“Neither will I. I don’t want to bring another Cienetti into the world and I won’t be a part of it. Since it’s your body and your choice, go ahead and choose. Your baby or me. Which is it?”
She struggled to hold it together. She hadn’t expected him to be overcome with joy at the news he was going to be a father. Becoming a mother wasn’t news she’d wanted, either. But she hadn’t expected an ultimatum from him. A chunk of ice impaled her heart and pumped frozen slush through her veins. The chill spread from her chest to her fingers and toes.
She shouldn’t be shocked. This was a man who’d once tested his friends’ loyalty by convincing them to help him steal a police car. Now, he tested hers.
She wasn’t a naïve teenaged boy, however. She was a pregnant adult who’d known the risks and was prepared to accept the consequences. She also had to accept the very real possibility that Ryan might never feel the same way.
But she would never, under any circumstances, hold this tiny life accountable for its family history. She spoke through numb lips.
She fumbled out of the car. Ryan didn’t try to stop her.
Keep it together. Keep it together. Keep it together.
She couldn’t lose control now.
She couldn’t go back to the barbecue either, so she headed for the house. She heard the garage doors creak open behind her, followed by the rev of an engine. The AMG roared out and down the long drive and away from the ranch.
She got it. He needed space and they’d said all there was to be said for the moment. She’d have to wait until he was ready to discuss what happened next.
By two o’clock in the morning, it became clear he wasn’t coming back to discuss anything anytime soon. That was when she began to face certain realities surrounding her situation.
She was a social worker, working with children, who’d gotten pregnant by her employer. She wouldn’t be able to hide the pregnancy from the group home staff and its residents forever. Ryan definitely wouldn’t be able to hide how he felt about it and that wasn’t healthy for anyone.
While she hated having to give up on her research, and on the boys, she couldn’t stay at the ranch, clinging to hope, waiting for Ryan to come to his senses. Living offsite and commuting to work was an option, although hardly ideal, and little more than a short-term solution.
She’d head back to Chicago and pick up her old life. Her career. With a few major adjustments. She’d find her own place to live. Her parents wouldn’t be pleased about it, but she’d already made the break with them and they’d all begun to move forward. Her mistakes weren’t going to become theirs. She had a trust fund to draw on so money wasn’t a worry. She’d focus on her dissertation until the baby was born. She’d keep the lines of communication open with Ryan, in case he had a change of heart, but she had to prepare for the possibility he didn’t.
She wrote her letter of resignation and left it on the desk in his office. In the guest suite, where they’d both been sleeping, she packed up everything she’d need for the next few weeks and lugged it out to her car. Then, she left a second note on the bed asking him to send anything she’d left behind to her parents’ address in Chicago.
You have my number, she added, because maybe she did cling to hope after all, and she wanted him to know he was free to call.
At eight o’clock in the morning, when he still hadn’t returned, she got in her car and drove to Forsyth, the next town over from Grand, and booked a room in a hotel so she could get a few hours of sleep. She didn’t dare drive any farther in this semi-comatose state.
She called her mother to let her know when to expect her.
“Hi,” she said, as cheerfully as she could. She didn’t want her parents to worry. She was fine. “I’m tired of Montana. I miss Chicago. I miss you. I have all the research notes I need for my dissertation, so I quit my job and I’ll be home in a few days.”
She chatted for a bit, about what she had no idea, then curled up in a ball on the bed and refused to think about what she was leaving behind. She’d spent years advocating for victims who didn’t have any voice.
What other decision could she possibly have made and still live with herself?