"Oh my gosh, I can't believe you're pregnant again," Aiko says. She is holding her daughter in her arms, bottle-feeding her.
"I know," Mia says, rubbing her stomach self-consciously. "It's crazy... I took so many pregnancy tests because I didn't think it was real. There's no denying it though, I'm expecting."
"Let's hope you have an easier birth than last time," Christa says.
Aiko shudders in reminiscence. "Ugh, I can never forget that."
"How's Josh taking the news?" Christa asks, as she peels her banana.
"He's over the moon," Mia replies, smoothing down her skirt. "I wasn't expecting him to be so... ecstatic. At night, he'd kiss my stomach and talk to it. He said he wanted the baby to recognize his voice. He'd even sing for the baby sometimes - although, bless, he's quite tone deaf."
"That's the most adorable thing I've heard," Aiko coos.
Christa munches on her banana with a grin, nodding in agreement.
"Josh is great. He'll be a fantastic dad, no doubt," she says whilst chewing.
"Agreed," Aiko hums, making Mia smile. "I wonder how Max will react with a new baby in the house? Do you think he'll get jealous if he's not the center of your attention?"
Mia giggles. "That would be so adorable if he does! Ahh, just imagining it is making me all giddy!"
The three laugh for a moment, before falling into comfortable silence. Then Christa speaks up, asking the anticipated question.
"Can you finally tell us about Max's dad now?"
Mia's smile instantly disappears.
"Bathroom break," she announces, standing up. "Be right back."
Then she swiftly exits the room, leaving behind her friends.
Christa sighs. "She's never gonna tell us, is she?"
Aiko pats her baby's back, making her burp. "Hmm... I remember her mentioning that the dad is either Zac or some other guy. I forgot his name though."
"What?" Christa sits up straighter. "When was this?"
"When I found out she was pregnant and I asked her about the dad," Aiko answers, rubbing her baby's back in circular motions. "She told me that she didn't know who it was."
"She told me that too," Christa says, frowning in wonderment. "But she never mentioned any other names. Did she describe this other guy?"
"Yup. She said she dated him after her break up with Zac," Aiko replies, gently rocking her baby in her arms. "They went on a couple of dates. Apparently, he took her to some dirt bike racing rally. They even drove on his motorbike together and he pulled some crazy stunts. She had the wildest time with him."
"The motorbike guy!" Christa exclaims, her eyes widening as she recalls a vivid memory. "Hang on, I remember her telling me about him too. Ohhh I think his name was Darren? Duncan? Ugh! I can't remember for the life of me. She only mentioned him once. She said he was an Irish fella with a zest for life. They drove around at midnight, under the stars, on his motorbike in a quiet countryside."
"Oh, that sounds magical!" Aiko chirps, stroking her baby's cheek as she falls asleep.
"It really does," Christa says. "But, damn, I didn't know he was Max's father! We should totally confront her about this."
"She's gonna brush us off," Aiko warns with a click of her tongue. "I tried to speak about him before, but whenever I do, she makes up some lame excuse to drop the topic."
She pulls her phone out of her purse. "Oh, you know what we should do? Let's find out more about this guy and reach out to him! Then we can confront her with him by our side! She'll have to come clean then."
"Ohhh... I don't know," Christa mumbles. "I know she hates the guy and if we bring him to her, she might hate us too. Something clearly happened between the two that she's keeping a secret."
Aiko types on her phone with one hand. "Mmh... that girl has a lot of secrets. Some of them she'll take to the grave with her."
"It's frustrating," Christa murmurs, munching on her banana. "But it's reassuring at the same time. I feel like I can trust her with all my secrets."
"Ugh... I wish we remembered his name," the blonde woman sighs.
"Maybe the name Declan Omarion will ring a bell?" Aiko suggests, waving her phone triumphantly in the air.
Christa's mouth drops and she gasps. "Oh my god! That's the name! It's coming back to me now. How on earth did you...?"
"Easy. I just searched for Irish motorbike racer and a bunch of results came up for this man," Aiko explains, showing her phone screen. "Look, there's news articles about him. Let's check it out."
Declan Omarion, a tough Irish candidate in the British Championship 2011, succeeded exceptionally in the British Superbike and Supersport Championships. He is particularly skillful on both the short circuits and road circuits, taking twelve victories at the Motorbike Rally Festival and twenty-eight victories at the International Road Race stadium.
In his interview with XYZ news studio, he said, "A lot of people argue that I don't deserve the British awards because of my Irish heritage, but I want everyone to know that it's perfectly possible to be both Irish and British. I'm a proud Irish with a British citizenship. I will continue to make everyone proud."
"Oh wow..." Christa says, feeling breathless. "He's freaking famous and successful. Is this for real? Do we have the right guy?"
"Maybe..." Aiko shrugs, her eyes glued to his picture. She fans her face. "But just look at him! He's so fit."
"Mmh... he's dreamy."
"Hey, what are you guys talking about?" Mia questions, as she returns to the living room. She sits in between them.
Aiko lowers her phone and exchanges a quick glance with Christa.
"Mia, we know who the-"
"We're gonna throw you a baby shower!" The Asian woman interrupts. She brings her sleeping baby closer to her chest.
"Ugh, no!" Mia runs her fingers through hair, distressed. "Guys, I love you and I appreciate the sentiment, but you know I don't like large gatherings or parties. That's why I hardly celebrate my birthday anymore."
"Yeah, we know. But, listen, Mia... we found out that-"
"Why don't you like parties, huh?" Aiko asks, rolling her eyes. "I love parties! Especially birthday surprises. They're so much fun."
"I don't like having the spotlight on me," Mia admits. "It gives me social anxiety. Let's just celebrate between us. That's what I want. A day with my best friends and I'll be the happiest Mom around."
"Okay, if that's what you want," Christa says. "Still, what I'm trying to say is-"
"If you don't like the spotlight, how are you gonna deal with your big wedding day?"
The blonde woman glares at Aiko, annoyed by her constant interruptions.
Mia looks at her engagement ring for a moment. "Um... I'll survive," she says unconfidently, before turning her attention to Christa. "What are you trying to say?"
"We know who Max's father is!"
Mia bites her nail. "What? How?"
"You told Aiko that it was either Zac or that motorbike racer," Christa explains. "So, we looked him up and found him."
Mia closes her eyes. "Declan Omarion," she whispers.
"Ahhh! Yes!" Aiko shrieks. Then she quickly bites her tongue, seeing her daughter stir in her sleep. She whispers, "Exactly! You know him! We're right."
"But... how?" Christa looks baffled. "How did our little Mia end up with Mr. Gold Medal Champion?"
"Well, he's gained some relevancy now, but he wasn't a big shot when I met him," Mia says, pulling her sleeves so far down that they cover her hands. "If he was, I sure as hell would've fled. The paparazzi would've drove me mad."
"Still, you dated someone famous!" Aiko trills. She tugs on Mia's arm excitedly. "Oh my gosh, I bet he's loaded. Just imagine the child support money you could get your hands on!"
Mia shakes her head, laughing. "I could... if he was Max's dad."
"Well, he has to be... you said..." Christa points out. She gets up and chucks her banana peel away.
Mia shifts in her seat awkwardly. She pulls up her turtleneck collar, trying to hide her face. Both her friends gawk at her in confusion.
"You're right," she squeaks out. "If Max came out white with blue eyes, I wouldn't have known who the father was. It could've been either Declan or Zac..."
She peeks out from her collar, glancing at them both anxiously, studying their expressions.
"But since he was born with a somewhat tanned complexion and black eyes, I immediately knew who the father was."
"What?" Christa looks puzzled. The widgets in her mind spins frantically, before she gasps in realization. "Oh. My. God!"
"Ahhh! That's insane!" Aiko squeals, absolutely gobsmacked. "You mean, you had three maybe baby daddies?"
Mia covers her face with her collar again, blushing in embarrassment and shame.
"You're so naughty! Who'd have thought?" Aiko tuts, nudging her with her free arm.
"I honestly wasn't prepared for that," Christa says, taken aback in shock. "You are... something else, Mia. You never struck me as the slutty type."
"I'm not a slut!" Mia cries out, revealing her brooding face. She glares defensively. "I know it sounds bad... but ugh... it's just really complicated to explain."
"Does Josh know about this?" Aiko asks in a low, secretive tone.
"Why should he? It's not a big deal and it doesn't concern him," Mia huffs, crossing her arms.
"Not a big deal?" Christa screeches. "Girl, are you hearing yourself? Like seriously... this is some major news that you kept quiet about for years now."
"And it does concern him," Aiko adds, "he's your fiancé and the love of your life! He deserves to know about the men you've been with."
"Heck, you still haven't told us - your best friends - who the baby daddy is!" Christa says, poking her arm.
"Yeah... who's the third guy?" Aiko presses on with a quizzical look. "You can tell us. Best friends shouldn't keep secrets from each other."
Mia rises to her feet. "I feel so judged right now," she groans. "I'm sorry... this is so humiliating for me. I just wanted to have a fun chat with my besties, but it's taken an awful turn. I think it's time you both went home."
"Aw, they're leaving? But I just got here," a voice says, startling Mia as she jumps in surprise.
"Josh!" She gasps out. "What are you doing here? You should be at work."
"I know, but I got someone to cover me real quick," Josh answers, as he hugs Mia from behind. "Don't be mad. I just wanted to see my beautiful princess."
"Aww," both her friends coo in unison.
Mia blushes. "Tsk... you should stop slacking off."
He kisses the top of her head. "I can't help it. I'm excited for us." He gives a friendly nod and smile towards her friends. "How are you lovely ladies doing?"
"We're fine," Christa says, beaming. "Thanks for asking."
"Chi's up," Aiko announces, cradling her babbling daughter.
"May I?" Josh asks, stepping forward and holding out his arms.
"Sure," Aiko leans forward, handing her baby over to him.
He holds the baby upright, his hands resting under her armpits as he jiggles her gently. A series of expressions runs through her chubby little features, which Josh mimics, making her burst out laughing. Her sweet, innocent laughter that never fails to bring Mia to tears. The noise that she yearns to hear from her own child.
Meanwhile, Aiko and Christa are gazing at Josh in a dreamy state.
"He's so perfect," Christa mouths, when she meets Aiko's eyes.
"I know," Aiko mouths back.
"Oh, there's another reason I came here," Josh says, his chestnut-brown eyes still focused on the giggling baby. "My mom is moving in with us. I figured I'd say this to your face than over the phone."
"What?" Mia's jaw drops. "Are you serious?"
"She's only planning on staying for your pregnancy," Josh replies. "She wants to be here for you. She's already made up her mind and there's nothing I can do to change it. I hope you don't mind, babe."
Mia feels her stomach churning. She doesn't know if this sickness is related to her pregnancy, or because she's terrified of sharing a roof with her fiancé's intimidating mother.
"It's not a problem," she mumbles unconvincingly.
I'm aware the previous chapter was confusing. It will make sense later in the story.