Panic struck, and I crept down the stairs, stopping midway when I realized the other voice was Justin’s.
He’d come back?
The conversation that ensued between him and my mother completely blew me away as I hid in the stairwell listening to them.
“What are you doing here?”
“This is my house,” Justin said.
“Which is a joke, by the way. This house should have been left to me.”
“Did you come here on your own, or did your daughter invite you?”
“Amelia asked me to come.” She paused then said, “God, you turned out to be fucking hot,” my mother said.
“You’re like a better looking version of your father. I wish I were fifteen years younger. Unless you like older women…”
“Are you fucking serious right now, Patricia? Haven’t you done enough damage to our lives? Amelia invited you here to help with the baby, and I find Bea by herself in the living room while you’re smoking on the fucking deck. Now, you’re trying to pick me up?”
“Calm down. I was just kidding.”
“I really wish I believed you were. Do you have any idea what Amelia’s been through these past few months? She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t deserve this shit. You should have been offering to help from day one, but honestly, she’s better off without it.”
I’d had enough. I made my way down the stairs and said, “Mom, I think it’s best if you leave tonight.”
“Tonight? I was planning to leave in the morning anyway.”
“Yes. But that was before I knew Justin would be back. This is his house, and you’re upsetting both of us. And why were you out on the deck when you were supposed to be watching the baby?”
“She was sleeping. It’s no big deal.”
“Nothing is ever a big deal to you!”
“You’re seriously asking me to leave right now in the middle of the night?”
“No. I’m telling you to leave. Please. You’re my mother and I love you, but you’re fucked up, and you’ll never change.”
“I can’t believe this,” my mother huffed before quietly heading upstairs to pack her things.
When she returned, she lifted Bea out of the carrier she was sleeping in, intentionally waking her up to kiss her. Bea started crying as my mother handed her to me before walking out the door without saying anything further.
When the door shut, I closed my eyes feeling like I was going to cry right along with the baby. Then, I felt Justin’s arms wrap around me.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure if you were coming back.”
He took Bea from my arms. As expected, she immediately calmed down. But something unexpected also happened, something that she’d never done before. Her little mouth spread into a wide toothless smile as she looked up at him.
“Oh my God, Justin. She’s smiling at you!”
“Has she never smiled before?”
“There have been times I thought maybe was smiling but wasn’t sure if it was just gas. But there is no doubt about this one. That is most definitely a smile!”
He seemed to be in awe as she continued to grin at him. “Maybe she didn’t think I was coming back.”
She wouldn’t be the only one.
“We’re both happy you’re back.”
The next morning when I came downstairs carrying Bea, Justin had already made coffee. The smell of the freshly-ground beans mixed with his musky scent was a great way to start the day. I noticed that there was also a new Keurig machine set up on the counter.
“Where did that come from?”
“I brought it back from my apartment in the city. That way I can make coffee fusion for myself and half-caf in the coffee maker for you.”
“That was very thoughtful.”
When he handed me my steaming mug, something dawned on me. “What did you use in this? We were out of cream. I haven’t had a chance to go to the market.”
“I used milk instead.”
“We didn’t have milk.”
He pointed with his thumb to the fridge. “There was a glass bottle of milk in there.”
Covering my mouth, I said, “I didn’t buy regular milk. Justin…that was my breast milk! I pumped it and poured it into an empty glass bottle. The only good thing my mother did for me while she was here was buy me a breast pump. I’ve been practicing using it.” Cracking up, I pointed into the coffee. “You just put my breast milk in this!”
“Not only that…I already drank two cups with your breast milk. I’m on my third.”
I covered my mouth again. “Oh my God!”
He took a sip of his coffee. “It’s fucking good.”
“Yeah…it’s sweet. I can see why Bea drinks it like crack.”
“Are you joking?”
“You’re nuts. I’m not drinking this.”
“How much of that shit can you make per day? We can sell it.”
“You’d better be joking.”
“About selling it…yes. About drinking it? No. And I don’t want to share with anyone but Bea.”
He winked. “You’re just figuring this out?”
It was so good to have him back.
A week later, it was a typical weeknight evening at home. Justin was playing at Sandy’s while Bea and I stayed in. She was being super quiet as she played with her mobile on the floor, so I decided to peruse the Internet while lounging on the couch with my laptop.
I’d been avoiding going on Jade’s Facebook page because I didn’t want to see pictures from his trip back to New York that would only upset me. Somehow, I’d ended up on her profile anyway, looking through her recent posts. Much of it was the same as always: scenes from backstage, theater friends out on the town after performances, pictures with fans. There was one thing, however, that was far from expected. Jade had recently changed her relationship status from “in a relationship” to “single.”
They broke up?
My heart was beating out of control.
When did this happen?
She’d also posted a cryptic status right around the time that Justin came back to Newport: “To New Beginnings.”
They’d ended it while he was in New York! He’d been back for a week and hadn’t told me. Why would he have kept it a secret? My mind was racing. Was he EVER planning to tell me?
I stayed in the same spot in the living room, waiting for him to get home. When the doorknob turned, I straightened in my seat.
Justin put down his guitar next to the door and hung up his jacket. “What’s wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you and Jade broke up?”
He let out a slow breath and joined me on the couch. “How did you find out?”
“She changed her relationship status on Facebook.”
Letting out another deep breath, he said, “Things had been off for a while. We’d just been growing apart over the past year. The reason I came to Newport early was to have some alone time to think. That was when I found you and Bea here.”
“I don’t understand. I thought you were in love with her.”
“No? Why did you always tell her you loved her then? Isn’t that misleading?”