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Not Made to Be a Crumb

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Two days after Madison tells Kevin about the babies, he shows up at her apartment with a crate of thirty-six blood oranges.

“I mean, I don’t know,” he says with a shrug. He’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt that probably cost as much as her most expensive purse and somehow highlights every single one of the muscles in his arms and chest and stomach, designer sunglasses hooked carelessly in the V of his collar. “I just, I saw them, and I thought—you know, Vitamin C, and—”

Madison bobs her head enthusiastically. “Yeah, no, they’re great, thank you,” she says, deciding not to tell him there’s a citrus tree right outside her bedroom window, half a dozen mandarins shriveling away on her kitchen counter at this very moment. “That’s really nice.” The box is enormous and awkward and heavy, hard to get her arms around. “Um. Do you want to come in?”

“Oh, no,” Kevin says, looking at her in that nakedly fearful way he does sometimes, like he thinks she’s going to steal his boxer briefs and put them on eBay or use a butter knife to saw off a chunk of his hair to wear in a locket around her neck. “I can’t stay. I just—”

“Totally get it,” she says, still nodding. “Well. Thanks again.”

Two days later he comes by with a dozen avocados. Three days after that it’s six pomegranates. A week after that it’s four pounds of fresh figs, which she’s actually allergic to, plus two tiny onesies bearing the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “They were my dad’s favorite football team,” he explains.

“No way, really?” Madison tilts her head to the side. “None of you guys ever mentioned.”

Kevin stares at her for a beat before the light goes on. “Oh,” he says, smiling in the tight way people smile when they don’t appreciate your joke about their weird familial obsession with their dead father. “I get it.”

Madison sighs. This is ridiculous. And like, she knew it was going to be ridiculous, which was why she took so long to tell him in the first place, but then he said all that stuff about being all in and she let herself think maybe—maybe—

“Look,” she finally says, setting the figs on the table in her foyer next to a candle from Anthropologie and a stack of catalogs she’s been saving to look through all at once on a day she’s feeling sad. “I appreciate all this, Kevin—the fruit, and…everything, but you know you really don’t have to—”

“No, I know I don’t,” Kevin says immediately. “I want to.” Still, the expression on his face is openly relieved, and as they say their goodbyes Madison gets the distinct impression he’s not going to be dropping by with a flat of organic strawberries anytime soon.

It’s probably better that way, she reminds herself, laying a steadying hand on her own belly. Less messy. Less chance of it getting confusing for her.

Two mornings later, she wakes up and there’s blood in her underwear.

Madison closes her eyes for a moment when she sees it, fear and dread blooming behind her breastbone and spreading hot and heavy down her limbs. She allows herself one single solitary sob.

Hey, she texts him, once she’s dug a pad out from the depths of the bathroom cabinet and pulled on a hoodie and some leggings. I’m sorry to bother you so early. I just thought you should know. Then she gets in her car and drives herself to the ER.

Kevin beats her there. “Hi,” he says, handing her an intake sheet attached to a clipboard. He doesn’t hug her, which she appreciates.

Neither one of them says anything as they wait for the doctor, listening to the hospital sounds on the other side of the curtain. Madison picks at her cuticles. The first time she was in treatment she started biting her nails instead of sticking her fingers down her throat and then that was a whole other thing she had to learn to stop doing, her nailbeds all red and swollen and infected. When she looks down now she realizes with distant embarrassment that her thumb is bleeding, and she wipes it on her hospital gown as discreetly as she can.

“I’m gonna see if I can speed this along,” Kevin says, pushing himself up out of the chair next to the gurney, but Madison shakes her head once and he sits down again.

When the doctor finally comes in it feels like it takes her forever to say anything, her face blank and terrible, but in the end there they both are, wiggling like a pair of happy fish on the ultrasound screen. Two strong heartbeats thump improbably, miraculously away.

“They’re fine,” the doctor assures her. “They’re perfect.” Madison nods without speaking. When she glances over at Kevin he’s looking up at the ceiling, dragging the heel of his hand across his cheek.

“Are you okay?” she asks him, once they’re alone.

“What?” Kevin clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says, his voice still a little bit wet-sounding. “Just…glad, that’s all.”

“Yeah.” Madison nods again, leaning her head back on the paper-covered pillow. “Me too.”

He stands on the other side of the curtain while she gets dressed, sunglasses on his face even though they’re indoors and it’s overcast. “Are you hungry?” he asks as they’re heading back out to the parking lot. “Do you want to get breakfast?”

Madison turns to look at him, surprised. Never once, all the time they’ve known each other, has he ever invited her out to do anything. And like, okay: does she have a little crush on him, the hot and buff and famous father of her unborn children? Of course she does. She’s pregnant, not dead. But she’s also so tired, all the panic and adrenaline draining out of her at once, and her hair is dirty, her stomach sticky with leftover ultrasound goo underneath her shirt. All she actually wants is to crawl into bed. “Thanks,” she says, “but I think I should probably just crash.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kevin agrees, voice bright as a California morning. “No worries. Of course.”

Two hours later there’s a knock on her door. “I brought pineapple,” he announces, holding up an enormous plastic tub.

Madison laughs out loud. “Kevin.” She never made it into the shower and she’s still wearing her plastic hospital bracelet, her hair a matted tangle against her neck. “Just, like…come inside, will you?”

Kevin stares at her for a long moment without saying anything. Then he nods.

He follows her through the living room and down the hallway into her bedroom, where she’s been watching Bravo on her laptop. “Go ahead,” she tells him as she climbs back under the covers, gesturing at the screen. “Have a giggle.”

But Kevin only shrugs. “I mean, I don’t really think I’m in a position to be judging anybody’s crappy taste in television,” he points out, toeing off his boots before settling himself on top of the blankets, leaving a careful foot of space in between them. “Also, I sat at the same table as Bethenny Frankel at a fundraiser once. Interesting lady.”

Madison nods. It’s nice to have another person in here—it’s nice to have him in here, in particular, his broad body and the salon-quality haircare smell of him—and eventually she shoves a pillow between her knees and dozes off for a while, the Real Housewives arguing soothingly in the background. When she wakes up she can tell by the light slanting in through the window that it’s late afternoon; the screensaver is on and Kevin is lying back against the pillows beside her, his breathing deep and even. She thinks he’s sleeping, but when she rolls onto her back to check she finds him gazing back at her, one arm tucked up behind his head.

“Your thumb is bleeding again,” he observes softly.

Madison looks down at it, then shrugs into the pillows, her shoulder brushing against his side. “It’s fine.”

Kevin reaches for her hand. She thinks he’s going to tell her she needs a band-aid, which she probably does, but instead he lifts her wrist to his mouth and uses his teeth to rip off the hospital bracelet, his lips just brushing the thin skin on the inside of her arm. “There,” he tells her, dropping it onto the nightstand, and laces his fingers through hers.