Peach - *Book Four*

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For a few days now, my hormones have been sending me on one emotional rollercoaster ride after the next. Well, for six days, to be exact. It was six days ago that I spent a pleasant evening at O’Reilly’s, listening to great music and talking to nice people.

Or rather, to one person. I still can’t believe how different Jack behaved, again. I start to wonder if he’s got a split personality or an evil twin.

Unfortunately, I developed this tiny but tenacious crush on him. On the nice, charming, sweet, and gorgeous Jack from Friday night that is, and for some reason, I can’t stop daydreaming about seeing him again. At least until I remember that I’m pregnant because that fact sure should be reason enough for Jack to lose all interest in me, the realization of which resulted in some kind of cry fest at least three times over the past week.

Stupid hormones. I should be thrilled I didn’t have a problem with morning sickness, but on top of the emotional chaos concerning Jack, I’m dealing with a lot of pent-up sexual frustration all of a sudden. So I’m not too happy most of the time, which my colleagues have already picked up on. I’m the bitchy one right now, and everyone gladly leaves me alone. Of course, none of them know the reason for my moodiness.

Fortunately, I’m almost done with today’s shift, because I can’t wait to get home where my couch awaits me, along with some Ben&Jerry’s. And the three of us are going to watch some mushy and sentimental movies. I’d rather deal with other people’s emotions than with my own.

But suddenly, I’m unfortunately only almost done because when I look at the guy that just came in, I get an uneasy feeling. It’s not necessarily because he looks homeless, but rather because I notice he’s sweating and his pupils are dilated even in the bright light in here. Damn, he’s high on something, and not weed, I would have smelled that. Something stronger. I look for Abby or anyone else, but they’re all busy.

So after getting some info on why he is here—which is hard to understand due to his slurred speech—I decide to lead him into an exam room; the one with just an examination table. No cabinets filled with meds or needles, or whatever he might be looking for. And then I’m going to call security.

“Just sit down. A doctor will be right with you,” I tell him, leave the room, and close the door.

After calling security and telling them there’s a guy here who’s probably looking for his next fix, I look for Dr. Harrison, the doctor in charge this afternoon. But when I walk past the exam room, I hear a loud thud as if something big fell on the floor, and against my better judgment, I walk back into the room to check on the guy. He is indeed lying flat on his face.

I rush to his side. “Sir, are you all right?” I help him get up, and he stares at me with wide eyes, and what I see in them makes me regret my decision instantly. With a force I never expected him to have, he lunges at me and presses me against the next wall.

“Where is all your stuff? I need painkillers. The strong ones.” His breath smells like cheap liquor and cigarettes.

I hardly dare to breathe. “Sir, there’s nothing here. Security will be here any minute, so you better let go of me.”

“No bitch! You’re gonna get me something. Now!” His ice-cold voice makes the blood freeze in my veins. My heart is thumping, and I feel like I’m suffocating.

Just a couple more minutes then help will be here. I tell myself that repeatedly while he stares at me.

He grabs my shoulders and bangs me against the wall again. “Did you hear me? I need something right now!”

“No, I can’t–” Before I can finish my sentence, I watch in horror as he lifts his fist and punches me in the face, hitting my cheek with a powerful force. I cry out in pain as his fist comes flying again, this time hitting my stomach.

My knees give in, and he lets go of me as I sink to the floor. I feel tears streaming down my face, and I want to sob, but it seems there’s no air left in my lungs. I curl into a ball, holding my stomach. And just as I expect him to hurt me further, I hear footsteps running towards us, and then some yelling and screaming.

It takes me a moment to realize there’s a soft touch to my shoulder, and someone says my name. “Emma! Emma, look at me, are you hurt?”

I open my eyes and look at Abby. I can’t talk. Damn, I can barely nod.

In my peripheral vision, I see how the two security guys overpower my aggressor, but then Abby has my attention again. “Come on, can you get up? Dr. Harrison is on his way!”

“No! Please, call Robert!”

"Uhm, okay.” She gives me a questioning look but calls him without further questions.

I don’t know how much time has passed, but at some point, Rob brought me to the maternity ward where we’re waiting for Susan now to come and examine me. They are still the only ones that know of my pregnancy. Rob keeps asking me questions that I’m not able to answer because I’m still in some kind of state of shock. I’m still trying to process what happened.

I lie on the exam table, rolled onto my side with my knees pulled up and my hands on my stomach. I’m not in much pain, except for my face that hurts like shit. But for some reason, I can only think of the baby. Without even realizing it I’ve gone from “I’m pregnant” to “I’m having a baby”. As if something clicked into place. There is this tiny human being growing inside of me, and I’m responsible for it, and my only concern right now is if it’s okay. I’ve never felt more worried in my entire life.

Susan arrives and does an ultrasound and a physical examination while Rob waits outside. I really can’t think straight. I keep my eyes closed the whole time, trying to breathe calmly and not freak out. And when Susan finally says that the baby is fine and that nothing seems off, I feel freed from that terrible worry. I breathe a sigh of relief and walk over to Rob who just re-entered the room. He wraps his arms around me, and I gratefully accept his hug. I cling to him, hold on tight, and finally let the tears fall.

Tears of relief.

Not many words are spoken. Rob helps me grab my things before he takes me to his place where he said I should stay the night. I agree without resistance because I don’t want to be alone. He orders Chinese take-out while I take a shower and slip into the clothes he laid out for me, comfortable sweats and a t-shirt. I eat a little even though I’m not hungry, and afterward, we sit down on his couch. He puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me into his side. I lean into him and sigh.

“You want to talk about it?” he finally asks the unspoken question that’s probably been on the tip of his tongue all night. His voice is soft and full of concern. “How are you feeling?”

I shrug. I’m not sure how I’m feeling. Confused would probably describe it best. “I’m okay, mostly.” I take a deep breath. “It’s tough to organize my thoughts right now. You know, I was so miserable when I found out I was pregnant.” I sit up and turn to face Rob. “It seemed like an unmanageable task. All I could think about was how I was never gonna cope. But then—when that guy hit me—I thought I lost the baby.”

I rub my forehead and sigh. With closed eyes I continue, “That was the first time I ever thought about it. About the baby. That there is this living creature now. That was the first time I wasn’t selfishly thinking about my problems and worries.” I open my eyes again and look at Rob who watches me silently. He takes my hand in his and smiles at me, willing me to go on.

“I didn’t care about what happened to me,” I say with another deep sigh. “I felt so devastated. The time I spent waiting for Susan, waiting for her to tell me everything was all right, those were the most horrible moments of my life.”

“You’re okay now,” Rob tells me reassuringly. A subtle smile plays on his lips, and he squeezes my hand. “Please don’t hate me for saying this,” he says, “but this is how a parent feels. You worry about your kid’s well-being more than about your own.”

I sigh. “I guess you were right. It did take me a little, but now I feel optimistic about this pregnancy for the first time.” I lean back and put my hand on my belly, and a weird new sensation rushes through me. Damn, I’m gonna have a baby. “So you think I’ll be a decent mom?” I look at Rob expectantly.

“I think you’ll be a great mom!” He gives me his widest smile, and I can’t help but feel much lighter and return his smile.

But then Rob asks, “When’s your next shift?“, and my smile falters immediately.

I grimace. “Tomorrow night.” I shudder. Right now I’m not sure I want to go back there.

“Why don’t you take a couple of days off? You should rest a little.”

“Hm, I don’t know,” I say with a frown.

“Come on, doctor’s orders. You’ll stay home over the weekend.”

I take a deep breath and nod. “I can’t skip Sunday night though. I promised Abby I’d take over her shift.”

Rob sighs. “Okay. But until then, you’re gonna rest, understood?” He gives me a stern look which makes me chuckle.

“Yes, sir!”

“Good. You want to watch a movie now?”

And that’s what we do. I try to take my mind off today’s events, but it’s hard. And halfway through the movie, Rob must have realized that I’m not paying any attention to the plot. He pauses the movie and turns to me. “Em, I was thinking... Why don’t you ask for a transfer?”

I look at him questioningly. “What?”

“Come work on the maternity ward. I know you are understaffed at the ER, but we are too, and after this incident, no one would blame you if you didn’t want to work there anymore. At least for a while.”

I sit up from my leaning position against his shoulder. “I don’t know–”

He holds up his hand to stop me from saying any more. “We could work on a regular working schedule,” he goes on, “so you don’t have to work twelve-hour-shifts anymore. It’ll get harder to work at the ER anyway the further the pregnancy progresses.”

I study him for a moment and let his words sink in. I take a deep breath when I say, “Okay. I’ll think about it.”

He grins at me. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” I tell him with a subtle smile. That’s why I love having him as a close friend—no, best friend. He always makes me feel better when I’m down.

Rob puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me back into his side before he turns the movie back on. I rest my head on his chest, and I enjoy his soothing warmth. But suddenly, a thought pops into my head. I wish there were someone else sitting next to me, pulling me into his side. And just like that, Jack is back on my mind.

I start to wonder again. I wish I knew what was going on with him because he clearly has some issues. I wish I knew how he feels about me because one day he’s being an ass and the next, he does this incredibly sensual thing. When he touched me to fix the stupid strap of my top, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t believe what his touch did to me. I still remember how my heart raced and how the butterflies in my stomach were going crazy, making me tingly all over, and now I wish for more of that. More of his fingers gently stroking my burning skin. But that’s something that’s probably never going to happen, so I should stop daydreaming about it.

All this thinking is making me incredibly tired. At some point, I can’t keep my eyes open anymore, and I fall asleep in my friend’s comforting presence.

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