"What did you guys do last night?" Elan asks, breaking my concentration.
"Us?" I squeak out. "Nothing. I mean, we ate dinner and then Max had a bath." Oh, and then got my brains fucked out by a man I think I'm falling in love with.
The waitress comes by and we order our food, Belgian waffles for me and Max, and poached eggs for Elan. I feel terribly guilty about the way I left Pace this morning. The smell of scrambled eggs and toast coming from the kitchen, coupled with the sight of a rumpled, sleepy Pace were hard to resist. But Elan is Max's father, I have to see if this could work, right?
As I watch Elan and Max, I'm struck by a sinking feeling. They may look alike, but that's where the similarities end. Max is eager and friendly, and babbles nonstop. Elan is composed and calculated, and a man of few words.
Elan seems cold and distant. I realize with trepidation these are not qualities I want my son to learn. But Max doesn't seem all that interested in Elan. I remember how even in the beginning, he went right to Pace. Of course Pace, so confident and open, smiled and talked to him. Elan is doing none of those things.
"I wanted to bring him a toy, but I didn't know what to get that might be age-appropriate," Elan says after several minutes of awkward silence.
That never stopped Pace. Again, I'm with Elan and all I can think about is Pace and how the man in front of me doesn't measure up. I can't help but recall the tender, yet intense way he made love to me last night. His fingers curling into my hips and his teeth lightly grazing my lower lip.
Elan walked out on me, believing that chasing his own happiness did not involve me or a baby. I am self-aware enough to know that my happiness centers on a sticky, nonsense-babbling tiny person. Elan was a fool not to see that. Not to even step foot onto this adventure. And it's too late now. And while I know that being a parent isn't easy, Pace isn't just willing to take it on. He's practically begging for the chance.
Suddenly, I feel like I can't breathe. I know I've made a terrible mistake pushing him away in favor of Elan – the man who'd left me when I'd been at my most vulnerable. Pace had been my knight – coming to my rescue when I needed it most.
I rise from the table. "I'm sorry. I thought I could do this, but I can't. If you want visitation, we can work that out. But you and I…" I pause, drawing a deep breath. "We are through. The day I told you I was pregnant, and you left, that is not something that I can overcome. I want a man who sees my worth, and not someone who's willing to take me back despite what he sees as a flaw."
"No." My tone is resolute.
His mouth closes. He can tell that I'm done. He folds his hands in front of him while his expression remains cool and neutral. He is not even going to fight for me. For his son. No, this is not a man that I want Max to grow up idolizing and imitating.
I swallow down a lump of sadness and lift Max from the highchair. "Text me, and we can arrange for visitation." And with that, I stride to the exit and toward what I hope is my future.
When I arrive back at Pace's condo, there is no answer at the door. I twist the knob and find it unlocked, so I let myself in.
"Pace?" I call out, adjusting Max on my hip.
I step further into his home, finding the kitchen and living room both empty. I'd been so frantic to get back here, but now it seems he's not even home.
I hear a sound coming from his bedroom.
A woman's giggle.
My stomach plummets, and I feel a wave of nausea rise up my throat.
Oh, dear God, I'm too late. He has a woman here. I need to shield Max from whatever I'm certain is happening in that bedroom, so I set him down in the living room with the pile of toys. But I have to see with my own eyes. It is the only thing that will break this spell Pace has over me.
I tiptoe toward his room. I can hear the woman say something, but I don't hear Pace respond. A quick glance back at Max shows me that he's playing happily. With my stomach twisted into a painful knot, my feet carry me toward Pace's room.
The bedroom door is closed, and once again the soft hush of feminine laughter sounds from within. The laughter seems so out of place when all I feel like doing is crying. But if she's laughing rather than moaning, maybe I've caught him before he's completely indisposed.
Swallowing down my fears, along with my pride, I raise my uninjured hand and knock on the door.
"Pace? I need to speak with you," I say in the calmest voice I can manage when my heart is slamming against my ribcage.
There's no response.
I raise my hand to knock again when the door suddenly opens.
"Kylie?" Pace's confusion lines his face. For once his expression is cold and serious. Gone is the playful, easy to get along with man I've fallen for.
He's fully dressed, and I peer around him into the bedroom – which appears to be empty. The copy of Goodnight Moon is still sitting on his nightstand. I feel heartbroken just looking at it. I'll never be able to read it again without thinking of him and all that I lost.
"What are you doing here?" he asks.
"Where is she?"
"Who?" he says.
"I heard a woman, Pace. Don’t try and deny it."
His expression turns from confused to angry, his mouth drawing into a firm line. "You just refuse to see the real me, is that it? You're so utterly convinced I'm still that irresponsible guy on the prowl that you refuse to believe I might be looking for something real."