"I'm scared of the unknown future."
After going through what I could only describe as the five stages of grief over losing my friendship with Annalise, I hit the ground running. I set my sights on the horizon of the ever-looming future when I’d be King. Our timeline for my ascension was pushed forward after the news about my father leaked. It wasn’t by much, but it still gave me less time than I had before.
Meetings with foreign dignitaries.
Over the next three months, I did it all. I never gave myself a break, fearing if I did, I’d start thinking about my failures and the echo of Annalise’s last words.
God help us when that happens.
Annalise had been right about everything. It scared me to think she’d be right about my reign as King.
I still checked my phone with the hopes that one day, she’d reach out. I doubted it, but hope was all I had left.
I never told Lorraine I continued reaching out to Annalise because she still believed Annalise ratted out my father. I didn’t, and the argument was an elephant in the room for us.
Otherwise, Lorraine stayed by my side through everything, and I leaned heavily on her for support. I never realized how much I relied on Annalise until she’d left, and James too. He’d distanced himself from me after the scandal, and I couldn’t blame him. He wasn’t rude to me, and it’s not like he wouldn’t talk to me, but our friendship was different now. On top of that, Everly, the cousin I’d always been closest to, now only spoke to me when necessary. She hit me a while back, completely out of the blue, but I knew what it was for.
Treating Annalise like shit that day.
Now all I had was Lorraine.
It wasn’t a bad thing, having her. She was a godsend. But there were things I didn’t want to tell her. It wasn’t like when I had Annalise, James, and Everly in my corner. If I couldn’t tell one of them, I could tell the other. I missed having them around. Worst of all, my feelings for Lorraine weren’t what they used to be. I loved her for being there for me, but my romantic feelings were rapidly disappearing. Our relationship had run its course, but I couldn’t bring myself to dump the one person who still believed in me.
Finally, and unfortunately, my schedule opened up. I used the time to work out. I hadn’t been out of shape, but I sure as hell wasn’t in shape either. I figured it’d be hard to focus on anything else when I was trying to focus on breathing and not dying from exhaustion.
For two hours, I worked out, doing anything and everything I could to keep my mind occupied. But once the two-hour mark hit, I finished. I was bored, tired, and thirsty.
Pushing myself up from the mat, I made my way to the kitchen where, to my surprise, I found Everly and James chatting merrily away.
My cousin’s face fell when she saw me, but James smiled and said, “Hey, man.”
“What are you two gossiping about?” I asked.
They shared a look at each other, neither able to hide their giddiness. Finally, Everly said, “I’m-”
“Will?” Lorraine spoke up from the doorway, fiddling her hands nervously. “Can I speak to you?”
“Of course. Ev, hold that thought. I’ll be back, okay?” I said. She sighed and nodded. I knew she didn’t like Lorraine, so there was that tension too. I’d been meaning to ask Everly about her dislike for Lorraine, but feared it’d turn into an argument. I’d run off enough people in my life, and I was already on thin ice with Everly. I didn’t want to risk making it worse.
I followed Lorraine to the study a few doors down, where she shut the door behind us and sat down. I waited for her to start because I could tell she was searching for the right words.
“So, I went to the doctor’s today,” she said. “I haven’t been feeling well, and I wanted to know why. I figured it was a cold or something, especially with the nausea.”
“Did they figure it out?”
She nodded, looking down, unable to look me in the eye. “They… they did some blood work, and uh, I found out I’m pregnant.”
The color drained from my face as I processed her words. So many questions ran through my mind, mostly how on earth this could’ve happened. We’d been safe! I used condoms! I felt like Ross when he found out Rachel was pregnant… but the only question I asked was, “How far along?”
“Just a couple months…”
I sat next to her. “Okay, the first thing we need to do is tell my parents. They’ll help us figure out what to do from here on out. We’ll need to hold a press conference about it. They’re going to notice the bun in your oven sooner rather than later. We’ll need to get a nursery started, and-”
“Will, are you okay with this?” Lorraine interrupted.
“Yeah,” I lied. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m terrified to be a dad, but I’m not letting you do this by yourself.”
“People are going to talk about it being out of wedlock,” she pointed out.
I knelt in front of her, grasping her hands in mine so she wouldn’t see how badly they were shaking. “We’ll handle it together. We’re in this together.” Lorraine leaned into me, resting her head on my shoulder, and I put my arm around her. We stayed like that for a few minutes before standing up and preparing to talk to my parents. They were in a meeting at the moment, so we decided to wait. Lorraine said she was going to go tell her parents. I offered to go with her, but she requested it to be a private conversation.
I made my way back to the kitchen, where Everly and James were continuing their conversation.
“- and then she hit me with, and get this, a two-hundred-sixty-three point word,” Everly said, enunciating each word carefully. “How is that even possible, you ask? She hit a double word and a triple word, and her ‘z’ was on triple-letter.”
“Who is this?” I asked.
“Annalise.” Everly narrowed her eyes, noticing my expression. “What’s wrong? Did you and Lorraine break up?”
“She’s… I’m…” I couldn’t quite find the words because I still could barely comprehend the news. “She’s pregnant. I’m going to be a dad.”
James’ and Everly’s eyes widened in shock, their mouths falling slightly open. I let them grasp the idea while I grabbed a beer from the fridge. As bad as it was, the only thing I wanted to do was talk to Annalise because if I ever needed her wisdom and advice, it was now.
“You’re- oh my god,” Everly finally said. “Congratulations!”
I smiled as she came to hug me. It was the closest she’d acted towards me since the fiasco with my father, and I appreciated it. “Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”
“Congratulations, man,” James added, coming around for a bro hug.
“Thank you,” I said. Facing Everly, I added, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten you were telling me something before I left. What’s going on with you?”
“Uh, well, Lorraine’s not the only one who’s going to be having a baby.” Everly grinned at me. “Surprise!”
My mouth dropped open, but I regained my composure quickly, tugging her into another hug and congratulating her. “I’m so happy for you! Does Mark know?”
“Yeah, he found out last night. Only the Starks, James, Mark, and you know. I still have to break the news to my parents. That’s not going to go over well.”
“Looks like we’re in the same boat,” I joked humorlessly.
Everly sighed, clenching and unclenching her fists. “Listen, I know Lorraine and I haven’t been the best of friends, and I’ll admit, I don’t like her, but I have a feeling we’re going to be cousins soon. So, if she needs anything or someone to relate with, tell her I’m here for her.”
“I will. I know she’ll appreciate it. I know I certainly do. Have you thought about when you’re going to have a baby shower?”
“Lord, no. I have to tell people first. I think I’ll wait until I know the gender first. That way, people know what to get.”
I chuckled. “I can’t wait to be the cool uncle! Listen, I have to go prepare to tell my parents, but I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah. I have to go anyway. Good luck!” Everly nearly bounced out of the kitchen.
“You need any help?” James asked hesitantly.
“No, I’m not going to drag you into this, but thank you. I have to go make a phone call anyway. I’ll see you later.” He nodded at me in understanding. I shuffled off, head hung down as I mulled over everything in my mind.
No royal had ever had a child out of wedlock. Sure, there had been ‘bastard’ children along the way, but those were from affairs, not long-term relationships. It was hypocritical for sure, but I was also the future King. I couldn’t be making ‘mistakes,’ even though it felt like that’s all I did now. Plus, I hardly thought having a kid as a mistake. The world would see it as one, though, and Lorraine would be subjected to their criticisms.
Locking myself in my study, I pulled out my phone and dialed Annalise’s number, even though I knew she wouldn’t pick up. I don’t know why I was telling her. She couldn’t care less about me anymore. Would it be wrong to tell her this? Would it be rubbing salt into an old wound?
Her voicemail predictably came on, and before I could hang up, it beeped, alerting me to start talking.
So I did.
“Hey, Annie… I, uh… I’m calling you because- actually, I don’t know why I’m calling you. You don’t want to talk to me, but I just felt like I needed to give you a heads up about the news, most likely coming out tomorrow. It’s big, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’m... genuinely terrified of what’s going on, and I really have this gut feeling that once this news comes out, you’ll seriously never want to speak to me again. I’m going to stop calling you now because you don’t want me to. If you ever want to reach out, I will always be available for you. No matter what’s going on, I will always answer for you. I’ve said this a million times already, but know that I am so, so sorry. You deserve the best things in life, and I wish I’d lived up to being one of those things. I fucked up, and I’m going to regret it until the day I die. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you’re happy.” I paused, thinking of anything else to say, but the only I could think of was something I shouldn’t say when I’m dating another girl, let alone a girl I’m having a kid with.
It came out anyway in a blabbering rush. “I love you. I shouldn’t be telling you this because I’m dating Lorraine, who I’m going to have a kid with, but I never stopped from the day I met you, and I have nothing else to lose now. Not when it comes to you. I’m going to go now before I make a fool of myself more than I already have. I wish you and Mia the best. I love you, Annie.”
I hung up in a rush and cradled my head in my hands, taking deep breaths as the severity of my situation came tumbling over me.
What the hell was I going to do?