I glanced at the clock. It was still two hours before lunch, which would give me plenty of time to finish what I needed to do at the office before I could take off for the rest of the afternoon.
I dialed Melanie’s number, praying she could get away. It only took one ring before my body buzzed. Even the sound of her voice had a physical affect on me.
“Hey,” she whispered in a breathy voice.
“Hey, baby. Can you get away for a couple of hours?”
“Of course,” her answer was immediate, always as anxious as I was.
“Meet me at my office at noon?”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Mmm, love you too. See you soon.” I hung up smiling, eager to see my girl. I settled quickly into work to square things away so I could enjoy the afternoon with her. I was so wrapped up in my work, sorting through seemingly endless piles of paper that I jumped when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I chuckled when I saw the name on the screen for the tenth time since Saturday.
“Hey, Mom.” She was thril ed, beside herself with excitement, wondering if I’d talked to Melanie and when I was taking her to show her the house. I laughed, saying I hoped I’d be able to take her there this afternoon. I laughed as I told her yes, I was nervous, and no, I didn’t regret it—
I just hoped it wouldn’t be the wrong kind of reminder, one that would take Melanie back to the place where we had lost each other. I prayed it would be a reminder of the hope we’d had for our future, the future that now we would be able to live. I knew there would be a big, gaping hole where Eva should have been, but it still felt right. The energy had been there, working in full force, and I had to take the chance.
The direct line from Lisa rang, and I asked Mom to hold on a sec with the receiver up to my other ear.
“Hi, Dr. Montgomery. You have a visitor.” I glanced at the clock; it was eleven minutes to twelve. Melanie was a few minutes early.
“Send her in.” I grinned and hung up. Turning my attention back to Mom, I smiled as I anticipated my girl walking through the door. “Hey, Mom, I have to go…” My mouth seized mid-sentence, and sweat prickled across my forehead. I should have been paying more attention, but I’d been distracted by my conversation with Mom and thoughts of Melanie. My body hadn’t kicked in fast enough to tel me she was not here.
But Vanessa was. I hadn’t seen Vanessa since that fateful night. I had relied on correspondence from my attorney and ignored all her cal s and texts.
I didn’t want to talk to her, to see her, or to deal with her. She apparently didn’t get the picture because she entered my office and closed the door behind her. She turned to me, her chin held high as she eyed me with confidence.
I desperately tried to avoid looking at her stomach. The large protuberance seemed to mock me.
Vanessa’s tight, white shirt wrapped around the swol en mound, demanding I acknowledge what I’d done, but my entire being rejected it.
My voice cracked when I regained enough mental function to speak, leaving me with a strangled stream of words. “What…what the hel are you doing here?” Vanessa’s blue eyes flashed fire, and then she forced a smile, artificially sweet. “You weren’t returning my cal s, so I decided to stop by and pay you a little visit.” I stared at her, willing myself to control my temper.
“I told you I didn’t want to hear from you unless it was something directly related to the baby, and for that, you can go through my lawyer. I trust you have his number?” My voice took on a condescending edge as I watched her resolve waver, her eyes darting to her feet before she looked back at me.
“Daniel.” She sighed, disheartened. “Why can’t you give us a chance? Let’s be friends and see where it goes. I don’t want to raise this baby alone.” Was she serious?
“First of all , I don’t want to be your friend. Second, you’re not going to be raising him by yourself. He’s going to be with me half the time. This,” I said, pointing back and forth between the two of us, “isn’t going to happen.”
“Wel , Daniel, in case you’d forgotten, this already happened!” She rubbed both hands over her belly, emphasizing the biggest mistake I’d ever made. “And you really didn’t seem to mind it then, did you? Don’t you think it’s time you stepped up and acted like a man instead of leaving me alone to deal with all of this by myself?” I felt a brief wave of guilt rol through me, before remembering her that night. I wasn’t the selfish one. She had made a choice for me, a choice that would affect me for the rest of my life.
I pointed to her stomach, my disdain wiping away every drop of sympathy I’d ever had. “That was your fault,” I hissed, the pent up hatred and blame I felt for her pouring freely. “You did this.” I shoved my finger closer. “And I never wanted this, so don’t you dare come in here and tel me how I should be handling it!” I spat, disgusted. “I don’t want anything to do with you, Vanessa.” I stormed across the room and flung the door open. “Now get out of my office and don’t come back.” I leveled my eyes at her, the threat clear in my voice.
As soon as I walked through the door, I knew something was wrong. The feeling was just—off. I could feel him, the energy, but it was frenzied, distressed.
I looked at Daniel’s secretary in confusion. Her eyes grew wide when she recognized me. We both turned when we heard Daniel’s elevated voice filled with poison.
I’d never heard him speak with such disdain. I rushed to his office, panicked and unable to comprehend what would draw a reaction like that from him. My feet felt momentarily disconnected from my body, and I fought to stay upright when I saw Vanessa. The sight of her was a punch in the gut, a knife to the chest. In a fleeting moment, it all came upon me, crushing, crashing, pulsing—uncertainty, resentment, jealousy, the baby— his baby.
I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. Anxiety rippled through me, nipping my nerves, tearing me down, and taunting me with what I could not have. Would it always be there, lurking, begging for release? How could I still feel this way after everything we’d been through, after what he’d said and what he’d shown? How could there be any lingering doubt?
“This is why you don’t want me? I knew it. You’re really going to take this slut over me? I’m the one carrying your child.”
Her spiteful words, meant to sting, offered me a reason for conviction. Suddenly, it became clear. Those destructive thoughts and words had no place in me because I knew he would take me over her, over anyone else. For the first time, I truly believed it.