Thanks to Hubby for the edit.
With only a day before I was back in training, I wanted to make the most of my time off. After what’d happened with Bagley, I knew I’d have a point to prove when I returned to the gym, so I wanted to make sure I was focused on fighting and nothing else.
I had plans to see my parents later that day, but first I had to explain to Taylor why I’d broken Bagley’s arm.
The Ferrum MMA Championship HQ was on the other side of town, so jumped in my car, and headed off, keen to get the tongue-lashing over and done with.
When I entered Taylor’s office, even though he’d calmed down a little, I could still tell he was pissed off and I’d have a lot of work to do to make things right. I had to take full responsibility for what happened, and assure him I’d never do anything like that again.
Taking a seat at his desk, I made sure my voice was even. Losing my cool again wouldn’t solve anything.
“Look, I’m sorry about what happened with Bagley. I know this is no excuse, but I'd just received some personal news that'd thrown me. I was focused on that instead of concentrating on sparring, and Bagley got in my head. I shouldn’t have reacted to his smack talk like I did. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”
Taylor stared at me for a minute, his eyes boring into mine. Then he let out a long breath, and said, “I assure you, if you ever fuck up like that again, you’ll be finished in this business, you hear me?” I had no doubt he was being deadly serious. “As far as Bagley goes, he’ll miss his debut fight, and we’re having to rework the card. As compensation, you’ll be working that fight for ‘free’.”
What Taylor meant by ‘free’ was that I’d be fined an amount that equalled my winning fight money. So that £10K I was looking at for my next fight was going straight to his bank balance. Best case scenario: I made nothing. Worst case: I lost, only earn £5k for the fight, and have to pay the rest out of my own pocket.
I was about to complain, but a sharp look from Taylor made me think better of it. “Yeah, understood. Who am I facing?”
“Matthews,” he said simply.
Matthews was the stockiest guy in the Welterweight category, and a vicious bastard. The last time I’d faced him, he’d dislocated my shoulder. I knew I could take him, but he’d be out for vengeance because of what I’d done to Bagley. This was a punishment fight, no doubt about it, and I wouldn’t see a damn penny.
I wanted to tell Taylor to shove his damn fight up his arse, but knew I’d live to regret it. I nodded and counted to five in my head until the anger subsided.
During my time working for Taylor’s promotion, I'd been called to his office no less than four times, and usually because of something I'd brought down on myself. In the past year, since signing a long-term contract that would see me with them for the next three years, I'd tried to get my act together and keep out of trouble. I'd been doing a great job of it, too. Until I’d broken Bagley’s arm…
“Don’t make me live to regret this,” Taylor said.
“I won’t. Unless it’s good news, you won’t see me in here again.”
“I better not. You know I think a lot of you, and feel you could go far in this business. Just don't let me down.”
I nodded, and told Taylor I wasn't going to do anything that would make him question the faith he'd put in me.
Relieved the rollicking was over, I hopped in my car, and headed home.
As I drove back I kept thinking what I was going to tell my parents later. I knew how they'd react to the news I'd gotten some girl pregnant and she was keeping the baby.
Dad would shake his head, sigh, and then comment that it was another 'Kian fuck-up', just like the times I'd failed a drugs test, been fined for trashing a hotel room, and broken my collarbone by crashing a motorbike I'd rented. Mum would probably get all teary-eyed and then start planning mine and Megan's wedding – regardless of the fact weren’t even together.
I hoped they'd give me their support eventually. For once I was trying to be an adult about a situation I'd gotten myself into, and take responsibility for my actions. It wasn't every day I owned up to my mistakes, and I just prayed they'd take that into account.
Admitting my mistakes and taking responsibility for my actions seemed like a running theme recently…
The first thing I did when I got home was jump in the shower. My head was a jumble of confused thoughts … about Megan and the baby … about the fight with Matthews … about telling my parents. I couldn’t focus on one thing in the mess I’d created. I knew I needed some peace and quiet, away from the world.
Stripping off, I stepped under the stream of hot water, and as steam filled the bathroom, I let all my thoughts wash away for a few minutes. I focused on my breathing, counting to ten, then holding my breath for five, before slowly letting the air out of my lungs.
Felling fully refreshed, I headed to the kitchen to make some lunch, and hit play on my answer machine.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Murphy. I'm just calling to inform you that if you're still interested in buying a bike from our dealership, we've had the new Harley-Davidson, VRXSE Destroyer delivered to the show room.”
If I'm going to support Megan through the pregnancy and help her raise the baby, I guess buying a new bike is out of the question.
“Hey, it’s Ruby. I've just got home, and I was thinking about you. I hope you have a good few days off. Maybe, we can hook-up when you’re back at training?”
Shit, when the news I’m going to be a dad gets out, I’ll have Ruby trying to become the baby's step-mum. God help the child.
“Hi, Kian, it's Mum. Dad said you’re coming over toady, so I'm cooking your favourite for dinner. We'll see you about seven. Love you.”
There’s no avoiding telling them now. But at least I'll be getting a good meal out of it.
After finishing lunch, I called my sponsors to confirm the media appearance I had the next week, and got everything in order before heading to my parents for the evening. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy my time off if everything wasn’t prepared for my return to work.
While I shoved dirty clothes in the machine, another call came from the guy at the Harley dealership, and I got the feeling the universe was taunting me with messages about how much my life would change once Megan had the baby.
The mention of the new bike set in motion thoughts about how different things would be when I became a father. I knew my MMA career won't change that much. I'd still be training five days a week, with fights every three months, and media appearances throughout the year, like the older guys in the promotion who had kids. It was other little stuff I'd taken for granted until now that I’d have to adapt to when the baby arrived.
I'd probably have to move house. Even if Megan and I agreed that there was no need for me to live in the city to be closer to them both, there'd be no way my one-bedroom 'Bachelor pad', complete with gaming room, would be suitable to bring a kid. Although with things like school and possible trips to the hospital, moving might be for the best.
I'd have to get used to my money going to someone else, and not being spent on myself. At the moment, I earned more in a year than most. With only rent, travel costs, and bills coming out of my earnings, if I wanted to blow a grand on a HD telly or £400 on a night out with the lads or £150 on a new pair of jeans, I could. When the baby came, I'd have to start thinking about someone else. I wouldn’t be able to crash at one of the guys' places for nights on end while we went out drinking, or lounge around in my underwear eating cold, left-over pizza, or buy nothing but ice cream and crisps when I did my grocery shopping. I'd have to be there to help with night-feeds, nappy changes, and eventually Maths homework. I hated Maths.
By the time I was ready to go to my parents, my head was crammed full of thoughts again, and I realised if I was going to support Megan through the pregnancy, I needed the support of my family and friends. I'd already told Davi, and I was planning on telling my parents that evening. But the more I thought things over, the more I realised I'd need to let other people in. I knew I should tell sponsors, so that if Megan wanted me to go with her to midwife and hospital appointments, I could do without lying about why I needed the time off. And it wouldn't hurt to tell some of the guys I trained with either. Guys like Browne, who I travelled and hung-out with, just so he wasn’t always wondering what was going on. I thought about getting advice from the older guys, too. There were some coaches and physios at the gym who had kids and could probably tell me a thing or two. People like Andy Carroll, the resident physio, who I knew from first-hand experience had made a career out of being “Jack the Lad”, yet still managed to be a good dad. Or Doug Taylor and his wife Gwen who - even though they gave their careers everything - didn't allow working to stop them from being there for every important date in their children's lives. If anyone was going to help me get used to the idea of becoming a father, it was guys like these.
The hard part was going to be admitting to these people, my family, my co-workers and my boss - people I looked up to and respected - that I'd fucked up again. Davi was right, I was damn lucky the worst that’d happened was Megan getting pregnant, and I hadn't been landed with some strange disease. I just hoped Mum and Dad didn't give me a beat down like Davi had. Although, knowing Dad, I'd be lucky to come away without a flogging at least.
When I stepped out of the car I saw Dad on the front porch, drinking a bottle of beer.
“Alright, boy,” he said, tipping the bottle in my direction.
“Alright, Dad,” I replied, mimicking his happy tone, though inside my muscles twitched. “Is Mum in the kitchen?”
“Yeah, you know your mum. Whenever she knows you're coming over, she'll spend hours at the stove cooking something up for you.”
I couldn't help but chuckle at his statement. “Come off it. You're acting like she doesn't feed you when I'm not here. You know as well as I do that you eat like a king. She loves cooking for you almost as much as you do eating it.”
“True enough,” he said, patting his rounded stomach.
Dad continued drinking his beer, and quietly contemplating the sunset, as I headed to the kitchen.
The second I stepped into the room, the smell of Mum’s beef and vegetable stew simmering on the stove, and apple cobbler cooking in the oven hit me. Then came the sound of Mum chatting to my sister Marie.
“I should have known you'd be here, squirt,” I said, playfully ruffling Marie's hair.
“Darren’s working late, and when I heard you were visiting, I figured I’d come too,” Marie said.
“How’s things at the hospital?” Marie was a was a theatre support worker at the same centre where her husband was an x-ray technician
“Same old, really. Running him ragged as always.” She sighed, stood up, stretched her arms, and headed for the fridge. Pulling out two beers, she said, “Is Dad still on the porch? I'll go see if he wants another drink before dinner.”
“Yeah, he was when I came past.”
I turned to Mum and gave her a hug.
“You know, you don't have to go to all this trouble just for me.”
“I know I don't have to, Love, but I like to,” Mum said, kissing my cheek and then holding me at arm's length to look at me, as I waited for the usual ‘Are you eating properly at home?’ speech she gave me every time I visited. It didn’t matter that she’d taught me to cook long before I’d moved out, and I had to eat a specific diet because of training, she still asked every time, bless her.
Dinner was superb, like always when I visited my parents. Mum came from a large family of men before she married Dad, where doing a lot of cooking was pretty much expected from an early age, so she had skills in the kitchen that could rival any Michelin star chef.
After Marie and I had stacked the dishwasher, we all settled in the sitting room, where Marie filled us in on how she and Darren were getting on at work.
Then Mum gave us the latest gossip from around town. “You know Brenda has recently gotten divorced from her third husband, and the last time I saw her, she had a tanned toy-boy in tow.”
When they all turned to me, and Dad asked how I was getting on at work, I knew it was time to tell them about Megan getting pregnant, and braced myself for their reactions.
“Things are fine,” I said casually, then took a deep breath. “Although, there is something I wanted to talk to you all about.”
“Let me guess, you pissed off some girl’s boyfriend and he punched you,” Marie said.
“Not quite,” I replied with an audible sigh, while my sister sniggered and my parents exchanged worried glances. “I met this girl a couple of months ago-”
I hadn't got more than a few words out when Mum squealed with delight. “Oh, is my boy finally in love?”
“Again, not quite.” They all fell silent, waiting for me to go on. “This girl, Megan … we hit it off and went back to her place, and well, you know…”
At this point, Dad muttered under his breath, “Not again, Kian.”
I chose to ignore his comment, and just focused on getting to the end of my confession.
“And, well, now she's pregnant, and the baby’s mine.”
As the words came out, Marie actually jumped off the couch and began laughing. Mum clutched her heart, and Dad looked like he was about to pass out.
“I want to be a part of the baby's life. I've said I'm going to stand by her and support her through the pregnancy as much as possible.”
“Well, it's great you're taking responsibility for your actions, bro. But didn't you think before you slept with her? I mean, you could have caught all sorts of diseases or anything.” Marie was two years younger than me, and has always been the responsible one. She’d worked hard at school, got a good job and never caused our parents any problems.
“You can save the lecture, sis, Davi already gave me a good talking to when I told him.”
“And so he should, your sister is right.” Mum was quick to defend Marie.
Like always. When we were kids, Mum always took Marie’s side over mine. I clenched my teeth and counted to five. “I haven't come here for abuse. I've come here to tell you I'm going to be a father, and ask for some advice on how to deal with it.”
From the corner of my eye, I could see Marie smirking, but I tried my best to ignore her and focused on my parents.
Dad shook his head, and heaved out a great sigh. “I’m not going to pretend I’m not disappointed, Kian. I thought all this getting into trouble nonsense was over with. But maybe you should start at the beginning. How long have you been dating this Megan girl?”
“Actually, we never really dated. It was just a one night thing. I didn't think I'd ever hear from her again.” I sunk onto the sofa, avoiding eye contact with any of them.
“Jesus Christ, Kian, could you be any more of a prick? Women aren't toys for you to pick up and throw away as you please,” Marie said, not disguising the venom in her voice.
“Now, Marie, that's quite enough. You know better than to use language like that in my house, and please don't berate your brother.” Mum bit back with equal ferocity. “Perhaps it's best if you go and make us all some coffee?”
“Fine.” Marie huffed, flounced out of the room and stalked down the hallway to the kitchen.
“This wasn’t how I expected to find out about my first grandchild, but I’m glad you’re trying to do the right thing, and supporting this girl through the pregnancy. Do you really think moving in with a woman you hardly know is the best idea?” Mum said.
I was about to say I didn’t intend to move in with Megan, when I thought better of it, and looked to Dad for some support.
“Sheila, I don't think Kian should even be considering having anything to do with the baby, let alone moving in with the mother.”
“What on earth are you talking about, Brien? This is our first grandchild, of course Kian is going to be involved in its life.”
“Will you calm down a minute and think about this logically? Kian doesn't know a thing about this woman. For all we know, she’s making the whole thing up to shake money out of him or she's purposely gotten herself pregnant to trap him into a relationship.”
“Oh, now you're just being ridiculous. What kind of woman would do a thing like that?”
“Someone who sees a guy with a reputation and a bit of money, and thinks she’s spotted an easy meal ticket. It wouldn't be hard for this girl to go to the tabloids, sell her story and make some quick money for no work at all. I saw enough gold-diggers when I was a boxer to know how these women work.”
I bowed my head and took in everything he was saying. He was right, I knew hardly anything about Megan. She could easily be claiming the baby was mine just to screw money out of me. I'd thought all this when she’d first told me about the pregnancy. It was nothing new, just hearing Dad suggest it too made it all the more real.
“You need to be certain this girl is telling the truth.”
“Oh no, Brien. You can't possibly be suggesting what I think you're suggesting. If the baby is Kian’s, asking her to prove it like this will break her heart, and she'll probably want nothing to do with him ever again. Then we'll never get to see our grandchild.”
“What? What are you suggesting?” I looked from Mum to Dad hoping for some answers.
“I think what Dad's trying to say is that you should ask the girl for a paternity test,” Marie said, as she walked into the sitting room and placed a tray of coffee on the table. “And if I'm honest, I reckon it's the best idea, too.”
Mum picked up a cup of coffee, and looked at Marie in disbelief. “How could you suggest such a thing? How would you feel if you got pregnant, and Darren asked you for a paternity test?”
“This is different, Sheila, and you know it. Marie and Darren have been together since Secondary School. If she gets pregnant tomorrow, there'd be no question who the baby's father is,” Dad said. “Kian hardly knows this woman. For once in his life, I'm insisting he has to put himself first. Son, I know I usually tell you to stop being so selfish and think of others before you act, but this time, there's no other choice. Your livelihood is at stake here, and you've got to protect that.”
My gaze bounced from Mum to Dad to Marie as I took in the meaning of their words, and I felt my blood boil.
“Enough already,” I yelled. “I came here to tell you I'm about to be a father, and all I get in return is abuse, accusations the women I choose to sleep with are nothing but whores, and the lot of you talking over me like I'm not even in the room. I don't get any congratulations, or reassurance I'll make a good dad, or advice on how I'm going to cope having a baby. No, it's just the same old shit as every time I make a mistake. Only for once, I'm actually trying to take responsibility for my actions. I've had e-fucking-nough, I'm going home. I'll call you all when I'm back at work, and then maybe we can have a normal conversation.”
I stormed from my parents' house and got into my car.
I was still fuming by the time I reached my apartment, and I sank down onto the leather sofa, my head instinctively dropping down into my hands.
I’d had my own doubts about Megan and the baby; wondering if it really was mine or if she was just using me for my money. I knew I couldn't take the risk Megan was lying, and before I committed myself to raising a child that might not even be mine I had to be one-hundred per cent sure of all the facts.
My jaw clenched as I realised my dad was probably right. Asking for a paternity test was probably the best thing I could do. Even if Megan did get pissed off with me, hopefully it wouldn't last long, and then I'd know the truth. And get my parents off my back.
Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.
I felt bad for having to put Megan through this, but it was the only way it could been done. If the paternity test came back positive, I’d keep my promise.
But until then I couldn't risk getting involved.
I just hoped she'd understand my reasons and agree to it.
When my phone rang, and the caller ID told me it was Megan, I knew there was no ignoring her call. My mind wouldn't rest until I'd at least made the suggestion, so there was no point putting it off.
“Hey,” she said, her voice just as tense as the last time she'd phoned me. “I was just wondering how you got on telling your parents.”
I fell silent, trying to think of the best way to say I wanted a paternity test. Finally, I let out a deep breath and said, “Listen, Megan, I've been doing some thinking since we talked last. I still stand by what I said about supporting you, but there's a few things I need to get off my chest. I think it might be best for both of us, and the baby, if we did a paternity test as soon as possible.”
On the other end of the line was deafening silence, and I knew what Megan's initial reaction to my suggestion was.
I'd hurt her.