Read Maybe Baby Online

Authors: Kim Golden

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

Maybe Baby (9 page)

BOOK: Maybe Baby
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I just didn't know how much longer I could be with him.

In the morning, my body was stiff from having slept in the same position too long. Niklas was already awake. I could hear him in the kitchen, starting the coffee maker. I stretched, trying to revive my stubborn muscles and bring some life back to this old body of mine. My ankles cracked, my shoulders creaked. I hadn't expected my body to be so noisy when I was only thirty-three. These were the sounds of my mother's body, my grandmother's body—not my body. I shuddered to think what it would sound like when I was forty or fifty.

Niklas appeared in the doorway.
"I've started coffee. Shall I pop down to Brunkeberg's Bakery and get some bread for us?"

A cozy feeling of warmth swept over me.
"Thanks, Nicke. Maybe I'll work from home today."

"
You should. We had a long drive, and then all that damned cleaning yesterday. By the way, I called the cleaning service. They're sending someone over this afternoon to take care of the rest of the mess."

"
That sounds perfect. I don't think I could stomach scouring the apartment for more half-full beer cans and used condoms."

"
I still can't believe they left the apartment in such a state. Siri knows better. Jeppe too."

I nodded in agreement, but the truth of the matter was that neither of them gave a flying fuck about any rules Niklas tried to enforce. They pretended to listen
and respect his wishes, and then continued doing whatever it was he'd asked them not to do. It had been this way for the last five years. I didn't see how one more angry lecture would change anything.

But I tried to show my support by suggesting,
"It might help if you make them understand the weight of their actions. You could always take a page from my father's book and make them pay for whatever it is they've done. Make them pay for the cleaning service this time. You know how much they hate spending their own money on other people."

"
That might just work. Thanks, babe." He flashed a brilliant smile at me, and then he headed down the hallway. A few moments later, the front door opened and then slammed shut. I was sitting up now, my feet dangling over the edge of the bed as I contemplated what to do with my day. I could work from home. It would be nice not to be in the office, to have the serenity of my home office and work relatively undisturbed.

I slipped into my bathrobe and padded down the hallway. My handbag was where I'd left it, on the floor in the hall by my sandals. But when I looked inside it, my phone wasn't there. I went back to the bedroom, still no sign of my phone. Shit... where had I put it last night? I went through the entire apartment, even Siri's room but I couldn't find it. That's when the panic building in me came to an ugly head. Fuck—what if Niklas found my phone? What if he was scrolling through all of my me
ssages now? I dumped out my bag on the couch and checked every pocket. Nothing. I checked all the bedrooms again--still nothing. Shit, shit, shit... I was still searching the apartment when Niklas returned.

"
What's wrong?" he asked as he unpacked the bread and fruit he'd picked up.

"
I can't find my phone."

"
Did you leave it in the car last night?"

"
I don't know."

"
I'll head back down and check."

"
No, I'll do it—" but he was already out of the door.

Please let my phone not be in the car. All I could think was what if Mads had left a message and Niklas saw it. This was getting too dangerously close. But I needed to calm down. I went in the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee. Niklas made his coffee Swedish-style: robust and flavorful. He was pretty picky about his coffee and bought it from a special coffee and tea sp
ecialist on Odengatan that roasted its own beans. I wasn't certain it tasted any better than the Gevalia or Löfbergs Lila we bought at the supermarket, but he was convinced there was a difference. I added milk to mine, but Niklas always drank his black. I ended up setting out everything we needed for our breakfast: the crusty sourdough bread he'd bought, cheese and cold cuts, tomatoes and marmalade. But I couldn't eat. Not until I knew where my phone was. I listened out for Niklas. It was at least another fifteen minutes before he finally returned, my phone in his hand. He set it down on the kitchen island. The expression on his face was grim.

"
Looks like you've got some missed calls," he said without looking at me. "And your battery's nearly dead. You should charge it."

"
Okay. Thanks for finding it for me." I went over to him and kissed his cheek. "Where was it?"

"
On the floor, under the passenger seat." His jaw had gone tight. He rested his hands on the marble island top. "Babe, who's Mads?"

"
One of my new colleagues." The lie came too easily. I tried to remember if I'd deleted the first set of messages he'd sent me. I thought I had but I wasn't sure. "He's from the Copenhagen office."

Niklas nodded slowly.
"So it's not the donor?"

"
What? What are you talking about?"

"
One of the donors. I saw it in his file. His name was Mads."

"
This is a completely different Mads. I think it's a pretty common name in Denmark."

He nodded again.
"When did you say you were going to Copenhagen again?"

"
Probably later this week. We've got to present some ideas to our client." This was at least partly true. Marius, the art director I worked with, was supposed to present our latest ideas. I didn't really need to be there, but I'd already decided I was going.

"
Maybe I should meet you there," Niklas said as he picked up the bread knife. He grabbed the loaf of bread and began slicing off thick slices for his sandwich. "We could go to that clinic and I could meet your... what was she called?"

"
Client services specialist," I offered. I scrounged through the catchall drawer, looking for the extra iPhone charger we kept there. "I could book a time for us with Ida."

Niklas checked the calendar on his own iPhone.
"No, this weekend is no good. I'm going to a CBT seminar in Uppsala. Damn."

"
We could always go together next weekend." I didn't want this, but I was trapped and I just went along with it. "We could visit Anton and Ingrid."

"
We should do that." But he'd become distracted by something on his phone.

"
Nicke? Should I book tickets?"

"
I don't know. I need to check my other calendar."

I plugged in my phone and deleted any remaining messages from Mads. I couldn't take any further chan
ces. After today, I knew I would have to be more on the ball. No more leaving my phone around. If I was going to continue seeing Mads, if I was going to cheat, I had to think like a cheater and know I could be caught out at any moment.

*      *      *

We ate breakfast together without speaking. We'd reverted to our usual habit of reading the newspaper—I read the culture section, he read the main section. Every now and then I felt his eyes on me. What was he thinking? Sometimes I smiled at him, and he'd smile back. But once I glanced up and the expression on his face was tense and tight. He blinked quickly, then glanced away, but the tension remained. He wasn't sure he could trust me anymore. And I didn't blame him.

I went through the rest of the day answering email, revising copy for the indecisive cosmetics company, whose global launch for a new lipstick we were handling. They were one of our biggest clients, and they were also one of our most annoying clients. They never seemed to be able to make up their mind about anything. We'd get them on board with a campaign and two days later they'd get cold feet. It was par for the course but it still annoyed the hell out of all of us. But it was my job. So I revised the tagline for the twentieth time. I wrote anot
her version of the press release, announcing their choice of Noomi Rapace as their new spokesmodel for their Bold Impact Color Range. I did everything I could think of that would keep me busy enough to not call Mads or send him an email. I was glad I hadn't befriended him on Facebook. Niklas always claimed he didn't care about social media, but he had an account there so he could keep an eye on Jesper and Siri. In my office, with the door firmly closed, I could stay focused and write what needed to be written, have the telephone meetings that needed to be conducted.

The only thing I couldn't do was stop thinking about Mads.

The file folders were on my desk again. Niklas had put them there last night. Mads's folder was on top. I opened it and read his profile again. The photographs of him didn't do him justice. In the photos, his square jaw looked heavy and out of proportion, his nose almost too off-center. His eyes were almost colorless. But in person, he was so beautiful, so sexy. And his voice hit me at the base of my spine. It was rough, deep. If I closed my eyes and concentrated long enough, I could just hear him saying my name. And it was a little frightening that I could want him and still be afraid of leaving Niklas. Because I knew I was one of those lucky women. I had a de facto husband who was good to me, who tried to make me happy, whose faults weren't so awful that I couldn't live with them. But I couldn't help thinking that, in some way, we were even. He'd cheated on me with Karolina and I'd forgiven him. Sometimes the truce wobbled, but we'd recovered.

And I was willing to jeopardize it to taste something, someone, new.

 

I used the arrival of the cleaning service as an excuse to go out. I made sure I took my phone, sliding it into the inner pocket of my handbag as I walked towards the door. Niklas was in the living room, tapping away on his iPad. He barely looked up as he asked,
"Are you going to be out long?"

I paused just at the door.
"I don't think so. I'm meeting Eddy for a drink."

"
Ah. Well, give my regards to your lovely cousin."

"
Are we going out for dinner tonight?"

"
No, Jeppe's coming over, so I thought we could go out some other time."

"
Maybe I'll have dinner with Eddy, then. Give you two some time alone."

"
Laney, I'd like it if you were here with us." Niklas finally lowered his tablet. He leveled a stern look at me. "You haven't seen Jesper in two weeks."

"
I thought you'd want some father-son time, alone," I said, blanketing my irritation with a falsely bright smile. A part of me said I ought to be there. At least his son and I got along when Siri wasn't around. "I'll be back by around six-thirty or seven," I told him. "Are we eating here or going out?"

Monday was usually our Date Night, the one night a week when we let someone else cook for us, or we walked to the Grand on
Sveavägen to catch a film and then have a drink afterwards. We'd agreed on it after the hiccup with Karolina. It was supposed to be our way of reconnecting, and it worked for a while.

"
I'm cooking," Niklas said. "Maybe you and I can go out tomorrow."

"
All right. I'll be back in a bit."

Then I made my escape down the birdcage-style el
evator. I told myself I needed fresh air. I needed to move since I'd been stuck behind my desk all day. Really, I needed a break from the tension in the apartment. Ever since Niklas found my phone, he'd been keeping his distance in a far too obvious manner. I wasn't used to this from him. He wasn't usually the sort of person who withheld affection. And, generally, when I worked from home, he found excuses to distract me. He'd suddenly feel the need to take a nap on the IKEA sofa in my office, or he'd realize now was the time to read a book I'd recommended to him—a book that just happened to be in the bookcase behind my desk. Today, he’d stayed away, sequestered in the room he'd made into his office. I wanted the calm again. The only way I could have it back would be to forget about Mads and focus on making things better with Niklas. God, I needed advice....

So I headed to Eddy. She was my oracle for anything to do with relationships. I didn't have a sister I could call. And moving to Sweden hadn't done much to pr
eserve the friendships I'd had. I'd lost touch with so many people simply because of distance. But I'd also learned not to put much faith in holding on to acquaintances. I only had Ingrid, Anton, and Eddy as the people who were the touchstones in my life. And Eddy was pretty much the only family I had.

I needed Eddy to guide me through this love disaster I'd created.

*      *      *

Sometimes, when I walked out of our apartment building, I imagined being spirited away—by my restlessness, my inability to connect with Niklas on a deeper level, by anything—and finding myself in another life. The life I had in Stockholm was nothing like my life in the United States. I'd grown up on the periphery of a rough neighborhood in West Philadelphia. My neighbors weren't bankers and artists. They were the descendants of the Great Migration, men and women who'd come north looking for work and for dreams, and were met with the realization that the whites of the north hated them just as much as their southern counterparts. And whatever dreams they'd had of a better life, of picket fences and making something of themselves, were swallowed and worn down by working two jobs to make ends meet.

BOOK: Maybe Baby
7.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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