"What's up? You don't usually call me during the week."
"Are you home?" I tried not to let my voice falter.
"Umm… yeah… why?"
"Are you alone?"
"I'll be there in fifteen." Before he got the chance to respond, I hung up the phone and put the car into drive.
His name was Tommy. Tommy what? I had no idea, and as far as I was concerned, I didn't need to know. He's a 26 year old banker who shared a house with his brother in the suburbs. He stood at exactly 5 feet 11.56 inches (the .06 was very important he told me) with sun-kissed skin and red-brown hair. In all honesty, that's all I knew about him and it was more than enough.
I met Tommy in a little bar on the corner of Front and Merrick one night four months ago. I had gone out for a drink alone after my first big fight with Andrew. I don't even remember what we were fighting about but it was probably something that was my fault that I refused to admit, as usual. I just needed some space to think about our relationship, only two months old at the time. I think it might have been really late on a Monday because the bar was empty for all except me and the owner. Then Tommy came in. He didn't approach me at first. But after I came out of the bathroom a half hour later there was a vodka martini and a sly grin waiting for me at the bar. And we all know where the story goes from there.
I've had sex with Tommy fourteen times since then (yes, I kept count). Every Sunday, when I was going to "meet up with the girls," I went straight to Tommy's house. I told myself every Monday morning that I would stop, that I wouldn't see Tommy anymore; sat at work repeating it over and over again in my head. But by Saturday night I'd be longing for his touch again, like a drug addict with withdrawal. So when I got his weekly Saturday text asking, "r u commin over tmr?" the answer was always, "yeah."
I'll stop next week, I'd say to myself while lying in his bed, I'll stop next week.
Don't get me wrong, I liked Andrew. I was never planning on cheating on him. It just… happened. Something about the way Tommy's eyes saw through me that first night, understood me without ever saying a word. And yet there was also something about Andrew that stopped me from breaking up with him, or even telling him about Tommy. Thinking back, I think it was just me being greedy, trying to have the best of both worlds. Tommy was always the adventure and danger that I wanted and Andrew was the security I needed to keep my feet on the ground. But if there was one thing that they both had in common, it was that I couldn't tell either of them 'I love you.' Regardless of who I was with, I couldn't get words to flow from the back of my throat to the edge of my lips. Not once.
I took the left turn after the second stop sign past the CVS on the right, a right turn at the white house with a blue roof and an untamed yard, 3rd house on the left, the yellow one. No, I didn't know the address. I parked my car across the street as usual, slammed the door shut and stomped my way up his steps.
He opened the door seconds after I had slammed my palm against it, a can of beer in his hand and a pair of thin lips grinning at me. "Sup?" He gave me a head nod like a college frat boy getting a booty call. Booty call… I guess that was the best way to describe it.
I brushed past him directly into the house, walking past the living and dining room directly into the open kitchen and threw my purse onto the counter with a loud thump. He followed leisurely behind me, entering the kitchen area as I turned around. I watched him sip his beer again. For some inexplicable reason, the action angered me. His uncaring mannerisms and carefree tone that I had previously liked suddenly angered me. Why?
As soon as he set the can onto the counter on the opposite side of the room, I stamped swiftly towards him; the frustration in my steps probably caused my heels to scratch the tiled floor.
In a single flash, my lips were against his. I don't know if he stumbled back because of the shock or if I had actually pushed him with that much force, but I felt his body fall backwards and hit the wall. His hands naturally came to hold my hips trying to keep us both steady, but I kept pushing forward against him even though there was no room to push anymore. Part of me wanted to fall over. Our lips were probably bruised at that point, but I didn't care. With my palms pressed against the wall on each side of his head, my entire body pressed against his; all my anger, all my stress evaporated. Every time I kissed him it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders and just for a night I could not care. I hated how right Tommy could make me feel.
My lungs finally gave out and I had to pull back for some oxygen. My arms fell limp and draped themselves around his shoulders. My head rested against the crook of his neck. He smelled like beer and shampoo; it was nice.
"Not that the kitchen isn't extremely erotic, but," his teasing voice whispered into my ear. "Don't want my brother walking in on us, you know?"
I lifted my head to stare into his eyes. I kicked off my heels and wrapped my arms tightly around his neck. He raised an eyebrow at me as I grinned up at him. "Carry me," He chuckled. His strong arms picked me up by the hips and I wrapped my legs around his waist. I let my lips nip at his earlobe as he carried me up the stairs to his room.
I stared at the face lying next to mine. Eyes closed softly, breathing even, a slight grin stamped on those thin lips. I stared and I stared and I wondered. How long can I keep this up? I knew I needed to tell him the truth, but would it scare him away? If there was one thing I was sure of it was that I didn't want this to end. Not yet.
One eye opened suddenly, making me jump back a little. He chuckled. I frowned at his childish antics and sat up to turn away from him.
"Oh come on, it was funny!" Tommy protested.
"It was not."
"You're no fun." He flopped back onto the bed. For twenty six, he was such a teenager.
"You're immature." I got up from the bed. I couldn't tell him, not yet. He wasn't ready.
"Whatever, just come back to bed." Tommy patted his hand onto the empty mattress space next to him.
"No." I looked at my clothes scattered across the floor, picking them up piece by piece and putting them back on. I tried my hardest not to look at him, not to even glance. I knew if I saw his green eyes and that smile I would just melt back into his arms again.
He sat up and sighed, "You're seriously leaving right now?"
"Yeah." I said firmly in order to command myself to leave. Go home.
"What's wrong with you today? Did Andrew piss you off again?"
I hadn't noticed that he had got up from the bed and was behind me until his arms suddenly came around my shoulders. "Then what is it? What's wrong?"
"It doesn't matter." I stood still with my head down, staring at the shirt in my hand. Don't crack, I told myself, you can do this.
"Obviously it does."
"No, it really doesn't. Stop asking." My voice cracked, Damn it.
"Yes it does. Tell me."
I threw his arms off of me and turned around to face him, "Stop acting like you care, Tommy!" I snapped. "This, whatever this is; it doesn't work when you start caring. So don't."
"Alright geez, I'm sorry for being a half decent person."
"You should be sorry." I turned away again, stabbed my arms through the sleeves of my shirt not bothering to button it up, and slipped on my skirt. Shoes, I looked all over the bedroom but couldn't find them. Oh yeah, downstairs. Fuck.
"So you're really not going to tell me what's up?"
"Trust me, you don't want to know." And with that I proceeded to walk down the stairs.
"Maybe I do. You don't know what I want." Tommy called after me, his footsteps following the echo of his voice in the hallway. Damn his persistence.
"You don't need to know." Just leave it alone Tommy.
"Would you just tell me already?."
"Fine!" I spun around and stared up at him. He stared back, waiting and waiting. His eyes widened at me urging me on. It took a few deep breaths to calm myself down before I could finally spit it out, "Tommy," Just spit it out, you have to tell him eventually anyways, "I'm pregnant."
If he wasn't holding onto the railing, I think he might have fallen down the stairs. He fell silent, the whole house was silent. I heard the two cars drive by outside before he finally said, "You're what?"
"I. am. pregnant." I said slowly as if speaking slower would help him understand better. I had reached the kitchen and was already putting on my shoes, still determined to leave.
I don't think I could hear Tommy breathing for several minutes. I tried to finish putting on my heels as casually as possible before going back to button up my shirt. "Wait but why are you telling me…?" he finally uttered, more as a statement than a question. "Does that mean…?"
"Yes, Tommy." I sighed and said matter-of-factly, as if there was supposed to be a duhh at the end of it.
"It's mine?" his eyes widened,
"Yes, Tommy. It's yours." I said slowly as if it would help him understand, emphasizing heavily on yours.
"Wait, how do you know it's mine?" he stammered, panic evident in his face.
I sighed, "The doctor says I've been pregnant for three weeks."
"So? It can just as easily be Andrew's baby, can't it?" There he goes, trying to find his way out of the responsibility already, I hated being right, I told you this would happen.
"Yeah well, Andrew was on a business trip in California for three weeks last month and you're the only other person I had sex with."
He kept staring at the floor with a sullen look. I could almost hear the gears in his brain working, trying to find some sort of loophole to my conclusion. "But we always use a condom! Don't we?"
"Except that one time in the shower, remember? You said it would just wash out?"
Sitting on the stairs with his hand in his head, he looked like a sad, confused child. I knew it was too early to tell him, I knew it. I couldn't get a comprehensive sentence out of him after. Every now and then he would stutter a few but's and wait's and how's. Clearly we weren't getting anywhere, so I decided I was better off just leaving for the night. Perhaps he would do better with some time.
"I'm leaving," He didn't even look up at me. Or maybe he couldn't hear me over the sound of his own thoughts. I walked out and closed the door tightly behind me.
The next day, I sat at the small round table in the office picking at the chicken sandwich I had wanted so badly for lunch in the morning, but was now making me sick. Should I call him? Or should I just wait for him to call me? I stared at the black screen on my phone, weighing the pros and cons of calling first. Pros: I could get an answer. Con: I might push him too hard. Pro: I wouldn't have to keep sitting here like an idiot. Con: He might not be ready to commit to anything yet. Con: I might push him away. Con: He might not want the baby. Con: He probably doesn't want the baby and will just leave us. Yeah… I'm not calling him. So I just continued to stare at the black screen and pick at the chicken sandwich.
I stood up to throw away my half eaten lunch when I heard my phone buzz against the table top. I practically leaped towards it and seeing the caller ID read 'Tommy,' I picked up the call immediately.
"Hello?" I tried to sound calm.
"Hey," he replied with the same tone. "So… what do you wanna do? You know, about the baby…?" he said quietly. He sounded tired. I doubt he had gotten any sleep.
I took a deep breath, preparing myself for what I was about to say next. I closed my eyes, counting my heartbeats. Am I sure about this? I wondered as I put a hand on my stomach. Are we sure about this baby? Even if he doesn't want us? "Hey, still there?" Tommy's voice came from the other line to snap me back to reality.
"Yeah," I stammered. One more breath passed through my nostril, "I want to keep it." I said with conviction.
"Oh," I could hear the disappointment in his voice. I'm guessing he was hoping I would have said that I didn't want to keep the baby, so he wouldn't have to say it himself. Too bad for him. It didn't matter to me if he wanted the baby or not. It was already in my stomach, a living organism inside of me. I couldn't just kill it; I didn't have it in me. "Umm…so…" he was frustrated, flustered. He didn't know how to tell me he didn't want to be a father, but it was alright. He didn't have to.
"It's fine," I said before he would muster up anything to say, "I'll be okay on my own." I hung up and turned off my phone so Tommy wouldn't be able to call back.
It took a few minutes to comprehend the consequences of what I had just done. I had just told the father of my child that my child didn't need a father. The guilt blanketed over all the thoughts of how I was going to survive on my own. I came to realize I hadn't given the baby any choice in the matter, that I had doomed it without asking. I was only thinking about myself, about how I would feel being rejected, if Tommy didn't want me or didn't love me. I didn't think about the possibility of Tommy wanting just the child either. I hugged my core. The teardrops fell onto the tiled floor like pebbles as I sobbed for forgiveness, "I'm sorry baby, I'm so sorry."
Tommy never called me after that. No text or anything. I suppose I could have gone to his house to find him, but there was no point. His choice was clear and I was committed to mine.
I thought about letting Andrew believe that the baby was his. And for the first two months, I did. But it was just so wrong. I felt guiltier and guiltier every time he did something nice for me. How could he be so nice to someone who cheated on him time and time again? Someone who lied straight to his face? I wondered time and time again why I didn't just love Andrew the way I should have?. Life would have been so much easier. But every time I looked into his eyes and I saw stars shining brightly, I knew those bright stars were never meant to be mine. I couldn't keep darkening his light.
I still thought about Tommy from time to time. How could I not? He was still the father of my child. The more I thought, the more I realized how little I knew about him. I used to think it was enough, but now I hated myself for it. What was I going to tell this child when she asked me about her father? I wouldn't even be able to tell her what his full name was. I could picture the sorrow and anguish of my little toddler's face when I would finally have to tell her the truth. All of her friends at daycare would ask about her daddy and she wouldn't have an answer for them. To think that I would have to put anyone through that, much less my own child, it wasn't just heartbreaking, it felt cruel.
There were times where I considered abortion; thought that maybe it was for the better. I shouldn't put a child through the pain and suffering that was coming. But every time the thought came into my head, it was as if the baby, my baby, knew what I was thinking. As if she could sense the danger and she would start kicking around in my stomach. She was protesting, begging to live.
So I brought the child into life. I had hoped I had made a mistake somehow, that maybe it was actually Andrew's baby. As I lay in the hospital bed waiting to give birth, I would pray between the pain that I was wrong. But there was no mistake. From the minute she was born, she looked exactly like Tommy; same red-brown hair, same green eyes, even the same soft grin as she slept. She was so beautiful, all I could do was cry. I cried and I cried, the tears wouldn't stop. Looking at her, I realized how much I had actually loved Tommy. I couldn't tell if I had gone crazy or if I was just stupid. I was in love with a man whose name I didn't even know. I brought a new life into the world just because I didn't want him to completely disappear from my life. I had the courage to birth and raise a child all on my own but I didn't have enough courage to tell him I loved him. Wow, was I dumb.
As I watched our daughter resting in the nursery through the window, I pulled out my phone and pulled up Tommy's name. I wondered if he still had the same phone number or if he even still lived in the same house.
Hey. I hit send. I held the phone in my hand, staring at the screen until it turned dark and clicking it so it would light up again. Five minutes, that's it. In those five minutes, my phone didn't buzz. So I turned my phone off and just watched my daughter sleep.