Guilt often consumed me. Jake had wanted another baby for years, and I wouldn’t agree to it. By the time I came around, my body had apparently decided not to cooperate. If I’d given in and allowed myself to get pregnant six years ago, we might have had no problem. Sometimes, it felt like I was being punished for my own selfishness.
Jake was such an amazing father. He deserved to have another child—or two or three. Despite working long hours at his engineering job north of the city, he gave A.J. his full attention from the second he came home until bedtime and even cooked dinner for us much of the time.
We had a great life six out of the seven days of the week.
Saturdays were the black holes of my life because those were the days he’d visit Ivy. He’d leave in the morning, and I’d count the hours until he returned. Sometimes, that would be late afternoon and often times, evening.
I usually cleaned the house or made plans with A.J. to pass the time on those days. We’d always told our son that “daddy goes to help a sick friend.” We left it at that.
I had a habit of internalizing my feelings about Jake’s relationship with Ivy because it wasn’t fair to add more stress to a situation that couldn’t be helped. From the moment I learned the truth all those years ago, it was clear that Ivy was like family to Jake. As unfair as it seemed, he’d inherited the responsibility of looking after her. I really did understand his dilemma. But that didn’t mean I had to like it or that I wasn’t going to get jealous.
I knew with absolute certainty that if I made him choose between us, he’d choose me. He’d even admitted that. But making such a demand wouldn’t really remove the situation. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I had to watch him suffer the guilt of abandoning her. He’d beat himself up over it. You just don’t put someone you love in a position like that. The situation with Ivy existed before I ever came into the picture, and it was essentially a part of him. I loved him and had to accept all parts of him—good, bad and ugly.
Most of the time, I was confident enough in his love for me to not let the existence of Ivy get to me. But occasionally, when in a certain mood, I would become angry and resentful that we couldn’t just be a normal family without having to live in the shadow of an ex-wife with mental issues.
I never wanted to meet her.
I was terrified she’d be prettier than me or that I’d find out she really wasn’t that incapacitated. Most of the time, I was able to compartmentalize all of that insecurity.
Most of the time.
Tonight was not one of those times. My whacky hormones were making me particularly insecure and out of sorts. After dumping the remainder of my tea into the sink, I grabbed the paper CVS bag and took it to the bathroom located off of our bedroom.
It wasn’t necessary to read the directions because I’d done this far too many times to count. I took the first test out and peed on it before repositioning the clear cover over the stick as directed.
The snow was blowing around outside in horizontal bands. Cars that were uncovered on my way inside were now coated in white. Jake was supposed to be home in an hour. I hoped he didn’t get stuck on the highway in storm traffic.
Returning to the living room, I covered myself with a knitted throw and tried to focus on the parenting magazine while the early evening weather forecast played in the background.
The phone rang, and Jake’s name flashed on the caller i.d.
I picked up. “Please tell me you’re not stuck in traffic.”
“Hey, baby. I’m off of the highway now, but listen…I have to go to Ivy’s tonight.”
That news rattled me. “What?”
“I got a call from the group home, and she had some kind of an episode. I told them I’d go check on things tonight. But this means I won’t have to go tomorrow, okay? We’ll have tomorrow free. A.J. will still be at my mother’s. The weather will be better, and we can go out.”
I sulked. I was really missing him today. “Alright, I guess.”
“Are you okay? I know this sucks ass.”
“What time will you be home tonight?”
“As soon as I can. I promise.”
“Nina. Be ready for me tonight. I’m horny as hell.”
“You’re always horny.”
“Seriously…you know what I’ve been thinking about all day? I’ve had this fantasy running through my head. I almost got hard in the middle of a fucking meeting today.”
“Tell me about your fantasy.”
“I want to move the couch cushions onto the ground and put them right in front of the electric fireplace. I want you naked and down on all fours in front of the fire with your ass sticking up in the air. Then, I want to fuck you from behind like that with the heat blazing on us while it snows outside. What do you think?”
“I think I want you to come home right now. Just get here as soon as you can after Ivy’s.”
“I love you, baby. Thank you for understanding.”
“I love you, too.”
I kept the phone at my ear even though he’d hung up. I was disappointed for sure, but I understood. At least, we’d have a rare Saturday together tomorrow.
The five minutes had long expired, but I was dilly-dallying, pretending to read an article on home schooling. Now that Jake wasn’t coming home anytime soon, the thought of being alone, wallowing in the results of another disappointing test seemed dreadful.