Princess - *Book One*

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Twenty-Five

After a dreadful and more than exhausting weekend, I ignore Lauren’s efforts to persuade me to stay home and rest. I still feel horrible, but I have to get out of the house, and I have to see Ben. He has to tell me to my face what I still can’t accept.

But when I arrive at my desk, he’s not there. I sit down on my chair with a deep sigh and stare ahead of me, completely lost in thought. I flinch when Luke turns up next to me and clears his throat.

“Good morning, Amy,” he says with a frown. “Are you okay? You don’t look too good.”

I nod and wave him off. “Yes, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”

He narrows his eyes at me but doesn’t question me any further. “Okay. I have quite a bit of work for you today. Tell me if you don’t feel up to it.”

I give him a forced smile. “Yes. Thank you.”

“Of course,” he says with a slight smirk. “Without Ben around, it probably won’t be as much fun though, I assume.”

My eyes widen in shock. My heart is racing, and my breath hitches in my throat. “Without Ben?” I croak.

Luke raises one eyebrow. “Yes. He called in sick today, right?”

Relief washes through me. He hasn’t asked for a transfer yet; he only called in sick. But that also means I won’t be seeing him today.

I nod to Luke. “Oh, yes; of course.”

He still stares at me as if he were trying to read my reaction. “Is everything okay with you two?”

I try to swallow the big lump in my throat. Of course, Luke jumps to conclusions. “Everything is fine. If you would excuse me now–”

“Of course.” He gives me a quick nod and disappears into his office.

I prop up my elbows on my desk and bury my face in my hands. This can’t be happening. How am I supposed to concentrate on work today? Maybe I should have stayed at home after all. Okay, no, I’m not going to fall into a deep, emotional hole and hide in my bed.


At lunchtime, Lauren and I go to our preferred sandwich place. Even though I’m not hungry at all, I know I have to eat again at some point. But I just stare at my sandwich. “I can’t believe it,” I groan. “He called in sick, and I have to deal with it alone. I’m so mad and disappointed and sad.”
“I’m so sorry, Amy.” Lauren gives my hand a little squeeze. “I wish I could do something for you. Ben is such an idiot for breaking up with you because of this. You’re crazy about each other. How is that supposed to work?”

I sigh and continue to stare at my sandwich. I’ve eaten half of it, but I can’t eat anymore. I’m feeling sick again, and that abdominal pain is still bugging me as I’m still waiting for my period. The damn stress has messed everything up. I pack up the rest of my lunch. “Ugh, I can’t finish this. And the smell coming from the kitchen doesn’t make it any better. I wonder what they’re cooking today.” I rub my forehead and sigh.

When I lift my gaze at Lauren, she looks at me with narrow eyes. “You can smell what’s going on in the kitchen from all the way over there?”

I nod hesitantly. “Yes – you can’t?”

She shakes her head. Now I look at her with raised eyebrows. “What is it?”

“I don’t know, you tell me. You had to throw up for half the weekend, and now your sense of smell is like that of a bloodhound.”

Suddenly, I understand what she’s getting at. I gasp, put my hand on my stomach, and look down. No this can’t be! Okay, I am overdue and have abdominal pain – but – no, no way! “Lauren! I am not pregnant.”

She leans a little closer to me and stares at me intently. “Are you sure?”

“Yes!” I snort. “I’m on birth control.”

“That too is not 100% secure. Have you always taken it regularly?” she asks with a chuckle.

I roll my eyes. “Of course!” But suddenly a thought pops up in my head. “Fuck!”

Lauren looks at me piercingly. “Yes?”

I bury my face in my hands and shake my head. “When I think about it – when Ben had disappeared for a few days, I was a little out of it, so maybe I messed that up. And then with the time difference from the west coast – damn! I don’t believe it.”

The longer I think about it, the more sense it makes. I’ve felt like this before: Nauseous, that typical abdominal pain, the sharpened sense of smell, the emotions – that’s not just because of the situation with Ben. “What do I do now?” I whine.

Lauren gives me a reassuring smile. “First, you should take a test, and then go see your doctor.”

I grimace. “Will you help me? As long as I don’t know how things will work out with Ben, I can’t tell him.”

Lauren nods. “Come on. There’s a pharmacy around the corner; we’ll go and buy a pregnancy test.”


And that’s what we do. We extend our lunch break a little so that I can take the test. I’m in the bathroom stall, sitting on the toilet lid while Lauren waits outside. I hold the stick in my hands and wait for the result, and I don’t have to wait long. Pretty obvious. I sigh.

Lauren softly knocks on the door. “Amy, are you all right? What is it?”

I step out of the stall and show her the stick. She recognizes the result immediately and gives me a gentle smile. “Well – congratulations, honey.”

I sigh. “I don’t know yet if that’s so good.”

“Whatever happens next, you can count on me,” she says and wraps me up in a tight hug.

“Thank you, that means so much to me,” I say with another sigh.

“Okay, call your doctor and make an appointment to be sure – and now off to work.”

After I drag myself back to my desk, I look at this afternoon’s schedule. Luke has meetings for the rest of the day, and I need to write some important emails. How am I supposed to manage that?

Okay, first things first. I grab my phone and go to the break room. At least no one is here, so I can quickly call my gynecologist, and luckily, I can come by in the late afternoon.

When I turn around, I almost bump into someone. “Oh, excuse me–”

Crap!

“Ms. Franklin, don’t you have work to do?” Jenna looks at me as condescendingly as usual, but I don’t feel like discussing with her now.

“I’m on my way,” is all I tell her. I walk past her and ignore whatever she has to add to her lecture. She’ll probably pay me back later, but I can’t focus on that now because it already takes me all the strength I have to concentrate on my work.

Over and over again I think about how to tell Ben I’m pregnant. How will he react? Is he going to change his mind when he finds out? But I don’t want him to take back his words only because he’ll be a dad. Ugh, what a fucking mess.


Surprisingly, I manage to finish my work for the day on time so that I can go to my doctor’s appointment. She asks me a few questions and takes some notes. When I tell her about my first pregnancy, she gives me a sympathetic smile. She puts her hand on mine, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry; if you’re pregnant, we’ll take good care of you.” She smiles again and points to the exam table. “I’ll do an ultrasound now so we know for sure.”

I take a deep breath to calm down my nerves. I feel tense and uneasy because being pregnant again is a scary thought; I couldn’t take losing another baby. And it sucks that Ben isn’t here with me. I stare at the screen, and when I recognize it, tears well up in my eyes. There it is: a tiny baby with a beating heart.

The doctor smiles at me. “Congratulations, here’s your baby.”

I have to take a deep breath. “How far along am I?”

“With the info, you’ve given me, and the measurements, you’re about eight weeks pregnant. Which means the baby will probably be born mid-July.”

I close my eyes and sob. “Sorry. The stupid hormones.”

She shakes her head. “No need to apologize. Over the next few months, I’ll see you for regular check-ups. And if only the tiniest thing feels off, don’t hesitate to give me a call or go to a hospital. Nobody will judge you, especially after what you’ve been through.”

I nod and give her a grateful smile. Before I go, she hands me a picture from the ultrasound scan. With tears still in my eyes, I tenderly stroke over it with my thumb and put it in my purse.

After I get home, I call Lauren, and we talk long into the night. I really wouldn’t know what I’d do without her.


The next morning, I look even worse than the day before. As expected, thoughts of Ben and the baby kept me awake most of the night. Ben hasn’t tried to call me again, and I don’t even know if he’s coming to work today or when I’ll see him again. Or how on earth I can tell him about my pregnancy.

And as feared, when I get to my desk, he’s not there. But while I’m waiting for my computer to boot, my phone vibrates. A message from Lauren. “Sweetie, I wanted to warn you, he just came in ... and he doesn’t look much better than you!”

Shit. My heart is racing. I’ll probably faint when I see him. Even after all the possible scenarios that I played through in my head last night, I have no idea how to act around him.

Suddenly, a wave of nausea comes over me. I jump up, and as I rush to the restrooms, Ben walks straight out of the elevator. Our eyes meet, and my heart breaks again right there. But there’s no time for that now. I hurry past him and fortunately make it to the restrooms in time before I have to throw up. Wonderful. What a great way to start the day.

On the way back to my desk, I take a deep breath and try to calm myself down and not cry. Get a grip, Amy!

And then I am face to face with him. So many feelings wash over me.

Relief that he is fine.

Disappointment that he didn’t call.

Pain because of his words.

Grief that I can’t tell him about my pregnancy, at least not yet.

Ben is the first to speak. “Amy – hey – are you all right?”

I look at him but can’t hold his gaze. “Not really. And you?”

I hear him sigh heavily. “I would have called – I wanted to talk to you, but Lauren–”

I raise my hand to stop him. “It’s okay. Everything has been said. Obviously, there’s nothing we have to discuss.” When I look at him again, it takes me all I have not to start crying.

“Amy, I’m so sorry.” A deep frown forms on his forehead. “But it’s better this way – eventually, you’ll understand.”

I shake my head and glare at him. “No, I won’t. How can you just throw away what we had?”

Ben sighs. “We shouldn’t talk about it here.”

“Okay, after work then. Because as I see it, the last word hasn’t been spoken yet.” I sit down at my desk and take a file from the to-do stack.

“Amy–”

I hold up my hand again. “Shh, work now. I’d like to get out of here early today.”

“Yeah – about just now–” He clears his throat and points toward the elevator where I rushed past him earlier. “What was that?” He gives me a worried look.

I sigh. Those are the pregnancy hormones, you stupid idiot! The same ones that make me want to strangle you because it seems so easy for you to switch off your feelings.

“That was – nothing,” I lie. “This all just upset my stomach. Now shut up and work.”

Luckily, he doesn’t push me and starts with his work.

But after a few minutes of leading another heated discussion with him in my head, I give in. “Oh damn, I can’t do this.” I close the file with a thud.

Ben looks at me questioningly.

I narrow my eyes at him. “Where were you yesterday?”

Ben takes a deep breath. “At Aaron’s–”

“And?” I motion him to go on.

Ben shakes his head. “Not here, not now.”

“But you stick to your decision that you don’t want to be with me anymore?”

Ben grimaces. “Please, Amy, let’s talk about it later.”

“Fine,” I sigh and pretend to concentrate on my work. No, I don’t believe he still wants that. And I’m ready to fight for him – for us.

I’m not done with you yet, Ben Taylor.

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