Phil Fragasso

I found Nina in the kitchen sitting at the table and sobbing into clenched fists. She looked up when I entered the room and shook her head with a look of abject forlorn.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a throaty sigh. “So very sorry.”

I knelt and cupped her face in my hands. “What’s wrong? What are you sorry about?”

Nina fell forward into my chest and clasped her arms around me. I felt her heart pounding and her lungs gasping for breath. She pressed her head against me and shook it back and forth, back and forth. I held her as tightly as I could and waited for her to calm down and speak to me. My head raced as quickly as her heart. This had to be about the baby. She must have decided she didn’t want to be a mother or, worse, didn’t want me as the father of her child. Maybe the pregnancy was the catalyst that made her realize she didn’t really love me after all. I was a fun summertime romance but not someone she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Maybe she viewed me as a slightly different version of her own father, who would ultimately desert her and the children at the first sign of trouble. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I had far more questions than answers. Nina was the only one who could put my mind at ease, but first I had to bring her back from the ledge. Whether she loved me or not, I would always love her.

We stayed clenched together for a long time. Nina gradually composed herself. Her breathing evened out and she stopped crying. But she remained silent. I started to fall into the trap of murmuring sweet nothings but quickly caught myself. I’m not a sweet-nothings kind of guy. In fact, I detest them. They always struck me as patronizing and demeaning. They were the Hallmark cards of communication—mindless patter told by an idiot, full of saccharine and facile emotion, but signifying nothing (with apologies to Mr. Faulkner).

When Nina was ready to speak, she pulled back so we were facing each other at eye level. Her eyes were red and her cheeks blotchy, but I remember thinking how beautiful she was and how much I wanted to wake up to that face every day for the rest of my life. She wiped her tear-streaked face with the sleeve of her nightgown and forced out a tight smile. “I’m not pregnant.”