Ryan woke up at 7:30 the day after Chad’s funeral with an unsettling feeling in his stomach. It was a rainy morning in May and his head hurt from having one too many drinks the night before. It had been a tough evening and now, as he continued to lay in bed with no intention of getting up and going to work, he felt like he had made a terrible mistake. What kind of man was he to abandon Nicole when she needed him the most? She confided in him and all he could do was get up and walk out of her life.
Straight up, he was a shithead. That was the conclusion that he had come to.
She hadn’t spoken a word since he had carried her from Chad’s grave site to his truck. Ryan pulled up against the curb in front of Nicole’s house and looked over at her. She was curled up in the passenger seat looking out the window. Her mascara was smeared, her eyes were red and she looked like she hadn’t slept in a year. It was clear that the day had definitely taken it’s toll on her, but he knew that there was nothing he could do to help.
He got out of the truck and made his way around to her door and opened it. She looked up at him for a moment and then he leaned in and picked her frail body up in his arms and carried her to the front door. He managed to rifle the house key out of his pocket and unlock the door without putting her down and then he walked into the living room and laid her on the couch.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Ryan asked quietly as he sat down beside her and ran a hand through her disheveled hair, “Do you want to be left alone?”
“No, please stay with me a little longer,” Nicole mumbled as she reached out her hand and grabbed his arm, “It’s too quiet in here.”
Ryan gave her a little smile before he stood up and took his suit jacket off and hung it over the back of the chair. He was about to sit back down on the couch with Nicole when he noticed something on the coffee table. In an instant he knew what it was, but what made him more curious was why it was there.
He reached down and picked up the plastic stick and stared down at the little blue plus sign staring back up at him. Was Beth pregnant? Had she come over to tell Nicole and then forget to take it with her when she left? As far as he knew, Alex and Beth, despite every attempt they had made, were unable to have children.
“Nicole...” Ryan started unable to get the rest of the words out as he turned around and looked down at her.
Nicole was staring at the pregnancy test in his hand and then she looked up at him with fear in her eyes. Other than that, Ryan really had no idea what was going on in her head. The test couldn’t possibly be hers...
“Yes, it’s mine,” Nicole said quietly, answering his silent question.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ryan questioned her, feeling the anger rise up inside him, “How long have you been keeping this from me? From your family?”
“Ryan, you need to calm down. It’s not like I was purposefully keeping it from you,” Nicole shot back in frustration, “I found out two days ago and I’m sure it hasn’t gone unnoticed by you that I have had other things on my plate and on my mind. So please, lay off me. Besides Dr. Mason, you are the only one that knows.”
“So you just sort of expected me to jump with excitement and step up to the plate and pretend to be daddy?” Ryan asked interrogatingly, “Why are you expecting so much of me?”
She stared at him for a moment, the anger and hurt flashing in her eyes before she stood up and disappeared down the hall to the kitchen. Ryan considered going after her but after a moment decided against it. He fell onto the couch and ran a hand through his hair unsure of what to think or how to deal with this news. He knew it wasn’t about him and he knew he had made a big mistake saying what he said. He was sure that Nicole was having a very difficult time dealing with the news of her pregnancy, all the while dealing with her husband’s death and his funeral.
After a little while Nicole walked back into the living room with a glass of water in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. She silently handed the beer to Ryan and sat down on the corner of the couch a fair distance away from him.
“I know you are upset and angry that I didn’t tell you the second I found out,” Nicole said quietly, her voice quivering, “But you don’t have a right to feel that way. I was planning on telling you tonight before you got so upset with me. I was going to ask if you wanted to come to my first doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning with me.”
“I can’t do this Nicole,” Ryan replied as he stood up and grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair.
“Ryan, I want you by my side as I go through this,” Nicole whispered, looking up at him, “I am not ready for a relationship at this point, but I can’t think of anyone else I would rather experience this with.”
“Look, I know you’re going through a lot right now Nic,” Ryan stated as he stood in the doorway and looking at her, “But I can’t play house with you anymore. That child...isn’t mine and I don’t really feel like playing the dad role.”
“I didn’t ask you to play daddy, Ryan,” Nicole retorted, glaring at him, “I asked you to be a friend to me and support me through this. But I see that this news and this request has been a little difficult for you to wrap your head around. I don’t need your help. I’ve got my mom and dad and Beth and Alex. I don’t need you. Get out of my house.”
He stared at her for a moment in disbelief. He felt like she had slapped him and he very much deserved it. In all the time he had known her, not once did she ever talk to him like she just had. But also, in all the time he had known her, he had never acted like such an asshole. He realized in that moment how much he had hurt her with his response and just how much damage he had done. He had just gone and destroyed their friendship and any possibility they may have had in the future of being together again.
“Nic...” Ryan mumbled as he took a step towards her, “I...I’m...”
“Get out Ryan,” Nicole spat, “I don’t want you here and I don’t want to see you again.”
He swiped at a tear that escaped from his eye as he remembered how badly he acted last night and he felt awful. He had made the whole situation about himself instead of focusing on her and what she was asking of him. Deep down Ryan had wanted to be a part of her life, whether it be friendship or more, and he wanted to support her and be there for her and Hudson and the baby. Instead, he focused on what he wanted and what he wasn’t getting and he played the “poor me” card on the day of her husband’s funeral. He was an ass.
Nicole sat on her bed that morning staring at herself in the mirror. She was miserable, she hadn’t slept at all the night before and she was beyond angry and hurt. She never, in all her life, thought that Ryan would ever become that guy that made it all about him. She could understand his anger and resentment if she had kept the pregnancy from him for a couple months, but it was two days and she had had a lot going on. She barely had time to think about the pregnancy as she planned and prepared for Chad’s funeral.
“Momma!” she heard Hudson call from downstairs as the front door closed, “Where are you?”
Nicole stood up and straightened out her jeans and shirt and then stood at the doorway to her bedroom. She couldn’t let thoughts of Ryan consume her right now, she had her family to think about and focus on.
“I’m upstairs baby,” Nicole called with a smile as she heard the pitter patter of his little feet running up the stairs.
“Hi!” he exclaimed with a big smile on his face as he ran into her arms, “Gramma downstairs. Can I go play in my room?”
“Absolutely,” Nicole answered with a smile, “Go play and I’ll come get you in a little while.”
Nicole walked down the stairs and into the living room. The scene took her back to the night before, only instead of Ryan, it was her mother standing there with the positive pregnancy test in her hand. The outcome, however, was much different from the night before. Holly turned to look at her daughter curiously before looking down at the test again. It was obvious that her mother was trying to process the information in her head before she asked any questions.
“Ryan’s?” Holly asked cautiously, but clearly was having a difficult time keeping the smile from spreading across her face.
“No,” Nicole replied quietly, “It’s Chad’s. We had a moment about nine weeks ago before he made his final decision to be with Anna and this, was the outcome.”
“You aren’t happy about this,” Holly replied as she put the test down and walked towards Nicole.
“I am happy. We always wanted to have another baby before Anna was in the picture,” Nicole replied, “I just wish that Chad was alive to be a part of this. This isn’t how I pictured it at all. I’m a widow and a single mom at 35.”
“Oh sweetheart, I’m sorry,” Holly reacted, “I know he would have been so happy to hear the news. Despite his shortcomings Nicole, he really did love you so very much. He even told you that at the end.”
“I know he did momma,” Nicole whispered, “But we will never know if that love would have saved our marriage. We never had the opportunity to find out. I can’t tell you how alone I feel right now mom.”
“What about Ryan? Have you told him?” Holly asked, “I’m sure he will be thrilled!”
Nicole winced as the memories of the night before came flooding back in an instant. It broke her heart that Ryan changed his attitude so quickly last night. He went from sweet, caring and loving to complete douche bag in a matter of seconds. She barely recognized the man that had stood before her in her living room that night. She also remembered making it very clear that he had hurt her so much that she didn’t want to see him again. She was wondering now if she had made a very big mistake. She was sure that Ryan was just as stressed out as the rest of them and it had been such a long day and he finally just cracked under the pressure.
“Ryan and I aren’t speaking,” Nicole mumbled, feeling extremely depressed, wondering if she was too late to make things right, “Things didn’t go as planned last night when he found out. He cracked and got angry that I kept it from him and then I got angry and things escalated and now because of my hotheadedness, we are no longer friends.”
Holly stared at her, speechless. All she could do was hug Nicole and rub her back. Nicole leaned her head against her mom’s shoulder and a single tear ran down her cheek. She vowed, at that moment, that she would make things right with Ryan or at least she would try.
“Look, do you think you could watch Hudson for a couple hours?” Nicole asked after they parted, “I have my first doctor’s appointment in twenty minutes and then I have something very important I have to do.”
“Of course Nic,” Holly replied with a smile, “You go ahead, I’ll take care of things here.”Nicole kissed her mother quickly on the cheek and made her way to the front door.
Nicole got to the doctor’s office with five minutes to spare. She checked in at the reception desk and then took a seat in the far corner away from everyone else. She felt sad that she was here by herself and she didn’t know if she could mentally and emotionally deal with this pregnancy alone. She knew she really had no choice, but this was not how she imagined her second pregnancy going.
While she waited Nicole noticed that she had a text message from Beth that she hadn’t seen earlier. Don’t come to work today, it’s not busy and I’ve got it covered. You need a couple days off. Nicole stared at the message for a moment and then quickly typed out her response. Thanks Beth, I appreciate it. Meet me for lunch at our favorite sandwich place at 12:30?
“Nicole,” the medical assistant called from the door way.
Nicole slipped her phone back in her purse and stood up and followed the assistant to the private doctor’s office in the back.
“Nicole, we need a urine sample from you,” she said happily as she handed her the plastic container with the bright pink lid, “Just use this and then leave it in the cupboard in the washroom.”
Nicole waited until she left the room before she grabbed the container and walked into the washroom. She sat down and took the lid off the container and her mind drifted to the night that the little one growing inside her was conceived. She had been so nervous that night, so scared, afraid that she was making a mistake, but she realized now that this was one mistake she was ok with making. It was one last gift from Chad and the thought made her smile.
She put the container in the cupboard and washed her hands before she made her way down the hall and back into the office. She pulled out her phone, Beth had texted her back. Sure! I’ll see you then.
“Good morning Nicole,” Dr. Hayward said with a smile as she entered the room and closed the door, “I just reviewed the test and it looks like congratulations are in order! Will Chad be joining us today?”
“No, he won’t be Dr. Hayward,” Nicole answered, her voice filled with sadness, “He passed away last week in a very tragic accident. His funeral was yesterday.”
“Oh God,” Dr. Hayward gasped, “Nicole, I didn’t realize. I’m so sorry for your loss. How are you holding up?”
“Every day is different,” Nicole replied, “One day I’m up and then one day I’m down. For the most part though, I’m holding it together for Hudson and for this little one.”
“Can I ask what happened?” Dr. Hayward asked as she sat down on her stool.
“He was drunk and while walking home from the bar, he got hit by a car,” Nicole answered, her heart clenching inside her chest as she remember her last moments with him, “It was an unfortunate and tragic accident. The doctors did all they could, but his body just couldn’t recover from the extensive injuries.”
“Wow, that is just horrible,” Dr. Hayward replied, “He would have been so excited to be here with you, I’m sure...Now, do you know roughly when you conceived?”
“It was March 1,” Nicole replied without having to think about it, “I remember it like it was yesterday. But I’m just curious Dr. Hayward. You told us that after Hudson, I would more than likely be unable to have any more children.”
“I did say that,” Dr. Hayward answered, “After how difficult it was for you to get pregnant with Hudson and the minor complications you had during your pregnancy, the likelihood of you getting pregnant again easily, was slim. I didn’t say it was impossible, just that it might prove to be just as difficult as your first or even more so, but clearly I was wrong.”
“I guess it’s true what they say,” Nicole stated with a smile, “Pregnancy usually happens when you aren’t trying. Because Chad and I definitely weren’t trying for another baby when this happened.”
“Well, I don’t usually do ultrasounds this early in the pregnancy, but based on your past history I would like to do one,” Dr. Hayward explained, “Do you have time for one?”
“Absolutely,” Nicole exclaimed, feeling both excitement and nervousness as the doctor stood up and opened the door.
“Glad to hear it,” Dr. Hayward replied as she led Nicole down the hall, “Let’s go meet your new little one.”
Beth sat at their usual table in their favorite deli and watched as Nicole flew through the door and rushed over to her. Her best friend looked unusually out of sorts and a little less put together than she usually did. Beth watched as Nicole sat down, looking flustered, with a gleam in her eye. Something was definitely going on with Nicole and Beth hoped that whatever it was, was the reason she had asked Beth to lunch, not that she wasn’t happy to see her. Beth just knew that something else was going on and she was dying to find out what it was.
“Sorry I’m late,” Nicole replied breathlessly as she threw her purse on the chair beside her and smiled at Beth, “I had an appointment first thing and then I got side-tracked, but I’m here now.”
Beth gave her a genuine smile, but noticed upon closer examination of her friend, that her eyes were red and puffy, like she had been crying. Beth reached her hand across the table and put it on top of Nicole’s, hoping it would offer some sort of comfort, because until Nicole opened up to her, there was really nothing else she could do.
“It’s no problem,” Beth replied, “I don’t have another appointment until 2:30, so I’m all yours until 2:00. What’s going on? It looks like you have had a rough morning and absolutely no sleep last night.”
“I just spent the last hour and a half at the cemetery, sitting by Chad’s grave, talking to him like he is still right here with me,” Nicole said quietly, “I don’t know if I’m in denial or what. Besides you and my parents, I have no one else to talk to and I feel incredibly alone right now.”
“What about Ryan?” Beth asked curiously, “You will always have him. I don’t think that man could ever abandon you again, even if he tried.”
“That’s the thing,” Nicole replied as she looked at Beth with her sad brown eyes, “We aren’t speaking. He was tired of playing “house” with me and I told him that I didn’t want him around if he thought of me as an obligation or if he felt pressured to be a part of my life. He stared at me for a moment and walked out of my life.”
“What the hell happened?” Beth questioned as the shock spread across her face.
“He got pissed off that I found out two days before he did that I was pregnant,” Nicole retorted, “and that I didn’t tell him. I tried to explain to him that...”
“Wait, wait...WHAT?” Beth exclaimed, feeling like she had misheard Nicole, “Pregnant?”
Nicole smiled a sad smile at Beth before she dug around in her purse and pulled out a picture and slid it across the table. Beth stared down at the black and white sonogram picture and her heart practically jumped out of her chest. She knew how hard this was going to be for Nicole, but she vowed in that moment that she would be there for Nicole and support her through this. She also vowed to herself that she would get Ryan to see that Nicole needed him despite the fact that she told him to leave and never come back.
“It’s still early,” Nicole said quietly, “I’m only nine and a half weeks along. But, was it unreasonable to keep this to myself until after the funeral? I had so much on my plate with planning and preparations. I didn’t have time to worry and stress about the fact that I’m pregnant with Chad’s baby.”
“You weren’t being unreasonable Nic,” Beth replied, “I think Ryan was stressed out and tired and didn’t know how to process the information at that particular moment. But I think in time, he will come around and I hope that you will consider giving him a chance when he comes crawling back...”
“I regretted it the moment he left last night,” Nicole stated with a sigh, “After my doctor’s appointment this morning I went to his office, but he hadn’t shown up for work yet and I tried calling his cell but it went straight to voice mail. I left a message, but I’m not sure if he will call back. I tried to reach out and maybe I’ll try again in a few weeks, but until then, the ball is in his court.”
Beth stared at Nicole for a moment and could see the doubt written all over her face. That poor girl never learned how to hide her feelings, she always wore them on her sleeve for everyone to see. Beth hoped that with time Ryan would come back to her and offer her a shoulder to cry on or a friend to laugh with and depend on. She knew that all Nicole wanted, besides Chad being alive, was Ryan back in her life. Despite the fact that Chad had just passed away, Beth could see how much Nicole loved Ryan and she just hoped that there was a way for him to see that Nicole hadn’t set out to hurt him.