The days wore on miserably until we finally had just a few days to go until a two week break. I couldn't stop thinking about how shitty everything had become, aside from my job. But even that wasn't as enjoyable as it used to be.
I still hadn't had a meaningful conversation with Brandi, because she wouldn't talk much. But at least I put forth an effort, unlike her. If nothing else, she couldn't accuse me of not trying.
It was a little after midnight and we had just gotten settled onto the bus to travel through the night. Calum and I were in our bunks and everyone else was gathered in the sitting area on the front of the bus. Though I was tired, I wasn't trying to go to sleep, because I knew that wasn't going to happen. I just wanted to be alone, as I found myself doing often, once again.
However, despite the noise, I was nodding off when someone moved the curtain and bright light shone on my face. I peeked through one partially opened eye to see that Luke was staring at me. He had his head tilted down slightly, looking nervous, and was biting his lip.
"What do you want, Hemmings?"
He looked at the floor, apparently sorry for bothering me. "I'm sorry if I woke you. I just... I um, I need to tell you something."
I could tell that he wasn't playing around. He was actually nervous. So I decided to go easy on him. "No, I'm sorry. You didn't wake me up. What do you need to tell me?"
Luke's eyes darted around, then he said, "Maybe we should, uh, go to the back. I don't really want everyone to hear."
I was instantly worried and confused. There were no secrets between any of us. What could he possibly have to tell me that the others couldn't hear? I nodded and pulled the curtain the rest of the way open, and hopped out of my bunk to follow Luke to the lounge in the back.
He closed the door behind us and sat down. His elbows were resting on his long legs and he was playing with a ring on his left hand. He looked up at me and said, "You're gonna want to sit down."
"Okay." I sat down a couple of feet from him and asked, "What's going on?"
The way he was acting, I expected him to say that he knocked up Allegra or some shit. Even though they'd broken up a while back, it wouldn't have surprised me if they were still fucking. But never did I ever expect to hear the words that came out of his mouth.
"Okay, so, you know, this is kind of just hearsay, but I don't know, Ash. I think it might be true." He paused and I gestured for him to continue. "Brandi didn't have a miscarriage." He was biting his lip again. He was holding back something.
"What are you even talking about, Luke? I'm pretty sure that's not something Brandi would lie about. I mean, why would she? And who's making up this shit? We've hardly even told anyone that she was pregnant, only a few people we trust."
Luke sighed and bent his head down to run his fingers through his hair. He looked back up at me and took a deep breath again. "I know what you're going to say, but just don't, okay? Just hear me out."
"Okay. Go ahead." I crossed my arms on my chest and sat back to listen to some convoluted story about the baby that Brandi lost or didn't lose. I felt defensive for some reason, I guess because it was my baby that he spoke of.
He began, "Well, you know how Allegra used to..." He stopped mid-sentence when I threw my head back and groaned, already not wanting to hear what shit Allegra was spreading.
Luke stood and threw his hands in in defeat. "You know what? Never mind. I'm just trying to be a good friend, but if you don't want to hear it, fine."
I pulled on his shirt until he sat back down. "Okay, I'm sorry. But when a story starts with 'Allegra' you can almost guarantee it's not going to be true. Even you have to admit that, Luke."
Luke said, "Yeah, I know, alright? But just listen. You need to know this."
"Go ahead. I'm listening."
"As I was saying, you know how Allegra used to be good friends with that Rita chick?" I nodded. "Well, her cousin, Nikki, works at this doctor's office. She told Rita that Brandi was, um, treated there."
I was getting impatient to know where the story was going. "Okay. And? She was seeing a doctor for checkups, like all pregnant women do. I even went with her before."
"I don't think this was the same doctor, though."
"Well how would you know? Do you know the doctor's name?"
"No, but I don't think it was the same one she went to with you because, uh... it was an abortion clinic."
He could have punched me in the gut full force and it wouldn't have felt any differently. The air was forced from my lungs and my stomach fell to my feet. Luke stared at me quietly, waiting for me to react. But I couldn't react because I was too shocked to move or even think.
Luke's voice brought me back to reality. "I'm sorry, Ash. But it was only fair that you know."
Yes, if anyone knew, it should have been me. I sat there, shaking my head, trying to make sense of it. Of course, I didn't want to believe it, so I naturally came up with an excuse for such a horrendous rumor. "Wait. Rita and Allegra aren't even friends anymore. Why would Rita even tell her that? It doesn't make sense. She's just trying to start shit."
"I know, I asked the same thing when Allegra told me. But then I asked Rita myself, and she confirmed it. She sounded sincere, Ash. She only told Allegra because she wanted it to get back to you, in case you didn't already know. But you know she's not like Allegra. She wanted you to know out of concern, not to start shit. And believe it or not, Allegra was upset about it, too."
I was still skeptical. But I had to admit that it was possible, and made sense. Brandi never once seemed happy about having a baby. She avoided talking about it, unless it was to complain. And she was out partying two days after she miscarried, or whatever the hell happened. There was only one way to find out.
I usually didn't like having confrontations over the phone, but there was no way that I was going to wait several more days to find out the truth in person. The longer I stewed over it, the angrier I'd get, and that wouldn't be good for anyone.
"What fucking timezone are we in? What time is it in LA?" I asked while I simultaneously looked for the answer on my phone.
Luke informed me, "We're in central, I think. So it's not that late in LA. Are you going to call her?" I put my phone up to my ear, answering his question. He covered his mouth and his eyes enlarged. "Oh shit, you are. You want me to leave?"
I shook my head "no." I wanted him available to reiterate his story if I needed him to.
I didn't expect Brandi would answer, but to my surprise, she did.
I tried to disguise my disgust and anger the best I could with a neutral tone. "Hi, Brandi."
"Hi," she said in a voice as indifferent as mine.
I had to be stealthy about it, catch her off guard, so that she wouldn't have time to think of a cover up. "So, we haven't really talked much lately. How are you feeling?"
"Just fine? Are you like, completely recovered from the procedure and all?"
She hesitated answering, then cleared her throat. "Yeah. I'm as good as new."
For some reason, those words made my blood boil. "Like it never happened, huh?"
"Pretty much. Why all the questions, Ash?"
"What, a guy can't be concerned about his girlfriend who lost their baby a few weeks ago?"
I looked over at Luke, and he was literally sitting on the edge of his seat, biting his lip again. His leg was bouncing in anticipation.
Brandi offered a haughty laugh and said, "Since when are you concerned about me? You only cared about that... baby. You don't give two shits about how I feel."
I couldn't deny that at the moment. "Brandi, I've tried to get you to tell me how you feel for months now, and you never will. So at this point, you're right, I don't care so much. But obviously you never gave a shit about how I feel, or you would have included me in your decision to get rid of our baby, not gone behind my back and lied to me. Am I right?" My entire body was shaking because I was so livid.
She didn't answer, so I knew it was true.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing before I totally flipped out, something Opal, my therapist, had taught me. It wasn't so much the fact that Brandi had lied, but that she ended my baby's life without even consulting me. Not that I'd ever agree to it. That was my baby, too; a living, tiny human that would grow into a precious baby, a son or daughter. In the end, it was her body, her decision. But the least she could have done was give me the courtesy of knowing.
It was probably a good two minutes of silence before I finally asked, "Why?"
I could imagine her smug face as she shrugged her shoulders indifferently. "If you'd ever listened to me, you wouldn't have to ask that question. I never wanted a kid, Ashton. I'm pretty sure one of the first things I ever told you was that I wasn't going to let anything stand in the way of my modeling career."
"So you planned an abortion all along?"
"Why didn't you ever say so?!" I was raising my voice, but I couldn't help it. "Why didn't you tell me the very day you told me you were pregnant?! You knew I was getting attached to it, and you never said a word. You're such a fucking heartless bitch, Brandi. And then to go and lie about it? Did you really think that was a secret you could keep from me the rest of your life?"
There was that irritating laugh again. "Oh, you mean like your secret about going to Vegas to see your precious Aubree while I was at home devastated because I was pregnant? Yeah, I did. Did you?"
That took me by surprise. "How did - Never mind. I don't even care! You know what? I don't think I could even look at you right now without getting sick. Just do me a favor, and get your shit out of my apartment before I get back. All of it. I don't ever want to see you again. Ever. You got it? Stay out of my life." I hung up because I had nothing more to say to her. I was 1000% finished with Brandi. Praise God.
I'd apparently started crying at some point and didn't even notice until I saw Luke's blurry face through my tears. Damn, it had been years since I'd been so angry that I cried. But also, a wound had been reopened and I was crying for the baby I'd never have. I felt like a damn pathetic excuse of a man being all emotional and shit. But how can someone create a life and just throw it away like that?
Of all times for everyone on the bus to want to be in that same room, they had to choose that moment. Michael slid the door open without asking and barged right in, talking video game banter with Calum and half of our crew. Luke stood up and tried to bring to their attention that we were having a private moment, but not a soul paid attention to him.
"It's okay, Luke. I'm gonna go lie down. Thanks for telling me."
He nodded and gave me a manly pat on the back as I walked past him, headed to my bunk. I really needed to go for a run or to the gym to blow off some steam. But we still had several hours left on the bus, so it was going to have to wait. All I could do was wallow in my own pity and disgust.