Jake almost thought he had imagined it. He hoped to God he had but the pain was too real to imagine. A full blow to his chest that sent waves of misery through his body. People didn’t take breaks to take breaks. They took breaks to ease themselves into the break up before they broke up completely. Now he was walking back to his house in a daze. He had no idea what to say, he still didn’t. There was no way to make things right when you knew you were so wrong. Kevin was waiting for him on the front lawn. Jake didn’t even look at him. His gym bag and keys were still lying next to his car. He walked straight towards them. "Is she okay?" Kevin asked. Jake shook his head as he picked up his gym back. "She broke up with me. I mean, she said she just wanted a break but we all know what that means," Jake said, feeling his heart flash with pain again. "Wow... I’m really sorry about that, son." Jake looked at his father and tried not to glare. The man stood there awkwardly. "I’m such a screw up," he said. Jake nodded and looked away. "Guess it runs in the family. I’m never getting her back." Another flash of pain. Kevin sighed. "This is my fault. If I hadn’t come, you would have never gotten so upset." Jake looked back at his father.
"Something we can agree on," Jake said then unlocked the car door. He opened it and slid inside. "Please just leave. I don’t really want to see you," Jake said as he pulled out of the driveway. He didn’t look at his father’s face once as he did this.
Jake drove for what seemed like hours. Passing every single club and bar and not noticing it. The need to have a drink had vanished. A greater need started gnawing on his insides. He wanted to be up in his treehouse, under the covers with Athena in his arms.
Athena was sitting on her bed with Mr. Peanut against her chest when Emily found her. "What happened?" She asked. Athena wasn’t crying but something was obviously wrong. A closed silver box lay on the bed in front of Athena’s crossed legs. She just stared at it blindly. Emily took a step closer. "Athena?" She asked. Athena shook her head without removing her eyes from the box. "It’s been a really long day," she said quietly. Emily sat down on the bed next to her daughter and started stroking Athena’s hair. "Do you want to talk about it?" She asked. Athena closed her eyes, lowered her head into the stuffed animal then shook her head. She wasn’t ready to re-live it yet. "You want to be left alone," Emily guessed. Athena nodded. "Okay, sweetie," Emily said. She kissed her daughter’s head then left the room. Athena waited until she couldn’t hear her mother’s footsteps before opening her eyes. She let go of the fuzzy creature in her arms so that she could carefully lift the lid of the box. Athena placed the lid on the floor and stared inside. She bit hard on her lip when she saw her father’s handwriting on the envelopes. He had written her a card for every single birthday and Christmas he had missed. She remembered walking out of the hospital with the bag of envelopes in her hand. She later found the necklace he had bought her in one of them.
"That’s pretty." Jake’s voice echoed in her mind. She swallowed hard. He did it again, and it hurt just as bad this time.
Jake looked up from the bleachers he sat on. Kelly smiled lightly at him. "Mind if I join you?" She asked. He attempted to smile back then nodded. He stared out at the basketball court. "It’s gonna rain soon, you shouldn’t be out here," Kelly said when she sat down next to him. Jake shrugged. "I’ll get out of here soon," he mumbled.
"You look like crap."
Jake looked at her. Kelly smiled encouragingly. He felt his spirit lift a bit at her light humor. Jake chuckled a bit. "Yeah," he said and looked at the court again.
"How’s she doing?" He couldn’t stop himself from asking. Kelly took a breath. "She’ll be fine. I’m hoping she’ll get over it soon," Kelly said. "Any chance of her taking me back?" He asked but didn’t look at Kelly. She was silent for second too long. "I don’t know... I haven’t known her long enough, I guess. I haven’t seen her like this before... What do you think? You know her better than anyone," Kelly said.
When Jake didn’t answer, she dropped her eyes. "Oh," Kelly said then shifted uncomfortably. "Look, she can’t stay mad forever," Kelly said. Jake fell back against the backrest. He stuffed his arms into his jacket pockets. "I always knew something was holding her back... It was stupid of me to say what I did. I know that." He shook his head. "I just lost it for a moment." His eyes darkened.
"Is your dad still here?" Kelly asked gently. Jake shrugged. "I don’t know," he said. Kelly dropped her eyes again. "You know, Athena’s right. Maybe you should sort things out before it’s too late," Kelly said. A fat raindrop fell on her nose and spattered onto Jake’s face. They laughed when the surprise passed. "That’s my cue," Jake said and got up. He looked at her and smiled.
"Want a lift?"
It was already drizzling when Jake turned into his street. When Jake drove up to his house, an unfamiliar 4X4 was parked at front. "More surprises," he guessed. "Great."
He pulled into the driveway. "Thanks for the ride," Kelly said and got out. He gave her a nod but didn’t move his eyes from the car. The moment he got out, the driver of the car also did. Jake’s eye widened a bit. He groaned. "Fantastic," he mumbled under his breath then slammed the car door. The woman gave him a brave smile as she approached him, looking a bit uncomfortable as she walked. "I’m guessing I’m the last person you want to see right now," she said, touching her belly consciously. Jake looked away to clear his thoughts. When he looked back at her, she was standing in front of him. She stretched out a small hand. "I’m Darcy," she said. Jake hesitated then shook her hand. "You already know who I am," Jake said then let go of her hand. She nodded. "Would you mind if I talk to you inside? It looks like rain," she said. Jake almost smiled. He walked towards the front door, unlocked it then stood away so she could walk inside. She thanked him with a smile. She turned to look at him. "I came here to apologize," she said slowly. Jake placed his palm to his forehead. "Look, if my dad sent you here-"
"He didn’t. He doesn’t know I’m here. He would probably be as upset as you are right now. Listen. I’m really sorry that my presence has upset you so much. I thought you knew about the baby."
Jake looked over at her pregnant stomach. He tried to wrap his mind around the fact that his father was having another child growing inside this stranger. "I know it must have been really difficult to accept your parent’s divorce, but I feel like I should clarify something. I’m not the woman your dad left your mother for. I would never date a married man."
Jake didn’t know why, but her words left him speechless. He disliked her a little less. His eyes traveled down to her stomach again. It looked so uncomfortable and heavy. "Would you like to sit down?" Jake asked. She nodded. Jake led the way to the kitchen and pulled out a chair for her at the table. "Can I get you something?" He asked when he saw the kettle. "Tea would be nice," Darcy said. As the kettle boiled, Jake leaned back against the sink. "So how’d-" He gestured with his hand towards her stomach. "Uh, this..." Darcy burst out laughing at his discomfort. Jake had to smile that time.
"I met your dad about two years ago. I planned on expanding my gallery so I could have a room for my own work and he was designing it."
"You’re an artist? And you own your own art gallery?" Jake asked. Darcy nodded. So the woman has money, he thought. He smiled. "I immediately sensed something off about the way he carried himself, so I invited him for coffee. Turns out the woman he left your mother for took off with his car and most of his money. Worst was that he realized what a mistake he had made. He only told me about you after I told him I was pregnant. I was pissed," she said, meeting Jake’s eye. Jake scoffed. "So he has that effect on everyone it seems," he said. "I refused to see him for a few days. Then I realized I never allowed him to explain. He told me about how embarrassed he was, too embarrassed to face especially you. I forgave him," she said. Jake raised an eyebrow. "Just like that?" He asked. Darcy smiled again. She was a very pretty woman. Petite and gentle. She looked like she possessed the innocence of a little girl but she was probably in her mid-thirties. "I told him if he didn’t feel up to it, I would understand. I make a comfortable living, I could provide for the baby myself. He immediately said no. He told me how badly he wanted to make things right with you, so I asked what was stopping him, he’d never know unless he tried. And here we are," she said. She tilted her head a bit. "The water’s done boiling," she said. Jake turned and prepared her tea. Darcy took a deep breath. "I hope now that you understand things better... maybe things will become easier for you," she said. He turned around and handed her a cup. She reached for the sugar that was placed in the middle of the table with difficulty. "I’ll get that," Jake said. He moved the white sugar pot closer to her steaming cup.
Darcy flinched then groaned in pain. She hunched over her stomach. Jake immediately stepped forward. "Are you okay?" He asked, hearing the panic in his voice. She took a few steadying breaths then sat up, laughing a bit. "I’m fine, this one’s just getting a little impatient, that’s all," she said, proudly looking down at her swollen stomach. "Is there anything I can do to help?" He asked, still a bit panicked. She laughed again. "Relax, Jake. According to the doctor, this baby still has a few weeks before making his debut. I have a feeling he’ll come earlier though. But not today!" She said quickly when she saw Jake’s eyes widen. Jake laughed nervously. He pulled a chair out and sat down on it, facing her. "So it’s a boy?" He asked. She nodded.
"A baby brother."
Her words made his smile vanish. He was getting a baby brother. He hadn’t thought about it that way. He hadn’t thought that the child growing inside of her was his family too. She groaned again then chuckled. "And by the feel of it we’re getting a little soccer player," she said. Jake chuckled as well. "Would you like to feel him kick?" She asked. She reached for his hand and placed it on her stomach before he could answer. Jake felt the movement through her cardigan. She moved his hand to where a small bulge was. "That’s his foot," she said. Jake felt it move away. He smiled, amazed. "Wow," he whispered. "You know, Jake..."
He looked at her but didn’t move his hand from her stomach. He felt a part of him reach out to the unborn child. "I like you," Darcy said with a smile. Jake smirked. "As much as my pride hates to admit it, you’re not so bad yourself," he said. Darcy laughed. It was true. He wasn’t planning on liking her. But she had a fun, friendly nature about her. He didn’t think anyone could hate a woman like her. "I’d really like it if you could be part of my baby’s life," she said. Jake dropped his eyes back to her stomach. Darcy suddenly groaned again, louder this time, then started huffing. Jake removed his hand from her stomach. He jumped up. "Uhm, Jake." He could hear the strain in her voice. "I might have been wrong about that baby not coming today," Darcy said. Jake’s throat went dry. "Okay, uhm, what do we do?" He asked. She looked at him while holding onto her stomach. "Can you drive me to the hospital?" She asked. "Yeah, yeah." Jake helped her up, feeling the adrenaline pump through his veins. "Come on," he said.
The drive to the hospital felt agonizingly long. Darcy kept telling him to slow down a bit and to relax. She always laughed after saying this then groaned and breathed in huffs. He couldn’t understand how she could be telling him to relax! She was in labor! The worst was when they got to the hospital and he was getting out of the car another car came out of nowhere and bumped him so that he rolled along the parking lot. He wasn’t hurt though. The man immediately got out of the car and helped him up. "I’m so sorry! Are you okay, kid?" He asked. Jake jumped up and tested his shoulders by rolling them. When he realized he was fine, he reassured the man, who laughed nervously and explained quickly that his wife was in labor. Jake was so stressed that he burst out laughing then remembered Darcy. He rushed to her side and focused on getting her inside quickly. The second they got inside, Jake spotted Dr. Thompson strolling toward a nurse. She looked up and met his eyes as they hurried toward her. "Labor?" She guessed calmly. She looked away before he could answer and signaled for a nurse to come closer with a wheelchair. "Sit down. Stay calm. Everything is going to be fine. When was your last contraction, miss...?"
Darcy huffed. "Grey," she managed then yelped again. Emily nodded.
"That soon, huh."
She smiled. "Come on. Let’s get you into a room." A nurse started pushing Darcy away. Jake was about to follow when Emily stopped him. She handed him some forms. He stared at her blindly. "Fill those in and go sit in the waiting room for a while," Emily said. "But she-"
"She’s fine. That baby will only be coming somewhere tonight. I know what a woman looks like minutes before birth and that’s not it. She’s got a few hours. Best thing now is for her to stay calm and I’ll go see what I can do." Emily studied him. Her eyes went huge. She grabbed his chin and turned his head to the side. Jake felt her push some hair away. "Jake, what the hell happened to you?" She asked. She pulled his face closer to hers. Only then did he feel something warm slide down his neck.
*BriBri: Two more chapters to go!
*TheTaskmaster: Haha. I updated that the moment I read your comment. I was meaning to, I just kept on forgetting *blush*. Thank you! I actually miss campus now. Holidays get a bit long after a while.
*Zelia: You'll see...