Held up with the corny heart-shaped magnet was the sonogram. For a moment I was simply stuck right there, not moving, barely breathing as I stared at the picture. If the doctor hadn’t pointed out the baby, I wouldn’t have been able to find it. The baby had been so incredibly small, the size of a raspberry.
Was this some kind of punishment since I . . . since I hadn’t wanted to be pregnant? Like some kind of cosmic karma since it hadn’t been planned, and I had freaked out so much in the beginning? Worrying about not being able to travel the world and stupid, pointless shit like that?
Pressure returned to my chest, and I snapped forward, yanking the photo off the fridge.
I wanted this to be over with.
I hurried back to the bedroom, ignoring the cramping in my stomach as I stepped into my closet, shoving the picture between two shoe boxes. I walked back to the living room and picked up my phone.
Mom answered on the third ring. “Hey honey.”
“Hi.” My fingers curled around the phone. “Are you busy?”
“Of course not,” she replied with a little laugh. “Aren’t you at work?”
I started pacing. “No. I have today and Friday off, because I’m not feeling very well.”
“Oh no.” There was a pause and I could hear Loki barking in the background. Mom shushed the dog. “What’s wrong? Is it the baby?”
Is it the baby?
Squeezing my eyes shut, I drew in a shallow breath. “Um, I . . .” The words were unbelievably hard to say. “I had a really weird pain last night in my stomach, but it went away. I thought it was something I ate, so I went to bed.”
“Oh,” Mom whispered into the phone, and I thought . . . I thought she already knew. “Oh, honey.”
I pressed my hand on my stomach, just below the navel. “I went back to sleep. I probably shouldn’t have done that. I just didn’t think that something was wrong, but I woke up a couple of hours later, and it was . . . I was cramping and stuff. I went to the hospital.” I opened my eyes and started pacing again. “The doctor said that the ba— That it probably stopped developing. That could’ve happened weeks ago, I guess. I don’t know.”
“Honey,” Mom choked out. “I’m so, so sorry. Are you—?”
“I’m fine,” I cut in, wrapping one arm over my waist. “I’m actually okay.”
“I’m fine. I’m just going to take today and tomorrow off, then use the weekend to relax, but I’m okay. I told work I had the flu. I guess it was a good thing that I hadn’t told them before. I mean, this was probably a blessing in disguise, right?” I was rambling at this point but I couldn’t stop myself. “Something was wrong and this . . . these things happen.”
There was a pause, and then Mom said, “I’m going to come up there. I’m going to pack Loki in the carrier and we’re going to come up there and—”
“That’s not necessary. I’m okay and there’s nothing that anyone can do,” I told her. “I just need to spend the next couple of days relaxing.”
“Mom, I’m okay. I promise. You don’t need to come up here. Okay? I’ll see you at Christmas.”
She didn’t reply immediately. “If you change your mind, I’m just a phone call away, okay?”
“Okay,” I murmured.
“How is Nick handling it?” she asked.
My chest squeezed as I forced out the words. “I haven’t told him yet.”
“I . . . it just happened, and he was at work, so I drove myself to the hospital last night.”
“Stephanie,” she sighed wearily.
My knuckles ached. “I’m going to get off here, okay? I’ll call you later.”
I all but hung up on her, and I felt crappy for rushing off the phone, but I didn’t want to say anything that would propel her to ignore my request for her not to come, and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, because I knew I was going to have to talk about it again.
Glancing at the clock, I knew I had time to talk to Nick before he went to work. Part of me wanted to chicken out and call him, because seeing him face-to-face wasn’t something I was sure I could do.
But this wasn’t the kind of conversation you had on the phone.
I texted him, asking if he could stop by. After a couple of texts back and forth—Nick wondering why I was home, and me making being vague an art form—he said he was on his way. Sitting in the chair by the small table, I waited as knots built in my stomach. The cramping wasn’t so bad now, but every so often it felt like someone shoved a knife into my midsection. Part of me welcomed that pain, because I could focus on it.
When Nick showed up, not nearly enough time had passed. First look at him told me why. Wearing nylon sweaters and a thermal under his jacket, he’d been at the gym. His hair was adorably messy.
He took one look at my pale face and his hand tightened around the edge of his motorcycle helmet. “You’re sick. That’s why you’re home.” Putting the helmet on the table, he turned to me.
I stepped back, out of arm’s reach. “I’m not sick. Not really. Um . . .” Avoiding his concerned gaze, I turned around and ran my hands through my hair. The limp strands tangled in my fingers. “I needed to talk to you.”
“I’m here.” His hands brushed along my back, and I sidestepped him. “What’s going on, Stephanie?”
Walking to the couch, I sat on the edge. Since I’d already told my mom, it was easier to get the words out this time, maybe too easy. “I . . . I lost it.”
“What?” Nick moved closer.
“The baby,” I said, staring at my hands—my fingers. “I miscarried. I don’t know why. It happened last night. I didn’t even know it was happening at first. I thought it was just stomach pains. That was stupid.” I glanced up to find Nick standing near the couch, still as a statue. “I don’t know if it was something I did or didn’t do, but I’m not . . . pregnant anymore.”
Nick’s expression tensed as he closed his eyes. His hand lifted and he shoved his fingers through his hair. “Stephanie . . .”
My name was harsh-sounding on his tongue, and I cast my gaze back to my hands. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“What?” The burst of that one word drew my attention. He was staring at me. “Babe, you have nothing to apologize for.” One step brought him to where I sat, and he was crouched in front of me, his hands wrapped around mine, and I thought of the nurse holding my hand last night. “God, Stephanie, don’t apologize. Don’t—”
“I know you’re disappointed. You didn’t think you’d have a . . . well, I know you wanted this.”
His gaze searched mine. “I know you wanted this, too, but this . . . it happens. God.” His head bowed as he brought our joined hands to his forehead. “Fuck. I don’t know what to say.”
The breath I drew in was shaky. I didn’t know what to say either. His shoulders tensed and then he lifted his head. Those extraordinary eyes were bright, too bright, and my heart broke.
“Okay. All right.” He inhaled deeply. “Do we need to go to the hospital? I can—”