Laughing, I said, “You’re probably right.”
He held out his hand. “Roger Manning.”
“Nice to meet you…Amelia Payne.”
“I see you have baby stuff in here. Do you have kids?”
“Oh…just one. My daughter was born in March. She’s inside sleeping.”
“I have a daughter, too. She’s seven and lives with her mother in California.”
“You must miss her.”
“You have no idea. I work for the Navy, so I’ve been stationed out here for a while. After her mom and I got divorced, my ex wanted to move back West to be closer to her family.”
“Will I get to meet your husband?”
“Oh…I’m not married. It’s sort of a long story. I’m not with the father of my child. It was an accidental pregnancy.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be. It’s a blessing.”
Roger peeked inside my trunk. “Can I help you carry the rest of this stuff in?”
My fear of trusting this virtual stranger was overridden by my fatigue. Bea hadn’t been letting me sleep, and I welcomed any help I could get carrying all of this crap inside.
“That would be great.”
Roger unloaded all of the items from the car into the house, even bringing the bassinet upstairs for me and setting it up next to my bed.
After we walked back down the stairs together, he knelt down to get a look at Bea while she slept in her car seat on the living room floor.
He whispered, “She’s precious.”
“Thank you. She likes to sleep during the day and keep me up at night. They say to sleep when the baby sleeps, but I can’t. I have too much to get done when she’s sleeping.”
He stood up and lingered a bit then said, “Well, if there’s anything you need, I’m right next door. Seriously…if something breaks, or you need help lifting something…don’t hesitate.”
“I really appreciate that more than you know. Thank you.”
When the door shut, a smile spread across my face. Poor Roger had no clue he’d be assembling a crib soon.
With Bea still sleeping, I decided to head upstairs and put some of our clothes away. On the way to my bedroom, I couldn’t help stopping in Justin’s room. I lay down and sniffed the pillow on his side of the bed. This time it wasn’t my imagination; it still smelled like his cologne. There was the feeling of longing again. I hugged the pillow, and a teardrop fell down my cheek. I’d done a decent job of harboring these feelings for almost a year. This was the moment it all unraveled.
I miss you.
Justin had called and texted me many times over the past several months. I would let him know I was okay but insisted that I didn’t need his help. He wasn’t very active on social media aside from posting a few pictures from gigs—mostly of his audiences—here and there on Instagram. I would stalk Jade’s Facebook page for small glimpses into their life in the city, so envious of their freedom. I missed him terribly but knew that distancing myself was for the best.
Right after Bea’s birth, I texted him a picture of her. He once again offered help, both monetarily and otherwise. I’d always refused. He and Jade ended up sending me a generous gift card to Babies R Us, which I used to buy Bea’s bassinet and bouncy seat.
I hadn’t told him I got kicked out of my apartment. I was ashamed and didn’t want the offer of charity again. So, he didn’t know I was living here yet. I really hoped that by some miracle, they would stay away for as long as possible this summer. I doubted they would appreciate getting woken up by Bea several times in the middle of the night anyway. Truthfully, though, the real reason I didn’t want to see him was simply that it would be too painful.
Almost a month passed with no sign of Justin and Jade. I was finally getting acclimated to life on the island again.
Roger ended up assembling that crib for me. It was white, and I’d bought a bedding set online with the remainder of my gift card. Roger and I were becoming friendly. Knowing that it wasn’t easy for me to leave the house, he’d occasionally bring me coffee or fresh seafood from the dock. Even though I sensed he might be attracted to me, he wasn’t making any moves, which was a good thing, because I was certainly in no position to be dating anyone.
Bea was going through a rough patch. She was colicky and still not sleeping much. It didn’t matter how much I fed her, she always wanted more. When I did manage to leave the house, I took her everywhere with me, to the market, to doctor appointments. I hadn’t been out alone since the day she was born. It was just the two of us. I was fine with that. The only times sadness would creep in tended to be late at night when I was most tired and worn out from the day.
One such evening, rain was pelting my bedroom window. Bea was screaming and crying. She’d drained my breasts of milk yet wouldn’t take a bottle. Starting to see stars from fatigue, I just wanted to sleep so badly. I broke out in tears. It felt like this type of torture would be suitable for prison inmates. How was I going to continue to live on no sleep? How would I ever go back to work, and who could possibly take care of her the way I did? A feeling of helplessness consumed me as thunder rolled in the distance. What if we lost power? How would I change her diaper in the dark? It dawned on me that we didn’t even have any candles. A minor panic attack started to brew within me. Deciding to head downstairs, I slowly descended the steps as I held onto Bea carefully.
A half-hour later, my emotions had only gotten worse. My nipples were sore and cracked. Bea was still colicky in my arms. The front door rattled, and full on panic ensued. A rush of adrenaline hit as I frantically reached into my pocket for Justin’s pocketknife. I made sure I wore pajamas with pockets for that very reason.
Someone was breaking into the house.
It occurred to me that my cell phone was upstairs. Bea was screaming, so we couldn’t even hide. The door was shaking again.
“Damn key,” I heard him say as the door opened.
His eyes bugged out of his head as he caught sight of me. Bea was hanging off my boob. My hair was disheveled, and I was stiffly pointing his own knife at him.
He turned his head away from me. “What the fuck, Amelia. Put down the knife and cover your tit.”
His surprise arrival had startled me so much that I hadn’t even realized that one of my breasts was sticking out of my nursing bra. I wasn’t wearing a shirt because I rarely slept with one. It was easier to nurse her in just the bra. With Bea in one arm, I walked over to the kitchen and grabbed my cardigan off of one of the stools before covering myself up.
The scene was chaotic as I fumbled with my sweater and spoke through Bea’s excruciating cries, “What are you doing here?”
“Do you always hang around the house in just a bra now? If so, we’re gonna have a problem.”
“I didn’t think you’d show. It’s earlier in the season than you arrived last year. Why didn’t you call me first?”
“For one, I didn’t think you’d be here. I needed to escape the city for a while. I was gonna spend a couple of weeks opening up the house, getting it ready before you arrived.”
Bea’s cries hadn’t waned. I bounced her up and down in an attempt to calm her.
“What’s wrong with her?”