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Not that it was her fault. She didn’t know. She knew I stopped taking my birth control, but she didn’t know how much each period hung around my neck like a heavy collar of shame. She had no idea how much I was failing.
Part of me wanted to let the sob caught in my throat break free and lay it at her feet. But this wasn’t the right time. This was her time to be excited, and she needed me to be there with her.
With a deep breath, I swallowed it down, packaging the swell of emotion into the box with all the others, and forced myself into her excitement. “I can’t believe I’m going to be an auntie times two.”
She squealed again and told me all about her symptoms and predictions about gender and dates.
I played along, somehow finding a minor relief from the crushing weight. Celebrating with her bought me time to ignore the swell of emotions bubbling under the surface—barely contained within the box I tried to keep them in.
When I ignored them, the pressure wasn’t so intense. When I ignored them, they were less likely to break free. When I ignored them, it was easier to keep myself from lashing out blindly in an attempt to ease the tension.
The problem was that they grew bigger with every negative test.
The problem was they were getting harder to ignore.
Thankfully, I still had dinner with friends. It would be the perfect distraction. All I had to do was keep the attention on everyone else, and I’d buy myself a little more time to pretend I was fine. All I had to do was keep the spotlight off of me, and no one would notice the cracks. Nothing would be able to break free.
I was in control.
I was fine.
Chapter Five
“Hey, man,” Daniel greeted. He looked over my shoulder before closing the door. “Where’s Olivia?”
“Don’t you mean my better half?” I joked, reminding him of what he usually called her.
He winced. “I’m not quite sure that name fits lately.”
“Hey, now. That’s my wife.”
“And she’s my niece. You know how close we are, but she’s been a giant…” He faded off when I glared in warning. “She hasn’t quite been her happy and aloof self.”
Blowing out a hard breath, I ran my hand over my face and through my hair, fisting the strands to ease the tension. “Yeah…”
“Yeah? That’s it? No explanation as to why? Are you guys fighting? Has she been taken over by aliens? Usually, I can read her like a book, but she’s always busy,” he said, full of doubt. “And the times I do see her, she’s so on edge that she snaps, managing to push all my damn buttons and put me on edge. I’ve never lost my temper with her, but goddamn, I’m close.”
I huffed an uncomfortable laugh. It took a lot for Daniel to lose his temper, and I’d hate to see it happen with Olivia. Especially because I wouldn’t allow it. It would leave me in a shit position between my best friend and my wife. Over the years, we’d been lucky and avoided it since Daniel and Olivia were close. And thankfully, the few times I’d made clear how much I didn’t want to be placed between them, Olivia scoffed and promised she wouldn’t need to use me to win a battle with Daniel. I had to believe she still respected that boundary because otherwise, I’d be on edge right along with her.
“I wish I had more to say,” I said, shaking off the doubt. “We’re not fighting, and when I asked Carina about work, she said Olivia has been fine. More quiet than usual, but fine.”
“Well, what does she say is wrong when you talk about it?”
Such a normal question, yet I hesitated, and he saw right through it. His jaw dropped, and he looked at me like I was the dumbest motherfucker he knew.
“You do talk about it, right?”
“She’ll come to me when she’s ready.”
“Listen, you know her. If I push, she’ll push back harder.”
“Yeah, that’s a Witt family trait,” he muttered.
“I’ve made sure she’s okay and given her every opportunity to open up, but she never does. Whatever she’s going through, she needs to process it, and all I can do is be there for her.”
“Do you have any idea what it could be? Is she sick?”
“No. And no.”
“Is she…is she pregnant?”
I paused, thinking to her last period, but it didn’t matter because her change in mood had gone on a lot longer than one month. “No, that’s not it. We’ve been trying, but she hasn’t said anything about it.”
“Then what the fuck? Because I’m about done.” He shook his head. “I mean, if I have to hear about Voyeur one more fucking time…”
“Just relax, man. It probably doesn’t help that I’m traveling a lot. I try to make time when I’m home, but that’s not often. Especially with Chicago in the finishing stages.”