I couldn’t get enough of the baby, never feeling happy when I had to put him down for bed or anything. Doug kept laughing, making little comments about how natural I looked with a baby and how good it was that I was to be the one to stay at home.
Sometimes it annoyed me, those comments, but I let them roll off because I adored our son, whom we named Duncan.
It wasn’t my first choice since it sounded kinda weird with my last name. As we were not married yet, I wanted to choose a name that could go with either last name. But Doug insisted on Duncan and I gave in, not wanting to argue with him. Plus Duncan did have his last name, right now.
And besides, if… no. When. When we got married (if…) I’d probably take his name. Sebastian McIntyre. Douglas, Sebastian, and Duncan McIntyre. If it ever happened. No, when it happens. He’ll ask me, someday. He loves me.
It was my turn to spam inboxes with picture texts of my baby. It seemed like every other day one of us would get a picture or two sent of one of the babies. When Duncan was about two weeks old, I was able to take him to Mom and Dad’s at the same time Zari brought Melody and Vi brought Sawyer. Of course Mom got a picture of all six of us.
Vi dropped off a copy of the pic, I was texted one day from Hal. You all look great.
I replied back that hopefully soon I’d be able to bring Duncan by his place. I wanted to add that I missed him, but didn’t dare put that in. It seemed wrong, somehow. I was allowed to miss my best friend, though. There was nothing wrong with that…
“Doug? Hey–Doug, Duncan is crying…” I rolled over and shook Doug gently. He made a moany sound and yanked the blankets over his head. “Doug, c’mon, it’s your turn…”
“Go do it yourself,” he mumbled.
“But it’s your turn…” I said slowly. “We agreed to take turns.”
He sat up, the blanket falling away, his hair sticking to his face. Even in the darkness, I could see the glitter of his eyes. I knew at once that I was in trouble. “You take care of the baby, Sebastian, it’s your job. I have to go to work in the morning. Goodnight.”
I stared as he curled back up but got out of the bed, feeling dizzy. “You have another week of leave,” I said, tiptoeing to the door.
“I asked to go back in early,” he replied from under the blanket. “Now go take care of Duncan. I’m trying to sleep.”
I quietly shut the door behind me and tiptoed to the nursery, too tired to argue or question why he hadn’t mentioned this before now.
Summer went by in a blur. I practically never left the house, pretty much always busy taking care of Duncan or cleaning the house since he hated it when the place got messy, and we lived in such a tiny place that it got messy pretty quickly.
It wasn’t until August, our twenty-fifth birthday, when I realized that I hadn’t seen Vi or Zari in a couple months. I hadn’t seen my parents. I hadn’t seen Hal. I didn’t even have much time to talk to them and had a lot of messages from all of them, a lot of them sounding rather worried but I kept trying to assure them everything was fine. Because everything was fine. A newborn baby made everything hectic and busy.
“Come on, Duncan,” I whispered late one night as I tried to get him to eat. He just cried and shoved the bottle away. “I know you’re hungry…” Sighing, I held him close as I warmed up some more milk, his squalls right in my ear. Please don’t wake Doug up… I rubbed Duncan’s back, glancing at the hall.
During the day Doug seemed very pleasant but at night, whenever he was awoken by the baby, he’d get seriously grouchy. Always blaming me, he’d yell for a bit then go back under the blanket, complaining until I left.
Thankfully, it was me he yelled at when he did lose his temper and never Duncan. He was always so loving with the baby, cuddling him, cooing over him, always saying stuff about how cute he was. It was really sweet to see them together.
And really, I couldn’t blame him too much for losing his temper at night. He worked hard during the day and needed his sleep.
When Duncan hit the half-year mark, I started getting suspicious of something… I sometimes just gazed at Doug, not daring to ask him about it. Especially since he was sleeping at more and night and hadn’t lost his temper in a couple weeks. It was wonderful, almost like those first months together living here.
Except that there was something on my mind and I didn’t know what to do. Try to find out if my suspicions were right? Ignore that nagging feeling? Did it even matter?
Finally I caved in and did some research. It didn’t take long to get my answer. I cried for a while, but finally just brushed it aside. What did it matter? It didn’t change anything, except–well, the past was in the past. Mistakes, lies, deception… it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was the here and now, and the future.
Doug was trying to change, and he loved me, and he loved Duncan. So what did the past matter?
When Duncan was nine months old, Doug expressed interest in a second child. Stupidly, I asked, “Are you going to get pregnant again, then?”
His eyes narrowed. “Me? No! Why should I? It’s your job now. Unless you think you’re too good for it.”
“Nonono!” I said quickly, trying to soothe his temper. “I was just c-curious.”
He glared at me for a second, then his expression softened. “I know, I’m sorry sweetie.” He reached over and without thinking, I flinched back. I didn’t mean it, and wished I hadn’t done it. The soft look once again hardened. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” I said, scooting a little closer to show I wasn’t afraid of him or his touch.
“You flinched. What, did you expect me to hit you?” His voice grew angrier and he stood up, towering over me.
“No, of course not,” I whispered, wishing he’d calm down again. Too late.
“You are such a little liar, Sebastian,” he growled. “WELL! If you expect it then maybe I should!” And then his hand lashed out, striking my face. I whimpered in pain, putting my hand against the now-sore spot.
“I’m s-sorry! I didn’t–I wasn’t–” The words just fumbled in my mouth and I rather hoped that Duncan would wake up from his nap and start crying, to give me an excuse to leave before I dug myself into an even deeper hole. Doug just watched me, waiting. “I d-didn’t expect… I didn’t mean…” I sucked in some air and closed my eyes. “I’m sorry…”
“Hmph.” I heard him walked away and I opened my eyes again. He was near the door, his eyes still glittering at me. “I’ll make an appointment at the hospital for next month. Sound good to you?”
“Yes,” I said, as there was no other answer. He slammed the door shut and then I heard him slam the outside door shut. That woke Duncan up and he started crying out. I hurried to his crib, glad he was too young to pay attention to the mark on my face.
I missed Sawyer’s birthday, though Vi and Claude sent some pictures of my nephew. He was so cute… I really wished I could have made it. I was hoping to be able to make it to Melody’s birthday party in March. I had the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t, though.
Is this really how my life has turned out? I wondered a couple days after the missed party, as I scrubbed down the kitchen counters. I stared at the rag, then stared at my hands. What have I done?
There was obviously something wrong if I was constantly feeling bad about missing out on spending time with my own family and friends. I hadn’t even spent the holidays with them, since Doug had wanted to take a trip. I had agreed. Why had I done that?
Because I love him, I realized unhappily, as I began scrubbing the counters again. I loved Doug in a way I couldn’t explain to anyone else. I needed him. He doesn’t need me, though. I began scrubbing even harder at that thought. No, Doug didn’t need me. He wanted me. There was a difference. Did Doug even love me…?
STOP! I commanded myself. Stop thinking that! It didn’t matter. I loved him, and we were a family albeit a strange one. Whether Doug loved me or not, he wanted me and had some sort of feelings for me. I had to be satisfied with that.
“WAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Duncan’s cry was shrill, hurting my head. I rubbed his back and rocked him gently, trying to get him to calm down. He just kept squalling, his fists flailing in the air to indicate some sort of injustice.
I paced around the bedroom, bouncing him gently. He had been like this for longer than what seemed normal and I was tempted to call someone. Mom, perhaps. Though I didn’t. Doug wasn’t home and I was worried what he’d say if he came home to find someone here with me, even if it was my own mother. He felt like having family come in to help was just proof he couldn’t take care of me or the baby. Ridiculous, but whatever.
Finally, after what felt like hours, Duncan’s cries turned to sniffles. I kissed his forehead and then put him into his crib. “Everything will be okay, baby,” I said, putting my hand on his cheek gently. He gurgled up at me for a moment then finally fell asleep.
I returned to my bed, curling up and staring at the clock. Two-fifty-three in the morning. Doug had been gone for quite a while. Thirty-one hours… with no word.
I rolled onto my back, putting my hands gently on my stomach. It was three weeks after my appointment in the hospital. I was officially pregnant. Doug had been so happy and excited, and his tantrums had completely stopped for the three weeks. Which is why him just running off was so strange.
I was concerned about him being gone so long. I had tried texting him but got no response. Phone calls went straight to voicemail. If he’s still gone in the morning, I thought as I wrapped the blanket tightly around me, I’ll inform the police.