Bonus: Matthew - December 22nd
A deep throbbing pulsed through his right calf as Matthew perched on the end of Megan’s bed just a metre away from the sleeping baby. His jean leg was rolled up to his knee and his calloused fingers kneaded the tense muscle; he winced with every movement as the pain lingered.
But it was the continuous ache in his heart that stole his breath, the heavy weight baring down on his chest, growing every time his eyes caught Megan or her child, which made this snow-in the most torturous.
He’d returned to this house with the desire to begin a new chapter with the one girl he hadn’t thought he could ever have. However now he was left with no choice but to forget about his feelings.
She’s moved on. She’s moved on. She’s moved on.
He would repeat the newfound mantra throughout the day but the longing never lessened. No matter how many times the words echoed in his head, he couldn’t convince himself that they were the truth because he loved her and he so desperately wanted her to love him.
Matthew heaved a weary sigh, his gaze falling upon the crib for what felt like the hundredth time in the past ten minutes before darting around the cramped room once again. The last time Matthew had been in her bedroom it had been in her old apartment. Now she was forced to move back in with her parents because of the pregnancy. Where was the father? Why wasn’t he here to support Megan and their child?
Matthew was ashamed to admit that a large part of him wished the father had ran out on them, left Megan and the baby so that he could swoop in and pick up the pieces and convince Megan to love him back and to let him in. He’d never thought about raising a family before - he'd never considered it to be an option - but if it meant he could be with Megan than he was willing.
Noah Matthew Philip Denson.
The child had his name. His.
It was both baffling and gratifying, and Matthew couldn’t help but look for a hidden meaning. Even if common sense convinced him otherwise, he prayed that it meant his feelings were returned. Or perhaps it meant something more, something far more meaningful and yet something far more foolish to hope on.
Another heavy sigh escaped and he felt the hope deflate as the pain in his calf intensified. His eyes tore from the sleeping child and lowered back to his leg where his hands began to massage once again. The blasted pain hadn’t let up since this morning. He imagined that was the result of the frosty temperatures.
The bedroom door to his left opened and Matthew’s attention was caught by Megan’s small frame stood in the doorway, curious eyes locked onto his leg. He rolled his jeans down and smiled, knowing that his falsity did little to hide the true turmoil he was enduring.
“Are you okay?” her soft voice whispered with a worry that bit at his heart. It both filled his entire body with warmth and tore his heart to pieces to know she cared. He craved her attention but ultimately knew that she wasn’t his to love, at least not in the way he wished.
“Yeah,” Matthew uttered out the words, his tongue feeling heavy. As his hands clenched into the sides of his jeans he nodded down at her ankle, “Is it still hurting?”
She shook her head, some already dry, golden strands of hair sweeping across her flushed cheeks as she moved towards her son. She sent furrowed glances at Matthew.
“He’s asleep,” Matthew assured her. Again, Megan glanced at him, her eyes connecting with his. She seemed unsure of herself and was barely able to look him in the eye for longer than a few seconds. She turned back towards the sleeping baby, leaning into the crib and moving the blankets a little.
“So,” Matthew coughed. His throat felt dry and he felt his pulse leap.
Megan turned her full attention back onto him, her arms crossed and her expression placid. The calmness in her stance intensified the nerves suddenly wracking through his body.
The question was on the tip of his tongue. He was desperate to ask but terrified of the answer he would receive. He leant forward, his forearms resting on his thighs as he glanced up at her. He knew he must have looked sombre but couldn’t muster any other emotion.
“Yes?” Megan urged when he was still yet to speak.
He inhaled deeply, the room suddenly stifling, and nodded at the baby boy oblivious to the tense situation.
“Where’s his father?”
Matthew’s hands fisted tighter into the rough denim material. He held his breath.
Megan appeared dazed and unfocused, her body stiff as she stood in front of him in her adorably fluffy pyjamas while the last few damp strands of hair clung to the nape of her neck. Though tired, she seemed more refreshed than before with a newfound glow to her skin. The extra weight gained through her pregnancy had softened her features and even underneath her baggy clothes he could make out the feminine curve to her body. She had never seemed so desirable.
“Megan?” Matthew urged, no longer able to bear the silence.
“I, um...” she trailed off, her lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed in panic. The more she struggled with her words the faster Matthew’s heart began to beat in his chest. When her shoulders hunched and she turned away briefly to stare at her baby, he felt winded. He had made her feel uncomfortable in her own room. If he was at all a decent man then he would have reassured her it was ‘all right’, and that she didn’t have to answer - but he wasn’t, and she did have to answer.
Matthew needed to know. For as long as there were possibilities, he knew he would always question it and the curiosity would sure enough drive him insane.
With great effort, he struggled to his feet and came to stand in front of her, so close that all he could feel was her and all he could smell was the flowery scent of her soaps. His arms itched to wrap around her dainty shoulders and hold her to him, to reach down and kiss her like he had ached to do for so long while he was deployed. He didn't dare take advantage of her though, he would never be so despicable with a woman. She deserved his upmost respect and he wouldn’t act at all until he knew she wanted him.
“Who is it?” he grumbled deeply, pushing past the welling emotion in his throat.
Her head shook furiously and she avoided his gaze.
“Megan,” he pleaded. Without permission his hand gently fell to her hip and urged her closer.
“I think you know.” Her forehead fell to his chest and he could feel the scorching heat of her breath brush through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. Without pause, Matthew’s arms curved around her lower back and held her into him. Both of them sought comfort within one another.
His knees felt weak as she leant against him, his breath caught in his throat and his pulse was racing.
Could she possible be mean...?
“Say it,” he all but begged with urgency. He needed to hear the words. His mind was too clouded for him to make assumptions, he needed to know with certainty.
He felt her shake he head against him and his eyes began to sting.
“I-” She struggled to speak and Matthew knew for sure that she was crying. “I can’t!
“I need you to say it Megan.” Her body was quivering against his and he could practically feel every ounce of fear within her. She wasn’t the only one. He was drowning in terror.
“You. Noah's your son.”
Matthew could no longer breathe. Both relief and fear simultaneously overwhelmed him. Tears slipped from his eyes and with a groan he buried his face into her hair, his arms tightening around her so much he was worried he would crush her.
The moment of celebration was short however when Megan pulled back from him. Her obvious hesitance shocked him back into reality.
Noah was his child.
Matthew already knew his one night with Megan had changed his life but now it was in a much more concrete sense. They had a child. Together. In one night, one brief moment between them, their future had been set on such a narrow course.
And he had left her. He had disappeared without so much of a word and left her alone for her entire pregnancy to deal with all kinds of fears and insecurities. Because of his selfish choices, choosing to finally act on his feelings while intoxicated and knowing that he had to leave the next morning, Megan had had to leave her own home and return to her parents’.
Megan was crying, tears rolling quacking across her smooth rosy cheeks as she stared up at him in great pain.
A grimace made its way onto his face as one hand cupped her face tenderly. He wanted to apologise but couldn’t find the right words and suddenly the entire situation seemed far too much and he had to step back to allow his head to clear. He couldn’t think clearly stood so close to her. All he could focus on was being back in her presence after so many nights of dreaming. His feelings were distracting when he need to concentrate on the seriousness of the situation.
Once a heartbroken man, he was now a father. A father filled with hope and longing stronger than he had ever experienced before. He was going to make this right; he had to.
“When everyone else goes to bed we’re going to talk downstairs. Bring Noah,” our son.
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