Chapter 26 ~ Surprise
We sat around the oval dining table in Axel’s lavish apartment, Marshall and Regan on my left, Dad on my right, and next to him sat Rachael and Carl with Axel directly opposite me. Everyone spoke candidly between one another, there was peace in our little world for once, and the happiness beamed across the faces of our friends – our makeshift family.
“Why are you not drinking, Stella? You love cocktails.” Rachael asked.
My eyes widened as I stuffed my mouth with a piece of freshly cut steak. “Diet,” I mumbled through chews.
“That’s ridiculous ballerina if anything you’re too thin,” Marshall chimed in.
My gaze flew to Axel for help. “Butterfly’s started dancing again,” Axel cut in, rescuing me from the onslaught of questioning glares.
“You have?” Rachael squealed. “That’s amazing; I’m so proud of you.”
“Yeah,” I played down her compliment with a red hue tinting my cheeks.
“You were born to dance.”
“It’s only training Rach, don’t get too excited. It’s to remain in shape.”
“Fuck it,” was hurled across the table.
“Axel don’t,” I warned.
“I know, Dani, but shit, they are our family.”
“Please?” It had only been four weeks since we had found out and the doctor had warned us against revealing anything until the second trimester.
“No Dan, they need to know.”
“Know what?” Dad intercepted with a very stern look.
I dropped my knife and fork, slumping back in my chair. Axel and I stared at each other in utter silence, both of us refusing to back down on our opposing stance upon our little revelation.
“Oh, for Christ sake. What the bloody hell is going on?” Regan snapped.
“It’s the right thing to do, butterfly.” Axel gently assured.
Axel rose slowly from his seat, the legs scraping against the tiles, the sound reverberated against the glass as my heartbeat quickened. My eyes locked on his.
“Know what, you two?” My dad requested it again.
“Dad…” Axel began as he rounded the table, thrusting his hands into his trousers as he stepped. “Daniella and I have been lying to you, to you all.”
“What’s going on, Axe?” Carl probed.
Axel reached my chair, placing both hands on the back of it and slowly turned it to the left to face him. “It’s going to be okay,” Axel voiced with certainty. He knew my hesitation was more to do with the fact that I’d lost our first child and less to do with notifying our loved ones.
I nodded slowly as he lowered, kneeling in front of me. I cupped my handsome man’s face, stroking it lovingly with my thumb.
“From the looks of this, I think Stella is dying,” Rachael spat absentmindedly.
“What? You’re dying?” Marshall launched.
“NO!” Both Axel and I screeched at the same time.
“Holy fuck, don’t do that Rach,” Marshall scowled. “We just got her back for fuck’s sake.”
“Butterfly?” Axel spoke, gaining my attention.
“Oh my god,” Rachael gasped.
As I turned back, there, on his knee in front of me, Axel held out a tiny square box. The lid was flipped open and inside sat the biggest princess cut diamond platinum ring I had ever seen in my life.
“Now, I know you already asked me, and I know I already said yes, but as I stated, you stole my limelight.”
“But we’re already engaged.”
“No you’re fucking not…” Marshall squealed with excitement.
“Yes, mate, we are.”
“When? No one told us.”
“Shut up, Marshall,” everyone cried.
“Jesus, sorry. Continue.”
Axel cleared his throat while sneaking annoyed glances in Marshall’s direction. I chuckled.
“Like I said, you stole my limelight. Butterfly, you’re the only one for me. You captured my heart the very first day I met you, but when you left, you took it with you. I’ve spent countless hours searching for it, attempting to piece together the shards but it never worked. When you came home, it was if I had been somehow magically righted, that in some way you returned and fixed every bit of me that was broken… despite my refusal to acknowledge it at first. You complete every inch of me in the most indescribable of ways, and I will never let you go again. Ever. Fuck the past, this, us, our family, we are all that we need in this life. Be my wife forever, love all of those dark parts of my soul and turn them to light. Chase away the demons that lurk within me and fight alongside me as my hero, my partner, my best friend, and my wife – forever butterfly. Will you officially marry me?”
Tears bled from my eyes as I slowly nodded my yes before gently caressing Axel’s lips with my own.
“Well that’s not fucking right, I thought I was your best friend?” Carl chuckled.
Axel ignored him and continued with placing the mega bling ring upon my finger.
“You can be my best friend, baby.” Marshall comforted.
I gushed lovingly at my man. I had thought he was going to reveal the pregnancy, but instead, he had just wanted to make our engagement official.
“Oh,” Axel snorted, “by the way… Daniella and I are having a baby.”
The room erupted in a fit of screeching and howling, our friends piling on top of us in excitement.
The volume was almost deafening as the congratulations were dished out in droves.
“Why are you happy about that and not about us getting engaged?” Axel hurled.
“Fuck off dick; we always knew you and ballerina would end up together. The baby thing is new. You lying twat, diet my ass.” Regan scorned.
The huddle cleared as our friends disbanded. Rachael and Carl headed into the kitchen for champagne, Marshall and Regan insisted this was the perfect time for cheesecake; however, through all the chaos, dad had remained firmly in his seat.
Axel and I furrowed our bows in worry before turning to face him. Axel rounding his chair and shuffled into the vacated seat beside him.
“Dad, are you okay? You haven’t said anything.”
“I can’t believe it…” dad whispered.
“Are you happy?” I questioned.
“Happy?” Teardrops began to fall from my father’s eyes. “Pumpkin, I’m so overcome with happiness it’s unbelievable. This is the best news I’ve received in forever.”
“Then why do you look so sad?” Axel pushed.
“Sad? Forgive me, both of you. This was the one thing Filly prayed for, and finally, you two have amended your relationship – progressed it further and now, we are having a baby, and she isn’t here.” Dad stood, wrapping his arms around both of us in a big bear hug. “You kids are going to have an exquisite life together, your mother will make sure of that, and I have no doubt at all, that Filly had a hand in this from heaven. I love you both. We… we love you both.”
“Preggers… who would have guessed that Axel had the balls for that?” Marshall teased, placing the flutes upon the table.
“Never saw that one coming, that’s for sure.” Carl snickered.
“Your faith in me is heart-warming. Why are we friends again?” Axel threw back, rolling his eyes.
“We’re only teasing Axe,” Marshall winked.
“Yeah, you’re going to be a great father,” Carl affirmed.
“You sure are, son,” dad praised, “because I raised you.”
Axel blushed ferociously as I smiled away at them all.
“Oh my god, Stella. Do you know what this means?” Rach squealed.
“Mum, dad and baby matching outfits.”
“Oh lord, Rachael. What the heck?”
“It’s going to be so cute.”
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s not.”
“Just picture it, everyone in matching Adidas sneakers, colour coordinated, walking to the zoo; holding hands and skipping along.”
“Carl, you better watch out now, you two will end up like that.”
Carl chuckled. “I wouldn’t mind at all, ballerina.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t. You’ve been a lovesick puppy from the moment you spotted Rachael.” Marshall reminded him.
“And aren’t I lucky.” Rach leaned over, brushing a tender kiss against Carl’s cheeks.
“Well, has everyone got a glass?” I collected my flute of water as we stood in a huddle. “Congratulations to my wonderful children,” Dad gushed, “you two will be fantastic parents.”
“Congratulations,” the guys lifted their glasses before downing a gulp.
“Yeah, and if you fuck this one up, you can try again with a second kid.”
“Marshall.” Everyone scorned disapprovingly.
Axel leaned in to whisper in my ear. “Don’t listen to him, butterfly. We can do this.”
“Oh, I know we can,” I smiled.
“All we have to do now is come up with a name.”
“There are literally a million other things to do before that point.”
Axel burst into laughter.
It was one of those monumental moments we would remember forever. As our makeshift family continued their happiness, conversing with one another about how best to raise our child, I was thankful that I had been gifted with their friendship. True friendship. The kind of everlasting friendship that is rare in life.
“We’re going to have to find the perfect dress now for the annual Beneficiary’s Ball, butterfly. Shit, something that will hide the expanding bump.” Marshall’s comment broke my reverie.
“Beneficiary’s Ball, Axel’s hosting this year. Can you imagine the wagging tongues? Pregnant and Axel’s fiancé?”
Axel’s eyes widened. “Uh… yeah, I kinda forgot about that.”
“Axel!?!” I panicked.
“It will be fine, you’ll be the belle of the ball.”
“Yeah, and the moment you arrive, everyone will see your ring and the paparazzi will be flashing the happy news all over the gossip columns. We can definitely hide the bump – celebs do it all the time.” Carl smacked his fiancé across the arm. “Oww, what did you do that for?”
I had zoned out; the nattering had fallen from my ears as my sight blurred. Photographers, journalist's and public observation, scrutiny and judgement. If a small town couldn’t handle and accept mine and Axel’s relationship, how the bloody hell was a shit load of opinionated trollers going too? I couldn’t be the focus of another witch hunt – not again.
Beneficiary’s Ball is one very, very, very, bad idea.
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