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A Missing Heart(10)

By´╝ÜShari J. Ryan

“What time will you be home tonight?” Tori asks.

“Usual,” I say, grabbing my coat from the couch. “I’ll pick up something for dinner on the way home so you don’t have to cook anything. How does that sound?”

“Oh,” she says, wringing out her hair with a towel. “I actually had plans to go out with Pamela tonight. Girls night, you know?” Right. Tuesday night is girls’ night. Has been and always will be, even with a baby at home. “And Rose is staying with Gavin for the day since I have some appointments and other errands to run.” Rose is our next-door neighbor who might be too old to see or hear our child, but she offers to watch him for free because she was never graced with grandchildren. So, Tori takes her up on the offer quite often.

I shake off my unsettled feelings and lean forward to give Tori a kiss as I hand Gavin to her. “I love you, babe.”

She covers her mouth and leans back a bit, saying, “I’ll spare you my morning breath.” With a kiss on my cheek, she takes Gavin from my hands and carries him over to his baby swing where she settles him down. “I’ll see you tonight.” With a faint smile, she heads back upstairs for the bathroom.

“See ya.” I step over to the baby swing and place a kiss on Gavin’s head. “I’ll see you tonight, little man. We’ll have a couple of beers and watch the game, just us guys, okay?” He gives me his little smile and goofy, giggly laugh, which makes it so damn hard to leave him here swinging alone in this big, open room. Hunter is going to kill me today. I look around the room, trying to find something to entertain Gavin with while I leave, but man, I can’t stand the thought of leaving him here in this room alone while Tori is upstairs with the hair dryer on. What if he finds something to grab and chokes on it?

I throw my head back in defeat. You know what? Hunter basically raised Olive, his daughter, on our job sites. This little guy sleeps so much during the day, it wouldn’t make a difference if he was sitting with me or sitting here. So, screw it. “You’re coming to work with Daddy today, big guy.” I take Gavin from his swing and hike up the stairs with him, poking my head into the bathroom. “It’s uh...bring your kid to work day, so you can let Rose know she’s off the hook today.”

Tori shuts off the hair dryer and looks at me like she didn’t hear a word I said. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m taking Gavin with me today,” I repeat.

“You sure?” she asks, opening the door further so she can kiss Gavin goodbye. “Well, I’m sure he’ll be happy to spend the day with you.” Tori’s smile is larger now, and she waves us both off as if she were setting sail on some fancy cruise ship.

I never thought it would be like this. Everything was perfect until we found out she was pregnant. Neither of us wanted children, but life happens. That’s how I looked at it. I came around to the idea of a baby almost instantly, but it feels like that still hasn’t happened for her. Not that she’s come out and said that or anything, but the feeling I have is pretty strong.

Of course, asking her What’s the matter? and Did I do something wrong? got old and tiring after Gavin’s first month, so I stopped asking. It kills me to see her like this, so disconnected from us—from Gavin. I’ve read about this shit, and I think I know what’s wrong, but she has promised and guaranteed me that she is not suffering from postpartum depression. Do women always know when they’re experiencing it, though? Admitting to a problem is hard for every person, never mind a hormonal new mother. I was careful with the way I approached it but she shooed me off, telling me it was nothing like that, and she’s just adjusting to this new life. The waiting period kind of sucks for me, though. I feel like I’m navigating this new parenthood road all alone. Through thick and thin. Through good and bad.

With Gavin settled in his car seat, I head over to the job site, which fortunately, is only a couple miles away today. Hunter’s waiting outside for me because...I was the one with the key to the place. Oops. Forgot about that one too. This sleep deprivation brain fog sucks. I get the typical peering down at his watch gesture from Hunter emphasizing he knows I’m late. Though, his straight posture breaks when he sees me pull Gavin out of the backseat. A smile creeps across his five o’clock shadow—the dark hairs that are suddenly turning a little salt and peppery. My big bro is getting old at his ripe old age of thirty one. We can thank Princess Olive for that—the seven-year-old with a fifteen-year-old’s mouth and attitude, who rules this man’s world. I think Hunter misses the days of having a quiet little baby sleeping in a car seat—a kid who never talks back. I call them the easy days, but nothing was easy for Hunter when Olive was a baby. Raising her on his own after Ellie died just minutes after giving birth hasn’t left him with many memories from the early days, ones he likes to hang onto or reminisce about, anyway. He’s more of the live in the moment type with no need for old photographs or home videos. To each their own. Whatever he does to survive, I support. “Where is my little wingman?” Hunter softly growls at Gavin. He takes the car seat from my hands, not once asking why I have him with me at work today. Being brothers, and as close as we are, Hunter knows why I do what I do, whenever I do it, which makes things easy when I don’t feel like explaining myself.