"You're not happy with me." It was a statement, rather than a question.
"That's not what - "
"When do you leave?"
He sighed and rubbed his face before resting his hands on his hips. "I fly out tomorrow to meet with the C.E.O."
"Tomorrow?" I almost yell. My hand instinctively goes to my flat belly but Brody doesn't notice.
"It all happened so quickly," he retorts quickly. "What was I supposed to do? Turn down my dream job?"
"Talk to me first!" I screamed. "This doesn't only change your life, Brody! It changes mine too!"
"I get that, Demetria, I do! That's why I said you can come to Chicago when you've graduated and we can be together."
I wiped my face, furious that I was crying. I never cried. It wasn't part of who I was. I simply picked myself up and moved on, like I had always done. But now my hormones were all over the place and there was no stopping that or the tears running down my face.
"So that's it then? You're going and I'm supposed to follow you when I'm done with school?"
"Fuck, Demi, I want to build a life for us, why can't you understand that?"
"What's wrong with the life we have here?" I asked. I hiccupped and fought the bile clawing its way up my throat.
Brody hung his head and shook it. "It's not the life I want for us."
"Stop doing that, stop saying 'for us'. I like my life here, and what we have is enough - "
"Not for me," Brody snapped, cutting me off. "I need more, Demi."
I reared back as if he'd slapped me and sucked in a sharp breath. I took a step back and pulled myself together long enough to say what I needed to.
"Obviously you've made up your mind," I swallowed, willing the words to come out before the vomit did, "and I've made up mine."
"You're coming with me?" Brody sounded hopeful. I hated myself for giving him that hope, but I wasn't only thinking about myself. Brody and I clearly wanted different things and I'd spent too many years not putting myself first.
"No," I whispered hoarsely, shaking my head. "My home is here."
I turned around and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me.
"Demi," Brody called me through the door. "Please, baby."
I ignored the plea in his voice and cupped my mouth to muffle the sobs wracking from my body. I couldn't bring myself to speak to him. I was afraid one look into his eyes would weaken my resolve and I'd end up agreeing to go with him. I couldn't risk that. After a while it got quiet and I was sure Brody had left, but when I opened the door he was perched on the edge of the bed with elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He looked up and for a brief moment I considered what he was asking me to do. I walked to my dresser and instead of pulling out one of Brody's shirts, I took out my lime green sleep shorts and matching tank top. I got dressed, aware that Brody's eyes never left my body, and left the room. I sat on the sofa and tucked my feet under my butt. It wasn't long before I heard Brody's feet echo down the hallway and when he joined me I still couldn't look at him. It was all too much. He'd made his choice without me, assuming that I'd pack up my life and go after him. He was one of few people who understood why my independence was important to me and now it felt like he was one of the first to take it away. The worst part was I still had to tell him about the baby, only I worried that if he knew, he'd stay out of obligation. How could I have kept him here if he was so desperate to leave?
"I didn't mean to upset you." Brody spoke softly and I knew he meant to comfort me, sooth me, but all I felt was cold. My greatest fear had always been losing him, but now it was losing myself
"You're going to ask me to make a choice," I said. My voice trembled. "And I won't pick you. Chicago is your dream, not mine, and I would never ask you to give up that dream for me. But you're asking me to give up my d-dream," I took a breath and calmed my emotions as best as I could, " and I c-can't d-do that."
"What can I do to change your mind? What can I say to get you to come with me?"
I looked down, noting how my tears dropped into my hands, and replied, "You can't." When I looked back up his expression was unreadable and I wished mine were too. I was a mess and Brody looked too composed, too put together.
"So what now?" he asked. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into his lap and hold him, feel his heart beat steady against my palm. The feeling that it was all slipping away hung heavy in the air.
"I don't know," I replied softly. I got up and stood between Brody's legs, drinking him in one last time. I cupped his face with my hands and bent down to kiss him for what felt like the last time. His lips were warm and slightly rough, the perfect opposite to my soft and salty.
"I love you," I whispered. "Always."
I walked away then, leaving him there alone, and when I woke up a few hours later, he was gone. He'd packed a bag and left, without saying goodbye. I rested my hand over my non-existent bump and cried. "Looks like it's just you and me now kid."
The early morning sun seeped through my half-open curtains and warmed my cheeks. I felt movement next to my bed, and the sounds of little whimpers. I rolled over, and cracked an eye open, peering down. Two chocolate brown eyes and a wet nose greeted me.
"G'morning Coco," I greeted. I stretched and wrapped my hands around my puppy's little brown body, lifting her onto the bed. Her tail wagged furiously, and her tongue licked my face, returning my hello with one of her own.
"Are you hungry?" I cooed, giggling from her sweet, wet kisses. This was our morning ritual, and it always made me smile. I slipped a pair of thin sleep shorts on over my panties, and padded down the hallway to my kitchen, my brown Labrador hot on my heels. I took her outside to do her business and as soon as I placed her bowl of puppy food on the hardwood floor, Coco started yapping excitedly. I rubbed her ears before putting a fresh K-cup in my Keurig and noted that the clock on the wall read nine a.m. I had an hour before I had to be at Huntley and Grayson's house for Saturday lunch. Another weekly ritual I'd become fond of in the last few months. As I sat down on the deck overlooking my small, neatly kept garden, my body sighed in appreciation for the beautiful morning sunshine, clean air and rich aroma of my coffee. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt better, and a little more like myself. It's been a year, and not a day passed when I didn't think about Brody, and what I'd lost, but instead of the crippling pain I usually I felt when I thought about him, it became a dull ache that I was able to cover with temporary band aids. After I graduated, I got a job as a second grade elementary school teacher at Breckinridge elementary. My parents bought me a small, but spacious, cottage-style house as a graduation present, and as always, they thought it made up for the absence throughout most of my life. I wasn't prepared to turn it down, no matter how angry I was that they were once again absent for one of the biggest days of my life. Brody and I lived in the apartment I used to share with Huntley, after she moved in with Grayson, and once I graduated I moved into my house. For the most part we were happy, until Brody made a choice that changed everything for us.