I waited for her nod and as soon as I got it, as soon as I knew she understood I wasn’t shutting her out—I just needed space—I turned on my heel and started walking, almost running, toward the castle.
Somehow a thirty-minute walk was over in a flash. I was buying my ticket into the castle, I was hoofing up Lang stairs, and striding up onto the elevated section of Edinburgh castle where St. Margaret’s Chapel was situated. And right outside the chapel was my place.
My place with the canon, Mons Meg, and the best view of Edinburgh.
I leaned against the cannon for a moment, ignoring the tourists who were trying to get a photograph of it. Feeling its cool cast iron under my hand, I drew in a deep breath.
I was going to be a mom.
Limbs still quivering like a mess of jelly, I walked over to the parapet, leaned my elbows on the wall, and gazed out over my home.
Here was where I found my calm. For whatever reason, this place on Castle Hill allowed me to sort out my feelings, to process them, to deal with them. It was my special place. And I hadn’t needed it in a while.
But now that I was going to be a mom . . . now, on top of having Braden and Ellie and all of my family and friends to lose, I had something miraculous to lose. My child.
The tears burned in my throat, the fear becoming something raw inside of me.
I whirled around at the sound of Braden’s voice, knowing that everything I was feeling had to be written all over my face.
Ellie must have called him and he’d guessed exactly where I’d go.
Braden’s features grew alarmed at the sight of me and he hurried toward me, gripping my arms in his hands. “Sweetheart, what happened?”
“I’m pregnant,” I blurted out, the tears spilling down my cheeks.
Braden jerked back like I’d hit him. He stared at me a long time, as if trying to figure me out. Just like that he looked like he’d been punched in the gut. “So you came here?” he whispered incredulously.
I didn’t know what that meant, but I realized quickly it didn’t mean anything good.
“Don’t.” He cut me off, turning from me. “Not here.”
There was an uneasiness, a new fear, in leaving my place before I’d gotten a chance to work through everything in my head. I’d just wanted that chance before Braden and I . . .
We walked in tense silence back down the hill and out of the castle. Braden had a taxi waiting for us on the esplanade. I was so out of it I didn’t even realize Braden hadn’t touched me. He opened the door for me but he didn’t put his hand on my arm to help me in. He didn’t scoot near me once we were inside. I’d realize this all later, when my brain wasn’t a tumult of thoughts and my stomach and chest weren’t awash with too many feelings.
Not a word was spoken between us, not until the door to our flat was closed behind us and we stood facing each other in the kitchen.
Braden’s features were hard in a way I didn’t like. “You’re pregnant with my child and that’s such f**king awful news you go to the castle?”
I couldn’t believe he thought . . . That wasn’t it at all!
“Are you happy or are you unhappy?” he snapped, his glittering with desperation.
My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, I thought I might vomit. “Braden.” My lips trembled, my nose stinging. “It’s not that simple.”
He jerked back again, a pain in his eyes that he quickly banked.
I didn’t get a chance to finish. He was out of the flat too fast.
Trembling, I sank into a chair. Not only hadn’t I been given a chance to process my own feelings, I was left confused and afraid of Braden’s. He was the kind of man who gave you a chance to explain, but he’d obviously taken my reaction to the pregnancy the wrong way, and now he was too hurt to listen.
I just needed to explain.
He had to listen.
It was late, but I left a message on Dr. Pritchard’s work voice mail asking if I could schedule an appointment that week. Dr. Kathryn Pritchard was my therapist and she’d helped me come a long way in dealing with my post-traumatic stress disorder. She’d helped me grieve for my family and she’d helped me work through my fears. I hadn’t scheduled a session with her in a while, but I needed someone impartial to talk to.
Braden stayed gone for hours. I got a text from Ellie asking me if I was okay. It was a dead giveaway that Braden had told Adam about my pregnancy and Ellie knew. She was trying to figure out how to deal with me. I knew this because normally she’d call me or even come around to the flat. A text for news this huge . . . Yeah, she didn’t know how to handle my reaction.
Staring down at the photo of me with my family Braden had framed and given me for Christmas, I tried to force my insides back together again. I gazed at Beth, my baby sister who I held tight in my arms, and I attempted to do this by understanding exactly what it was I was feeling. The fear was coloring everything, I wasn’t even sure that I was unhappy with the idea of being a mom. It was soon. Sooner that I’d wanted, but if I could just get past the fear, maybe I would see it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Not such a bad thing at all. This baby was a product of Braden and me. A part of him. A beautiful piece of him. A gift we’d given each other.
As much as I loved the makeshift family I’d created in Edinburgh, this was my chance at my very own family again.
That clawing pressure pushed and ripped at my chest but I fought through it, taking deep, even breaths.
Now I just had to explain all this to Braden so he’d see I wasn’t pulling another “Ellie moment,” pushing him out when things got tough like I did when Ellie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I just wanted him to understand what was going on inside of me.
See. I had come a long way.
I jumped at the sound of the door opening and shutting. My pulse throbbed harder beneath my skin as Braden’s footsteps grew louder the closer he got to our bedroom.
He stood against the dark backdrop of the hall, the soft light in our bedroom barely casting him out of the shadow, but I could see his expression was tired. Grim, even.
I sat up, waiting.
“Today was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives.”
Guilt gnawed at my stomach and I winced apologetically.
“I need an answer,” he demanded softly. “I need to know if you’re happy to be pregnant with my kid. After everything we’ve been through, I need that answer.”
I shifted, reaching out to him. “Please, just let me explain. I’ll—”
“Wrong answer,” he uttered bitingly, his expression shutting down. “I can’t believe you . . . after everything . . . that we’re back here again.” He turned, leaving me shocked, openmouthed as he stormed down our hall. A door slammed and I hopped off the bed and into the hall to watch a light come on, shining under the guest bedroom door.
Tears choked me and I swallowed the hitch in my breathing as I tiptoed back into our bedroom. My husband and I had fought quite a few times in the last few years, but not once had Braden let it come between us. He always slept in our bed with me and he always pulled me close at night.
The hot tears slipped down my cheeks.
I’d hurt him.
And for the first time in a really long time, he’d hurt me too.
That whole night I tossed and turned, my eyes on the hallway. A big part of me wanted to go into our guest room and shake Braden awake and make him listen to me, but the more I lay there and the more I thought everything over, I thought it best to let him sleep so we could have a rational conversation in the morning.
Except, I was exhausted from lack of sleep. I got up just before six in the morning, sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and attempting to read a book. Just before Braden’s alarm was set to go off, I got up and made some fresh coffee for him.
Not too long after, he wandered into the kitchen in his pajamas, his hair in disarray, and I ached with hurt and love as he avoided my eyes.
“I made you coffee,” I told him quietly, trying to gauge whether or not this would soften him up.
“Thank you,” he muttered, taking hold of the mug. He leaned against the counter, staring at the wall.
My stomach flip-flopped unpleasantly.
I had to explain so he’d stop thinking the worst of me.
“I have to shower.” He walked out of the kitchen abruptly.
“We need to talk!” I yelled at him angrily.
His answer was to slam the bathroom door.
This was a whole new side to my husband. And I did not like it one bit.
I got up, ready to do battle, when a knock at the door stopped me. That knock was followed by a key turning in the lock, and I knew then it was Ellie.
Bracing myself, I wondered if I’d be able to handle two of my favorite people being so mad at me. Three years ago that would have been a piece of cake. But these idiots had softened me up, whether I liked to admit it or not.
Ellie appeared in the kitchen doorway, her blue eyes instantly finding me.
Whatever she saw in my face made her pale and she came straight at me, arms wide-open.
I relaxed into her hug, not even realizing until right then how much I needed it.
“I don’t even know if I should say congratulations.”
Ellie pulled back, peering at me cautiously. “Braden’s really upset.”
I couldn’t speak. I wanted to. But I was afraid if I did I would scream.
“Look, I’m here, Joss.” She rubbed my shoulder in comfort. “I’m here if you need me.”
Swallowing past the gust of screams, I nodded and thanked her hoarsely.
We were quiet as I made her a cup of tea and we sat down at the table together. It occurred to me as we sat in silence that maybe if I told Ellie everything I was feeling, Braden would listen to her. I didn’t know what was going on with my usually understanding and compassionate husband, but what I did know was that he was angrier than I’d ever seen him, and clearly unwilling to listen to anything I had to say. He might listen to Ellie.
I opened my mouth to speak when the sound of the bathroom door opening halted me. Both Ellie and I turned to watch for Braden and as he passed the doorway he gave his sister a taut nod of hello and continued on into the bedroom to get ready for work. On a Sunday.
Ellie turned to me, her eyes questioning.
I took her hand and squeezed it. “He slept in your old room last night,” I whispered. “He’s never done that before.”
My friend’s expression grew pained. “Joss . . . talk—”
Nausea hit me before Ellie could finish her sentence and I was up, bending over the kitchen sink. I felt her hands in my hair, holding it back. After spitting up the last of my morning sickness, I sank back against Els, glad for her comforting presence. A flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye drew my gaze and I froze at the sight of Braden staring at me, a muscle ticking in his jaw. He turned to Ellie. “Give Elodie my apologies for missing Sunday dinner. I’ll be in meetings all day. And, uh”—he cut me a look before glancing back at his sister—“stay with her until she feels better.”