Sunday, September 27, 2015

Graham Teaser #3 - Prologue

“Yes.”
It’s three simple letters, and translates in every spoken language. Y-E-S. In Spanish it’s . In French it’s pronounced oui. In German it’s ja, and in Portuguese it is sim. I speak all of these languages fluently. But answering Graham’s question . . . Would we have a future together if you weren’t pregnant? And not the kind of future where we have to hide behind closed doors. I mean a future that is out in the open where I hold your hand in public and I proudly tell everyone who my girl is . . . is the most difficult yes that I’ve ever said.
Why is this particular yes so grueling? Because Graham now knows what he means to me. My yes is what he has been trying to convince me to admit. It’s the ammunition that we need to work through the trenches of despair that I, and we, have created by our stubborn, unbending personalities. I just don’t know how much more pain our hearts can endure.
Here we stand at a rest stop on the side of a highway in Virginia. We left the out-of-the-way Cracker Barrel restaurant that I asked him to meet me at about thirty minutes ago. I knew that he wasn’t going to handle the news of the baby well. Not because he’s a bad guy or doesn’t want to be a father, but because it was such a shock. It was a shock to me and I’m the one who is growing a human.
In the car, he began asking me all of these questions. I must have given him an answer that he didn’t like because like a mad man, he whipped across two lanes of traffic to park the car in this place that has seen better days. The blue restroom sign painted on the side of the brick wall is faded with neglect. There are four metal picnic tables that dot the yellow-ish brown grassy hill. There’s no clear definition where the grass and weeds meet the shrub-lined entrance to the dense forest. It’s a jagged battle for sunlight, and right now the tall weeds seem to be winning. God, what a metaphor for my heart.
Protectively, I place my right hand over my stomach, as if I’m shielding my baby from the tornado of emotions swirling through me.
My other hand strokes Graham’s tightly strung bicep. He’s bracing himself on the edge of a picnic table with his head hung. I’m tuned into this man’s emotions like a radio with a broken dial. I would give anything to not feel like this—for him to not feel this way. Shouldn’t love be easy? Is it always this painful?
His jaw is clenched in such a way that I worry about his poor molars that are taking a beating. The cords in his neck strain against his dark olive complexion. Mahogany brown hair is tousled by the wind, and his eyes are clenched so tightly that the lines etched in his face look like the trenches that are crisscrossing my heart.
I’ve done this to him. My inability to put my entire being into our relationship has created the angry, highly emotional man that is gripping the edge of a picnic table so hard that his knuckles are white.
My palm slides over my pubic bones, comforting the life inside of me. He’s done this to me.
Every night for the past three months, I’ve prayed for amnesia. There had to be some way to remove Graham’s imprint from my soul. For three months, I’ve felt completely void of a life force—the only time I felt my heart beat again was when he had his hands on me either possessively taking me in my office during the White House Christmas party, or desperately making love to me while we sought some sort of solace in each other’s bodies. Every time, when we had to go our separate ways I fell into a deep depression, working myself to the point that I was ill and waking up in the middle of the night sobbing for his touch.
I love him.
I don’t really know him.
I’ve given up everything that I’ve worked my entire life for for the man who is so angry that he can’t look at me right now, and the baby that we made while he was trying desperately to convince me to embrace us with the same intensity that I give my career.
Little did I know, but that night, he made the greatest argument yet. We created a life that can’t wait ten more months for President Jones to leave office.
I give my lower abdomen a squeeze, and then wrap my arms around Graham’s bicep, hugging his arm desperately, hoping that I’m telling him with my body how much he means to me. I’ve reached the place where I can give us a chance. Is it too late for you, Graham?
But I’m so conflicted. We are a mess. We had two perfect weeks of falling in love, which has led to four months of torture that we’ve put ourselves through. I know so little about him. I don’t know if he’s ever been in love before. Hell, I don’t even know his favorite color. Walking away from him and never telling him about this child would have been so much easier.
Easier on who? Me. I don’t know if I have the strength to leave my dream career behind while I prepare to be a new mom at thirty-eight and try to repair this very damaged relationship with a man that I don’t really know. Without Graham’s knowledge of the life we created, I could have slipped away from D.C. in the middle of the night without having to battle through the hurt feelings that surround our time together. 
If he could be a lesser man then I could nurse my broken heart in private while I prepared to raise this child alone. I knew that he would never agree to walk away from his baby.
I’m so tired of feeling this miserable. I crave my life before Graham. Yes, it was filled with work and mostly meaningless sexual relationships, but at least I didn’t feel constantly sick to my stomach with an unrelenting tightness in my chest, feeling drawn to someone who I didn’t know if I could have a future with. My life was so much easier before the President’s invitation only fight night at the White House back in November.
Graham shakes me off, leaving me an empty vessel. I need his comfort and strength. I need him to tell me that I’m going to be okay. He still hasn’t opened his eyes. Or moved. Or maybe even taken a breath.
A gust of wind whips around me, sending a wave of shivers through my body. I wrap my arms around myself, trying to block out the chill. I’m not sure if it’s the cool March weather making me shake or the ice-cold shoulder that I’m being shown. But whatever the cause, my teeth begin to chatter.
Say something Graham. I want him to acknowledge that I admitted that even if I wasn’t carrying his baby that we would have a future. Frankly, it’s not even a question anymore. After months of begging God to help me forget Graham Jackson and move on, I received the news that I was going to be a mom.
Terminating the pregnancy would have been the easy choice, but I honestly never considered it. The idea of being a single mom is daunting, but I’m Rachael Early. I eat Senators for breakfast and bust balls for lunch. How hard can it be raising a child? I’ve essentially been in charge of a daycare for the past seven years.
After I recovered from the initial shock that I wasn’t going into early menopause, I was indeed pregnant, I spent about an hour having an epic pity party, complete with a mental breakdown. Then I remembered what some famous person once said—that sometimes God whispers in your ear, and sometimes he knocks you upside the head. Not that I’m a particularly religious person, but after all those nights of wishing that something would happen to make me love Graham Jackson less, I get the news that we created a life together. Sometimes you just have to sit back and toast the universe. I mean, I thought I had my life figured out and in one-third of a year, I’ve experienced a complete one-eighty, and I don’t know what my future looks like three minutes from now, let alone three weeks. I’ve never been in this position before, and frankly I’m scared beyond belief.
I’m a planner—an executer. I make a decision and ride it to the bitter end. I’m strategic. I play hard ball in a man’s world. Why, dear God, why has Graham thrown me so off-kilter?
“Graham, please talk to me,” I beg, over the cars racing by not more than fifty feet from us, trying my damnedest to keep the fear out of my voice while I mentally chastise myself for stooping so low.
He doesn’t move a muscle. “Go wait in the car. I’ll be there in a moment.” He says this in a very controlled voice, but I detect the anger that he’s working to suppress.
Blame it on my pregnancy hormones, lack of sleep, or straight-up despair, but I can’t do what he asks. I throw myself against his back, wrapping my arms desperately around his waist. My cheek presses against his shoulder blade and I hold on to him as if he’s my life preserver in the raging sea of my turbulent emotions. Every muscle in his body is tense, and warmth seeps from his shirt causing him to be fiery to the touch. I’m giving everything up for him and our child. I need him to reassure me that it’s going to be okay.
I hate this version of me right now. I’m allowing Graham Jackson to reduce me to a stupid, needy, clingy teenage girl, but at the moment, I just don’t give a damn.
He doesn’t acknowledge me, but I don’t give up. I cling to him fiercely—desperately. The cars on the freeway whiz past us, oblivious to fact that right next to them my future hangs in the balance.
I can survive without him. I’ll have our child and love him or her enough for two parents. There are plenty of universities that will hire me to teach political science classes. We’ll live in some quaint college town where I will bike to class and write political theory papers about how to fix Washington from my utopian perch.
But in my dreams, in the place that I dare to visit when I’m feeling like a dumb girl in a romantic comedy, Graham and I find a way to overcome all of the pain that we’ve created and become partners.
He rises to his full height, which is much taller than me. He has to feel my determination to make him see that we’re better together than functioning in this shitty existence apart.
Still with his back turned and me cocooning him with every ounce of strength that I have, his body shifts. My head raises, anticipating his next move. Then, he reaches up and rubs his thumb over his eyes. Is he crying? God, that makes my eyes burn and my mouth flood with too much liquid. This big, strong, tough man has been reduced to tears.
Sometimes I really hate being me. This is all my fault. I wish I could know the words to say to make this better, but I’m at a loss. So I just speak from my heart. “Forgive me, please,” I plead into his back. “I need you, Graham. Tell me what to do to make this right. Tell me what I have to do to make you forgive me.”
He breaks free of my grasp and flips me around so I’m now the one in his embrace. His arms tuck me possessively against his chest, my face fitting perfectly against his hard pecs. He leans down and whispers in my ear in a scratchy voice, “I need time, Rachael. Time and some space to process all of this.”
If it’s even possible, my lungs tighten so painfully that I have to gasp for a breath of air. The juxtaposition of his body cocooning mine and his words are somewhat laughable. Space? There isn’t a molecule of air between our bodies.
I want to ask what “time and space” means. I like timeframes, deadlines. Does the proper amount of time and space equal one day, one week, one month, one year, ten years? I hate his response. It’s not definitive. It leaves my heart flapping in the wind waiting, once again, for one of us to step up to the plate.
The lack of planning in his response makes me feel as if I’m walking on quicksand. I can give him time. I can also give him space. But in the moment, I become resolved to continue on with my plans of being a single mom. I have three more weeks as the White House Chief of Staff. I’ve already given notice on my town home. My final day is the last Wednesday of the month. Colin and Caroline have agreed that I can live in one of their guest houses until I’ve come up with my next plan—finding a job, a place to live, and some town that I can blend in to. This is so not how I saw my days at the White House coming to a close.
Now it’s time to focus on what’s important, and it’s this baby who didn’t ask to be conceived. This can no longer be about Graham and me torturing each other, him unwilling to embrace my private relationship demands, and me not able to publicly support his brand of humor and politics. This is now about a baby that is owed a better upbringing than I was given. 
One day, if Graham comes around after he’s taken his time and used his space, I’ll welcome him back into my life. I owe him that. I’ll be his whenever and wherever. I just hope that it won’t be too late.


"The World: According to Graham" is available on Amazon pre-order HERE and will be live on September 29!

1 comments:

Tammy Tracy said...

Oh my gosh- this is gonna be even more intense and I cannot wait to read it all....woo hoo its almost time

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