Two of them.
I was quiet when we left the doctor’s office that day. I had already feared becoming the mother of one baby. Being forced to love the one thing Jeremy loved more than me. But when I found out there were two, and that they were girls, I was suddenly not okay with being the third most important thing in Jeremy’s life.
I tried to force my smile when he’d talk about them. I would act like it filled me with joy when he rubbed my stomach, but it repulsed me, knowing he was only doing it because they were in there. Even if I delivered early, it didn’t matter. Now that there were two of them, my body would suffer even more damage. I shuddered daily at the thought of them both growing inside me, stretching my skin, ruining my breasts, my stomach, and god forbid the temple between my legs where Jeremy worshipped nightly.
How could Jeremy still want me after this?
During the fourth month of my pregnancy, I started hoping for a miscarriage. I prayed for blood when I went to the bathroom. I imagined how, after losing the twins, Jeremy would make me his priority again. He would dote on me, worship me, care for me, worry for me, and not because of what was growing inside me.
I took sleeping pills when he wasn’t looking. I drank wine when he wasn’t around. I did anything I could to destroy the things that were going to push him away from me, but nothing worked. They kept growing. My stomach continued to stretch.
In my fifth month, we were lying on our sides in the bed. Jeremy was fucking me from behind. His left hand gripped my breast, and his right hand was against my stomach. I didn’t like it when he touched my stomach during sex. It made me think of the babies and ruined my mood.
I thought maybe he had reached orgasm when he stopped moving, but I realized he’d stopped moving because he’d felt them move. He pulled out of me and then rolled me onto my back, pressing his palm against my stomach.
“Did you feel that?” he asked. His eyes were dancing with excitement. He wasn’t hard anymore. He was excited for reasons that had nothing to do with me. He pressed his ear to my stomach and waited for one of them to move again.
“Jeremy?” I whispered.
He kissed my stomach and looked up at me.
I reached down and teased at strands of his hair with my fingers. “Do you love them?”
He smiled because he thought I wanted him to say yes. “I love them more than anything.”
“More than me?”
He stopped smiling. He kept his hand on my stomach, but he scooted up, sliding an arm under my neck. “Different from you,” he said, kissing my cheek.
“Different, yes. But more? Is your love for them more intense than your love for me?”
His eyes scanned mine, and I was hoping he would laugh and say, “Absolutely not.” But he didn’t laugh. He looked at me with nothing but honesty and said, “Yes.”
Really? His reply crushed me. Suffocated me. Killed me.
“But that’s how it should be,” he said. “Why? Do you feel guilty because you love them more than me?”
I didn’t answer. Did he really think I loved them more than I loved him? I don’t even know them.
“Don’t feel guilty,” he said. “I want you to love them more than you love me. Our love for each other is conditional. Our love for them isn’t.”
“My love for you is unconditional,” I said.
He smiled. “No, it isn’t. I could do things you would never forgive me for. But you’ll always forgive your children.”
He was wrong. I didn’t forgive them for existing. I didn’t forgive them for forcing him to put me third. I didn’t forgive them for taking the night we got engaged from us.
They weren’t even born yet, but they were already taking things that had once belonged to me.
“Verity,” Jeremy whispered. He wiped a tear that had fallen from my eye. “Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “I just can’t believe how much you already love them and they aren’t even born yet.”
“I know,” he said, smiling.
I didn’t mean it as a compliment, but he took it that way. He laid his head back on my chest and touched my stomach again. “I’ll be a fucking mess when they’re born.”
He’s going to cry?
He had never cried for me. Over me. About me.
Maybe we haven’t fought enough.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I whispered. I didn’t have to go, I just needed to get away from him and all the love he was aiming in every direction but mine.
He kissed me, and when I climbed off the bed, he rolled over, his back to me, and forgot we’d never even finished fucking.
He fell asleep while I was in the bathroom, attempting to abort his daughters with a wire hanger. I tried for half an hour, until my stomach started to cramp and blood was running down my leg. I was certain more would follow.
I climbed into bed, waiting for the miscarriage. My arms were shaking. My legs were numb from the squatting. My stomach hurt and I wanted to puke, but I didn’t move because I wanted to be in the bed with him when it happened. I wanted to wake him up, frantic, and show him the blood. I wanted him to panic, to worry, to feel bad for me, to cry for me.
To cry for me.
I drop the last page of the chapter.
It flutters to the polished wood floor and disappears under the desk, like its trying to get away from me. I immediately drop to my knees, searching for it, arranging it back into the pile of pages I’m determined to hide. I’m… I don’t even…
I’m still on my knees in the middle of Verity’s office when the tears come. They don’t spill; I hold them off with deep breaths, focusing on the grinding pain in my knees to distract my thoughts. I don’t even know if it’s sadness or anger. I only know this was written by a very disturbed woman—a woman whose house I currently inhabit. Slowly, I lift my head until my eyes are fixed to the ceiling. She’s there right now, on the second floor, sleeping, or eating, or staring blankly into space. I can feel her lurking, disapproving of my presence.
Suddenly, I know, without a doubt, that it’s true.
A mother wouldn’t write that about herself—about her daughters—if it weren’t the truth. A mother who never had those feelings or thoughts would never even dream of them. I don’t care how good of a writer Verity is; she would never compromise herself as a mother by writing something so horrid if she didn’t actually experience that.
My mind begins to spin with worry, sadness, fear. If she did that—if she actually tried to take their lives over a streak of maternal jealousy—what else was she capable of?
What actually happened to those girls?
After a while of processing it, I put the manuscript in a drawer, beneath a slew of other things. I don’t ever want Jeremy to come across that. And before I leave here, I will destroy it. I can’t imagine how he would feel if he read that. He’s already grieving the deaths of his daughters. Imagine if he knew what they endured at the hands of their own mother.
I pray she was a better mother after they were born, but I’m honestly too shaken to continue reading. I’m not sure if I want to read more at all.
I want a drink. Not water or soda or fruit juice. I walk to the kitchen and open the refrigerator, but there’s no wine. I open the cabinets above the refrigerator, but there’s no liquor. I open the cabinet below the sink and it’s bare. I open the refrigerator again, but all I see are small boxes of fruit juice for Crew and bottles of water that aren’t going to help me shake this feeling.
“Are you okay?”
I spin around, and Jeremy is sitting at the dining room table with papers strewn out in front of him. He looks concerned for me.
“Do you have anything alcoholic at all in the house?” I plant my hands firmly on my hips, attempting to hide the trembling in my fingers. He has no idea what she was truly like.
Jeremy studies me for a moment, then heads for the pantry. On the top shelf is a bottle of Crown Royal. “Sit down,” he says, concern still embedded in his expression. He watches me as I take a seat at the table and drop my head in my hands.
I hear him open a can of soda and mix it with the liquor. A few moments later, he sets it in front of me. I bring it to my lips so fast, a few drops spill onto the table. He’s back in his chair now, watching me closely.