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Chapter 11: Two steps forward

The drive back to Lansing was long and consisted of a lot of crying because it was just the two of them. There was no chatty four-year-old in the backseat going on and on about Disney princesses and Mickey Mouse. But when Maria wasn’t in tears about Natalie, she was talking to Alex about random things that didn’t matter. Alex prayed that Maria held on to that little last bit of hope that she had for finding Natalie because he knew that optimism was the only thing keeping her going. Without that hope he knew that she wouldn’t make it. She would be gone, or at least in tears all day every day.

Nights were still filled with panic attacks, but they happened less now only because Maria slept less and not just because Natalie was always on her mind. Now since she was thirty weeks along, which she had to explain to Alex was seven months, and because of this she was having more and more trouble sleeping.

Now that Maria was closer to having the baby, Alex felt more and more anxious for Natalie to return, and find Matthew to put Maria’s worries to rest.

Alex held on to the fact that at the very least Maria hadn’t been hurt for just about two months. That didn’t include emotionally though. Since Natalie wasn’t with them, Alex knew that he couldn’t leave Maria alone for a second, knowing that if he did she might hurt herself. That didn’t ease his mind though. Worrying about her 24/7 was something he wished he didn’t have to do. Not because it was exhausting, but because he was aware that if Matthew hadn’t treated her so terribly she wouldn’t be going through all of this.

Alex woke up next to Maria who was sleeping soundly at the moment. If there was one person you shouldn’t wake up, it was Maria. Particularly if it was one of the bad nights. Which it was. It always was.

Looking at her in admiration, he brushed away her raven hair from her face, then simply stared at her, looking at every trait in awe. He prayed that today would be a good day. Maria had so many bad days where she was so beat down and broken that she could barely get herself out of bed even to get a drink.

Soon her deep brown eyes fluttered open and she adjusted her position, trying to get comfortable against his skin.

“Hey,” he whispered.

She gave him a small smile and hummed.

“You okay after last night? It was pretty rough.”

Shaking her head, she answered in a raspy voice. “No, but I will live.”

Usually Maria wouldn’t be one to be seen as vulnerable, but with Alex she felt safe. She could cry without getting hit, could say her darkest secret without getting judged, and was able to express what ever she was feeling without dread, and that was what she deserved.

“I’m sorry. I wish there was something more I could do.”

Maria leaned in closer. “It’s alright. There really isn’t much than just be there. When I was with Matthew I had to learn to stay quiet because if he woke up and I was having... an episode, he knew it was about him. You can imagine what would happen after that. But with you I don’t have to worry about that.”

Alex found Maria’s hand under the covers and laced them through hers. “I’m glad you feel that way. On a better note, are you excited for today?”

A smile grew on her face again, her face glowing in the sunshine that shone through the window. “So excited.”

“Well,” Alex pulled up his arm from the bed and looked at his watch, “it’s nine now, and the appointments at eleven. I’d say we get up now, eat, and by then we could probably leave without having to wait long.” He stared into her curious eyes and could tell there something she wasn’t saying. Somehow, Maria’s eyes were able to say everything her mouth couldn’t. He supposed it was like what happened if you were deaf. Your other senses would be stronger because of the missing one.

“What’s on you mind?”

She let out a breath she was unaware she was holding. She then took away her hand rested it on her stomach and rubbed it affectionately. “It’s just that... I am having a baby. In three months. I am not prepared at all. Last time I had Matthew to help somewhat, but this time everything is different. This hasn’t been the most enjoyable pregnancy and this is only making it worse. I can barely take care of myself, how can I take care of a newborn? I don’t even have a house, money, a plan, nothing. It’s just stressful.”

“Hey, you aren’t alone. You have me. You can stay here as long as you want. It might be nice for a change around here. Things can get lonely around when it’s just me and Elena. She isn’t that fun anymore. And you just need to relax. We’ll figure something out. I don’t mind helping you out.”

Maria shook her head and closed her eyes. “Alex, please. You can’t just adjust your life to suit my needs.”

“I know, but I want to. I want you to see that life is worth living, and that things get better.”

“You are so kind. I’m glad you got my case. I don’t think anyone else would have put as much effort in as you.” There was a pause before she continued. “Do you think... do you think that it’s bad that I want to teach again?”

“You want to teach again?”

“Does that sound crazy?”

Alex smiled excitedly than leaned on his elbow. “No. That’s a great idea. I think that it’s awesome. And now that there is going to be three kids it might be nice to have more than one income.”

“Really? I always wanted to go back, but Matthew would never let me. He kept telling me that the other teachers and kids would find out. Which they would probably have had I stayed any longer.”

“Yeah, but I can tell you liked it. I saw pictures of you and one of your classes at MSU.”

“Oh I remember that day. We took a field trip to see a play because the kids were doing a lesson on script writing. Most of them didn’t like it, but I did. I’ve always like theatre and musicals and things like that.”

Alex imagined Maria sitting with Natalie in a Broadway theatre seeing Aladdin or Wicked or something like that. Alex had never seen a Broadway musical but hoped one day she would make it to New York. That had been on his bucket list for the longest time.

“Alright, now you’re thinking,” Maria interrupted.

“I wanted to ask you something that I’ve kind of been putting off.” Alex didn’t want to stress Maria out anymore than she was, but keeping quiet for the following weeks had been hard. Especially with his mind not being able to concentrate on anything else.

“You’re scaring me, what is it?”

“Well,” Alex started, “I know we haven’t talked about it since it happened, but I wont be able to focus on anything until we do.”

“Go on,” Maria said curiously.

Alex had decided to rip off the band aid quickly and ask what he wanted to. “We kissed,” he said quietly.

Maria pressed her lips together, trying to hide her smile. “Yes, we did.”

“And...we haven’t talked about it.”

“I know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot too. I guess I’ve just been confused. But it did mean something to me.”

“Me too,” he said. “Are you open to trying things out?”

She nodded.

There was a pause before he spoke again. “You don’t think we are moving too fast do you? I don’t want to remind you, but-”

She raised her hand from under the covers. “Please, don’t say his name. I know that we are married, but it’s different now. Yes, it’s scary doing this because I know how he would react, but I could use something good right now. I am sure about this.” Maria lingered before continuing. “So, we are in this together?”

He smiled at her then leaned in to kiss her forehead. “There is no one else I’d rather be with.”

She let out a breath and stared up at the ceiling, letting all the changes in her life sink in.

“Okay,” Alex started, wanting nothing more than to smother in her kisses, “let’s get up now. Then we’ll eat breakfast and leave to find out the gender,” he sung in a high pitched voice.

Alex walked over to Maria’s side of the bed and stood next to her as she got up. “Well you can stop worrying about being prepared because I am going to help you.”

Blushing, she looked away. “Thank you again.”

“You have to stop thanking me. I’d do anything for you.”

Maria became quiet once they got inside the doctor’s office, and Alex could only wonder why. There was always going to be something wrong, and there would always be something he couldn’t fix, no matter how hard he tried. He would never be able to go back and take away her pain or make sure her life took a different path. And that guilt of knowing that sometimes he couldn’t do anything ate him from the inside. Because in the end Maria was the only person who could help herself. Only she could save herself.

He rested his hand on her shoulder as she stared up at the blank ultra sound screen, and said nothing. Every day spent with her he became a little angrier at himself for not being able to say anything except the same things would eventually burn.

Soon the doctor came in, a surprised look on his when he saw Alex standing there instead of Matthew.

“Oh, hello Maria, how are we today?” He asked, taking a seat on the chair next to her.

“Fine,” she answered. Alex didn’t blame her for lying. Telling an OB about this sort of stuff, seemed strange. Not to mention most of the case was confidential.

The doctor, who’s name was Alonzo Martinez, looked around the room awkwardly. “No Matthew?”

Before Maria could answer, Alex stepped in. “He couldn’t make it. I’m Detective Alex Rivers. Maria’s... friend.”

The older man stuck out his hand and shook Alex’s. “Nice to meet you. I didn’t know Maria knew anyone down at the station. Does Shaun still work there?”

“Yep. You’re like the fifth person I talked to who knows him.”

“He’s done a lot for Lansing. Tell him I said hi. Anyway, let’s jump right in. Are you still determined to wait Maria or do you want to find out the sex?”

“We are finding out today. I’m done waiting,” she said excitedly, pulling up her shirt.

“Alright then. Should I write it down or just tell you? Some people like to do gender reveals and what not,” he asked, turning on the machine and gathering his supplies.

Maria responded quickly, a little upset at his question. “You can just tell us.”

“Okay then. You know the drill, first comes the gel, and then I’m going to move it around.” Alonzo moved the wand around on Maria’s stomach and looked at the black and white screen, trying to find whatever he was looking for. “Now I’m just trying to find the... oh, there it is.”

“What is it?” Alex listened closer, unable to identify the sound.

“That, Detective, is the heartbeat. You got kids Alex?”

Alex laughed quietly. “One, but she’s sixteen. Its been a while.” He leaned in closer and looked at the machine in awe. His gaze fell on Maria who was staring at the screen as well. But it wasn’t in veneration. Her eyes were dull. Instead of sadness or anger or happiness, they were full of nothing.

Alonzo moved the wand around more, spreading the gel around. “And if you are ready, I know the gender.” He looked at Maria waiting for her confirmation. When she gave him a slight nod, he continued. “It’s a boy.”

Maria was quiet. The whole room was.

Alonzo paused a brief moment, trying to see if anyone was going to say anything. But when no one did, he moved on awkwardly. “Moving on... I’m going to check your blood pressure.” He grabbed the blood pressure cuff from the table next to him and wrapped it around Maria’s right arm. He continued to squeeze the bulb that tightened the cuff just enough then let it go. As he looked at the sphygmomanometer, his face dropped in concern. Chewing his lip, his turned to Maria.

“Is something wrong?” Alex asked, stepping a little closer to Maria.

“Nothing I’m extremely concerned about just yet, but Maria, your blood pressure is really high, which isn’t good for either of you. So I need you to work on that. Remember to relax, and take things easy. But other than that, everything looks good. The next thing we need to discuss is how often you’ll need to come in. Now that you’ve hit that thirty-week mark, I want to start seeing you once every two weeks until thirty-five weeks, then you are going to come in once a week until you deliver.”

Maria let out a breath, processing everything he was telling her. “That seems like a lot.”

“Well typically we would want to see you every three weeks. Because of what happened before, we want to closely monitor you.”

“Is that really necessary though?”

“In your case yes, because of-”

“Last time, I know, I know, I am well aware,” she answered coldly. “I haven’t forgotten.”

He looked around the room and then spoke again uncomfortably. “So, you can schedule the next appointment at the front desk, and you can pick up your pictures there too. I’ll see you in two weeks.” And with that, he scurried out of the room, leaving Maria still staring up at the powered off screen. Even though it was off, Alex had a feeling she was still seeing something on it in her head.

Confused as to what was going on, he asked, “What was he talking about? What happened last time?”

Maria wiped off her stomach, which had gotten bigger since Alex first met her, with a paper towel, not looking up at him. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Maria,” he pushed, now becoming uneasy.

“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” She yelled, whipping her hands through the air. She then ran her fingers through her dark hair and squeezed her eyes shut, as if closing them would make her forget about the world around her. “I don’t want talk about,” she repeated, this time more calmly.

With a sigh, Alex took stopped, and didn’t impulse anymore, hoping that she would tell him when she was ready. “Okay. If you ever want to talk about it, I am here.” He wrapped his arm around her, grateful that she didn’t pull away.

“I know. Just not now.”

The drive back to the house was what Alex had expected it to be. Silent. Every few minutes he would try and make conversation, but she wouldn’t answer. Instead, she stared off at the outside that had a small blanket of snow covering the ground.

He glanced over at Maria who was curled up on the couch while holding the sonogram picture in her hand. She was tracing the outline of the baby with her index finger. Hot tears streamed down her face, and Alex knew that the picture looked like something else to Maria.

“Want to go to Violet’s for lunch? Elena said she would meet us when she leaves her friends house.”

Maria didn’t answer, and continued to stare into the picture. Once she realized Alex was speaking to her, she looked up. “I’d rather not... if that’s alright.”

Alex exhaled and walked over to the couch from the kitchen, then plopped down next to Maria. “I think it would be good for you to get out and get your mind off... whatever you’re upset about. Plus, I want you to meet some of my friends that work there.”

Maria raised her eyebrow. “Whatever you are planning, I am really not in the mood.”

“Planning something? I’m not planning anything,” he answered flatly.

Maria gave him a look, making Alex throw his hands up in the air.

“Fine, last week when I stopped with Elena to get breakfast, me and my friends talked about the idea of having a baby shower. For you.”

Her eyes widened. “A baby shower? You think a baby shower is a good idea right now? Is there really a point?”

“Yes, there is,” Alex insisted. “One, I think you might feel better because you’ll feel more prepared, and we’ll know what we need after. Two, you will get to meet some people, which is a good thing. And three, you need some fun. Look, I know there is a lot going on right now. Matthew is gone, Natalie is gone, but you are having a baby. You need something to take your mind off all the bad stuff going on. In all this bad, there is a good.”

“Tell me Alex, tell me. How I am supposed to take off the fact that my daughter, my beautiful, sweet, perfect, four-year-old daughter, is missing? How?”

“Because you know she is safe. You said it yourself, Matthew doesn’t hurt her, which means he won’t hurt her. And, Adam, Michelle, David, and every police officer in Dallas is looking. I know we are going to find them, which is why I’m not worried. You shouldn’t be either. Have hope.”

“That doesn’t feel possible,” she said, looking down again.

“But it is.” He grabbed her hand. “You just have to trust me. Have the shower, meet my friends, and have fun.”

“Alex, I don’t know anyone. Baby showers are supposed to have people that you know.”

“I know, which is why we should go to the diner and meet my friends. They really want to meet you.”

“Do they want to meet me or the woman who was left in an abusive relationship who was left at the hospital?”

“Come on. That’s not fair. You know what I mean.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t apologize,” he paused and rubbed her knee. “So does this mean you’ll do it?”

“Alright, let’s do it.”

Violet’s was filled with laughter and clinking glasses when they walked in. Rumi was working over at the bar, Sam and Camilla were waiting tables, and Austin was holding the door for entering customers.

“Alex! Hi! Elena is in the back booth,” he said as his eyes looked over towards Maria who was standing close to Alex. Austin’s smile widened and he closed the door behind them. “Is this Maria?”

“Yeah. Maria this is Austin; Austin this is Maria,” Alex explained.

Austin took Maria’s hand and shook it, despite the fact that Alex had told them all previously to not make physical contact with her. She had gotten better with interaction, but not good enough for people she didn’t know to touch her.

“It’s so nice to meet you.”

Alex curled his arm around Maria. “We are going to go sit down now, okay? Can you send Sam or Camilla over?”

“Sure thing!”

Maria and Alex headed back towards the booth where Elena sat with her hot chocolate in front of her. Alex slid in the booth first after taking his black police jacket off, and Maria got in next, knowing that she would have to get up to go to the bathroom at least twice. When she got settled, Alex rested his hand on her knee again reassuringly.

Elena looked up from her phone and eyed her father strangely. She could see it in his face that he was feeling something, but she knew thought it better to stay quiet. If there was something that she had learned over the years it was that when it came to relationships, her dad got scared easily. He had a girlfriend once after her mom, but it never really went anywhere, and he was left broken. After that, it was always just the two of them. But she noticed the way he looked at Maria. The way his eyes lit up, they way his laugh sounded, his smile. She hoped that maybe in another life he once looked at her mom like that. But she knew she couldn’t ask for two reasons. One, it was never something they talked about, and two, she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to know. Talking about her mom felt like it was off limits. The only thing she knew was that she left when she was young. That was it. It wasn’t like she didn’t try to learn about her because she did. Whenever she would ask, Alex would brush her off.

Her thoughts then went back to Maria. Although she didn’t know how any of this would work out, considering that her dad was possibly in love with a someone who was pregnant with someone else’s kid, was married from what she overheard, and another kid who was somewhere she was unsure of. Alex always made sure to tell Elena the least amount of information possible. But, from what she had gathered from the very little amount of time she knew her, Elena thought she appeared to be nice. However, she had problems. Nightmares, panic attacks, mental breakdowns, just to name a few. But she supposed that didn’t matter. He had practice with it before, and he was the only one who could calm her down. Little did Alex know that Elena didn’t really obey the “bedtime” rules. The walls in the house were thin, and she heard everything. Sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes she wished she was deaf because didn’t want to hear all the hurt in her cries. She had to admit, she felt bad for Maria. Whatever she went through she knew must had to be pretty bad.

Pulling her from her thoughts was her dad’s voice.

“Chico, what do you want?” Alex asked for the third time.

“Oh, sorry. Bacon cheese burger please,” she told Sam, who was looking at Alex excitedly. She was obviously excited about the shower, just like everyone else. Austin had probably told the whole restaurant by now. He wasn’t the quietest person, unlike Camilla, who hardly ever said a word unless it was to prove a point she strongly believed in.

“I’ll have that out right away. And then we should decide on a day to meet up and plan. This is going to be so fun!” She cheered before turning away.

Alex rolled his eyes and looked at Maria. “Sorry about this. I knew they would be happy, but not ‘let’s take a whole day a plan a baby shower’ happy about it.”

“No, it’s no trouble. It’s nice actually. I just wish Natalie was here. She was excited to have a sibling.”

“Is. We’re going to find her. I have a feeling it will be soon.”

“Yeah,” Elena interrupted, “my dad is good at finding people. He’ll find her.”

Surprised as to Elena finally talking, Maria was unsure of what to say. “Thank you, Elena. I’m sure he will,” she paused for a moment and realized that she needed to use the bathroom. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to use the restroom.”

“I’m going to talk to Rumi for a minute. I’ll be right back. Stay here chico.”

Elena nodded and watched as he stood up and wandered off over to the bar. She then glanced over to the bathroom, and smiled a little bit to herself before taking a sip of her hot chocolate.

The next morning before the restaurant was when they had decided to plan the baby shower, which all of Alex’s friends had decided Maria would not be apart of because they wanted it to be a surprise.

After finishing up some more smaller cases at the station, Alex headed back to the house around nine at night. When he got back, Elena was on her computer again, her baby pink beanie covering her hair.

He set his stuff down on the counter and sat down on the couch next to her, eyeing her when she slammed her computer shut before he could look at it.

Ignoring her once again, he asked, “Where’s Maria?”

“I think she is in her room. Just so you know, dad, she’s been really quiet. Like, unusually quiet. Most of the time she says a few things, but she hasn’t said anything since you left.”

“I’ll talk to her. Thanks for telling me.”

“I would have told you anyway. Even if you weren’t...” Her voice trailed off, and Alex grew suspicious. This time for different reasons.

“If we weren’t what?”

“Nothing, forget I said anything.”

“No, now you have to tell me.”

Elena rolled her eyes sarcastically, regretting what she said. “Seriously? Come on, dad, I know you like her. I can see it in your eyes.”

Alex shook his head back and fourth. “Nah uh, that’s BS.”

“Is it? Because I don’t think so. I figured it out at lunch. You have a crush on her,” she teased.

He hung his head low and thought about what to say next. He couldn’t lie to her. Not when she already knew. Besides, if there was one thing Elena did not tolerate from anyone, it was lying.

“Fine, you’re right. We are... trying things. Sort of... I don’t know. But it’s good,” he explained.

“If you say so. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again. Now, can I get back to what I was doing?”

“Sure.” He stood up, but before he walked away, he turned back to her. “You’re not watching porn are you?”

Elena looked at him like he was crazy. “If I was watching porn do you think I’d be in the living room?”

He held his hands up and backed away. “Good point. I was just making sure.”

Elena watched as he left and went into the other room, a little more certain of how she felt about the two of them.

When Alex walked in, Maria was already in her pajamas, which was a big t-shirt and pants. Now that she was further along, and she was finding some of her clothes to now be to tight. She had a book in her hand, and was wearing her big black square glasses.

“Hey, are you doing okay? Elena said you were a little quiet.”

She pushed her glasses up on her head, pushing her hair back and making the ends flare out. “Yes... I’m fine.”

Alex gave her a look like he had done so many times before and closed the door, then trudged over to the bed and laid on his stomach.

“It doesn’t look like you are fine?”

“Alex, please, I really am fine. Just leave it, please.”

He leaned on his elbows. “Is this about what you and the doctor were talking about? Is it about the baby being a boy?” He paused waiting for a response, but Maria stayed silent. “Is it?” Silence again. “Maria.” This time Alex found himself raising his voice, even though he hadn’t meant to. It just came out that way. “I can do anything if you won’t talk.”

Maria practically ran out of the bed and over to the other side of the room, wrapping her arms around her tightly, even if it hurt the bruises that were painted on them. “Stop! Stop yelling at me! Please! No yelling!” She was yelling too, though it got harder with the ball in the back of her throat. “I had a baby boy and he is gone,” she whispered unsteadily.

Before Alex could say anything else or process what she murmured, Maria went into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her. Once it was shut all the way, she sank onto the floor, her hands covering her face. She tried, in fear, to hold back her tears that were waiting to fall, but they fell anyway. She wiped her face with her hands before she set them down on her lap. With anger, she balled them up so tightly that she could feel the wetness of the blood that had began trickling out of her hands. She pressed her nails in harder, until she couldn’t clench her fists anymore. She released slowly, a stinging sensation making her wince, and brought them up to her face so she could see the damage. Blood trickled down slowly, but she simply wiped it away using the toilet paper next to her. After she used the bathtub for support to get off the floor and then walked over to the sink. She turned it on, and put her hands under the water and watched is washed away what was left of the blood. The pain finally came to its full effect and Maria winced as her hands stung. But ignoring it, she cupped her hands together and filled them with water before splashing her face. With a few deep breathes, she returned to the bedroom and found that Alex was waiting for her.

Maria climbed into the bed again and turned the light off without a word. She tried her best again to keep the tears from rolling down her face, but she couldn’t help it. Soon all of those thoughts she wanted to forget about came swarming back. With every thud of a tear on the pillow, Alex felt more and more guilty. He knew that he shouldn’t have yelled. You couldn’t just yell at someone and expect them to be fine and forget about it. Maria ran away from him. She was afraid of him. He had worked so hard to become the person that she went to. To be the person that she confided in. But, he scared her. Just like Matthew.

Maria closed her eyes, letting the remaining wetness fall from her eyes before speaking in a shaky voice. “Alex.”


“Can I talk to you?”

“You know I’ll always be here for you. You can tell me anything you want to, and I don’t want to make you feel like I’m forcing you to. I just can’t stand seeing you upset and sad all the time.”

She shifted to her other side to face Alex, then rested her hand on her stomach. “Remember when you asked me about the box? The one that said... Anthony on it?”

Alex nodded, anxiously waiting for Maria to continue.

“This isn’t my second child,” she said, before her cries broke into full sobs. “Anthony was my baby.”

He felt his heart drop to his stomach, and tear formed in his eyes too. “He was your son?”

She nodded, unable to get words out.

“What happened to him?” He felt bad asking, so treaded carefully.

Maria couldn’t even see; her eyes were so full of tears. They stung, just as her hands did. The world felt like a blur again, life all mixing together. I never carried to term. I was seven months when I lost him.” She stopped talking, the lump in her throat causing her voice to crack and become inaudible and high pitched. Even though she had been pregnant with Anthony almost two years ago, she had never healed. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, except for my body. After there was a small scare with Natalie, Matthew stopped touching me for the most part because from that point on he didn’t want to lose it. But after we lost Anthony, he changed. He blamed me, and got more aggressive, and was drinking all the time. He tried to replace him by having another baby. Which is why I got pregnant this time. I had no say in the matter. It was too soon for me, and I tried to make him change his mind. My mind, and my heart weren’t ready to move on. I fought so hard. Screamed at him, kicked it, dug my nails into his shoulder, but it wasn’t enough. And here I am now. When I found out I was pregnant this time, I tried to leave. Before I told Matthew, I tried to take Natalie, and leave. I had enough of him. I had finally had enough money to get by on my own for a while. But he caught me.” She was finally able to look at Alex clearly. “After that I knew I was trapped. There was no getting away from him. Which is ironic now because he was the one who left.”

“So when you said Matthew didn’t think Natalie was his, and he forced you to have his baby... You weren’t talking about this time, were you?”

“I was talking about him,” she sobbed covering her mouth and squeezing her eyes shut.

Alex sat up and slid his hands under back and lifted the upper half of her body up and held her tightly, not planning on letting go any time soon. “I am so sorry you had to go through that. I am so sorry.” He cradled her head with his large hand and massaged it. “I am so sorry.”

“I feel like having this baby is replacing him.” She broke down in tears again. “I didn’t even want to have a baby. Do you think that makes me horrible person? For not wanting to have a baby? Does that make me a horrible mom?”

Alex couldn’t find words. Maria never had the chance to mourn Anthony, so she had to pretend he never existed. Despite that, he knew Maria loved this baby. The one she was carrying now, even if it wasn’t by choice. Instead of saying anything, he rubbed her back, feeling her shuddering breaths.

“I miss him so much, Alex. I miss him so much. I wish you could have seen him. He was so tiny, but so beautiful. He was perfect,” she cried.

Hearing that Maria wished he could have seen him warmed his heart, but at the same time it shriveled it up.

Keeping her close, he put her back on the bed and laid next to her.

“He knows you love him. And he will always be your baby. Nothing will replace him. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy again... You will be happy again.”

“I hope so,” she whispered.

When she turned to her side, he cuddled up against her and stretched his arm over her body. He breathed in her scent, and felt so comfortable next to her. Drifting off into sleep, he felt the smallest amount of pressure on his stomach, making him look down. “Was that...”

“It was a kick. You can feel it better if you put your hand here.” She pointed to the lower part of her bump.

“You don’t mind?”

“Not with you, no”

Hesitantly, he reached his hand out and rested it where she pointed too. He felt some movement where his palm was.

“It’s cool right?” She said, drained.

He nodded in amazement, now feeling even more movement, but delight over everything else. The fact that she opened up to him even after their little blowout and let him touch her was surprising to him. But it just reminded him how much progress she was making.

When they both started drifting back to sleep, Alex heard the doorbell ring and groaned because they were so comfortable in each others arms.

“I’ll be right back.”

Reluctantly we wandered off into the quiet and dark living room. He turned the kitchen light on, and walked up to the door, checking the peephole first.

It was Adam.

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