Lucy looked at me with her own pained expression, gripping onto my hand as though literal lives depended on it.
“What bastards!” she outraged, growing red with anger. “I can’t believe they’re threatening you with this.”
I nodded. “It’s a shit situation but we’ll fight it,” I ensured, shooting her a smile. “I just wanted you to know. I’ve never had a friend close enough to tell. Now I have you, Rosalie and Bethany.”
And sharing Charlotte with them felt right.
“Always,” she grinned, pulling us both to our feet.
Before anything else could be said, Rosalie came bursting through the door, expressing her utmost discomfort. “I swear this baby enjoys pressing directly on my bladder!”
We both laughed.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, sympathising with her situation somewhat.
“Fine. Just wait with me while I pee, will you?”
I smiled, seeing the door to the cubical change from ‘vacant’ to ‘engaged’ and waited in silence until Lucy pulled on my arm. Subtle as ever, she pointed to the light switch on the wall and transformed her hand gesture into a dramatic thumbs up. “Go for it!” she mouthed, returning to her normal stance upon hearing Rosalie flush the chain.
“Better?” she questioned, seeing the other woman emerge from the toilet.
“Hmm.” A smile. “Did you go to the toilet this much when you were pregnant?” she asked, in dire need of something to put her mind at ease.
It was perfectly normal but of course, her tendency to panic was slowly seeping in.
“Absolutely. I went none stop.”
Unbeknown to me, I answered along with Lucy, sparking intrigue with Rosalie.
She, it seemed, was the only one who didn’t know about Charlotte. I assumed Scott had told her the other night but apparently not. Thankfully, Lucy had assured me she would fill Calvin in with all the need-to-knows and Bethany already knew thanks to Sam. That left only my pregnant best friend and I had to admit, her reaction was my most feared. Not only was she extremely hormonal right now, she had me placed on a pedestal since learning of my relationship with Spencer and that was pressure I struggled to contend with. For reasons beyond my control, she thought I was the best thing to happen to him and I liked that she saw me that way. Would she still think the same afterwards?
“I was pregnant once.”
She gifted the room an animated gasp.
“I was seventeen…”
A whole five minutes later saw Rosalie in puddles of tears, hugging me tightly.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, a blubbering mess. “I just can’t appropriately handle my emotions right now.”
I squeezed her back and reassured her with my strong words.
“Don’t you be sorry,” I stressed, determination in full swing. “Spencer and I will get Leila back. I promise.”
Just then, Bethany arrived, wondering what was keeping us all. We had left the poor thing to fend for herself and with five men reviewing rugby league, she was just about ready to smash her head against the wall. She stuck around for as long as possible but eventually bailed when discussion turned to that of football.
“I love your brother loads but boy can he bore me to death with sport.”
“You’re telling me,” complained Lucy, rolling her eyes. “Calvin is the same.”
Rosalie took to cleaning herself up and out we all trekked to where our men sat, plus Alex. “Where have you lot been?” asked my brother’s best friend, surprisingly sat next to Spencer.
“Bathroom,” smiled Rosalie, kissing Scott on the cheek.
“AKA, emergency meeting,” mocked Sam, approaching my side.
He wrapped him arms around my shoulders and pulled me in for a big hug. “I’m pleased you’re happy again, Jessie.”
“Me too,” I smiled, searching for my man.
He came at me from the huge table we occupied, somehow sensing my need for him.
“You okay, baby?” he asked, kissing my head.
“All good, you?”
Another kiss to the head saw him saunter towards the bar, topping me up with more diet coke.
“So, what are you hoping for? A boy or a girl?” asked Alex, engaging Scott and Rosalie in more baby talk.
“We don’t mind but we have a niggling feeling it’s a boy,” smiled Scott, rubbing Rosalie’s stomach. “Or at least we hope so. We’ve painted the nursery blue already.”
Alex shot them both a friendly smile and moved up so I could take a seat.
“Have you any names?” I questioned, wanting to get in on their conversation.
“We have a few flying around but we’re keeping it a secret,” informed Rosalie, happy as can be.
“Christ, whatever you do, don’t call it something shit like Doris. Can you imagine that?” interrupted Calvin, offering some sound advice.
“What’s wrong with Doris?” I asked.
“Nothing wrong with it,” he insisted, shooting me a smirk. “But it hardly screams premium hotel, does it?”
“The Doris Estate. I like it!” sang Rosalie, offering up her true thoughts.
From across the table, Spencer held out my glass and I called his name so he could pinpoint my general location. I took the drink from his outstretched hand and helped him around the table, seating him down next to me.
“Thanks,” he whispered, offering my thigh a tight squeeze. “Where did you ladies end up before?” he smirked, rightly assuming the reason behind my need for solace.
“I pulled Lucy aside to ask her about being a switch. Did you know she used to be a dom?”
His lips lightly twitched, indicating towards a big fat YES!
“I knew. Did she offer you some information?” he asked, keeping his tone lowered.
“Yeah. She told me to go for it. I’m still a little unsure.”
“That’s fine. We won’t ever do something you’re not comfortable with,” he reassured, caressing my leg.
I offered his own a gentle squeeze and firmly pecked him on the lips.
“We can continue to explore,” I promised, speaking directly into his ear. “It’s not a yes, it’s a maybe.”
He laughed at my choice in words, no doubt amused by my insistence to recycle certain phrases. I had once said those exact words to him, back when he first presented me with the opportunity of being his submissive. Offering him a seductive, “It’s not a yes, it’s a maybe.” had certainly made me a tease. Then again, so was he. Never a dull moment. That was one way to describe my relationship with Spencer and if this past few months had taught me anything, it was that I definitely had my work cut out for me. Not that I minded. I was down for the challenge. Gaining acceptance from all of our friends only made me more determined. So what if I had a tricky past? Like Calvin said…
Fuck the rules. Fuck Alister and Isabelle. And fuck being told we’re not worthy of being parents!
With the doorbell rung, Spencer practically flew to open it, revealing an excited Leila and a smiling Angela. After our pub lunch yesterday, we were informed that we had her for an overnight visit and to say we were both over the moon would be putting it mildly.
“DADDY!” she squealed, jumping up and down. “Mummy say’s we’re having a sleepover? Is that true?”
Of course, she had appealed the notion, though we suspected that was down to Alister more than anything. Even in Scotland, he was dictating her every move. Luckily, it was refused on the grounds that social services could see no harm in letting Leila stay. It was by no means a great victory in the grand scheme of things. Having been made aware of our reunion, they decided to follow through with their threats and take the case to court. We were expected there in two months where a final decision would be made by a judge. This had made Spencer and I more desperate to reach out to Isy, though with no way of doing so, we faced an obstacle in our plan.
“It is, bambina. We’ve got you all night!” he grinned, signalling for her to hug him.
She did so instantly and spotted me whilst doing so.
“Oh, Jessica,” she whispered, suddenly sporting a sympathetic expression. “I’m so sorry about your mummy.”
Poking around in her backpack for something, she added, “Daddy told me over the phone so I made you a card. Mummy helped.”
“Thank you, sweetheart,” I smiled, accepting her card as I hugged her tiny body tight to mine. “I’m sure I’ll love it. How about I open it later?”
I couldn’t possibly do so now. This morning had seen me up at the crack of dawn with nothing but the nauseating feeling of grief weighing heavy on my mind. Spencer had spent best part of his morning talking me through a panic attack and did so by insisting it was normal to be experiencing one at such a difficult time in my life. It felt odd to be suddenly so emotional. Having kept the news from everyone for so long, I had become rather accustomed to the notion of hiding my true feelings on the matter. I had pretended I was fine to the point of actually believing it, when reality, I was anything but.
“We’re going to have so much fun,” smiled the excited six-year-old, kissing my cheeks. “I’ve packed popcorn and face masks. And you can paint my nails as I’m not at school tomorrow! The teachers are training so we get the day off.”
“Can I now?” I smiled, lifting her up. “What colour would my princess like?”
I greeted Angela by the door and accepted her condolences on a warm smile.
“Red! So daddy can see.”
Her deep consideration always amazed me.
“Red it is then.”
All three of us said our goodbyes to Angela and settled in for a quick movie before heading to Catherine and James’s house. Spencer’s parents were the last people I needed to speak to before Alister had the chance to go public with my story. I hadn’t seen either of them since before Spencer and I broke up and was a little on edge. Like Rosalie, Catherine had high expectations of me and I feared her reaction to my news would be catastrophic. Not for any particular reason other than I always expected the worst. I spent the majority of my early twenties convincing myself I ought to be ashamed and just assumed everyone would either hate me for what I did or pass unfair judgement on the situation. It never occurred to me that people might actually support me in my decision.
On top of all that, I had my own emotional state to worry about. I felt as though I was only just coming to terms with Mum’s death after opening up to friends. In a constant game of tug-of-war, I felt thrown in every direction. One minute I was fine and the next, I was incapable of moving on. I missed Mum more and more with each passing second and had to remind myself to remain calm around Leila. I didn’t want her to see me upset and I certainly didn’t want my current wellbeing to influence James and Catherine in their opinion. I wanted their reaction to be reflective of their true thoughts and needed to respect that whatever they felt, they had a right to express. Even if it didn’t go exactly to plan.