Read Maybe Baby Online

Authors: Kim Golden

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #African American, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction

Maybe Baby (7 page)

BOOK: Maybe Baby
13.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"A few, but none of them really lit any fires for me."

"You don't have to fall in love with them. You just have to like the look of them."

"That's what I meant." I said quickly. "I didn't really see anyone who looked like he should be the man whose... DNA should mix with mine."

"Do you still have the files?"

"Yes, I keep going through them to see if anyone really jumps out at me." I didn't want to reveal that there was only one file I kept reviewing. Only one file was worth reading for me. I sometimes imagined what our children would look like. Because if I went through it once, I would do it again. I wanted two kids. And I knew if I went through with artificial insemination, I would want Mads to be the father.

My phone beeped. I glanced at it; a reminder that I had a meeting in twenty minutes. "I need to get back to work. Meeting."

Eddy kissed my cheek. "I know there's more than you're letting on, sweetie. You're just too distracted."

I'm just nervous about telling Niklas, that's all."

I rushed back to work, telling myself this was for the best. If I told Eddy, it would make whatever was happe
ning between Mads and me too real. As it was, when only I knew, I could pretend it was insignificant. I could compartmentalize everything that had happened, erase his number from my phone, and try to convince myself that Mads was just one of those men who knew how to charm a woman into anything. It would have been so easy to dismiss the feelings I had for him. It wasn't something that was burning inside of me, threatening to tear apart my life with Niklas.

*      *      *

—I'm not going to keep texting you. I have the feeling you've got regrets.

—No regrets, just confused. I don't know what to do.

—I want to see you again.

—I want to see you too.

—Well, at least we know that.

—I could come next weekend.

—Another meeting?

—No, but I'll tell Niklas I've got meetings.

—Don't lie like that, Laney. Say you're seeing a friend. That's the truth… technically.

—I can't just say that. He knows all of my friends in C

—Okay, Okay. Sorry. I just… I miss you. I feel like we need to explore this.

—Me too.

—I could come to Stockholm.

—No, it's easier if I come to you.

—So you'll come.

—I'll text you when I've booked my tickets.

—Don't book a hotel, stay with me.

—Easier if I book a hotel...

—No, stay with me this time.

*      *      *

We went to the countryside, Niklas and I. But being there with just the two of us no longer felt like such a brilliant idea. We drove to
Skåne early in the morning to beat the traffic, but Niklas was irritable. By the time we arrived at our house in Yngsjö, his mood was so foul I wished I'd stayed home. But I told myself to ignore it. Once we opened up the house and let some fresh air in, he would be fine. Besides, the weather was perfect for a long weekend—the sky was a perfect shade of turquoise. The waves rolled and splashed against the shoreline. I kicked off my shoes and pulled open the sliding glass door. A salty breeze swirled past me. I could see a bumblebee buzzing around the asters I'd planted. I folded my arms across my chest and stood on the wooden slats of the terrace, letting the air fill me. Behind me, Niklas muttered complaints. His sister hadn't kept the house as he liked it. He'd have to spend all weekend rearranging things so they were how liked them.

"It doesn't matter, Niklas," I called out over my shoulder. "We're only going to be here a few days. We can put it right at Christmas."

He swore, ignored me, and started moving things around in the kitchen cupboards. I shook my head. I knew I ought to help him, but I just didn't see the point. He would go behind me, changing whatever I fixed. The tension between us would pull tighter and we'd end up fighting in that way that never seemed like a fight to other people--with me simply avoiding Niklas and putting as much distance between us as possible and him pointedly glaring at me and not saying a word. Fights like that could last for days, or weeks, even. And now didn't seem like a good time to even cross into that territory.

"Should I drive to Martins
Rökeri and pick up some fish for tonight?"

He grunted a yes at me. I fished out the car keys and slid my feet into the flip-flops I always left by the front door. I didn't ask him what he wanted. I knew by heart. But the house felt suffocating. I rushed to the car and put some distance between us, following the narrow roads that took me from Yngsjö to
Åhus. It was only six kilometers away, but the distance was enough to allow me to disconnect from the tension between Niklas and me. I knew it was my fault. At least, I thought it was my fault. I'd come home from Copenhagen full of a broiling longing for Mads. There was no room in my thoughts for Niklas, and he was clued in enough to sense that some strange impasse had come.

This is temporary, I told myself, as I turned onto the narrow curving road that led to Martin’s.

It was late enough in the season that most of the summer people had returned to their normal lives in Malmö and Stockholm. The parking lot was nearly empty. Just a few cars with German license plates, one or two with Swedish plates. I parked close to the door and took a moment to enjoy the silence. Though there was the faint hum of traffic and the occasional burst of Swedish or German being spoken, there was nothing to distract from how beautiful it was in this part of Skåne. Across the creek, graceful houses lined the waterway as trees bowed beneath the weight of the late summer heat. I looked inside the small shop. A group of Germans was trying to make it clear what they wanted with the two girls behind the counter. Two older Swedes, most likely pensioners who lived in Åhus all year, waited with impatient faces that burned red.

I retraced my steps and retreated to the picnic tables by the water. I sat down, facing the water, and listening to the call of the gulls swooping overhead. Going back to the house wasn't an option. Not now, while Niklas was in a funk over things being out of place. This side of him always came out when we left Stockholm and came to either his family's summerhouse in
Skåne, or the small house we rented in the archipelago. He liked things just so. Even at home, he was this way. I tried to remember if he'd been like that when we first met. We'd spent most of our time in my small apartment in Kungsholmen. He used to call it cozy, but then one day when we reminisced about those days, he derided my old place, calling it shabby and ridiculous.

I remember being stunned. He used to say how much he preferred my apartment to the place he'd shared with Karolina. How there was nothing unnecessary cluttering it. How lived-in it felt, like a proper home. Maybe he'd only been positive because he knew he needed to sound good to keep getting me in bed. Maybe it was all part of the "courtship." Of course it was, it always was. You said and did all the right things to keep getting closer to the person. I'd been the same. I'd gone into this relationship
pretending to be more together than I really was. All I could think was "we clicked, this should be easy." I didn't know the click was just the beginning. I didn't know how awful his kids were. I didn't know about his mood swings. He didn't know how messy I could be, or how I liked to stay in bed late at the weekends and not get up early for morning jogs. All these things we discovered like a lot of other couples. But somehow it felt like our journey as a couple was full of wrong turns and dead end streets. I used to ask myself if everyone else had to deal with a partner's ex like Karolina—who could be charming in parts but was usually rude—or if the other women I knew who were second or third wives spent as much time compromising with teenagers who didn't give a flying fuck about them. Aside from Eddy and Ingrid, I didn't have anyone I trusted enough to compare notes with. And now that Mads was a part of the mix, I didn't think I could discuss it with them, either.

My phone rang, jarring me from the course my thoughts were taking. It was Niklas. "Why did you just leave?"

"I told you I was going to the smokehouse to get some fish."

"I thought you meant later."

"I'm at Martin's now," I said, not wanting to get into a discussion about the semantics of what I'd meant when I said I was going to the smokehouse for fish. "I'm just waiting for the Germans to leave."


"Is everything alright, Niklas?"

"I don't know... yeah. I suppose it depends."

"On what? Is it the kids?"

"No, it's you."

"What are you talking about?"

"I was unpacking our bags and I found some files."

"Sweetie, I told you I would take care of that."

"Why do you have files about men in your bag?"

Shit. Shit. Shit. My hands were shaking. How the fuck was I going to explain that? "It's... it was part of something I wanted to talk to you about while we're here."

"Don't be so cryptic, Laney. What's going on?"

"I don't want to talk about it over the phone," I said firmly, willing a resolve I usually never felt when Niklas and I were arguing. "But it's got to do with us and having a baby."

"My God, don't we have enough going on, Laney? Do we really have to talk about this scheme of yours this weekend?"

"I think we do. It's why we came here, isn't it?"

"I thought we came here because you wanted to have some time alone with me."

"I did. I do. And I thought we could discuss this, too. And we will. Just as soon as I pick up the fish. And I'm guessing we need some wine as well, so I'll swing by Systembolaget." Systembolaget was the state-run alcohol store. At least Åhus had one of a decent size.

"Laney, just get the fish and come home." His anger came through loud and clear. Niklas didn't shout, but his voice always sounded darker, more intense when he was losing his temper. I could imagine the tense atmosphere I'd come home to.

"Do we have wine at home?"

"I don't know. Probably not."

"Do you want wine at dinner tonight?"

"Well, yeah."

"Then I will go to Systemmet when I am done here, and then I'll come home. And then we can talk." I hung up before he could say anything else, then I turned off my phone. It was better this way. And it would give me time to figure out how to tell him about the sperm bank and using someone else's sperm to have our baby, if there was going to ever be a baby.

I came home laden with bags. One stop became seve
ral as I tried to use the time as a buffer, a way to give Niklas a chance to calm down and me a chance to come up with good excuses. In a way, I didn't need excuses—he'd said we could think about adoption, so he wasn't against the idea of us starting our own family. Sometimes, I thought the reason he was the way he was acting—especially with the vasectomy—was because, as much as he loved Siri and Jesper, their arrivals in his life marked the end of what intimacy had existed between Niklas and Karolina.

When we moved in together, our sex life was expl
osive, and then we went from having his kids once a month to every other week, and now they came and went as they pleased. We never knew which nights we'd be alone, or when Siri would show up with a new boy hanging on to her, or when Jesper would show up, wanting a gaming night with his friends because our TV was bigger than his mother's and because she refused to allow noisy, disturbing video games in her Zen-like apartment. So we were forced to accept this. I was forced to, knowing Niklas could never say no to his kids, and he still felt guilt about leaving their mother. Which I didn't understand, since she'd already left him emotionally when he finally decided to leave her.

But I did have a reason to be guilty. I'd slept with a
nother man. I couldn't stop thinking about that other man, even though I loved Niklas. And I was afraid I didn't love him enough. If I loved him enough, would I have been able to give in so easily to Mads? It wasn't as though Mads had needed to do very much to get me into bed. I was already attracted to him before I'd even spoken a word to him. I was still attracted to him. I could still taste him in my mouth and feel his phantom touch on my skin.

I steeled myself and bustled into the house, blathering about the goat's cheese I'd found at one of the local farms, and the amazing flounder and hot-smoked salmon they'd had at Martins
Rökeri. Niklas was sitting on the sofa, his head in his hands. I stopped, feeling all my excuses drain through me, and the only thing that spread through me was the slow burn of guilt. I'd done this to him. I was sure of it. I put the food and wine in the fridge, and then I went over to him and sat beside him on the sectional sofa.

"I should have told you about going to the sperm bank."

"Why do you always do this?" he demanded, keeping his body stiff. "Why can't you ever talk to me about things?"

"I needed to find out for myself what sort of options I had."

"I thought we agreed we could look into adoption."

"We didn't actually agree on anything," I reminded him. "You made it sound like it was a long shot. I figured this was something I could do, that would at least get us information."

BOOK: Maybe Baby
13.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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