I sighed, tucking back a lock of hair that blew into my face. It was the weekend, but the park had quite a few people around. Every time she passed by someone, they smiled at her and wanted to stop and coo at the stroller I was pushing.
"We're only here to have a nice, relaxing walk, isn't that right?"
My six month old baby, just stared up at me. He was lying back, swaddled in warm, soft blankets, covered up to his chest. He was sucking on one closed fist, and he wiggled the other at me on hearing my voice. I smiled at him and removed one hand from the stroller handle to reach a finger out and poke his cheek.
He waved his hand, pulling the other from his mouth to make some aggrieved noises.
I giggled. "Sorry, baby. I won't bother you again. You like this better than staying cooped up at home, though, right?"
I didn't get as much time to spend with Danny as I would have loved. Since my life had come to a standstill when I realized I was carrying him, things had changed. Now that he was surviving outside of me, I knew it was time to get my life back together. That had been fifteen months ago, and within that time, I'd thought of a lot of things.
One of those things was my baby's father. I had thought of him quite a lot. Still, it was a surprise to look out and see him, out of the blue, just a few feet in front of me. What I saw was enough to make me pause. Danny made noises, wondering why we'd stopped again, but I couldn't move.
We weren't together anymore, but we still lived in the same town. I had known I would run into him eventually, but the last place I ever expected to meet him was at a park. We never went to one when we were together, and we'd been a couple since high school.
The last thing I would have expected to see at that moment, though, was Joshua also moving a stroller, and holding a baby in the other arm, smiling down at them.
My heartfelt funny, like I'd been stabbed by something cold. The breath blew out of my lungs, and I felt like I was choking on the air for a moment. I wanted to turn around and leave, but then he also looked up and saw me. The warm smile he'd just directed to that child froze on his face, as did his entire body, then the smile disappeared.
Is that baby his?
It had been my idea to leave him, though it hadn't been an easy one to make. But once my mind was made, I turned away with no intention of looking back to the past. I didn't take into account how badly it would hurt.
Maybe it was because, fifteen months later, it was all still too fresh?
Then, Joshua slowly resumed walking, his eyes trained on me.
My breath caught in my throat. My body was so tense. I wanted to turn around and run away immediately. If he had moved on, then I didn't want to face it, not yet. Maybe in another year, or two, or even more, I'd be able to come to terms with it. But if he just looked at me with indifference and told me he had found someone else so quickly when I was still thinking about him, it would break me.
A noise from Danny in his stroller made me look down, and remember that I wasn't alone. I had my baby with me. The son of the man coming to me with another baby cradled in his arm.
"Alessandra. I'm surprised to see you here."
Hearing him call my name brought me back to myself. He sounded so casual like nothing had happened, and it made me think that it wouldn't be fair if I were the only one affected by our meeting. So, I took a last, long look at my son for courage, and lifted my head. Joshua's mouth was curved a little in what could pass as a smile, but the look in his eyes was too intense for that.
I faked a smile. "Joshua. I'm surprised to see you here, too. And with a baby with you. Is it yours?"
The question slipped without my permission. Wouldn't asking outright just let him know that it was bothering me? Then, he arched an eyebrow, and his eyes dropped to my stroller.
"I'm not the only one walking around with a baby, Alessandra. And no, he's not mine. Do you remember my cousin, Wendy?"
"Ah," I said, nodding.
Of course, I remembered his cousin. He and I had been close throughout high school and further. While I hadn't seen her in a while, Wendy and I knew each other, and we'd been close, thanks to my relationship with Joshua. Though it had been long since I last seen her, compared to Joshua.
Outwardly, I didn't let it show, but I was releasing a sigh of relief internally. Then, I was a little annoyed at myself for feeling that way.
The truth was that I never wanted to split-up with Joshua, let alone forget him. I had been prepared for it because I no longer thought a relationship between us would be possible.
"I did know she was seeing someone, though I didn't realize they were this serious. Congratulate her for me when you see her next, okay?"
"Sure," he said with a smile. "Though I am surprised you took the nanny route, Alessandra. I didn't think you got along well with children."
Ah, I realized. It was the natural conclusion for him to come to, that I was a nanny and not Danny's mother. I understood it, and I was hesitant to tell him Danny's exact origin, but it did annoy me a little. Couldn't he have assumed the same as I did? That I had moved on without him and was starting a family with someone else?
It could have been that I knew he had someone ready to marry him, while he was all of my first, relationship-wise.
"Yeah, it...was a job that just chose me?" I said, quickly coming up with an excuse. "I never thought I'd be good with children either, but it's not like I never envisioned having any. In the future."
With you, I didn't add out loud.
I thought I saw something changes in his expression, but then the smile on his face grew.
"I heard that you failed your final exam, so I was wondering how you were. But you look just fine."
This time, I couldn't hold back my surprise. "How did you know that?"
He let out a chuckle and scratched his neck with his free hand.
"Ah, well. I kept tabs on you," he admitted. "Sorry, it's probably really creepy that your old flame is keeping an eye on you, huh? Don't worry; I didn't encroach about your private life. I didn't hire someone or anything, I just asked a mutual friend, and they told me about the exam."
"Oh," I murmured, feeling my heart calm down.
I'd told my friends about the exam but only told a few about the pregnancy. After all, we didn't have all our friends in common, Joshua even had friends I'd never heard of or met before. I had kept the secret of the pregnancy from the people that I thought would tell Joshua about it.
Not that I intended to keep it from him for forever, that wouldn't be fair. I didn't know when would be the right time to tell him, or what he would do.
"Why become a nanny?" he asked, tilting his head slightly. "It's still a bit of a shock that you went that route. Are you giving up on being a lawyer?"
"Of course not," I said immediately. "You know how important it is to me."
Studying law wasn't easy. Passing the bar exam would be the hardest of it, but there was nothing natural about it. No one would try it out as a joke, and I didn't get as far as I did to give up. There just hadn't been much of choice. I was too stressed out to study thoroughly for my finals, so I failed. In the end, I decided to wait for Danny to be born before I got my affairs in order and went back.
"I'm just doing this to fill the gap right now," I confessed. "I thought I needed some time away from my studies, if I just threw myself right back in, I might fail again, and it doesn't hurt to raise a bit of cash. I intend to go back and finish law school eventually. You know it's been my dream for the longest time."
Joshua chuckled. "Yeah, I still remember. You didn't even pick until our senior year of high school, you wanted to try all sorts of careers before, and then out of nowhere, law was your passion."
I bit down on my lip. I could feel my heart waver, but I forced myself to be strong. Joshua and I shared too many memories together. We had been friends for so many years before becoming lovers, and it wasn't something so easy to erase. I had been so busy with school and heartbreak, then with Danny. I hadn't had time to prepare myself, so being this close to him was dangerous.
Danny made a sound of discontent, coming to my rescue and making me look down. His face was scrunching up, his fists waving in the air, legs shifting under his blanket. He was unhappy we had stopped for so long already, and I smiled at him.
"Sorry, baby boy," I cooed. "You're getting a little impatient, huh? Don't worry; we're going now."
Would he recognize his son?
I was both worried and curious about this. Joshua was tall, blond and blue-eyed, like both his parents. I was a little on the short and slightly curvy side, with brown hair, and green eyes. Joshua family genes were active, and our son had come out with blond hair and blue eyes, just like his father, though my parents did say some of his features resembled mine.
If Joshua moved close enough and saw him, would he be filled with recognition? This was another issue that I didn't know where I stood. I wanted to keep it a secret, because...
You can't have it both ways, Alessandra.
"I'm sorry," I said with an apologetic smile. "He gets fussy, so I brought him out for a walk hoping to calm him down. I don't have long; I'm not supposed to keep him out for so long."
"Oh," he said, and I thought he looked a little disappointed. "I guess you have to go, then. But there is one thing."
He smiled again, and I felt apprehension in my chest. He looked entirely too happy.
"I'm glad to know you haven't given up on your studies yet," he started. "But it's also good for me that you're a nanny right now because Wendy is desperate for a nanny."
"Would you mind helping out?" He ran a hand through his hair as he chuckled. "I brought the little tyke out because she was busy and didn't have anyone to leave him with. He's her precious baby so that she won't leave him with just anyone, you know? I can't keep doing this, and she already knows you so that you would be perfect!"
"Sure," I said. "I would love to!"
What the hell am I saying!
"Could you give me your number, then? I tried out your old one only to find it was disconnected."
"Ah, that's because I lost my phone sometime last year. I got it replaced. Let me give you my new number."
Joshua pulled out his phone, and she read the digits out for him. He saved the number, then called to make sure it was the right one. She pulled her ringing phone from her purse, and he finally looked satisfied.
"Thanks, Alessandra," he said with a grin. "I'll tell Wendy to give you a call when she can. I'll see you later!"
I watched him turn and walk away after his parting shot, knowing that there was a chance that I really would be seeing him later.
Why couldn't I have just said I was too busy?