The door opened and Grace walked in flanked by Emma and Rachael. Nick brought up the rear. Nick looked at a Ben apologetically. “I couldn’t get them to let her come alone. Why don’t you two just go into the bedroom and talk.”
Emma put her hand on Grace’s arm. “Grace, honey, we are all right here. Okay?” she said sweetly.
Ben felt like shit with everyone staring at him. What did they expect him to do? He opened the bedroom door and ushered Grace inside. He needed to get this over with.
They sat down together on the bed. It brought back many painful memories to have her in his room, but they couldn’t talk with the Calvary outside listening in.
They both started to talk at the same time and stopped. “You first,” offered Ben.
“I wanted to apologize,” said Grace and Ben’s heart crumbled. Why was she apologizing? “I should have told you that I was already prepared to raise the baby alone, but I wanted to give you the option of being involved, if you wanted. It is your child too.”
Ben looked at his hands. She was miserable and still so beautiful and sweet. His Grace. So aptly named. But, no, not his. He couldn’t think like that. He had to let her go, especially now when so much more was at stake. He swallowed hard to keep the tears from coming again. All he wanted to do was to scoop her up in his arms and hold her. To make everything okay. But he couldn’t. He had to protect her from himself.
“Grace. I am not father or husband material. There is so much you don’t know about me.”
Grace’s hands went protectively towards her stomach. “I am keeping this baby Ben.”
“No, no! That’s not what I meant. God no. What I am trying to say is that I will pay for your medical bills and child support once the baby is born, but I can’t be what you want me to be…”
“I know. You have made it perfectly clear that you don’t do relationships. I am offering you a chance to be a part of your child’s life…not mine.”
“I – I don’t know if I can…not like I should be. It’s probably better for it if I don’t.”
“Ben, what happened to you that you can’t allow yourself to love? What? Don’t you know that you can tell me anything?”
Ben didn’t know how to answer her question. He just shook his head. He never wanted to hurt anyone the way his father had hurt his own family. And not just physically, emotionally too. His mother compounded it by putting up with it for so long that they wound up homeless. Grace would never understand. He was too ashamed to tell her anyway. Or anybody else for that matter. It was his dirty little secret that he lived with every day. Today he almost threw a punch at Nick. More proof he couldn’t trust himself. No…he couldn’t risk it.
When he didn’t answer she said, “Ben. You can love even if you think you can’t. I’ve seen it. The night this baby was conceived was filled with love. I never felt so loved and worshiped as I did that night. I have no regrets other than love seems to be what made you leave me.”
Grace buried her head in her hands and began to cry softly. Ben swallowed down his feelings before he responded. “Grace. I will be sure you and the baby are taken care of financially, even if I have to ask my Dad. But I’m so sorry. That’s all I can promise. I just can’t…”
Grace stood up, tears swimming in her eyes. “Whatever Ben. I won’t lie and say I’m not disappointed. I am, but I’m not surprised. We had something. I know we did. Goodbye Ben.”
Ben sat glued to the bed and watched as Grace walked out of his life again because he couldn’t trust himself to take care of her.
When the door closed and Ben was alone in his room, he broke down and cried. He should have been relieved but he wasn’t. It hurt terribly to watch her walk out the door. Once again, she didn’t fight him, just accepted what he said. So why didn’t he feel better about it?
A soft knock sounded on the door. “Ben, it’s Emma. Can I come in?”
He sat up and swiped at his face. “Door’s open.”
Emma walked in and looked at him with pity. At least she didn’t want to slap him.
She sat down next to him and tried to put her arms around him in an attempt to help, but he couldn’t let her. He would break down again and he had to be strong. Instead he shrugged her off. “How is she?” he asked, his voice devoid of emotion.
“She’s super emotional, but that’s probably the hormones – and maybe whatever you said to her. At least the mornin’ sickness is startin’ to ease up.”
“I told her I would pay for everything, but that’s all I could do.”
“Ohhh…no wonder she was crying,” said Emma and sighed deeply. “Ben. Tell me why. Why do you think you can’t you do more for her and your child?”
“I can’t Emma!!!! I will only make it worse for them in the long run. I can’t be a father. It’s as simple as that.”
“That makes no sense Ben and you know it! You’re just scared. You can make it right. I sorta thought you would at least want to go to Doctor visits with her. Her next one is in 4 weeks.”
Ben was surprised that the next one wasn’t for another month. He felt his fear give way to concern. “Why so far apart?”
“That’s normal. They don’t get more frequent until closer to delivery.”
“They are doing an ultrasound at that appointment. You’ll get to find out the sex of your baby, hear it’s little heart beatin’, see it’s face.”
My baby. A boy or girl, not just an it. That made it even more real. “She won’t want me there Emma. You should go with her so she’s not all alone. You are a good friend.”
“You really believe that? That she doesn’t want you there? God you are such a dick-hay-ud. Of course she wants you there. Think about it Ben. It’s your baby too. Do you really wanna miss out on this?”