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After excusing ourselves from the reception, Rosa and I make our way back to the hotel. We’re mostly silent in the cab on the way. Honestly, I have no idea what to say, and Rosa seems to be in shock. It’s not that I don’t want children, but I’m not sure we’re at that stage yet. But then, is anybody ever ready? Is there an age or a stage in your life when you just suddenly feel prepared for a baby? Or do you just decide you’re ready when the situation arises? I’m not sure, but I do know that we have a lot to consider. And I’m not exactly excited about having that conversation.
Ace is in the shower. I’m sitting on the bed, robe wrapped tightly around me. I have no idea what I’m going to do. I have no idea what Ace wants in this situation. I feel massively overwhelmed, and I’d really rather go to sleep and forget about the whole thing, but something tells me sleep isn’t going to come very easily tonight.
An hour later, Ace is sitting in front of me on the bed, staring at me.
“What?” I question.
“Talk to me. What are you feeling?”
“Feeling? I have no idea. I’m scared. I’m confused. But mostly, I’m wondering what you’re thinking.”
“Well, I think that we’re at a place where we can talk about this without fighting or losing our cool. So, let’s work this out. First things first, do you want to keep the baby?”
“I…I think so, yes. But that really doesn’t have to affect your decision. You and I both know that your stake in this isn’t nearly as high as mine. So, what do you want to do?” I see him flounder. And I know that I’ve hit a cord. And I can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t want to be a father. And I suppose that I’m just going to have to accept that.
“You don’t have to answer. I already know. I’ll book a red-eye for the morning, and I’ll be out of the apartment before you get back home,” I say, standing from the bed and making my way to my suitcases, trying to keep from crying.
“Wait, Rosa, it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“It does,” I answer simply, walking away.
I watch as Rosa boards her plane. I’m lost as to what to do. I know that I love her with everything in me, but I also know that right now I’d make a shit father. And Rosa deserves so much more from me. But I can’t. I’m supposed to be the one who takes care of things, but I can’t. Not yet. I head to the airport bar after takeoff. Time to get plastered and figure shit out.
Two weeks. It’s been two weeks since I heard from Ace. I’m currently lounging on the couch of my “rent by the month” condo. I’m looking for more permanent lodging, but I haven’t had any luck in that department yet. I’ve pretty much had my phone off for the entirety of the time I’ve been back stateside. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I did go to an OBGYN appointment earlier this week, and as I sit on the velvet sofa I stroke the black and white sonogram. That’s my baby. And I already love them. So much. I’d give up anything for them, and in a lot of ways, I’ve already given up everything.
I’m scrolling through my Instagram when my phone buzzes in my hand, nearly scaring me to death. Ace’s picture pops up on the screen, and I swear my heart seizes. With trembling hands, I slide the bar across and press the phone to my ear.
“Hello,” I say uneasily.
“Rosa, hey. How are you, Ba…How are you?” he corrects, almost slipping back into endearments.
“I’m ok. Ace, what do you want? I left your keys and the ring. I don’t have anything else for you.”
“Can we meet somewhere? I want to talk.”
“I don’t feel like going out.”
“I can come to you. Where are you?”
“I’m at the Palm Place Condos. Condo four.”
“I’ll be there in an hour.”
I knock at the faded blue door of condo four and wait for an answer. A very disheveled Rosa answers seconds later. She gives me a tired smile.
“Come on in,” she invites, stepping to the side to let me pass.
“Thanks.” I slide past her and into the open floor plan living area.
“You can sit,” she says, motioning to the sapphire velvet couch in the center of the left wing of the condo. I nod and sit down, rubbing my hands on my jeans nervously. She takes a seat at the other end of the couch, curling up with her feet tucked neatly under her ass.
“You wanted to talk?” she says, initiating the conversation. I can tell she wants to get this over with.
“Yeah. I…Look, Rosa, I…I was scared. And I ran. Like a child. But I’m not scared anymore. And I want this. I want you. Both of you. More than anything in this world. And I know that it’s probably too little too late, but I…I have something for you.” I dig into my pocket, pulling out a house key and laying it on the couch between us. She looks at it then at me, a question in her eyes.
“I bought a house. For us. It has so much room for the baby to grow. And a place for you to write and fireplaces. I know you love fireplaces. And a backyard that’s so big I can put a pool for you. And the kitchen is huge. And I…I know I’m rambling, but I just I really want you to come back. Because I’m not me without you. And you are the only woman that I have ever loved. And I want to have this baby with you. I want to be a family, and if he or she is half as perfect as you, they will be the most angelic child in the world. And please, for fuck’s sake. Please marry me,” I stop rambling long enough to take a breath and study Rosa. She’s looking at me steadily. I don’t see the war going on inside her, but I can imagine that it’s happening. She’s grown so strong. So much stronger than I ever thought she would become.
“Ace, I know that this wasn’t what we expected. Or maybe what we even wanted. But I am indeed pregnant. And there will be a baby. And I want to live in that house with the both of you. You have no idea how fucking much I want that. But I have to know that you aren’t going to get scared give up like you did in London. And buying that house should show me that. I know it fucking should, but dammit, Ace, I’m scared too. Okay!? I’m fucking terrified. And I don’t think I can do this alone, but I will if I have to. And I can’t keep waiting on you to want to be a father. So, right here, right now, you tell me. You swear to me. You make a vow to be the best fucking father that you can be. And if you can’t give me that, you need to leave and not come back. Because this is do or die. And I can’t have you pussying out last minute.” She stops, an angry tear falling down her cheek. Her voice is hard as stone, and her eyes broker no argument. She means business. And she won’t back down. But neither will I. I kneel in front of her, taking her small hand in mine.
“Baby, I promise you, on my life, I will be the best damn father you’ve ever seen. I will never leave you or our child. And I will always, always, love both of you with everything in me.”
She nods, finally giving me the smallest of smiles. She takes my hand, placing it on her stomach, and gently speaks,
“Let’s go home, Daddy.”