“I know you ended things, but I think…”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, no I am sorry.”
“You want things I don’t. How do I know you did not do this on purpose?”
“Like I would do that, you know me; you know that I would never do that.”
He nodded, he did. He touched her hand briefly and told her that he was not sure trying again was the right thing for them, but he would try for the baby.
“Really, you would do that?”
“Yes, I…but…I am not going saying that things will be like they were before, we can take it one day at a time.”
“You are right, we should do that.” She would agree to that, just to have him back in her life. She wanted to hug him, she touched his hand, and the touch of him sent shivers through her. He still affected the same way, maybe this was a mistake, but she wanted him back in her life, she loved him, maybe he would fall in love with her again. She could hope.
“One thing I will say is you need to move out of this dump.”
“I don’t want to live here any more than I did before, I…I can’t afford to move out of here, yet. I wanted to...”
“I know what you wanted, we are not there yet, we may never be, but I want you to move out of here.”
“I will as soon as I can.”
Just then the boys from across the road arrived home; the sound of their music filled the flat. She stood and hurried over to the window and closed it, it blocked a little of the music out.
“Wow, do kids today have no consideration for others?”
“No, not these kids, ours will be different.”
“Kids, I don’t even want this one, we won’t be having any others together.
She looked at him, tears threatened to fall.
“I am sorry, I did not mean it like that, but I…”
“I knew and know what you mean, Toby, it’s a lot to take in. I am sorry but it’s happening and you are going to be a father whether you like it or not.”
“I know that, you think I don’t know that. You have to give me a chance to get this wrapped around my head. All of it, I think I should go, I need time to think about it all, whether you and I getting back together really is the best thing. I think I have a right to do that, don’t you think?”
She nodded, she had to agree, because she was right, he was the father and he would be in their life no matter what, she just wanted him back as much as the baby she was carrying.
“I will be back tomorrow.”
She nodded and walked him to the door; she heard them before she saw them, the boys, their music blaring out for all to hear. Toby looked at them and shook his head.
“What ya looking at?” one said.
Toby stepped towards his car, laid a hand on his roof and looked at them.
“Nothing, what are you looking at?”
“Nowt mate, except ya bird, she is well fit.”
He looked up at Maxine as she blushed and watched him get in his car, start and rev the engine. The boys whooped as he sped away. She closed, locked and bolted her door.
Stood at her window she watched the boys who were all staring up at her, could they see her, she wondered?
Too tired to care, she made her way to her bed, climbed in and closed her eyes, she was exhausted. She had not lied about that.
He arrived the next day a little after ten; he came bearing gifts, breakfast. He was trying, she knew he was and was grateful; she was hungry and devoured the food placed before her.
“I was thank you.”
“I wondered if you fancied a day out?”
“I don’t know, I thought we could just get away from here.”
“You mean those boys?”
“Yeah, I don’t trust them.”
She agreed, pulled on her coat and followed him out to his car; the boys were there again, watching them. She climbed inside; he started the engine and drove away once again at speed.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“How about we go find wallpaper or something for the flat to make it…”
“We could do that.”
They entered the shop, his hand touching hers briefly but never taking it; they walked down the aisles looking at the different patterns and colours. Some she liked some she shook her head at. Too much choice, she told him. He agreed, but she could have anything she wanted. The tins of paint lined the shelves, she wondered if she should paint instead, would she find that easier, she could not imagine he would help her. He had not offered. Would paint cost less, she wondered.
“We should get lunch, we still have a lot to talk about,” he said.
She nodded and followed him to the small café that was up the stairs and to the left. They joined the queue, reading the menu; they picked what they wanted, ordered, his treat he said.
“I can pay,” she informed him.
“No, I said my treat today, you can pay next time. Now where shall we sit?” he asked as he scanned the café, she shrugged and followed him to a table near the window. As they waited for the food, they sat in silence. She watched the traffic.
“I will drop you home after lunch,” he announced.
She nodded again, it seemed he could only manage half a day with her.
The food arrived, they ate, he cleared his plate and waited for her to finish. He was in a hurry, to others they looked like a couple, but they were not, it was clear to her. She somehow annoyed him, the way she ate, the amount of time it took to eat it.
He pulled up outside her flat and waited for her to get out. When she did not move, he told her to get out, he had to go.
“I am sorry, is everything okay?”
“Not really, but as I said we will try and I promise I will. I know you know I don’t love you anymore and…”
“I know, but you have to know I still love you. I get you don’t feel the same way I do. I can’t and won’t be able to change that. I get all that, but you loved me once, surely there are some feelings still there?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“How about we keep spending time together, take it one day at a time?”
She smiled, a small victory, and opened the door, before she could close the door he was off. She watched him drive away. Was he going to really try, she thought?
For the next three weeks, they spent most days together. He tried hard to make her happy, she knew he was trying. Yet she also knew he did not want what they were trying to do. She could see it on his face, in his voice.
Three weeks she allowed it to go on, her mother told her it was a stupid idea trying to win him back this way. She did not believe that was what she was doing; she wanted to with him, she wanted to be a family. It was all she wanted, what they once had. Was her mother right, but she had not gotten pregnant on purpose. No matter what he or her own mother thought, it was not true. She had no idea that he wanted to end things, so how could she have planned it?
He sat opposite, staring at her. She swallowed and watching him as he laid the book they had been sifting through on the table. They all looked similar to her.
“So which one?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Toby.” It was not what was on her mind, she could not discuss that when she knew she had to tell him things between them were not working. “We need to talk.”
“I know. That is what we are doing, talking, and before you say anything. I am trying. You wanted this. You wanted us to try. I have done everything you have asked of me. If you want more, the way we were, the sex and…”
“No, I get that and I understand that would take time.”
“I don’t know, but this, us. You were right, we don’t work.”
“What are you saying?”
“I am sorry, this was a stupid idea. I wanted it to work because I thought bringing a child into the world, we should be together. It is clear that you don’t want this. I thought maybe you would fall in love with me again. I prayed you would. I am hurting that you don’t, and I just can’t stop loving you.”
“I am sorry I don’t. I never meant to hurt you, I loved you once, but…”
“So, what are you saying?”
“We are over, done. I should never have tried to make us, you try again.”
“So how is this going to work now?”
“I want you to be a father, to be there for our baby. That I don’t want to change, I still want you if you want to be there for the scans, the birth. If you want to be there?”
“Okay, I want to be there for those.”
“Okay, good, I will let you know when they are.”
He nodded. She could see the relief on his face, he looked more relaxed. His whole body no longer tense. Her feelings for him were not gone completely, but she knew it was not working and that there was no point dragging it out. It would take time, and if she continued to spend days with him she would not be able to get over him. He would be in their life, but she had to do what was best for their child. She could not have him hating her for making him stay with her, for that reason.
“I should go,” he announced. “We can talk in a few days, about other things we need to decide on.”
A few days passed, he did not call around, phone or make any contact with her at all. It was then she realised he did not want to be in her or the baby’s life; she had made the right choice for her. He was not interested in being a father, he had made that clear.
It had not been planned she knew that and he was not ready. She would do it alone, her mother told her it would be hard and she knew she was right, but she would do it would. She was ready; she had a good six months to prepare herself.
A week later, she sat in her mother’s house, telling her they were not getting back together that it had been a mistake. This time she made the choice that was right for both of them, he did not love her, and her feelings for him were going, nearly gone.
“How about you come and stay here for a while, until you find something more suitable.”
“I couldn’t do that, Mum. It’s time to get this all into my head. I will do it on my own. I decided that when I ended things with him. I gave him an out and he took it. I have not heard from him since he left. He said he would call. And to be honest I am okay with that now, for the first days I was angry. He isn’t ready to be a dad, and that’s fine, he is as far as I am concerned the sperm donor and if...”
“He should be a man and man up and be a father. I understand he is not ready, but he should…”
“Mum, I cannot make him, he made his choice.”
“You should come stay here. I mean it, that flat is no place for a pregnant woman.”
“Okay, but you do know you have other options.”
“Yes, your options. Are you really ready to be a mum? A single mum?”
“You are saying I should get rid of it aren’t you?”
“No, sweetheart, I meant I don’t know what I was saying, but I want what’s best for you.”
“I know, but I couldn’t have an abortion, or give it up. I couldn’t do that, not ever,” she said.
“It will be hard, really hard.”
She knew that, did her mother not understand she knew that.
Her mother was right about one thing, doing it alone was hard. Toby had said he would stay involved.
After no contact for the first month, he contacted her and apologised and said he would be there for her. And he was, for the first scan, for the first shopping trip to make a list of what she needed for the baby. Then he was busy or could not make it for whatever reason.
Months passed and he stopped calling to cancel and she let it go, she refused to call him. She had let him back in and he had let her down, again. She was not doing it anymore; it was not fair to her or their baby.
As time passed her stomach grew, her feet swelled. Doing simple things became impossible.
Three weeks before she was due to give birth, she contacted him. She felt it was the right thing to do, a reminder that she was close to having his baby. He never replied, her mother told her he would do this; he was not ready to be a father at all.
The move to a new place never happened, she remained in the flat and the attempts to decorate it were put on hold as her stomach expanded. Besides she had put her name on a new two bed flat and would move as soon as one was available.
She stood at the window as she did many nights after a long day at work, from both jobs. She needed the money now more than ever. The children from across the road were being louder than usual, she wanted this move sooner rather than later. How could she bring a baby home to this dump? She did not want her mother to know she agreed with her about the flat, or Toby.
The cot remained in its box, all ready to be assembled. Her mother had promised she would help her, but never came over to do so. She hated the flat and had a run-in with those kids and refused to come if they were about; they barely went to school so were around a lot.
Hours passed while she made attempts to do it, but she could not manoeuvre it around her bump, it would have to wait.
The sound of the boy’s music entered her flat; she wondered how a baby was going to sleep with that racket. She barely slept herself. She stood, which now took longer to do, hands on the chair to push herself up. Finally stood, she and moved to the window and closed it, blocking out some of the sounds.
The phone rang making her jump, was it him?
“Hello, Maxine speaking.”
“Hi, Maxine, this is Toby’s mum.”
“Hi, how are you?”
“I am good, I am so sorry that I have not contacted you until now. Toby didn’t tell me we were going to be grandparents. We found out from…”
“He didn’t,” she interrupted.
“No, he…I don’t know what to say other than I apologise about him. How could he turn his back on you two? I know you two are not together anymore…” she was crying by this point, Maxine was crying too, anyone crying made her cry. Maxine told her she was more than happy to have her in the baby’s life, she was the grandmother and she was welcome any time.
“Right now?” she said.
“If that is okay, I…”
She arrived half an hour later, a huge cake in her hands and carrying a bag of goodies, from nappies to clothes for the baby.
“I didn’t know what you were having, we…” she indicated to Toby’s father. “Wanted to come and let you know, just because he…I know he’s not been in contact, he said he was going to and wanted to be a father but then he changed his mind that he was not ready and we told him, didn’t we, that he should tell you. I don’t care that he is not ready, this baby is part of him, it's our family. If you want us to be…”
“Yes, please, yes I do, of course, I do.”
“Good,” his mother began. She looked around the flat. “Ah yes, tea, we should have tea to go with the cake. Don’t get up, I will make it.”
“And I will make that cot up. If my son was a real man he would be here doing stuff like this, and yes I told him didn’t I dear?”
“If he was here this would be done. The place would be ready. Now, we are here for you, night or day. I will have this up in a jiffy.”
Maxine watched his father; he was much like his son and imagined he looked just like him when he was younger. He had aged well and he indeed had the cot up in a jiffy as he put it. His mother was in the kitchen, cleaning, she knew she could hear the water sploshing as she sang as she waited to the kettle to boil. She admitted she had not washed the dishes for the day. She was too tired and planned to do them in the morning. She thanked her when she carried the tea and cake through, telling her it was the least she could do.
They came around three times a week before the baby was born. The day she went into labour she called Toby and his parents. They arrived and waited outside with her mother who would said she could not come in and see her daughter in so much pain.
The pain was an understatement, if being ripped in two then no one could compare the pain she had experienced as her daughter made her way into the world. A perfect little baby, she had all her fingers and toes. She was beautiful.
Three days later, sat alone in her flat, the music grating on her last nerve as her daughter screams filled the air. She stood and opened her door and shouted out it.
“Turn your music down, for the love of God.”
“We ain’t got to do nowt you say, love, we can have it on til eleven, me mam said.”
“Well I am telling you, we all have to live here, so why not turn it down a notch. I am asking nicely, just think of others.”
“Nah, we want it loud in’t it.”
“Is that right, how about I come down there and take that off ya.”
“You wouldn’t dare?”
She wouldn’t, but she was tired, her daughter cried and fed a lot.
“We will if you show us your tits, they are massive now, come on, love,” this came from the youngest. Just as the door to the house opened and his mother came out.
“What’s going on?”
“What is going on, let me tell you, your son just asked me to show my tits to him, to get the music turned down?”
“Did he now?”
“Why don’t you get back in your flat and sort that baby out I can hear its crying from here.”
“I am surprised you can hear her over that noise your kids call music.”
“They can play that until eleven; I know the law, love.”
“Yes, but you also have to be respectful of your neighbours.”
By this point a few others had come out of their homes and joined in, agreeing with Maxine.
“Is that how it is going to be is it? You all ganging up on us, what have we ever done to you lot?”
“For one,” the woman two doors down started. “Your kids should be in school, and then at least we could have peace during the day. They are loud, rude and have kicked my car and others down here more times than I can count. You don’t control them,” now she had started, she could not stop. “They need a good slap.”
“Ah right, like your kids are angels?”
“My kids are not little shits like yours, they at least do not terrorise the street.”
“We do not!”
“Yes you do!” another neighbour said.
“Look all I want is the music turned down, the boys to be a little more respectful is that too much to ask?”
“I don’t think so,” again this came from the woman two doors down.
“Boys get in the house.”
“Fuck off, we ain’t going anywhere, if they want to talk shit about us, we have a right to defend ourselves.”
“Problem is, everything that has been said is true, you are rude, you are loud and you do kick peoples cars and who knows what else you have done.”
“We ain’t done nowt like that,” one of the older ones said.
“Look I don’t want to argue, I am tired, I need sleep. Just turn it down that is all we ask. You respect us and we will respect you, how hard is that?”
The mother nodded, her face red, Maxine realised they ruled the house. Maybe she would step up and be the mother she should be. She watched her march over to her son and removed the boombox from her son's hand. Turned it off, silence filled the air.
“You lot get the fuck in the house, I am sorry everyone, you are right.”
“Don’t agree with them, we ain’t done nowt.”
“No, but you know as well as I do, that things need to change if you want to stay here, I told you and you,” she started as she pushed them in the house, raising her voice. The boys entered heads hung. The neighbours clapped; maybe just maybe they would be quieter.
For three days they went to school, the street was quiet and everyone hoped they would remain that way. One of the boys soon reverted back to their old ways and the others did not take like to follow.
Maxine gave up; she wanted to move as soon as she could. She watched her week old daughter and fed her until they both fell asleep, exhausted.
All rights reserved