“Abranica!” A stern voice scolds the little girl standing beside me as she pats my stomach with wide wondrous grey eyes.
“It’s okay Julian,” I say with a chuckle to Johnattan’s brother as I look down at his daughter with a smile.
“Hi there,” I say to little Abranica and she looks up at me with a gappy smile.
“Hello,” she greets, her blonde curls framing her chubby face.
“So your name’s Abranica?” I ask and she nods.
“Yes, my name is Abranica Justina Blake,” she says with a squeaky voice and I genuinely smile.
I guess all the Blake children were taught to introduce themselves to others using their full names.
“That’s a beautiful name,” I state as ruffle her curls, causing her to giggle. “It’s nice to meet you Abranica.”
“Nice to meet you too...” she trails off with a frown as she notices she doesn’t know my name.
“Hey, you didn’t tell me what your name is,” she pouts.
“Oh I’m sorry, my name is Christina but you can call me Chrissie,” I reply sweetly as I rest my hand on my stomach causing her eyes to drift to it.
“Your tummy’s so big!” Abranica exclaims with a smile as her hands wonder across my bloated stomach once more in amazement. “What’s in it?”
She gives me a thoughtful look with her mouth open showing two empty slots where her incisors were.
“Abranica,” a softer voice chimes and Abranica turns to look at her mother, Abigail, who’s sitting to my left. “It’s not nice to question our guest like that, apologize.”
“But her tummy’s so big,” Abranica says opening her arms wide when saying the word big and I chuckle.
Her mother shoots her a stern look and Abranica frowns, turning to face me.
“I’m sorry Christina,” she says with a pout and I shake my head.
“It’s okay sweetie and to answer your question, there are babies in there, just like you,” I whisper the last part to her, tapping her nose and it scrunches along with her face in confusion.
“How did babies get there? Did you eat them?!” she asks in horror and I hear laughter erupt from the people around me.
I look over at Johnattan whose voice booms over all the others and send him a horrified look that only causes him to laugh some more.
It’s been almost half an hour since Johnattan and I had returned to the living room and met the other half of his family excluding his father. After brief introductions we were ushered to the dining room by their mother and now we are seated around a beautifully crafted dining table.
‘Help me,’ I mouth at Johnattan and he bites his lips, fighting the laughter.
“She didn’t eat them, Abri.” Johnattan states and Abranica relaxes before confusion clouds her face once more.
“So how did they get in there?” she asks and I turn to Johnattan as he fumbles to explain how the babies got into my stomach to his little four-year-old niece.
This should be good.
“Um... well... Christina help me out,” he pleads an uncomfortable look on his face.
“Nah you’ve got this Uncle Joey,” I grin and he glares.
“Yeah, come on Uncle Joey tell me,” Abranica pushes and everyone eyes Johnattan with amused smiles.
“Um... ask your dad, he’d be happy to tell you. He’s the doctor after all,” Johnattan says, causing everyone’s gaze to drift to Julian who looks like a deer catch in headlights.
“Thanks for throwing me under the bus bro,” Julian hisses under his breath and Johnattan replies nonchalantly with a ‘no problem’.
“Um... Well, w-when a man and a woman lo–” he looks at her intrigued expression as utter discomfort crosses his face before continuing. “Ask your mother. She was the one who had you in her tummy once,” he says quickly, stuffing his face with potato salad trying to avoid the question and everyone at the table except Abigail and Julian laugh.
“Well, mommy?” Abranica looks at her hopefully.
Abigail and Abranica share the same grey eyes but her hair is inherited from her father and not her mother whose hair is black. They both have chubby, baby faces but it works for Abi who has a curvaceous, short figure. She’s Latina mixed with Caucasian and a hit of Asian. A mixture that works wonders for her.
“Come on honey, that’s enough questions for now,” Abi says as she guides her daughter to the seat beside her, next to her older brother who is in one of the seats at the head of the table.
Abranica’s brother, Justin shares his mother’s eyes and hair but his features and complexion favour his father. This six-year-old is too busy playing with his iPad to even partake in the conversation but his parents didn’t seem to mind.
“Hey, Abri,” Johnattan calls out to niece as she begins to eat, placing a spoon full of rice in her mouth. “You wanna know a secret?”
The girl nods enthusiastically, chewing and swallowing her food and I look at Johnattan with a raised brow.
“Christi’s babies are gonna be your cousins,” he replies and the little girl’s face lights up.
“Really?” she asks excitedly and he nods.
“That’s so cool! I’ll have someone to play with other than Justin,” she scrunches her nose. “He always cheats when we play cards.”
This statement catches Justin’s attention and he and his sister begin to take part in a petty argument with the main words exchanged being ‘I do not’ and ‘you do too’.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say it is the cutest thing to watch.
I stare at them with a small smile and my hands caress my stomach instinctively. Will my babies be like this, bickering amongst each other? Having petty arguments?
“So Christina, how long have you know our Joey?” Johnattan’s older sister and Julian’s twin asks, stealing my attention.
She and Julian share the same green eyes as their mother but her hair his a dirty blonde whereas Julian’s is an almost platinum blonde. Her features are sharp yet feminine and her body is robust and toned, as expected from a Kick boxer.
“Six months give or take,” I reply as I place some of the potato salad in my mouth, moaning at the taste.
“How’d you guys meet?”
“She was working with him on a project,” Jessie pipes in from Julia’s right. Her sister looks at her questioningly and Jessie shrugs taking a sip of her drink. “She told us this earlier, if only you had been on time.”
The sisters start to bicker about Julia’s jobs and how they barely see her, leaving me out of the limelight for a few minutes. Josephine quickly breaks it up and the interrogation continues. Johnattan and I answer their questions to the best of our ability and they seem please with our answers. The questioning however, ends abruptly as the front door swings open and in a few minutes an older, taller version of Johnattan with exception of the blonde hair ventures in.
His electric blue eyes scan the table impassively as his eyes lands on me and he takes a seat at the head of the table after kissing his wife and tossing a ‘good night’ to us.
The seating arrangement is now Justin and Johnattan’s father at the head of the table; Johnattan, me, Abi and Abri on the right and Josephine, Jessie, Julia and Julian on the left, in the exact order.
Josephine, who is on Johnattan’s father’s right is the first person to speak as an eerie silence had taken over the room.
“Christina, this is my husband, Nathan,” she smiles at me. “Honey, this is Christina, Johnattan’s girlfriend.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I say but he doesn’t reply and Josephine shoots him a glare, causing him to reply with a tight lipped ‘same’.
I’m not really offended by his behaviour seeing as though my father and I had conversed the same but Johnattan seems to have taken it to heart, judging by the look he was giving his father.
Johnattan, who’s to his father’s left glares at him with a clenched jaws and his father returns the favour with disappointment in his eyes.
I sigh as I notice the tension between them, not liking where this is heading. I find Johnattan’s hand under the table, clenching against his thigh and I take it in my own, rubbing my thumb against his knuckles soothingly.
He unclenches his fist, breaking eye contact with his father to look at me and I give him a look to say ‘it’s alright’. Fortunately, he nods, squeezing my hand before continuing to eat.
I follow suit, taking a bite out of Josephine’s delicious oven-baked chicken when his voice interrupts my meal.
“So, Christina when did you and Johnattan get into this relationship, before or after he found out you were pregnant?”
“Nathan,” Josephine hisses her eyes opened in outrage and the others go silent except for Abranica and Justin who are oblivious to what’s happening around them.
"Father,” Johnattan says warningly and Nathan doesn’t even bat a lash at him.
“Well?” he asks, looking at me.
“We were together before he found out,” I state, looking straight into his intense eyes that try to break me down.
This man carries a dark aura around him. His expressions are sharp, stern with not a hint of warmness. It’s strange to see a bright spark like Josephine paired up with a stone wall like him but I guess opposites do attract.
“I see. Is that why he was tracking you down, because you skipped town with his baby?”
Johnattan goes to answer but I cut him off. “He didn’t know about the baby then.”
“So why did you run away from him?” The questions just keep flowing but I’ll be damned if I don’t beat him at his own game.
“I had personal issues to take care of,” I say vaguely.
“Okay,” Josephine snaps at Nathan as he goes to open his mouth again. “I believe that’s enough questions from you.”
He shrugs, turning his attention to his covered plate like that didn’t just happen. It’s then that I take notice of Johnattan’s hand gripping mine tightly and I look over at him.
His face looks almost like he’s constipated.
“Johnattan, calm down,” I whisper softly to him as I use my other hand to cover our intertwined ones.
Nathan had thankfully placed his attention on his other children and off me.
“He just enjoys toying with me, doesn’t he?” he mutters under his breath as he turns to face me. “Putting you on the spot like that was cruel Christina. I don’t give fuck if he’s my father, you don’t deserve that.”
I smile softly at him, resting my forehead against his. “I’m tougher than that Johnattan, it’ll take more than that to rile me up. Try not to let it get to you...and I find your persistency in wanting to defend me so hot and heroic. Maybe after this I can show you how hot it makes me.”
A grin slips on his face and I mentally praise myself for taking his mind off it. “Nice try, Christi. I’m still pissed but I’d love to take you up on what you’re insinuating.”
He kisses my cheek, pulling away and as we face the others I notice their eyes on us with genuine smiles... well, except for Nathan whose lips are in a grim line.
I shrug it off. Can’t please everyone so why try.
“You’re cute,” Jessie says with a smirk.
“Definitely,” Abi says in agreement. “So how far along are you, Christina?”
“Five and half months,” I reply as I continue.
“So, what do your parents have to say about you being pregnant out of wedlock?”
I bet you can guess who just asked that.
“My mom’s not around so I wouldn’t know,” I state, narrowing my eyes at him. “My father could care less and the last time I checked this was the twenty first century. Being pregnant out of wedlock isn’t a crime.”
“I beg to differ in some countries it is,” he shoots back with that ice cold voice of his.
“Well, we aren’t in some country. This is the U.S.,” I say with my signature ’fuck off please′ smile.
Johnattan squeezes my hand and I stop smiling, continuing my meal.
“I’m sorry about my husband, Christina,” Josephine says sincerely as she narrows her eyes at Nathan. “And I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”
“It’s okay,” I say with a small smile as I take a sip of water from the clear glass. Not even five minutes later another question is thrown at me and it sets loose all the anger in the room.
“So, Christina did the personal problems had to take care of have to do with that man that tried to take you?”
“Nathan!” Josephine yells the exact time Johnattan stands to his feet and bellows. “Father!”
Nathan however, doesn’t acknowledge either sipping the wine in his glass nonchalantly.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough of this. What are you trying to prove here?!” Johnattan asks his father heatedly, it’s then that Nathan looks up at Johnattan and I see the storm brewing within his eyes.
“Abigail, bring the children into the living room now, please.” Josephine instructs a shocked Abi and she quickly does this before shit starts to hit the fan.
“What I am trying to prove is that you’ve been wasting three months searching for a woman who ran away from you!” Nathan replies as he stands to glare down at his son. “And to top that off you skip a meeting to go to California for her only to get shot ironically by her!”
Everyone’s eyes widen in shock and Jessie is the first to utter what everyone is thinking.
“You shot him?!” her eyes look at me incredulously but before I can answer Johnattan pipes up.
“So you’ve been checking up on me, have you? Then you should know she was trying to protect me and accidentally gave me a flesh wound!” he hisses between clenched teeth.
“Protect you?!” Nathan asks hysterically. “Why was she protecting you from? A man from her past that obsessed with her. You’re lucky that shot wasn’t fatal! All this shit for what? Matthias Authoró’s bastard child.”
As he says those words my mind and body freezes. Is that who he thinks I am? Matthias Authoró’s bastard child.
“She’s not good for you! Everywhere she goes danger follows her! She’s not worth it and the worst thing in this is the fact that you were stupid enough to knock her up!”
“Shut up!” Johnattan yells and Nathan looks at him bewildered.
“What did you just say to me boy?!” Josephine and her children stare at Johnattan in horror but he’s too pent up to notice.
“I said shut the fuck up,” Johnattan says slowly and even I’m frozen in shock.
“Johnattan, calm down,” I say but he doesn’t listen.
“No, I won’t calm down. I did all you wanted me to! I studied architecture, I took over a part of the family business and I was even dumb enough to get engaged to Cherry’s bitch of a daughter!” He says, pointing his finger at his father. ”The one time– one fucking time, I do something for myself– find someone for myself, you research her finding faults at every angle. I don’t give a fuck about what you want now! I love that woman and I want to raise my children with her whether you like it or not! To you she’s not good for me but to me she’s the best fucking thing in my life and I’ll be damn if you take her away from me.”
My throat clogs up as he says this and the others stare at the two men with caution.
“Don’t give me that crap! She’s nothing but a bastard child trying to make up for the fact that her father doesn’t want her!”
"Excuse me?!” I ask incredulously with red hot anger. Everyone has their limit and that right there is mine.
My chair scrapes as I get up from my seat and I make my way towards Nathan who watches me with disgust.
“Let me get something straight Mr Blake, I am not the bastard child of Matthias Authoró! I am the first born to his first wife Iona Hase, so before you start shouting shit from your mouth check the facts! One, I am not trying to make up for the fact that my father doesn’t want me. Two, I left!” He goes to open his mouth but I cut him off before he can utter a word, probably trying to speculate a reason to why I left.
“I left because I was raped and he did nothing! I left because that man made me abort my unborn child almost costing me my ability to reproduce!”
He goes silent and shock and discomfort resonating on his face. The first emotions other than disappointment, anger and disgust to appear on his face since he has been here. Obviously he wasn’t expecting something like this.
“Christina, you don’t have to–” Johnattan calls out to me, holding my shoulders and I shake him off.
“No Johnattan I have to. I don’t care if you are Johnattan’s father that gives you no right! You want to act like you’re all big and mighty and judge me. Well, here’s your case Mr Blake tell me how wrong I am for your son. Tell me how I’m some woman with daddy issues looking to sponge off your son’s money. Tell me how I got knocked up with his babies to tie him. Tell me everything that you find wrong and disgusting about me. Go on! I dare you. I’ve heard worse said about me and frankly, I really don’t give a fuck. So go ahead judge me.”
I cross my hands under my breasts, narrowing my eyes at him daring him. Minutes pass and no one says or does anything and I let out a humourless laugh. “You can’t can you?”
I look up at him and he almost looks sympathetic, almost sorry. I shake my head, giving him a dispassionate look before turning on my heel after saying these few words. “You thought you had me all figured out didn’t you? Words from the wise Mr Blake, before you try and judge me, get to know me.”
With that I turn to the others who are frozen in place, I give them a small smile. They all look at me with pity and my stomach clenches in anger. I didn’t want them to pity me, I’m not weak or broken... at least not anymore.
“Mrs Blake, thank you for the amazing dinner. Jessie, Julia and Julian it was nice to meet you guys. I’m a bit winded so I think it’s time for me to take my leave.”
Still they say nothing.
I look over at Johnattan who looks at me apologetically and I give him a reassuring smile. “Johnattan, shall we?”
He nods stiffly, placing his hand on the small of my back and after saying his goodbyes – which remained unanswered, he leads me out the room. We come upon Abi as we enter the living room but the children are nowhere in sight.
“They’re upstairs,” she says softly and we nod in acknowledgement.
She looks at me sympathetically probably hearing everything that went on in the dining room and I whisper a farewell to her before allowing Johnattan to lead me out the front door.
“Look what you did!” I hear Josephine bellow as the front doors close behind us.
We enter the car in silence and I rest my head against the window with a tired sigh. The night had finally taken its toll on me...
“Christina...” Johnattan calls placing his hand on my leg and I intertwine mine with his as my eyes sting. “I’m sorry.”
I nod in acknowledgement and he places his hand on my chin, turning my face to his; guilt lingers in his eyes as he sees my red, glossy eyes.
I clamp my eyes shut, refusing to cry as my chest heaves rapidly and Johnattan wraps me in his arms.
“Can we just go home please?” I ask softly and Johnattan nods, keeping me in his arms a little longer before pulling out of his parents’ estate.