Over the next few days, I drifted in and out of sleep often. My body needed it, as I had hardly gotten any with Doug. All I pretty much did was eat and sleep, feeling a bit like a burden as Hal took time off from work to take care of Duncan. He even took my keys and went to the house to bring back some of the stuff I had left like Duncan’s crib.
On the fifth day I woke up and felt oddly refreshed. Both boys were asleep–at least I assumed Hal was asleep–and so I went into the kitchen and made some pancakes, surprising Hal when he came down not longer after.
“You didn’t need to!” he said, though he looked pleased.
“I wanted to,” I answered. “You’ve done so much for me and all I’ve done is be lazy.”
“You were resting,” he said, grinning. “You weren’t being lazy. By the way… Vi and Zari want to come see you sometime soon.”
I stiffened a bit then bowed my head. I admitted that I wasn’t quite ready to see them, and Hal assured me he understood. After we finished eating, I did the dishes while he went to get Duncan. I smiled as Hal made zoomy noises, holding Duncan up like a plane as he ran over to the high chair.
“Duncan Flights to tower, we’re coming in for a landing!” Hal cried out, holding Duncan over the chair. Duncan squealed, kicking his legs.
“Roger that!” I said, going over. “Runway is clear!”
“Roger, roger,” Hal said and Duncan squealed even louder, laughing. “Here we come! JJJJJJJJOOOOOM!” He swung Duncan a bit and then put him in the chair with a big, “Ta-da!”
“A-ta!” Duncan shrieked, looking hyper. I couldn’t help but laugh as well as Hal fetched some baby food. “Nananana!” He slapped his hands against the tray. “A-TA!” he shrieked again when the bowl was placed in front of him. then promptly dug his fingers in to start eating.
Hal grinned at me, and I grinned back, feeling that fluttery sensation once more.
Hal rarely asked any questions about what had happened since I last stayed with him but as the days went by, I slowly stopped flinching and stated chattering a lot more. I was about a month away from having the baby, when he finally sat me down to talk to me.
We didn’t go much into deep conversation this time. I told him that I was still a bit afraid but knew I was doing the right thing, leaving him. He told me that I was welcome to stay as long as needed–even after the baby was born. Especially after the baby was born. He told me he’d take me to my appointments, and he even offered to help pay for anything that I needed though I figured I was all right at least through giving birth, since the hospital bills went to Doug’s bank.
Slowly our conversations got longer, and sometimes more personal. I told him about Doug cheating on me and finally at one point I broke down into tears, confessing that Doug had beat me on many occasions. “It was my fault, though, I kept trying his patience and pushing his temper!” I sobbed.
“Never say that!” Hal exclaimed, holding me so I could once again cry into his chest. “Don’t ever blame yourself for what he did.”
After that, I tried to avoid serious conversations for a while since I was worried I might admit to what else Doug had done. I didn’t think I could ever tell anyone about it…
After a couple more days, though, I told him something I wasn’t planning on telling him. Or anyone. Ever. I hadn’t even planned on ever telling Doug I knew, but it sort of slipped out when Hal made the remark that Duncan didn’t look a bit like me or anyone in my family.
“Well, he wouldn’t,” was my stupid, stupid, stupid reply and Hal stared at me. I stared back, realizing I had said it out loud. “I mean…”
“Seb?” He tilted his head and looked at me in a probing way. “You–what did you say…?”
“I didn’t say anything,” I tried but it was no use.
“Duncan isn’t yours?” he asked out right.
I began wringing my hands and feeling anxious. I wanted to back out of this but there was no way I could without raising even more suspicion. I had to tell Hal, and trust that he’d never tell anyone. “No,” I whispered very quietly even though Duncan was in the other room and sound asleep. “Not biologically, but I love him and he’s mine in all other aspects…”
“How can he not be yours biologically?!” Hal demanded, upset but also trying to keep quiet.
I spread my hands out. “He’s not mine. Not long after he was born I started wondering so I did some research…” I told him what Doug had told me–that because I had filled out the other forms, that it was fine. “But it doesn’t work that way,” I muttered. “I would have had to fill out the paperwork for being the donor, not the receiver. And I would have had to be there for–for the reception.”
I placed my hands on my belly, my huge belly. “Doug had to be there when I was impregnated. So someone else was there for him. I don’t know who.”
“He… got pregnant with someone else,” Hal faltered. “And tried to pass him off as yours…”
“Just another way he cheated on me,” I said, pushing my hair back. “He doesn’t know I know. It doesn’t matter, not anymore. And it never changed how I felt about Duncan–it never will. Though sometimes I worry down the line, he’ll have to know. Especially for health information.”
Hal’s arms encircled me very quickly at that. “Don’t think about it, Seb. That’s way down the line. Years from now. I’m so sorry he did that to you…”
“I’ve gotten over it, long ago,” I said, my eyes flicking upward and meeting his. The fluttery feeling got very strong, and I felt lightheaded. Hal stared back at me then started to open his mouth when Duncan began crying.
I pulled away and let Hal take care of him. I just sat on the couch, rubbing my belly and staring at nothing. The fluttery feeling, I finally figured out, was not good. How could I be falling for him again? I was still wrestling with myself over my feelings for Doug.
I didn’t love Doug, not anymore–but part of me still wanted him, still needed him. That was going to take ages to get over. I just feel this way about Hal since he‘s helping me out, I decided, putting on a false smile as Hal brought Duncan in to play.
As my due date came closer and closer, I finally got to see my family. Of course they wanted to know why I was living at Hal’s house and I didn’t really want to answer them, not even Vi and Zari. They gave up asking and I think Hal told them that me and Doug were having problems, but I didn’t think he told them much more.
About two weeks before my due date, Hal and I were up late in the evening watching some old sci-fi movies and talking about random things. I accidentally said something about Doug and Hal reached over, patting my hand and telling me that I never had to worry about what Doug thought again.
“I know…” I looked down at his hand on mine. “But it is going to take a while to get used to the idea that he–that we–the idea of what happened. I really thought he was the one. I was so stupid…”
“No, Seb–please stop it!” Hal said, holding my hand now. “You weren’t stupid! Stop saying those things. You’re always saying you’re pathetic or stupid or whatever. Why do you always put yourself down? You’re an amazing person.”
“I am not amazing!” I growled back. “Look at what I did. I stayed for years with a guy who beat me and acted as if I was his property!” I shoved his hand away and slowly got to my feet, grunting a bit as I did. Hal was going to argue with me and I didn’t want him to, so I turned around and started growling again. “And you know what? I still have feelings for him! How can I be amazing if I still have feelings for that–that monster? If he hadn’t gone away, I would probably still be in his arms right now, swearing my undying love.”
Hal stood up and I started to talk more, but he started talking too, a smidge louder than me. “You had no idea he was going to be like that, Sebastian! You’re not psychic! And people make mistakes all the time, especially when it comes to love.”
“Well I made a doozy!” I snarled, throwing my hands up. “I’m an idiot, okay? I–AM–AN–IDIOT!”
“You’re right!” Hal practically shouted, which shocked me into silence. “You’re an idiot, you fell for a monster and you’re still with him now, right? You are with him, right?”
“Well, aren’t you?”
“N-no,” I stammered. “But I would be, if he was here.”
“If he came back right now, you’d run back into his arms,” Hal said.
I shook my head, my eyes closed tight. “No! But if he hadn’t–“
“If, if, if. Stop it. No more ‘ifs’. The point is you did leave him.” Hal pressed his hands against the sides of his head, looking really distressed. “I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why you’re always doing this. You’re not pathetic. You left him, you could have stayed at that house but you didn’t. We always look at the ‘what ifs’.”
His eyes met mine and they were full of sadness. “All the would’ve, should’ve, could’ves. We think about what we would have done different. And that is good because it helps us not make the same mistakes usually. But you can’t just focus on that stuff, Sebastian.” He reeled back, as if struck with something. “And I’m not going to, either. I’ve been making the same mistake over and over.”
“What…?” But I never got to ask my question since he plunged forward.
“I love you, Sebastian. Okay? I love you,” he breathed out as I sank down onto the couch, feeling as though I had been run over by a truck.