Chapter 21- The Greatest Gift of All
Alyssa began the morning of her twenty- ninth birthday by sprinting towards the bathroom door and arriving just in time to fall to her knees in front of the toilet, before violently emptying the contents of her stomach. Ugh, she thought as she continued to heave. Usually I end the night of my birthday doing this. She absolutely detested throwing up and usually did everything she could to avoid it. Even when she had the stomach flu, which she suspected what this was, or had drank more alcohol than she could handle, she'd try to hold back. In fact, she very seldom actually got sick from drinking.
Finally feeling as if she was done, she backed away from the toilet feeling shaky and disgusting. She wasn't sure what had happened. She was downstairs, scrambling an egg for breakfast when all of a sudden she was overcome with the violent urge to vomit. It had crept up on her so sneakily that she hadn't been able to fight it and was thankful enough just to make it to the bathroom in time. Damn stomach bugs, she cursed as she slowly stood up and flushed the toilet. Not being able to withstand her yucky puke breath, she grabbed her toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste and began scrubbing away at her teeth.
Once her mouth had been rinsed clean, she stared at her pale reflection in the mirror and realized that it probably wasn't the best idea for Kim to bring Gavin by today. If this was a stomach bug it was probably highly contagious and she'd hate to pass it on to a poor infant. Besides, she couldn't really take care of a baby if she was running to the bathroom every hour. With that decided she headed downstairs and dialed Kim's number hoping that there was still time for her to make other arrangements for Gavin before she had to be at work.
"Hey Alyssa," Kim answered. "What's going on? I'm surprised to hear from you so early."
"I'm really sorry, but I'm not going to be able to watch Gavin today. I think I have the stomach flu or something. I'm sorry to back out on you last minute like this, but it's just hit me now and I don't want to pass it on to him," she hurriedly explained.
"It's okay," the younger woman assured her. "If you don't feel up to it, don't force yourself. I'll have to see if maybe Callie can take him just for today or something. I hope you feel better soon. Such a shame you're sick on your birthday too."
"Thanks. Yea, it really sucks! I don't know what's wrong with me lately. I'm like falling apart. Ever since Sean's left I've been feeling really blah and tired and depressed and stuff and now I have the stomach flu..."
Kim seemed surprised. "You've been feeling tired you said?"
"Yea... Really tired. Like the littlest task takes so much out of me. I'm constantly taking naps. Maybe I'm like anemic or something."
"Could be, but..." she stopped and giggled.
"But what?" Alyssa asked raising her eyebrows.
"Well, not to get your hopes up or anything," Kim slowly began. "But the whole being tired thing sounds exactly how I felt before I found out I was pregnant with Gavin. And there's the fact that you got sick this morning. Do you think that maybe it wasn't a stomach flu at all, but morning sickness?"
Alyssa was stunned for a moment or two at just the possibility. "I don't know Kim... I mean feeling tired doesn't necessarily equal pregnancy. Besides, Sean and I have had so much trouble conceiving that I seriously doubt that something magical happened right before he left, although I guess the timing seems plausible."
"Is your period late?"
She thought for a moment and realized that she hadn't had it since after her last pregnancy scare a few weeks ago. "Yea," she admitted. "I've just been under so much stress lately that I wasn't overly concerned. I think I would've been more worried if everything was all regular and normal."
"Well, I think you should see a doctor or something. Even if it turns out to be something else, you shouldn't be this rundown and tired all the time. It would be best if you got it checked out now, so that you could set your mind at ease," Kim advised.
"Yea... Maybe you're right," Alyssa agreed, her mind already reeling a million miles a minute. Could she really be pregnant? Or was she just getting her hopes up again only to have them smashed down in the end? She honestly did not know what to believe.
Alyssa stood in the bathroom later that day staring warily at the pink box in front of her. After Kim had put the idea of her possibly being pregnant in her head that morning, she hadn't been able to concentrate much on anything else. She hadn't been sick again since this morning, further confirming that Kim's suspicion could be right. There was only one way to know for sure, so finally out of sheer impatience she'd run out to buy a home pregnancy test.
Now that it was staring her in the face she was almost afraid to take it. It wasn't as if this was the first time she'd had to take one. In fact, it had only been maybe six or seven weeks ago that she'd taken the last one. Honestly she was afraid of the results. She didn't want to be left disappointed again like the last time, especially on her birthday. How amazing would it be to find out on today of all days that she was actually pregnant? It would be the most awesome birthday gift ever.
It's now or never, she realized as she tore open the kit taking a deep breath. After a few minutes she was done with the actual test part and was just nervously waiting her results. She paced around the tiny room, trying her best to avoid glancing at the stick that was lying on the bathroom counter to see what it was doing. Finally after what felt like an excruciatingly long amount of minutes passed by, it was time to check the results. Alyssa crossed her fingers as she picked up the stick very carefully and read the results on the front.
She gasped once she saw the tiny plus sign on the front and her eyes immediately filled up with happy tears. Somehow despite everything she was indeed pregnant according to this test. Her hands instinctively flew up to her stomach as it fully hit her that there was a human life growing inside of her. In a couple of months she'd be a mother... She'd always dreamed about this day since she was a little girl and now that it was here she almost found it hard to believe. And to receive the news on her birthday made the experience that much sweeter. Who could ask for a better birthday present?
Her mind immediately began shooting off in a dozen different directions. I can't wait to tell Sean. He's going to be ecstatic, she realized. Her expression sank though when she realized that she might have to wind up telling him through only an e-mail since she never knew when he'd be available to talk to her personally. The thought did put a little bit of a damper on her good mood. A part of her couldn't wait to call up everyone she knew to share her exciting news, but she also felt that it was unfair to let anyone else know before she got a chance to tell Sean first. She just hoped that she wouldn't have to wait long. She wasn't sure if she could keep something like this a secret for very long without blurting it out to someone.
Luckily for her, Alyssa didn't have to wait as long as she'd originally expected to share her news with Sean. Late that evening she'd signed on to her computer to check her e-mail. It sucked sometimes finding time to talk to Sean because of the time difference. Take now for instance it was fairly early in the morning over in Iraq, Alyssa seriously doubted that Sean would be able to sneak onto his computer for a chat. The best he could do was send her a birthday e-mail which Alyssa quickly read with a smile on her face and just clicked on the button to reply back to him when an instant message popped up in front of her.
USMarineSR4Life: Hey baby! Happy Birthday!
Alyssa's face broke into a huge grin. It made no sense why he'd be on his computer right then, but she was sure glad that she was. She eagerly clicked into the text box and began typing a response.
MissLyssa1980: Hey! Thanks! What are you doing on so early?
USMarineSR4Life: Shh... I snuck on for a few minutes so I could wish you a Happy Birthday properly.
MissLyssa1980: That's really sweet of you. I don't want to get you in trouble or anything though.
USMarineSR4Life: Don't worry. I have to do something to make up for the fact that I really couldn't get you anything.
MissLyssa1980: It's okay. It wound up being a pretty good birthday anyway. And I wouldn't worry so much about not getting me anything...
USMarineSR4Life: ??? What's that supposed to mean?
Alyssa held back a smirk at her husband's confusion. He really had no clue that she was about to tell him, which made her surprise even more exciting to share. She was already bubbling over with the anticipation of blurting it out just to see his priceless reaction. She bit her lip as her fingers flew over the keyboard.
MissLyssa1980: Can you get onto your webcam?
USMarineSR4Life: Yea... Sure. But I don't get it. Why?
MissLyssa1980: Just do it.
She gave him a few moments while she adjusted her webcam and then clicked on the box to send him an invitation to a live chat. A few seconds later his face appeared on the screen in front of her, and she found herself amazed for a moment that she was actually seeing him again even though he was halfway around the world. She found herself speechless for a moment or two, almost forgetting her original purpose until Sean broke the silence.
"So, what's this all about?" he asked curiously, a sly grin on his face. "You seemed pretty adamant about being able to speak with me face to face."
Alyssa smiled brightly. "I just have to tell you something really important and I felt that it's something that I should tell you face to face because I want to be able to see your reaction."
"Ok, now you got me curious here. What's going on? It has to be something good because you're practically glowing," he observed.
"It is," she assured him as she tried to decide exactly how she wanted to go about telling him the news. Already the intensity of the moment was beginning to get her flustered and she already felt tears stinging her eyelids. Now I guess I finally know why I've been crying so much lately, she thought to herself as she fanned her eyes with her fingers. "Sorry... It's just so amazing being able to see you right now and this is just a really huge moment..."
Sean's brow furrowed in concern. "You're scaring me a little Alyssa. Just tell me what it is."
Alyssa swallowed hard. Outside of her wedding day this was probably about to be one of the most joyous moments in her life and she wanted to choose her words carefully. "Well, I haven't been feeling so great lately," she started off. "I've been really tired and emotional and just not myself. I even got sick this morning and at first I thought it was just a stomach flu, but Kim convinced me that maybe I was wrong. I took another pregnancy test and... we're going to be parents!"
She couldn't help but to beam as she watched Sean's expression as his mind processed the news. At first, his mouth gaped in shock, but as soon as the news really sunk in his lips rose into an excited grin. "That's amazing news Alyssa! I'm going to be a father!" he whooped to anyone who would listen to him. "When did you find out?"
"Only today. It was the best birthday present I could ever ask for."
"So, you haven't seen a doctor or anything yet, huh?"
Alyssa shook her head. "Nope. Not yet. I'm going to have to see about making an appointment sometime in the next few days."
She watched as Sean still seemed stunned by the news. "Wow... I wonder when it happened? Isn't it so weird that it worked out like this? I bet it was that night before I left, right? I just had a really good feeling about that night for some odd reason."
Alyssa laughed at her husband's excitement. "I don't know yet, but that could very well be. I'm not sure how far along I am yet. I guess we'll find out when I finally see a doctor."
"Have you told anyone else yet?"
She shook her head. "Nope. Not a soul. I wanted you to be the first person I shared this with. I guess tomorrow I'll start calling everyone."
Sean nodded in agreement. "Sounds like a plan. Definitely call my folks for me because I can't guarantee when I'll be able to get around to doing it myself."
"Of course," she told him. "I'm glad that I could at least give you some good news."
"It's awesome news! Seriously I'm really excited about it. I just wish that I could be closer to you. I'm sorry that I won't be around to be by your side during your pregnancy."
"Don't apologize," she warned him. "It's not like you don't want to be here. We can't help timing, can we? I have plenty of people back here, who would be willing to help me out, so don't worry about me."
"I'll try not to, but it's hard." He sighed for a moment as he realized what time it was. "I'm so happy that God finally seemed to have answered our prayers. I wish I could talk longer, but I have to get going now. I just want to thank you."
"Thank me?" Alyssa squeaked. "Why?"
"You just gave me another reason to look forward to each day," he simply stated. "No matter how bad it gets here, I know that eventually I'll be back home again and when I do I'll have a family waiting for me."
As corny as that may have sounded, it was enough to send the waterworks flowing down Alyssa's face once more. She just hoped he was right and he really did make it back home in one piece. All she could do for the time being was to look forward to the day that their little family would finally be reunited again. She didn't want to consider the alternative of having her baby grow up without ever setting eyes on its father.
Not much had changed for Nick since the night of Alyssa's anniversary when he'd spent the evening camped out on her couch with movies to distract her from Sean's obvious absence. Since he'd left her on the couch, Alyssa had made good on her decision not to go out of her way to contact him. It definitely sucked big time that this had been the consequence of their little tryst a little over a month ago and although Nick seldom did have very many regrets in his life, he was beginning to wonder if it had been worth it in the long run. Yes, the physical connection between the two of them had been overwhelmingly powerful, but if he had known then that it would possibly tear their friendship apart, he'd probably have never gone through with it.
Now he was holed up in the condo without Alyssa or Shayla. He had to admit that he was getting pretty lonely. He'd distanced himself from most of his other friends in the last few weeks because he didn't want Shayla to get wind of where he was staying. In doing that though, he'd almost cut himself off from most of society. He knew that there was no way he could keep this up permanently, but he just wasn't sure what he wanted anymore. He knew that he owed it to Shayla to come up with some sort of decision about the status of their relationship. After his meeting with Diane, he was having second thoughts about something as rash as divorce just yet, but he definitely thought that some sort of long term separation would probably be the best alternative for them under the circumstances.
He'd also come across another revelation in thinking over his behavior in the last few weeks. He'd been taking the cowardly way out when it came to his decision to avoid Shayla. He could hide out from her as long as he wanted, but he'd have to face her eventually. Right now he was only delaying the inevitable, which seemed like a pretty childish thing to do. He was supposed to be a mature adult and the responsible thing would be to at least give Shayla a call and let her know that he was at least alive and well. Then maybe he could explain to her more calmly that it might be best if he went back home to get the rest of his things, so that they could spend some much needed time apart while they figured things out.
As much as Nick realized that speaking to Shayla again was the right thing to do, he procrastinated in picking up the phone to call her for a few days. Finally he literally had to force himself just to go ahead and do it. His hands shook as he dialed her familiar number and his palms grew sweaty against the back of the phone. He wasn't even sure exactly what he was going to say to her and before he could formulate any kind of speech in his head, her relieved voice broke through his thoughts.
"Nick? Where have you been? I've been so worried about you! I've been looking everywhere for you, but no one seems to have seen you," Shayla blurted out all at once. "I'm so sorry about the pregnancy thing. You're right it was a really fucked up thing to do and I don't know why I even thought it would be a good idea... Just please come home! I promise if you do I won't even mention the baby thing again. I swear!"
Finally finding an opportunity to break through her rambling, Nick cleared his throat. "I don't know if that's the best idea just yet Shayla. I mean what you did isn't just something I can forget just like that. You lied about something pretty major. If you're willing to lie about being pregnant, what else is there that you could be lying about?"
"I swear I've never lied to you about anything else!" she frantically promised. "Lying about being pregnant was the stupidest mistake I ever made and living without you these last few weeks has definitely taught me a lesson. I promise if you come back there will be no games or no more schemes. I miss you!"
Nick just shook his head. A part of him really wanted to believe that Shayla was being sincere with him, but then another part of him was doubtful. He'd been burnt too many times by women in his past to just let this go after only a few weeks. "I just wanted to call you to let you know that I'm going to stop by this week and pick up the rest of my things."
"What? You're moving out? No...You can't!" her voice cried. "Where have you even been staying?"
"I'm renting out a hotel suite for the time being," he lied, still not wanting her to know about the condo's existence. "I just think that it's probably for the best if we just separate for a little bit to get our heads on straight."
"My head is on straight! My mind has never been clearer! I love you Nick and I don't want to lose you!"
He sighed as he rubbed the bridge of his nose, wishing that she wouldn't make this so difficult for him. "I need some more time," he calmly told her. "So, I just want to get my shit and get settled on my own for a while. Then maybe in another few weeks we can meet again and try to talk things out."
"You mean you may be willing to give us a second chance?" Her voice soared with hopefulness.
I didn't say that! He wanted to scream with frustration, but sometimes in situations like this it was better to fill Shayla with false hope. It usually at least shut her up for a bit. "We'll have to see what happens. Right now I just think we need some time away from each other."
"So, does that mean that you're not thinking about a divorce anymore?"
Again he sighed. He really wasn't sure. At the time, his first instinct was to head right to his lawyer, but now he was beginning to have his doubts. He really didn't want to go through all the messy legalities and media backlash of a divorce right now. Maybe it would've been different if there had been someone else waiting in the wings for him. A few weeks ago he thought that maybe that could've been Alyssa, but now he realized how foolish he had been. There was no way that Alyssa was going to leave Sean at the moment. For once he was the one who had gotten screwed over and he had to admit that it definitely wasn't a very good feeling. "I don't know," he answered noncommittally. "Right now I just think its better if we separate first before we go making any really rash decisions just yet."
As if she were reading his mind, Shayla asked the question that he himself had been wondering about ever since he had reached this decision. "Just one question, how are we supposed to explain our sudden separation to the media? I mean we've both been laying pretty low these last few weeks, but they're bound to figure it out sooner or later. Then what do we do? Divorce rumors are going to be just as hard to deal with."
Nick shrugged. "I guess we just try to put on an act to the media. We're entertainers. Hopefully we can pull it off for at least a little while before anyone figures out that not everything is perfect between us."
Shayla hesitated on her end of the line seeming doubtful. "I'm not sure if they'll buy it, but I don't see any other option." She stopped and sighed. "Do what you must. If it's going to help us out in the long run, then I guess I'll just have to deal. I hope you're right and it's just that we need some time apart. I really don't want to live without you."
"We'll just have to play things by ear," he assured her. "So I'll stop over sometime in the next few days while you're at work and I'll give you a call or something in another few weeks."
"Okay," she sniffled. "Don't be a stranger. Call me anytime."
"I will." Of course he didn't really plan on it, but he didn't want to crush her feelings anymore than he already had.
"There's just one more thing I need to know," Shayla's voice suddenly broke through the ending of their conversation as she swallowed hard. "Is there someone else?"
Now it was Nick's turn to hesitate. "No... There's no one else," he finally managed to get out. It wasn't completely a lie. There might have been someone else, but he certainly didn't stand any kind of serious chance with her. She'd made it quite clear to him that history would no repeat itself again this time.