Of course, it’s okay for Hazel to be quiet sometimes, but this feels different. It feels like a silence that’s full of something—a worry, a question, maybe an uncertainty.
I search my brain for something to say. I want to ask her if she knows about Emily being pregnant. I want to ask her whether she’ll stay at my house tonight, and every night after. I want to ask her to say the words one more time before she leaves for work, the quiet I love you too, you know.
She turns her luminous brown eyes up to my face. “What are you thinking?”
“I was wondering what you’re thinking,” I say with a grin.
“We have big things to discuss,” she says quietly. “Remember?”
“Still? I thought the ‘I love you’ covered it. What else is there?”
She stretches, kissing me. “You love me?”
“And you’re free tonight?”
I run my hands down her body. “You don’t want to talk now, while you get ready?”
She shakes her head and it drags her lips across mine, back and forth. “Tonight.” With a smile, she steps back and turns to walk to her bedroom.
There’s a stack of mail on the counter, a Harry Potter coloring book, and a receipt under a pile of change. Three letters stand out to me.
Nothing sinks in right away, but the letters are like a dissonant chime. Almost distractedly, I lean in, pushing aside a quarter to read the entire line.
e.p.t. first respo … 5 @ $8.99 ea
Pregnancy tests? Did Hazel buy the tests for Emily?
Confusion laces my thoughts together, but my heart starts pounding pounding pounding as the row of dominoes tumbles.
The blood last night. Hazel’s panic. Big things we need to discuss tonight.
My eyes snag on the dark corner of a photo under her keys. I’ve never held one of these, but I know what it is.
When I pull the ultrasound photo free, I already know what I’m going to see, but it knocks the breath out of my chest anyway.
And, in the very center, a round body, a head, two tiny buds for arms, two tiny buds for legs.
My own legs nearly give out and I sit heavily on the bar-stool, staring at the photo in my hand. I know Hazel hasn’t slept with anyone but me in … well, a long time. And the first night we had sex—drunk sex, floor sex, I might be falling for you sex—was two months ago.
Emily isn’t pregnant—Hazel is. She’s been pregnant this entire time, and we had no idea.
I stand, unsteady, and put the photo back beneath her keys, tilting my face to the ceiling. It isn’t panic. It isn’t dread. It’s shock—yes, definitely this is a surprise—but … I close my eyes and I can see it. I can see Hazel pregnant. Can see how it would feel to crawl into bed next to her, put my head on her belly and listen. I can see my parents losing their minds, Emily going overboard with gifts. In this moment, with these thoughts running wild through my brain, I grow nearly light-headed. And I understand completely Hazel’s panic last night.
Holy shit, she was bleeding.
I come up behind her while she’s brushing her hair and balance my shaking hands on her hips.
“Hey, you.” She leans back into me and then turns in my arms, stretching to kiss me.
Shock has left a metallic tang in my mouth and numbs me, making me feel like my hands aren’t mine. “I want to go with you this morning.”
Her face furrows in confusion. “To school?”
“To the doctor.”
She shakes her head. “You don’t need to do that. I know you have a busy morning, too. It’s just routine—”
“I want to be there.” I think my choice of words jogs something in her, because when her eyes meet mine, she searches for confirmation there. Reaching up, she cups my face in her hands, her gaze flickering back and forth between my eyes. “Don’t you think I should be there?” I ask.
She swallows, and her eyes are soft with guilt. “You know?”
“The ultrasound was on the counter.”
At this, her face absolutely crumples. It hurts, the answering reaction in my chest. It’s like being punched. I pull her to me, cupping her head and holding her as she breaks.
“It’s okay, Haze.”
She hiccups, pressing her face to my neck. “I just found out on Monday.”
Two days ago. That must have been where Emily was—she was at the doctor with Hazel.
“I saw the tests at Em’s house,” I tell her. “Actually, I thought she was pregnant.”
When she flattens her palms against my bare back, I can tell they’re shaking. “I was going to tell you.”
Her sob rips through me. “I wanted it to be a happy moment.”
“It still can be. We just need to make sure you’re okay.”
“They said bleeding can be normal, but … I’m so scared something happened.” Another sob breaks her voice on the last word. “I’m already in love with this little monster, and I’m so scared, Josh.”
I’ve barely processed what’s going on, but already my panic seems to swallow the words forming in my brain. “Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it, okay?” I pause, and I’m terrified of the answer to the next question. “Are you still bleeding?”
My heart drops, and I tighten my arms around her, catching my reflection in the mirror. I look wild. Hair a mess, eyes wide and bloodshot. My mouth is a harsh frown, my pulse is a hollow echo in my throat.
Beside me, Hazel’s knee bounces up and down. I reach over, placing a calming hand there.
“I’m going to chew my nails off,” she whispers. Her eyes are fixated across the waiting room on the generic watercolor painting of a bouquet of flowers.
I reach up, coaxing her hand back down and into mine. My heart is lodged somewhere in my throat; it seems like we could both use an anchor.
To fall in love, to be loved. The reality that we are together now is enough by itself to make my breath grow tight and hot in my chest. And to be here, with an ultrasound photo clutched in my hand … The mind, it reels.
But this is Hazel. We’re so much bigger than this moment, no matter what happens behind the wide white door leading into the exam rooms. Is it weird to think I’ve known for years that we would somehow end up here? Or is hindsight just the most convenient explanation for coincidence?
I squeeze her hand and she looks up at me, expression tight.
“You know,” I say, giving her the most genuine smile I can muster, “no matter what happens back there, we’ll be okay.”
“I knew I wanted kids, but I don’t think I realized how much until this happened.”
“We may not have seventeen, but we’ll get there.”
She laughs. “I’m going to win you over.”
“You will never win me over to seventeen children.” She growls when I say this, so I add in a compromise: “But how about this: after the appointment, we’ll go get milkshakes.”
“Cherry,” she says. “No. Wait. Cookies and cream.”
“One of each.”
Finally, I get a true Hazel smile. “You know what I keep repeating over and over in my head?”
“ ‘I love Josh Im more than I’ve loved anything in my life.’ ” She bites her lip. “Don’t tell Winnie.”
I lean forward and rest my lips on hers. Against my mouth, she’s soft, shaking a little. The kiss angles, and my hand comes up to her neck, where my fingers find her pulse drilling against her skin. I could get lost in the way she leans into me, I could drown in the feel of her. But then the wide door opens, and her name is called.
When Hazel comes bounding down the front steps, she’s wearing orange tights, a black miniskirt, and a purple tank top. Her bun is hidden beneath a giant, wobbly witch’s hat. In the light from the porch, she’s nearly glowing.
I glance down at my own outfit—black shirt, jeans, sneakers—and then back up again. “I feel like I missed an important text today.”