CH. 49: RACHEL
The fussy baby in her arms squirms as Andrew appears in the terminal exit. “There’s daddy,” she whispers giddily. She rushes to him, unable to contain her smile.
He looks around. “Are you here alone?”
“No,” she says. “My parents are somewhere around here.”
He takes her into his arms, hugging her tightly. He kisses her on her forehead, and then takes the baby into his arms. “How’s my girl?” he asks.
“So wonderful to see you again,” Rachel’s mother says, approaching with her husband.
“Yes, Susanne, you as well.” He leans in for a quick hug. “Bill,” he says, extending a hand.
Rachel reaches for the baby, sure he must be tired from the trip.
“I’ve got it, honey,” he says sweetly. “I want to spend some time with her, it’s been too long.”
“You’ve got that right,” Susanne jabs.
Rachel observes a flash of annoyance in her husband’s eyes. A slight crease forms between her eyebrows.
He quickly smiles and hands the baby off to her and retrieves his suitcase from the belt. “Glad I didn’t have to wait all day for the thing,” he says, jokingly.
“Good thing.” Bill agrees. “I’m starving.”
“My parents want to bring us out to eat, if that’s okay with you,” Rachel says, trying to sound upbeat.
Andrew smiles thinly. “Not a problem at all.”
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“So, what took you so damn long?” Bill asks, taking a sip of his Pepsi.
“Dad…” Rachel drones, clasping Andrew’s hand.
“You could have married her before you knocked her up,” he points out. “Or while she was pregnant… or even right after.”
Rachel looks to her mother for some help, but she’s looking at Andrew with the same curious, hard eyes.
“A career is very important,” Andrew answers slowly.
Rachel observes his jaw clench and unclench.
“Rachel wanted a real wedding and a house. I wouldn’t have been able to give her those things if I’d simply given up my education.”
“Money isn’t everything,” Susanne quips, raising her eyebrows.
“It certainly isn’t, but it sure makes life easier, don’t you think?”
“Sure,” says Bill, eyeing him. “It’s just, Rachel here was under our roof for almost two years. She went to school and got her bachelor’s all while caring for your baby.”
Andrew smiles. He reaches for his sprite and takes a long sip.
“I guess what Bill here is trying to say is we don’t fully understand why you wouldn’t just have her move in with you. Why you left her here in Idaho for so long.”
“Family is very important,” Andrew reasons. “I wouldn’t have felt right taking her away from that.”
“She wanted to go,” Susanne says.
“Mom…” Rachel interjects.
Her mother looks at her, and then glares at Andrew again. “I suppose all that matters is that you’re doing the right thing now.”
“But we don’t understand why you sent her back to us after you legally married her in Washington. Why not just come back together for the wedding, or have it there in the first place.”
“Dad, please. I made it clear to Andy that I wanted it in Idaho so that Nana and Poppy could attend.”
“Forgive me Andrew,” he says. “I’m just looking out for my little girl. She’s an only child, and I’ve always been very protective of her.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Bill.” He smiles brightly. “I fully understand. I’m a father now, too. I would have the same concerns if she—heaven forbid—found herself in a similar situation. But let me make this clear for the both of you: I love Rachel with all my heart. It’s difficult to really explain my line of reasoning as it all played out. I guess my instincts as an alpha male took over, and all I could think to do was find a means to support my new family. It wasn’t ideal, I know that, but it all panned out. I’ll be able to give Rachel the wedding and house of her dreams. Hell, she doesn’t even have to work if she doesn’t want to.”
“I’ve always said it myself, a woman does not belong in the workplace,” Bill says, nodding.
“Oh, you know Rachel worked hard to get to where she is now. Don’t take that away from her,” Susanne objects.
“Oh, nonsense,” Bill says. “You think you and I would still be married if I’d let you continue that.. that..” He snaps his fingers. “That receptionist job you had. All those men leering at you, talking dirty to you.”
“I don’t want my daughter to have to lift a finger. No real man would. A woman’s place is in the kitchen!”
Rachel stares at her cranberry juice, not speaking.
“Well, I’m inclined to agree, Bill, but it is Rachel’s decision in the end.” Andrew smiles.
She looks at Andrew, appreciative and skeptical all at once. Does he really mean that?
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“Dinner with your parents was hell,” he says, sitting on her bed.
She sets the baby into the crib and turns to face him. “I’m sorry about my dad,” she says.
“He’s got a lot of nerve coming at me like that. What have you told him?”
“Nothing!” she asserts.
“Well, I’d really hope not,” he mutters, staring hard at her.
“I haven’t told them anything,” she reiterates, holding his stare.
He looks away. “There’s something I have to tell you.” He shifts.
“What?” she asks, hesitantly. “What now?”
“What now?” he repeats, furrowing his brows and sticking his lips out. “Listen to you.”
She sits next to him on the bed and braces herself, sure he’s going to tell her another wild story about Heather. A new stick in the spokes to send her flying off the bicycle of life again. She rubs her palms over her thighs. “Okay, I’m ready,” she says, her eyes closed.
“Tammy is trying to pin a pregnancy on me.”
“What!” she yells.
“Shh! The baby.” He holds his finger in front of his lips.
Rachel grabs her hair at the scalp. “Why the fuck is this happening!” She quickly covers her mouth. “Shit, I’m not supposed to curse.”
They go quiet for a moment, listening to see if her parents heard her.
“Why are these women so obsessed with you?” she asks in a loud whisper.
“I’m successful and I come from money. They’re gold diggers. It has nothing to do with me.”
“This is so messed up,” she murmurs.
He rubs her shoulders. “What’s important is we stick together through this. It will all blow over in time.”
“And what do you plan to do about her?”
“I intend to take a paternity test to prove the truth. She won’t get a dime out of me.”
Rachel shakes her head. “I thought you said it was just a blowjob.” She stares up at him, squinting.
“No I didn’t,” he says, furrowing his brows.
“Yeah,” she says with confidence. “You did. That’s what you told me.”
“I think you’re tired. Why don’t you lay down.”
She closes her eyes and tries to stop her chin from quivering. He’s lying, and she knows it.