“Sometimes I think you’re too good for me,” I say to Ivan as he comes back in the room, bucket and dirty rag in hand.
“Nonsense,” he replies. “I couldn’t dream of being with anyone else.”
I smile at him as he heads to the bathroom. I hear the shower start, and the water splattering onto the tiles is a welcome sound. Ivan comes back out into the room.
“You need to shower,” he says. “You’re a mess.”
Looking down at my body, I realize he’s right. Vomit is splattered across my bare feet and pajama bottoms. My chest glistens, and my face feels just as sweaty. I don’t even want to know what it looks like.
“You know, just ’cause you’re right doesn’t mean you need to say it,” I say in a playfully hurt voice.
“I do it out of love. C’mon, I’ll help you.”
He pulls me off the bed, leading me to the bathroom. My legs feel shaky, like they’re made of pudding. By the time we reach the doorway I can barely walk, and Ivan is all but carrying me. He gently lowers me onto the toilet, then helps me remove my pants.
“One more minute,” I say. “Standing is hard.”
“Ok.” He smiles at me. “You know, even sick as hell you look kind of adorable.”
“Thank you,” I say as he leans down, “but no kissing. I feel gross.”
“Ok,” he laughs.
“Alright, I’m ready.”
He reaches out his hand, and I take it, allowing him to pull me up. He guides me into the shower, keeping one hand on my back to make sure I don’t fall, and then stands next to me, out of the spray of water.
“Alright, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“I can do this myself,” I tell him, as forcefully as I can muster.
“You sure about that?”
“Yes.” I reach for the soap, and immediately my legs go to pudding again. He catches me before I can fall, helping me regain stability.
He gives me a look.
“Ok, fine, you can help me.”
Fully cleaned and redressed in fresh, non vomit-covered clothes, I still feel shaky and unclear. Ivan helps me back to the bed, and I lay down and wrap the covers around me, shivering.
“You know,” I whisper to him, “this could be something contagious. You might wanna sleep in the living room.”
“You’re right,” he says. “But I’m not leaving your side. I’ll sleep on the floor right here, in case you need anything.”
He gives me a gentle kiss and goes to get more bedding. I settle in, still shivering, trying to calm my racing mind.
What the hell just happened? For a few minutes, I had no doubt in my mind that we had a baby, that it was in trouble. How? Ivan and I have already decided we don’t want to have kids— not yet, anyway. So how was I so fully convinced that we had one?
And worse, what was in that crib? Was I just hallucinating? I’m not sure which would scare me more, if it was real or if I had just imagined it. I don’t want to be losing my mind. But I certainly do not want to live in a world where that thing exists.
Ivan comes back in the room and lays his stuff out on the floor.
“You sure you wouldn’t rather take the couch?”
“I’m sure, Nico. I’m staying right here. Goodnight, my love.”
He turns off the lights, plunging the room into darkness. I hear him settle into his makeshift bed, and then the house goes silent again, only the sound of our breathing to disturb the stillness. No cats, no dogs, no howling wind. And, most importantly, no crying baby.