aftermath // n.h

// ii //

"Who’s cooking tonight?” Val asked as she watched her son dance along to the musical Hairspray.

Valerie's roommate, Olivia, sat on the couch beside her to watch the movie. “That would be your lovely roommate,”

“So... Not you,” Val pointed out.

“Nope, I ain’t that lovely!” They both laughed and Val shook their head.

Both roommates fell into a comfortable silence, enjoying the show Liam was putting on for them. Halfway into the movie Stella, their other roommate, finally showed arrived.

“Sorry I’m late! Work ran a little longer than I thought it would,” Ella explained herself as she set takeout food on the table.

“No worries, we were just starving here,” sarcasm dripped from Liv’s mouth.

Valerie laughed and smacked Liv’s arm. “It’s ok, Ella.”

Stella rolled her eyes at her friends as she laughed, “Gosh I’m so tired. Why did I ever think being an investigator was a great idea?”

“At least you work for a private company. Imagine working for the city,” Liv reminded her roommate of such horror.

“Ewww,” Val and Ella said simultaneously. They’d both graduated from college with degrees in law enforcement, while Olivia got an accounting degree.

“I bought Liam his favorite,” Stella said as she began laying out the food on the table.

“Hey handsome, Tia Ella got you mashed potatoes,” Liv said as she walked over to pick him up.

“I hope Churches chicken is ok for tonight?” Ella asked for reassurance.

“Stella, this is fine” Val reassured her. “I honestly haven’t had any in so long. Their spicy chicken is sooo good.”

“It most definitely is!” Liv rejoined them with Liam. She put him in his high chair and they were all finally ready for dinner.

“Since we’re on the subject of food. Olivia Guadalupe Vargas, tomorrow is your turn to cook or buy dinner!” Ella reminded her. Olivia pouted, accepting her fate. It’s not that she couldn’t cook, she just didn’t particularly enjoy it.

“Did we ever figure out who sent this fancy high chair?” Valerie pointed, completely shifting the conversation.

“Nope,” Liv and Ella popped the ‘p’.

“Maybe it know?” Stella suggested.

“Yeah I don’t think so,” Val looked down at her plate and began to play with her mashed potatoes. The thought of him stirred up a lot of unresolved issues.

“You never know, Valeria.” Olivia echoed her exact thoughts.

They weren’t wrong and Valerie knew it, but she hated thinking about it. Would things be different had Val told him she was pregnant? She certainly wouldn’t be feeling so guilty. Val knows what it’s to like to feel abandoned. Although Valerie’s step dad did an amazing job with her, sometimes she couldn’t help but wonder why she wasn’t worthy enough for her biological father to stick around and raise her.

“Look guys, he barely knew my name. Hell, he never got my full name.” Val waved them off, hoping they'd drop the idea.

“I somehow imagine him looking for ya after you left him in the morning with no warning whatsoever and when he finally did, he saw you have a child that strangely resembles him so he sent the high chair.” Liv fantasized a sweet story, majorly flawed but sweet.

“Yeah, what else do you have going on in that head of yours?” Stella teased her roommate.

“I believe there was a note but it somehow fell off and got lost in the trash!” Liv continued.

Ella and Valerie bursted out laughing, shaking their head at their friend. Olivia had a tough exterior, but deep down she was a hopeless romantic. They all were, no matter how many times they were let down.

“He’s gonna be here on Thursday. Maybe you should go talk to him?” Stella suggested.

Val rolled her eyes at her friend, “So he can think that I’m some random chick after his money? No thanks.”

“Don’t let those backstage passes go to waste! Plus, you don’t know that,” Liv frowned, “He seemed like a very nice guy.”

“He wasn’t so nice in bed,” Ella teased. “Do you not remember how she came home the next day? Hella bite marks! She was walking around like the day after our first training session back at school!”

“Or more like she got fucked through the ass,” Liv said unapologetically.

“I really was,” Valerie paused to think back to that day. Stella and Olivia laughed up a storm. They laughed even more when Liam decided to scream with excitement. He had a gift to be able to sense energy.

“Y’all are gonna ruin my poor baby,” Val scolded them playfiully.

“Just consider it,” Liv said seriously, “He deserves to know he has a son, Valeria. Even if he decides not to be in his life, at least you know you told him.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Valerie mumbled, looking at Liam knowing it was the right thing to do. He shouldn’t have to pay the price for his mother’s sins.

“Ok, that’s enough of that.” Ella ended that conversation, seeing the sadness in the mother’s eyes. “Let’s finish dinner and watch a movie after, yeah?”

Val and Liv nodded in agreement. The rest of dinner consisted of conversation about each other’s day at work. Olivia vented about her stressful coworker at the bank she worked at and Stella’s client of the day was a wife who suspected her husband was cheating. It wasn’t the type of investigating Stella’s company did.

After dinner the friends decided on a romantic comedy movie and laughed the night away with baby Liam by their side. It wasn't mommy and daddy with baby, like Valerie would have imagined it, but it was still family and she wasn't going to complain. The young mother can at best only hope for a future in co-parenting.

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