Frayed Page 64

She nods. ’’Do you remember yesterday when you asked me what the shamrock I wear is for?’’

My mind recalls vividly the green emerald in her belly button and the thoughts I had about running my tongue around it. With a devilish grin I answer, ’’Yes.’’

She sets her glass down. Her hands are shaking and she\s unable to speak.

I suddenly lose any sense of fun in this conversation. ’’Hey, look at me,’’ I say, leaning over the table and taking both her hands.

Her eyes cut to mine, the fire now dulled and consumed by sadness.

’’What is it? Just tell me.’’

She stays silent and draws in a breath as if gaining courage.

’’S\elle? What the f**k is it?’’ My impatience is getting the better of me.

Her stare searches the table. ’’The shamrock represents St. Patrick\s Day.’’

I nod, agreeing with her that it does.

Silence falls again for another few short moments and then she looks up at me. ’’That\s the day I gave birth to our child.’’ Her voice is shaky and broken. Her words come out in alternating whispers and squeaks.

The floor drops from beneath me. My ears ring and the room doesn\ seem quite so square anymore. I take a deep breath, replaying what she just said in my head, but it doesn\ make sense. I sit there motionless. I couldn\ have heard her correctly. When my senses recover, I flash her a look that seeks answers.

Through gritted teeth I ask, ’’What did you say?’’

She squeezes my hands, but I jerk them away. Unbearable silence passes between us, and nothing except the overhead music of Frank Sinatra crooning a love song can be heard. There\s a look of desperation on her face, but there is no way I can help her.

’’What did you just say?’’ My voice takes on an aggressive tone I\ve never used with her as her words register in my brain I have a child out in the world.

Tears now slide down her face. She leans forward and through sobs says, ’’On March seventeenth, almost six years ago, I gave up my child, our child. I gave it up for adoption. That\s why I wear the shamrock. It symbolizes the love I have for the baby I wish every day I never let go.’’

My body goes limp. Looking around, I can\ figure out why she\d tell me this in a public place. Oh God, my stomach lurches when I think about how I wanted to run my tongue over the sparkling green emerald in her belly button. I start to get up but sit back down, needing a chance to understand what she\s telling me. The words catch in my throat and nothing comes out. I stare at her in disbelief for the longest time, trying to see anything but the truth, but I can\ find it. I glance around at the empty restaurant and feel as if I\m suffocating.

’’I . . . I . . . didn\ want . . . I didn\ want to have to tell you, but I knew I couldn\ start this relationship with a lie. That\s that\s why I wanted to keep it casual. I . . . I thought you\d get me out of your system and move on,’’ she stammers.

My eyes flare to hers, but the fire I feel is not from want or lust. ’’Why didn\ you tell me then? Why?’’

She holds my gaze. ’’Because I didn\ think you\d care.’’

’’Then you don\ know me at all,’’ I spit out.

’’No, I do know you. I do.’’

’’So what? Is this one of those half-truths? Because I\ll tell you something you\ e only fooling yourself.’’

Standing up, I reach in my pocket and toss a fifty on the table. With her chest visibly rising and falling, she watches me silently. She stares at me with a blank expression and says nothing else. I look at her one last time and then walk away, leaving her sitting there. As soon as the cool air hits my lungs, I feel I can finally breathe. I pace the sidewalk with my hands behind my head and stare through the glass at her. A few seconds later she\s standing in front of me.

’’Ben, let\s talk about this. I want to explain everything. It\s not easy for me, but I understand you\ e upset.’’

My eyes burn into hers with an anger I\ve never felt for anyone. ’’What exactly are you going to explain? Explain how you had a baby, my baby, and gave it up without ever telling me?’’ I hiss.

’’It\s not like that. It wasn\ that easy.’’

’’Really? What part wasn\ easy? The part you skipped about informing the father?’’

Her eyes drop. ’’Please, Ben, let\s go back in and sit down.’’

’’Why would you think you should tell me something like that in a public place?’’

’’You said you wanted to put the past behind you. I just wanted to meet somewhere neutral and do the same.’’

’’Are you f**king kidding me? That is not the past.’’

’’It is. It\s mine.’’ Her voice is a whisper.

My voice is tight. ’’How could you not tell me back then?’’

’’I tried. I called you twice.’’

’’I remember your calls. You called and left a couple of messages that said to call you back. There was no urgency in your tone. You knew I had a girlfriend. I couldn\ call you back. That wasn\ trying.’’

’’I called,’’ she cries again, her voice fading.

I throw my hands up in the air. ’’You knew I couldn\ see you again. You had to know that\s why I thought you were calling. So you may have called, but you didn\ try to tell me this. Don\ fool yourself.’’

’’What difference would it have made if I had told you?’’

’’What difference?’’ My voice spikes up in anger.

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