The Light We Lost (Page 26)
I nodded. My mother walked over to the window. And I thought about you, Gabe. I thought about how wonderful you made me feel, but also how awful. How you cared so much more about yourself than you did about us. How in the end, your life was The Gabe Show, and to keep you I would’ve had to play the supporting actress to the star. I know it might be hard for you to hear this, but I’m just telling you the truth. That’s what I thought that day.
I also thought about Darren. About the fact that he wasn’t perfect. That he still didn’t really take my job seriously. And sometimes I worried that he didn’t take me seriously. But I figured I could change that, I could work harder to show him what it meant to me. I could help him see that I wanted to be his partner, his equal. And I loved him. I loved his laugh, his sense of humor, his grin. He wasn’t dark and complicated—being with him was fun and easy. It felt solid and stable. He made me happy—most of the time. And we’d built the foundation of a beautiful future together. I could never leave him there at the Boathouse on our wedding day.
I wiped my eyes. “Thank you,” I said to my mother. “I’m fine now. I’m ready.”
My mom let out a huge breath and gave me a hug. “You know I would support you no matter what.”
“I know,” I said, smelling the Shalimar perfume on her neck.
“Just remember,” she added, “there’s a difference between infatuation and love.”
Was I infatuated with you? Were we infatuated with each other? Can infatuation last this long? Or has it always been love between us? I’d like to think it has.
Even though I’d been working on It Takes a Galaxy for a while, researching real-life stories, trying to pull conflicts from as many countries and cultures as possible so the writers could use them as the basis of various episodes, I’d never traveled any farther than Europe. So Darren and I decided to go to Turkey on our honeymoon. I wanted to hear the call to prayer. I wanted to see a tiny piece of one of the countries I’d researched. And when we got there I couldn’t stop taking notes. I saw women with their heads covered walking down the street, talking to women with hair falling around their shoulders. I pulled out a ticket stub and scribbled a message to myself to suggest a scene like that in our next episode, but with aliens, of course.
“Enough with the writing!” Darren said. “We’re here on our honeymoon. Work is back in New York. I haven’t checked in with the office once since we’ve been here, and you haven’t stopped scribbling and muttering to yourself.”
I stopped midword. “My work is important to me,” I said. But then I remembered what I told you when you’d called. “But you and I are more important. I’ll stop.” And I did.
Still, I couldn’t help thinking about what it would’ve been like if it were you and me on that trip. You wouldn’t have asked me to stop—you would have suggested things too. And we both would have been looking out for great opportunities for photographs, just like we did when we walked holes through the soles of our sneakers in Manhattan.
• • •
DARREN’S AND MY TRIP took us to Cappadocia, where we toured a landscape that looked like the moon and took off right before dawn in a hot-air balloon that rose up just in time for us to see the sunrise. It was exquisite—a swirl of pinks and oranges and purples—and Darren had his arms wrapped around me, keeping me warm, making me feel loved in the middle of the sky’s majesty. But I couldn’t stop thinking about those women. I wished I had spoken to them, asked them what their lives were like, what they would want American kids to know about Turkey.
• • •
LATER, DARREN AND I were at a spot called Devrent Valley. Darren read from the guidebook, “‘Devrent or “Imagination” Valley is filled with rock formations that look like people and animals. Spend time discovering what you see in the rocks.’”
I stood next to him, seeing a camel and a dolphin and a snake in a hat.
“I think that one looks like the Virgin Mary,” he said, pointing to a pillar. “What do you think, Mrs. Maxwell?” He’d been calling me Mrs. Maxwell the whole trip, which at first I found sweet and funny but then started to irritate me. I’d told him I’d take his name personally, but I was still going to be Lucy Carter at work. Is that how I’m keyed into your phone? Or did you change my name when Darren and I married? Your boss called me Lucy Carter Maxwell. You did too, actually. I guess that’s how you think of me.
I stared at the rock that Darren was facing, looking for a mother and child, looking for a veil. “I just see a man holding a camera,” I said.
I know so many people who spent years trying to get pregnant. Vanessa and Jay wound up with triplets after taking Clomid. Kate ended up going through in vitro, twice. Darren jokes that when he sneezes on me, I conceive. I smile when he says that, but I don’t find it funny. It makes me think of the Birthmothers in that book The Giver I read in high school, where getting pregnant over and over again was their assigned task, their only use in society.
Not long after we got married, Darren started talking about having kids. He thought we were the perfect age to start a family. The same exact age his parents were when they had his oldest sister. Even though Kate had just told me that she was pregnant, I wasn’t so sure he was right. The triplets had been born a week earlier, prematurely but remarkably okay. Vanessa and Jay had a nanny and a night nurse—and Vanessa’s mom, who stayed with them for the first six months—and even still, when Jay called he sounded like a zombie. That first week, he rang me from the lab while I was still at work.
“Can you talk?” he asked.
“I’m at the office,” I answered, cradling my cell phone to my ear. “Is everything okay?”
“Humans weren’t meant to have three babies at once,” he said. “Am I a terrible person if I don’t want to go home to them?”
“You’re not a terrible person, Jay, you’re just tired,” I told him. “It’s understandable. Give yourself another thirty minutes, but then you have to go back. Those babies need you. Vanessa needs you.”
“I can’t even tell them apart,” he said. “Unless they’re wearing clothes.”
That one gave me pause, but not too much. Sometimes I wonder if my brother would recognize me if he saw me on the street, out of context.
“Think about them like you do different viruses,” I told him. “Pay close attention. Notice their differences, not their similarities.”
I hoped that would help. I felt bad for Jay. Three babies at once was definitely more than he and Vanessa had thought they would get.
He took a big breath and let it out. “Like hydrogen loves oxygen,” he said. “I’ll let you work now.”
“Love you too, Jay,” I said, before hanging up.
So after that, after the triplets, I wasn’t completely convinced a baby was something I wanted to add to my life just then. But Darren was sure. He reminded me that parenthood was on both of our bucket lists.
“And besides,” he said, “it’ll probably take at least a year, if we go by Vanessa and Kate.”
It took a month.
There were a few weeks of absolute exhaustion, going to sleep before nine p.m. Then way too many weeks of nausea, the kind where I would run out of meetings, sure that if I didn’t, I would hurl all over the writers’ room and the scenes they were revising. Then, once that mercifully passed, there were months of having to pee approximately once an hour.
It took me about four months of being pregnant to be okay with it. To come to terms with what my life would be like once the baby arrived. But once I did, I was excited. I didn’t think I would react this way, but I spent my lunchtimes at the office looking at baby clothes and nursery furniture. I read articles about breastfeeding and water births and when the ideal time was to introduce peanut butter into your child’s diet. I became baby obsessed.
I even started wondering if having a successful career really was all that important to me, or if being a mom trumped that. I wondered if I’d come back after maternity leave. I know, after everything I told you about not wanting to be defined by my role as a wife or a mother and hoping to make a difference in the world with my work—how my main complaint about Darren was that he didn’t understand that part of me—the fact that I was considering quitting might seem crazy. It felt crazy to me—like I was turning into someone else, an alternate Lucy whose priorities morphed and changed. But it was truly how I felt. Being pregnant did that to me. And Darren really wanted me to stay home too. He said that no one would take care of our baby better than I would, and I was starting to think he was right.
• • •
DARREN WAS DOING incredibly well at work. The deals he closed had impressed his bosses so much that they made him a director, and his new salary blew my mind. He was earning more than five times what I was, and I wasn’t doing all that badly myself. With all the extra income, he wanted to buy a big apartment in a great neighborhood.
“Let’s move to Manhattan,” he said, one morning, with the New York Times spread across his legs and Annie at his feet. “Maybe the Upper East Side.”