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“You don’t really mean that.” Abby said as she sipped the red wine from the bottle by the sink, her hip leaning against the counter.
“I know I don’t. I just wanted to see your reaction.” Riley glanced up from the photographs on the polished wood table. “Just as I suspected.”
Her eyes flashed him a glare. “What do you mean by that?”
“You built a wall again, Abby. You shut me out. You don’t want to share your emotions because you feel the irrational need to put up a strong front, to be strong for me.”
“Who gave you a degree in psychology, Dr. Phil?” She drained the remnants of the wine from the bottle and set it on the tile counter with a bang. “I’m going to bed.”
Riley rose from the kitchen table and crossed the room to catch Abby by the waist. He gently touched her cheek to make her look at him.
“You should talk to me about this. You are not the only person in this house who is upset.”
“I know that, Riley. I just have to deal with this by myself first.”
He stepped away from her. “You are doing it again.”
“Doing what?” She threw her hands up in the air in exasperation.
Riley moved back to the table and picked up a picture. His voice was calm and slow when he spoke: “Just talk to me, Abby. Like we used to talk. We could tell each other everything about everything. Now, you never say anything.” His hands shook as he handed her the picture.
Abby’s breath caught in her throat. “I’m angry,” she murmured. “I know it wasn’t my fault and that I couldn’t have controlled it. I know that. But I’m angry that it had to happen to us. What did we do to deserve this?” A silver tear rolled down her cheek and hung on her chin for a moment before dripping onto the front of her black dress.
Riley wrapped his arms around her. “I know, baby. I know.”
Abby began to weep, tears and sobs shaking out of her like wind rattling through a broken window. Her tears soaked the front of Riley’s dress shirt, staining black mascara on the white fabric. Neither one of them cared.
Riley wept too, drenching Abby’s dark curls. They both wept for what they had lost and what they had never known.
When Abby couldn’t cry anymore, she leaned against her husband, breathing him in. She let the rage she felt eat into her, devouring her reason. She glanced at the photographs that she had dropped on the floor. Anger sparked inside her, fueled by the incessant flow of alcohol that she had been drinking for the past week. Her fingers balled up the hem of her black dress and she stepped away from Riley. She watched him like a scared cat watches someone who only wants to pet it, with wary eyes.
She made a break for the stairs, running up them as quickly as she could, her bare feet pounding against the hard wood. Time began to slow down as she sprinted into the unfinished room on the second floor. Abby couldn’t contain herself: she snatched up different objects from around the room then ran down the hall to the bathroom, throwing things in the trash, careless of what the objects were.
“Abby! Abby, stop!” Riley clutched her wrists, making her stop her frantic mission. Dark curls had come unpinned in her rush and her eyes were wild.
“I can’t look at that room anymore! I can’t! We have to get rid of everything. Everything!” She fought against Riley, desperately wanting to set fire to the green room just down the hall from where they stood.
“I understand that, Abby.”
Abby couldn’t stand anymore. Her knees buckled under her and she sank to the plush gray carpet, barely aware of Riley’s arms around her. She touched her stomach, cramped with her emotions and the bottle of wine she had consumed.
“He’s gone, Riley. We had to bury our child today. He had a name. Ethan. I carried him for six months and now…he’s gone.” Pain shone in Abby’s eyes but her voice was devoid of any kind of emotion. She shattered Riley’s heart when she gazed up at him.
“I know, baby. We are going to get through this though. I promise. You just have to trust me. Do you trust me enough to get through this? Or are you going to completely break down on me?”
Abby couldn’t breathe. He was asking too much of her right then. She had watched her child’s body be lowered into a dark hole in the ground. How could he ask her to move on, to go on with her life as though Ethan hadn’t existed?
Riley saw the look of disbelief on her face. He had always had an uncanny ability to read her emotions when they played across her face. “I’m not asking you to forget Ethan. I am asking you to heal from his death, Abby. Heal with me. I love you and I need you here. All here. Heal with me?”
She swallowed the lump of pain in her throat. She really looked at Riley’s face, saw her own anguish reflected in his strong features. He was being strong for her right now. They both had to learn to lean on each other now. Ethan wouldn’t become just a memory. He had affected their lives forever in the six months they had known he existed. Nothing and no one could take that from them.
Riley lifted her up and together they walked down the hall to the green room.
Abby touched the dark wood of the crib in the corner while Riley caressed the soft green blanket lying inside it.
He kissed her cheek and her fingers twined with his.
They would heal together.