Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters. No
Summary: Michael always runs away from his problems. Maria learns to deal with this. (Future fic, Maria’s POV)
Authors Note: Um… I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s not foofy and it’s not really angsty either. It’s just M&M living and Maria talking about that, I guess. Hmm… Thanks to everyone who’s sent me feedback on my other stories. Feedback is always appreciated. :-D
|I got pregnant and we got married the summer I turned
twenty. I wore white. You’re supposed to wear a white
wedding dress, no matter if you’re a virgin or not. I
was seven months along. My ankles were swollen, I had
to pee every fifteen minutes, I was wearing this
white, lacy, maternity-bridal thing my mom made me,
and all I could think of throughout the ceremony was
Taco Bell. Liz and Isabel wore pink. The bridesmaids
aren’t supposed to outshine the bride, but they were
absolutely gorgeous. My hair was greasy and my bangs
were plastered to my forehead. Max and Alex wore suits
and ties. Liz and Isabel kept sneaking looks at them
when we took our vows. I don’t blame them. Max and
Alex had never looked so handsome as they did on my
wedding day. And Michael wore black. Black sweater,
black pants, black boots. No suit, no tie, and his
hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in weeks. He
was beet red throughout the wedding. He gave me a
little silver band to wear on my right ring finger. I
think he cried a little when he slipped it on my hand.
Later, he told that something made his eyes itch
during the service. Somehow, that was easier to
believe than if he said he’d been crying over me.
We went to the Crashdown afterwards. Liz and Max held hands under the table. Alex and Isabel kept gazing at each other the whole time. Michael looked like he was going to throw up or run away. I couldn’t tell which. I played with the little ring on my finger and contemplated whether to get the burger or the chicken. I really wanted a burrito. I ended up with the Saturn Rings and the Men-in-Blackberry pie with extra Tabasco. It was cheaper than the other things.
Michael and I went back to his apartment later. My stuff was still lying in boxes on the floor and I nearly tripped over a few of them in the dark. He didn’t carry me over the threshold. I think he would have broken his back if he had even tried, but he didn’t try. I stood in the doorway for about five minutes before I realized that he wasn’t coming to get me. I felt like an ass.
There were no fireworks. There was no magical wedding night. Michael got home, changed clothes and went to bed. I was feeling as un-sexy as I’d ever felt so I went to the kitchen, got a microwave bean burrito out of the freezer, watched TV for a while, put on my flannel nightgown, and went to bed too. Even though we were in the middle of a New Mexican June, I kept getting cold. Must’ve had something to do with the baby.
Michael kicks when he sleeps. Sometimes I imagine that he’s dreaming about running away again. After I finished watching a really bad made-for-TV-movie, I climbed in beside Michael and pulled some covers over me and tried to sleep. No such luck. The baby started doing back-flips and Michael stole the covers from me about five minutes after I got into bed. The way Michael and the baby kept kicking me, I could have sworn that both my legs and my stomach would be black and blue by morning. I moved away from Michael and folded myself around my stomach to try to stay warm. That didn’t work too well either. I actually started crying. There I was: the twenty-year-old, undereducated wife of an alien who was carrying his barely legitimate child. To top all that off, it was my wedding night, I wasn’t getting any action, I was freezing my ass off, I was wearing a nightgown that smelled like the back of my mother’s closet, the burrito I’d just eaten was giving me heartburn, my eight-hours-husband kicked in his sleep and so did our child, and my hormones kept making me have mood swings that were driving me crazy. I started crying harder. I looked at the silver ring on the hand that covered my swollen stomach and wondered if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I wanted to run. I did not want to be in that room, I did not want to be with Michael, I sure as hell did not want to be his wife, and I did not want to be anyone’s mother. I wanted to run.
Michael rolled over to my side of the bed just as I was about to get out of there. He mumbled something like ‘go to sleep’ and nuzzled against me. He flung his hand out from under his pillow and his arm dropped across my waist. I think he did that on purpose. He probably knew how I felt just because he’d run away so many times before; like he knew that I was about to run and he didn’t want me to. His arm was heavy across my belly. I could feel his breath blowing on my cheek. Michael finally stopped kicking. The baby was making butterfly kicks beneath my fingertips. And after a few minutes lying there like that, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to leave anymore. I thought about it a little more, then wrapped my arm around Michael’s, curled up beside him, and fell asleep.
We had Michaela Marie exactly two months after we were married. Liz and Max named her. I always thought it was stupid to name a kid after their parents, but they thought it fit her because she’s got half of Michael’s features and half of mine: green eyes, wild hair, long frame, and a big mouth. She was the loudest baby I’d ever heard. My mom was a midwife’s apprentice for, like, three months, so she delivered the baby. I was in labor for thirty-six hours. Max tried to do something that would lessen the pain, but it didn’t work. Michael held my hand and I screamed for the last three hours of my labor. One time my mom told me that all that pain and every doubt you ever had about being a mother just fades away when you look at your baby. She was right.
Michael held her as if she would break. I thought he was going to faint when he saw her come out. I thought he’d run when I asked him if he wanted to hold his daughter. Instead, he nodded slowly and took her from my arms. It took him a second to figure out how to hold her correctly. He got it, though, and he smiled as he held her. Then he put her back in my arms, brushed my sweaty hair from my forehead, kissed my lightly, and left the room. For a moment, I thought he was gone for good. He came back an hour later. He had a little pink teddy bear with him.
Michael’s a wonderful father. He loved Michaela more than anything and he was so good with her for those first few months. He used to watch her sleep and wait for her to wake up just so he’d be the first one to get to hold her. He was perfect. My life was perfect. Or as perfect as it could be, considering my situation. For fifteen months, Michael never left my side. Then I woke up one morning and he was gone.
Scared the hell out of me. And I told him just that when he walked in our front door the next morning. I called him just about every evil name I could think of. He just looked at me and never said anything. That made me even angrier and I said “Well? Don’t you have anything to say for yourself? Don’t you?!”
He kissed me. Always did know how to shut me up.
I found out I was pregnant a month later. I should have expected it. Michaela was conceived the same way. Michael and I had been fighting about something or other and we both just got all worked up and… well you get the picture. This new pregnancy threw me off guard though. My little family, though it was as dysfunctional as families could be, was happy. I didn’t think I could be any happier. That pregnancy proved me wrong.
I told Michael that night. He was playing with Michaela, making her laugh. I asked him how he’d like another one like her. He just looked at me and smiled.
Caroline Alexandra was born exactly four months after my twenty-second birthday. That’s one good thing I can say about half-alien babies: if anything, they’re always on time. Max delivered her. We’d all graduated from college the year before. Even Michael and me, though it took us a little longer. When I went into labor, Max was in his first year of medical school. Michael was a little worried about letting a first year medical student deliver the baby, even if the student was Max. I thought it was sweet of him to worry, but let Max deliver the baby anyway.
Caroline is a lot like her father. I could tell that as soon as she was born. She was one of the quietest children I’d ever seen. Michaela was the one who was always yelling, always laughing, always making some kind of noise. Caroline never made a peep. I should have expected as much. Look at her father.
Michael loves his girls, myself included. He wouldn’t stay around here if he didn’t. But that really doesn’t explain why he ran away from us again.
The second time Michael disappeared was when Caroline was about a year old. I didn’t realize he was gone until Michaela dropped her peanut butter, banana, and Tabasco sandwich on the floor and I called for Michael to come clean it up. Even then it took me a while to realize he was gone. Not asleep. Not drawing something somewhere. Not working on the Jetta again. Just gone.
One morning, exactly a week and two days after he’d disappeared, I found him sitting our front steps. I saw him sitting there with the sunlight silhouetting his body and making everything around him glow. I saw him and I fell to my knees crying.
He heard me. He found me with my face in my hands, a drop of syrup from Michaela’s pancakes staining my skirt, my hair down around my shoulders. He knelt down on the floor beside me and took me in his arms. “I’m sorry,” He said. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” I said. “I know.”
By the time our fifth child was born, Michael’s disappearing act had become sort of routine, sort of normal, for the both of us. We kept following the same strange pattern: I’d get pregnant, Michael would be my second shadow until sometime after the baby was a year old, Michael would leave again, Michael would come back again, he’d say he was sorry, I’d forgive him, and I’d get pregnant again. Isaiah Maxwell was born two days after my twenty-fourth birthday. Seven months later, Michael walked out after dinner and didn’t return for three days. Matthew Morgan was born a week before I turned twenty-eight. A year and three months later, Michael went to work one morning and came back home a week and five days later. Madeline Isabella was born exactly two years after Matthew. Michael was gone just four months later. He only stayed away for a night that time. I actually thought that maybe it was going to stop. Maybe he was going to stop leaving us. Leaving me.
I gave birth to Alyssa Elizabeth on my thirty-second birthday. She was the loudest baby in the ward. I expected that though. Our kids follow patterns too: Michaela and Matthew are just weird combinations of Michael and I, Caroline and Madeline are just like their father, Isaiah and Alyssa are just like me. I expected those two to have big mouths as soon as they were born.
Michael loves his kids. Even so, I waited. I waited for the day when I’d wake up and find Michael’s side of the bed empty. I waited for Matthew to come to me asking, “Mommy, is Daddy gone again?” Like I said, Michael’s disappearances became routine for me. I hated them but I expected them. Three years passed and Michael didn’t go anywhere. I started to think that maybe he was over it. I started to think that we were going to make it work that time.
I woke up in the middle of the night one night and found Michael gazing at me.
“Like what you see, spaceboy?” I’d asked him sleepily.
He ran his fingers through my hair and didn’t say anything. He just looked at me with a strange little Michael half smile on his face.
Something about the way he’d looked at me made me nervous. “Are you alright, Michael?” I’d reached out to touch his arm. I can still remember how cold his skin felt beneath my fingertips.
He pulled me closer to him and wrapped his arms around me. “I’m fine, baby.” He said. “I’m fine.”
I woke up the next morning and he was gone.
Those were the longest six months of my life. Michael had disappeared in March. April, May, June, July, and August went by without a word from him. Those first few days, the first few weeks even, I expected to wake up one morning and find him in the kitchen making Tabasco flavored blueberry pancakes for the kids again. Or I’d come home from work one night and find him harassing another one of Michaela’s dates. No one’s good enough for Michael Guerin’s little girl.
September came. Still no Michael. I got angry.
I actually went outside and cursed at the stars one night. Michaela had found me, cursing and crying like a crazy woman. She didn’t really say anything, just looked at me for a while. Then she came up beside me and looked up at the stars. “He’s gonna come back, Momma,” She said without looking away from the sky. “He’s gonna come home. Doesn’t he always?”
She knew just what to say to calm me down. She’s a lot like her father that way.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night, got dressed, and drove down to the reservoir. I don’t know what possessed me to do that; something just told me to go. I found him there, sitting on the bank and staring up at the sky. I didn’t say anything, just walked over and sat down beside him.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I said. “Long time, no see.”
“I know.” He said.
“Kids are fine,” I said, answering his question before he had the chance to ask it.
“I know,” He said. “You take good care of them.”
“Yeah.” I stared up at the stars and didn’t look at him. “Why’d you come back, Michael?” I asked. “You were gone so long, I almost didn’t think you’d come home.”
He stared at the stars and didn’t look at me. “I always come back, Maria.”
“I know. I mean, I don’t exactly understand why you leave, but, deep down, I do know that you always come back. I don’t even want to know why you leave. But I do want to know why you come back.”
He looked down at the silver ring on his finger and did not look at me. “I wanted to find out who I was, you know. Once, when all that destiny crap was still screwing with us, I asked Tess to tell me about myself. She said I had been a fighter. She said I’d been strong and smart and brave. She said I was probably still the bravest of all of us. She’s wrong though.” He ran his hands through his hair the way he always does when he gets nervous. “I’m not brave. I’m a coward. I get scared, Maria, even when good stuff happens to me.” He looked at me. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Maria, and that terrifies me.”
He stood up and stared up at the sky. “And our kids. You don’t know how happy I was when you told me you were pregnant with Michaela. But I was scared too. I was like that with all of them. I got scared and I didn’t know what else to do so I ran. I mean, running away has always been the solution to my problems, right?”
I stood and threaded my arm through his and rested my head on his shoulder the way I always did when I was scared for him.
“I can’t leave you again, Maria. It hurts too much to go. I guess I left this time because… maybe I thought that this was my last chance to get away,” He whispered.
He looked down at me again. “You mean you’re going to stand there and try to tell me that you’re not pregnant again?”
My mouth dropped open. “Michael… what?” I slid my free hand across my slightly swollen belly, over the secret I’d been trying to hide for those last six months. “How did you know?”
“After six kids you don’t think I would know what you’re like when you get pregnant?”
“But you were gone the next morning!”
“But I was there that night,” He said, grinning slyly. His grin only broadened when he saw the blush that passed over my face. “You know you make this little noise--”
“Michael!” I laughed.
“It’s good to see you smile, Maria.”
“You too, spaceboy.”
We started to walk back to my car and then I realized something. I stopped walking.
“Wait a minute. You knew I was pregnant?”
I put my hands on my hips. “You knew I was pregnant and you left anyway?” He didn’t say anything and it made me angry. “You bastard! You know how emotional I get when I’m pregnant! You put me through six months of not knowing where you were, or what you were doing, or if you were okay, or if you weren’t, or… Jeez, Michael, why did you do that to me?! Can you tell me that? I mean, you’ve gotta give me something to go on here. Do you have any explanation for yourself? Do you?!”
He kissed me.
“You know, that little trick of yours isn’t always gonna work on me, Michael.” I said.
He kissed me again.
“And it won’t help you weasel your way out of this conversation.”
He kissed me a third time. Michael’s kisses never change. They always make me feel the same way. I always have to remind myself to breathe.
I leaned my forehead against his. “Oh, Michael. What am I going to do with you?”
“I don’t know. But we can try to make this work, huh?”
“Yeah. And if not, I can always leave the kids with you, run away to Barbados, and start a torrid affair with a cabana boy named Raoul,” I laughed.
Michael smiled. “Raoul?”
“I like that name,” I protested.
“Not for our son I hope.”
“What makes you think it’s a boy?”
Michael pretended to stroke his chin thoughtfully. “Well with Isaiah and Matthew, that little noise you make was less squeaky and--”
“Michael!” I shook my head and laughed. “God help me, I do love you Michael Guerin.”
“I love you, too, Maria DeLuca,” he said as he started to walk away.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” I called after him.
He stopped and looked around. “Well, the sun’s coming up. And I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. I’m guessing the kids will be hungry when they wake up so I figured I could make some Tabasco-blueberry pancakes.”
“Not those things again,” I groaned.
“I thought you liked them.”
“Just because I eat them doesn’t mean I like them. I just like not having to make breakfast for eight all the time.”
“Nine,” he corrected.
He walked a little farther and then turned back to me. “You coming?”
I smiled and ran to catch up with him. He took my hand and we walked back to the car. It was time to go home. We got in the car and started it up. I let him drive. I sat there, saw the sunlight dancing across his face, saw how intently he was focusing on the road that would take us home, and knew that he wouldn’t run away again. He caught me watching him and smiled at me the way he always does when he means to say ‘I love you.’ I put my hand on his knee and squeezed it twice the way I always do when I mean to say ‘I know.’
We drove off into the sunrise.
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