Unraveling, Part 8
One year before…
The tree-lined street could have been any neighborhood in suburbia, its charming streets filled with families with young children.
After living in a two-bedroom condominium for the first eight years of their marriage, Jess knew they were ready to venture into the world of PTA meetings, single homes, and Sunday barbecues. They decided to take the plunge and move into the lovely four-bedroom home they found on Willow Way, ideally located about a half-hour from both of their places of work. It was perfect. Kevin may have thought home was too large, but they would fill it soon enough. Both of them wanted at least three children, and she was already a few months pregnant with their first when they moved in five months ago.
She pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition, and sat quietly for a moment. She watched her neighbor across the street pushing her two-year old baby girl in the swing in the backyard, and smiled. In a few short months, their lives would change, she thought. They had already, and she couldn’t be happier. Sure, they wouldn’t be able to take off for one of their exotic trips whenever they wanted to, or even go out to dinner and a movie without a major plan in motion, but the change would certainly be worth the sacrifice.
Jess grabbed the shopping bags and walked toward the house. She set out that morning looking for something dressy for a book signing party that evening–something that would look elegant on her seven-month pregnant frame. She settled on a modest black dress that was trimmed in black sequence, even though she decided it looked like it had enough fabric to make at least three dresses. She hadn’t gained too much weight in her seven months of pregnancy, but she still felt frumpy these days.
“It’s finished!” Kevin exclaimed, as he met her by the door taking the grocery bags from her hands. He wore a proud smile on his face, and it was contagious. The corners of her mouth turned up too as soon as she saw him. Then he helped her sit down while patting her pregnant belly. “How’s my little buddy today?” he asked.
“He’s restless.” Jess smiled, as she gave into believing she was carrying a boy, too. She glanced at the painting in the living room on the easel with the cloth over it. This was her unveiling and she was excited about it, too. Kevin had spent hours secluded in the fourth bedroom, which he turned into his art studio, and she was more than curious to see the outcome of his precious time.
They had been married for nine years, and for the most part, they were glorious. Once they decided to buy a single-family home, she realized it was finally the time was right to have a baby. They discovered she was pregnant just as they had their offer accepted on the new house. To commemorate the occasion, he decided to paint her portrait while pregnant to hang it in the new baby’s room.
“Are you ready?” he asked. He seemed as excited, and she couldn’t help but be excited, too.
“I’m ready, in more ways than one,” she answered with a smile. Her pregnancy was uneventful, but she was getting uncomfortable now, and she realized it would probably only get worse over the next two months.
He slowly took the cloth off, teasing her bit by bit as the tension began to build. Once it was unveiled, she looked at it and started to cry.
“It’s beautiful,” she said and she meant it. He painted her standing by a window looking down on the garden cradling her pregnant belly in her hands. She was wearing a white cotton sundress, and she knew it was to commemorate the one she wore in Jamaica on their first dinner date. She’d wanted to pose for it, and even offered several times, but he told her he knew every trace of her by heart and it wasn’t necessary. Now, she was glad she hadn’t. This was a welcome surprise.
“Of course it’s beautiful,” he said sincerely. “It’s you.” He stood watching her look at the painting and smiled.
# # #
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jess replied nervously.
Kevin looked around at the shadows on the wall being cast by the candlelight. The lights had been out for almost an hour now, and he treaded on dangerous territory, but continued. Neither could run from what they needed to talk about. It was too late to turn back now. It was the decisive moment in both of their lives.
“What happened to us, Jess?” he asked with a grim voice. “We used to talk about everything and now we’re both afraid to cross this line with each other. Where did that line come from anyway? That’s not how our lives were supposed to be. That’s certainly not how it was before. It was….”
“Paradise,” she whispered softly as she closed her eyes. “We were the envy of most of our friends, weren’t we?”
Hearing her describe what their lives were gave him more hope than he’d had in the last year.
“We can mend it, Jess, I know we can.” He smiled softly and brushed her soft cheek with his hand. Jess welcomed his touch for a moment, then froze and moved away.
“No!” she shouted as the softness in her face disappeared. “It fell apart and can’t be mended, Kevin. It’s too late now. Life is moving on without me, and I have to move on, too, or I won’t make it.”
“You mean you have to pretend it didn’t happen,” he replied. “But that won’t work. God knows we tried to ignore it, and look what happened to us.” Kevin paused and rubbed his temples. He was getting a tension headache again, the kind that wouldn’t go away without laying down in complete silence. He couldn’t stop to do that now, pain or not. “You know I have that painting of you hanging in our bedroom,” he continued. “I took it down from the baby’s room, but I hung in it in our room.”
Jess looked tearful and shocked. “Why would you do that?” Inside he knew she was crumbling. He was, too. “How can you look at me pregnant every night? Doesn’t it kill you?”
It tortured him, but yet he couldn’t part with it or just throw it in the attic and cover it like they had done with their problems for the past year. He loved it so much and knew it was his best work for many reasons. “It actually helps me,” he said honestly. “Look, I know I didn’t make this any easier for you. I didn’t want to listen before, and I will regret that for the rest of my life. You needed me, and I wasn’t there. I couldn’t help you properly because I needed help, too. It destroyed me, too, Jess. I know you carried the baby, and it physically happened to you, but it destroyed me, too.”
She didn’t know what to say. She only stared at him as the tears started pouring down her face.
“I’m ready now, Jess,” he continued. “Maybe you can’t deal with this because I wouldn’t listen. Maybe you think I blame you, but I don’t. I don’t blame you at all. We’re not the only ones to have ever had a stillborn child. Help me out here.”
“You can’t tell me I’m not dealing with this properly,” she snapped.
“We’re not dealing with it at all.”
“I have dealt with everything I need to,” she replied between the tears. “It was a bad situation and I want to forget it. I don’t need to dwell on it. I need to move on.”
“Of course it was a bad situation, but how do you feel about it?”
“How the hell should I feel about it?” she snapped wickedly.
“I’m not sure, Jess. You tell me. God, you say I don’t show emotion. You cry at the drop of a hat or if you had a bad day at work. We lose a baby and you show me nothing at all. What does that mean? Why did you turn it all off so suddenly?”
She looked at him with bitterness, and replied, “OK, if you want to know the truth, I think it was a blessing.”
To be continued on Wednesday, October 2, 2012…