Thanks to Hubby for the edit.
“You might not care, but I do. You’re the only person who’s never looked at me like I’m shit. I don’t want you to end up hating me.”
I swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump in my throat, and stood up. Taking a tentative step forward, I reached out for Kian’s hand, and was surprised when he didn’t pull away.
“I could never hate you,” I said, lacing my fingers through his. “But I think I get it … you’ve got all this stuff going on in your head, the last thing you need is to get into a relationship. But I meant what I said, I’m here if you need to talk or anything.”
Kian brushed the pad of his thumb over the back of my hand. Warmth spread through the area where our skin touched, causing my heart to ache. “You’re amazing, you know that, right?”
The lump in my throat was back, but I wasn’t going to give in to the tears that wanted to fall.
I forced a smile. “I try.”
I pulled my hand away, and sat back down, trying to direct the conversation back to something less painful.
“So, how are you feeling?”
“All things considered, pretty good actually. I mean, my body hurts like hell, and I’d love for my head to stop pounding, but after speaking to Ollie I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.”
“Yeah. We only made a little progress, but it’s something. It’s more than I’ve felt in months. He suggested I look at the reasons why Matthews chose to cheat in our fight.”
I couldn’t stop the smile tugging at my lips. Kian had only had one session with his therapist, but already I saw the change in him.
“And have you come to any conclusions?”
“Maybe … I wondered if perhaps I make situations worse for myself by going off half-cocked. You said it yourself, I act first and think later.”
I laughed. “Well yeah, no one is going to deny you’ve got a hot head. But I also said you were passionate, and stand up for what you believe in. Look at the Johnson interview. The guy was deliberately provoking you. He wanted you to blow up on TV.”
“Exactly, it’s almost like he set me up! But that’s not the point Ollie was trying to make. He said something about avoiding bad situations by choosing how to behave. So, even if Johnson was being a dick, I should have taken the high road, I guess.”
“But that’s easier said than done when someone’s pushing your buttons. It’s like the other week at uni, we had a job fair. All these people were looking over my portfolio, and saying how great it was, but then saying they couldn’t give me a job because I’d be leaving soon to have the baby. I wanted to punch them in the face. Only I didn’t, because that’d give me a bad reputation and then no-one would hire me.”
Kian laughed, and sat up in bed, turning his body to face me. “See, there’s the difference. I would have punched them, and ended up getting arrested or something. I need to train myself not to attack as a first instinct.”
“And that’s what Ollie is for. He can help you with that, but it’ll take time.”
“I know, it’s just frustrating.” Kian raked his hands through his hair. “Why can’t I just be normal?”
“Because normal is overrated? Seriously, everyone has issues, you just need to find a way to live with them.”
Kian sighed. I could tell the conversation was making him tense, and I wanted to lighten the mood. I had the perfect idea.
“I got a letter from the hospital today with an appointment for the next ultrasound. You still want to come with me, yeah?”
Kian’s eyes lit up. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. When is it?”
“At the end of next week, and we’ll hopefully get to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl … I mean, if you want to know?”
“What do you think?”
“Isn’t it a tiny bit like peeking at your Christmas present early?”
“I guess, but wouldn’t it help, you know? Then we’d know what clothes to buy and stuff, instead of sticking to ‘neutral’ colours.”
“Yeah, there is that. And it’d make choosing a name easier, we’d only have one list to work from.”
The thought of seeing our baby again, and finding out if it was a boy or a girl made me a little lightheaded. My stomach fluttered, and my mouth felt dry.
“Let’s do it.” The words came out more breathless than I intended, and I paused for a moment to compose myself. “Let’s find out what we’re having.”
Kian’s face broke into a grin, and I smiled too. Telling him about the ultrasound had done exactly what I’d intended by taking his mind off everything else. Before I could stop myself, I got out of the chair, and climbed up onto his bed. My body longed for his touch.
As if sensing my thoughts, Kian reach out and stroked my stomach. “Hey little nipper,” he said softly. “Mum and Dad will see you soon.”
I placed my hand over his, and stared down at my stomach, thinking about the life forming inside me. The life we’d created together.
Despite what Kian had said about relationships earlier, a small bubble of hope formed inside me. Seeing the progress he’d made with his therapist made me wonder if all he needed was a little more time.
“I should probably go and let you get some rest,” I said climbing down from the bed.
“All right. The doc reckons I should be discharged tomorrow. I’ll call you when I’m home.”
I scooped up my bag and jacket. “Sounds good. Take care, okay?”
I turned back to face him, leaned over the bed and wrapped my arm around his shoulder and neck, pulling him into a one armed hug.
“You too, Meg.” Kian’s lips brushed my forehead, and butterflies erupted in my stomach.
I untangled myself from his embrace - before I said something stupid - and headed for the door. With one last look at Kian, who’d closed his eyes, and was laying down in bed again, I left the room.
I headed along the corridor, pausing when I heard a female voice; assuming it was a nurse or something.
Standing at the end of the hallway was a tall redhead, chatting on her phone, her long hair dyed the colour of a pillar box.
I recognized her instantly. I’d only ever seen one picture of her, but I’d remember that face anywhere. Ruby, the receptionist from Davi’s gym, and the girl Kian slept with a few weeks ago.
She abruptly ended the call when she saw me, her eyes narrowing and focusing on my baby bump. “Who are you?”
“I’m Megan.” When my name failed to gain a response, I added. “The mother of Kian’s baby.”
Her glossy lips formed a thin line, and she shook her head. “Kian isn’t having a baby. He would have told me.”
She was tall, about Kian’s height, and dressed in expensive clothes. Her heels would have made Stacey envious. Her makeup was heavier than I’d wear during the day, her dark eyebrows drawn together as she regarded me. Her figure was slim and toned, the type of body I’d have loved to have before I got pregnant. Compared to Ruby, with her perky boobs and an apple shaped butt, I felt like a beached whale.
I wanted to disappear, to fade into the wall, but she was still staring at me, her pencilled brow arched.
“I’d know, I’m with him all the time,” she said, a sneer forming on her lips.
I didn’t like the way she was looking at me, like I was something she’d scraped off her shoe, and I didn’t miss the implication of her statement that she was with Kian all the time. Her arrogance bolstered my confidence. No one spoke to me like that.
“Yeah? Well, maybe he just didn’t think you were important enough to tell.”
Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth to respond, but I didn’t give her a chance, instead pushing passed and leaving the ICU.
I let the door swing shut behind me without a backwards glance, screwing my eyes closed against the tears fighting to escape. I lost the battle by the time I entered the lift.
Alone in the dim light, I couldn’t fight the emotions overwhelming me any longer, and I did nothing to stop the tears tricking down my cheeks.
Everything that’d happened in the last twenty-four hours – starting with Kian losing the fight and ending with coming face-to-face with Ruby – pushed down on me. The world slowed, and my libs felt heavy. I was meant to be heading to work for an afternoon shift, but I wanted nothing more than to change into my comfy pyjamas, and curl up in bed with a movie and a bar of chocolate.
I understood Kian’s reasoning for not wanting a relationship, I really did, but accepting it still hurt. He’d pretty much said he felt the same, and would be with me, but his issues were holding him back. I wasn’t going to push it, because that’s not what he needed right now, and I was mostly okay with waiting and helping him though his problems, but seeing Ruby, and her insinuating there was something between them made me doubt everything I thought and felt.
Even if I was the mother of his child, I would never look as good as she did, and it’d be so easy for them to casually hook up, and for Kian not to have to worry about the hassle of a relationship.
I sighed and climbed out of the lift. If a pyjama day wasn’t an option, I’d have to go with the next best thing. I pulled out my phone and text Stacey.
>>Nah. Heading over to Josh’s 2nite. But free now. Y? U OK?<<
>>Just seen Kian & need some BFF time. Meet me @ work?<<
>>Sure. Be there in half hour! Xx<<
I got into my car, and drove across town to the café where I worked. Thankfully, I’d missed the lunchtime rush, and my boss, Paul, was just re-stocking before people starting coming out of school, or finishing work.
“Hey,” I said, forcing my voice to sound bright, as I headed through to the staff room to store my bag and jacket.
“Hey. I’m almost done here, then I have to head out for a while. Will you be okay holding the fort?”
I scanned the café. The only customers were an elderly gentleman sipping a cup of tea, as he did the crossword in the newspaper, and a young mum with an infant in a pram, who I knew stopped off for a quick drink before picking her other children up from school.
“Sure, not a problem.”
Stacey turned up not long after Paul left, so I made us both a cuppa, and we settled at the counter to chat.
“How’s Kian?” she asked.
“Alive,” I said, finally letting out the relief I felt now I knew he was okay. “Banged up, but good. He seems to be dealing with things well.”
“That’s good. And are you okay?”
Before I could even process an answer the tears started falling. “No … yes … I don’t know. God damn hormones. I can’t do anything without breaking down.”
I scrubbed at my cheeks, getting sick of bursting into tears at the slightest emotional provocation. Did I really have to go through four more months like this?
Once I’d calmed myself, I filled Stacey in on what Kian had said. I didn’t go into detail about him seeing a therapist or anything, it wasn’t my place to tell, but Stacey knew enough to piece together what was going on.
“Oh man, that really sucks,” she said, wrapping her arm around me. “But at least he was honest. It sounds like he’s making a real effort to be a better person.”
Stacey was right. The Kian I’d met five months ago would have blown me off with a bullshit excuse. He’d done as much the night we’d slept together. The fact he was talking about his feelings, and being so open meant a lot.
“Sure, but there’s still Ruby. I mean, he is a guy, and they’ve got history. What happens if he gets lonely or horny, or whatever?”
“I honestly don’t think he’d go there again. He’s trying to sort himself out? I think part of that is stopping the random hook-ups.”
“I guess …”
“Megan Elizabeth Green, you’re over-thinking this whole situation!”
Despite my earlier tears, I burst out laughing. “You know it’s serious when your best friend uses your full name.”
“I am serious. You need to stop the second guessing and analysing everything. He said he doesn’t want a relationship, but if he did it’d be with you. Just give him time to sort his shit out. Once he’s figured out what’s going on in his head, I’m sure he’ll change his mind. Focus on you and Bubba.”
I rubbed my stomach and smiled. “Did I tell you my twenty-week scan is next week?”
“Oh.My.God! Is this when you’ll find out what you’re having?”
“It is! Me and Kian talked about it, and we’re going to ask.”
“This is so exciting. Then you can start planning names, and buying cute little outfits. And I’ll know if I’m going to be an uncle or aunt.”
This time I roared with laughter, making the old man jump and the baby start screaming. “Yeah, no. That’s not how these things work, honey. You’re only an uncle if you’re a guy. So no matter what, you’ll be the baby’s aunt.”
Stacey grinned. “Yeah, I know. I’m not completely stupid. I just wanted to make you laugh.”
“I love you.”
I headed over to the customers, and refilled both their drinks to make up for startling them, and then started straightening up the café in preparation for the after-school surge. Stacey helped me wipe down tables, then with nothing else to do, I restocked all the condiments, just so I wasn’t sitting around bored.
“Oh god, the smell,” I complained, as I squeezed ketchup from the large container into one of the smaller bottles.
“Shouldn’t you be getting used to bad smells? Soon you’ll have dirty nappies to change.”
“Give me a thousand dirty nappies over ketchup any day. This stuff is gross.”
“Blasphemy. What do you do put on your burgers and hot dogs?”
“Mustard. It’s all about the mustard, baby.”
“Whatever.” Stacey flicked a blob of ketchup at me, and it hit me on the cheek.
“You’re so gonna pay for that,” I said, taking aim with the sauce bottle I’d just refilled.
I was about to squirt it when Paul walked back in, and I hastily shoved the bottle aside, and wiped the incriminating evidence from my cheek.
Stacey looked at Paul warily. Usually, if things were quiet, and she wasn’t disrupting my work, Paul didn’t mind Stacey popping in. She was another paying customer, after all, but lately he always seemed annoyed to see her here. She put down the ketchup bottled she’d just filled.
“I should probably head home, and get ready to go to Josh’s. I’m meant to be cooking for him tonight.”
Stacey wasn’t the greatest cook, but simple dishes were within her range, and I knew she was making an effort to look after her man after his fight.
“Okay. Tell him I said ‘hi’ and I hope he recovers soon.”
“Will do. And you call me if you start overanalysing again, yeah?”
I laughed. “Will do. See you before class for a coffee?”
“You bet your ass!”
Stacey left just as the post-school rush kicked in, and for the next two hours I was focused solely on working, as I served snacks and drinks to starving school kids. The influx of customers continued as people started getting out of work, and wanted to grab dinner or pick up a little something on their way home. Running from the service area to the dishwasher, and going from table-to-table made my feet and back ache. I was relieved when we shut up at six-thirty.
Paul cashed-up as I cleaned everything down, and unpacked the final load from the dishwasher.
I was just getting my jacket and bag when he called out to me.
“Megan, can I have a quick word before you head home, please?”
“Yup.” I made my way over to the counter, where Paul was putting the day’s takings in a money bag to deposit at the bank. The frown on his face made me pause for a moment. “If this is about Stacey being here earlier, I’m really sorry. I needed someone to talk to about personal stuff, but I know I should do that on my own time.”
His expression softened, and he let out a sigh. “No, it isn’t about Stacey. Why don’t you take a seat, Meg?”
“Is everything okay?” I asked, my heart-rate hitching, as I perched on the stool beside him.
“Not really, and there’s no easy way to say this, but I’m going to have to let you go at the end of the month.”
“Takings have been down recently-”
“Really? But we’ve been so busy. Look at today and all the after-school customers we had.”
“Yeah, but it’s less than we had this time last year, and the landlord has increased the rent on the shop. Given that you’ll be leaving to have the baby in a few months, I thought it’d be easier than cutting the hours of one of the full-timers.”
I sighed. The job had only ever meant to get me through uni, and graduation was getting ever nearer, but with no one wanting to take me on for my design work, I’d sort of hoped I could stay at the café a little longer to bolster my savings.
“I am really sorry. I know this isn’t ideal timing.”
“Nah, it’s okay. You need to do what you’ve got to for the business.”
“Thanks for understanding. I’ll see if I can give you a little leaving bonus in your last pay, and I’ll write you a glowing reference.”
I headed home, all my earlier cheer from hanging out with Stacey sapped away by Paul’s bombshell. Knowing there was no point fighting it any longer, I changed into my PJs, ordered takeout and put Step Up in the DVD player.
The next week, the only thing that kept me going, and motivated enough to get out of bed each morning, was the thought of seeing my baby at the end of the week. Even though I had the nipper to focus on, every other aspect of my life was in chaos. In a month, I’d have no job. Not long after that, I’d be finished with uni. Then what? Sure, I planned to take as much maternity leave as I could afford to, but what happened when my money ran out?
Then there was the whole Kian situation. The theory of waiting for him to sort his head out was sound enough, but who knew how I’d put that into practice? With my hormones making me a blubbering wreck, was I likely to burst into tears if he so much as smiled at me?
It felt like I was waiting for everything. Waiting until the baby was born, until Kian sorted his head out, until I could start looking for work. My life was on hold, and it was driving me crazy.
But, at least by the end of the week, the wait to know if I was having a boy or a girl would be over, and that thought propelled me to Friday, and my ultrasound appointment.
We had to be at the hospital for ten-thirty, and Kian said he’d pick me up at ten. With five minutes to go, I grabbed my medical notes, and gulped down a pint of water so I’d have a full bladder for the scan.
I was just texting ‘uncle’ Stacey, when the doorbell rang.
Kian had been discharged from hospital the day after I’d visited him, and since being home he was healing well. The swelling on his face had gone down, and the laceration on his eye had closed over. When I’d spoken to him the previous evening, to arrange meeting for the ultrasound, he’d told me he’d had another session with Ollie, and things were going well. He’d also been hanging out with his dad, they’d gone fishing, and it seemed like the time away from training was doing him good.
When I opened the door, he was waiting on the threshold, an excited grin that probably mirrored my own plastered on his face. Still muscular, he’d lost some of his definition since stepping away from training, and had gained a little weight. It suited him. He looked the most relaxed I’d seen him in months.
“You ready to go?” he asked.
“Sure am.” I locked the door behind me, and headed for his Audi. I climbed into the passenger seat and admired the leather upholstery as I sat down. “Have you had the car cleaned?”
“Yeah. I’m actually thinking of selling it.”
“What? But it’s a beautiful car. I’d kill for a car like this.”
“Not gonna be much use when the nipper’s born though, is it?”
“I guess … you’ll have to let me have a drive before you sell it.”
“Haha. We can find an empty carpark when we’re done at the hospital, if you want?”
“For real? I’d love that!”
Kian grinned and started up the engine. “Come on, let’s not keep the nipper waiting.”
Just like the first time we’d been to the prenatal ward, we signed in at the reception desk, and were directed to the waiting area. I plopped down onto the metal bench next to Kian, my medical notes across my lap, and looked around the room. Over in the corner was a nervous looking teen and her ashen mum. I wanted to run over and give them both a massive hug. It was tough enough finding out you were pregnant in your early twenties, let alone when you hadn’t even finished high school. I gave her a reassuring smile.
Unlike my first appointment, I was a lot more relaxed going into this one. I knew what to expect, and the gentle flutters of the baby moving told me the nipper was okay. I was a little anxious that they might detect a problem while screening for growth abnormalities, but mostly, I was excited to know the gender of the baby.
“Had any thoughts about names yet?” I asked Kian.
“Not really. Have you?”
“Nah, I haven’t even looked yet, but once we know what we’re having, we can start planning.”
“Yeah. Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?”
“Honestly, I’m happy as long as they’re healthy. What about you?”
“I don’t know … to be honest, either option terrifies me. If it’s a boy, what happens if he grows up to be like me? And if it’s a girl, I’ll have to protect her from boys like me!”
“Oh my god, if we have a girl you’re going to be so over protective, aren’t you? The poor thing will never get a boyfriend when the boys find out her dad is an MMA fighter.”
“If we have a girl, she’s not leaving the house alone until she’s at least twenty-five!”
I laughed, as warmth spread through my chest. I knew whatever the gender, Kian would protect our child with his life.
We continued waiting, while the teen saw the nurse, and was then called in to see Doctor Stone. After that, she went on to see the sonographer, and we headed for the nurse.
The nurse tested my urine for unusual levels of protein, nitrites, white cells or sugar, then took a blood sample, and checked my blood pressure. My sample indicated high levels of protein, nitrites and white cells, all indicators I had a UTC, so she said she’d send the sample to be analysed for bacteria, and my G.P would call me with the results. I was given a prescription for antibiotics, and then told to wait until Doctor Stone was ready for me.
As we headed back to the waiting room, the young girl and her mum were just coming out of the sonographer’s room. She was clutching a black and white scan photo, and although she and her mum had tears in their eyes, they were both grinning too. I thought back to seeing the nipper for the first time and my heart soared. No matter how bad things got, knowing the life you’d created was growing bigger and healthier by the day made all the difficulties worthwhile.
I cast a glance at Kian, and could tell from his expression he was thinking the same thing.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” I said.
He smiled. “Yeah. I never thought anything could beat being in the cage, but this does.”
Doctor Stone called us into her office, and after the usual small talk about how we were, she scanned my notes.
“Okay, apart from your recent urine sample, all looks good here. If the antibiotics don’t clear up the infection, see your G.P again and they’ll give you something stronger.”
“And that’s everything. As your pregnancy is low-risk, and you’re having the baby at the hospital’s midwife-led unit, I won’t need to see you again. Best of luck.”
“Thank you,” I said, picking up my notes, then standing up.
With that out of the way, Kian and I went back to the waiting room until the sonographer was ready.
I could hardly keep still and my eyes were glued to the door.
“Christ, I’m getting nervous now,” Kian said.
“Don’t be nervous. In a couple of minutes, we’ll know if the baby is a boy or a girl.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m nervous about.”
The sonographer called us in, and I took of my shoes, then handed my jacket and handbag to Kian, who was sitting on the chair next to the examination table.
“Okay, just hop up on here, please,” the sonographer said.
I climbed onto the table, and rolled my top up to expose my stomach.
The gel she squirted on my stomach was slightly warmer than last time, but still made my insides squirm. It was like having jelly on your skin.
My discomfort vanished the instant the probe touched my belly, and the black and white image of the baby came onto screen. Even with my untrained eyes, I could tell it was bigger than last time, and I could make out the details of limbs more clearly.
“Oh my god, Kian look, they’re sucking their thumb.”
“That is amazing.” He leaned in closer, taking my hand, as he peered at the picture of our baby. My heart all but rocketed to the moon.
“Okay, all the measurements are coming up as they should for your due date, and I don’t detect any abnormalities,” the sonographer said. “The baby is also in a great position if you’d like to know the gender.”
I looked across at Kian, who smiled and nodded, then said, “Yes please.”
“You’re having a girl. Here between the legs, you can clearly make out the vagina.”
I looked at the screen, where my baby’s genitalia was on display. Not even born yet, and mum and dad were embarrassing her. Her. We were having a daughter.
“A little girl,” Kian said quietly. “Wow.”
“Would you like a picture?” the sonographer asked.
“Yes please. Two, if it’s no trouble.”
“Not a problem.”
She printed off two copies, and handed them to Kian and I, along with a plastic wallet to keep them in, then printed off the ultrasound results, and stapled them into my medical notes.
“Okay, you’re all done,” she said, handing me a wad of paper towels to clear off the gel.
“Thanks,” I said, wiping my stomach and rolling my top down.
I hopped off the table, and slipped my shoes on, then took my jacket and bag from Kian.
“Ready to go?” he asked.
We left the sonographers room, and made our way out of the maternity unit, heading in the direction of the car park.
“A girl,” I said, practically bounding down the corridor. “We’re having a girl.”
My pulse was racing, my mouth was dry, and all around me, the lights seemed brighter than when we’d come in.
It didn’t seem real. I was having a daughter. In four months’ time, I’d have a little baby girl to hold in my arms.
I wondered if she’d have blue eyes like Kian, or green like me. I knew no matter what, she’d be dark haired.
Names flashed through my mind: Elizabeth, Charlotte, Chloe, Eleanor, Sophie … I stopped in my tracks as a realization hit me.
“What last name will the baby have?”