ask or because he’s scared of the answer I might give him.
“What about us?” he whispers.
I lean my head back and sigh. I knew this question would come, but it’s really difficult to give him an answer I don’t have. Divorce or reconciliation are really the only two options we have, but neither is a choice I want to make.
“I don’t want to give you false hope, Ryle,” I say quietly. “If I had to make a choice today . . . I’d probably choose divorce. But in all honesty, I don’t know if I would be making that choice because I’m overloaded with pregnancy hormones or because it’s what I really want. I don’t think it would be fair to either of us if I made that decision before the birth of this baby.”
He blows out a shaky breath and then brings a hand up to the back of his neck, squeezing tightly. Then he stands up and faces me. “Thank you,” he says. “For inviting me over. For the conversation. I’ve been wanting to stop by since I was here a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t know how you’d feel about it.”
“I don’t know how I would have felt about it, either,” I say with complete honesty. I try to push myself out of the rocking chair, but for some reason it’s become a lot harder in the past week. Ryle walks over and reaches for my hand to help me up.
I don’t know how I’m supposed to last until my due date when I can’t even get out of a chair without grunting.
Once I’m standing, he doesn’t immediately release my hand. We’re just a few inches apart, and I know if I look up at him I’ll feel things. I don’t want to feel things for him.
He finds my other hand until he’s holding both of them down at my sides. He threads his fingers through mine and I feel it all the way to my heart. I press my forehead against his chest and close my eyes. His cheek meets the top of my head and we stand completely still, both of us too scared to move. I’m scared to move because I might be too weak to stop him from kissing me. He’s scared to move because he’s afraid if he does, I’ll pull away.
For what feels like five full minutes, neither of us moves a muscle.
“Ryle,” I finally say. “Can you promise me something?”
I feel him nod.
“Until this baby comes, please don’t try to talk me into forgiving you. And please don’t try to kiss me . . .” I pull away from his chest and look up at him. “I want to tackle one huge thing at a time, and right now my only priority is having this baby. I don’t want to add any more stress or confusion on top of everything that’s already happening.”
He squeezes both of my hands reassuringly. “One monumental life-changing thing at a time. Got it.”
I smile, relieved that we’ve finally had this conversation. I know I didn’t make a final decision about the two of us, but I still feel like I can breathe easier now that we’re on the same page.
He releases my hands. “I’m late for my shift,” he says, tossing a thumb over his shoulder. “I should get to work.”
I nod and see him out. It isn’t until after I’ve shut the door and am alone in my apartment that I realize I have a smile on my face.
I’m still incredibly angry with him that we’re even in this predicament to begin with, so my smile is simply due to making a little headway. Sometimes parents have to work through their differences and bring a level of maturity into a situation in order to do what’s best for their child.