Nate went to check on Nova, and I slipped into the bathroom.
The premiere was tomorrow night, and the nerves were starting. They were mingling with the after-daze of what Nate and I just did, but they were there. They were starting to prickle and tingle, and I smoothed a hand over my stomach, trying to push them out of me. It was an imagery technique. I was gathering them, sorting them out of the happiness Nate just made me feel, and once I pulled them all together, I imagined I was wrapping them up in a net, and then I was moving the net up through my stomach, up my throat, up, and out of my mouth and then I was removing them from my body. All of them. I wasn’t letting one stay inside, and it worked.
I felt better.
They’d start again, but I’d shut down my mind and do that all over again.
It’s how I handled show days. I got nervous every time. I’d just forgotten how bad the nerves could get.
“Hey.” Nate came into the bathroom, Nova in his arms.
She saw me and held her hands out. “Mama.”
I froze. My heart was in my throat.
I looked at Nate, and he was just as surprised, but a slow smile spread over his face. “She called me Dada the other week.”
“Are you serious?”
Why hadn’t he told me?
“Mama!” Nova shrieked, throwing her body toward me.
Nate had her, but he moved in closer so I could take her. I was half-dressed, and I didn’t care. Nova nuzzled into me. I was melting all over again. Resting my cheek on top of her head, I smoothed a hand down her back. Nate had changed her for the day, and she smelled so good.
Take that, nerves. I got a ‘Mama’ today.
I pressed a kiss to her head, trailing my fingers through her hair.
Nate’s smile softened, taking us both in. “I was going to ask your schedule for the day.”
I rested my cheek back against Nova’s head. She was in a cuddly mood this morning.
Everything was golden and rainbows today.
It was going to be a great day.
I told him, “We have rehearsals all day today.” I wrapped my arms tighter around Nova and began rocking back and forth.
I could’ve held her all day.
I didn’t want to go in today.
I didn’t want to let her go.
“I was thinking we could do lunch today? Could you get time off to meet with me?”
My heart skipped a beat. “You’d do that?”
But why wouldn’t he? He’d already done so much for me. The hotel. Fighting for me. Why was I surprised?
Because you’re basking in happiness, and you know it won’t last.
No! I froze, hearing my own thoughts attacking me.
Nate nodded, dipping back into the bedroom.
He came back a moment later, his clothes with him. He put them on the counter and started to strip, heading for the shower. He turned the water on, testing it before glancing back at me.
He hadn’t taken his sweats off, and I was waiting.
He doesn’t love you. He told you himself.
I tensed, but Nate caught my look. He grinned, his eyes darkening, and I forced myself to relax.
Then he said, “I want to talk to you about something.”
The mood deflated after that statement. I felt the serious undercurrents from him, and I knew. I had known.
No, no, no. I wanted to hold Nova tighter to me.
I didn’t want to lose this, any of this. Her. Him. Me. All three of us being here together.
I couldn’t, but I saw his eyes. He was serious, and he was giving me a sobering look.
A gnawing dread started to fill me.
“Yeah?” My throat was scratchy.
Nova felt my tension and started to wiggle around.
She wanted to get free, but I held her for a moment longer. I couldn’t take these moments for granted.
When she moved around like a worm, I knew my time was done, and I knelt, letting her to the floor.
She started for the shower.
I kept a hand, pulling her back.
Nate moved to block her. “But not now. I just want to reserve a time with you to talk.”
Suddenly, I didn’t want to talk.
The dread was rising, spreading. It was reactivating my nerves for tomorrow at the same time until I was a mess of bad feelings twisting like a tornado inside of me.
I felt the ground beneath me start to shake. It was going to fall out.
I knew it. I just knew it.
It’s been too good.
I bent down and swept Nova back up in my arms. I pushed that thought away. I’d literally just got rid of my negative thoughts, but I couldn’t stop the prick of ice in my stomach.
Too good for too long.
Nova started crying, grabbing for my hair, and pushing away from me at the same time.
Nothing good lasts for you.
I was thinking and trying to ignore myself at the same time.
“Since I have the show tomorrow, can we talk after?” I was trying to shut my brain off, and I glanced at Nate as I asked this.
A whole other chill went through me at his look.
Nate had gone completely still.
He told you he doesn’t love you, but he knows how you feel. It’s time. He’s going to end things.
I felt exposed.
It was a matter of time before you lost him, too.
I turned, Nova still fighting to get free. “I need to feed her.”
He nodded, not saying a word.
I left it like that, feeling…
The day started out so good. How could it turn so drastic, so quick?
Maybe it hadn’t. Maybe I was imagining all of it?
Yes. I was.
I must be.
I didn’t know, and I didn’t like that I didn’t know.
I couldn’t lose them, either of them.
That’s all I did know.
I couldn’t lose them...
“He said he wanted to talk?”
I was filling Ricci in on one of my breaks. I had my Bluetooth in my ear, and she was on my phone.
Nate texted earlier, saying he needed to postpone the lunch visit. It’d been a suggestion, and I never confirmed, so I was calling Ricci because I didn’t know how I felt about it.
“What happened after that?”
“Nothing.” I was weaving through some other dancers in the hallway. “I was feeding Nova, and then Emily came, and the moment kinda passed.”