His Burden

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Chapter Two

The sterile office space Spencer and I had been allocated reminded me of a hospital but I didn’t dare voice my complaints. The cosiness of ones work area was the least of our concerns. Nevertheless, a little colour wouldn’t go amiss. Hell, even the coffee mugs were boring beige.

“Sorry about that,” stated Malcolm Reynolds, emerging from the doorway with a coffee cup in hand. “Something urgent came up that I had to deal with.”

The man certainly looked the part of a lawyer with his charcoal black suit and squeaky clean shoes. Even his hair was in pristine condition, which was a damn miracle given how windy it was outside today.

“That’s okay, thanks for fitting us in,” replied Spencer, straightening his posture. “This is my girlfriend, Jessica.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” he smiled, offering me his hand.

I obliged.

“Likewise.”

For a lawyer, he lacked charm and although not an integral skill for anyone wishing to pursue such a career, I couldn’t help but notice.

“Aside from the obvious, how are you both feeling?”

“Fine, just keen to get things moving,” answered Spencer, nervously tapping his foot.

“That’s quite understandable,” replied Malcolm, plucking some papers from a never-ending pile. “I’ve spoken to Isabelle’s lawyer this morning, a minion of Alister Branning’s.”

I could only scoff.

“He has informed me that they are sticking by their decision to keep your daughter in their care until a final decision is reached by authorities.”

“Fuck!” shouted Spencer, rubbing at his tired face. “That could take months!”

“We will appeal it, of course,” ensured Malcolm, settling further into his chair. “I had a look at those pictures you sent across and it’s obvious Alister has had someone following you both. We can threaten him with acts of unlawful snooping.”

“Hiring a private investigator is not illegal,” I imputed, unsure as to what we could possibly accuse Alister of.

“No, but trespassing is and by the looks of it, the cameraman got pretty close to both your homes at one point.”

Oh.

“When is the soonest I can see her?” asked Spencer, only interested in one thing.

“I’ll have you back with your daughter next week, Spencer. That’s a promise.”

He didn’t bother with eye contact and instead, busied himself with his laptop.

“I don’t want empty promises, Malcolm. I just want my daughter back.”

I reached for my man’s hand, hoping to initiate some form of encouragement. Things were slowly starting to take its toll and I often found myself fearing for his health.

“We’re just really desperate,” I explained, focusing my attention on Malcolm.

“Again, that’s understandable,” he said, finally meeting my gaze.

Bottomless pits of ocean blue reached deep into my soul and evaluated my every being. I felt extremely exposed and slightly uncomfortable but suspected that had something to do with our situation. Isy wasn’t backing down like we had hoped and with that news came the horrifying realisation that we had a serious fight on our hands. This was no longer two people trying to reach a mutual understanding. This was serious. This was war.

~~~~

With barely any sleep to back me up, I struggled on through my morning meeting and just about withheld the urge to tell Simon Peterson to go fuck himself. The infuriating man had nothing but negativity to bring to the table and even with a hefty Christmas bonus under his belt, was still sporting a face like a miserable cun-

“Tea?” asked Cora, likely sensing my decline in mood.

“Please. Having something to distract my mouth with is probably advisable before I tell this dickhead where to shove it.”

Cora simply smirked whilst pouring me another cup, remaining professional in her need not to pass comment on the matter. Her bland personality often went unnoticed but she just about exceeded all expectations when regrettably informing Simon there were no more beverages left for him.

Ha! Up yours!

“I think it’s important to take away positivity from this meeting,” expressed Scott, remaining civil. “Performance is up and we’re well on track to outdo ourselves for 2019.”

“Agreed! And on that note, we’d like all managers to express our utmost gratitude to staff. Throughout the coming months, myself and Scott will be conducting hotel visits and meeting everyone face-to-face. I’m still relatively new to this company and would like the opportunity to interact with the people who work hard in keeping things afloat,” I added, throwing a smile at everyone present.

“Why?” interrupted Simon, piping up from his lack-of-coffee sulk.

“Why what?” I questioned, in need on an elaboration.

“Why visit? Are you trying to catch us out or something?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“No. Of course not,” I retorted, rather shocked he’d say such a thing.

“Seems like you’re checking up on us, that’s all,” he retaliated, rubbing me up the wrong way.

“Simon, I can assure you that we’re not checking up on you and if that were the case, it is within your responsibility to ensure all staff are meeting requirements. Not to argue the matter.”

The huff that followed only added fuel to my already raging fire. Thankfully, Scott interrupted, silencing my thoughts.

“Jessica is right. If you have a problem, you take it up with me personally. Understood?” he questioned, putting the area manager firmly in his place.

“Of course. I apologise,” he muttered, avoiding my gaze altogether.

Prick!

Scott drew the meeting to a close and whilst waiting for everyone to slowly filter out, I slyly checked my phone for any missed calls, desperate for news regarding Leila’s apparent visit next week.

“Anything?”

“No, nothing,” I sighed, feeling sick to my stomach. “I don’t know what I’ll do if he’s denied this visit, Scott.”

Spencer had received a phone call late last night from Malcolm, demanding his presence for an emergency meeting with Isy. The woman was finally prepared to sit down and discuss her daughter’s best interests, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if, to her, that meant without Spencer’s involvement.

“It will,” he ensured, smiling weakly. “It has to.”

Silence consumed us both as we became momentarily lost in thought, too far gone in our need to think to be able to express anything other than our need for more information.

“How is he?” he asked, ignoring all business matters currently begging for our attention. “In private, I mean.”

“He has a habit of bottling things up,” I replied, offering him complete honesty. “But I have my ways in getting him to talk.”

“I don’t want to know.”

I doubted he did.

“Rosalie told me she knew,” he added, somewhat amused. “The little minx hid it from me this entire time.”

“In all fairness, Spencer and I did ask her to keep things quiet. Retrospectively, we were stupid to do so.” I commented, regretting our decision and certainly not for the first time.

“Don’t beat yourselves up. What happened, happened because Isy is conniving. Spencer was right. Who he falls in love with is of no business to anyone. It was a stupid condition to begin with.”

“It was a condition nonetheless and one in which we broke .”

“This doesn’t sound like business talk!” accused Spencer, surprising us both with his arrival.

His lean body filled the doorway and did so with such casualness and poise, leading me to the assumption that he was happy about something.

“Well?” I pleaded, in dire need of some news.

He didn’t answer right away. Instead, he proceeded to torture both Scott and I by remaining stubbornly silent.

“I’ve got my little girl back!” he grinned, offering us both a sense of relief. “She’s coming on Saturday for a few hours. A social worker needs to be present but I don’t care. I get to see my baby.”

“Oh, Spencer!” I cried, running into his open arms. “This is fantastic!”

“Too fucking right it is,” expressed Scott, chuffed to bits. “You’ll know Mum and Dad will want to see her. Me too.”

“And Rosalie,” I added, knowing just how much the little madam was missed.

“Sure, Jess and I will spend the first hour with her and you guys can join us later on,” he suggested, holding me close to his chest.

Within it, his heart was going ten to the dozen and I swear it only intensified the more we spoke about seeing his daughter again. This was everything we had hoped for and although a long way off, it was most certainly a step in the right direction.

“Can I steal you for a sec? I have something important I need to tell you.”

“Of course.” I led him towards my private office.

Inside, I refused to sit and instead, cut straight to the chase.

“What is it? What bullshit have they sprung on us now?” I questioned.

“Surprisingly, nothing,” he answered, thoroughly caressing his roughened jaw. “Social services are involved and want to do an investigation.”

“Shit! Really? Isy got them involved?”

“Apparently, but this is good. It means we can prove to them how great we are at being parents.”

His reference to ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’ sat uncomfortably in my gut, threatening to be my undoing.

“We?” I asked, a little unsure.

“Yes, baby. Both of us. We’re a team and I want to raise my little girl with your help.”

The amount of trust he was currently displaying knocked me for six. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was unwanted but it was definitely unnerving. I loved Spencer and therefore, loved everything he loved; Leila included. I could think of no greater achievement but was still reluctant in terms of stepping into that role. Could I really handle being someone’s step-Mum? After everything?

“Are you sure? I’d probably be a shit role model,” I laughed, making light of the situation.

“I’m sure, Jess. Leila worships you and so do I. We both want you in our lives.”

Oh god!

“Careful. You’ll make me emotional,” I warned, kissing his smiling cheeks. “And you don’t want to know what happens when I get emotional.”

“Jessica Turner doesn’t have emotions!” he mocked, holding me at arm’s length. “She’s a heartless bitch, remember?”

“I must be getting soft.”

Instead of responding verbally, he pulled my body closer to his and caressed my lower back, forcing me to engage in a loving hug, uncharacteristically so. He was never shy of physical interaction but something about the way in which he held me now was alarming to say the least.

“Are you okay?”

“This won’t all be smooth sailing,” he whispered, breathing into my hair.

“I know.”

“And I’ll probably be unbearable at times.”

“I suspect so.”

We remained silent for a while, succumbing to our thoughts.

“I don’t want to lose you, Jess,” he revealed, surprising me with his desperation.

“You won’t, Spencer.”

I forced his lips to meet mine in an attempt to portray my love. His resolve was starting to show cracks and I didn’t want his doubts about us to factor into that. I understood his insecurities but he needn’t bother. There was absolutely no way in hell I would ever willing walk away from him.

“We’re a team,” I insisted, capturing his face between my hands. “We’re not just a couple anymore, Spencer. We’re parents.” I smiled, swallowing my inevitable fear.

This was huge for me!

“Malcolm asked if I wanted to file for full custody,” he stated, gently caressing both my arms. “I said no.”

“That’s fair. Leila should grow up knowing both her Mum and her Dad,” I replied, enjoying his touch on my skin.

Just then, Scott poked his head through the door, recoiling slightly when seeing Spencer and I up close and personal.

“Christ! That’ll take some getting used to.”

“I’m sure you’ll live,” smirked Spencer, removing himself from my hold.

Scott shook his head in response, as if to try and get rid of the obscene imagine.

“Jessica and I have a catch up meeting about the Tuscany site. Would you like to join us?” he asked, flashing me a stack of files.

“Sure, let me just call Mum and Dad and I’ll be right in.”

“No problem,” he replied, preparing his departure. “I’m proud of you, Spence. You never gave up.”

“I have Jessica to thank for that,” he retaliated, focusing his gaze slightly to my left.

“No, Spencer,” I argued, keeping my tone light. “This is all on you.”

And I couldn’t have been prouder.

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