“Jared, I’m fine,” Leila said, trying to hold back a sniffle.
“Are you sure? It’s not too late for me to go back and kick some elitist ass for you,” Jared said, his gaze hard, determined. No one messed with his friend, especially not some holier-than-thou little prick who thought he farted eau de cologne and pissed rosewater. Probably thought he shat Grey Poupon as well.
“I just want to take a bath and read a book or something,” Leila told Jared as they walked into the top apartment of the duplex she owned.
“Okay, but if you see that prick again, do me a favor and knock him square in the nuts for me,” Jared told her, nodding his head. “He may be a dish, but his shit attitude makes him ugly as sin in my eyes.”
Leila had to agree and gave Jared a small peck on the cheek before he left the apartment to head home. He was ‘on’ again with Mickey and they were heading out to go dancing that night, trying to add some spark to their flailing and predictable relationship. Mickey was a homebody and Jare liked to go out and do things. Trying to balance that out was challenging for the both of them.
Though Mickey sometimes annoyed the crap out of Leila, she thought of him as a good friend and it pained her to see that they were having relationship issues. It placed her right in the middle of their courtship and she hated to play both referee and sympathetic ear to both of them. Since she had known Jared longer, she would always feel the need to side with him. Besides, he was like a little puppy dog at times. That was until his friend got her feelings hurt. He was a full-grown rottweiler then.
Leila started her bath water and added some essential oils and matching bubble bath in a new fragrance she was trying out. It smelled like honeysuckle. Light, sweet- nothing like Leila’s personality at all. Or at least on the surface.
As she relaxed in the bath, she tried to lose herself in a fantasy novel. It was about a quest to save the world from utter destruction. Leila thought the ‘higher beings’ as they called themselves were probably time travelers from the future who were trying to take over the world to make it better for their future. She had a knack for foresight. Plus, it would be just like the author to throw a wrench into the story like that.
As Leila read along, she thought of hierarchies. Caste societies. Every nation had them whether they be political or social boundaries and hers was like all the others.
Though she wasn’t quite like the upper crust of the society she had been born into. She didn’t hold the same values her parents did. The values that kept her mother married to her father for the sake of their ranking in the white collar workforce.
Fuck the ridiculous pecking order.
Leila broke the mold and she was happy about that. She didn’t need to marry to become a productive member of her own little exclusive clique. She just wanted her friends and family, not the extras that came with having money. She had gone into architecture to do what she loved, not make sweet money- though that certainly helped.
Sighing, she placed her novel on the ground next to the tub and closed her eyes, allowing the soft drip of water from the tub faucet to soothe her to a light doze there in the bathtub.
Violet ignored her brother for the most part at dinner with her parents that following weekend. She was still pissed at him and wasn’t afraid to show it. Carl was feeding little Mason while Harry and Mathilde talked over Nate’s future as if the man didn’t know precisely what he wanted.
“Early retirement,” Mathilde was saying. “Then we can go see the world before being forced to wear dentures and adult diapers.”
Violet had to laugh. Her mother still looked to be only in her late 30′s thanks to Botox and the finest plastic surgeons in the Bay area. Along with that, Mattie took good care of herself, though Harry was finally starting to show more wrinkles and going slightly to seed. Violet thought it looked good on him and was sure that her mother didn’t mind either.
“Why would I retire at only 39?” Harry asked with a joking wink toward Carl. The younger man laughed and was rewarded with a bit of green goo that Mason thought would look fine on his Hugo Boss button-up shirt.
“Oh dear, will that come out?” Mattie asked, smiling at her grandson’s terrible table manners.
“You look like that priest in The Exorcist, Carl,” Nate told him, wiping at his mouth.
“It’s fine if it doesn’t,” Carl said, grabbing a linen napkin to mop up the mess. “I have more shirts but I only get to be a dad to baby Mason once.”
“Speaking of babies,” Mattie said, feeling a good segue to her favorite subject coming on. “When do I get to have a granddaughter? Little boys are wonderful but I need a little baby girl that I can coddle as well.”
Lord. Mason was less than a year old and Mattie was already in a full-on baby fever about Violet and Carl expanding their little family.
“Mom, Mason’s not even a year old,” Nate told her, forking up a spoonful of vegetables. “Let her poor womanhood shrink back into place a couple of years before making her swell like a balloon again.”
Violet granted her brother a glare and Carl’s brow quirked up.
“You say that now, Nate,” Carl stated. “But when you see your wife- or fiancee in this case- become round with your child you will think there is nothing as beautiful.”
Violet smiled over at Carl who winked back at her. She knew he was telling the truth. There were no secrets between them and Carl had often told her how gorgeous she was even with bloated ankles and a swollen stomach. Plus, there had been no hiding his erection when he spooned her from behind while he cradled her big belly. Dicks didn’t lie.
“I’m going to use the bathroom,” Violet said, standing up. “Mason needs a changing and I think he’s more playing with his food than eating it right now.”
Scooping up the messy infant from his high chair, she walked into the living room to grab her diaper bag and then headed into the guest bathroom. Thankfully, it was large enough to change Mason as well as clean up his soiled yet adorable face.
“So... early retirement?” Mattie asked, causing Harry to roll his eyes.
“Maybe,” he just said.
“Why not? Nate doesn’t have anything to do and we can see if Aiden would hire him on as CFO in your stead,” Mattie coaxed. “He never wanted to become CEO of the Charles industries, but he would make one helluva CFO.”
Nate shifted in his seat. He had thought a lot about what he would do now that he had managers to oversee the businesses in England.
“I don’t need a job that is to be had by some sort of nepotism by proxy,” Nate said. He wanted to earn a spot in a company, not be granted it like a hand-me-down sweater or seondhand car.
“Your resume speaks for itself, Son,” Harry assured him. “If Aiden is okay with it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be.”
Nate sighed. He would have to convince his father that he wanted to get a job through traditional means, not have an ‘in’ because he was the current CFO’s suggestion.
“I’ll... think about it,” Nate told him, closing his eyes and breathing in and out. He felt the walls crumbling in around him. Walls he thought he had left back in England. Again, he was practically caving into his father’s demands. It was frustrating, to say the least.
“Are you looking into getting your own place soon?” Carl asked, sensing Nate’s frustration with his parents and trying to smoothly change the subject.
“Yes,” Nate said, happy for the change of pace. “I’d like my own little place as soon as I can. No offense to Mom and Dad, but a man needs his own space. Nothing fancy. It’s only me.”
“You are more than welcome to stay here, Nathan,” Mattie told her before her eyes brightened. “Though Violet’s friend Leila has a nice duplex she is renting out. She seemed quite desperate to find a tenant last I heard. Why don’t you call her up and ask about it?”
Nate’s eyes blinked in rapid succession. Just what he needed. To be beholden to a woman he had hurt time and time again since moving back to California.
He hadn’t stopped thinking about some of the shitty things he had said to her and the guilt was frankly eating away at him. Why would he hold a woman to a higher standard than a verifiable manwhore like his friend Russell? There was no reason other than the fact that she was a woman. A strong woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to take it.
Nate felt like such a misogynist when it came to Leila.
“Good idea,” Carl stated, pulling Nate from his thoughts. “You should give her a call and see if you can meet up with her to look at the place. It’s only twenty or so minutes from my little Tuscan-style villa.”
Nate looked over at Carl and knew one thing. Violet had said something to Carl. There was no judgment in the man’s face, but it was apparent that he knew more than he was letting on.
Sighing, Nate scrubbed a hand over his face, feeling the short whiskers on his chin prick at the skin of his palms.
“Fine,” Nate said with a resigned sigh. “I’ll see if I can give it a look-see.” Probably should apologize as well while I’m at it.
It wasn’t like Nate was aching to see Leila again, but he found he wasn’t dreading it either.
The girl sat in the physician’s office, her leg bouncing in anticipation of the results. Dr. Modine had left her only two minutes prior with the pregnancy test and some blood work in hand.
She knew that the pregnancy test could always give out a false positive, hence the accompanying blood test.
The blood test would be sent out to a lab and the results would take a day or two, but she was told to pee in a cup and Modine had dunked the little pregnancy stick in for several seconds before capping it and leaving the room. If it proved positive, she would make a follow-up appointment at the clinic to get an ultrasound done to see how far along she was. She hoped it was at least a month. Anything less and... well, things could- and would- get messy.
She had gotten to the point where she wanted to go find the doctor when someone knocked on the door and she called out for them to enter.
Dr. Modine came back into the room, face inscrutable and paperwork in hand.
“Well, it does appear that you are pregnant,” Modine told her.
Letting out a long release of breath, she spoke.
“What next?” she asked.
“We need to get you a referral for a sonogram and see how far along you are,” he told her, handing her a paper. It was a referral for Brighton Imaging Associates.
Luckily for her, Brighton was close by her home and it would be easy to take public transportation to get there.
“After I get the results back, I can tell your due date and such,” the physician continued. “I would suggest that you go as soon as possible so you can make a decision on what you want to do with the baby.”
Her eyes widened at the doctor.
“How did you know that I was unsure?” she asked.
“It’s all over your face,” Dr. Modine told her. “And if this was a good thing, the father would have been here with you. I’ve overseen many pregnancies and can tell when someone is having doubts.”
Her head drooped and her eyes studied the tiles on the floor of the examination room. So many doubts. She couldn’t add them all up to make sense of them. But- one step at a time, like always. Walk before you can run.
“I would suggest you make an appointment soon and call my office as soon as you get the appointment. The results are almost instantaneous and we will need to figure out how you want to handle your pregnancy.”
Walking out of his office with the paperwork five minutes later, the girl ambled down the street to catch a bus. She sometimes hated living so close to the city because it was more difficult to catch a bus that wasn’t packed to the gills with people.
As soon as she was a block or so away from her flat, she rang the bell to get off. Thankfully her rolling stomach allowed her to get to as far as the patch of Jacob’s Ladders that adorned the small garden in front of her apartment building before she had to heave the contents of her stomach.
Right between the Jacob’s Ladders and lavender Dorset Heaths. Ten points for accuracy and not soiling their lovely petals.
She hadn’t had much to eat that morning since she was so nervous and the majority of what she had expelled was stomach acid that burned her throat.
As soon as she entered her flat, she closed the door behind her and made her way into the kitchen.
Rinsing her mouth out with half a bottle of Danone water, she went to brush her teeth to rid herself of the taste.
As she watched herself scrub her teeth and tongue in the mirror, she couldn’t help but notice that her vision was slowly blurring.
Blinking, she saw that her cheeks were wet as well.
What was she going to do?