I hadn’t planned on stopping by my ex’s place that night, but it had started to pour out of nowhere when I was on my home from work and his place was just a few steps away. We’d parted as friends though hadn’t really done much since we’d ended our almost three-year relationship nearly a year and a half earlier. And it wasn’t like we’d had a big blow up or something…we just wanted different things and decided not to pretend that we didn’t. It was very grown up of us and we’d stayed in touch via email and texts and had even gone to lunch a couple of times shortly after the breakup and a few times here and there afterward, though when I walked up to his door we hadn’t been in touch for several months. I hadn’t seen anyone seriously since our breakup but I was pretty sure he had and thought for a minute that the new girlfriend might be there when I rang the bell.
"Christa? My god, you’re soaked. Come in!"
"Thanks, Kev. And sorry. I just got caught in it and was right by your place."
"It’s fine, come on, let me get you a towel."
He looked good. Maybe better than he had when we were together. Or maybe I just hadn’t seen him in a while. Either way I couldn’t help but watch him walk away and remember how good he looked outside of the jeans he was wearing.
"I see you watching," he said without turning around and I felt the blush on my cheeks as I looked away and smiled at how silly I was. And how much I missed him.
I set my bag down then kicked off my shoes and thought back on our relationship. Our romance had started fast after being introduced by a mutual friend and I’d actually fallen into his bed on our first date, which was really unlike me. But we just clicked and ended up spending that entire weekend together. I moved in six months later and I thought he was the one. The sex was unbelievable but it was so much more than that. We laughed and cried together, we had a lot in common but also had our own things we did with friends and it just worked. Until the night he told me he’d been thinking about marriage and kids. That’s the night I broke his heart and told him neither of those things were on my radar.
We talked about it for days, maybe weeks, and he realized that he should have seen it all along and a month later we said a very amicable goodbye as the moving truck loaded up my stuff. I didn’t move very far away but not because I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from him. It was just one of those things where I found an amazing deal that I couldn’t pass up.
"I still don’t know why you don’t take a cab from work when the weather’s crummy," he smiled as he walked back and wrapped a huge towel around me then pulled me into his arms to warm me up.
"It wasn’t crummy when I left," I chattered.
"You would have known it was coming if you’d looked at the weather."
"Yes, yes. You’re right. You’re always right."
It was reminiscent of many similar conversations we’d had when I’d run in covered in rain or snow or so windblown that I looked like I’d flown on a broom.
"Come on, let’s find you some dry clothes; you’re going to get sick if you don’t get out of these."
I thought about making a snarky comment about him trying to seduce me but decided against it and just leaned against him as we walked back to the room we used to share.
"You actually left a few things here that I’ve just never gotten around to returning," he said and pulled open the bottom drawer of the dresser, the drawer I’d kept my yoga and sweat pants in, as well as the non-sexy underwear I wore when I worked out or, to be more accurate, when I put on my workout clothes and walked down the street to get a bagel.
"I wondered what happened to all of those!" I walked over and pulled out one of my coziest pairs of sweats and he opened another drawer and gave me one of his sweatshirts. "Thanks," I smiled and was surprised at the tingle I felt when his hand brushed mine.
"Take your time, and I’ll start a fire," he said then leaned in and kissed my forehead, a move I don’t think he planned and something I certainly wasn’t expecting.
He closed the door and I closed my eyes as memories appeared all around me. The night my grandmother died and he cradled me at the foot of the bed until all my tears were gone. The morning of his brother’s funeral when I helped him tie his tie when he could barely even speak. The first time we’d made love in the bed; the last. The times we’d never made it to the bed. The Sunday afternoons we cuddled together and did the Times crossword. The look on his face when I told him I didn’t want a husband or a baby.
There were tears streaming down my face when I looked in the mirror and I don’t think I’d realized until that very moment just how much I’d missed him and how much of my life he had touched. I took a deep breath and changed clothes, hanging my wet things over the shower door, then ran my fingers through my wet hair and made my way to the living room where he was sitting, stoking the fire and making me regret ever telling him I didn’t want the same things he did. Because lately I’d been wondering if maybe I did want those things and if I’d blown my only chance to have them.
"Hey," I whispered.
He put his hand out to me and I walked toward him and wrapped my fingers around his. “You sit here and warm up,” he said then kissed the top of my head, another surprise. A moment later he wrapped a blanket around me then sat down and pulled me into his arms. I thought about questioning what he was doing but instead, decided to just let it be. “So how are you?” he whispered. “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
"I know, sorry. I’ve been traveling a lot for work actually. And I sort of thought you were seeing someone."
"I was, but it wasn’t right."
"Sorry. You okay?"
"Yeah. You know me…I bounce back pretty well."
"Right. And work is good?"
The small talk felt comfortably awkward and I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening.
"You seeing anyone?" he asked.
"I’ve been on a few dates here and there but nothing serious."
"You know what I was thinking about the other day?"
"That day we came home and the whole kitchen was flooded thanks to those idiots next door."
"Oh my god, what a fiasco that was! Have they moved yet?"
"Finally! Evil creatures."
They really had been awful, claiming that it was our fault their pipe burst…something about the fact that we’d put in a professional kitchen and had strained the whole system. It was ridiculous really and the homeowners association was totally on our side. But the Renellis never let us hear the end of it. They stopped inviting us to their parties, which I think they thought we cared about. Honestly, we didn’t. They actually turned their noses up when they’d accidentally catch our eyes and they even tried to taint the other neighbors. But as it turned out no one else really liked them either and in the end they really had no power. They were truly terrible and unhappy people.
"I have so many memories with you, Kev. I was a little overcome with emotion standing in the bedroom."
"I’ve been a little overwhelmed with how I’ve been feeling since I opened the door. I don’t think I realized how much of my life had you in it."
"Were we crazy not to try and make things work?"
"No. We wanted different things."
I fell asleep in his arms in front of the fire and woke up next to him in bed hours later, still fully clothed with my head on his naked chest. His eyes were open when I leaned up and looked in his face and without even thinking I pressed my lips against his. The clothes were all on the floor a few minutes later and as the sun started to rise we made love as though it might be the last time we’d ever have the chance, with each other or anyone else.
"Breakfast?" he smiled after we’d caught our breath and lay wrapped around each other.
"Sure," I said though I was still sort of in shock that I’d become the woman who had sex with an ex, something I swore I’d never do. It was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but I was already analyzing everything about it and couldn’t figure out what was going to happen next.
"Don’t go anywhere," he smiled then kissed my forehead. "I’ll be back in a bit."
"You don’t have to go to any trouble, Kev."
"I don’t have to do a lot of things," he grinned and I couldn’t help but smile as he walked toward the bathroom and I got a nice view of his body, something I’d definitely missed being able to gaze upon. "I see you watching."
"Shut up," I grinned and threw a pillow in his direction just as he closed the door.
The man was nothing if not sexy and as I pulled the sheet around me and stared at the ceiling I wondered if we might be able to give it another shot. He winked when he came out of the bathroom dressed in flannel lounge pants and a t-shirt and I blushed as I grinned, very much the girl I was the first night I’d been there.
I got up and put on fresh underwear from the stash I hadn’t even realized I’d left then pulled the yoga pants and sweatshirt back on and took myself to the kitchen.
"Hey, I told you to wait," he whined.
"It seemed a little much," I said as I jumped up on the counter. "Plus, breakfast in bed is messy. Did you learn nothing from the biscuits and gravy incident?"
"I can hardly look at gravy the same way," he shuddered.
Breakfast in bed was meant to involve things like fruit and toast and bacon, maybe a bowl of oatmeal or grits, but one morning he’d gone a little crazy and made my favorite breakfast food, and it had gone well until I’d seen what I thought was a spider - turned out to be a strategically placed string that moved when the heater kicked on - and jumped, spilling the gravy and the coffee and burning him in places that should never get burned. We actually had to go to the doctor to get some burn cream and we weren’t able to have sex for nearly three weeks. Needless to say that was the last time we had breakfast in bed.
He handed me a piece of bacon and I smiled as I bit into the crunchy goodness. “You still make the best bacon even if you don’t partake in its deliciousness. I’ve never quite understood how that works.”
It was one of the things we didn’t have in common. He was a vegetarian and I was all about meat. Bacon, steak, pork chops…all of it.
"Speaking of, why do you even have bacon in your house?"
"Oh, right. I eat meat now."
It’s not that he’d just become a vegetarian on a whim. He’d been one since he was a teenager and felt very strongly about it. He’d been a pretty heavy kid and one day just decided to change his diet completely and had lost weight, become fit and never looked back.
"I know," he smiled. "It surprised me too but remember all that stomach trouble I was having and those weird rashes?"
"Turns out I’m allergic to gluten and also have a pretty high intolerance for lactose and wasn’t getting enough protein. Eggs weren’t enough and you know I could never tolerate tofu and am too allergic to peanuts to have peanut butter so I had to make a change."
"Wow. It’s like you’re a whole new person."
"I know. Weird, huh?"
"Let me see," I grinned.
"Eat the bacon. I wanna see."
"I’m not going to believe it until I see it," I continued.
"Fine," he sighed and picked up a piece of bacon and put the whole thing in his mouth. "Happy?" he mumbled as he chewed.
"Very." I’m sure my smile looked like the one on the Chesire cat and part of me was falling in love with him all over again.
"I miss this," he said after we were sitting at the table eating eggs and bacon. "I miss us."
"Me too," I said and I meant it. I thought about him a lot and wished so much that I wanted what he did. When I’d come to the conclusion that maybe I did I almost called him but didn’t want to appear that I was just saying things to get back in his bed.
"What are you doing today?"
"No plans, why?"
"Maybe you want to stick around for the day?"
"Kev," I sighed and put my hand on his.
"Don’t tell me you don’t feel it too," he said as he wrapped his other hand around mine.
"No, I do, but I don’t know what it means and frankly it’s freaking me out a little."
"I never stopped loving you, Christa, and seeing you here, now, wondering how I ever let you go…I want to try again."
"Even if I still don’t want to get married or have a baby?"
Even though I’d had moments in the last few months where I thought I might want the whole marriage and family thing I still wasn’t sure and I knew I didn’t want to put my career on any kind of hold for it. I had big plans and figured the yearnings were more connected to the fact that I was a little older and that numerous friends had announced their engagements and/or pregnancies.
"Kev, I know you," I smiled and put my other hand on his so that all four of our hands were connected. "And you want those things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just still not sure and I don’t want to hurt you again."
It wasn’t a hard no, as it had been when we broke up but it still wasn’t a yes and I saw the disappointment in his face.
"I always loved your honesty the most," he said as he pulled his hands from mine and I put mine on my lap. "Even when it hurts."
"I’m sorry, Kev. Last night, this morning…they were amazing, and I do miss you, us, all of this…"
"But you don’t want it forever."
"I didn’t say that. I’m just not sure I want to be Mrs. anybody or have a little someone running around. If you could be happy with just this, without the piece of paper or a family…but it’s not who you are."
"So what if we just did this every now and then?" he grinned. "Because I mean…we’re really good at this."
"Well that we are," I blushed. "But I don’t think you really believe that’s a good idea."
"Look, until a few months ago I didn’t think bacon was a good idea, but you know, I’m growing."
I laughed and put my hand back on his; he immediately picked it up and began to kiss my fingers, something he knew I loved.
"Stop being so irresistible," I sighed and felt my body yearn for his.
"Can’t help it," he sighed as he leaned a little closer and ran a finger down my cheek. "Sorry."
"You’re not even the least bit sorry," I sighed as his lips reached mine.
I almost let him pull me back into bed but knew that if we made love again it would be nearly impossible to leave so I just kissed him again, gathered my clothes, including all the ones I’d left when I’d moved out, and said a final goodbye.
"Thanks for everything, Kev. I do love you and I’m sorry I can’t give you what you really want."
"Me too," he sighed. "But I’m still incredibly glad that you stopped by last night."
I blushed and nodded, gave him one last kiss, then walked down the steps and hailed a cab.
I couldn’t get him out of my head over the next couple of months and every time he crossed my mind my body ached, my heart cried and my head told me I might actually be crazy. And every now and then I’d call him and we’d talk about nothing and I’d feel okay about things but then I’d turn on a movie and be reminded of him and be in the throes of an emotional breakdown. I felt like I needed counseling to figure out what I really wanted but as it turned out something else happened that changed everything.
"Say that again?" I asked the doctor when she’d called to tell me the results of my annual exams. It was totally random that I was even home but I’d felt sick that morning, had even thrown up a few times, which now made sense, and had decided to stay home.
"I think you heard me, Christa." She never minced words. "I assume this wasn’t planned."
"Uh, no. But really? Aren’t I too old?"
"You’re 37. Women have babies well into their 40s these days. Don’t pretend you don’t know that."
"But aren’t there risks?"
"Of course. Once you’re in your 30s, especially your late 30s, it’s more risky, but it happens all of the time. I want you to come back in so we can talk about everything in person. I’m going to connect you back to Donna and she can set something up."
"Okay." My head was spinning. One night of sex in a year and I was knocked up. Kev had used a condom but clearly it hadn’t worked and I supposed the one little ray of sunshine in my nightmare was that it was Kev’s. That was also the darkest cloud because I knew it meant we’d have to talk about everything and that I’d have to make some incredibly hard decisions.
"Christa, there are always options if you don’t want to have this baby. I know you know this but I feel like I need to tell you since you don’t seem to be excited."
"No, I know. And thank you. I’m just shocked. To my core."
"May I ask if you know who the father is?"
"You may, and I do."
"Then I suggest you talk to him and you make this decision together, if you’re still on speaking terms that is." She was nothing if not blunt.
"Right, yeah. Thanks."
"Oh, Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way."
"Oh my god," I sighed and hung up the phone.
I sat up an appointment when Donna called back a minute later then took a deep breath and called Kev - no point in putting off the inevitable - who I hoped still worked from home on Fridays because I wasn’t sure I could wait until later.
"Hey!" he answered. "I was just thinking about you. Guess who I saw at the opera last night?"
"No idea. And since when do you go to the opera?"
"Oh, right. I’ve been seeing someone and she took me last night."
"That’s great, Kev."
"Anyway…it was the Renellis! And they spoke to me as if I were their long lost friend. Can you even believe it?"
"That’s just crazy," I said and tried to be excited but I just wasn’t.
"I tried to explain it to Leslie, the woman I’ve been seeing, but she was just confused and then I realized that the person I really wished was there with me was you and we got in a big fight and I’m on my way to her place to see where we stand."
"Wow. Lots of information there, Kev."
"Sorry. Hey, is something wrong? You don’t sound like yourself."
"Do I sound pregnant? Because I’m pregnant. With your baby." There. I’d said it. And he didn’t say anything for several moments. "Kev?"
"But we used a condom."
"I know. And I was on the pill but you know…"
"I’m sorry, Christa. I hope you don’t think I did this on purpose."
"Kev, of course not. Don’t even think that. You didn’t force me into bed and you didn’t make the condom break or the pill not work or the planets align just so."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Right now I’m calling you. That’s as far as I’ve gotten."
"Should I come over?"
"I thought you were on your way somewhere else."
"Right, Leslie. Damn. Okay, so let me deal with that and then I’ll come over. How does that sound?"
"We’ll figure it out, Christa. I promise."
Someone rang my doorbell a few minutes later and delivered me my annual Valentine’s Day bouquet from my mom and I nearly threw it on the ground. I actually loved Valentine’s Day, even when I was young and single. I wasn’t one of those bitter people who wore black and broke candy hearts in half. I had fun with it and Kev and I always did something special for it. The first one without him a year earlier had been a little rough but I took myself to a movie and ended up having a nice time. That was all ruined now and I wondered if I’d ever like the day again.
I took a long shower figuring it would take Kev a while to get there and as the water ran over me I found myself in tears with my hands on my belly, already weirdly attached to the baby growing inside of me.
I hadn’t thought much when I missed my period the first month after we’d slept together. Even though I was on the pill I was sure my body was in shock since I hadn’t slept with anyone since the last time I’d slept with Kev when we broke up. I also knew I was getting older and even with the pill there was starting to be some irregularity. When I’d gone in for my annual exam and blood work I didn’t think anything was up so when the doctor called I was actually surprised and assumed she was going to tell me they’d found cancer or something. I certainly wasn’t expecting a baby.
I called my mom after I got myself together, thanked her for the flowers then asked her to get my dad on the phone.
"Is something wrong, honey?" she asked.
"Well, I don’t know if it’s wrong but there’s definitely something." I took a deep breath and told them.
"And do you know who the father is?" my dad asked, not one to freely admit that I had ever had sex, much less had it with more than one person.
"It’s Kev, dad."
"Are you two back together?" my mom asked.
"No, but we, um, we had one night a couple of months ago and…look, I know this isn’t how you wanted to have a grandchild but I do think I’m going to have the baby and Kev’s coming over here later so we can figure things out." I hadn’t even realized I’d decided to have the baby until I said the words but it felt right. And that scared me.
"Well you just let us know if you need anything," my mom continued. "You know we love you even if you don’t always do things the traditional way."
"Thanks," I sighed. "I love you guys too."
I knew there were other people I should tell but at that point I needed to wait for Kev. I didn’t want anyone else to know before I talked more to him and figured out what we were going to do. I knew he’d want to keep the baby and be involved in its life and probably in mine but even though I was already attached to the idea of the baby I still wasn’t sure about marriage. In fact I actually felt less interested than I ever had. I couldn’t even begin to explain it but my focus was solely on the baby.
Kev didn’t show up until close to 8 that night and when I opened the door he looked haggard. He stepped in and wrapped his arms around me and I completely broke down. He kissed the top of my head and told me over and over again that it was going to be okay, that we’d figure it out, that he loved me.
"This is just…wow," he said when we sat down on the couch.
"Yeah. That’s exactly how it is." I rubbed my belly without even thinking, something I’d been doing all day. When I caught myself I rolled my eyes and moved my hand, which caused him to smile.
"You’ve already decided," he smiled. "I can see it in your eyes."
"Shut up," I smiled. "And stop knowing me so well."
"I’m glad you want to have the baby but what does this mean for us?"
"I honestly have no idea, Kev. This doesn’t make me want to get married. If I do this, which yes, I’m going to; then I think I have to be focused on the baby and just the baby. And I don’t even know who I am anymore!"
"Okay, don’t hate me for saying this but pregnancy looks really good on you." I tilted my head and glared at him and he just laughed so I changed the subject.
"So you saw the Renellis?"
"Crazy, right? They asked about you and wondered how we were doing. But then they saw Leslie and figured things out without me saying anything. When she went to the bathroom they told me they always liked you and felt bad about how they’d treated us. It was surreal."
"I bet. And Leslie? Did you work things out with her?"
"It’s fine," he said and it was very clear he didn’t want to talk about it, which of course made me dig into it.
"It doesn’t seem like it’s fine."
"Well, I guess it’s not. It’s just more complicated now. I mean we’ve only been seeing each other a couple of weeks and it’s not serious but…"
"But you like her," I smiled.
"I do, Christa. I wasn’t expecting to find someone so soon after the other night but I don’t know…there’s something about her that I’m drawn to."
"I think that’s great, Kev." And I really meant it.
"But whatever happens you know I’m here for you and the baby, no matter what, okay?"
"I still can’t believe it."
"You? Imagine how I feel. All I was trying to do was get out of the rain."
And just like that, on the Valentine’s Day that changed everything, all the awkwardness was gone and we found our friendship again.
The next seven months went by faster than I would have ever imagined they could and Kev was there for all the important appointments and just to talk when I thought I might lose my mind. He and Leslie had become very serious and I was truly happy for him though I will admit that every now and then I felt a tug at my heart and a little snap of jealousy.
I actually really liked Leslie but it was definitely awkward between us. She understood the situation but had told Kev that she wasn’t going to play step mother or step girlfriend or anything to the baby, and she wasn’t mean about it, just matter of fact, and he understood and I was glad she didn’t want to be involved.
When I went into labor I was actually out to dinner with them and she was the calm one among us. She hailed the cab, helped me in and even offered to go to my place and get my hospital bag that I’d packed a month earlier. Kev held my hand and helped me breathe, just like we’d learned in the birthing classes he’d attended with me. Thirteen hours later our little girl was born and she was truly the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
"Would it be weird to name her Renelli?" I whispered, as she lay snuggled in my arms.
"Yes. In the best way." He kissed my forehead, then kissed our daughter’s forehead and excused himself to find Leslie. "I see you watching," he said as he reached the door then turned back around and winked.
"It’s not my fault you’ve got all that going on back there," I teased.
"You know I love you, right?"
"And I couldn’t love anyone more than our daughter."
"I know that too."
"But I think I’m going to ask Leslie to marry me."
"I think I knew that," I smiled and felt no pangs of jealousy, no yearnings, nothing. "And I think it’s great."
"Absolutely. Now go make it happen so Renelli and I can cuddle. And so I can watch you go." I winked and he rolled his eyes then walked out the door.
I never thought I’d watch the father of my child marry someone else but it was the absolute best thing and the only time I’d seen Kev happier was when our daughter was born. Renelli was just three months old when Leslie became a permanent part of our weird little family - yes, they’d moved quickly once she said yes - and as I sat in the hotel lobby nursing her before going into the reception I realized someone was staring at me.
"Christa Kelly," he smiled and I nearly fell off the bench when I recognized my high school boyfriend.
"Nicholas Baxter? What are you doing here?"
"Oh, it’s my hotel. I just pop in from time to time to see how things are going. And look who I found today…" He sat down next to me and was instantly taken with Renelli who had just finished eating.
"Hang on, you own the Baxter hotel chain?"
"Guilty," he smiled.
"How did I not know this?"
"Well it’s been what, like 20 years?"
"Right. But I saw you at the reunion 10 years ago and you didn’t say anything."
"Was I still with Marla then? I think so. A lot happened after that ended."
"No, no, don’t be. That was never right. And who’s this precious thing?" he cooed.
"This is the love of my life," I smiled. "Renelli."
"What a beautiful name. How old is she?"
"Three months. Her father got married today."
I laughed. “Long story.”
"So you’re not married?" I shook my head. "But the baby’s father is?" I nodded. "And you’re at the wedding?"
"Welcome to my life," I smiled.
"Well she’s just beautiful," he said and played with her fingers. "And may I say, so are you." I blushed.
"Well you don’t look too bad yourself," I offered.
"Would you like to have dinner sometime?"
"That sounds nice."
"I’ve got to run to a meeting but I’m so glad I ran into you. Here’s my card. Call me soon."
"I will. Really nice to see you, Nicholas."
"Take care," he said as he stood and put his hand on mine. "And congratulations!"
"Thanks," I smiled and watched him walk away. I heard someone clear his or her throat and turned to see Kev smiling from the corner. "What are doing lurking over there?"
"Just watching," he smiled.
"Very funny. Shouldn’t you be inside dancing with your new bride?"
"I was, but I didn’t see you and wanted to make sure you and Renelli were okay." He sat down next to me and scooped the baby into his arms.
"I can’t believe how much I miss her when she’s not with me."
"It’s weird, huh?"
"I know we’re not doing the traditional thing here," he said as he cuddled with his daughter. "But I don’t think traditional would have ever suited us."
"Plus, I think Mr. Hotel is smitten."
"Oh my god, shut up."
"I just call it like I see it."
"Give me the baby and go dance with your wife."
He handed her to me then kissed her forehead, then mine. “I love you, Christa.”
"I love you too, Kev."
He walked toward the door and I smiled as I looked back at Renelli and smiled as I nuzzled her knows.
"I see you watching," I said then looked out of the corner of my eye to see him staring from the door.
He smiled then winked and as I watched him go in I knew that even though he’d just married someone else there would always be some things that were just between us.
© Carrie M. Medders