“Change and … I don’t know, Taylor. Something feels off. I can’t put my finger on it.”
“It’s not you. Or us. Something is just bugging me about it, like it’s not right.”
“I’ll make it right,” he said without hesitation. “I just need you to take a leap of faith. Not even a leap. More like a hop.”
I touched his face. He had so much hope in his eyes.
“Why do you want me to move in with you? We’ve been together less than a year, and you’ve never been in a serious relationship before. You just know?”
“I’m sure that I love you. I’m sure that being away from you drives me insane. That’s all I need to know.”
“I can’t argue that the distance sucks. If you can commute for three more months, I’ll hop. That will give Phaedra time to find and train someone.”
Taylor exhaled as if the wind had been knocked out of him, and then a small smile curled up his lips. “I’ll apply for the station job this week.”
He shook his head in awe of my huge gesture. He had no words, so he leaned down and touched his lips to mine, slow at first. Then he touched his hands to my cheeks, and my mouth parted.
We celebrated between the sheets for hours, and halfway into the night, I collapsed next to him. Within minutes, he was asleep.
As his breathing evened out, I lay awake, staring at the ceiling. The uncertainty and guilt swirled in my stomach, making me feel sick. I had overturned my life once before and survived.
Why does moving in with my best friend, with the man I love, seem more frightening than leaving my parents while penniless?
I rubbed my temple, feeling as blurry as my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I’d thought maybe if I made a decision, that feeling would go away, but my experiment was an utter failure. The uneasiness became worse. The harder I tried to understand my feelings, the less it made sense. There was something we needed to talk about, something that was still in the way.
Taylor shifted, letting his hand rest on my stomach, and then the answer came. If he stayed with me, Taylor would have to make a sacrifice, one with which I was all too familiar. Family was important to him. He had said it before. He couldn’t do what I had done.
Why did I think he could give up the possibility of having his own child?
My stomach sank. He had done so much for me, and I was going to take that away from him.
How can I really love him and allow him to make such a choice?
Pete chopped green peppers while I spoke, nodding occasionally to let me know he was listening. The sun wasn’t up yet, and his white apron was already covered in smears of brown and green.
The kitchen was quiet, except for Pete’s knife against the carving block. Like a typewriter, he tapped over and over before sliding the pieces to the side when he was finished, only to start again.
I startled when I heard heavy footsteps descending the stairs. Taylor pushed through the double doors, wearing only a pair of gray cotton shorts and untied boots. He froze when Pete pointed a knife in his direction.
“Don’t go near the food,” I explained.
Taylor stayed put. “What are you doing?” he asked, crossing his arms to ward off the cold.
“But”—Taylor held up his hand—“no offense, buddy”—his eyes returned to me—“Pete doesn’t talk.”
I shrugged. “He doesn’t share my secrets, and I don’t ask him why he doesn’t speak.”
Taylor’s demeanor immediately changed. “I don’t share your secrets either. But that was back when you used to tell me everything.”
I hopped down off one of the stainless steel counters lining the wall and waved to Pete before taking Taylor’s hand. “Let’s go back up,” I said, tugging on Taylor’s wrist.
“Have you been crying?” he asked. He hesitated and then let me pull him back through the doors and up the stairs.
I could tell by his mannerisms that he knew something was up.
I shut the door behind us and leaned against it.
“Falyn,” he said, shifting nervously, “is this what I think it is? Because it was just one fucking disagreement. You can’t bail on me after one disagreement. And it wasn’t even a disagreement. It was a … passionate discussion. And last thing you said to me last night was that you were moving to Estes. If you’re going to freak out about it so much that you’re going to dump me, then at least let’s talk about options.”
“I’m not bailing on you,” I said.
“Then what the fuck is going on? Why did you sneak downstairs to talk to Pete at four thirty in the morning?”
I passed him to sit on the couch, using the hair tie around my wrist to pull my hair into a messy bun. “I wasn’t sneaking anywhere. I talk to Pete a lot in the mornings when no one is around.”
“Not when I’m here,” Taylor said, sitting next to me. “What’s going on, Falyn? Talk to me.”
“I need to tell you something.”
He visibly braced himself for whatever I was about to say.
He waited for a moment, and then his eyes danced around the room. “I … know?”
“If we take this further, if we move in together and then whatever comes next … it will always just be us. I don’t think you truly understand that.”
All of his muscles relaxed. “Goddamn, woman, you scared me.”
“I thought you were dumping my impatient ass. You were just worried that I wasn’t thinking about you not being able to get pregnant down the road?”
“Yes,” I said, a little annoyed he was being so flippant about it.
He his head back. “I’ve already thought about it, baby. No worries.”
“That right there shows me you haven’t thought this through.”
“There are a million ways for us to try to get pregnant. If none of them work, there’s adoption.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “You don’t get it. I’ve told you. This was supposed to happen. You can’t just screw with the order of things.”
“You don’t really believe that shit … about it being your punishment.”
I barely nodded. It sounded crazy when he said it out loud.
“Baby, don’t you think you’ve been punished enough?”
Tears burned my eyes. Without any idea what to expect or any way to prepare, I’d assumed this would be an emotional conversation one way or another.
“You’re already the best thing to ever happen to me. Stop showing off.”
Taylor pulled me in, holding me tight. He kissed my hair.
“What if I told you I don’t want to adopt?” I asked, glad that I didn’t have to look him in the face.
“I know you want kids. I don’t want to take that away from you. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I just can’t. I would be too afraid to try to adopt. I’d worry about so many different things, like who gave the baby up and why. What if one of the family members decided to take the child back? I can’t chance losing a child twice. I just … I can’t.”