I need a moment.
In between Pace suggesting we play house, Max finding his treasure trove of condoms, and discovering what my brain already instinctually knew—that the man was hung like a stallion, and not to mention the bed situation—I am overwhelmed. I'm tired. I'm crabby. And my arm hurts.
I can't believe Pace was really willing to give up his bed for us. When I questioned him about it, he'd shrugged me off like it was no big deal. I don't know what to make of his comment about not bringing women home.
Even as sore as I am, I'm determined to care for Max on my own, if only to prove that I can. If things get awkward here, I need to know I can go home and be fine. Plus it scares me to count on someone. I don’t want to need someone who isn't going to stick around. I don’t want to have to depend on somebody only to have them leave a hole when they leave.
After changing Max's diaper and wrestling him into pajamas, I laid him down in the center of Pace's big bed and surrounded him by a mountain of pillows. Then I grabbed my cell phone and snuck into the adjoining master bath to call my friend Rachel. I need a moment to myself—to vent or to get advice—I'm not sure.
"Hey Kylie," she answers. "How are you, mama bear?"
"Not great, actually," I admit, sinking to the edge of the large spa tub.
"Talk to me, babe. How's Max? Teething again?"
"No, actually. Max is great. It's me who's a mess." I relay the key points of my current predicament to her.
"Why am I just now hearing about this man?"
"That's your question? I tell you I have a broken arm and that I'm not sure I should be staying here and that's what you want to know about?"
"Of course I want to know about him, because clearly you've been keeping something from me if you're close enough to a man that he's taken you and Max into his home. Who is he? How did you meet him?"
"He's my boss's little brother."
"Little, huh?" she asks. I can hear the smirk in her tone.
"Trust me, there is nothing little about him." I hadn’t exactly meant to say that out loud, but Rachel's answering snort tells me that I had.
"He invited you to stay, so what's the problem? Why are you overthinking this?"
"I don’t want Max to be confused about who this man is in our lives when I don’t even know the answer to that question."
"He's one year old, Kylie. You don't need to have all the answers. Besides, you're allowed to have male friends."
"I suppose so." Logically, her argument makes sense, but it doesn't mean I am comfortable with it.
"You shouldn’t worry so much, it causes premature age lines."
I laugh, it's a much needed break in the tension, and feels good. Friends. I could be friends with Pace. Couldn’t I? I scrub my hands through my hair. Why does this all feel so overwhelming? "I don't want to give Pace the wrong impression by agreeing to stay here. He's probably going to think this is some kind of casual hook up."
"A man who invites a woman with a child into his home isn't looking for a casual hookup, Kylie," Rachel says.
He's not? But this is Pace.
"Is he hot?" she asks next.
"What? I don’t know."
"Of course you do. Use those green eyes of yours. Is he attractive?"
"Y-yes," I stammer. I feel warm and frustrated, and I'm not sure why.
"Then presumably he has no problems getting laid. And a woman with a baby isn't casual hookup material. No offense, honey," she finishes.
"None taken." My days of casual flirting and innocent hookups were over. I have bigger responsibilities now. "So what should I do?"
"Do you feel safe around him?"
"Yes," I answer. "Unequivocally."
"Okay, then. I think you should stay and accept the help. You know I'd invite you over here, but it's a bit of a circus."
"I know. It's fine." Rachel shares an apartment, in typical LA style, with three other girls and one guy. The place isn't overly large to begin with, and it's always a mess. No thank you.
"I wish I could help."
"No worries, we're doing okay. I better get back out there before he realizes I'm hiding in his bathroom."
"You do that. But Kylie, would it really be the worst thing in the world to have some fun with an attractive man?"
Reading between the lines, she's telling me to pull the stick out of my ass and live a little. "I'll consider it," I say.
"And one more thing, you do realize you have the world's cutest baby, right?"
"I do." Max looks just like Elan, who was an attractive man, but Max is a cute as they come. Big, bright blue eyes, but with olive skin and dark hair—nothing like my pale skin and auburn hair. The only downside is that looking at him is a constant reminder of the man who left. As horrible as it sounds, it's also made me wonder if another man could really love my son. He doesn’t look like me. If he loves me, but doesn’t see Max as a part of me, how does that work? It's a thought that occupies my brain late at night. Pace seems to like Max just fine. I know Rachel would tell me I'm being foolish and to quiet my inner self-doubts. "We'll talk soon," I say, rising to my feet.
When I head back out to the living room, Pace has cleaned up the plates from dinner and is sitting on the sofa with a bottle of beer in one hand and the remote control in the other.