“There’s someone outside to see you, Dr. Rowe,” Kathy Pleschette, my office manager says at the door. “He says you’ll know what it’s about.”
I look up from the patient file I’m reviewing, too immersed in the details to process what Kathy just said. It’s my first day back seeing patients and I’m tired. There’s also that reporter from Hamptons Live who refuses to leave me alone even though I’ve told her I’m not interested being interviewed for her article about successful women and the choices they make regarding having kids. But then, who can blame her? Whose bright idea was it to lie anyway?
Oh, that’s right. Me.
“Does he have an appointment?”
Kathy shakes her head. “No, but he says you know him. Jordan O’Halloran?”
I must have turned pale for Kathy closes the door behind her and approaches my desk. “Are you okay? Would you rather I send him away?”
“No… it’s just that I haven’t… well, actually, yes, I know him. I do.”
Of course, I know him—if one considers eight hours of mind-numbing sex a part of getting to know someone. I close the file, hoping Kathy doesn’t notice that my hands are shaking.
Her eyes narrow. ”You sound like you’re convincing yourself that you know him. Are you sure you want to talk to him? I can tell him to come back.”
“No, no, Kathy. I’m fine. I was actually expecting him, just not here—or now, for that matter.” I place the file on top of a stack of other folders that Kathy takes from the desk. I’m nervous, and when I’m nervous, I ramble. And deflect. “This last case is pretty complicated. I wish Dr. James were still here to discuss a few things with.”
Dr. James is Harlow James who still shares an office with me although she only flies in every few months from Taos, New Mexico, stays for a month to consult with patients and then flies back. She’s slowly returning to her medical practice although being a mother seems to be on top of her list at the moment—and I don’t blame her. She went through five unsuccessful in-vitro attempts and a stillbirth before finally having the twins without any help at all. Just a man with perfect sperm count who loves her. Like her, I’d probably give up my medical practice altogether, if only I could afford it. And with Harlow, she certainly can. Her husband, Dax Drexel, is pretty much the most successful carpenter I’ve ever known although saying he’s a carpenter is saying it lightly. He’s a master woodworker, with a flagship store on Seventh Avenue.
Unfortunately, I don’t have such luck with men—haven’t had any since Kevin and I split up two years ago, both of us too engrossed in our careers to devote any time to our relationship. It was what one would call an amicable breakup. We just drifted apart and then one day looked at each other and discussed how we were better off as friends. We’d even stopped having sex three months before the official breakup. But then, that was only because he was too boring in bed. One position. All. The. Time. None of my hints worked. He always defaulted to the tried and true missionary.
“I can arrange a video call between you and Dr. James tomorrow if you’d like.” Kathy’s voice pulls me away from my thoughts and I nod.
“Probably around two-ish then. That would be about noon, her time.” I hand her the file. “Could you give me five minutes before you send Mr. O’Halloran in?”
Kathy hesitates, her brow furrowing as she studies me for a few moments. “Sure. Just holler if you need me.” She pauses, as if remembering something. “And don’t forget about that reporter. She says she’ll settle for a phone interview or email.”
“I don’t know why I agreed to be interviewed. I should have said no when she asked me.” But of course, I do. I say yes to everything.
“You still can, you know, Dr. Rowe. She’s not your mother.”
I wait until Kathy shuts the door behind her before getting up from my chair. I take a deep breath and let it out through my mouth.
Why is he here? And why now?
I texted him a year ago; not too many messages to make it appear that I was stalking him (I wasn’t), and not too few to make it seem like I didn’t care (I did). But it didn’t matter; I never got a response from him. It didn’t help that his outgoing voice greeting was the default one that comes standard with every phone. It made me wonder if I had the right number.
Just to be sure, I even tried visiting him at his condo only to have a woman answering the door with a ring around her finger. I didn’t wait for her to say anything. I ran out of there, humiliated. I should have known he was married. Just like that saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. But what is he doing in my office now? What does he want?
I check my reflection in the mirror and pull the elastic from my shoulder-length hair. My makeup is simple, just a light foundation and a dusting of powder so I don’t look too plain. Light eyeshadow and mascara and little liner to highlight my hazel eyes complete the look. These days, I don’t have time to play makeup like I used to. My schedule is crazy enough as it is.
I press my lips together, noting the lines that have begun to form along the corners. Damn laugh lines. I’m only thirty-four, for crying out loud. Despite my crazy schedule, I take care of myself the best I can with monthly massages and facials although I do my nails myself. Just to be sure, I check my cuticles.
Stop it, Addy. This isn’t why he’s seeing you.
I take a deep breath and open the door just as Kathy lets a tall man with reddish blond hair into the back office. The staff stop whatever they’re doing to stare at him as he walks toward my office. He’s more handsome than I remember him, with his hazel-green eyes and that devilish smile. Stubble lines his wide jaw.
“Hello, Dr. Rowe. I hope I’m not bothering you,” he says as I shut the door behind him. His voice is just as I remember it, deep and beautiful although sad to say, he couldn’t hold a tune.
“No, you’re not.”
“I just got back from overseas and I found your text on my phone,” he says. “I know I’m a year late but if I’d seen it, I’d have responded sooner.”
I stare at him, unable to believe what I’m hearing. He just found my text messages a year after I sent them? How is that even possible?
“You said it was important,” he adds.
“It was.” I lean against the door and fold my arms in front of me. “But I don’t get it. How could you not have read your texts then?”
“I flew to Asia as part of a group that built schools and clinics for a nonprofit, Rebuild to Heal. Have you heard of them?” he asks and I shake my head. “We flew to Laos, Cambodia, and the Philippines. I stayed there with a few guys last before touring parts of Asia. Bali, India, Thailand. Because of roaming charges, I got a local phone and turned off my phone for most of the trip.”
“I hope it was fun.”
He grins. “It was.”
“So, did you leave right after we… you know, after we met?”
He nods. “I did. I mentioned it to you that night.”
“We did?” All I remember is the sex, I almost say out loud.
“We weren’t exactly discussing our life plans that night.”
“No, we weren’t.” We were too busy doing other things I can’t say out loud. I’d met him in a bar in Forest Hills the night I left my parents’ anniversary party much earlier than planned. I could have called for an Uber to get me back to Manhattan but I didn’t. Instead, I walked toward Queens Boulevard and ended up hitting the first bar I saw along the way, not realizing that it was also karaoke night. I didn’t even care that I went in alone. All I wanted was a drink while listening to some singers belt out their favorite songs, and then another one to drown out their attempts to channel Madonna and Taylor Dane.
“So, what did you need to tell me that was so important?” he asks, breaking through my thoughts.
Suddenly I don’t know what to say to him or how to say it. It’s been a year since that night we spent in wild abandon, but it’s also been a year of harsh lessons afterward–like the realization that we all have to live with the consequences of our actions.
“How’d you find me?”
“You told me your name. You also told me what you did for a living.”
“I did?” We had tried to keep it at first names. I was Addy and he was Jordan. That was it.
He nods. “You told me you specialized in nephrology and so I looked you up. There aren’t many nephrologists named Addison Rowe so it wasn’t too hard to find you.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Thank goodness for my big mouth. I didn’t hold back telling my one-night stand what I did for a living.
“I texted you a few hours ago but didn’t get a reply so I thought I’d come by to leave a note. But the woman at the front desk said you were in,” he continues, his expression turning serious. “So what’s so important that you had to ask to meet me and talk?”
Can we talk? It’s important. Two sentences that packed a wallop. How could I forget that? I remember erasing that first message three times and typing it again, trying to word it right even if there was no other way to say it best.
I clear my throat. “That night we spent together? Well, I got pregnant.”
He stares at me. “Excuse me?”
“I got pregnant.”
He shakes his head. “But we used protection that night.”
All three times we did it, I know. “Well, somehow it failed.”
“No kidding,” he mutters. “What happened to the baby? Did you… did you keep it?”
He’s quiet for a few moments and I don’t push it. Maybe I should have had Kathy in here to act as a mediator in case things got testy or if he hyperventilates in front of me and passes out. But Kathy doesn’t know the circumstances of my pregnancy. No one does except me… and now, Jordan.
“What’s her name?”
His question throws me off. For so long, I’ve had a different scenario replaying in my head, of a man who gets angry and then refuses to have any involvement with the child, not even caring to know if it’s a girl or a boy. In my head, he simply tells me it’s my problem and walks away. It’s never been anything else.
“Her name’s Piper,” I reply. “Piper Amelia Rowe.”
Jordan finally sits down, and I take the other seat across from him. “I didn’t follow up because I thought you weren’t interested. And I won’t blame you if you decide not to have anything to do with her.”
“Wait a minute,” he says, raising his hand. “Why wouldn’t I want to have anything to do with my daughter? What makes you think that? In fact, why would you assume such a thing?” He blows out a breath and stares at me in disbelief. “I’m a father.”
“I know it’s a shock—”
“Yes, it is.”
“But I want you to think about it and call me with your decision to be part of her life or not–“
“Wait. What makes you think I wouldn’t want to be part of her life?” Jordan asks, frowning.
I shrug. “I don’t know. I just wanted to throw it out there. I won’t blame you or go after you for child support or anything. But if you do, then we’ll need to make arrangements.”
“Visitation? Custody? Are you telling me that I’ve got no rights as of this moment?”
I don’t answer right away. I know he’s got rights as Piper’s father but I’d written him off in my head since that woman answered the door to his condo that I never considered to learn the details of visitation and custody arrangements. “I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t looked that far into it. I just know that I couldn’t put your name in the father box when I had her at the hospital.”
“How much did she weigh?”
His question surprises me. I’m so used to hearing that question from women, not men. But then, I haven’t been talking to a lot of men lately, not in my personal life. My personal life is all about Piper, pumping milk and freezing the bags for Marcia, the nanny who comes in three days a week to help me around the apartment. Even now, my breasts ache and I know if I keep up such long hours even if I’m only at the office three days a week, my milk supply will simply dwindle until there’s nothing.
“She was eight pounds, two ounces. Healthy and… and she’s got your eyes.”
“When can I see her?”
“Um, we can make arrangements for you to—”
“What do you mean, make arrangements? You just told me that I’m a father of a baby girl names Piper Camille and now you’re telling me that I have to make arrangements to see her? I hope you don’t mean court-mandated arrangements.”
“No, I mean… I don’t know,” I stammer. All those years in medical school and consulting patients apparently haven’t taught me a thing about how to tell the man you had a one-night stand with that you now have a baby together. Instead, I know more about nephrons and sodium potassium numbers than I do about relationships… or accidental relationships, for that matter.
“Can I see her?” Jordan asks. “It doesn’t have to be right away but it would be nice. It’s not every day you hear that you’re a dad.“
I open my mouth to say no but then stop myself. I don’t even know why I’m so quick to refuse him access to his own daughter except that I’m afraid he’ll take Piper away from me. All those conversations I’ve had in my head with imaginary Jordan—the version that didn’t want anything to do with a baby—are clearly winning this round.
I nod. What the hell. Maybe it’s time I get to know the real version of Jordan instead. “Sure. You got the time right now?”