"Can you pick me up at Clarion hotel and drive me to the airport?"
I got the text from my son about half an hour after we'd left the police station. But when I texted back to ask for the address, he didn't answer. Typical of him. Luckily, it didn't take many minutes to find that it was the only hotel with that name in San Francisco, so I got in the car and drove off. And after thirty-five minutes through thick traffic, I parked and walked inside.
"Can I help you, sir?"
The young, uniformed man asking had the most exaggerated smile I'd seen in a long time. He clapped his palms together and blinked his eyes, and waited for me to answer.
"No, thank you. I'm just waiting for someone," I said politely. It was clear that this man took his job as a receptionist seriously, so I kind of expected him to discreetly leave me alone. But of course, I wasn't that lucky.
"Oh, okay. Do you want me to bring you any refreshments? Coffee? Tea?"
"No, thank you."
Can't he just let a man wait in peace?
"How about some sliced fruit?"
"No... Thank... You," I said, emphasizing each syllable to show that I was already quite a bit annoyed.
"Okay. So how long are you going to wait, sir?"
Christ! What's wrong with this dude?
"I don't know. Hopefully not too long."
"Is he one of our guests?"
"No... Well, I'm not sure. I don't think he is," I said, but it sounded more like a question. Rocco slept over at my house last night, but I didn't know if he'd stayed here before that and for how long.
"I can go check our lists if you want to."
"No, really. That's not necessary."
"But it only takes a minute."
I counted backwards from ten, but it didn't help.
Let him do it, Aaron. At least he'll be off your back for a moment.
"...his name is Guilherme Asahrdagio."
"Guil... Can you please repeat that?"
Damn! Can I?
"Guil-herm-eeee... Asahr-da-giiiooo," I lied, both with fake accent and dramatic pronunciation, and it amused the heck out of me when he repeated it a few times. Then he rushed off while he kept mumbling to himself, probably trying to remember the name I'd forgotten already, and I took the opportunity to sneak off.
After taking the elevator up and down a few times, I got restless and checked my phone for the umpteenth time. Still no message from Rocco. And it irritated me that I didn't know which floor to search.
Don't tell me you're bored enough to knock on all the doors to find your son? Hell, yes, you are!
"Maybe it's more adult-like to find the bar," I mumbled to myself. So that's what I did, and ordered the kind that had the lowest alcohol percentage without being non-alcoholic. Then I took a gulp and almost gagged. It tasted feet! Then I choked when I spotted the annoying receptionist again, and he was heading towards me. Needless to say, I was insanely relieved when I finally got the long awaited text from Rocco, telling me to meet him outside room 318.
"Oh, my God!" I exclaimed loudly, and got everyone's attention. Why? To distract the receptionist enough to place my beer in his hand as I hurried toward and past him.
"He's drinking while he's on duty!"
The confused man gasped and tried to return what I'd so generously given him. It literally looked like he was touching burning coal.
"Tell the guys at AAA that I said hello!" I yelled as I took off and ran all the stairs up to the third floor.
Okay, be serious now, Aaron. Your son's had a rough enough day as it is. You should be able to take him to the airport without making a fool of either yourself or people around you.
"310... 312..." I mumbled to myself, while I tried to calm my breath as I walked. There it was.
I knocked and waited, expecting to find my son with a suitcase or a bag of clothes, ready to leave, but instead...
"Bambi?" I burst out, not believing my own eyes.
"What are you doing here?"
A rush of emotions flushed through my body and I felt both disappointment, anger and a wild excitement just by the sight of her. And without thinking, I stepped inside and wrapped my arms around her.
...only to be pushed away.
"What...?" I asked. I didn't understand a thing.
"I... I'm sorry," she mumbled. Then she changed her mind and gave me a short and awkward hug after all. Not at all like the tight, passionate one like I'd wished for.
"Are you okay? What are you doing here? I thought you were in New York? Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" I asked, and all the questions poured out until I was out of breath. Then I kissed the top of her head and stepped back a bit.
It was such a relief to finally see her again. Like I'd found the tiny piece that made the picture perfect. Then I got confused. Why did she look sad?
"Are you alright?" I asked, and I watched the first tear roll down her cheek. But she put on a brave smile and cleared her throat.
"Yeah. I am. I'm just... Happy to see you."
She seemed just as surprised as I was, and that made me question who she expected to show up. Because it obviously wasn't me.
"Martina? Is there something I should know about?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," she mumbled, but the way she didn't meet my eyes told me she was hiding something. And I needed to know what.
"Who were you expecting to meet with you?" I asked straight out, and she kept hugging a blue and way too big hoodie close to her body. That couldn't be hers, could it? Who did it belong to?
I took a step forward so I could close the door, and she immediately took two steps back. Did she feel threatened by me? I didn't want that. But I realized that she probably was anyway. She was pale and had big, scared eyes, like she was a little deer trapped in the headlights of a car. She looked terrified.
"Aaron, I..." she started, but her voice was so weak and thin. I'm not even sure if I'd hear her if she wasn't standing so close.
"Are you seeing someone else? Is that why you came here without saying anything?"
"No, Aaron. I would never..."
"Is that his hoodie?" I asked, sounding more angry than I was. In fact, I wasn't mad at all. I was hurt and confused.
"Are you wearing his clothes while you're waiting for him to..."
"No! Aaron! Stop it!" she cried, then stumbled a bit to the side and tried to hold on to the wall. And then...
"Oh, my God! Bambi? Can you hear me? Martina? Wake up!"
I sat down on my knees and tried to get her to open her eyes, but she was unconscious. So I lifted her up, carried her to the couch and gently put her down. Her hair was covering her face, so I stroked it back. Then I tried to adjust her baggy clothes. Since when did she start to wear that? She hadn't gained any weight as far as I could see. More the opposite. Then I moved her arm a little to make her lie more comfortable, and that's when I noticed...
Fuck! No... That can't be true. She's...?
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" she suddenly screamed, and pushed me away already before she managed to sit up. Then she crawled her way out of the couch and stumbled across the floor on her way to the door.
"You need to lay down, Martina. You just fainted, and I need to take you to the hospital."
But she just mumbled a 'no' together with something incoherent, before she disappeared down the hall, running toward the stairs. And I was literally so shocked that I stood in the middle of the room like a complete idiot, unable to do anything at all. It almost felt like I was paralyzed.
She was pregnant? Since when? And who was the father? Rocco? Or maybe somebody else? Someone she'd kept a secret all the time we'd been separated? Was that why she'd been acting so strange and refused to meet me?
I didn't realize that I was calling her name until my own frantic voice pulled me out of my state of shock.
"Martina!" I yelled again, but the hollow sound ricocheted from the walls and hit me with blank emptiness. So I ran. After slamming the door shut behind me, I bolted off in the same direction she'd disappeared, and I silently prayed that she hadn't fallen down the stairs and hurt herself. I mean, if she'd fainted one time, it might as well happen again.
Especially if things are the way you think they are. Shit, Aaron. You're in deep trouble. Again.
I rushed out of the hotel and out into the street, and searched for the blue hoodie that I already hated. There was no sign of her.
"Excuse me, have you seen a girl with caramel hair and a giant, blue..."
"Beat it, punk!" was the only response I got, after asking all the people I came across. So I called her name again, even though I knew it was probably useless. Either she couldn't hear me, or she didn't want to. But I kept searching, because no matter what explanation she had, she was still the woman I cared about.
Love, Aaron. You're head over heels, crazy in love with her.
She spotted me first. I know, because she was suddenly standing in the middle of a crowd, looking at me. She was completely dissolved in tears. Desperate, I snaked my way through the mass of people, while I prayed that she wouldn't run away from me again.
"I'm sorry," she said, just loud enough to outsource the noise around us. Then she broke completely. Luckily, this time I managed to grab her before she fell, and I hugged her tightly while I tried to ignore the strange thing that kept her from holding her as close as I wanted. It didn't stop me from dragging in her scent of wild flowers, though, and I inhaled like it was air I needed to live.
I stroked her back and let her cry on my shoulder, and I shielded her from curious strangers as well as I could. Why the hell couldn't they mind their own business?
Eventually, I pulled her somewhere that was more secluded before I hugged her again.
"You're pregnant, aren't you?" I whispered into her hair, and she took a deep, shaky breath and nodded.
"Is it Rocco's?"
"Is it someone else's?"
"I'm in love with you, idiot! Why would I want to have sex with someone else?"
"I didn't want you to know," she sobbed.
"I didn't want to ruin your life or be a burden..."
I just couldn't help it. The cold, calculated part of me needed to be sure.
"Can you please take a DNA test?"
She sniffled and pulled away from me, and I saw anger flare in her teary eyes.
"I already did that. And do you know why? Because I knew that you wouldn't believe me if you ever found out."
"I went all the way to the DNA diagnostic center in Fairfield, Ohio, just to get answers, Aaron. Because you...!"
She pointed hard on my chest.
"...don't trust me enough to believe me when I tell you that you're gonna be a dad!"
"But don't worry. Unlike your stupid fuck-buddy, I'm not after your money. In fact, I'm not gonna bother you at all! And that's why I didn't want to meet you again, because I wanted to remember us the way we were when you were happy. And not like this, all angry and yelling."
She took a break barely long enough to catch her breath, before she continued.
"Just go back to your old life, Aaron. I can manage perfectly fine on my own. I'll be out of your life as soon as my flight takes off tomorrow."
"You're leaving? But you just got here!"
She scoffed and stepped out of my reach when I tried to grab her hand.
"I don't understand why that surprises you."
"You don't understand why...?" I yelled, reiterating her words like I couldn't believe my own words.
"You can't leave, Martina! Please! I'm begging you!"
Don't fucking cry, you pathetic son of a bitch! What is this woman doing to you?
"That's my baby! You can't leave and take my baby away with you! Please..."
I finally managed to catch her hand, pulled her to me and hugged her like the world exploded around us.
"We're really gonna have a baby?" I asked, just to get it confirmed once more, but I didn't really wait for her to answer.
"We're having a baby... Oh, my God."
I laughed in disbelief and pulled away so I could look at her. She looked like a mess. A beautiful mess with swollen, red eyes, teary cheeks and tangled loose hair.
And that damn hoodie...
"I'm sorry, but this's gotta go," I murmured, and chuckled at her confused expression when I pulled it off. And she was even more startled when I put my hands on her belly and studied it closer.
It? It's a whole baby in there, stupid. It's not an 'it'.
"How do you feel?" I asked with the dumbest smile ever. Her tank top showed everything I needed to see. For now, at least.
"I don't know," she said, probably startled by my reaction.
"That's a part of me in there," I said, suddenly sounding cocky as fuck. Then I leaned forward a bit so my head was leveled with her stomach.
"Hi, there, little one. I'm your dad. I'm a wandering tragedy of a man, but I promise to do my best to be there for you."
Okay, Aaron! You've officially lost it.
Martina laughed through her tears and tucked her hair behind her ears. Then my gaze shifted to hers and I looked at her in a way that made her squirm a bit.
"I did that," I snickered and pointed at her little bump.
"I did that," I repeated with an even wider smirk, and she nodded and continued to giggle. She was so adorable that I couldn't help but to lift her up and kiss her breathless.
"I've missed you like crazy," I murmured against her lips, and loved her tiny moan.
"I've missed you too. I just thought you'd hate me if you found out, because I saw how you reacted when Allison..."
"Don't ever compare yourself to her, Bambi. You have something she'll never get."
"Oh? And what's that?" she asked suggestively, and I finally got a glimpse of my sassy girlfriend.
"Me!" I snickered, and she slapped my chest playfully. Then I took her hand and moved it back to place it where my heart was.
"This. You stole this a long time ago, and I don't want it back. Especially now that you have a little mini-me inside you. One who will suck on your titties just like I like to do."
And there it was; the cute blush that always awarded me when I said something that made her embarrassed. Then I raised an eyebrow and made a totally unamused face.
"One that is biologically mine," I mumbled under my breath. It was then I noticed a slight change in Martina, and her gaze fell.
"About that..." she started, and my heart rate skyrocketed.
Was she gonna tell me that the baby wasn't mine after all? That it was all some sort of sick joke?
"I need to tell you something."
She took a deep breath, and I swear I'd never felt more nervous.
"When I received the DNA results, there was no doubt that you're the father."
"Thank God!" I breathed out, not realizing that I'd been holding my breath.
"I knew it wasn't Rocco's, but I took a test anyway and... Aaron? He has a completely different DNA than you."
I stared at Martina for quite a while, and tried to gather my thoughts.
"...a completely different DNA..."
"Yeah," she said sadly, but I still couldn't understand. I heard what she said and I knew what it meant, but I just couldn't believe...
"Rocco's not my son?"