Chapter 22: Making Space
“I can’t believe you’re tossing me aside like this.” Mark had tears in his eyes as we sat in the back booth at Mel’s Diner. Telling him had been as heart-wrenching as I had thought, maybe more.
“I’m just so conflicted right now, Mark. I can’t move forward until I figure some things out.”
“What is there to figure out? I love you, you love me, we’re all one big fa-mi-ly…” He finished it in a Barney voice, causing me to crack up. “We have a good thing going, Ella. You’re going to have my baby, we have our lives ahead of us together. Why throw that all away on a guy you don’t even know?” He reached across the table and held my hand in his. “I’m offering you everything you need.”
I leaned back, the tears were starting now for me too. “I’m not throwing it away, Mark. I’m just putting it on the shelf for a while.” I took a drink of my coffee, even though it was only five in the afternoon, I was ready for bed after the disaster last night. “I feel like I’m in the middle of a tornado. Everything in my life is flying apart, and there’s nothing I can do. My parents, my pack, my school, my baby, my revenge, my love life? It’s all too much.”
He stroked his thumb over the top of my good hand. “I can help you with this, ground you in something.”
“You’re part of what I have to figure out, Mark. I mean, you are a great guy, I’ve always liked you. When you showed up in the hospital, I knew I could trust you to help me.” I turned my hand over and grasped his fingers. “Then that night in the hotel. Looking back, I shouldn’t have.”
“Why? That was the best night of my life!”
“Well, first because I probably got pregnant since we didn’t use protection, but more because I made love to you for the wrong reason. I wanted to forget the rape, and I used you for that. I moved our relationship forward so fast I don’t know how to catch my breath now without stopping it.” More coffee. “I’ve told you before, my whole life I’ve believed there was a mate out there for me, someone made just for my, my perfect other half. I didn’t do anything with you because I was waiting for him to show up. Last night he did.”
“I thought you said you couldn’t find your mate now?”
“Apparently, he still could. It was him, he came to me in wolf form right after you drove away.”
“Well, did you accept him? Are you leaving me for him?” He let my hand go, his anger evident as he sat back.
“I don’t know. He smelled me, he could smell US, I’m sure he knows I’m pregnant, too. He didn’t shift, he just ran off. I could feel his pain to my bones, Mark. I hurt him so bad, and I don’t even know who he is.” The faucets were full open now, I had to switch from tissues to napkins to keep up. “I have to know, Mark. It’s not just me, I owe it to him to either be his mate or reject him, and I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do. I need time to figure it all out.”
His shoulders slumped. “I’ll give you time, Ella, but I’m not going to watch you with another man. I can’t do that.” He reached into his wallet and tossed a few bills on the table. “Don’t ever doubt that I love you and I want you, Ella. Figure out what you want, because you shouldn’t look back on our time and wonder if you did the right thing.” He got up as I dropped my head to my arms on the table.
“Mark?” I turned my head to see him. “My first prenatal appointment. Do you want to come?”
“Of course, I’ll always be there for our baby. I’ll pick you up at eight.” He turned his back on me and walked out.
I poked at my food for a while longer before I gave up and drove home. I stopped at the grocery store for my go-to food when I’m feeling down, Kemps Cow Tracks ice cream. Don’t judge me, I love the mint and the chocolate chunks. I grabbed a spoon and headed for my bedroom with the quart.
I was only a few bites in when Marge knocked on my door and came in. Seeing me in sweats on the bed with a big tub of ice cream pretty much tipped her off as to my mood. “Ella, do you want to talk?”
“Bring your own spoon,” I said. She pulled her hand out from behind her back, the spoon in place. “I smelled it after you came through the kitchen.” She sat next to me and dug out a chunk. “How did Mark take it?”
“He’s not happy, but he’s giving me my space.” I dug out a big spoonful and stuffed it into my mouth, I was rapidly approaching brain freeze territory. “He doesn’t want me to regret choosing him, but he’s mad I’m pushing him aside for a guy who I don’t even know the name of.”
“Well, at least he knows about mates. I’m hoping he contacts you, but what if he doesn’t? Are you going to try and find him?”
I nodded while swallowing more. Brain freeze. I panted through my mouth for a few breaths to try and thaw out. “I have to, if nothing else I need to reject him so he can move on. I just never thought, you know, as a human, that he would affect me as much as he did.” I smiled as I thought back to the tingles in my arm as I touched his fur.
“Luna designed it that way, you’re not meant to be apart from your mate. What are you going to do?”
I took another bite, slower this time. “I’m going to track him down while I research the three remaining Packs. Meanwhile, I’ll talk to Carol. If it is someone from her Pack, she can find out for me. It would have been one of the people sent to attack me when I left the Johnson Pack lands, and it would be a strong male around my age. There can’t be that many left, especially since I met almost all the unmated Alpha children and none of them were it.” I gestured towards the office down the hall. “I’m going to turn the office into the operations center for my revenge. I’m going to hire some humans to look at the business side, and some werewolves for the Pack side.”
She looked at me, her spoon hanging out of her mouth as she thought. “OK, then the first two people on the job and Mabel and I.”
I laughed. “You already have stuff to do!”
“Please. We’re used to taking care of a full family and Pack functions, and all we have is you now. We will only be able to clean the guest bathroom so often, you know. Besides, we’re your Pack, we are here to support you. Remember that those bastards took us hostage, threatened our lives, killed our Beta. We want revenge just as much as you do.” I hadn’t thought about it that way, but they were right. “What can we do?”
I thought about it for a while. “I’m going to order a bunch of supplies- cork boards, white boards, and a photo printer. The first thing I need to do is start putting together a roster of all three Packs with all the information we can obtain. We can use one wall of the office for each. I want to know as much as we can- names, families, jobs, ranks, friends. I also want to tie in any relatives or close friends outside their Packs; we might be able to use those to get more information, even as leverage. We’ve got a lot of work to do just to figure out how best to bring the Packs down.”
“Come on.” I brought the ice cream with me as we walked to the office. It was about half emptied, the bookshelves still in place. “So you will want the bookshelves down, and all the other stuff moved. You want to get down to bare walls?”
“Yep, leave the big desk but add a table we can spread stuff out on, something a few more people can work from.”
Mabel came in and we filled her in, and she had ideas too. “You know, they make these cork tiles that glue over the walls. If we got a couple white boards to go either side of the window, we could cover the rest of the walls with it. That way you could work floor to ceiling, move things around, whatever you need.”
“Good idea, can you take care of ordering it?”
“Sure, I’ll put a dent in your credit card for you.” We both smirked at that, she knew what my financial situation was. “Now, I want you to let us take care of a few things while you get some sleep, young lady.”
I tried to object, but she took my ice cream away and gave me that Mom look, you know, the one that says the discussion is over. “You are pregnant, you had a tough day and you got almost no sleep last night. You take a shower and get to bed, I don’t want to see you until breakfast.” She was right, I was dead on my feet and the rest could wait.
The next morning I felt much better. I spent most of the day ordering supplies off Amazon; by the time I was done, I thought UPS was going to send me a dedicated truck. By lunchtime, Marge and Mabel had the office cleared out, and had brought in a large table to put in the middle of the room. I did make a phone call to Carol at the North Shore pack. She was happy to hear from me, and they were settling in to the Alpha roles quickly. She did say that their Pack had lost all three wolves they had sent on the attack, and gave me their names. When I told her I was gathering information on the other three Packs, she agreed to send me their current Pack roster plus the list of transfers in and out over the last twenty years. That would help kick start my list.
The other thing she did surprised me, but I could see the wisdom. She had asked her Pack members to talk to their relatives in other Packs about what had happened, including sending them a copy of the video from the trial. It let everyone know that the sins of the previous Alpha had been dealt with, and new leaders wouldn’t let it happen again.
Wednesday a bunch of orders started to arrive, so much of our day was spent setting things up in the office. I had set up a home office network, with a big desktop for me and some powerful laptops to go with it. Marge got all the cork board up, and using the big printer/copier she was already putting Pack members up on sheets of paper with their photos and ranks. We could use string to show relations as we went.
Finally, Thursday came and Mark picked me up on time to go to our appointment. There weren’t a ton of doctors around, and the nearest clinic was about a half hour drive in Tioga. The drive was quiet, I could tell Mark was still mad at me and didn’t know how to behave around me anymore. He didn’t try to hold my hand or touch me, and I missed that.
Dr. Felder was an older OB/GYN, and seemed nice. He told me he had actually delivered me; as a small Pack we didn’t have a doctor, and used human health care for most things. Before I knew it, I was knees up in the stirrups and he was poking around down there. “Your blood test showed an elevated level of HCG, that’s the hormone that pregnancy tests detect. There are a number of potential causes, and just to make sure everything is all right I’ll be doing a fetal ultrasound.” His assistant wheeled the machine over and I watched as he lubed up the wand.
He didn’t say anything as he moved it inside of me; I watched the screen but couldn’t really tell what was going on. Finally, he clicked on the machine and the picture froze, a printer then pushed out a hard copy. Mark’s jaw fell, he was the first to realize it, then I did too.
Two. Two tiny babies in their little black amniotic sacs.
I was having freaking TWINS.
I silently badmouthed Luna for once again giving me more than I was ready for.
The doctor confirmed that I was having twins. I told him I’d had an ultrasound a few weeks earlier and there had only been ONE! He laughed. “Unless you are lucky or looking for it, it is very common to miss additional fetuses early on in the pregnancy. I just took a little more time because I suspected multiples.” I made a note to tell Remi her Pack doctor missed it. Multiple births are more common among werewolves, he should have been looking. If I had known then, I could have been totally freaked out for a few MORE weeks.
Taking some measurements and knowing my conception date, he verified that they were progressing normally. It was still way too early to determine gender, or whether they were identical or fraternal twins. After a discussion on prenatal care, and direction to buy and take prenatal vitamins, I was ushered out of the office.
Mark held my hand as we walked back to his car, I think both of us were too shocked to say anything. It wasn’t until we were heading home that he broke the silence.
“TWO! Two babes in one!” I sprayed spit on the passenger side window as I started to laugh with him.
“Oh God, I’m going to be so huge. I’m going to look like one of those snakes that swallows the mouse.” I looked down at my still-flat belly. “Sorry, tummy, I’ll take a picture tonight because you’ll never be the same.”
“You’re going to be a great Mom, Ella. You can do this, I know you can.” He reached over and placed his hand over my tummy. “I still can’t believe I’m going to be a father.”
I put my hand over his. “Stop at your house, let’s tell your parents.”
He grinned. “Mom’s going to shit a brick when she hears this. She’ll have to go back and buy another of everything she’s bought already.”
My eyes went wide. “I’m not even eight weeks along and she’s already buying me baby stuff?”
He nodded. “Yep. She’s so happy to become a Grandma.” His look turned devious. “How should we break the news?” I smiled at him and we began plotting.
We stopped at the store and picked up our supplies. Meanwhile, Mark called his Mom to see if they would have time to meet us both; Shelly insisted we come over for lunch, and said she would “make sure” that Tom was there too.
She had made lasagna and garlic bread, and it was fantastic. We deflected questions about the doctor visit, just saying it “went well and everything looked normal” before changing the subject. Shelley was more than happy to discuss colors, names and to tell stories about her own pregnancy. I was happy that I had her to lean on with my own mother gone.
Finally, as we ate cake, Tom had enough. “I know you two didn’t call me home for lunch just to talk about color schemes for the nursery. Now, out with it. What’s going on?”
I smiled, and out of my pocket I pulled a pair of knit white booties and set them on the table between us. Shelley was about to say something when Mark pulled another pair out of his pocket and set them next to mine.
Tom’s jaw dropped. “Does this…”
“We’re having twins.” I pushed the ultrasound photo across the table to them as Shelley screamed.