#53 A lot can change in sixteen years
Back at the hotel, I realize I have no idea in which room Gianna is staying and how to get to her. I sink down onto a couch in the reception area, trying to figure out my next move. Should I get a room for the night? Or wait out here until she comes down in the morning?
I’m saved from having to come with a plan when the elevator dings and Gianna steps out, her eyes finding mine across the room. She walks over and sits down across from me, looking nervous.
“I figured you’d be back,” she says softly.
“I need some answers,” I bite out while hurt, anger and confusion battling within me.
She nods and winces. “You’re not going to like them, Chris.”
We stare at each other for a long time, our eyes moving over each other’s bodies, trying to figure out how much has changed since we got divorced. She used to be my best friend. The woman I loved more than life itself. The person I wanted to have kids with. My life crumbled around me when I realized we wanted different things and weren’t able to find a middle ground. It took me years to be okay with that, and now that I’m finally happier than ever, I run into her again, feeling all the hurt from sixteen years ago all over again. Faith is cruel.
“You have a kid,” I start, pushing down my emotions so we can get right down to it.
She nods. “Three, actually.”
“Three kids,” I repeat, putting my head in my hands and taking a moment to pull myself back together. She looks nervous, but also… happy. Calm. Like she’s only doing this for me, not because she actually needs this talk. “Are they… yours? I mean…”
She shakes her head. “Not biologically, if that’s what you mean. They’re mine in all the ways that matter though.”
Okay. So she truly is infertile. At least that means that I didn’t step into a soap series filled with fake medical records. I already knew that she truly couldn’t have kids, because I was there for every single test back in the day, and I’m a doctor myself. No way my colleagues were able to fake anything in front of me. Besides… why would they?
“Mason is the youngest,” she tells me softly, sounding rueful. “Dan and I are here to visit some friends. The other two kids are with his parents for the week. I had no idea you’d be here, in this hotel.”
“Same here,” I reply, shaking my head.
“You look good, Chris,” she says, her eyes moving over my body again. “I like your hair like this. It’s a lot longer than it was back in the day.”
“A lot has changed since then, Gianna.” My voice sounds bitter, but I can’t help it.
“I know.” She gets up and walks around the coffee table between us. She settles down beside me, putting a hand on my knee. I pull away from her, not wanting her touch right now. She smiles sadly and lets out a sigh. “I get that this must be difficult for you. I swear that I never lied to you. I didn’t want to adopt or foster back then. And it’s not like I changed my mind the second we got divorced or anything. It just… happened gradually when I met Dan.”
“You changed your mind for him, but not for me,” I whisper, feeling absolutely worthless.
“It’s not like that!” Her hand finds mine and she squeezes. “I’ve wanted to call you so many times over the years, and I tried to look you up on Facebook, but you’re impossible to find online. I read all your publications, though, since that was all I could find. And I check every few months what hospital you’re working at.”
“Why?” I ask, unable to pull my hand out her grasp. It feels foreign and familiar at the same time, her soft skin on mine. She’s cold to the touch, just like she was back when we were still together.
“I guess I wanted to know you’re okay, but medical journals and pictures on hospital websites don’t actually show me that, so… are you? Okay, I mean?” She looks like she genuinely wants to know.
“Right now, not really,” I reply honestly. “In general… yeah, I am.”
“Kids?” she asks hopefully. I guess she wants to know if I got my dream so she can feel less guilty for getting married and having three kids even though she told me she didn’t want that for herself.
“Three,” I say. “16, 10 and 5.”
“16?” Gianna repeats, her eyes going wide. “But… back then we were still…”
“Foster kids,” I explain quickly. “They came to live with me about six months ago and I’ll be adopting them soon.”
“Oh.” She laughs softly. “God, my heart stopped for a moment. Are you married?”
I shake my head. “Tell me about you now,” I order. This isn’t about me telling her about my kids, or about Abby for that matter. I want to know what her life has been like since we split up.
Gianna runs her thumb over the back of my hand, causing a million memories to pop into my head. We used to sit like this all the time, hand in hand. “I met Dan about five years after our divorce. His wife died a year earlier during childbirth, and he was raising his baby girl all alone.” She closes her eyes, smiling at her memories. “He didn’t tell me about his kid until our fourth date, and I got freaked out as you can imagine, but I was already smitten with him, so I stuck around. I ended up meeting his kid, and I fell in love with the both of them. Then his sister died, and she was a single mother, so we ended up with her little boy as well.”
“That’s rough,” I say softly, squeezing her hand. I hadn’t expected her story to be anything close to this, obviously. “And Mason?”
“I adopted Emma and both Dan and I adopted Tanner,” she explains. “Emma is the kid he had with his late wife, and Tanner is his sister’s kid. They’re ours now. I love motherhood, and Dan and the kids made me realize that you were right all along. It doesn’t matter if kids are biologically yours or not. I was always scared they would never truly feel like my kids if I didn’t get to give birth to them, but I love Emma and Tanner like they’re mine. That’s why I agreed when Dan suggested adopting a kid together. So… that’s Mason.”
“Did you get to pick the name?” I ask, afraid of the answer. It feels like a huge betrayal of everything we shared that she used the name we picked out for our boy. The boy we never got to have.
“No,” she says, and her hand smooths back my curls, our eyes locking. “His birthmother chose the name. I felt like it was faith telling me that it was okay that I was doing this, in a weird way.”
I nod, feeling a little better knowing that she didn’t decide to fuck me over by using the name that was ours to use. Still, it stings. She’s been raising three kids for years now, happily married, while I had nothing but my work and a few relationships that never amounted to anything.
“I’m sorry,” she breathes, her hands still slowly moving through my hair, feeling how soft my curls are, twirling the blonde strands around her fingers. “I know this was a shitty way for you to find out. I’m glad you’re a father now, though. You were always meant to have kids. I’m sorry I couldn’t be the one to give them to you.”
Before I can register her movement, her lips are on mine, and I freeze. Her tongue flicks over my lower lip, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up on end.
What the fuck is happening?
I pull back, pushing her away from me. “What are you doing?”
“I’m not sure,” she says, her brown eyes wide and watery. “I don’t… I mean… you said you’re not married…”
“You are,” I remind her, getting up from the couch so there’s no space between us. “And me not being married doesn’t mean I’m not in a relationship. Which I am.”
“Oh,” she says stupidly, touching her lips like she can’t quite believe she kissed me. “I shouldn’t have done that. Seeing you… it’s… weird. It’s like I’m 24 again, walking down the aisle.”
“No, it’s not.” I realize I mean it. In a way it does feel like I opened a door to the past, but I’m standing on the threshold, watching the past twenty-six years since I met Gianna passing by, filled with new knowledge about her marriage and the three kids she’s raising with Dan. It doesn’t bring back feelings for her though. I love Abby, not Gianna.
“Chris,” she says, getting up as well. “I’m sorry for hurting you. And for kissing you. Please don’t tell Dan.”
I almost laugh. Like I care about messing with her relationship. “I need to go,” I say, taking my phone out of my pocket to book a new flight, seeing I missed calls from Abby. “Bye, Gianna.”
“Bye, Chris,” she replies, holding out her hand to shake mine.
I pull her in for a hug instead, rubbing her back before breaking away from her. “It was good to see you,” I say stupidly, even though it wasn’t. Not even a little. “Take care.”
Before she can say or do anything else, I grab my suitcase and call a cab, waiting outside in the rain for it to arrive. When my phone rings, I pick up right away, thinking it’s Abby.
“Hey baby, I’m so sorry for not coming home tonight. I’m on my way back to the airport. I screwed up. I want to explain everything if you’re ready to hear it.”
“Sir?” a deep voice says, not at all like Abby’s. “Are you Christopher Davids?”
“Y-yes?” I stammer, feeling my heart sink. “Who’s this?”
“This is officer Tyson from…” I listen to the cop explaining to me that Jagger was arrested for fighting, and I feel even worse than I already did. Here I am, getting caught up in my past, lying to Abby about why I’m still in New York, causing her to face this on her own.
Jagger. Arrested. This is bad. Really, really bad.
“Your girlfriend is Abigail McCaulin, right?” officer Tyson asks.
“Yes,” I say, praying that she will still want to be my girlfriend tomorrow, after she finds out why I stayed in New York for another night.
“She’s on her way over,” the cop says in his deep, kind voice. “And it seems unlikely your son will face any charges.”
“Thank you,” I breathe. “Thank you so much, officer.”
I hang up and get in the car that pulled up a few seconds ago. I call the airport on the drive there, managing to get a flight back home in a few hours. It’ll be a while before I can check in, but I will just hang out at the airport. It’s not like I’ll be able to get any sleep now anyway.