I was seriously fucked up.
I was having nightmares.
I was having orgasms as a result of those nightmares/fantasies.
I’d left the love of my life standing at the altar with his pregnant girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. Whatever.
I’d pilgrimaged to my old hick town to spend the night crying all over the dirt of my mother’s grave.
And I was now randomly in Duck, North Carolina, lying in bed with a man I barely knew. Who was also my new employer.
I couldn’t help it; maybe it was a sign of my compounding insanity: I started laughing. I really had a knack for this shit, didn’t I? Ending up in the bed of my new boss … the day I got hired. Even the cutting remark Alexander had made the other day when we’d been fighting couldn’t dull my quiet hysteria. It was fucking funny, if you thought about it. Anyway, if I didn’t laugh I’d cry.
Caleb was still asleep but my quiet giggles woke him.
Of course it was strange. Bizarre. To be lying next to him like this. At least I was under the covers and he was on top, fully clothed in his jeans and t-shirt, hair tousled, looking like something that had just stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalogue.
“Mornin’,” he said, smiling. “Something funny?”
God, something occurred to me. Had he seen me? It had been so dark. Maybe he hadn’t. But maybe he had. My shirt had been pulled up. I’d been moaning and pleading and … coming. What was it about me? Why did I always get myself into these predicaments where I had to worry about dealing with men who may or may not have watched me get off?
“Hi. I’m sorry about last night.”
He was giving nothing away. Pure, uncluttered innocence in those clear, caramel-colored eyes. “What, you mean your nightmare? That’s not your fault. You don’t have to be sorry about that.”
Just then, I heard the ping of my phone receiving a text. My bag was on the floor next to the bed. I reached into it and pulled out the phone.
From A. I love you.
“Who’s it from?”
I couldn’t even answer him. My heart seized for a few seconds, then took off in a galloping run. Should I be mad at him? No, I wasn’t mad. What was I even doing here, when I should have been with him?
I love you, too, I thought.
And so will your baby.
I put my phone back into my bag. “I’m not talking to you about that, Caleb,” I said gently. Sure, we were in bed together but it didn’t mean I was going to spill all my secrets, if that’s what they were. I didn’t feel like talking about it. I felt like crying and screaming and beating my head against the nearest wall, or catching the first bus to New York. Grabbing Shawna and shaking her. He’s mine. But it was too late. All that stress would be bad for the baby, of course. I felt like shaking Alexander. But it was too late for that, too. The deed was done. I couldn’t undo it. The zygote was in place, cells dividing exponentially. And I really wasn’t sure I could handle sitting back and watching Alexander and Shawna gush over the impending birth of their perfect child. Because it would be. Impeccable DNA; you had to give credit where credit was due.
I wondered when they’d conceived it. Days before my job interview? The day before? A few hours before he’d met me? Maybe he’d lied to me about not having had sex without a condom before … me. Maybe all of it had been lies.
I thought about what our baby would have looked like. Would it have been blond and green-eyed like me, or dark-eyed and dark-haired, like him? Or a sublime little mixture?
“Your boyfriend?” he smiled, persisting. Caleb, I was learning, was always smiling. And I was glad for the sunny interruption.
“Where’s your girlfriend, by the way? You look like the kind of guy who should have a girlfriend.”
“We broke up two weeks ago,” he said matter-of-factly. “Mutual decision. She’s still at Tulane, her senior year. We decided a long-distance relationship was too complicated.”
“That’s too bad, Caleb. Maybe you’ll get back together once she graduates.”
I felt like changing the subject. “When does our shift start?”
“The restaurant’s closed on Mondays. We have the day off. What do you want to do? Let’s go for a drive along the coast.”
“Caleb, you don’t have to be my tour guide. What did you have planned for today?”
“No plans,” he said breezily.
So we did. We took his Jeep and drove along the shoreline. The radio played top ten hits and Caleb sang along as the sea breeze blew through our hair and the sun shone. He had a decent voice. I thought of how easy a relationship with someone like Caleb would be. So uncomplicated. Without all the heat and volatility of Alexander’s intensity.
What I was trying to do was figure out why the sea looked murky even on this blue-sky day. Why the fresh air felt stifling and at the same time harsh. Why the shape of my vision felt blurred and dull. I knew why, of course I did. It was his spark that brought everything to life. It was his fire and imperfections that meshed so seamlessly with my own. Alexander had imprinted his beauty and influence into every corner of my being. Without him, the world seemed drained of meaning, devoid of true light. Without him, it was all just a question of endurance.
I love you.
I need you.
I can’t do this without you.