The nausea has subsided thanks to copious amounts of ginger biscuits and ginger tea. I still feel like the walking dead, but I have to reach some kind of normality.
Grace’s school is only half an hour away from my place without traffic, so I set off early. Driving through the streets, I stare at all the mothers pushing their babies around.
Are they single mothers?
I want to stop the car and ask, but of course, that would be the actions of a mad woman. I bite my lip as I think of the tiny life growing inside of me, the thought of seeing them for the first time on the scan too much to bear.
Am I being selfish having a child with no father on the scene?
He could be on the scene—if I turn up at the apartment and ask for him. I shudder inwardly, pulling my car into a vacant space not far from the school. Already the pavements are busy with parents and grandparents, carers and after school staff.
I always feel a little odd coming here, almost like I’m a fraud. My name is on the collection form, but I don’t know. I feel like the other parents know I don’t have a child of my own.
I crane my neck to get a good look curiously, but I’m too far back to see.
“I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for farting,” one woman says, flicking her peroxide hair over her shoulder. “Or for leaving biscuit crumbs.”
“Yeah,” agreed the woman to her right, who was blatantly checking the guy in question out. “He’s never with a woman you know. I reckon—“
“Good afternoon!” Calls a cheerful voice from the school gates, which make a loud groaning noise as they swing open.
Like rats we follow one another in, but filter through the walkways that lead to different classrooms. I head towards Grace’s class, trying to suppress a yawn.
“Have you been to the Hidden Bakery?” I hear a woman say to her friend as we round the corner of the school. “It’s to die for. Every different cake you can imagine—Baileys hot chocolate! We should go after school one morning.”
The windows of the school classrooms were covered with blinds so that we can’t see in, but already I’m looking forward to seeing Grace. She always has a beaming smile on her face, and has that infectious energy I need so much right now.
The blinds roll up, and a collective sigh of relief comes from us waiting ducks.
Grace is one of the first kids out, her perfect ponytail swishing as she walks towards me, clutching another girl's hand.
“Hey, Jolie! Mum said you were coming! This is Imogen, my best friend.”
Grace hands me her rucksack with a grin, her eyes on her friend. I turn to see the girl frowning at me, a look of confusion in her eyes.
“I know you!” She gasps, shouting over her shoulder for her Dad.
“Dad! This is the lady that bought my dolls from me at the car boot!” She claps her hands excitedly, her eyes wide as she waves at someone behind her.
Of course! Barbie girl.
“Oh, hey,” I chuckle, looping Grace’s backpack on my shoulder. But the girl isn’t paying me attention, she is dragging a man towards us from a gaggle of women.
I purse my lips, checking my watch.
“We need to go, sweetie, your Mum—”
“This lady?” A voice rolls from beside me, my heart skipping a beat when it does.
I look up from Grace to see no other than my one night fucking stand staring back at me, his stupidly odd coloured eyes boring into my soul. He wore a cap over his dark blond locks, but everything about him screamed sex.
“Hi,” I breathe, sticking my hand out for him to shake.
The father of my unborn child.
What. The. Fuck.
His eyes wrinkle with amusement as he smirks, taking my hand in his. He tugs me towards him, his breath near my ear.
I laugh nervously, wrenching my hands away from his.
“Cinders?” Echoes Grace, as both girls look up at me. “Her name is Jolie. Jolie Summers.” She looks proud of herself, and looks to me for confirmation.
“Is that right? Well, Jolie Summers, I’m Jax Cohen.”
Help me. If there’s a God, send your angels down pronto.
I frown, wondering where I’ve heard that name before.
“Can we play in the park? Please?” Whines Grace, as I shoot her a thunderous glare.
“No, your mum wants you back home,” I croak out, aware that Jax is watching at me. “She’s not mine,” I add hastily.
Jax nods, glancing down at the girls. “Five minutes. Go!”
The girls squeal with excitement, heading off towards the park, and I scowl at him.
“I said no,” I pointed out icily.
“Yeah, but it’s Friday. They’re excited,” the deep voice drawls, and I can’t help but gaze at him.
He turns towards me, his lips curling into a knowing smile.
The girls are queuing up for the slide, and I slump down into a vacant seat on a bench, not caring that Jax is having to standing in front of me.
My mouth is in perfect line with his waistband—
“It seems fate insists on bringing us together.”
“Maybe,” I shrug, dragging my phone out to text Nicole, letting her know we are just at the park.
The wind carries his scent towards me, and my body relaxes when I inhale. I look up to see him frowning at me, and I lick my lips.
“Yeah, maybe,” I say, playing with the words as I speak.
How do you tell someone you’re pregnant after a one night stand?
“It’s good to see you again. At least you know my name now,” Jax chuckles, his extraordinary eyes scanning the park as he checks on the girls.
My cheeks burn, and I nod silently.
“You have a daughter,” I say pointedly, glancing at his wedding finger.
Maybe a girlfriend though.
Jax nods, turning back to me warily.
“I do. Beautiful Imogen. It’s my weekend with her.”
He’s not with the mother!
“Oh. I didn’t imagine you being a Dad.”
Jax moves his gaze back to mine, a frown in his face.
“To be fair, you didn’t ask me anything about myself, Jolie.”
Great. I’ve pissed him off.
“I need your number,” I blurt out, as the girls run back over to us.
Jax looks at me with surprise, the smile dying on his lips. “Oh. Yeah, about that,” he sighs, glancing at his daughter before telling her to play for five more minutes. “I don’t want anything serious. But if you’re looking for more of what we had—”
“I’m not interested in you,” I wave my hand dismissively, hoping he got the point.
His eyes widen as he frowns, shaking his head with confusion.
“So… what do you want my number for?” Jax says coldly, holding his muscular arms across his chest.
My heart drums against my chest, and I feel woozy.
Jax studies me, leaning forward to out his hand on my shoulder.
“Are you alright?”
No. No I’m fucking not.
He is close to me now, his eyes scanning mine as I wonder if our child knew how close their parents were, because I feel strangely dizzy and off all of a sudden.
“Jolie?” He repeats, rubbing his hand up and down my arm, a puzzled expression in his face.
“I’m really sorry, Jax, but I have to tell you something,” I close my eyes as I grip the side of the bench, my nausea kicking in tenfold.
Please, not now.
“Are you okay? You look green,” Jax steps back as I clutch my mouth, trying to breathe deeply.
“I’m—fine,” I manage, pushing the nausea down as best as I can. “I’ve got to go.”
I stand up, calling Grace as my stomach sloshes beneath me.
“What do you need to tell me?” Jax demands, his hand on my arm.
I look up into his eyes, my gaze sweeping over the strong nose, the perfect cupid bow that is pressed together currently. His jaw is clenched, the thick vein in his throat throbbing as he wants for my response.
He’s a God.
“Daddy, can we go to Pizza Hut this weekend?” Imogen pleads, wrapping her arms around me.
“No, Marianne is cooking,” Jax answers, his eyes on mine. “Sorry, baby. But you know her food is good.”
Who the fuck is Marianne?
“Here,” Jax tugs out a business card from his wallet, holding it out to be between his forefingers. “My number, if you do have anything to tell me. See you around, Cinders.”
Imogen waves at me, a bright smile on her face, as Grace looks up at me.
“You look like you’re going to vomit,” she declares, and I manage a thin smile.
I turn to see the women in the park fanning themselves over Jax as he walks out, not once turning around to look at me.
“I’m fine, sweetie. Let’s get you home.”