“I didn’t think about it that way.”

“I understand. I mean … we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

“This is something we need to address now. You want kids. I can’t get pregnant, and I don’t want to adopt. That’s a big deal. We can’t wait and see, Taylor. Then it will be too late.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. “I want you to think about it for a while.”

“Jesus Christ, Falyn. Do you really think I have to think about it? No. I’m not giving you up. You’re not giving me up.”

My face crumpled, and I shook my head. “That right there tells me you’re not taking this seriously.”

“I hear what you’re offering. My answer is no. If we end up being alone but together, I can think of worse things.”

I sniffed. “This is why moving in together hasn’t felt right. I know better than to let you do this without really thinking it through.”

“But it feels right to bail? Fuck that,” he said, standing. He paced a few times and then came back.

Kneeling in front of me, he tucked his hands behind my lower back and pulled me toward him until my knees were pressing into his bare chest.

He shook his head. “I’m pissed at you for this, and I love you for this. But you have to know that there’s nothing I want more than you.”

He paled, his face falling. “You said you weren’t bailing. You’re fucking bailing on me. You just want me to be the one to do it.”

“You need to think about this … I mean, really think about it.”

“Why are you really doing this, Falyn? How about you really think about that? It’s getting serious, and alarms are going off. Stop, and think about this for two fucking seconds.”

“We just need a break. If you still feel the same way later …”

“Later? When the fuck is later?”

“Taylor,” I said, watching him get angrier by the second.

“A break. I’m a grown man, Falyn. What is this? You’re putting me in a time-out, so I can think about what you want me to think about, the way you want me to think about it?”

“I know that’s how it looks, but I’m just trying to do the right thing. You might thank me later. I’m not trying to stir up trouble for us. I—”

“Don’t say it. Don’t say it’s because you love me, or I’ll lose my shit.”

He stood up and disappeared into my bedroom. Returning a few minutes later, he wore jeans, socks, and a black fleece pullover with a black-and-gray hat pulled low over his brows, and he bent down to pick his boots off the floor.

“You’re leaving now?” I was a bit surprised and feeling guilty for it.

Of course he was going to leave. What had I expected him to do? What had begun as good intentions was going downhill fast, and I was already regretting it even though moments before I’d thought that I thought it all through.

He pulled on his boots, shoved his dirty clothes into his backpack, and then slid one strap over his shoulder before swiping his keys off the counter. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?” he said, holding out his hands. He gripped the knob and then pointed at me. “I’m going to go home, and instead of applying for that job, I’m going to think about this for a week. Then I’m going to come back, and you’re going to apologize to me for fucking up the weekend I’ve been looking forward to for a month.” He yanked the door open, and without looking back, he said, “I love you.”

The door slammed, and I closed my eyes, wincing at the sound. I fell back against the couch cushion and covered my eyes with my hands. Maybe he was right. Maybe I was pushing him away. Now that he was gone, I felt exactly the way Travis had described the first time I went to Eakins. It was like I was dying slowly with a little bit of crazy mixed in.

“I hate you,” I said to myself.

Monday morning, I trudged down the stairs, passing on the pancakes for a cup of coffee. It had been a little more than twenty-four hours since I saw Taylor, but I knew no matter how much time passed, the awful feeling that had come over me the moment he left wouldn’t go away.

The dining area was empty, except for Chuck, Phaedra, and me. Pete and Hector peeked out from the food window.

Phaedra and Chuck had matching expressions of concern.

“It’s your damn fault,” Phaedra said. “He didn’t ask for an easy out. Sounds to me like he didn’t even want it.”

“Dear,” Chuck said, a hint of warning in his voice.

“She’s right,” I said. “He might not need it, but he does deserve it.”

She grabbed a stack of menus. “Oh, baby girl, he’s been good to you. He didn’t deserve that.” She walked away, clearly angry with me.

“She just wants what’s best for you. She hates to see you making things harder on yourself. So … what did his message say?”

I pulled out my phone and read the text aloud, “I can’t believe you dumped me and ruined our entire weekend over the off chance that I might want to dump you over something you can’t control.” I read the next message, “To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it before, but now that you’ve insisted there is a real possibility that children are off the table for us, you’re right. It’s an important decision that I should think about, but you didn’t have to kick me to the goddamn curb to make your point.”

Phaedra returned, impressed with what she’d heard. “He’s a smart little shit. I’ll give him that.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, exhausted. So many warring thoughts in my head hadn’t allowed for much sleep.

“He’s at least pretending to attempt to be objective.”

Kirby breezed in, and we all immediately pretended there was nothing wrong. She saw right through our pathetic attempt and grilled me about the weekend every time we had a spare moment to chat.

The Bucksaw was packed for most of the day, a welcome distraction from Kirby’s incessant questions and Phaedra’s disenchanted expressions. When I wiped down the last table of the day and sat on the stool to count my tips, Kirby pushed me past my limit.

“At least tell me who is mad at whom!” she begged.

Phaedra crossed her arms. “Falyn, I want you to listen to me. There are thousands of couples out there who are childless by choice. Look at Chuck and me. Granted, we’ve got you girls, but we’ve always been happy. You’ve been honest with Taylor. He knows what he’s in for. You can’t force him to do what you think is the right thing.”

Kirby stared at me like I was on fire. “Oh God, Falyn, are you pregnant?”

“I’m out.” I grabbed my things and headed for the stairs.

By the time I finished my shower and crawled into bed, Taylor had texted me. I felt sick, worrying about what he might say, but I read the message anyway.