“Stary, start night,” he sang to me softly in the darkness of my bedroom that had become our bedroom.
I hated that I needed him this much, but the truth was I did. His voice soft and gentle, soothed my ragged nerves. Six months ago, my whole life was different; the child moving inside of me reminded me of that. She loved the noise of her father’s voice. Six months ago, I was celebrating the biggest promotion of my career. At this rate, I thought I’d make partner before forty, a firm record. Work was my life. What was the most incredible one night stand of my life, followed by a whole weekend in bed with the man now lying next to me changed my entire life.
I found out I was pregnant as I rode the elevator up to my office. Someone had on a strong perfume, and the smell of it made me sick to my stomach. I fled from the elevator as it reached my floor in search of the bathroom. My best friend Hattie called it as we awaited the results of the pregnancy test I had bought on my lunch break. She had come home with me, eager to see if her hunch had been correct, that evening, I chewed at a dry cuticle on my index finger as the hourglass in the digital text blinked. Then, my life changed as the test said, pregnant. I quickly ripped open a second test, which produced the same result. It’s impossible I kept saying again and again, almost in a trance. Hattie reassured me all would be okay before she left that night.
I couldn’t have children, or at least that’s what my gynecologist had told me. Something having to do with the angle of my uterus. The only person I had been with was Adam, that wild weekend, and then a few days later. The whole ordeal had been wonderful, but I didn’t have the time for a relationship, and neither did he. Our arrangement suited both of us well; it was casual, just sex. We had always been careful, he had used protection, and I thought I couldn’t get pregnant, so I did not bother with birth control.
I walked out of my gynecologist’s office with a confirmation that the test was positive. I had been seeing her since my early twenties; I was now in my mid-thirties. She was just as surprised as I was that I had conceived. After my exam, I dressed and walked into her office, where I sat across the desk.
“Hailey, I know you mentioned that this was not planned. I just want to say, the fact that you’re pregnant is a miracle. Please think about your choices. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this. My medical opinion was that you’d never be able to conceive.”
“What are you saying,” I asked?
“You may not have this chance again. I am not telling you this to influence your decision one way or another. I would not be upholding my oath to you if I didn’t.”
I thanked her and took my prescription for prenatal vitamins. I knew what she meant about choices, not that I had discussed it with her. I left the office, knowing that she was right. I knew I wanted kids someday; I just didn’t think it’d be now.
Two weeks passed, and I knew what I wanted. I just had to call Adam and pray he wouldn’t react too badly. My hands shook as I dialed his cell phone. I wondered where in the world, he was as I listened to his phone ring and a foreign tone.
“Hi Hailey, he said in a cheery voice.”
“Hi, where are you? The ring is different.”
“I’m in Beijing. I’m actually getting ready to board a flight home. The virus is really taking hold here, so my company is recalling everyone home. I’m not normally very jumpy, but this illness makes me a little nervous.”
“Yeah, I can’t really talk about it right now.”
I understood the undertone of what he meant; he couldn’t discuss it publicly in a communist country.
“Anyway, how are you?” He asked.
“I thought you were boarding a flight, do you need me to let you go?”
“No, I’ve got about a half-hour before I’ll go down and board. I’m in the lounge. Its practically empty. Everyone has been leaving for days. Guess I’m at the tail end.”
“Ah, well, I have some news,” I paused as I took a deep breath. I felt like my heart was going to leap out of my mouth it was pounding so hard. I couldn’t form the words, only bits of sound came out, that did not even resemble words.
“Are you alright?”
I felt the tears well and swallowed hard. Just tell him, my inner monologue screamed.
“I’m pregnant.” I blurted out.
The other side of the line was silent, too silent.
“Adam are you there,” I asked softly.
“Wow, okay. Are you sure? Have you been to the doctor?”
“I have. I’m about ten weeks along. I haven’t known for long. I’m sorry I didn’t call you sooner, I just needed some time to think. The baby is yours. I’m keeping it. I just wanted to say that I didn’t plan this, and I was as shocked as you are now. I mean we used protection. I…”
“Hailey,” Adam said calmly.
I stopped talking.
“Can I come to see you when I get back home?”
“Of course. I know this is a lot. I’ll give you some space and some time to process.”
“Come by, and we can talk once you get in and get settled.”
“Sounds good. Get some rest; I’ll be home tomorrow. We can talk about this weekend.”
“Okay,” Adam said as he hung up the phone.
The call had ended more abruptly than I had expected, but the fact that he hadn’t shouted was a relief. I didn’t think he’d be the sort to do something like that, but in all honestly, I really didn’t know him.
The next day I slept in, early pregnancy exhaustion had set in, and I found it difficult to do much of anything aside from sleep. I was woken by the noise of my doorbell. I stumbled half-awake in a pair of sweatpants and U of C. T-shirt, a real vision. I couldn’t be bothered to do better, whoever was at the door could fuck off, I wanted to go back to bed. I opened the door, and Adam stood on my doorstep with at least three dozen long-stem pink roses. I stood there, my mouth literally aghast. His luggage stood at his feet; he had just come from the airport.
“Hello, sleepyhead,” he said softly.
“Hi,” I replied, not completely awake and comprehending him standing in front of me. “I thought you were coming by this weekend.”
“Is it a bad time?”
“No. I just wasn’t expecting you. Come in.”
I moved out of the way as he handed me the roses. They smelled lovely. He grabbed his luggage and stepped inside the entryway to my townhouse. I brought the roses to my nose and inhaled deeply. They were gorgeous.
“These are lovely. Thank you. Would you like some coffee?”
Adam followed me into the kitchen as I set the roses in the sink and started making coffee.
“How was your flight,” I asked, trying to make conversation, and break the tension a bit.
“Relatively empty. Have you seen the news this morning? All travel between here and China has ceased. The U.S. closed the border. This virus is going to be a bigger deal than the U.S. media is letting on.”
“That’s crazy; I hadn’t heard. Do you think there will be an outbreak here?”
“I do, but let’s talk about that later. I flight from China gives a man a lot of time to think. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I was married years ago in my twenties, we wanted it all, the family, minivan, white picket fence, all of that. When we divorced, I decided I didn’t really want that, and I never went in search of it again.”
I slid a cup of coffee across the island, along with the sugar bowl and a small pitcher of milk. He took it and took a sip, drinking it black. He set it back down on the counter and continued.
“I’m almost fifty. I didn’t think I would have the chance to be someone’s father, and I was okay with that until yesterday. When you called me yesterday, something changed. I know it sounds cliche but its true. I want to be a part of this if you’ll let me?”
“Of course, this is your child too. I am relieved that you want a relationship with our child. I want you to know I don’t want anything from you; I can provide for this child.”
I put my hand over my slightly swollen abdomen, which looked like I had overindulged at the taco bar, instead of growing a child.
“Well, you have whatever the two of you need from me. All you ever need to do is ask. Where does that leave you and me?”
“Oh, well, I’m not sure. Friends, I guess, I don’t see why anything needs to change between us. I did not expect you to show up here with a ring. In fact, I am so glad you didn’t. I think a baby is enough of a life change right now, don’t you?”
I watched his posture change as he took another sip of his coffee. It almost looked like disappointment if I had to guess.
Adam finished his coffee and headed home. I promised him we could talk more after he had settled in and was more well-rested.
Over the next three weeks, the world seemed to fall apart. Adam had been right; the virus had taken hold in the U.S. Our offices closed, and I was now working from home. I had stocked up the best that I could living in the city and planned to hunker down. Adam had called a few times to check on the baby and me, and I told him all was well. It felt like the whole world was going to hunker down and ride this out.
That Tuesday morning, as I sat in on our weekly staff meeting, now held virtually, I had to step away. Someone was knocking loudly on my door. I excused myself as politely as I could, wondering who the hell would knock like that. I stormed to the door to give the inconsiderate asshole who was knocking a piece of my mind. I grabbed the knob and yanked the door open. Adam stood on my porch with two suitcases and several boxes.
“What the hell?”
“Hi,” he replied.
“What are you doing? Why are you here?”
“I came to stay for the quarantine. I didn’t want to leave you two to fend for yourselves. I brought groceries too.”
“What? No. We’re fine. Thank you, but really, no thank you.”
“Hailey, please. Things are going to get worse, and if you don’t let me stay for you, please let me stay for me.”
I didn’t know what to say. Part of me felt that it was incredibly sweet, while the other half of me was annoyed. He had mentioned the idea of staying with me last week over the phone, and I had shot him down.
“What about your house? Aren’t you afraid someone will rob you if things are going to get as bad as you say?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
He walked forward, and I stepped out of the way to let him in.
“I’m not moving in permanently. I would sleep better at night knowing you two are safe. You have my word that I’ll go home when the stay at home order is lifted. Please?”
I took a deep breath, “all right then,” I relented.
Adam stayed three nights in the guest room before he joined me in my bed. I found that I actually liked having him around and we settled into a routine, we both worked during the day from different parts of the house and then usually one of us would cook dinner. We spent our evenings watching tv, reading, and playing card games or Scrabble. The more time we spent together, the more it felt like a little family, and as welcoming as it was, there was a part of me that felt uneasy about it.
As the quarantine dragged on, I knew eventually our arrangement would end. I knew we were just playing house, but it felt natural. I continuously reminded myself that I intended to raise this child alone. The days passed and found myself becoming more anxious. I wasn’t sure if it was the thought of Adam leaving, of life, returning to normal, or just the nightly news. At first it was manageable, but I soon found myself waking in the night. One night I woke, and Adam sensing that I wasn’t sleeping snuggled up next to me. He wrapped his hands around me, and he started to hum the tune to the song, Starry Starry Night. I couldn’t help but laugh.
The last night of quarantine, I sat outside on my back deck and sipped a cup of mint tea to quell the nausea that had stuck with me through the pregnancy. I tried not to show my sadness that Adam would be moving back home tomorrow. I wanted him to stay, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask him. Although it was now May, the temperature outside was still chilly, and I had wrapped a blanket around me as I sipped my tea. The sun had begun to set, and I had not started dinner yet. Adam had a call that went long, so I had decided to wait. As I sat there and thought about him leaving, it dawned on me that I had fallen in love with him over the past ten weeks we had lived together. Even if I weren’t carrying his child, I would’ve still enjoyed our time together, he was kind, thoughtful, and fun to be with. The more I thought about it the more upset I became. I had made one hell of a mess, I felt, and I did’ t know how to fix it. “Just tell him the truth,” my inner voice told me. I dismissed it angrily, but my mind continued to think what to do. I stood up, setting my mug down on the table next to me. I had nothing to loose, asking him to stay. I turned to walk into the house and saw Adam standing in the doorway. He startled me.
“You know, I was thinking,” he said as he leaned up against the doorjamb, “what if I didn’t leave tomorrow?”
My bottom lip quivered, and I bit it hard to keep from crying.
“What if this was home now, with you and our daughter?”
He stepped out onto the deck, and I stood there, and he walked towards me.
“Hailey, what do you think?”
“Marry me,” I blurted out.
“Hey, that’s my line,” he joked.
“I was coming out here to ask you to marry me.”
I couldn’t help but cry, and Adam took me into his arms.
“These past ten weeks have been a gift for us. It gave us time to really get to know each other. It gave me time to reinforce my original impressions of you.”
“That I was going to marry you. For the record, I thought that before this peanut came along,” he said as he rubbed my stomach. “So, what do you say? Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
“Yes,” I blubbered as I buried my head in his neck.
He pulled me closer to him, as our daughter moved between us.