In the emergency room, Riley explains to the triage nurse that I’m about twelve weeks pregnant and I started bleeding and cramping. I can tell from the nurse’s face that she thinks I’m miscarrying. She even asks, “When did the miscarriage symptoms start?” I can’t bring myself to answer. Riley does most of the talking for me.
They make me sit down in a wheelchair of my own, and for a second, it’s a little awkward that Riley and I are both sitting in wheelchairs. But then a second later, they whisk me away to a private room, Riley wheeling close behind. The nurse tells me that a doctor will be in soon to do an ultrasound to look for “retained fetal parts.” When she says that, I almost start to cry. Funny how I could go from being on top of the world this morning to… this.
Riley helps me put on the hospital gown. Funny how I could feel so comfortable being half-naked in front of a man who isn’t my husband. He tucks me under the covers, and sits by my bedside, gripping my hand in his. “You’re going to be okay.”
“I’m going to lose the baby,” I whisper.
“Maybe not,” he says, although he doesn’t sound like he believes it.
Riley leans over and kisses my hand. I know I have to tell him what I found out this morning. I have to tell someone. “Walt and Jill have been having an affair.”
He stares at me. “What?”
“I found out this morning,” I explain. “Well, actually, I found out a month ago. But then I found out again this morning.”
“Christ,” Riley breathes.
“So you didn’t know?”
He shakes his head. “I had my suspicions, but… I really never thought Jill would do that to you.”
“Yeah, me either.” I give his hand a squeeze. “Also… my memory came back.”
“Are you serious?” Riley’s hazel eyes widen.
“Yes. It’s still a little hazy, but… yes.”
Riley looks like he’s going to say something, but at that moment, a young man in a white coat comes into the room wheeling a large white machine. My chest fills with dread.
“I’m Dr. Burnett,” the man says as he flips a switch to turn the machine on. “I hear you’re having some cramping and bleeding.”
“Yes,” I manage.
“Have you passed any fetal material?”
My eyes well up with tears. “No…”
“It all just started maybe half an hour ago,” Riley speaks up.
Dr. Burnett looks Riley up and down, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the wheelchair. “Are you the father?” he asks.
Riley’s cheeks turn slightly pink. “Yes.”
Thankfully, the doctor doesn’t comment further. He lifts my gown up, and places the ultrasound probe on my stomach. The gel feels cold and I jump slightly. Riley gives my hand a squeeze.
I watch Dr. Burnett’s expression. He’s frowning, which seems like it must be bad, but I’m afraid to ask. Riley says, “What do you see?”
“There’s a heartbeat,” the doctor says.
A heartbeat. The baby is alive. Alive and its heart is beating inside me.
I’ve managed to keep from sobbing until now, but this is just too much. I start to cry, loud gasping sobs that are clearly making Dr. Burnett kind of uncomfortable. Riley holds my hand and strokes my face, trying to calm me down.
“So, Doctor,” he says. “Do you know what caused the bleeding?”
“Looks like a subchorionic hematoma,” Dr. Burnett says. “Basically, it’s some blood under the placenta. There is a higher risk of miscarriage, but for now, everything looks pretty okay. I’d just take it easy for a while, Mrs. McDaniels.”
I clutch my belly. The baby’s okay for now, but there’s a danger. I know I have to do everything in my power to protect this pregnancy, and when I look at Riley, I know he’s going to do the same thing.
I have every intention of leaving this hospital, going home to pack a few bags, and then never returning home, but at that moment, Walt comes into the room. He looks breathless. “Margaret,” he says. “The hospital called me. What happened?”
Nobody says anything. Wow, this is really awkward. Walt looks down at Riley and his face darkens. “What the fuck are you doing here, Samuels?”
“I brought her here,” Riley says. I can tell he’s not sure how much he should reveal.
Dr. Burnett looks flummoxed. He looks from Riley to Walt, and finally says, “Who are you?”
“I’m her husband,” Walt says, looking furious.
“But she said…” Dr. Burnett stares back at Riley, understanding dawning in his eyes. This is probably a new one for him. Why would I be cheating on my handsome able-bodied husband with a guy in a wheelchair? Seems like it ought to be the other way around.
“Get out,” Walt says to Riley. “I’m Margaret’s husband and her emergency contact. You have no business being here. You’re not family, you’re not a friend—you’re nothing.”
“I’m not leaving,” Riley says through his teeth. He looks at me. “Tell him, Maggie.”
My heart starts to pound. This can’t be good for the baby. “I’m pregnant.”
“You’re…” Walt’s face darkens. He stares at Riley, his complexion turning purple like it did when I first told him. Then he looks over at the doctor, who is staring at us like he’s watching a particularly interesting soap opera unfold. He takes deep breaths, trying to control himself, then plasters a big smile on his face. “Wow. What… fantastic news! I’m so happy, Margaret! After all this time, we’re finally… blessed with a baby!”
There’s an awkward silence in the room. Finally, Riley says, “You can drop the act, Walt. We all know the baby isn’t yours.”
Walt is practically a chameleon the way he keeps changing color. His face is now bright red. “Why isn’t it mine? Whose do you think it is? Yours?” He snorts. “I mean, can you even have sex?”
“Fuck you,” Riley says.
“Is that what you’re trying to tell me?” Walt goes on. His left eye is twitching slightly now. “That you fucked my wife? I hope that’s not what you’re telling me, because then I’d have to kick your ass.”
Riley’s eyes widen. He grabs the wheels of his chair and propels himself forward. “I’d like to see you try, asshole.”
“No,” Dr. Burnett says, anxiously stepping between them. “Nobody is going to... to kick anyone’s ass. Settle down, gentlemen. Otherwise I’m going to have to speak with the police officer outside.”
Riley and Walt eye each other for a minute before reluctantly backing off. I breathe a sigh of relief, although to be honest, it would have been a little bit sexy to watch them fight. I wonder who would have won.
“You’re really lucky the doctor protected you,” Walt sneers at Riley.
“No, you’re really lucky,” Riley says. “You don’t have to endure the embarrassment of having your ass kicked by a cripple.”
I see Walt’s hands ball up into fists, but his lawyer’s brain is probably thinking about assault charges in front of two witnesses, so he doesn’t move forward. Now that physical violence is out of the question, he fixes his gaze on me. “You’re going to be really sorry if you go through with this, Margaret,” he says. I don’t know what exactly he means by “this.” Does he expect me to have an abortion? Because that sure ain’t going to happen. “If you leave me for him, I’ll destroy you in court. I promise you that. They don’t look kindly on adultery.”
Riley looks like he’s about to say something, but I shake my head at him and he shuts his mouth. “Adultery?” I say to Walt. “You mean like the way you had sex with my best friend in my own bed?”
Walt’s mouth falls open. He looks at Riley accusingly. “Who told you that lie?”
“Nobody told me,” I say calmly. “I walked in on you.”
Walt is sputtering now. “But... you didn’t... your memory...”
“My memory came back,” I say, enjoying the look on his face. “All of it.”
The room is so silent, I can hear Dr. Burnett breathing. Walt stares at me for a few moments, then his shoulders sag. He hangs his head. “I’m sorry, Margaret.”
I nod, acknowledging that I heard his apology but I’m in no way ready to forgive him. I feel a warm calloused hand lace into mine and I see Riley positioned protectively at my side. Walt bites his lip, lingering at the door for another few seconds, then, without another word, he exits my life forever.
Two Months Later
“Do you want to know?”
I say “no” at the same time Riley says “yes.” I stare at him, exasperated. “We agreed we weren’t going to find out.”
“I don’t remember agreeing to that,” Riley says, blinking innocently.
The technician pauses with her hand on the ultrasound probe. She looks between the two of us. “Well, do you want to know the gender or don’t you?”
I’m in the middle of my second trimester ultrasound. The tech has demonstrated a perfect little head, a perfect spinal cord, ten perfect little toes, and ten perfect little fingers. The baby is, as far as we can tell, perfect. After that one episode of bleeding, I had one other, a week later. It happened at Riley’s house. He made me go straight to bed, where he held my hand and stroked my hair until the bleeding stopped. And since then, everything has gone pretty smoothly. Amazingly.
“We do,” Riley says.
“No, we don’t!” I shriek.
The tech puts one hand on her hip. “You know, most couples decide this before the ultrasound.”
“We did decide.” I look at Riley accusingly.
Riley shifts in his wheelchair. The ultrasound room is tiny and there was just barely room for him to squeeze in next to the table where I’m lying with my stomach bared. I could tell the tech was thrown off by his disability, that they didn’t often get dads in wheelchairs.
“You decided,” Riley says. “I still think we should find out.”
“I want it to be a surprise.”
“It will be a surprise,” he points out. “It will just be a surprise now instead of four months from now.”
I sigh. Riley can sometimes be maddening to argue with. I thought he’d given in last night. We were lying in bed, both really excited about the ultrasound today. I’d had my amniocentesis earlier and declined to find out the gender of the baby at that time, and I thought that was the end of it. But Riley really wanted to know. At one point, he asked my belly whether it was a boy or a girl, then put his ear to my belly button, waiting for a response. The baby allegedly kicked him in the head, which I took as a sign.
Riley takes my left hand in his. “Come on, Maggie. Let’s just find out.”
I’m not wearing my wedding or engagement rings anymore. My divorce with Walt isn’t final yet, but I removed the rings after I came home from the hospital two months ago. Riley’s fingers are free of rings as well—we can’t do anything about the fact that we’re not married yet until my divorce comes through. Riley can’t wait. He’s mapping out paths to the courthouse to get our wedding license the very second I’m single again. He really wants us to be married before the baby comes, as do I.
Walt, believe it or not, has been pretty good about the whole thing. Considering I left him for a paraplegic, you’d think his pride would be severely wounded and he’d want to get some serious payback. But he doesn’t. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Jill was all too eager to testify in court that she and Walt had an affair. Or maybe he was ashamed of what he’d done. In any case, Walt and I split our joint bank account, and the proceeds from the sale of our house. No haggling.
“Fine,” Riley grumbles. “If you’re not going to let her tell us, I’m going to read the ultrasound myself.” He wheels closer to the screen. “Yes, yes… I know what this… of course, of course…”
I smack him in the arm. “Shut-up. You do not.”
“I do,” he insists. “I took an ultrasound-reading course for this very purpose.”
I look at Riley, pretending to read the ultrasound screen (he definitely can’t). I think about how he protected me and the baby right after the accident. How he’s taken care of me, making sure I didn’t have to lift even a finger on the days I was bleeding. I know he’s going to be a great dad. And if he really wants to know the gender, I think he deserves it.
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s find out.”
Riley’s eyes widen. “Seriously?”
“Yes. I really want to.”
He scratches his black hair. “Actually, I changed my mind. Let’s make it a surprise.”
“Riley, I swear to God…”
“Okay, okay…” He grins up at the tech. “Girl or boy?”
The tech looks at the screen one last time, as if to confirm. “It’s a girl.”
Riley and I stare at each other in amazement. “A girl,” he breathes. “Wow…”
I smile at him. “Was that what you were hoping for?”
“I have no idea what I was hoping for…” He smiles back. “But girls are awesome.”
“I’m going to teach her to juggle, you know.”
“You most certainly are not.”
“Oh, I most certainly am.”
“She’s never going to want to do that.”
“Of course she will. It’s the best way to meet cool guys.”
“Yeah, right. ‘Cool’ guys.”
“Maggie! What are you saying?!”
The tech has lifted the ultrasound probe off my belly, and I lean over to cup Riley’s face in my hands. I can’t believe I ever told this guy that he wasn’t my type (twice). He’s the sexiest, cutest, sweetest guy I’ve ever known. I can’t believe the two of us are going to have a baby girl together. It’s amazing. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
Today is the best day of my life.