Chapter XI: New Beginning, Deadly Ending
Monday Morning, October 4th, 10:10 a.m.
As Erica waited in the exam room, her mind took her to so many places. She couldn’t figure out what this illness could be: stress, a stomach disorder, a neurological disorder? She kept thinking that stress was the main factor. After all, she had become her own boss and had settled into a new life in a new city. Then there was Darren: she had to grudgingly admit that she still had feelings for him. To be honest, she had actually begun considering Darren as a potential mate when she was ready for a real relationship. He was attentive, passionate, attractive and a lot of fun, especially when he was tipsy. The downside was his temper. He had done and said some things that Erica couldn’t get past. The way he had talked to her that last day they were together had hurt her feelings. She had never been talked to in such a way by anyone in her life. She had wanted to give him another chance, to become friends again and possibly more but when Cash appeared back in her life, she saw it as a sign. She never thought she’d see Cash again, let alone live in the same city as he did. When they reconnected at the bank, she knew that God had sent Cash back to her for a reason. They were both different people than they had been when they dated in high school and their lives had taken different turns but they still had the same affection for each other. Maybe Cash could take her mind off her situation with Darren.
The moment that Dr. Myers entered the room, Erica’s heart began beating quickly. She hoped and prayed that she didn’t have a serious illness. How would she go on with her magazine? She knew that Jennifer could take care of things if need be but she didn’t want to hand her company over to anyone. She nervously rubbed her hands together, then clasped them together on her lap.
“You nervous Ms. Parker?” Dr. Myers joked.
“A little,” Erica said, trying to sound upbeat.
“Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer,” Dr. Myers told her.
“Is it anything serious, Doctor?” Erica asked. She tried to control her breathing and steel herself for the upcoming results.
“No, not at all,” Dr. Myers said.
“You mean, I’m not ill?” Erica said, suddenly brightening.
“Not in the way you’re thinking,” Dr. Myers said.
“What do you mean by that?” Erica asked.
“Well, you’re not terminally ill and you don’t have any diseases,” Dr. Myers told her.
“So what is the problem?”
“No problem at all Ms. Parker…nothing that 6 and a half months won’t cure,” Dr. Myers said.
“Excuse me?” Erica suddenly became aware of what the doctor was trying to say.
“You’re ten weeks pregnant.”
This can’t be true, Erica said to herself. It just can’t be. Everything was a total blur after Dr. Myers spoke those words to her: You’re ten weeks pregnant. She didn’t even remember paying her insurance fee to the receptionist or walking to her car. As she sat in her car, her body and mind were numb. She tried wrapping her mind around the fact that she was indeed pregnant. There was absolutely no doubt of the paternity: it was Darren’s baby. Her sister’s brother-in-law. Her former lover. The man who had disrespected her and had taken her body without her permission in his brother’s bathroom that past weekend. All at once, Erica burst into tears. She cried, she screamed, she banged on the steering wheel of her car. She knew that some passersby saw her acting out and she didn’t care. She was too upset to care what anyone thought about her at that point. There was no turning back from this. Jennifer’s words to her that Saturday morning rang true: the truth would come out.
After calming herself down enough to drive, she made her way back home. She had planned to go to work after the doctor’s appointment but she was too upset and angry to show her face there. She knew that everyone would know something was wrong and she didn’t want the attention. She went into her bedroom, took off her clothes and stepped into the shower. As she stood in the shower, letting the warm water caress her body, she suddenly felt a twinge of compassion…compassion for her unborn child. Her mother had always told her that things happened for a reason. Maybe this baby came into her life for a reason. She had always been anti-abortion; there was no way that she would consider terminating her pregnancy despite who the baby’s father was. She rubbed her belly and for the first time that day, she smiled.
“Don’t you worry little one, I’m going to take care of you,” Erica said to her baby. “Everything will be alright. I promise.”
“How are you going to break the news to him?” Jennifer sat at Erica’s dining room table as the ladies feasted on some Chinese takeout.
“I don’t know yet, but I have to tell him,” Erica said. After she didn’t show up at work, Jennifer became concerned for her best friend and called her at home. Erica didn’t go into detail over the phone but she reassured her that things were okay and that she wasn’t terminally ill.
“My God, Erica. Out of all the men to get pregnant by,” Jennifer said, frowning.
“It wasn’t like I was trying to get pregnant Jen,” Erica said, getting annoyed.
“But you didn’t use protection,” Jennifer said. “You should have known that pregnancy was in the works. What about your career? What about Cash? He just came into your life and now this?”
“I can’t think about anything right now except telling Darren about this baby and this new life growing inside me,” Erica said.
“Cash is going to be hurt,” Jennifer said.
“If Cash loves me the way he says he does, he will accept it,” Erica said. “He knows about my relationship with Darren already. Darren broke the news to him at dinner the other night. Cash wasn’t upset about it or anything. He just wanted to know why I kept Darren’s identity from him.”
“He’s really gonna have to love you a lot to deal with you being pregnant by another man,” Jennifer said. Erica was becoming more and more annoyed with Jennifer. Is this what I’m gonna have to go through with her for the next six and a half months? Erica asked herself.
“Why are you so worried about it? Let me handle my shit and you handle yours with Carlos,” Erica said, getting up from the table. Jennifer knew she had pissed Erica off; Erica wasn’t one to use foul language but when she did, that meant she was upset.
“Look, I’m sorry E,” Jennifer said, getting up and following Erica to the kitchen. “I just want you to be happy. I don’t want your chance with Cash to go up in smoke. I love you.”
“I love you too Jen,” Erica said. “And I’m sorry I snapped at you. It’s just that…I have too many things on my mind right now. I love Cash but if he can’t accept the fact that I’m pregnant with this baby then I guess it wasn’t meant to be. We’ll find out soon though, won’t we?”
Friday Evening, October 8th, 7:19 p.m.
Erica had been contemplating all week on who to break the news to first. She knew she couldn’t tell Bianca first; she wanted to take her time and explain the entire situation to her. Bianca had only known about Erica and Darren dating as friends only. She had already told Jennifer so that part was done. The last pieces to the puzzle were Darren and Cash. She was afraid to tell Cash for fear of losing him but she knew she couldn’t keep it from him any longer. A week ago, Cash had commented on her hips jokingly, saying that she was getting her fill of American food. She knew that she had put on a few pounds but she had the same theory as Cash had: eating a lot. He had told her that he liked her with a little meat on her bones. She didn’t want to lose Cash but she didn’t ever consider abortion. She hoped he would understand.
The next piece to the puzzle was Darren, her baby’s father. Their relationship had crumbled and they weren’t even friendly with each other. Erica wondered how all this would play out. She wanted Darren to be a part of the baby’s life but she had a few fears of her own. Would he try and control how she raised the baby? Would he not want her to bring another man around her child? She knew there was no future for the two of them and although she didn’t plan to be a baby momma, she also didn’t plan to spend the rest of her life alone either. She decided to tell him the next day and hoped that he wouldn’t flip out on her.
Erica took a deep breath, closed her eyes and clicked on Cash’s picture in her Contacts on her phone. He answered on the third ring.
“Hey beautiful,” Cash said. Erica swallowed hard.
“Hello there,” Erica said. “I know we were supposed to hook up tomorrow night but I really need to see you tonight.” She didn’t go into detail with him about her situation on Monday evening when he called to check on her but she assured him that her situation wasn’t serious or life threatening.
“That’s fine with me. It will give me a chance to see you twice in one weekend,” Cash said. Tears formed in Erica’s eyes. She prayed that his words would ring true. She didn’t want to lose him.
“How soon can you be here?”
“Give me 30.”
Cash sat in Erica’s living room, chin resting on his hands. He stared at the floor for a long while, trying to register what Erica had just told him. He wasn’t angry with her but he was stunned. He knew that Erica and Darren had been intimate but he had assumed that they had used protection each time.
“Are you okay?” Erica finally broke the deafening silence in her apartment.
“I’m okay,” Cash finally said, looking into her eyes. “I’m just a bit surprised.”
“Are you mad at me?” Erica said, tears forming in her eyes again. “I didn’t want this to happen, Cash. You just came back into my life. I wanted us to have a future.”
“Why can’t we have a future?” Cash asked her, lifting her face to meet his gaze. “Are you saying that you don’t want to see me anymore?”
“You mean that you’d like to keep seeing me? Even in my condition?” Erica said.
“Of course, Erica,” Cash said. “That is, unless you’re planning to get back with Darren.”
“No way,” Erica said. “I just didn’t know how you’d feel about me being pregnant by another man.”
“All this happened before I came back into the picture,” Cash said. “I can’t be upset with you because of this. If you are okay with having this baby, then I have to be okay with it. I love you Erica. I have always loved you.” Cash leaned over and kissed Erica on the lips. He pulled her into his arms and she cuddled up next to him.
“Thank you, Cash,” Erica said. “You are a great man. Not many men would accept a woman’s pregnancy by another man.”
“Well, you accepted me and I have a son and an ex-wife,” Cash said. “Not many women want to take on a divorcee with a kid. So we’re both pretty special people.” Erica closed her eyes and laid her head on Cash’s shoulder. She knew things were going to be okay with the two of them. Now, the final piece of the puzzle had to be put in place: Darren.
Saturday Evening, October 9th, 6:33 p.m.
Darren couldn’t believe it when he saw Erica’s phone number flash across his phone screen. At first, he thought she may have hit his number by mistake but then he thought to himself: why would she still have his number in her phone? Then he came to the conclusion that maybe she hadn’t given up on him. Although he had taken her body sexually a week before, maybe she realized that she missed him just as much as he had missed her. Who knows, maybe she confessed to Cash and he broke things off. As much as he didn’t want to be a rebound dude, he was willing to take Pretty Boy’s spot for good.
Darren willed himself to wait for the third ring to pick up the phone. Erica’s voice sounded just as good as he remembered from all those nights they talked over the phone.
“Hi Darren,” Erica said. Darren closed his eyes and exhaled. It was like his prayers were being answered.
“Hi Erica,” he answered. He was tempted to call her Baby but thought he would be too forward. If they were going to make it work again, he’d have to pace himself. He didn’t want to end up hurt again.
“I really need to talk to you about something very important. Do you think you can come by sometime tonight if you’re not busy?” Erica asked. Darren nearly leaped off the couch, excited and ecstatic. She really wants to see me! Darren thought to himself, smiling from ear to ear. He took a few deep breaths before he replied.
“That’ll be cool,” Darren replied, trying to sound as normal as possible. “What time?”
“As soon as possible.”
“How about an hour?”
“That’s fine,” Erica said.
“See you then,” Darren said. As soon as he hung up, he hurriedly took his clothes and shoes off and hopped into the shower. After showering, he picked out an outfit that he remembered that Erica liked: a royal blue Air Jordan hoodie with a wifebeater underneath, a pair of stonewashed True Religion jeans and a crisp pair of white Air Jordan 11’s. He splashed on a bit of Issey Miyake cologne and brushed his hair until his waves looked as good as the ones that rolled on Lake Michigan on a windy day. He grabbed his jacket and keys and headed toward South Shore.
Darren’s palms sweated a bit as he stepped onto the elevator, headed for the 15th floor. He wiped them on his jeans and willed himself to calm down. It seemed as if the elevator was taking forever to reach its destination and finally the bell dinged and the doors opened. Darren tried not to walk quickly so he paused for a bit, took a deep breath and walked toward Apartment 1525. He stood outside her door, willing himself to ring the doorbell. Erica’s neighbor across the way came out into the hallway, heading for the elevator. Darren smiled at her and she smiled nervously and walked away quickly. Typical white woman, Darren thought to himself. They see a tall dark black man and they clutch their purses. He shook his head and focused on the task at hand: reconnecting with his destiny. He rang Erica’s doorbell and stood back. A few seconds later, he heard the lock on the door click and the doorknob turned. There she stood: the beautiful woman he had fallen for unexpectedly a few months back. She wore no makeup but she was just as beautiful as ever. She looked a bit fuller in the face but he assumed that it was because she was eating a bit more since being back in America. Her skin was glowing and she wore a ponytail that sat on top of her head. She was wearing reading glasses and a silver robe with maroon and pink flowers decorated on it. She was barefoot and had no polish on her toes.
“Come in,” Erica asked him, stepping to the side to let him in. Darren noticed that she didn’t give him eye contact as he stepped inside. Maybe she’s nervous, Darren told himself. He walked in and Erica closed the door behind him. Darren stood in the middle of the floor, not sure if he should take it upon himself to take a seat.
“You can sit down,” Erica said, gesturing toward the chair. She sat on the couch and crossed her legs. Darren couldn’t help noticing how beautiful her legs were. Erica pulled the robe over them and uncrossed her legs.
“So…what’s up?” Darren asked.
“Well Darren, I have something important that I need to tell you,” Erica said. She shifted in her seat and removed her reading glasses from her face. She bounced her left leg nervously.
“And what’s that?” Darren said. Here it comes, Darren thought excitedly. Be chill bro.
“You remember on Saturday night…in Bianca and Dean’s bathroom…when you violated me…I told you I was sick?” Erica said, her face taking on a pained look. Darren didn’t like the fact that Erica stressed the word violated. She made it sound like he raped her.
“I didn’t violate you, you wanted it,” Darren said. “Your body told on you.”
“I didn’t want it Darren,” Erica said, trying not to get upset. “You took it and you convinced yourself that I wanted it just because we’d had sex before. You don’t own my body and you can’t take it anytime you want. Not now and not ever.”
“Okay, where is this going?” Darren didn’t like the direction of this conversation. It sounded as if she wasn’t trying to patch things up with him. It was as if she was trying to bait him into something.
“I’ll tell you where it’s going Darren,” Erica said. “I went to the doctor Monday. I found out that I’m pregnant. Ten weeks as a matter of fact. The baby is yours.” Darren could have sworn he heard that wrong.
“What did you say? You’re what?” Darren said.
“I said, I’m pregnant with your baby,” Erica said. “I was stupid enough to let you have sex with me without protection and this is the end result. From what I can tell, the baby will be born in April.” Darren began smiling.
“Oh shit!” Darren said, jumping up from the chair. He began pacing around and rubbing his hands together. “I got you pregnant? What the fuck? I can’t even believe this shit! I’m gonna be a daddy. I knew this shit was fate; I knew it!” He started laughing and clapping his hands.
“Fate? What are you talking about?” Erica said.
“Fate, Erica!” Darren turned around to face her. “You and me! We are destined to be together, a family! This baby is our bond!”
“Wait a minute,” Erica said. “I never said anything about us getting together. I just said you’re going to be a father. That’s where it ends.” Darren’s eyes grew wide and Erica got nervous.
“What the fuck you mean, that’s where it ends? Ain’t a damn thing ending! You carrying my seed! As long as you got my baby, we always gon’ be connected!” Darren’s neck vein started to bulge out and he clenched his fists.
“Just because I have your child doesn’t mean we are meant to be,” Erica said.
“So what you saying? You wanna get rid of it?”
“That’s not at all what I’m saying; I don’t believe in abortions.”
“Then what you saying then?”
“I’m saying that we can co-parent with this child,” Erica said. “You and I can never be together. You have disrespected me one too many times. I had feelings for you at one point. There were times when I was tempted to call you but I could never forget how you hurt me: that Saturday when Jen came over for the meeting and how you had your way with me last weekend.”
“Stop talking like I fuckin’ raped you because I didn’t,” Darren said.
“Then what do you call it? I asked you to stop and you kept going,” Erica said. “What would you call it? No means no Darren…or did you seem to forget that?”
“I didn’t slap you around. I didn’t beat your ass. I raised your skirt up and you let me bend you over that sink,” Darren said. “So what, you wanna call the cops to keep me from being around my child?” Darren walked closer to Erica. At that point, he did want to beat her ass.
“I’m not trying to keep you from your child,” Erica told him. She stepped back a bit. “This is why I’m telling you about the baby. So that we can do this thing right...together.”
“How we gon’ do this together if we ain’t together?” Darren asked.
“We don’t have to be in a relationship to raise our child,” Erica said. Suddenly, it hit Darren. He knew what her plans were.
“Oh, I get it now,” Darren said. “So you want to keep Pretty Boy Cash around. That’s why you don’t want me back, right? Does he know about us? Does he know about my baby you’re carrying?”
“I have already told him,” Erica said. “And he’s okay with all of this.”
“What you mean, he’s okay with all of this? What you trying to say? He gon be around my child?”
“Will you stop staying my child like you made this baby by yourself?” Erica felt her voice rising but at this point she didn’t care. Darren was being selfish. “And yes, Cash will be around the baby. When I’m ready to begin a relationship, he will be the one that I choose. You could have been the one but you were impatient. You couldn’t have me when you wanted me and you messed things up.”
“Bitch, you got another got damn thing coming if you think that son-of-a-bitch is gonna be around my baby,” Darren said, moving closer to Erica.
“Did you just call me a bitch?” Erica yelled. “You are a fucking asshole, Darren Sharp. I wish to God you weren’t the father of my child. Then I wouldn’t have to ever lay eyes on you.” Erica began to walk toward the door. Darren reached out and spun her around.
“Yeah, I called you a bitch, because you are one,” Darren said. “You’re a stuck up, snooty, uppity, evil little whore. I can’t even believe you and Bianca are sisters. I’m gonna make your life a living hell. You will not bring that bastard around my child, do you understand me? I will fuck him up on sight if I ever hear about him being around my baby.”
“Get the hell out of my house Darren,” Erica yelled. “You have disrespected me for the last time. I really fucking hate you.” All at once, Darren slapped Erica across the face. Erica stumbled a little and fell against the wall. She put her hand up to her face in stunned silence.
“Did you just hit me?” Erica screamed. She flew into Darren in a rage. Her arms were flailing and her fists connected with different parts of Darren’s body. Darren tried warding off the blows with his arms. One of Erica’s fists connected with his eye and he grabbed her by the throat and pushed her against the wall.
“Don’t you ever in your fuckin’ life put your hands on me,” Darren growled angrily, standing nose to nose with Erica. He let go of her throat and stared at her with hatred. He can’t believe this was the same woman he had fallen for. He pictured himself choking her until she passed out, then he remembered the child, his child, growing inside her womb.
“And don’t you ever put your hands on me!” Erica screamed. She ran toward the dining room. Immediately Darren knew what she was about to do. No way was he going back to jail. He had to stop her from making the call. He raced behind her and before she could punch in 911, Darren snatched the phone out of her hand.
“You ain’t calling no cops on me.” Darren said angrily.
“Give me my phone Darren,” Erica said, reaching for Darren’s hand. Darren slapped her hand back.
“I ain’t giving you shit,” Darren said.
“I said, GIVE ME MY PHONE YOU BASTARD!” Erica screamed. She began grabbing for the phone and Darren kept walking backward, holding the phone over his head. With Erica being only 5’9” and Darren being 6’2”, there was no way that Erica could get her phone back. She did the only thing that she thought she could do to make him lose his train of thought: knee him in the groin. Erica came up with her knee toward Darren’s groin but she only grazed him. It was enough to make Darren wince in pain. He doubled over a little but he still kept the phone at arm’s length. That sudden move of Erica’s pissed him off. He reached with his right hand and shoved Erica toward the living room. There was a white rug on the floor near the dining room table and when Erica was pushed, she stumbled and her bare feet slid on the rug. She fell backward and the back of her head hit the corner of the table with a loud thud. She hit the floor and landed on her side. She didn’t move.
“Erica!” Darren called her name. She still didn’t move. “Erica! Get yo’ ass up!” Darren placed Erica’s phone in his pocket and walked over to her slowly. She lay very still on the floor. Her eyes didn’t flutter and she looked as if she wasn’t breathing.
“Erica…baby…get up,” Darren pleaded. He was afraid to touch her but he knew he had to. He reached out and touched her foot. No movement. He felt for a pulse in her wrist: nothing. It became crystal clear to him. Erica was dead…and so was their baby.