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Yolanda Watson checked the calendar for a sixth time; the numbers hadn’t changed.
“Lana, have you seen my chef’s coat? I need to get going.” Her husband’s voice pulled her from her study of the dates, and she whirled around to find him behind her.
“I left it hanging in the bathroom so the steam could help with the creases.”
Michael smiled and her stomach dropped. She’d been a sucker for that smile from the first time she saw it. It had taken at least a year before she’d summoned up the courage to talk to him. “Thanks, babe.” He dropped a quick kiss on her cheek.
She glanced back at the calendar. This conversation wasn’t going to be easy, she knew it, but they needed to have it. Of course, she could be wrong and her period was late for any number of reasons. She’d been stressed about the make-up videos. She’d been doing them for years and all of a sudden they’d taken off. She was getting emails about endorsing products and people wanting more and more tips. All the while she was having to come up with new content, while dealing with a three-year-old, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Plus, as much as she loved doing her videos, she needed to evaluate if this was something she wanted to make a career out of. It was a big step and one she couldn’t make without thinking through all aspects of it.
“Honey, I know you’re about to head out the door, but I need to ask you something.”
Michael walked back into the kitchen, looking devastatingly handsome in his pristine white chef’s jacket. Pride welled up inside her; he’d achieved so much in such a short time.
Yes, his job was stressful and the hours were long, but he loved it and she wanted him to be happy. What she wanted to talk to him about may not make him happy, and there was still a chance she was wrong. Maybe she should start the conversation as more of a hypothetical scenario.
“I can give you two minutes. Shoot.”
“Umm, I want to bring up the subject again of giving Jayne a brother or sister. I know we discussed it a few months ago, but I’m feeling better now and so much stronger.” Having grown up the youngest of four had been a trial, more often than not, but she wouldn’t trade her siblings for anything. She wanted Jayne to have that too. Have someone who would give her support and be there for her. And for her to be there for her younger sibling. To help them. To play with them. Nothing was better than knowing you weren’t totally alone in the world.
“No. Emphatically no.” Michael’s body was stiff, as if it was carved out of granite. His lips a firm line and his arms crossed over his chest. He was radiating ‘no entry allowed’. “You heard what the doctor said after the miscarriage, when you almost died. The risk is too great. I won’t allow it.”
Yolanda reared back. “I’m sorry, what? You won’t allow it? We have a partnership here, Michael. You don’t lord over me.”
He scrubbed a hand through his hair, his shoulders slumped and a look of desolation filled his eyes. A look she’d never seen before. “I’m sorry, Lana, you’re right. I shouldn’t have phrased it that way. But the thought of losing you fills me with a bone-deep fear. I don’t want to go through …” He paused, lowering and shaking his head. When he lifted it again his gaze was blank. No emotion showed on his features. “You know what? It doesn’t matter, having another child is not an option. And nothing will change the way I feel.”
“No, Yolanda. The doctor said it was too much of a risk. I won’t support another pregnancy, or the very idea of trying for another child. Even if the doctor changed his mind and now said the risks weren’t high, it’s still not going to happen. Plus, it’s not exactly a good time to have another child. The restaurant is ridiculously busy and needs all my attention. I can’t let Charles down, not after all he’s done for me. For us. In my mind the subject is closed.”
She was beginning to loathe the restaurant that had given Michael a chance when he’d had no experience at all. The place was becoming his mistress and she didn’t think he even realised it. Ever since her close call he’d thrown himself into his work, as if he didn’t want to be around her anymore. He never took his allocated hours off. The time he spent at home with her and Jayne was reducing every day.
“That’s not fair, Michael. We had Jayne without any issues, maybe what happened to me was just one of those freak occurrences. I could be fine next time around. And I wouldn’t be the only mother whose husband worked busy hours. I’m not going to fall apart having a baby while also having a toddler.”
In all their time together he’d never dug his heels in like he was doing now. They always talked and compromised. Since her miscarriage, however, he’d treated her as if she was made of spun glass and would shatter at any moment. Again, something he’d never done, unlike her family who had always treated her that way. He’d always seen her as capable of doing anything she wanted, and he’d never stopped her from trying.
Why couldn’t he see that she was still the person she’d always been? She truly believed that what happened with her second pregnancy was a once-in-a-million thing and this baby, if she was pregnant, wouldn’t cause her harm.
“I don’t know how many times I have to say this, there won’t be a next time,” Michael stated forcefully. “I’ll have a vasectomy if it means keeping you safe.”
Shock slammed into her and she had to stop herself from doubling over as if she’d been punched in the stomach. “You’d go and do that without telling me?”
He paused and her heart dropped that he would consider doing something so life altering without even discussing it with her. He wouldn’t, would he? Or worse, if she said she thought she was pregnant would he tell her to get rid of the child?
No, he wouldn’t do that. Michael wasn’t like that at all. As much as she might wonder now if she knew him at all, she did know that he would never ask that of her.
He blew out a breath, lifting his gaze upward momentarily before dropping it to meet hers. “No, of course I wouldn’t do something like that without talking to you. Now, I’ve got to go to work.”
Again she couldn’t read what was going through his mind. Normally he was an open book to her, but he’d been closing himself off from her piece by piece. What was happening to them?
“Of course you do.” She couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice, frustrated at how they appeared to be so out of sync with each other. “You’ve spent so much time there recently, instead of with your family, I’m beginning to think you prefer the company of the staff and not your wife and daughter.”
“That’s not true, Lana.”
“Isn’t it? You’re always there now, Michael.”
Michael ran fingers through his hair, mussing it. Normally she would reach out and smooth it down, but not now. There was a gap building between them and she didn’t know how to bridge it. “I want to continue talking about this, but you know my schedule. I have to leave now to get there on time. We’ll talk more when I get home.” He came up and brushed his lips against her cheek.
As the door clicked behind him, he took every hope that maybe she could change his mind. That she could convince him what had happened months ago wouldn’t happen again, no matter what the doctor said. But if Michael couldn’t support a theoretical pregnancy, would he be there for her if it did turn out she was really pregnant? What did this all mean to their marriage? Was it time to sit back and take a good hard look at the status of their relationship?
Would Michael ever look at her the way he had prior to her miscarriage? Was he escaping to work now because he didn’t know how to tell her that he wanted out?
Where were these thoughts coming from? She’d never had them before, never doubted the strength of their marriage, but perhaps both of them had changed since her close call.
Emotions tumbled through her like clothes in a dryer. Her doctor had warned her about her hormones taking a few months to settle down after the miscarriage. Now, if she was pregnant, they could be even more out of control than normal. Were her erratic hormones to blame for her seeing things in her relationship that weren’t there? Or were they opening her eyes to the fine cracks starting to weave through her and Michael’s relationship?
Her hands drifted to her stomach. If it turned out she was pregnant, she would do everything she had to, to make sure she kept this baby safe. Were they being given a second chance, after all?
Or was it the death knell for their marriage?
So many questions she didn’t know the answers to. She needed to think and maybe the only way she could do that clearly was to take some time away from Michael. The thought burned her in the chest like a hot poker. They hadn’t been apart since they left home, perhaps that was their problem too.
Yolanda closed her eyes. Sometimes doing the hardest thing was the best thing in the world. Was she brave enough to take the leap? If it meant seeking clarity in her marriage then yes, she’d have to do it.
But how did she break it to Michael?
Michael leaned against the front door and blew out a breath, his mind churning over the conversation he’d just walked out on.
He’d handled it all wrong.
But Yolanda had blindsided him with talk of having another child. All the memories of what happened to her the last time she was pregnant had slammed into him and he’d reacted without thinking. His fear of losing her took away his ability to have a reasonable conversation. He couldn’t even voice his tumultuous thoughts to Yolanda. Couldn’t tell her what he’d gone through while he’d waited to find out if she would live or die. That the image of her lying in a pool of blood was forever imprinted in his mind. Even after all these months, it was too raw still.
It wasn’t only the health risks to his wife that made having another child a bad idea. There was something going on at the restaurant. He couldn’t put his finger on what was happening, but Charles had been at the restaurant more than usual.
Everything at Charlie’s was running smoothly. They were booked solid and the staff turnover was at its lowest. Yet he couldn’t shake the idea that everything he’d worked for since he and Yolanda had left Bunya Junction was beginning to fall apart.
Was Charles thinking of replacing him with a better chef?
Michael shuddered at the thought. He’d worked his fingers to the bone for that restaurant. Even now he was putting in longer hours than necessary. And it was taking a toll on his marriage.
Subconsciously he knew he was staying longer because of fear. Fear that he’d lose everything he’d worked for in his life. He almost had when Yolanda lost their child. He’d taken it as a warning that nothing was permanent. No doubt that was a hang-up from his youth, when his dad would get a job and everything would be great for a couple of weeks and then he’d lose it because he’d arrive drunk. Or forget that he had a job because of his drinking.
Michael wasn’t going to do that to his family. He wasn’t going to put them in such dire straits that they could lose everything. Now was definitely not the right time to talk about or even consider having another child.
How did he make Yolanda understand that?
End of Excerpt