Thanks to Ariaboo314 for the feedback; glad you enjoyed chapter eight. Additional thanks to Hubby for the edit.
Emilia and I met a few days after I called her at Belly Busters. It was becoming my go-to meeting place. Plus, even though the little one had gone off sausage and egg sandwiches, I was now craving cheese and Marmite on toast, and Belly Busters did the best in town.
Despite it only being the second time I’d seen Emilia, she greeted me with a friendly smile and a warm embrace.
“Megan, it’s good to see you,” she said, releasing me from the hug and looking down at the growing baby-bump. “You're looking well. Pregnancy suits you.”
“Thanks.” I felt my cheeks burn and looked away. It was the first time since I’d started showing I felt happy about my appearance and changing figure. “You look great too.”
If there was one thing about Emilia to be jealous of it was her ability to look effortlessly beautiful. For a woman in her forties she still looked fantastic, but unlike a lot of women with rich husbands, it wasn’t in a way that suggested she spent hours in the bathroom every morning and visited the salon at least once a week. Instead her long dark hair was tied into a plait that trailed down her back, she wore natural makeup, a simple t-shirt, and black jeans that were tucked into biker boots. The leather jacket and helmet she had under her arm revealed her passion for bikes.
We sat down and ordered lunch, and as we waited for it to arrive, Emilia and I caught up. She asked me how the pregnancy was going, and how I was finding things since moving into my new flat, and she told me how Davi was, and about the garage she owned.
I tactically left any mention of Kian out of the conversation. I still wasn't sure how to feel about what I’d seen on telly, or how to ask Emilia about it.
We fell silent when our food came, and we were busy eating, but once the waitress had cleared away our plates, and we were finishing off our drinks, Emilia asked why I’d called her.
“Something’s bothering you?”
I sighed and looked down at my cup. “Am I that easy to read?”
“No, but Kian has a habit of causing trouble. So tell me, what’s he done to piss you off this time?”
I took another deep breath. This was the last chance I had to back out of bringing this up. I knew I couldn’t though. I’d never be able to relax with these doubts on my mind. “Well he hasn’t actually done anything … not to me, at least. It’s more something I saw about him.”
“If it’s those ridiculous tabloids, you’re best off ignoring them. I’d go insane if I believed every story I read about Davi.”
I laughed uneasily, empathizing with how hard it must be for the partner of someone so well-known, always having to see stories about their lover or themselves splashed all over the newspapers. I wondered how I’d cope if I ever came across a story about Kian, or God forbid, our baby.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t been reading any tabloids. It was actually something I saw on telly.”
I relayed the story about the interview, the questions Kian had been asked, and his reaction. Emilia listened intently, never taking her eyes off me. When I’d finished she let out a frustrated sigh.
“Jesus Christ. I thought he was dealing with this. Davi’s going to blow a gasket when he finds out about this.”
“This is something Kian does regularly?” I held my breath as I waited for her answer, my heart racing.
“It used to be. He’s calmed since finding out about the baby.”
“Are these violent outbursts something I should worry about?” I remembered the night we’d argued about the paternity test. A cold, hard feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. “Are me or the baby in danger?”
“He’d never knowingly hurt someone he cares about.” Emilia’s expression softened, and she squeezed my hand. “But I won't lie to you. He does have anger issues.”
My stomach turned over, and I thought for a moment I was going to bring my lunch back up. “But he’s getting help with these issues, right?
“I think so, but I don’t know for sure. Davi never went into too much detail. It’s something you’ll have to speak with him about.”
“You’re sure that's a good idea? He isn’t likely to go off on one, is he? He’s never told me about his anger issues. I can't see him being happy that I saw him explode on telly, or that I called you about it.”
Emilia fell silent for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip as she thought. “You’ve got a point there. I’m sure he wouldn’t intentionally lose his temper with you, but he doesn’t take criticism well. He doesn’t like people discussing his life behind his back.”
“Yeah, I get that, especially when he has to deal with the papers scrutinizing his every move.”
“Right. So maybe it’s best if I tell Davi about our little chat, and have him talk to Kian?”
“If you think that would work?” I tilted my head to the side and rubbed the back of my neck.
I’d called Emilia hoping for reassurance, but instead my fears had been made worse. I understood no one liked thinking people were talking about them, and it was never easy to admit your faults, but anger issues seemed like a real problem and something Kian should have told me about. But then I thought, how did you casually slip into conversation you have mental health issues?
Maybe Emilia was right, and her talking to Davi, and him speaking to Kian was best. She did know them both better than I did.
I must have fallen silent for a while, because she was looking at me with concern and reached across the table for my hands again.
“I’m sorry. I’m probably not helping, am I? You called me up for advice, and I go and make it worse. If it makes you feel better, Kian really has changed a lot since he found out about the baby. He’s trying to put his past troubles behind him.”
“Well that’s good to know, I guess.” The tears prickled behind my eyes, and the heavy feeling lifted from my stomach. “But if you could talk to Davi about this, and get him to convince Kian to call me, I’d really appreciate it.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Anytime. You and Kian are good kids, and I want you all to be happy.”
I smiled and nodded. That’s all I wanted too.
I tried to keep myself busy, and my mind off Kian, in the days following my meet up with Emilia. More than once I reached for my phone and was about to call him, but I knew it was best if Davi spoke to him first. Hopefully by the time Kian and I discussed his anger problems, he’d be calm enough that we could talk about it properly without an argument.
Thankfully I had plenty to distract me in the form uni work. My degree was coming to an end, and I had to make sure my design portfolio was in perfect condition for when it was presented to the moderation board. Taking advantage of a free period, I headed to the library to complete an essay on how digital media had evolved over the past five years, and what changes we foresaw going into the future.
I was happily typing away when I heard talking and giggling behind me. Trying to drown out the noise, I took out my phone, plugged my headphones in and hit play on my ‘studying’ playlist. Thinking I could no longer hear them, the girls talking behind me grew louder, and I overheard what they were saying.
“Dumb slut. Can you believe she was actually stupid enough to get herself knocked up?”
“Right? And the baby’s dad must be hideous. Only a troll would want to have sex with her.”
Ignore them, they’re not worth it.
“You know who she gets it from? That insipid friend of hers. You know, the blonde one that looks like a lads’ mag reject.”
“That girl is so gross. Who even wears pink when they’re over the age of five?”
That’s it! Talking about me behind my back was one thing, but no one insulted my best friend.
Switching off the music, I yanked the headphones out and threw my phone in my bag. Then, making sure my essay had saved, I shut down the computer, stood up and stalked towards them.
A trio of girls were gathered around the computer behind me, a website open to some social media site, where they were harassing random guys.
I didn’t know two of the girls, but I recognized the middle one as Ashley Bennett, who’d been in the same year as me at secondary school.
I narrowed my gaze on her. “What the fuck did you say about Stacey?”
“Calm down, preggo, you don’t want to go into early labour.” Ashley sneered, and I had to hold myself back from slapping the smug look off her face.
“Answer my question. What did you say about my best friend?”
“What are you going to do? Waddle over here and beat me up with all your blubber?”
I pressed my nails into my palms, causing little red half-moons to appear on the skin.
“So help me god, if I hear you speaking like that about Stacey again, I’m gonna knock that smug smile off your face.”
My body shaking, I turned on my heel, leaving them no chance to reply, and then clutching my bag tightly, fled the library. I didn’t slow down until I reached the canteen across campus, where I dropped into a chair and the tears began falling freely.
Not wanting anyone to see me crying, I laid my head on the table, and covered it with my arms. It wasn’t unusual to see a student or two napping in the canteen, and I hoped no one would bother me.
I took some deep breaths, and tried to push their words out of my head. I knew some people would think I was a slut for getting pregnant so young and while not in a relationship, and mostly I’d learned to listen only to the opinions of people I cared about. But after everything that’d gone on recently, Ashely’s taunts wouldn’t leave me alone, and were only made worse by the fact they’d dragged Stacey into it.
“Hey sleeping beauty, you okay?” Stacey’s voice cut through my thoughts, and I raised my head to see her sitting opposite me.
When her gaze met mine, her eyes widened. “What’s wrong? Is it the baby?”
“No, Bubba is fine. It’s just…”
I told Stacey about what’d happened in the library, and when I’d finished, she jumped up from her seat.
“The bitch. I’m going to knock her block off.”
“Sit down, Stace. She isn’t worth it.”
“The hell she isn’t. No one talks like that about my BFF.”
I giggled, and grabbed her hand. “Thank you.” It amused me how we’d both been more offended by the insults to the other, than the ones to ourselves. “But honestly, she’s not worth wrecking your manicure over.”
Stacey wiggled her fingers, which were currently painted like watermelons, and dropped back into her seat. “They are lovely, aren’t they?”
I laughed and nodded my head. “They’re beautiful. Fancy a coffee before class?”
“Throw in a slice of carrot cake and you’re on.”
Grabbing my purse, I stood up from the table, and crossed the canteen to the service line, then brought two coffees and two slices of carrot cake. Taking them back to our table, I slid a coffee and cake to Stacey, then sat down opposite her.
“Oh god, I hope this doesn’t make me fatter,” I said before taking a massive bite. “Because I could never give this up. This is the best thing ever.”
Stacey swallowed her mouthful, nodded and giggled. “Better than sex?”
“Hmm, well, I haven’t actually had sex in five months and the last time resulted in this…” I rested my hand on top of my baby bump.
“Yeah, but last time was with Kian, and you and I both know how athletic fighters can be.”
“Don’t even go there.” Thinking of Kian in that way was the last thing I needed after my recent conversation with Emilia.
In fact, if one good thing had come from seeing him on TV, it was that the strange feelings I’d developed for him since he helped me move had eased off. In my mind, he’d gone back to being just Kian, the father of my baby. I wasn’t ready to open that can of worms again.
Stacey had other ideas. “Oh, I’m going there. You still haven’t told me what was going on the other week.”
I shrugged. “I dunno … hormones? It doesn’t matter, because nothing is going to happen between us.”
Stacey put her mug down and leaned forward, staring at me intently. “How do you know? Has he said something?”
“Not exactly, no. But something happened…” I told her about the interview, and then my chat with Emilia. “And well, all that coupled with what he said about it only being a one night thing makes me certain nothing will happened, even if I wanted it to.”
“Do you want it to?”
“Does it matter? There’re bigger things at stake, Stace. I need to know his anger problem isn’t going to be an issue for me and Bubba.”
“Yeah, of course. And I’m sure it’ll be okay. I mean, Emilia did say he was getting help, and he’s been different since you got pregnant, right?”
I sighed and gulped down the last of my coffee. “I guess, but I can’t get the sound of his voice as he threatened to kill Matthews out of my head. He seemed so serious.”
“Well, fighting is serious. If he doesn’t think he’d going to win, he could go in there and get his arse kicked. This is his profession. He has to take seriously.”
“Sure, but Josh isn’t like that, is he? I mean, he doesn’t go off on interviewers and have angry outburst does he? This is more than taking your job seriously, this is a proper mental health problem.”
“Okay, maybe it is, but he’s never hurt you, and you can’t hold him having problems against him. Everyone has problems. As long as he’s getting help.” Stacey finished her drink, and reached across the table to take my hand in hers. “It’ll be okay, Meg.”
“Since when did you become his number one fan? I thought you were on my side.”
“I am on your side, but every story has two sides. You two’ve worked so hard in the last few months to get where you are. I don’t want you to give up on that yet.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but no words came out. Instead, I rubbed my chin as I thought over everything. Stacey was right, everyone had their own problems, and I couldn’t hold Kian’s against him. I definitely couldn’t make a judgement until I’d spoken to him. I just hoped he called soon.
Getting through the afternoon at uni felt almost impossible. My hopes of a distraction had been utterly squashed since the library incident, and now I’d told Stacey about Kian, I could think of little else. I was half tempted to text Emilia and see if she’d spoken to Davi yet, but I didn’t want it to seem like I was bugging them. They were busy people, with their own lives. It wasn’t their responsibility to fix every little problem between me and Kian.
Trying to keep my mind busy, I threw myself into finishing the essay, and added it to my portfolio, which was made up of similar written pieces and examples of my design work. My leading piece was the nursery decal I’d designed, which I planned on using in my end of degree show where we all had to present something to the impartial board of adjudicators. This meant, not only did I have to finalize the physical drawing, but I’d then have to have the decal printed out to scale on vinyl. In the exhibit hall each of us would be set up with our own booths to showcase our work. I planned on turning mine into a mini nursery that would show how the decal bought together any room design and gave it an over-all theme. Some people might consider it cheating using something that I’d originally designed for personal use, but the best advice always said ‘work with what you know’ and I’d spent so long poring over baby room decorations in the lead up to my move that I felt like an expert.
That evening, after getting home from uni and making dinner, I settled on the sofa to watch the DVD Kian had mailed me from his sister, when there was a knock at the door.
Stacey normally called before coming around, plus she’d told me she had plans with Josh, so I figured it was some random sale person. I was surprised when I opened the door to find Kian standing on the other side.
“Hey,” he said, his eyes sweeping over my pyjamas and fluffy slippers. “If now’s a bad time, I can go.”
“No, come in. Want a coffee?”
“Sure.” Kian headed through to the living room, and I made my way to the kitchen, glad to have some space between us. I needed a moment to gather my thoughts.
I guess Emilia’s spoken to Davi.
I switched on the kettle, and tried to work out what I was going to say to Kian. Should I just come straight out with it, or wait for him to bring it up? Because that’s why he was here, to talk about the interview. He wouldn’t just turn up out of the blue.
With the kettle boiled, I had no more excuses to hide in the kitchen. Plus, I didn’t want to hide. I wanted to sort this out, so we could get back to normal. Or whatever was normal for two people in our situation.
Carrying the drinks through to the living room, I set them on the coffee table, and settled down on the sofa. Unlike the last time he was here, Kian wasn’t perched on the other end, but sat in the armchair instead. I instantly noticed the gulf of space between us, and I shuffled over, but his body gave off waves of coldness that told me to keep away.
He turned to me, his eyes distant. “I don’t know. You tell me. Or do you need to speak to Emilia first?”
“Oh, so Davi’s spoken to you, then?”
“Oh yeah, Davi’s spoken to me. Sounds like you and his wife had a lovely little chat about me behind my back.”
“It wasn’t behind your back. I saw the interview, and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to confront you without the full story, so I went to someone who knows you for advice.”
“You could have just asked me directly.”
“You’re not exactly the easiest person to talk to.”
Kian’s eyes widened, his brows pinched together and he swallowed hard.
“Right, so because of that I don’t even get to tell you my side of things? I don’t get to explain what happened with that interviewer?”
“You can explain now.”
Kian rolled his shoulders, and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck.
“What’s the point? Emilia’s already told you about my anger issues. You’ve made up your mind.”
My heart thudded. “That’s not true. I-”
“Don’t lie.” Kian’s lips formed a thin line. “You can’t say you’re not worried I’m a danger to you and the baby.”
“I … I never said that.”
“You don’t need to. It’s written all over your face.”
“Kian, you’re being ridiculous. Can’t we just talk about this?”
“Why, so you can have more things to add to your list of reasons why I’m not good enough to be a dad?” He stood up from the chair, and started pacing the room, never making eye contact with me. “I thought you were different. I thought you saw me as more than some angry guy who fights for a living.”
I raked my hands through my hair, my body unusually warm. “What is going on? Where has all this come from? I’ve never said you weren’t good enough.”
“How about when you said you and the baby didn’t need me?”
When I dared to look Kian in the eye, they were cold and distant.
“I was angry, you know that. I thought we’d worked all this out?”
“So did I, but then you went behind my back to speak to Emilia.”
“I was scared. What else could I do?”
He turned to face me, and this time Kian’s eyes were blazing. “Too scared to come to me? Too scared to hear the truth?”
Kian turned back towards the wall, as I stood up and took a hesitant step towards him, tilting my head to one side. “What is the truth?”
When he faced me this time, his expression shocked me. His eyes had dulled and become vacant, and his mouth hung open slightly. His posture was different, too, and all his usual swagger had melted away. His arms hung limply at his sides.
“Everyone is right about me. I’m nothing but a fuck up. I do have anger issues, anger issues I’m not dealing with. I haven’t hurt you or the baby yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Anything good I have, I ruin. You were right, Meg, you and the baby are better off without me.”
He took a step towards the door.
“Kian, wait.” I reached out for him, but he brushed me off.
“I shouldn’t have come here. This was a mistake. Thinking it’d be any different was a mistake.”
I tried again to grab him, to make him stop and listen to me, but I wasn’t quick enough and before I had the chance to do anything else, he was out the door and into his car. I could only watch helplessly from the doorstep, as he drove away, not fully understanding what had happened between us. But knowing something had changed. Something had broken.