My hand goes to the little baby bump that I didn’t think was that noticeable.
“I’ve known for a while, but you just don’t seem to be fessing up.”
“I thought I hid it well.”
“You’re a tiny little thing. Trust me, that bump is just going to keep growing. I’d know, my wife had eight.”
I smile at that. It always makes me smile when he talks about his wife. His own smile just takes over his whole face at the mention of her. I love that. I’d wanted what they had. A little life together without the rest of the world pressing in on them, but I knew the responsibilities that sat on Phillip’s shoulders. I knew the reality of the man I’d chosen to marry, even if he had promised me that someday we’d have the life I’d dreamed about.
I know Oscar has a lot of kids, all older than me, and I often get them mixed up when he talks about them. But that’s what happens when you give all your children names that start with the letter S. It’s hard to keep things straight.
I rub my stomach. I want a baby belly. The thought actually makes me excited, maybe because I remember all the times Phillip would talk about wanting to see me round with our baby, but I just don’t want people asking questions. Questions I don’t want to answer or think about. I’d liked this whole avoiding thing. It might not be working out wonderfully, but I’m getting along for the time being and I still have time. Time to pull myself together.
“So.” Oscar nudges me with his shoulder, then pulls the box out of the white bag, opening it to reveal cinnamon rolls, and offering me one. I take one from the box. The roll is still warm, and I take a giant bite. The hunger comes and goes. Sometimes I feel like I can eat anything, and sometimes I have to make myself.
“He’s the father,” I finally admit.
“I like the way you draw him. He doesn’t look as nice on the television.”
My face jerks back to his as he studies the painting. He knows.
“You know who I am?” He just nods his head like it’s no big deal. “How long have you known?”
“Since I saw you.”
“Oh.” I sit back against the bench. I’m at a loss for words. It’s not like we’re famous really, but every now and then Phillip would make the news for work. Oscar isn’t the first person I’ve heard say Phillip looks mean. He’s a big guy. He’s more than a few inches over six foot, and he’s broad, too. No leanness to him. He’s built like a tank, I often thought, but it always made me feel safe. But then again, I always got the soft Phillip. His eyes never went cold on me. Or they hadn’t. I wouldn’t bet on that now. I know he’s looking for me. I’d even had to put in a call to the New York Police Department to stop him from filing a missing person’s report. Then I got my lawyer to serve him divorce papers. Said I’d agree to whatever he wanted. I wasn’t going to fight him.
I hadn’t heard a word after that and my lawyer said he’d yet to respond. I wasn’t pushing. I just wanted to be left alone for a little bit longer. I was still trying to accept the fact that I was pregnant. I was a little slow on the uptake. I’d only figured it out about a month ago myself.
Time seemed to blur together here with endless days of sadness. It wasn’t until I couldn’t keep anything down that it finally clicked into place.
“He looks like shit.”
“I don’t watch the TV or look at the paper.” Heck, I don’t even own a television in the tiny studio I’m living in above a little print shop. Still, I don’t understand how Oscar’s words make me feel. Happy that he looks like shit without me, or remorse because I still love him and hate the idea of him hurting, even if he hurt me?
“I can’t help myself. Gotta watch my news every night.”
“I’m going to tell him,” I say defensively. I don’t want him to think I’ll keep this baby from him, because I won’t. I just want to get it together. Get my head on straight. I keep thinking time will make the pain lessen, but I’m starting to think nothing will.
One thing I do know, I won’t be like my mother. She ran. Took off and left me behind. This might not have been the life I’d wanted, the family I’d dreamed about having, but I’d make it work. I’d pull myself together. Go back to the city and do what I have to do so we can both be a part of the child’s life. This baby will have both of us. I just hope Phillip will be more engaged in this child’s life than he had been in our marriage.
It would kill me if the novelty of a child could wear off like what had happened to me. Either way, it would be better than having no father at all. My father might not have been perfect, but he was still there, unlike my mother. That was something.
“Didn’t think you would. Just taking your time. You’ll get there.” With that, he stands and tosses the box in the trash.
I’m not sure I’ll ever get there. The time isn’t working as I spend my days painting and my nights lying in bed looking up at the ceiling. Letting things eat away at me. I have to go back. The sooner the better.
To get things ready for this child. To work on how Phillip and I are going to be in each other’s lives.
Finishing my cinnamon roll, I lick my fingers clean before I start packing up my art supplies. I put everything in my bag, fold the easel, and put it under my arm. I pull out my phone and call a number I know by heart. I’m not sure if I want her to answer.