someone else’s story

Picture this.

You start a new job. One of your coworkers is nice, sort of cute, but you don’t think much of it. You think he might be married.

As time goes by, you work together a little more, pass in the hall. Make small talk in the elevator. You still don’t think much of it.

Once you know him a little better, he tells you that he’s getting a divorce. He’s moved in with some friends. He’s tried working things out, but it’s over. You feel badly for him.

He gets a different job closer to where he’s living. You keep in touch.

One day, he calls and asks you out. You tell him you’re not sure if that’s a good idea. He’s still married. He should try to work on his marriage. He tells you that he wants the divorce. She wants the divorce. All they’re waiting on is paperwork. They have a child, so things take longer: custody, visitation, money.

You agree to go out, but as friends, you say. And you do, only as friends. You become closer. He’s nice and it’s comfortable and you like him against your better judgement. He’s been separated for a while. It’s just courts and paperwork and red tape that are keeping him married.

You finally kiss, after months of being friends. It feels right. He comes over nearly every night after that. He stays the night. You don’t go to his place because he’s still living with friends, and it’s so far away. You don’t think it seems unreasonable. You take trips together. You have fun together, learn about each other. Your relationship grows.

A year goes by. You worry about his divorce. It’s so complicated. So much paperwork. She’s contesting this, changing that. Visitation is being worked out. It’s all so much. It all takes time. You trust him. By now, you love him. He loves you.

One day, you feel queasy. You throw up. And the next day. You’re not sick. You take a pregnancy test. You take three pregnancy tests. You’re pregnant. You’re on the pill. Doesn’t matter. You’re having a baby.

You tell him. He’s happy. He wants to move in, be there for the pregnancy, as the baby grows inside you. He wants to raise the baby together. Marriage? Yes. Soon his divorce will be final.

You go apartment hunting together. You find a place he likes, big enough for you and him and the baby. He writes a check for the deposit. He pays movers to move your things. He doesn’t move in. He’ll move in next month. He just has to arrange things. He doesn’t move in the next month.

He stops coming over. He never stays the night. He barely calls you. He doesn’t answer when you call. You feel alone. You have a baby inside your belly and he’s not there to feel her kick. He’s not there when you see your baby for the first time on the ultrasound. He’s not there for the childbirth classes you take every Saturday.

Did finding out about the baby freak him out more than he let on? Will he come around? Will your baby have a father? You ask him when he’s moving in. He says that he signed a lease on a place near his work. He was planning to tell you.

So, you lug up the groceries and you shop for baby clothes and you sing to your daughter, and you don’t hear from him.

You know it’s over, but what about her? You want your baby to have a father. You’re heartbroken, but you know you have to be strong. You concentrate on her and being a mother.

He wants to be there when she’s born. Call him. He’ll take you to the hospital. You wake up at 4am. Your water has broke. You call him. His phone is turned off. What can you do? You leave a message and call your mom. She brings you to the hospital. Labor is hard.

Just before your beautiful daughter is born, he arrives. He holds your hand, he strokes your hair, he holds his baby. Then he leaves. You don’t hear from him again for a week.

You get to know your new daughter alone. You see how she sleeps, how she’s hungry all the time, how she likes to wave around her arms. She’s so tiny. You’re tired and you hurt but you love her very much already. You feed her and sleep and feel her warmth on your chest.

One week after her birthday, he calls. He and his wife are working on their marriage. They were never separated. He never moved out. He never planned to move out. He didn’t want to tell you but his wife knows about the baby. She wants to meet the baby, the sister to her own daughter.

You are devastated. How could you not know? How could you end up in a situation like this? Were you naive? Gullible? Blind? What has happened to your life.

His wife calls you. She knows he has affairs. It’s his vice. She’s been married to him for a long time. She’s used to it. You don’t know what to say. You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to talk to her anymore.

This is not the end of the story.

Your daughter will grow up without a father. You walk with her alone. You give her her first bath alone. You take care of her and sleep with her at night. This isn’t how you thought it would be, how you thought your life would be. But you’re grateful for your little girl, who is so smart and beautiful and laughs all the time. She looks like her father. Will she ever know that?

This is not my story. This is someone else’s story. Could this be my story? Could this be your story? Would I be so trusting? Would I be suspicious? Would I ignore my heart and never get involved at all? It’s easy to say in hindsight, but what about what when I didn’t know? When I thought things were entirely different than the way they turned out to be?

This is the way life goes.

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