Hailey comes right in after me, the sound of his truck leaving blocked off when she closes the door. I don’t turn to look at her; I keep my eyes focused ahead, keep looking at that little brown speck on the coffee table. She sits next to me, her arms going around my shoulders. “I love him,” I say, finally turning to her as tears run down both our faces. “I love him so much my heart hurts,” I whisper, laying my head on her shoulder. “Why?” I don’t know what I’m asking. “Why?” I finally let the sob roar through me. “Why?” I cry into her arms as she rocks me, our tears mixing.
“I don’t know why,” she finally says as my sobs continue. We stay on the couch, and I cry out with the pain of losing myself all over again. I did the one thing I told myself not to do—I fell in love. She holds me all night long till morning. She takes my phone and calls into work, telling them I’m sick.
When she walked into her house, slamming the door, I walked to the steps, but Hailey stopped me. “She won’t listen to what you have to say. Not now.”
“I’m not leaving her now,” I told her, but she just nodded her head.
“She is the strongest person I know. When my husband died, she would have carried me and my pain on her shoulders, and she did,” she said. “She actually confronted Eric’s wife.”
“She can’t believe I’d just leave her.” The thought that she would go to bed thinking I would just leave her is too much. My heart breaks for her; the fact she kept this a secret and bore it alone … I can’t even think what that must have felt like.
“If you go in there, she will only push you away faster than she did before. Give her a couple of days.”
“I’m giving her two, but that’s it. Then I’m coming back. I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone says.” I get in my truck and take off with tears in my eyes. I pull up at Walker’s, knocking on the door, and then walk in.
I walk past him to his scotch, taking three big gulps, only stopping when the burning gets too much. “What the fuck is wrong?” he asks worried, not moving from his spot.
“She can’t have kids,” I whisper. “And I want to have babies with her.” I turn around.
“What?” he says, his voice low.
“Even with Bethany, I knew it would come, but I just didn’t think of it. But with Crystal, it’s the only thing I think of. She’s so soft, sweet, and kind,” I say, taking another swig. “I told her I loved her, and then told her that I wanted kids, and she told me she’s infertile.”
“Oh my god.” His hands go to his mouth.
“I don’t give a shit anymore. I don’t care if she can have kids or not. I just want her.”
“You can’t just make that decision,” he tells me, and I shake my head.
“The thought of having a child with someone else makes my skin crawl. The thought of living without her hurts my chest. Like a physical pain,” I say, drinking another shot.
“I can’t breathe without her.” I walk to the couch, pressure on my chest. “I can’t do it.”
“Why are you here?” he asks me. Sitting next to me, he grabs the bottle from me. “Why are you not with her?”
“Because besides all those good things about her, she is stubborn, so fucking stubborn, and I know she won’t listen to anything I have to say today. Nothing.”
“So you have a plan?” he asks me, and I shake my head.
“No fucking idea. All I know is that I’m giving her two days, two days to get her shit together, and then I’m going after her.”
“You think she’ll listen to you?”
“My father was right. I didn’t love Bethany. I didn’t go after her; I didn’t even think to go after her. With Crystal, I know I won’t let her live without me.”
“We’ll get her back,” he says, and I sit here in the dark with him by my side. My eyes never close the whole night, my chest in so much pain that I keep rubbing it.
“Uncle Gabe, you had a sleepover?” Mila asks when she walks into the kitchen the next morning and sees me still sitting on the couch.
“Yes.” I smile at her when Walker bends and picks her up, telling her good morning. He kisses her neck, and she squeals and looks at him as if he hung the moon and the stars. I want that; I want it more than I can explain, but I want her more. I want Crystal more than I want kids. I get up from the couch, my phone beeping in my pocket. I rush to get it out to see that she called in sick.