SECOND CHANCES

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Getting out of bed that morning required an extreme amount of willpower on Aaliyah’s part. Her body felt drained and exhausted, as though she had stayed awake for several nights.

She dragged herself to the bathroom, practically crawling in her exhaustion, and turned on the shower in desperate need of a hot shower to bring back her senses, letting the water beat some life into her tired body.

She wasn’t ready to get out of the safe haven of the bathroom to start her day, but she couldn’t stay in there forever. Today, she was helping Jason harvest some grapes for the winery, and as excited as she was, she felt beyond exhausted.

She staggered out to the living room, still not feeling a hundred percent but at least she felt a little bit better, and flopped onto the couch where Jason was engrossed in his laptop computer that sat on his coffee table.

They had been living together for nearly four months now, and life with Jason had been nothing short of perfection. While she didn’t always see him during the day, they spent every evening together. Being close to him made her feel warm and safe. She thanked whatever gods above for delivering him to her, for giving her something to live for once again.

“Hi, morning,” Aaliyah mumbled, contemplating whether she should curl up and fall back asleep right here.

“Hey there,” Jason greeted back gently with a smile as he closed his laptop. “thought it would take a brass band to get you to come around.”

“I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning,” she admitted. After all, it wasn’t every day when it felt like your life force was taken from an energy draining vampire.

A cool hand found her forehead. “You’re warm,” Jason said, his voice soft and full of concern. “You’re not getting sick, are you?”

“I hope not,” Aaliyah groaned. “There was a customer who came in sick the other day though. Maybe they’ve given me whatever it was they had.”

Jason began to absently run his fingers through Aaliyah’s still damp strands, his trimmed nails running lightly over her scalp. The sensation soothed her, and she moved a little closer to him, a small sound of satisfaction in her throat.

“Maybe you should stay home today if you’re not feeling too well.” Jason suggested, a concerned frown on his face.

“And miss my chance to see how you make your wine?” She scoffed, her eyes staying shut as Jason continued to massage her head. “Sorry, but that’s too tempting to pass up.”

He chuckled. “There will be plenty of other chances in the future.”

Aaliyah pursed her lips and pointed a skinny finger up at him. “I’m going, Moore, and that’s the end of this conversation.”

Jason held his hands up defensively and smiled. “Yes ma’am.”

Aaliyah giggled and reached her hand behind his neck and pulled his head down toward hers—and kissed him. He groaned into her mouth and she felt his hands sweep up her sides to cup her breasts, fingers lightly brushing over her nipples and getting a soft moan from her. She felt a jolt of electricity and a warm flutter in stomach at his touch, and she pulled away.

“Please,” she breathed in between his attempts to continue kissing her, “we’ve got to stop.”

“Why?”

“Because you promised to help your father, and he’s waiting for you right now. You know that if we keep going on like this it’s going to lead up to something more,” she said, straightening her shirt.

“And the problem is?”

Her expression told him to stop playing games, and he knew she had a point, even if it wasn’t what he wanted. “You’re right.” He sighed, leaning back against the sofa. “I’ll try to control myself.” His lips were in a childish pout and he had his hands folded over his chest in an attempt to be upset. Usually it did, but this time, it didn’t work on Aaliyah.

She kissed him on the cheek. “I have complete confidence in you.” She said with a giggle.

“Gee, thanks,” he groaned, sinking deeper into the chair.

As Aaliyah went to stand, her head began to swim and she could feel the floor coming up to meet her face, or so it felt. The last thing she heard before she passed out in Jason’s arms were his concerned cries.

“Lia!”

***

Aaliyah hated hospitals and clinics. She hated the smell of antiseptic, hated the unwelcoming sterility of such overly sanitized environments, and she really, really hated doctors. However, there was one physician she couldn’t come to hate. Jason’s mother, Sylvia Moore. She was a wonderful soul who welcomed her into their family with open arms. After she had gotten together with Jason and informed him of her abusive past, he had proposed telling his parents as well. She was skeptical in the beginning, not wanting unnecessary sympathy or pity, but after a lot of assurance and conviction, she was finally able to speak up to them. It was not an easy feat, but their response was so worth it. Sylvia broke down in tears, vowing to be there for Aaliyah as much as she could.

“Can we please leave?” Aaliyah demanded from her spot on the examination table, an irritated frown on her face.

Jason who was pacing the room anxiously, stopped for a brief moment to regard her with those piercing blue eyes and said, “We’re not leaving until we know what caused you to faint.”

“I’m fine, Jason. Really.” She reassured him. “It was more than likely caused from exhaustion. It’s been a hell of a week at work, you know. There’s only so much a girl can take.” She tried to joke, the words nearly getting stuck in her throat. Hospitals made her uncomfortable, and she needed to get out from there as soon as possible.

“We’re staying, Lia.” he said in a tone that left no room for argument, ignoring her badly timed joke.

Aaliyah pursed her lips, clearly not pleased. Jason softened his gaze, but she huffed and looked away, swallowing thickly. All she could hope for, was that everything went by as quickly as possible.

Then Sylvia walked into the room. She wore blue scrubs that fit her slender form, and white shoes. In addition to the usual white pants and light blue scrub shirt, she wore a mid length white coat and looked every bit of her profession.

Sylvia leaned in and kissed Jason on the cheek. “Hello, darling.”

“Hi mom,” he smiled warmly, but his eyes held worry. When she pulled away, she moved toward Aaliyah and embraced her in a hug. “Hi, sweetheart. How are you feeling?”

“Exhausted,” Aaliyah replied with her first real smile, returning the hug. It was always nice to see Sylvia.

“Well I just received the tests back on your lab work,” she informed. “You were dehydrated.”

Jason let out a breath of relief. “That’s a relief.” He turned to face Aaliyah. “You need to drink more water, babe.” She rolled her eyes at him, turning back to Sylvia, who looked like she had more to say.

“Well that’s not all,” The older woman added, eyebrows furrowed.

“What do you mean that’s not all?” Aaliyah asked, her heart speeding up and all the scary questions filling her brain.

At Aaliyah’s question, Sylvia could not disguise her evident delight, clapping her gloved hands enthusiastically together as she jumped up and down in her excitement.

“I’m going to be a grandma again!”

“What?” Both Jason and Aaliyah asked in unison, their eyes wide with confusion.

“Aaliyah’s pregnant!” She shouted excitedly, only realizing that her voice was a little too loud some minutes after. She quickly covered her mouth, taking a deep breath before lowering her voice this time, whispering, “Aaliyah’s pregnant.”

Jason blinked, not quite sure he had actually heard her right. “Pregnant?”

Sylvia nodded enthusiastically. “Pregnant.” She confirmed to her shell-shocked son.

Aaliyah let out a shocked laugh, shaking her head in disbelief. “That’s impossible. I can’t be pregnant. I’m on the pill.”

“It’s not always 100% effective, honey. More than 40 out of 100 couples become pregnant while using it effectively.” Sylvia explained patiently. “It happens.”

Aaliyah blew out a shaky breath. Pregnant. She was pregnant. With Jason’s baby. Oh, my God, she thought, her heart increasing its pace. With trembling hands, she touched her abdomen. A baby. She was going to have a baby. She was going to have a baby with Jason, a whole human that was half of her entire being, and half of his.

When she was younger, marriage and motherhood were the pinnacle of her life’s goals. She used to be such a firm believer in the stereotypical nuclear family, so when things didn’t work out how she hoped they would, she never really thought about being a mother anymore.

Never in a hundred years did Aaliyah think she would ever have the chance to become a mother, anyways. Her toxic relationship with Nathan made sure of that, as she couldn’t fathom having children with such a horrible man. Knowing him, he would probably have caused her to either lose the child, or to endure more trauma than she needed to. Nathan was a horrible human being, and now more than ever, Aaliyah was thankful that this experience was not with him.

“We’re going to have a baby,” Jason said, his voice cracking. Slipping out from her temporary reverie, Aaliyah looked up at a very emotional Jason, his face was bright red and his eyes were watery from perhaps being so overjoyed. “Wow—“ he started to say, but he never made out the rest. All at once she was off her feet, his arms fast around her and his lips against hers, kissing her soundly, with renewed passion. They were going to be parents together. Nothing felt better than that, at that moment.

From the corner of the room, Sylvia watched her son with his girlfriend with a soft smile, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. The poor girl had been through so much, she deserved all the joy in the world that she could lay her hands on, and she knew that to the best of her son’s ability, he would make sure she got it.

“Congratulations, you two,” Sylvia chimed after they had pulled apart from each other. “We’ll need to make another appointment. I suggest in four weeks’ time for an ultrasound. Then we can ascertain the exact age of your baby and set a likely due date.”

They both nodded, unsure of how to respond.

“In the meantime, I’d like Aaliyah to start this course of folic acid and prenatal vitamins.” She continued and pulled out a pamphlet from one of the cupboards. “Here’s a leaflet of dos and don’ts. For the absolute safety of the mother and child, you both should follow through.”

As she handed Jason a paper of the required medicine and a leaflet, she continued to talk to them, but Aaliyah wasn’t listening. She was still in shock. Overwhelmed. Surely she knew that she should be ecstatic, but at the mention of the word Safety, the thought of Nathan finding her and pregnant with another man’s child had immediately overridden any happy emotion. She tried to quell her rising sense of panic and focus on Sylvia’s words, but her brain kept zoning out every time she tried to.

After her mini lecture, Aaliyah forced a smile onto her face as they wished Sylvia a polite good-bye and headed back down to the exit and out into the hot summer afternoon. Despite the high temperature, Aaliyah was gripped suddenly by a creeping cold and deep sense of foreboding. Nathan was going to freak if he found her, she knew, but how much and how far, she had no idea. His words still haunted her every time something good happened to her. She couldn’t stop herself from remembering them. “You’re mine. You’ll always be mine, Angeline. And if you run, I will find you no matter what. You can never escape me.” Aaliyah wrapped her arms around herself, trying to shake off the cold.

Jason opened the passenger door of his truck and helped her inside; then he hurriedly turned around and got behind the wheel. His face seemed to be stretched to a permanent smile that was unable to quell, and when she turned to look at Jason, a wave of sadness erupting in her chest.

Without warning her bottom lip began to quiver, and she turned quickly toward the window. Choking on a sob.

“Lia?” Jason’s voice was filled with so much concern.

“What are we going to do?” Her voice cracked, and tears pooled in her eyes. “If Nathan finds me…”

“Hey,” he whispered softly. “Look at me.”

She closed her eyes for a brief moment, sucking in a deep breath before turning to look at him.

“Nothing is going to happen to you or to our child,” he promised, a firm look in his eyes.

“How can you promise that?” her voice was small and shaky.

“Because I will protect the both of you. I swear on my life I will keep the two of you safe.” he assured her, fierce blue eyes filled with renewed determination.

And then the hot tears came, and, as she tried to stifle her sobs, a half cry broke from her. “I’m so scared, Jason.” Dropping her head in her hands, she wept. “I don’t want to lose this baby. I don’t want to lose you.”

Jason closed his eyes, drawing her closer until their foreheads touched. He slowly lifted his, and moved her hands away from her face, capturing her in a deep, soulful gaze.

“You’re not losing me. I’m not going anywhere. And when or if the time comes, we will deal with it...together, okay? In this family, we don’t run. We face everything head on.”

His eyes were dark and serious. She nodded, sniffling as she willed herself to calm down.

“Come on. Let’s go home. Today is a great day. We’re going to be parents.”

Aaliyah pulled back and he swept away the tear that fell, kissing her sweetly.

“So…it’s okay, right?” She nodded, looking hopeful.

“No, wh—are you kidding?” A small grin split his lips, hands at her shoulders as he jostled her. “Yes. Yes, it’s great. It’s amazing. It’s…it’s fucking terrifying, but it’s great.”

Aaliyah smiled, relieved.

She cupped his cheek in her hand and gave him a serious look. “I love you, Jason Moore.”

“I love you too Aaliyah. So very much.”

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