Thanks to Hubby for the edit! <3
I hadn’t been this nervous about getting a result on something since I’d taken a pregnancy test. I hit refresh on the university website, and waited for the page to reload.
The sound of my phone beeping made me jump, and I looked down to see a message from Stacey:
>>OMG! Have U seen?<<
I hit F5 on my keyboard, but the uni site remained unchanged.
>U got ur results? I don’t see mine. :(<<
>>NO! Still nothing. I meant the news. U & Kian made headlines again!<<
A link followed her message, and I clicked through to the local paper’s website where the headline announced:
‘Loved up Kian Murphy Spotted With Girlfriend on Cozy Date’.
The article that followed went on to explain how just days before announcing he was taking a hiatus from MMA, and buying into Silva’s gym as a new partner and training coach, Kian had been seen at a local restaurant with me.
Accompanying the article was a picture of Kian leaning across the table to kiss me.
I smiled, glad to be making the news for something positive this time around, and sent a reply to Stacey.
>>God, you’d think they’d have something more interesting to talk about! :P<<
>>LOL Right? That pic is totes adorbs tho!<<
I looked at the picture again. Stacey was right, it was pretty cute. I saved it and set it as my new phone wallpaper, then hit refresh on the uni website again.
I held my breath as the site took an extraordinarily long time to reload. I figured hundreds of other students were waiting to see their results, too.
The page reloaded, and I was prompted to enter my student ID and password.
Oh mu god!
This was it. In a matter of seconds I’d have my results, and I’d know if I’d flunked everything, completely screwed up my future, and would have to resort in working in a fast food resturant.
My heart hammered.
The page loaded, and there was my result:
I’d gained upper second-class honours!
I slowly let out the breath I’d been holding. Tears welled behind my eyes, and for a second my whole body went limp.
I’d done it.
This was the grade most employees looked for when hiring, and the minimum required to continue postgraduate studies. This, coupled with my portfolio and references from my tutors meant that when my maternity leave ended, I’d have a decent chance of finding design work.
As if sensing my delight, Ella somersaulted in my tummy.
I rubbed my ever-increasing bump and said, “I did it, baby girl. Mama got a two-one.”
My phone rang, and I scrambled to answer.
“Oh my god!” Stacey screeched. “I got a first!”
My heart pounded as her excitement surged through the phone line and consumed me. She’d achieved the highest grade possible.
“No way! Congratulations, Stace.”
“I can’t believe it,” her voice was choked with emotion, and she took a deep breath to steady herself.
“Why not? You deserve this after how hard you worked.”
“Yeah, but a first? That’s insane!” Stacey took another breath then asked, “What did you get?”
“A two-one,” I replied, trying to keep the pitch of my voice even. We’d done it! We’d both done enough for employers and future courses.
“Congratulations, Meg. That’s wicked. As soon as we graduate uni, the world is ours. I’ll be starting at the bridal company soon, and once you’re finished maternity leave, I’m sure you’ll land a job.”
“Well, the two-one will certainly help, as will the freelance work I’ve been doing online. My portfolio is looking great.”
“I saw some of the stuff on your new website, it looks fantastic.”
Stacey sniffled. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Do you remember when we first met?”
“How could I forget the ball of blonde hair and glitter that bundled into me as I was trying to find my dorm room. I knew as soon as I saw your bright pink, glittery backpack we were going to be friends.”
On the other end of the line, Stacey giggled. “I know on drunken nights out we said we’d be friends forever, but did you ever imagine our lives would be like this?” Even though she was on the other end of the phone, I knew she was grinning inanely. “Both going out with fighters from the same gym, you with a baby on the way and me about to start my dream job.”
“Stace, if you’d have told me this was going to happen nine months ago, I’d have said you were insane. I never dreamed of having a baby this young, let alone meeting and falling in love with a guy.”
“Right? Remember that night at O’Neil’s, when Josh invited me back to his hotel?”
I patted my baby bump. “How could I forget?”
“I never imagined we’d still be together all these months later, let alone living together. You know me, and my luck with guys.”
“That was before.”
Stacey laughed. “And remember that night in the restaurant, when I found out Kian was the father of the baby.”
I groaned and covered my face, even though she couldn’t see me. “God, things were such a mess back then. How did we ever get to where we are now?”
“Some things are meant to be.”
“Shut up, you lemon! You haven’t even had any alcohol and you’ve gone all soppy on me.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll stop.” Stacey took a breath, then asked, “How are you feeling today? Did you get much sleep last night?”
Since hitting the third trimester, I was feeling more and more tired. Not only was Ella growing rapidly in preparation for birth, but I’d started getting Braxton hicks contractions and finding a comfortable sleeping position was near impossible. Then when I finally did drop off, I woke up needing to pee.
“I had to get up twice in the night. I swear Ella knows when it’s bed time, and uses that exact moment to begin her gymnastics routine.”
“Laugh all you want. When she’s born, you and Josh are on babysitting duty so I can have a decent nap.”
“Gladly. If you and Kian need a break you know all you’ve got to do is ask.”
“Thanks. I was kidding, but I appreciate it.”
I said goodbye to Stacey, then called my parents to let them know I’d gotten my results.
“Congratulations, sweetheart,” Mum said when I told her the news. “We knew you could do it.”
“I know you have plans with Stacey after graduation, so how about we all go for dinner the night before to celebrate?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
“Ask Kian too?”
I laughed and replied, “Sure thing.”
After Mum’s reaction to Kian when I’d been in hospital, I thought she was going to have a problem with us getting together, but her response had surprised me, and she was really happy for us. She’d even been bugging me for weeks to invite him down for Sunday dinner, so I figured this was the next best thing.
After getting off the phone from my parents, I sent Kian a text. Since officially buying into the gym, Kian had been back in training every day, getting in shape for coaching the new guys joining, so I never knew if he was busy or not. I knew he’d call me back as soon as he had a break.
I was just making lunch, when he phoned.
“I’m so proud of you. You fucking killed it.”
I settled on the sofa and asked, “So, how is your day going?”
“Yeah, not too bad. Davi has me looking through videos of guys we might offer tryouts to.”
“There’s this one guy, same weight division as me, a little on the older side. But holy shit are his strikes insane.”
I could hear the excitement in his voice and smiled. It wasn’t that Kian had been unhappy before, but since going back to the gym, the old spark he had when I first met him had returned, and whenever we hung out he had something new to tell me about how work was going.
“Think Davi will take him on?”
“I’ll have to convince him, ‘cos I seriously think this guy could be something special.”
“Here’s hoping Davi sees it too.” There was a brief pause, and I heard Kian shout something to the guys. “My parents want to take us to dinner the night before graduation. You up for it?”
“Of course. And we’re still going out with Brownie and Stacey after the ceremony?”
“Uh-huh. I don’t think we’ll get a minute alone this week.”
Kian laughed. “Think you can manage to keep your hands off me for that long?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just been sat here all day, pining away for you.”
There was another pause as Kian shouted something else, then he said, “I’m really sorry, I’m going to have to get back to it.”
“It’s cool. Go kick some butt.”
“I’ll call you later.”
Once I’d hung up, I decided to take a nap. The restless night was catching up with me, and I knew if I wanted to stay awake past eight-thirty, I’d need some extra rest.
As the week progressed, I tried not to worry about Kian meeting my parents or graduation, but the closer I got to both, the more anxious I became.
The morning of graduation eve, Kian left mine, having stayed over the night before, to spend the day working at the gym, leaving me alone to get everything sorted for my parents’ visit and graduation. I had to make sure my outfits for dinner, graduation and the post-graduation celebrations were all ready, pick up my graduation robe from the hire shop, and clean my flat.
What I really wanted to do was remain in my pyjamas watching cat videos on the Internet.
I forced myself away from the computer and into the shower, then had some breakfast, before heading into town to collect my graduation robes and some cleaning supplies.
When I got home, I got to work cleaning down the flat. It wasn’t that I was untidy, but something about having my parents visit always made me want to make sure the place was pristine.
I was mopping the kitchen floor, when my stomach tightened and my back started to ache. A sure sign I needed a break.
Pouring myself a glass of water, I flopped down on the couch and switched the TV on. I watched some random crap for a while until the aching subsided, then got back to it. Thankfully the rest helped, and I only get a few twinges for the remainder of the day.
Finally satisfied the flat was clean enough for my parents, I jumped in the shower and began getting ready for our meal. I was drying my hair when Kian text to let me know he was finished at the gym, and was heading home to shower and change before coming round.
>>Perfect. I’m just doing my hair and makeup.<<
I sat in front of the mirror straightening my hair, which thanks to pregnancy hormones was super glossy, while Ella moved around in my belly.
“That’s right, now it’s evening, it’s time for baby acrobatics, isn’t it?”
I smiled and rubbed my tummy. Drawn to the sound of my voice or the warmth of my hand, or something, Ella kicked my belly where my fingers rested.
I tapped where her foot had just been and said, “Hey Missy, no kicking Mama!”
I’d just finished my makeup, and had changed into stretchy black maternity trousers and a teal tunic top, when the doorbell rang.
Grabbing my jacket, shoes and a small handbag, I left the bedroom and headed down the hall to answer the door.
“Hey,” Kian said, as he stepped into the hallway.
I was momentarily lost for words as I stared at him. It was the first time I’d seen him dressed formally; wearing suit trousers and a dark shirt. He looked super hot.
“Hey Handsome,” I said, rising up on my tiptoes to press my lips against his.
Before we got too into the kiss, the doorbell rang again.
I pulled away from him, and turned to let my parents in.
Mum rushed in in a flurry of hugs and kisses, while Dad and Kian shook hands and made polite small talk.
“Congratulations, Megan,” Mum said, wrapping her arms around me. “We’re so proud of you.”
“Thanks.” I untangled myself from her and tried to catch my breath.
My stomach tightened again. More Braxton kicks. I’d be glad when Ella was born and I didn’t have to put up with this.
“Ready to go?” Dad asked. “I booked us a table for seven, and we still need to get across town.”
“Lead the way,” I said, taking Kian’s hand, and opening the front door.
Mum and Dad headed back to their car, pausing before they got in.
“Are we all going together?” Mum asked, then before anyone could answer, she opened the rear doors. “It seems pointless taking more than one car.”
Feeling it would be rude not to, I climbed in, and shuffled across so Kian could sit down next to me.
Our knees brushed in my parents’ tiny Ford Fiesta, and I looked over at him then mouthed ‘Sorry.’
“It’s cool,” he whispered back, rubbing the pad of his thumb across the back of my hand.
His touch sent tingles down my spine, and I wished we’d had a little longer alone together.
The meal was mostly good, though a little tense. My parents didn’t display any outward hostility towards Kian, but their probing questions might as well have been, “What are your intentions towards our daughter?” It was more than just polite curiosity about his work, and I knew Mum and Dad were making sure Kian would treat me and Ella right. Even though they were just looking out for me, and part of me greatly appreciated that, after all Kian had been through, with people judging him and scrutinizing his every move – his own family included – I wished they’d been a bit easier on him, and taken my word that things between us were good.
Ella kept up her usual acrobatics act, and despite the discomfort, it was reassuring to know my little girl was okay, even when she was kicking me in the ribs. Thankfully, I managed to stave off the tiredness until about nine, but when I started yawning as we finished dessert, Mum was quick to catch on.
“We should probably ask for the bill now so you can head off and get some rest. You’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow.”
“Don’t remind me.” Knowing I only had about twelve hours until I had to start getting ready for the ceremony made my temples pulse.
I knew the hard part was over, I’d gotten my results, and the graduation ceremony was just a formality, but I still felt uneasy. I wouldn’t be able to fully relax and enjoy the last few months of pregnancy until it was out of the way.
Mum and Dad took Kian and me back to my place, and after more hugs – Kian even got one, and a kiss on the cheek from Mum – they headed back to their hotel, and me and Kian were alone at last.
“God, it seems like forever since we saw each other last,” I said, kicking off my shoes, and then wrapping my arms around him.
We stood in the hallway for a minute, just holding each other. Kian’s head rested on top of mine, and his hands stroked up and down my back.
Finally, exhaustion got the better of me, and I stepped out of his arms to ask, “Are you stopping the night?”
“I’d love to, but won’t I be in your way in the morning?”
“I’m going to need you here to keep me calm.”
We headed through to my bedroom, where I peeled off my clothes and changed into my pyjamas, then started removing my makeup.
“In that case, who am I to say no? I’ll have to pop home in the morning to get a change of clothes, though.”
“What you’re wearing is fine,” I said, brushing the hairspray out of my hair, and then pulling it up into a bun. “But if you’re worried, you can always toss them in the washer-dryer. If we put it on now, they’ll be ready for the morning.”
“All right.” Kian stripped down to his boxers, and as he scooped up the laundry I admired the view. Even after just a couple of weeks back at training, I could see the definition coming back to his muscles. He wasn’t as ripped as when he had a fight coming, but he still looked damn good.
Turning towards with an armful of clothes, he smirked. “Like what you see?”
“Always.” I stood up from the dressing table, crossed the room to him, and ran my hands up his arms, then kissed him. “Now shoo, get those clothes in the washer so we can snuggle in bed.”
Kian laughed. “Yes Boss.”
He made his way down the hall, and I went over to the bed and climbed under the covers.
“You want a cuppa?” he called from the kitchen.
A few minutes later, I heard the washing machine rumble into action, and then Kian entered the room with two mugs of tea in his hand. He passed one to me, and placed the other on the bedside table, before getting into bed beside me.
“Dinner was fun,” he said, as I sipped my drink.
“You have a strange definition of fun. Mum and Dad were quite obviously grilling you.”
“I figured, which is why I tried to be as open as I could with them. This is new to them too. Even though they’ve gotten used to the idea of us having Ella together, now they need to adjust to us being a couple.”
“I guess; I just wish they’d ease up on you. You’ve got nothing to prove.”
“I made a lot of mistakes in the past, and I’ve got to expect people to be a little wary of if I’ve really changed.”
“Yeah. I suppose so.” I shrugged and took another sip of tea. “So how is work? Did you speak to Davi about that guy you liked?”
“I did. I showed him the video, he was really impressed, too. I’ve called the guy up to set up a tryout. He’s heading by the gym next week.”
“It is. I didn’t know I’d get such a buzz from scouting fighters, but after seeing this guy fight, I just can’t get him out of my head. I hope his tryout goes well, because I’m dying to get in the cage with the guy, and start training him.”
I grinned. “That’s the gayest thing I think you’ve ever said. I love that you’ve taken to training so well. How is it with everyone else?”
“Good, yeah. It took some of the lads a little while to get used to me being their coach not their buddy anymore, but things are fine now. It helped going out with Brownie the other night. Some of the other guys came along too, and just having the opportunity to chill out outside of the gym made all the difference.”
I placed my half-drunk cuppa on the night stand, and turned towards Kian. “I’m so proud of you.” I wrapped my arms around his neck, and pressed my lips to his.
Kian cupped my face and deepened the kiss by slowly slipping him tongue into my mouth. We both moved down the bed, shifting to lying on our side, my legs entwined with his.
Kian’s hands moved from my face, snaking down my body, and then under my nightshirt. He stroked my tummy, before his hands trailed up to my breasts.
He broke away from the kiss and asked, “Is this okay?”
“Yeah, just be gentle. They’re pretty sore.”
He caressed them softly, and we continued kissing until I was almost breathless, and my body hummed with desire for him.
When we broke apart again, I turned I so I was nestled in his arms, my butt resting in his lap. With his legs curled around mine, and his arm still wrapped around me under my nightshirt, I drifted off into contented sleep.
I woke in the middle of the night needing to pee, and had to carefully untangle myself from Kian’s embrace. Making sure to be quiet, I crept to the bathroom.
When I got into bed, I tried to snuggle back up to him and go back to sleep, but Ella was moving around again, and the Braxton hicks had returned. Trying to focus on my breathing, instead of the tightening sensation in my belly, I shut my eyes, and willed myself to sleep.
I don’t know how long it took me to drop off, but it seemed like only a few minutes had passed before my alarm sounded the following morning.
I fumbled for it on the night stand, and managed to knock over the half empty cup of tea from the night before. The mug rolled onto the pillow, the liquid spilling out and soaking my sheets.
“God damn it,” I said, scrambling out of bed.
Kian sat up, and scooted away from the damp patch.
“You okay?” he asked, squinting in the morning light filtering through the curtains.
“Yeah, just not the best start to graduation day.”
He climbed out of bed and said, “Why don’t you go take a shower, and I’ll make us some breakfast.”
“Yeah, I will in a sec. I need to strip the bed down first.”
“I can do that. I’ve got to get my stuff out of the machine anyway. You go get under the hot water and try to relax.”
I flashed him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
When I got out of the shower half an hour later, Kian’s clothes – now freshly ironed – were hanging on the back of the bedroom door, and my bed had fresh linen on.
I did my usual post-shower routine of moisturizing and putting some leave-in conditioner on my hair, then wrapped myself up in my dressing gown and headed for the kitchen, where the smell of food cooking greeted me.
“I figured you won’t want anything heavy, so I made us scrambled egg tortilla wraps.”
“Sounds yummy.” I settled at the breakfast bar and tucked in.
“Feeling any better now?”
“Yes, thank you. The shower really helped.”
Once we’d finished breakfast, Kian had a shower, and I styled my hair and painted my nails in a shade to match my dress.
He was just coming into the bedroom as I slipped on the burgundy wrap around, lace-trimmed dress I’d bought especially for graduation.
“Zip me up?”
“Sure.” Kian came up behind me and fastened the zipper, pressing his lips to my neck as he did so. “You look gorgeous.”
I did a small pirouette so the full skirt flared out around me, and smiled.
“I have something for you,” Kian said, crossing to the door. “Wait here, I’ll be just a minute.”
I tried to be patient as he headed down the hall, but the curiosity was killing me, and my stomach fluttered with butterflies.
When Kian returned, he had a long thin jewellery box in his hand.
“I wanted to get you something special for graduation,” he said. “And to show you how much you mean to me.”
He handed me the box, and I took it with shaky hands.
Flipping the lid, I revealed a gold figure of eight pendant on a long gold chain. In the bottom loop of the pendant was a glimmering emerald.
Tears welled in my eyes, and for a moment my throat was too choked up for me to speak. Finally, I managed to say, “Thank you. This is gorgeous.”
I took the necklace out of the box and held it up to the light, where the emerald sparkled.
“Do you want me to fasten it up for you?” Kian asked.
“Please.” I placed the necklace around my neck, scooped my hair to the side, then turned my back to him so he could fasten the clasp.
“Let’s have a look.”
I turned to face him, grinning from ear-to-ear. “What do you think?”
“Perfect.” Kian pulled me to him and kissed me. “Okay, I better get dressed before I freeze my balls off.”
It was only then that I realised he’d been wrapped in a towel all this time, and I scooted back so he wouldn’t get my dress damp.
Kian got dressed as I finished off my makeup. As I continued getting ready, I could hardly take my eyes off the pendant he’d bought me. It was beautiful, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more meaning to it than just a graduation gift, given the emerald was a similar colour to my eyes, and a figure of eight symbol turned on its side meant infinity.
Trying not to read too much into it, and just appreciate the gift for what it was, I focused instead on the forthcoming ceremony.
The nerves I’d felt earlier on in the week had turned to excitement, as I looked forward to seeing all my friends and classmates, and celebrating the culmination of our academic careers.
“Ready to go?” Kian asked, running some of my styling putty through his hair so it looked ruffled in a sexy ‘I don’t give a fuck’ kind of way.
“Give me a minute.” I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my handbag from the night before, then took my graduation robes out of the wardrobe. Taking them out of the protective plastic slip, I put them on and smiled. “Okay. Now I’m ready.”
Kian grinned. “In that case, Miss Green, this way.” He held his hand out to me, which I took, and he led me out of the bedroom.
When we arrived at uni, even though the ceremony wasn’t due to start for another hour, the grounds were already buzzing with activity, as friends caught up with each other, and parents took photos of their graduating children.
Mum and Dad arrived about five minutes after me and Kian had, and once again I was swept up in a whirlwind of hugs, kisses, and exclamations of ‘congratulations.’
“And look at the beautiful necklace,” Mum said, holding me at arm’s length as she studied the pendant.
“Isn’t it gorgeous?”
We milled around the uni grounds, chatting to other students and their parents, as we waited for Stacey to arrive.
Always one to make an entrance, she bounded towards me – God only knows how in nine-inch heels – and I caught a glimpse of pink sequins beneath her graduation robes.
She pulled me into a tight hug, and we twirled around in a circle, the two of us oblivious to the rest of the world.
“We did it,” she whispered in my ear.
When we finally broke apart, her parents, my parents, Kian and Josh were all shaking their heads and laughing with amusement.
“Come on then, let’s get a picture of you two.”
Stacey and I huddled together as Mum took a picture, then Kian and Josh joined us for another. We spent the next ten minutes swapping positions and camera so that both my parents and Stacey’s got photos of every combination possible.
Before the bell rang, announcing it was time for the ceremony to begin, I handed out tickets to my parents and Kian. Graduates were seated at the front of the hall, separate from their guests, so everyone would need a ticket to get in and claim their seats.
“Good luck Love,” Dad said, kissing me on the check.
Mum pulled me into another hug, and I could tell by the way she held onto me she was fighting tears. I blinked away my own, knowing if I started now, I’d never stop.
My parents went ahead to the hall, giving me and Kian a moment alone together.
“You’ve got this,” he said, rubbing my shoulders.
I kissed him lightly on the lips, careful not to get lipstick on him, then took his hand and we walked towards the hall.
As we got to the doorway I paused when I saw Ashley Bennett standing there. She noticed me, then her gaze flicked to Kian, before her eyes widened.
Trying to act cool, she sauntered over. “Congratulations,” she said.
Not wanting to get into a petty fight, I grinned and said, “Thanks. You too.”
Without another word, I strode past her and to the row where Mum and Dad were seated. Kian dropped down next to them, and I turned to join the student body.
The ceremony began and I fought to stay focused as each student was called up to the stage and presented with their degree certificate. The mixture of lack of sleep and the stuffiness in the room made it hard for me to keep my eyes open, but when a sharp pain shot across my abdomen, I jolted upright in my seat.
“You okay?” Stacey whispered.
“Yeah. Yeah, just a Braxton hick.”
My stomach was tight, and my back ached. I took a deep breath, held it in for a few seconds, then let it out slowly until the pain subsided.
Finally, my name was called, and I made my way to the stage. My legs wobbled as I climbed the few steps, and my vision blurred. Feeling dizzy, I paused for a moment to steady myself, and then crossed the stage to the dean.
I was about to shake his hand and take my certificate when my stomach tightened again, and the pain made me yelp. My vision dimmed and I felt my body fall to the floor as Stacey screamed my name.