#74 Diamonds and cheese onion chips
“Oh my God, it’s beautiful,” Brittany sighs, tears in her eyes as she looks at me. “You look like a real bride.”
“That’s because in a week, I will be,” I say while I twirl, the blush skirt billowing around me. I feel so pretty in my wedding dress, fitted to perfection. I got it second hand in a store Britty found her dress at back when she married Jaxon, and it got delivered today. The seamstress did a great job at altering it, and now it’s absolutely perfect.
“Christopher is going to lose it when you walk down the aisle. He’s going to cry like a little baby,” Jaxon comments from the couch, stuffing his face with cheese onion chips. “Although I guess that’s not that impressive. He cries over everything.”
“No he doesn’t.” I roll my eyes and look in the mirror again, pulling up my hair to decide how I’ll wear it. I don’t usually wear my hair up, since I get a headache if I put it in a tight bun or anything, but it would look more sophisticated, I guess. Although Chris does love to pull his hands through my hair, so he will mess up my hairdo anyway.
“Oh, Abby,” a soft male voice says from behind me, and I turn around to see Jagger standing in the doorway, just arriving home from school. “You look… Wow.”
“She really does, doesn’t she?” Britty agrees, running over to him to pull him in from the hallway. She pretty much forces him to sit down on the couch next to Jax. “We’re deciding on jewelry and her hair, so we could use a guy’s perspective.”
“You’ve got me,” Jaxon says with his mouth full of chips. He’s got cheese onion dust in his long dark hair, and he’s licking his fingers like he hasn’t had food in weeks.
“And you’re so helpful,” I say sarcastically, rolling my eyes at him. “Jagger, hair up or down?”
“Down,” he replies immediately, nicking some chips from Jax. “You always wear it down and Dad loves the way you normally look. The wedding dress and all the make-up and shit are already so different from your usual yoga pants and baggy shirts. I think Dad would like your hair the way he knows and loves.”
“Damn, you’re going to make some woman really happy one day,” Brittany comments, shaking her head. “All I get from Jax got when he saw me in my wedding dress was nice cleavage, baby.”
“That’s not true,” he argues, looking up at her with a frown. “I told you that you looked like a sexy angel and that I was the happiest man alive for having you in my life. And all kinds of other sappy stuff that I’m not going to repeat right now.” His eyes travel down her body to her baby bump, and he smiles. “You know I love you, Britty.”
“Yeah, I do,” she says, moving over to kiss him. “Ew – you taste like onions!”
“No shit Sherlock,” Jagger says with a chuckle, grabbing the bag of chips and finishing it.
While the guys move into the kitchen to find another snack, Brittany walks over to her purse and pulls out a small black box. She stands in front of me, smiling almost nervously. “I got you something for your wedding day,” she explains. “It’s something new. And you have to give it back to me so I can give it to your daughter one day, since I am going to be her godmother and aunt, so it’s borrowed too, I guess.”
“Britty,” I say, getting emotional. “You didn’t need to do that… And… I don’t have a daughter, and I told you about…”
“You’ll adopt a little girl one day,” she says, sounding sure of it. “And she’ll be just as much yours as the boys are. And I will be so goddamn proud to be her godmother, okay?” She flips open the box and shows me a beautiful necklace with a small diamond on it.
“Oh,” I breathe. “You can’t seriously give that to me, Britty. It’s too much.”
“I’m only lending it to you, remember?” She takes it out and fastens it around my neck, nudging me to look at myself in the mirror. It looks amazing with the dress, and I touch it reverently. I’ve never wore anything so expensive and beautiful. Well, aside from my engagement ring, obviously.
“You’re my sister,” Britty tells me, hugging me tightly from behind.
“Don’t ruin her dress,” Jax says, pulling his wife away from me. “She’ll kill you.”
“Right,” she agrees wiping at her eyes. “So… Jagger, you ready to walk Abby down the aisle next week?”
“Born ready,” he says right away, smiling at me with so much warmth that I tear up again. “Dad is going to bawl his eyes out when he sees you, Mom.” His eyes go wide when he realizes he just called me Mom. He’s used the word before, but usually when he talks to Davy and Yoah about me. Not directly to my face. “I mean… erm… I think I’m gonna head over to see how Celeste is doing.” He gets up and runs out of the house as fast as he can.
“Ahw, he’s so cute when he’s not being a dickhead,” Britty says with a grin. “Okay, now back to your hair… Down it is, but maybe we could curl it, or…”
I smile she prattles on, looking at myself again, admiring my wide blush dress with the fitted bodice. I never thought I’d ever get married, but here I am. And I’m marrying Christopher, the most amazing person I’ve met. No way I’m getting cold feet. They’re toasty warm.
Jagger is late for dinner. A few months ago, that would have been perfectly normal, but he’s been so good about getting home on time lately that I can’t help but worry. Chris is late too, but he called from work to explain about a surgery going long, and he walks in only fifteen minutes late, shrugging out of his coat and kissing me tenderly before looking around with a frown, realizing that only Yoah and Davy are waiting for me to finally serve dinner.
“Jagger?” he asks, already pulling out his phone.
“Am I stupid to worry?” I ask softly, not wanting to scare the other boys.
Chris shakes his head. “He hasn’t been this late without calling or texting in weeks. Months even. Something is up.” He holds up the phone to his face, grimacing when Jagger doesn’t pick up. He tries Edward next, and it turns out that Celeste isn’t home either.
Fuck. This can’t be good.
The doorbell rings, and Chris and I both fly to the hallway. He gets there first and he jerks open the door. Standing on the porch is Aston, with his hands around Jagger’s upper arm and Celeste’s shoulder. He looks tall and menacing, like the kind of guy you don’t want to run into in a dark alley.
“Let me go,” Jagger complains, jerking away from him so he can pull Celeste into his arms. She’s in tears, and he rubs her back, even though her baby bump is big enough by now to make a hug an uncomfortable affair.
“I saw them going into Celeste’s dad’s house on the other end of my street,” Aston explains, ushering the kids inside with us while he steps in behind them. “There was some other guy there – Celeste’s ex, I think – and I figured I should just get these two the hell out of there before anyone got hurt.”
“Thanks,” Christopher says, his voice tight. “Anything else we need to know?”
Aston grunts and leans against the wall, running a hand over his face. “I think her dad was drunk again. Maybe more. He seemed really out of it. And the ex… I think I know why he was there.”
“Why?” I ask, fearing the answer.
“I think he’s her dad’s dealer,” Aston explains. “He was yelling something about money when I burst in, and he had his hands around Celeste’s throat with Jagger trying to pull him off. I kicked the guy’s ass a bit, but not as much as I’d normally have done. I thought getting these two home should be my priority.”
Christopher thanks Aston again and asks some specifics while I make my way to the living room, where Celeste and Jagger are sitting on the couch, embracing tightly. Poor kids. I hurry to the kitchen and hand Yoah and Davy a plate of food, telling them to eat upstairs. Yoah leads his little brother out of the room, looking back at Jagger and Celeste with worry in his eyes. I hate that I can’t shield any of them from what’s going on. If I could, I would.
“Hey,” I say softly, not wanting to startle them. “Are you guys okay?”
Jagger breaks away from his girl and gives me a tight-lipped smile. “Not really.”
“What were you doing over there?” Chris asks when he walks in, shutting the door behind him. “I thought Edward was pretty clear about supervised visits only.”
“Dad never shows up,” Celeste sniffles. “He kept calling me, asking for money… I needed to see him. I had to.”
“And I wasn’t going to let her go over there alone,” Jagger grunts.
“You should have told us.” Chris sounds every bit like the father he is, stern and caring at the same time. “I thought we were past the lies by now, Jag.”
“Sorry,” he mutters, looking down at the floor. “I know. You’re right.”
“Celeste… Aston said something about the state your dad was in. Is he still using?” I ask, putting my hand on her knee.
She nods, pulling her fingers through her hair. The lower half is pale blonde, the upper half her own natural brow color. She’s in desperate need of a haircut.
“Was Wyatt there?”
She nods again.
“How does he know your dad?”
It’s Jagger who answers me. “He’s a drug dealer.”
“That’s great!” Chris says, surprising all of us.
“How the fuck is that great?” Jagger bites out. “Her ex is a fucking rapist and a drug dealer that her dad owns a shitload of money to. Nothing about that is great, Dad.”
“We can turn him in!” Chris says, sitting down on the armrest of the loveseat I’m in, his hand on my shoulder. “I get that you didn’t want to turn him in for what he did to you, Celeste, since it happened a while ago and you can’t prove what he did, but this… I mean, we could get him behind bars and he wouldn’t be able to hurt you ever again.”
“I don’t want to testify against him,” she whimpers. “I don’t ever want to see him again. I don’t even want to think about him.” Her hands are on her belly and she looks down at it with nothing but disgust in her eyes. “I hate everything about him, including this baby.”
“Don’t say that,” Jagger says, putting a hand over hers. “I love your baby.”
“You’re not the one who got raped!” she yells in his face, getting up from the couch, trembling from fear or rage – it’s hard to tell which it is. “If you want this baby, you can have it! I never wanted it in the first place!”
“Celly…” Jagger gets up and tries to hug her, but she shoves him back onto the couch.
“You made me keep it and now every fucking day is a reminder of what that asshole did to me,” she says, crying now. “I hate this baby, and that makes me so fucking sad. It’s all your fault!”
“Celeste,” I say softly, hoping to calm her down. “Let’s talk about this.”
“No!” she exclaims, storming out, hopefully to get to Edward’s place. Chris is already on the phone with Edward, and I rush out to make sure she’s okay.
“Celeste!” I yell after her, jogging to reach her. She’s halfway down the street already.
“I can’t do it,” she says, sounding infinitely sad. “I know that makes me an awful person, but I don’t want this baby. I didn’t want to have an abortion because I was already so far along, and it felt like killing a human or something, and Jagger said he’d be there for me, so I figured… I mean, there’s a small chance the kid is his, so I just pretended… but chances are it’s not. I’m pretty sure it’s Wyatt’s.” She’s shaking uncontrollably and she wraps her arms around herself even though it’s not cold out. “I can’t do it, Abby.”
“You’re not alone,” I remind her, touching her arm gently. “We’re here for you. Jagger, Chris, and me. And Edward, obviously. It’ll be okay.”
“It’s not about having help,” she bites out, jerking away from me. “I don’t want this baby. Its utter existence is a constant reminder of what Wyatt did to me. Of what I let him do.”
“You didn’t let him do anything,” I say, her words resonating deep within me. “This is his fault, Celeste, not yours.”
She starts walking again, not looking back at me. “It is my fault.”
I fall in step beside her, sighing. “No, it’s not, but I get why you’d feel that way.”
Her head jerks in my direction. “No, you don’t.”
“Did Jagger ever tell you about my past?” I ask, smiling sadly when she shakes her head. “I’ve been sexually abused as well. Not raped, but… well, I guess that I was raped too, come to think of it. I told the guy no, but he kept trying to push into me, and I just… I froze. I stopped fighting. Stopped telling him no. I let him do whatever he wanted.” It’s hard for me to talk about this, and memories of Cedric Peterson – one of my former employers – are making my skin crawl. “That’s still rape, though.”
“It’s not rape if you don’t fight,” Celeste says, sounding sure of herself.
“Did Wyatt know you didn’t want him to have sex with you?” I ask.
“Did you say no at some point?”
“Yeah, but only once.”
“Once is enough,” I assure her. “In fact, it’s his job to ask you if you want it. If he doesn’t ask, it’s not consensual. And since you said no, it definitely wasn’t. He kept going anyway. That’s rape, Celeste.”
“That’s what my therapist says too,” she says softly. “But my therapist has never been raped.”
“Take it from me then, from someone who has had men force themselves onto her many times,” I say, swallowing back the bile I taste. “Wyatt is at fault here. Not you. And it’s up to you what you want to do about your baby. Ever since you found out, you’ve stopped drinking, stopped smoking, and you’ve been trying so damn hard, Celeste. Whatever you decide, you’re already a good mother.”
She stops walking and sobs rock her small frame. I pull her in for a hug, rubbing her back until she calms down.
“What do you want to do?” I ask her. “About Wyatt, the baby, everything.”
She takes a moment to collect her thoughts, but when she speaks up, her voice is firm. “I want to make sure he will never have any power over my baby. I want him to rot in jail for what he did to me and my dad. And I want…” She shudders and looks down at her belly. “I don’t want this baby. I’ve been talking to my therapist and Edward about adoption, but Jagger doesn’t even want to discuss it with me. It’s not even his baby, and he loves it more than I do.”
My heart breaks for Jagger, but I actually agree with Celeste. If this is what she needs to move on from what happened to her, she should do it. It will be hard – the hardest thing she’ll ever do – but maybe it’s for the best. She’s so young and only just got her life in order. She should be allowed to live it whatever way is best for her.
“Let’s go back,” I say, steering her back to the house. “I’ll drive you home, okay?”
She nods and follows me back to my car, allowing me to drive her back to Edward’s place. He thanks me and pulls Celeste in for a tight hug, ushering her inside. I’m glad that she’s got this house to call home, because she’d be off much worse if she was still living with her father. At least Edward is a decent guy who cares about her and wants what’s best for her.
And poor Jagger. He will flip when he finds out Celeste is seriously considering putting the baby up for adoption. I think it’s better for him, to be honest. A 17-year-old who only recently stopped behaving like a fuck-up shouldn’t be raising a kid. He deserves to live his life carefree for a little while, and to go to college after high school, have a life of his own. I don’t want him to put his life on hold for Celeste and the baby, no matter how sweet it is that he wants to.