Nate’s voice sounded a bit choked, but he withdrew his hands immediately and stepped away from Leila.
“No problem and... thanks,” she said to him, grateful for the help in not faceplanting onto the hardwood floor of the second bedroom.
After an awkward moment filled with some feet shuffling and throats clearing, Leila got her cellphone out and used the flashlight function on it so Nate could see the room. Sort of. The flashlight function wasn’t all that great, but it served her well enough to know that she needed to do a serious overhaul of the room- and not just because of the electricity. It looked like the previous tenants had used the room for storage and there were cobwebs in the corners and some forgotten items that were left about the room.
“Uhm, I’ll have a cleaning service come in to get rid of the... stuff in the corners,” Leila said, her mouth twitching. No way in hell was she getting cobwebs all over her. Cobwebs meant spiders. Spiders were part of nature. And nature... was not a friend to Leila.
“No sweat if you don’t,” Nate told her lightly. “I’m not afraid of a few cobwebs and dust. It reminds me of the summer I spent with Grandmere and Grandpere in Arbois.”
“That was... when was that?” Leila asked, only vaguely remembering the year Violet and Nate spent the summer in France.
“I was 16- no 17 I think,” Nate told her, finally heading out of the room into the more lit quarters of the living room. “The cellars they aged the wine in were full of spiders and other creepy crawlies. Violet hated it. I remember hiding from her in the cellars. On purpose, of course. When Grandmere told her to come find me, I thought she was going to piss herself, she was so scared to come in. Threw a few stray corks in her direction. I think she jumped a mile.”
Leila cracked up and looked at Nate.
“I think the only thing that aged that summer better than the wine was my little sister,” Nate said with a wry smirk. He looked like he too was trying hard not to laugh hysterically, and he pulled out the wallet from his back pocket.
“I think you need a copy of my social security number and my driver’s license in order to do the background check,” Nate told her, trying to wriggle the two documents from the stuffed bi-fold leather wallet he had in his hands.
“Ya know what? I think I can trust you,” Leila told her, surprising herself. “After all, I’ll know where you live.”
Nate laughed that time and responded.
“I have a check with me, ready to be made out to you, if you like,” Nate said, unfolding it from his billfold.
“Musical instruments?” Leila looked at the pattern on the check and watched Nate’s cheeks stain a rosy pink.
“Uh, yeah. I learned how to play the guitar when I moved to London,” he told her, surprising her. “An... ex-girlfriend of mine dug musicians, so I took some classes. Ended up liking it.” He seemed amused at himself at that turn of events.
“What happened to the girlfiend? Did you waste all that money on lessons for nothing?
“We... it didn’t work out,” he told her, face stiff and jaw tight. “It rarely does where I’m concerned.”
Nate took a moment and pulled a pen out from his shirt pocket, face expressionless.
Leila looked over at him, scrutinizing his features as he filled out the blank check. Under his blank face, he looked flushed and stiff, and his writing seemed to suffer due to that. Once he was done filling out the check, he handed it over to Leila who took it and placed it in her pocket without looking at it.
“I’ll make you a copy of the lease right now,” she told him. “Come on.”
“You don’t have to do that-”
“Nonsense,” she told him. “The printer’s already turned on and ready to go, and that way you can actually read the rental agreement when you get home.”
“The first is a Monday,” Nate said slowly. “Would it be okay if I moved my stuff in on the weekend before that? It probably wouldn’t go over too well if I take a day off after only one week of work.”
“Not a problem,” Leila told him. “Just keep the noise down to a dull roar and don’t move anything around past 10 PM. The neighbors will have a shit fit if you do. They already aren’t happy with me after I let that college grad rent the room for a while.”
They were at the door to Leila’s upstairs apartment and she opened the door for both of them before walking down the hall into her own rarely-used home office.
Nate followed along slowly, taking in the sparse decorations and neat decor.
Leila popped in each page, one by one, into her small printer/copier/scanner after initialing and signing the bottom of each page. After that, she stapled Nate’s copies together and handed them over to him.
“Thanks,” he told her, smiling again, all embarrassment from earlier seemingly gone.
After a few more minutes of chatting about the move, Nate was ready to leave. Leila saw him to the front door before she watched him get into his father’s borrowed car and leave.
Slowly, she walked back up to her apartment and thought meticulously. She had not woken up that morning thinking that Nate could become a friend instead of an enemy. If it hadn’t been for Violet, she doubted she would have given him the second chance.
And all these thoughts were taxing. Taxing indeed.
“Jare, please take the listing for the bottom half of the duplex off the market,” Leila told him while walking into the office the next day.
“Sure,” Jared started to say, automatically. He must not have taken in what she had said immediately because once he realized the meaning behind the words, he got up from his desk and followed Leila into her spacious and obscenely large office.
“Sugarbear! You didn’t!” Jared exclaimed with a faux-scandalized note to his voice.
“Do what, you flaming ’mo?” she asked as she set her oversized tote next to her desk by her feet.
“You didn’t rent that bottom half to that despicably gorgeous yet completely slap-worthy dish that is your best friend’s brother, did you?”
“Okay, I didn’t,” Leila told him, only half listening to the drivel he was spouting.
“Okay, I’m a liar.”
“Ha! You act like that’s a fucking bad thing,” Leila said as she started up her work laptop and looked over at Jared. “I’m a faghag and proud of it. Who else could keep you and your tutu in line?”
“I object!” Jared said, mouth aquiver with feigned outrage.
“Sustained,” Leila said, now getting bored with the game they were playing.
“He’s a throwback!”
“He apologized,” Leila told him.
“Not enough,” Jared surmised, arching a brow.
“Maybe not, but I would rather get along with him for the sake of Vi’s wedding next month than have bad blood at what should be a fantastic celebration,” Leila told him. “Plus, he was actually pleasant for once. I know, I know... it was a shock to me too.”
“Pleasant? Did he have a brain transplant since the last time we saw him?” Jared looked suspicious. “I find this hard to believe, Princess. Hard as hell to believe... unless...”
Jared’s voice faded out and Leila could almost hear the cogs working in his mind.
“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but... unless what?” Leila questioned, wanting to cringe after speaking.
“Well, it’s obvious,” Jared told her, looking sly. “He has either fallen in love with you and wants to win your hand or the pod people have come and brought a handsome stranger in to replace him.”
“Or maybe the mother ship brought in a replacement after the old one broke.” Jared looked deep in thought again. Never a good sign.
“Oooooh! It could be a tumor!” Jared exclaimed, having a seemingly ‘eureka’ moment. “I hear people sometimes act completely sideways after they get a brain tumor. It all makes sense.”
“If this is a clone thing, can I get a copy?” Jared begged, ignoring the loud eye roll Leila gave him. “Maybe you could make a mute clone... no wait, I need him screaming my name after I lube up and fuck his tight little a-”
“What, my Queen?”
“I pay you to work, not make ridiculous conjectures, so vamoose,” Leila told him, shooing him out the door of her office, much to his loud protests.
“Spoilsport,” Jared said, blowing a raspberry before closing the office door.
“Miss?” the doctor asked, shaking the girl from her daze. “Have you made up your mind about what you want to do?”
“Do?” she asked, for the briefest of moments, puzzled.
“Yes. Do... about the baby,” the doctor reminded her.
Good Lord, you would think a few days would have allowed the reality of her predicament to sink in.
“Uhm... yes,” she told the doctor. For the first time, she looked resolute, determined. “I’m going to keep it.”
“Miss, are you sure?” the doctor asked. “There are some wonderful people out there that can give this baby two loving parents.”
“My baby will have two loving parents,” the woman told him, breaking into a slow, giddy smile. “I just haven’t told the father we’re expecting. Yet.”
Something was wrong with this woman. The doctor blinked slowly and a chill ran down his back. What kind of woman would come into the clinic numerous times without the father of her unborn child and claim this baby would be loved by two biological parents? It was odd and Atticus Modine, OBGYN, knew there was something severely wrong with this situation.
The female must have picked up on something in the doctor’s demeanor because she immediately started to explain.
“I just wanted to make sure that I was absolutely, positively sure that I was pregnant before I told him,” she lied, voice smooth as butter. “And it’s his birthday pretty soon and I wanted to get a little birthday package up for him. The sonogram, the test... it’ll be the perfect gift when we got ou for his celebration.”
The doctor forced a smile onto his face and walked over to his desk before grabbing a pen and his pad of paper.
Ripping off the top sheet of paper, he gave the girl a prescription for prenatal vitamins and another sheet of paper with a list of foods to avoid.
On the way out, the girl was given a pamphlet on what to expect during her pregnancy. She smiled the whole time until the moment she walked onto the city street and her face crumpled, then became flat in effect.
Her hands dropped all the items except for the prescription which she had popped into her handbag along with her cell phone.
On the way to the bus stop, she stopped off at a coffee shop and grabbed a latte and a croissant. She nibbled on the latter idly, hoping it was light enough for her nauseous stomach. The latte... it was a habit, though it was a bad choice for a morning beverage since she was up the duff.
Taking a small sip, she grimaced but swallowed anyway. It may have been a staple in her daily routine, but the baby growing in her belly was unappreciative of said routine.
Throwing up into a bush near the corner of Harley and Weymouth streets, she tossed her drink in a bin before crossing the street to catch the bus.
There was an elderly woman sitting at the bench, reading a magazine and humming quietly. The woman’s mobile then rang softly, an electronic version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and she answered it.
The girl tried not to listen to her conversation, but the old woman must have been deaf and continued her conversation loudly.
“...in hospital- that’s right,” the older woman said. “Twins, imagine that? He’s convinced they’re not his. Not a set of twins in the family for generations, both sides!”
Sighing, the girl understood. She had a feeling she was going to have a hard time telling the father of her child that she was pregnant. A harder time, even, to convince him it was his.
A/N: To read ahead, consider subscribing to my Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/RKKnightlybooks
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(Another chapter to come later today.)