“I’m losing you, and I haven’t even left yet.” He turned to me. “This tour is not worth that.”
“You have to go. You’re not losing me. I just don’t know how to handle it.”
A stream of sweat trickled down the length of his glistening chest as he walked toward me but stopped short of touching me. The smell of his skin mixed with cologne served as a reminder as to just how much I was kidding myself when it came to my ability to steer away from him sexually.
“It’s understandable. Completely understandable,” he said.
“All of your worries…I would feel the same if you were the one going on a tour. That scene is no joke. I get why you’re scared.”
It didn’t exactly comfort me to know that he felt my worry was founded.
He continued, “It’s not that you don’t trust me now, but you think that environment will somehow change me, make me want different things than I want now.”
“Yes. That’s exactly right. If you understand my fear, then why are you so angry at me for it?”
“It’s more like…frustrated. Everything is happening so fast, and I’m running out of time to fix this before I leave. We have to trust that what we’ve been working toward is worth more than all of the crazy shit that life might throw at us in the next five months. I’m also scared, because I don’t ever want to let you or Bea down.” The look of fear in his eyes was unprecedented, and the uncertainty in them made me uneasy.
“Let me down?”
“Yes. Bea is getting attached to me. While she won’t remember these past several months, she’s only getting older and will start to understand more as time passes. This isn’t a game. I know that. I would rather die than hurt her.”
Even though he wasn’t saying it in so many words, I took his statement to mean that he still wasn’t sure if he wanted a child, which in turn meant he might have been unsure about us. It pained me to know that he still held doubts, given how phenomenal he was with Bea.
And with me.
This tour was forcing Justin to do something he never would have done otherwise; it was forcing him to leave us, to step back and reflect on the responsibility he unknowingly walked into the day he decided to come to Newport one month early last summer, expecting an empty house. He certainly got way more than he ever bargained for that day. He’d been our rock ever since. Even though I didn’t want to lose him, he needed this separation to figure out what he truly wanted.
I knew that I truly wanted him. I also knew that I loved him enough to let him go. I vowed not to push guilt any longer.
This tour was a blessing in disguise, because it would give him the space to determine what was really meant to be. I certainly didn’t want Bea to get any more attached to him if we weren’t strong enough to survive this. It was more important now to protect her heart than my own.
I reluctantly admitted my realization to him. “Maybe this time away is necessary. It will help you realize what you really want out of life.”
He surprised me when he admitted, “I think you’re right.”
His agreeing with me caused my stomach to drop a bit. At the same time, I vowed to be strong, to let fate take its course. I wouldn’t act stupidly and sabotage anything one way or the other, because I loved him. So much. I wanted the best for him, wanted him to be happy even if that didn’t involve Bea and me.
The universe had already shown that it had plans for me, ones that were beyond my control. Bea was proof of that. I had to trust that something bigger than us was at the helm and that this latest challenge had a purpose. The only thing I was sure of was that it would either tear us apart or make us stronger than ever.
At the end of five months, I’d have my answer.
It rained that entire day.
As if Bea could sense that something was off, she refused to sleep in her new crib that night. It made me think that it was quite possible that babies had a sixth sense. Ever since Justin had redone the nursery, she loved sleeping in there and watching the stars. But tonight—Justin’s last night—Bea only quieted in the safety of my arms. Intuition, maybe. So, I let her lie next to me in my bed, even though, like me, she couldn’t fall asleep.
The closer it got to midnight, the more melancholy I became as insomnia continued to win out.
Justin’s knock was light. “Amelia, are you awake?”
“Yeah. Come in.”
He entered and lay down on my bed next to us, repositioning the covers. “I can’t sleep.”
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
“Scared as hell is more like it.”
“About what in particular?”
He let out a single sarcastic laugh. “Everything. I’m scared to leave you alone, scared she won’t remember me…scared she will remember me—remember that I left. I’m scared to perform in front of thousands of people, scared to fuck up. You name it. I’m worried about it.”
“You shouldn’t be worried about performing. You’re gonna knock ‘em dead.”
Ignoring my assurance, he took Bea from next to me and placed her on his chest. Her breathing started to even out.
It broke my heart when he softly kissed her head and whispered in her ear, “I’m sorry, Bumblebee.”
My mood had been all over the place throughout the day, alternating between feeling sorry for myself and Bea, to feeling proud and excited for him. In this particular intimate moment, I felt compelled not as his lover—but as his friend—to help him understand that he deserved this opportunity that he’d worked his entire life for. He had nothing to be sorry for. That was how I knew I truly loved him, because in the eleventh hour, all I wanted was to take away his guilt and make him feel good, regardless of how much his leaving hurt.
“Nana would be so proud of you, Justin. She always used to tell me that she believed you were destined for greatness. When you go out there, don’t even think about how many people are watching, just sing for her, sing to Nana…do this for her.”
“She’d be pleased with how you turned out, too, Patch…all you’ve undertaken. The mother you’ve become despite how shitty your own mother was. Nana would be so damn proud. I’m so damn proud.”
With Bea now fast asleep on his chest, Justin leaned in to kiss me. He began to devour my mouth, firm but tenderly. We kissed for several minutes, careful not to wake Bea.
He spoke into my mouth, “I want to make love to you so badly right now. But at the same time, I get why you think that would make tomorrow even harder. I don’t know if I could ever walk out of here after that.”
“I don’t think Bea would allow it right now anyway. She looks too comfortable.”
He looked down at her and smiled. “You’re probably right.” He turned to me, his blue eyes luminescent in the darkness. “Promise me a few things.”
“Promise me that we’ll video chat at least every other day.”
“Sure. That’ll be easy.”
“Promise me that if you get lonely, you’ll call me any time—day or night.”
“I will. What else?”
“Promise me that we won’t keep anything important from each other and that we’ll always be honest with each other.”
That one made me feel a little queasy as I started pondering what things he anticipated having to be honest with me about.