Chapter 16: Holding on, and letting go
Adam came over to watch Natalie and Elena when Alex and Maria went to the next appointment. Maria wanted to ask Austin, but he was working at the fire station until early the next morning.
Soon the couple found themselves in the doctor’s office again. Over the few times Alex had gone with Alex, Dr. Martinez had learned to not talk about Matthew. Although he didn’t know anything about what was going on, the fact that Maria’s husband had missed the remaining appointments was enough to make him not ask any questions.
In a way, Alex had taken his place. Not as a dad, but as... well, he didn’t really know. No one did, and he didn’t want to stress Maria out by asking her questions. She had enough on her plate.
On the way back to the house, Alex was stopped a red light when Maria spoke. “I wanted to ask you something earlier, but I got distracted.” She shifted on her left hip and leaned on the arm rest. “Well, talking about losing Anthony and almost losing Natalie before she was born, made me think about what would happen to Natalie and the baby if for some reason I died. So I was wondering if you would take them. I want you to sign whatever they call those papers. I had a lot of complications with Natalie and Anthony, so I just want to make sure that if something goes wrong when I have the baby that there will be a plan. If something happens, you get them.”
He looked over at Maria is shock. “You know nothing is going to happen right? Everything will be fine. You are going to be fine, and Gio will be fine.”
“Well that’s what they said before, and it wasn’t fine. So will you just sign the paper?”
“Yeah, I will. I’m just surprised you would entrust me with your kids.”
“Why would you be surprised? Look what you have done for them. I have no doubt you would take good care of them. And Natalie loves you.”
“I know, it’s just... well what about you? Would you sign for Elena?”
“Of course. I feel the same way about her as you do Natalie and the baby.”
Alex pulled up beside his police car and when Maria walked in, Natalie came running toward her with chocolate all over her face.
“Mommy!” Natalie hugged Maria’s lower waist until Maria bent down and gave her a proper hug.
“Hi, love. Did you have fun with Adam?”
She nodded and licked her bottom lip trying to get rid of the chocolate ice cream that was dried down. “Mhmm. Adam gived me ice cream like he did when I, when I was at, at his house.”
Maria knitted her brows together and pulled back the slightest bit. “When were you at Adam’s house?”
“I was at his house before I saw you. And he would give me ice cream when I went to his house, for the, for the first time, because I was a little scared. But, after a couple of d-days I talked to him because he gave me ice cream and put on a princess movie before we went to bed.”
“How long were you with Adam?”
Natalie looked over at the wall. “A long time. Some-sometimes I would cry because I wanted to see you, but he told me I would see you soon.”
Suddenly she felt her stomach drop, taking a few seconds to plug in all the pieces together. Maria pulled her closer and looked back and fourth at Adam and Alex, who were eyeing each other nervously. “What is she talking about? Adam only drove her here.” She paused when no one looked at her. “Right?” She felt her face burn and the back of her throat ball up. Both Adam and Alex continued to look anywhere but Maria, only making her more upset. “You got Natalie back that night didn’t you?” She whispered, her voice becoming inaudible from the damage and disappointment she was feeling. “That night where we found the key card. You found Natalie, and didn’t tell me.”
Alex finally moved closer to her. “Maria,” he started, only to be stopped when Maria put her hand up.
“So it’s true! You found her and kept it from me! For how long?”
He was hesitant before he answered, but knew that there was nothing he could do about it now. “A month.”
Maria sarcastically gave a quick laugh. “So you did find her. And... and you lied to me about it.” She was back to whispering now, not wanting to appear weak. “My daughter, that was the only thing I had left. You saw how broken I was, and how close I was to not being able to handle it anymore. But you kept her from me! She is everything Alex! And I didn’t know if she was okay, or dead, or alive for an entire month!”
“No, don’t say anything.” She was so angry that she wasn’t even aware of anything she was saying. “I beat myself up for weeks! Weeks! Feeling guilty! I blamed everything on myself, and slipped into that hole. You know how hard it is for me to climb out once I am there.” She panted, the yelling making her too out of breath to fight anymore. “I don’t even want to look at you right now. I don’t understand how you could keep her from me, knowing how broken I would be.”
“Because I knew that if I found her and you knew, you wouldn’t let me do what I needed to do to protect you both,” he explained.
“I don’t care about me! I am her mother! It is my job to protect her! My job!”
“That’s what I was trying to do.” Alex made sure he didn’t raise his voice even the slightest bit because of what happened last time.
“That’s not for you to decide! Her safety is more important than anything, including myself!”
Alex let out a breath and looked down at the floor in shame, feeling awful because he should have known this was going to happen at some point.
Maria stared at him in remorse for a few seconds, then her eyes fell on Natalie who was clinging to her leg, confused, and probably scared because she had never seen her mom lash out at anyone like that.
Maria brought her hand down and rubbed Natalie’s back while wiping a tear that was running down her face. Moving her eyes back to Alex, she felt her lip wobble because she never thought she would ever have to look at him with her eyes this soaked in dismay. She felt as though these last four months had all came crashing down on top of her, and she wasn’t strong enough to hold it.
“You can defend yourself all you want, I’m done,” she stated distantly. “Can I have the keys to the truck please?”
Without question, he dug in his pocket and grabbed his keys and handed them to her, sure that this was going to break them, and she would walk out that door and never come back again.
“Where are you going to go?” He asked feeling remorseful, and heartbroken.
“Somewhere that’s not here. Come on, Natalie,” Maria said, taking Natalie’s hand and walking out the door.
Maria tried to stop herself from breaking down in front of Natalie, and had done pretty well for the most part, aside from the few tears that raced down her face while she was buckling Natalie in her car seat.
Natalie twisted her fingers together. “Why are you sad?”
“Because I love you. And when you were with Adam I didn’t know if you were okay,” she said, taking Natalie’s little hands in her own.
Natalie looked at her mother with her big brown eyes that had full dark lashes. “But I am okay.”
Maria touched her soft cheek. “I know. I love you. I love you so so so so much.”
“I love you too.”
Maria then smothered the little girl in kisses before closing the door and getting in the front seat. Before pulling out of the driveway, she pulled out her phone, dialed a number and put it on speaker.
Maria rutted her dark eyebrows as she pulled up in front of a light yellow house with an electric blue Mazda parked in front.
Natalie’s hand in Maria’s as they walked up to the the front door, Bonnie opening the door to greet them.
“Hello dear,” she said, opening her arms and pulling Maria into a tight embrace. “Come inside before you freeze out here.”
Maria smiled at her and followed her inside, Natalie staying close by her side, still not completely comfortable around Alex’s mother yet.
Bonnie went to the kitchen and grabbed a Capri-sun for Natalie, and water for Maria before they sat on the couch, while Natalie went to the other room playing with Bonnie’s cat.
“So what brings you two here?” Bonnie asked, adjusting her position on the couch, still unsure why Maria come to her instead of Alex.
Maria sighed and pushed her hair behind her ear. “Me and Alex got into a fight... and I yelled at him and told him I was done.”
“Oh, darling. What happened? I thought you two were doing great? You two looked so happy at the baby shower.”
Maria flipped her hair to the other side, finding that it settled her nerves the slightest bit. “We were until Natalie said something he didn’t want me to know. He found her and didn’t tell me. He gave her to Adam for a month. One night... one night went we were in Dallas, they found a keycard and it went to Matthew, my ex-husbands, room. Alex tried to get him but he escaped, and I thought he had Natalie, but he didn’t. Adam had her. Alex didn’t tell me.” She felt Bonnie’s hand touch her knee. “For a whole month,” Maria started, trying hard to keep her voice from cracking, but eventually letting herself. It wasn’t that he kept her from her for a month, it was the fact that he knew how much she was going to beat herself up over it, and he still didn’t tell her. There was so much pain that could have been avoided if he just put some trust in her. That’s what made it wrong. “I thought I was never going to see her again. And I know, I know he was trying to protect us, but he saw how damaged I was about her, and he continued to let me think that I would never see her again.”
Bonnie stayed quiet for the most part, unsure of what to say. Alex was her son, and she loved him with her heart, so it was hard for her to not stand by him. But she could imagine just by how hard it was for Maria to even say this, how awful she must have felt when all of this was actually happening. “He didn’t tell you he found her till a month later?”
She shook her head, feeling her lips begin to tremble even more. “Adam just came to the house a little over a month later with her, and we didn’t talk about it after that. Now I know why.”
“I’m so sorry dear. I don’t know what to say to that.”
“I know. I’m sorry for bringing this to you. Especially since he’s your son. I don’t really have anyone else to go to.”
Bonnie gave her a sympathetic smile. “It’s okay, dear, it’s okay.”
Maria sighed, and looked around the room for a few seconds before switching her gaze back to Bonnie. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Let me ask you something. Is this enough to make you want to never see him again? Do you think you two could come back from this?”
Maria gulped down hard, already knowing what she wanted to say, but unsure of if she could. “Yes. I do.”
Bonnie hummed and leaned back the slightest bit. “Are you willing to put in the effort?”
Maria nodded, wiping her tears away. “Yes.”
“Okay. I know I’m not completely all filled in on your background, and I am definitely not you, but speaking from a mothers point of view, I know how you want to protect her. I would do anything for Alex, just as you would Natalie, and your baby. I am certain that Alex feels the same way about her too. My advice to you is to talk to him. You two have something very special, and I mean that. You both need to talk to each other, and you need to tell him how he hurt you.”
Maria let out a shuttered breath and ran her fingers through her hair. “You’re right. It feels like every little bad thing that happens is a million times worse because I am so afraid that this is going to turn into last time.” She felt like she had risked any chance of building a future with him just by saying that sentence.
“You think he would hurt you?”
“No... yes... I don’t know. My last relationship was all I ever knew. I don’t want that to happen again, and sometimes I try so hard to keep that from happening, that I don’t realize it won’t. Alex is so loving and kind that I second guess it sometimes. Because with ex-husband, he was the same way. Loving, and compassionate, and caring. But then he would go and do all of these...”
“Take a second, dear,” Bonnie said with sympathy, watching as Maria broke down in front of her.
After a moment, Maria continued, now able to get some words out. “He said he loved me, and then he could go and throw me against the wall and cover my arm in bruises. So now my mind always associates love with hurt.”
“I see. You’ve been through quite a lot haven’t you? And you were left broken.”
“Yes, I was, err, am.”
“That’s good. If something’s broken, there is always a way to repair it. I am sure of that. Now give me hug, I just had a bonding moment with my future daughter in law,” Bonnie said reaching her arms out and leaning forward.
Maria submissively laughed, wiping her last tear away and going into Bonnie’s arms, identifying something she hadn’t felt in a long time.
Maria had no intention to ever get in contact with her mother again. She had caused her too much pain just like Matthew for her to put any effort into getting to know her or form a relationship. But with Bonnie, she had that relationship, and was grateful that she had someone like that in her life.
Her stomach was turning when she pulled up in the driveway again, wanting nothing more than to turn around and avoid confrontation. But she had to do this. She wanted this to work out. Bonnie was right, whatever she and Alex had was special, and she was willing to fight for it. He was her soulmate, and she was his.
She walked in with Natalie by her side, her palms sweating. Telling someone how she felt was never easy, and Matthew was the only one to blame for that. Often times she forgot that Alex wouldn’t punish her for sharing her feelings, and that was something she needed to work on.
As the door closed, Alex’s eyes switched from his hands which were folded in his lap, to her.
“Natalie go in the other room please,” Maria muttered to her before Natalie ran off into the bedroom.
Standing up from the couch, Alex said, “You came back.”
“I thought you weren’t going to. You said you didn’t want to see me anymore.”
Maria took a few steps closer to him. “I didn’t mean that...” She bit down on her lip, fiddling with her fingers. “I think we need to talk about this.”
He nodded, wishing he could just hold her and fix everything he did. “Me too. Do you want to start?”
“Yes.” They moved to the couch and sat down next to each other, leaving a space that the awkwardness filled.
“I need you to understand why I am upset. I know you were trying to protect me and Natalie, and I appreciate that. But to find her, and not tell me, after seeing how beat down I was... that hurt me, Alex. It hurts,” she concluded, putting her hand on her chest, seeing how fast her heart was beating. "I feel like you didn't trust me.
“I know that was wrong, I should have told you, but if I did one of you, or both of you could have been in danger. If he got to you and hurt you I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, and if he hurt Natalie I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I didn’t tell you because I love you both. I couldn't risk losing either of you.”
“But it doesn’t matter what the situation is,” she said, whipping her hands in the air, determined to keep herself together. “Natalie will always come first. I need to know if she is okay. That is my first priority. I wish you would have put trust in me that I would be separate from her for just little longer if that meant she was safe. I would have been able to handle that.”
He nodded. “I was just looking out for both of you. I’m sorry I hurt you, and didn’t trust you. I just couldn’t lose you. You mean the entire world to me. Words cannot even describe how much I love you.”
“And that’s another problem,” she said before closing her eyes.
“It’s a problem that I love you?”
She nodded, not having enough energy to hide it. “Every time someones loved me, I've gotten hurt. Whether it’s mentally, emotionally, or physically. And I can’t help but worry that that will happen with us. I keep trying remind myself it won’t, but the broken part of me doesn’t because wherever there has been love, there has been hurt. I don’t know anything else.”
Alex felt his heart shatter. It always went back to Matthew. Every thing. He didn’t even know what to say to her because she was right. Everything that once loved her, came back to hurt her. Her mother, her father, Matthew, Anthony. That all ended in her being in pain.
Alex grabbed her hands, trying to warm them up from the cold, but to also see if she was still angry. When she was feeling something, her whole body felt it. And he was relieved to find that despite being cold, they were soft, meaning he was forgiven. “I’m so sorry, Maria. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she said before he grabbed her and held her.
“And I promise I will never hurt you,” he whispered in her ear. “I will never hurt you.”
She pulled back, her eyes swollen, and feeling as though her world was crashing down on her. “I wish I could say I know, but I can’t,” she sobbed, wanting to curl up and die. Because she loved him, she couldn’t lie to him. She wished that all of her knew he wouldn’t hurt her, but sadly all she had been through had damaged her so much that there were some parts of her that, even though could be repaired, would take longer than she would like.
“That’s okay, I don’t care,” he told her, wrapping his arms around her and feeling her nuzzle her head into the crook of his neck.