Fears. We have them, everyone does. Sometimes the person we care about, love, has them and we can tell. And sometimes they’re really good at hiding it. Afraid not only of…well, what they’re afraid of, but also of being judged weak, especially when it comes to parenting, or with issues such as depression. That’s what happened with Lauren in Deliberate Deceptions.
This was a tough scene to write because it was based on a real-life friend’s experience after the birth of her first child, though in real life her baby is alive and now in school, and my friend has had two more healthy children since. I was afraid that I’d get it wrong and belittle what she’d endured; I was afraid that readers wouldn’t understand Lauren’s battles, or would not want to read about it because of the common misconceptions and judgments about postpartum depression. But I’m really pleased I wrote their story the way Chad and Lauren wanted it told…
Copyright © 2011 Leah Braemel
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The two of them walked along the path back to the house without speaking. While they walked, Chad wondered if Lauren was composing answers for him with the same deliberation he was preparing his questions. For years he’d been composing what he wanted to ask. Yet so many of the questions now seemed futile or petty. She’d walked away from him. She’d been clear she hadn’t agreed with his decision about the FBI. She’d been furious when that video of the two of them having sex in their bedroom had been posted on the internet and gone viral, how stills had been splashed across every goddamned newspaper on the east coast and beyond. To this day he hadn’t figured out how someone had managed to sneak a camera into the house. He’d gone over the place with every detector he could lay his hands on and never found a trace of the goddamned thing.
Once they were in her room and he’d closed the door, Lauren took a deep breath and faced him. “I really am sorry. About leaving you. I know it was wrong. I apologize for that.”
“You’ve said that already.” He scrubbed his hands over his face as he fought for control. “Look, I know you were unhappy. I know you didn’t agree with some of the choices I made. Thalia told me—”
“Let’s not talk about Thalia right now.” The bleakness in her eyes sucker punched him, driving away the righteous indignation that had driven him just moments before. “Even before Emily’s death, I was pretty messed up. There was something wrong with me, about the way I watched Emily.”
What had he missed?
He thought back on those months, of watching her nursing Emily, cuddling her, sleeping with her right beside their bed, her hand often resting on their daughter as the two of them slept. “Babe, you were the best mother a baby could ever ask for. You were always there with Emily. You carried her everywhere you went. I know. I saw you.”
“From the day we brought Em home from the hospital, I was terrified to go to sleep.” Her voice cracked. “I was afraid if I did, she’d stop breathing and I wouldn’t know.”
How could that be? How could he not have seen that she’d been afraid? Then again he’d been at work during the day, a lot of evenings too. Especially that last month when he and his team had been winding up that inside trading investigation. Had he neglected his family because of a goddamned greedy banker?
“During the day, when you were at work, I’d keep her in her carry seat, so I could take her with me everywhere. I was afraid to leave her alone.” Her voice was a toneless whisper. “Then one day, she turned over on her own.”
He remembered that day. She’d called him with the news but he’d had to cut her off because they were in the middle of a meeting. She’d been upset with him that night—at the time he’d thought she was angry because she felt he’d blown her off. Had it been fear driving her anger? “That’s one of the signs she was growing up, Lauren. It meant she was healthy, that’s all.”
“They told us at our Lamaze classes we shouldn’t let the baby sleep on her stomach, remember?” He stayed very still, afraid to jar her from her trance-like recitation. “After that, I was terrified. How was I supposed to stop her from rolling over on her stomach if I fell asleep?” She closed her eyes for a moment and took another deep breath. When she opened them again, her voice was steadier, controlled. At what cost? “I’d sit on the side of the bed with my hand on her, making sure she was breathing. Sometimes I’d watch her all night.”
Oh, God, it was right in front of him and he hadn’t seen it.
“I knew something was wrong with me, but I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t say anything to anyone. I just kept hoping you’d see it. That you’d see what was happening and do something. Take me to the doctor or something.”
“Why didn’t you say something? Tell me? I would have helped you.”
“Because I was afraid. I terrified they’d say I was an unfit mother. That you’d take Emily away from me.”
“I would never have taken her from you, babe. You loved her more than life itself.” He couldn’t help himself; he wrapped his arms about her and drew her close, stroking up and down her spine, gently, comforting the way she liked.
“That night. You came home late, remember?” Her whole body shuddered in his arms. “You’d wrapped some case up and got your promotion.”
Oh, shit, and she’d fallen asleep after they’d made love. Had she never fallen asleep after the way he did? “Is that why you said it was my fault Emily…died?”
She took a deep shuddering breath, giving him the impression that she was ready to shatter. “Don’t you see? If I’d been awake, I might have noticed that she’d stopped breathing. I might have been able to save her. I know it wasn’t your fault, but I wasn’t thinking straight and I…”
“It wasn’t your fault. You know that. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.” Here he’d been blaming himself, thinking Lauren had blamed him for Emily’s death, and she’d been blaming herself. They’d both carried too much crap around for too long.
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