He demands to go to the OB/GYN with her so the doctor can do a sonogram and tell him she’s actually pregnant. He leaves New York when it’s still dark and chainsmokes the whole way – a new habit acquired upon learning of his impending fatherhood. He listens to some angsty shit he’d once borrowed from Halpert and had never returned and is an all-time bad mood when he meets her at the doctor. She talks about Juicy Couture baby outfits and what she’ll wear at their wedding. As they wait, Kelly in a paper gown, he asks if she planned this.
“Weren’t were careful? Did we do everything we could to prevent this?”
Not really listening to him, she blows him a kiss and he frowns. When they do the ultrasound, he has no choice but to look at his child. With that, he rushes outside to the parking lot where he vomits until he produces nothing but dry heaves. Later, on his drive home, he thinks about how he’d almost been able to escape – from Scranton, Kelly, from who he used to be. He’d almost been able to slip away so seamlessly. Almost.
Although his mother doesn’t really like Kelly, she is excited about becoming a grandmother – an emotion she displays by emailing him series of questions that he has to ask Kelly. Are you taking your vitamins? Have you thought about how to treat stretch marks? Have you looked into attachment parenting? He forwards his mom Kelly’s responses, the hot pink font practically scarring his retinas.
He tries his best not to talk to Kelly, but most of the time he’ll pick up if she calls. He keeps up his life as best as he can and pretends everything isn’t a blurry mess. Sometimes he’ll find himself in a cold sweat about it all – which is when he buys baby stuff online and has it rush ordered to Kelly’s apartment, as if it will solve anything. He pays for everything, even her weekly spa visits specifically designed for pregnant women. The only thing he can’t deal with – at all – are her frequent and persistent reminders that they should be married. If she calls and says the m-word, he hangs up. He won’t apologize for that. He’ll help out financially, but that’s where this train ends.
The night his daughter is born, he’s in a club trying to pick up a daytime soap writer. They do a couple of lines in the bathroom, but it doesn’t seal the deal so he leaves in a pissed off mood. He checks his BlackBerry to see multiple texts from Pam. get ur ass here, kellys h2o broke, the last one says. He sprints to his parking garage, although given what’s in his system, it’s not an easy run.
He misses the baby’s birth entirely, which is fine with him, if there is any truth to those gross shows on TLC. It’s almost sunrise when he gets to Scranton. He’s scared. Really. Before, he could almost imagine himself the wealthy benefactor of some poor unmarried girl, but that narrative is about to end because when he goes inside, all that will await him is a life dropped on his head. He arrives as Pam and Jim are leaving and he slows his walk towards the hospital.
“I don’t know how we got roped into this. But your daughter is beautiful,” Pam says, exhausted. She and Jim lean on each other and meander to their car. He wants them go and thinks he should’ve went for it with Pam after she broke up with Roy.
He turns and enters the hospital, his stomach turning over with every step. The Kapoors see him coming and glare at him openly – except for Tiffany. Or Neepa. He can’t keep them straight. Tiffany/Neepa takes him into Kelly’s room where she’s passed out. Her face looks disturbed, like this rest is really anything but.
A tiny noise startles him from the corner where a young nurse tends to the baby. “Are you the father?” She asks. But before he can answer, she says, “Of course you are, you look petrified.” She picks up Baby Girl Kapoor and places her in his arms. Her small face erupts into a roar of discontent. He smiles. It’s in that exact moment that he becomes lost in love.
“Hi,” she says with a yawn.
(Their morning ritual.)
“How is she?”
“She’s fine,” an edge of irritation outlining her tone. He’s stopped asking how Kelly is, something that has driven her crazy and has been the topic of many conversations – many uncomfortable, torturous conversations. He likes to stick to their common interest, Emma.
(It had taken some work to convince her not to name the baby Hermione, but a quick search on his BlackBerry did the trick. Emma Watson, portrayer of Hermione Granger. It worked like a charm. “You owe me,” he whispered later to Emma. In response, she had thrown up a little, and he’d grinned, completely charmed.)
“Kelly, tell me more,” he implores, deleting emails from his inbox.
“Ryan, I’m exhausted, I’ve been up since four AM, so—“
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” she says, exasperated, “She’s a baby, Ryan.”
He closes his laptop, one hand braced on his forehead. “Yeah. Yeah. Maybe I should come to Scranton this weekend.” He pulls up his calendar on his BlackBerry, which lets him know that he has a date Saturday night with Gretchen Somebody. He sends Gretchen Somebody an email saying he has the flu. “Okay, does she have a cold or anything? Colic? What are her symptoms?”
After Kelly gives him the info he needs, they hang up and he prepares to call the pediatrician. For an actual opinion. He also changes his schedule to be in Scranton Friday morning. He can do work from the branch and spend the rest of the weekend with Emma.
One last time before the day starts, he sneaks a look at a picture Kelly sent of Emma in his arms. He smiles back at himself.
He works two days a week out of the Scranton office – Mondays and Fridays – just to lengthen his weekends with her. Because he’ll do anything for her, including shave his beard – which he did she was four. He’s clean-shaven still and his wrinkles have nowhere to hide.
She looks at him with awe in her eyes, with reverence, and he knows he doesn’t deserve it, but he takes it anyway.
When Kelly and Darryl go on their honeymoon, Emma stays with him in New York. She hangs out in his office, busy illustrating on all of his letterhead. She is so quiet and well behaved now, after bouts of the Terrible Twos, Threes, and Fours. It’s amazing that a child of Kelly Kapoor’s is quiet and thoughtful, but he loves it. Introspective at five – although occasionally prone to temper tantrums. Needless to say, he doesn’t get a lot of work done and spends most of his time watching her. She gives David Wallace a drawing of a frog buying paper from a unicorn, so he promptly takes the rest of the week off.
He takes her to Central Park, Alice’s Tea Cup, Serendipity, and a ballet at Lincoln Center. She says, “Daddy, I like New York. I like your house.” She has trouble distinguishing the city from his apartment, considering all of the outside parts to he his backyard, and he doesn’t correct her. He takes her to The Little Mermaid and watches her experience a range of emotions. In fact it scares him a little to see her feeling so much. Later, on their way home in a cab, she leans against him and falls asleep. He watches the city go by.
She had dyed purple streaks into her hair against his express wishes and he watches her fly around the gym, her long dark hair flying behind her. How bizarre to see her in a dress, never mind a graduation gown. And heels. She runs around, taking pictures with friends, shrieking over their good fortune.
“Hi,” Kelly says, siding up to him. He barely recognizes her in a black pinstripe suit and he tells her so. She waves it off. “Please, our daughter is graduating from high school today. The jig is up, I’m totally aging.”
“Well, you look good, Kelly.”
She smiles, flattered. “Don’t flirt with me, Ryan Howard, I’m a married woman.”
He shakes his head, looking at Emma. Partial scholarship to Brown. He’s still waiting for the thanks to come for insisting upon and bankrolling her early morning Saturday SAT prep classes. Hopefully the thanks will come after she earns her first million or Nobel prize.
“Being a parent is a thankless job,” she murmurs to him and he looks at her strangely.
“Get out of my head.” She shrugs and he continues, “I’m just saying – 18 years.” He rubs absently at his chin.
“Sort of coming to a close, huh,” she says wistfully.
“Nah. She’s going to come home for holidays and she’ll still come to us with problems and – God I hope she still comes to us.”
“I don’t know, I stopped telling my parents stuff at—“
“Stop,” he interrupts, “I don’t want to know.”
They watch her together in comfortable silence. “This isn’t what I had imagined,” she says softly.
He nods. There’s nothing to say. “How’s Darryl?”
She rolls her eyes. “His daughter Lauren sprained her ankle waterskiing and he rushed up to Michigan to make sure she’s okay. It’s not like she lost a limb or anything.”
He thinks about the time he took Emma to the emergency room because she’d gotten a splinter, so he keeps his mouth shut. “You two are doing well?”
She nods, smiling. “How about you? Any future Mrs. Howards?”
He looks at Emma. “No. You know that. I’m too busy.” In truth he’s only been too busy to make something stick. He certainly had the potential to meet and pursue a lot of women, but nothing ever lasted and he never particularly cared. “Too busy with Emma.”
“Emma is moving to Rhode Island. Excuse gone,” she says point-blank and his face falls. “Well?” she asks expectantly.
He starts to explain, “It’s scary to think – hey Kiddo!” He puts on a big smile as Emma jogs over.
She leaves a kiss on his cheek and hugs her mom. “You proud of me?” She asks in a rare moment of humility.
“Don’t even have words, Em.”
Kelly nods in agreement and kisses their daughter on the cheek before she runs off again. “How did you let her do that to her hair?”
“She did it while I was out grocery shopping! Purposefully sneaky is hard to anticipate.” He watches Emma pose with her toothy grin and then flit off to another friend. “Thanks Kelly,” he mumbles, so low he can barely hear – but she does. She squeezed his hand and they watch their daughter from the sidelines.