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Michael called like twenty times that day but I ignored them all. After what happened that morning I wasn’t ready to talk to him. It was a lot to digest and I needed time to think plus crying myself to sleep was too tempting to turn down so I locked my bedroom door and put my phone on silent as soon as I got home.

I woke up the next morning wishing it was all just a terrible nightmare but hearing Michael’s sobbing apology and explanation on all of those voice messages confirmed that it wasn’t. What happened yesterday was real.

The man I loved and my sister who I also loved had woohoo and conceived a baby.

I didn’t know which one upset me the most, the fact that my sister was intimate with him or, that they would now be connected to each other for the rest of their lives. But a little rest did do some good for me. It gave me clarity.

I shouldn’t be so upset about this. A baby is coming into this world to parents who aren’t ready for it. This is what should be more important! I just have to keep reminding myself about that and quit focusing on myself.

I quietly left the house managing to avoid Lyra. I knew she would only try to apologise for the hundredth time and I didn’t have the energy for it. I needed to see Michael first. I texted him and asked him to meet me at the Desert Bloom Park so we could talk. I couldn’t go to his place, not after what happened yesterday.

“I didn’t cheat on you.” It was the first thing he said when we sat down on the park bench. “Lyra was the last woman I slept with. And I felt like such crap afterward because I promised myself I wouldn’t do the drunken hook-ups anymore and then…I slipped up. But since dating you I haven’t so much as looked in another woman’s direction. You have to believe me.”

“I believe you.”

We sat in silence. There was so much for me to say that I had no idea where to start.

“I always wanted to be a father you know.” He said breaking the silence.

“I know.” I nodded.

“My father didn’t stick around to raise me so I always swore to myself that I would never be like him. And if I’m really the father of Lyra’s baby then I need to step up and take care of my responsibilities towards her and this child. I’m gonna do that.”

“Lyra will be happy to hear that.”

“What about you?” He asked.

“What about me? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I’ve come to the realisation that this really has nothing to do with me so I guess I shouldn’t even be upset…”

“You have every right to be upset! This affects you too. It affects us…”

 “There’s no ‘us’ anymore!”

He blinked a couple of times, taken back by what I said. “Don’t say that. Please…”

“We will never have a normal relationship under these circumstances.”

“Look, I know I messed up and I know this isn’t an ideal situation but we can make it work Maia.”

“You’re the father of my niece or nephew, how can it work? You said that you want to step up and take care of your responsibilities towards Lyra and the baby and you should…”

“And I will!”

“But I’ll only get in the way of that.”

“That’s not true…Maia…”

“It’s a good thing we’re not in love or anything.” I almost choked up as the lie came out of my mouth. I took a deep breath willing myself not to cry. “And it’s a good thing we didn’t sleep together either so now we can just cut our losses and move on. Maybe we can be friends one day.”

I could feel his heart breaking in tandem with my own and I felt so guilty for lying to him about how I felt.

There was a short silence before he looked right into my eyes and said, “I don’t want to be just friends with you.”

“Michael…”

“I want to be with you.”

“Just stop. Don’t say it…”

“I love you Maia.”

I bit my lip to stop from saying it back. “I…this is what I want Michael. This is what’s best.”

“You feel nothing for me at all?” He pleaded. “You were planning on making love to me last night. You wouldn’t do that with someone you don’t love. I know you Maia. I know you love me too so how can you give up on us like this?”

“Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

He leaned forward on the bench and stared at the ground, his fists and jaw clenched, his eyes squeezed shut. He looked like he wanted to scream. And I hated seeing him that way.

I hated doing this to him but it had to be done. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but I knew deep down that it was the right thing for everyone involved, especially the baby.

I just wish doing the right thing didn’t hurt so bad!

I somehow managed to make to work after that. Thankfully it was Michael’s day off so I didn’t have an awkward post-breakup run-in with him so soon afterward. Darren noticed I was extra quiet in the kitchen but didn’t push and I was grateful. Coming to work actually helped a lot. Cooking always does.

That’s why when I got home, I went straight to the grill out back and started on shish kebabs. It had been a while since I cooked that. It used to be Dad’s favourite. I missed him so much, Mom too. I keep thinking what they would say about this whole mess and what kind of advice Mom would give me. Would she agree with what I did?

“Hey,” Lyra’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “That smells great! I’m starving.”

“It’s almost done. How are you feeling? Any more dizzy spells?”

“Not at the moment.” She responded, putting a hand on her stomach. “I had a little morning sickness this morning but right now I’m fine. Just hungry.”

“Oh well, there’s snacks you can have in the meantime. There’s that cheesecake from the other night…”

“Stop worrying about me.” She interrupted. “What about you? How are you holding up?”

“I feel like crap but…I’ll survive.”

“I spoke to Michael today…he called.”

“Oh?” I scooped each kebab onto the plate studying what I could possibly make next that would keep me busy and unable to listen to her talk about Michael.

“He told me you broke up with him.”

“Didn’t know you two became besties already. I’m fine, don’t worry about me Lyra.”

“You didn’t need to do that Mai.”

“What other choice did I have?”

“What happened between him and I was before you guys started dating. I have no feelings for him, he has none for me. I’m not a threat at all, I can promise you that. And this baby won’t be a threat either. I won’t let it.”

“You wouldn’t understand why I did what I did.”

“Try me. Explain it to me.”

How could I explain to her that she’s really the reason why I broke up with Michael and not the baby? A baby with any other woman from his past I could learn to deal with but the fact that it was her…I couldn’t.

Growing up I always lived in Lyra’s shadow. Boys never noticed me because they were too busy gawking at her. For the first time in my life, I had someone who made me feel special like I was the only woman in the world, and then I find out that that man was with her first and now she was gonna give him something he’d always wanted – a family. Even if Michael and I stayed together, got married and had kids of our own, she would always be the mother of his firstborn. It reminded me that not only did I come in second to her again but now I’ll always be second to her baby as well.

“Maia?” Her voice brought me out of my thoughts. There was no way I could say any of that to her because I knew she wouldn’t understand so I did the same thing I had started doing that same day. I lied.

“Michael is a great guy and I like him a lot but now he’s going to have a child to take care of and…honestly, I wasn’t really feeling him all that much as of lately.”

“Really? The way you talked about him before it sounded like you had deep feelings for him.”

“Yeah, well, I think I just liked the attention he gave me more than him. He’s a hot guy but not really my type. I want someone who’s more ambitious and he’s fine with just being a bartender. I couldn’t see myself with him for the long haul. We’re too different.”

“Well, you’ve always had pretty high standards. I can understand where you’re coming from. You just got really upset yesterday so I thought it was because you loved him.”

“Nah. I was just pissed because I thought he cheated on me with you. I mean no girl wants to be cheated on whether she has feelings for the guy or not. But anyway, it doesn’t matter anymore. He and I are just gonna be friends now.”

She shrugged. “I guess but…well…he told me he was in love with you.”

“Yeah, he told me that too but I don’t feel the same way. It’s not fair to keep stringing him especially since the two of you are gonna have a lot on your plates soon.”

“Heh, tell me about it. I still can’t believe I’m gonna be a mother but you know what I’m actually kinda starting to look forward to the idea. I mean now that I know Michael’s on board and you’re here to help me I don’t feel so alone anymore. This baby might actually turn out okay.”

It’s good that she started to warm up to the idea of motherhood especially now that I’ve made this huge sacrifice. As usual, I put on a brave face and pretended that everything was normal so she wouldn’t stress herself out thinking about me. Though I felt guilty about the things I just said about Michael I felt like the end justified the means. Lyra was no longer stressed out worrying about me and now she could focus on having a healthy pregnancy.

I love my sister and I only want what’s best for her at the end of the day. I love Michael as well and I know he can be a better father without having my presence complicate his relationship with his baby. He shouldn’t be with someone who might end up resenting his child. This was the best thing for everyone.

And someday I can be happy about that.

Not today though.

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