I was sitting on the couch, playing my guitar, while I waited for Martina to get ready for our date. I'd gone back to the black acoustic one lately, much to my neighbors' relief, and I often ended up playing Bambi's song, which had a much deeper meaning now. Slowly the lyrics made their way down to an already wrinkled paper. It had pen marks, unreadable letters, arrows and circled words all over it. Even tears. But it actually started to sound like a song.
I sat back and looked at the paper, while the sound of the guitar slowly died under my fingers and turned to silence, and I smiled. So this was what Dom and Quentin had talked about all those years? This was love? This was true happiness? It had to be, because the way I felt when Martina was around gave me a calmness that I didn't even know existed, and much less knew I needed. Now I didn't know if I could survive without it. Without her.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by Bambi's soft voice humming the same melody I just played, and I smiled even wider. Then I grabbed my pen and added a few more words that came to me through her eyes while she sang. And she finished with a cute giggle, just like the first time.
"I can't believe you remember that," she said and came closer, and I put my guitar away and got up.
"How could I forget? That song was the only thing that kept me alive after you left," I said truthfully. Then I kissed her sad frown away, and pulled her into a hug while I inhaled her smell.
"You look amazing, by the way."
We parted so I could take a proper look, and I whistled quietly when I saw how well her deep green dress wrapped around her ass. She didn't wear the sexy red one, though. She'd convinced me that it belonged inside the privacy of our apartment, and maybe she was right.
"Gosh, it feels weird. You know... Not covering up anymore," she commented and tried to adjust the dress over her tiny, yet very visible baby bump. I must admit that it took a while to get used to seeing her like this. Pregnant. With my baby. How awesome was that? No matter what happened between us, she would always be a part of my life.
Like on its own accord, my hand landed on her stomach and stroked it in circles, just like at the store earlier, and the strange need to protect them both filled my veins. Why wasn't it like this with Bree? I had absolutely no interest when she was pregnant with Rocco. Maybe I instinctively knew he wasn't mine? Because that was certainly the case with Allison. But in both cases, I did what was expected of me. I took responsibility, even though I gradually lost myself.
This time was different, though. This time I loved the woman. I even loved her more than life itself, and the little seed inside her was damn sure included. But maybe most of all because she helped me find my old self again. The one I lost so many years ago.
"Beautiful," I murmured with a half-smirk. And when I wrapped her in my arms again, I cupped her ass cheeks in my hands and angled my pelvis against hers.
"I think we better leave now. If not, there's a huge risk that we'll both end up naked, fucking each other senseless until the neighbors call the cops."
My lowered voice had the desired effect, and I could feel her body go weak. Then she whined when I grabbed the opportunity to give her a solid hickey on her neck.
"Hey. You asked for it, putting up your hair like that."
"What's wrong with my hair?" she huffed, but I was quick to remove her hands when she started picking on it.
"Absolutely nothing, Bambi. I just love how it gives me free access to one of the most erogenous zones of your body," I purred right into her ear, and kissed it as I pulled away. There it was again; that barely visible shudder and the blush that spread from her cheeks and down her neck.
Exactly like it does right after you've made her cum, just like you're gonna do several times later tonight. Alright, Aaron. Get the hell out of here. Now!
"Let's make sure to get you properly fed before I wear you out."
She giggled when I literally pulled her after me out of the apartment, barely taking my time to lock the door. And she giggled again when I made a theatrical courtesy before I helped her into the car.
Jesus! When did you turn into such a cheesy bastard?
Once again, I didn't start the car after I'd put on my seat belt, only this time it wasn't to coax a reaction out of her. It was because I was lost. Green was indeed an amazing color on her. It brought out the olive glow in her skin and the natural golden caramel color in her hair. And her eyes... They were even more spectacular than usual.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked, and it was like she was glowing when she spoke.
"Wait and see," I said, staying secretive. It wasn't much I could arrange on such a short notice. I mean, just this morning I'd gone from taking my son, or whatever I should call him, to the police station, to finding my girlfriend at a totally unexpected place, then finding out that she was pregnant, to the point where I actually started to get accustomed to the fact that the child was mine. That's quite a leap in one day. But I still managed to get a table at one of the nicer places in the city, and I hoped it was good enough for our first date.
Oh, my God. You're actually nervous, Aaron. You've never been nervous about taking a woman out before.
With one hand on the wheel and the other resting on Martina's thigh, with her tender palm on top of mine, I took us to the right place and parked. Then, with the same courtesy, I made her laugh again as I helped her out of the car, simply because I loved listening to the happiness in her voice.
"The View Lounge?" she asked after reading the sign, and I wiggled my eyebrows at her obvious excitement. I was absolutely sure that her smile would have gone all the way around her head, if it wasn't for her ears getting in the way. She literally clapped her hands when we took the elevator to the 39th floor. Only discreetly, but enough to make me chuckle, and I knew that if we were alone right then, I would kiss her senseless.
Yeah, right... As if you would stop after a simple kiss.
"Oh, my gosh. This is amazing, Aaron. Look at the view!" she whispered, completely stunned. Exactly the reaction I was hoping for. I kind of knew she was going to love it already, because you got the absolute best view over San Francisco through the enormous half-circle shaped windows. I took pride in that. Showing Martina my home town kind of opened my own eyes too, so I could see it in a different view. Her point of view. Because to her, everything was new.
"Do you like it?"
"Why do you even ask?"
The sun had gone down by now, and the pulsating heart of the city was beating in the rhythm of traffic and people. Loud music flooded from clubs, bars or random corners, where kids were dancing in the streets or got yelled at by their moms because they were supposed to be in bed. And I wanted to show Martina everything. The whole world, if I could.
"Table for two. Cooper," I said to the waiter that greeted us, and I felt Martina squeeze my hand a little extra. Maybe she was nervous too?
"Welcome, Mr. Cooper and..."
He frowned when he looked at our hands.
"Daughter?" he continued. But I was quick to correct him.
"She's my girlfriend. Not that it's any of your business."
I said the last part with a disregarding tone in my voice, barely audible, but threatening enough to make him apologize. Then he showed us to our impeccably set table, while I placed my arm around Martina's lower back to make a clear statement that she was mine.
It didn't have the desired effect, though. The further we got into the large room, the more looks we got from people around. Nosy strangers who stared at Martina's baby bump, then squinted at me while they whispered behind our backs. I tried to shield Martina the best I could. I didn't want her to feel bad about it, or maybe even ashamed to be seen together with me.
You're eighteen years older than her, Aaron. What the fuck did you expect?
"You can see the entire city from here," she said with a smile, but I could see the tension in the air affected her as well. Nevertheless, I refused to let it ruin our evening. That's why I, after I'd made sure she was well seated, placed a quick kiss on her cheek.
"I love you," I whispered into her ear, and saw the glow was back in her eyes again when I sat down.
Good. That's how it's supposed to be. We're just another couple on a date, minding our own business. As should they.
"Love you too," she mimicked, but I noticed that she tried to hide it from the other guests. I didn't like that, but that's how it was, I guess.
I gave the waiter our drink orders, and he scurried off after yet another stern glance from me.
"What kind of building is that? The tall one to the right?"
I turned in the direction of where she was pointing.
"That's the Salesforce tower. It's actually been the tallest building in San Francisco since it was built in 2017. Prior to that, it was the Transamerica pyramid, which was built in 1972. That's the one next to it."
"Wow. It's quite impressive. And fascinating too, seeing them from this perspective. You can't really grasp the size of it from the ground."
"Yeah, I know," I said, and nodded.
The waiter came back with our drinks, which was non-alcoholic for the both of us. Then he handed out the menus, and I kind of appreciated the way he tried to act professional and do his job. It came with a fake, stiff smile, which I didn't bother to return. He could fuck off for what I cared.
"You better order a huge meal. I don't want you to faint again," I demanded.
"And I still want to take you to the hospital for a check-up."
"I'm sure it's fine. I'll have to go back to New York on Monday, anyway."
"Why?" I asked, and I felt my heart drop.
"I have my doctor's appointment on Tuesday. You know, the usual tests and measuring. You can come if you'd like? Then I can ask for an extra ultrasound so you can see her, too."
"I'd love that. Then I get to meet your parents, as well."
"Uhm... About that," she started, and swallowed. It was obvious.
"You didn't tell them about me, did you?"
"No," she admitted with a big sigh.
"But that's not all. They don't know that I'm pregnant, either."
I rubbed my cheek and thought for a while.
"I guess we have a lot of explaining to do, then."
We studied our menus and decided what to order; Angus Chuck burgers for the both of us. Not much to brag about, but that's what you get when you go on a date at a bar. But the view was totally worth it, and my company was exquisite.
"Did you tell your family yet? You've barely mentioned them."
"No," I half-groaned.
"We're not especially close. I mean, we used to be, until my dad..."
I stopped. This wasn't a conversation I wanted to have on our first date.
"Let's not talk about that right now."
"Okay," she said, but she had that same frown as when I told her that I wasn't ready to deal with Rocco yet. It just wasn't the right time. It was too much at once. But as if she'd read my mind...
"I think it's a good idea that you come with me to New York. Then you can speak with your son."
Son... He was still my son, right? Not by blood obviously, but I couldn't just cut him out of my life now that we'd finally bonded and were starting to know each other properly. He'd been my only family for so many years...
"You're right," I said, with a tiny smile.
Dinner arrived and I was pleased to see Martina dig in. I even teased her a bit when she stole a couple of my fries, and she grumbled a threat that I found more cute than terrifying. It still made me sad to know that she'd starved herself for months to keep her weight down. I just had to trust her when she said that the baby was growing as she should, but I could still see the effect it had on her body.
When she finally was full, she excused herself to go to the restroom, and I patiently waited while I admired the view. It felt good to go out and not be drunk. I was actually completely sober.
Maybe there's hope for you after all, Aaron. All thanks to Bambi.
I was pulled out of my thoughts when Martina came back, completely dissolved in tears. She tried her best to hide it from the other guests, but the ones sitting close to us noticed, and once again gave rude remarks about the obvious age gap.
"I'm sorry, Aaron. I need to go," she cried quietly, and I felt both confused and heartbroken. Why was she sad all of a sudden? And not just sad, she looked hurt for some reason.
"Waiter!" I called out, and got up to follow her. But it still took some time to pay, and she was gone by the time I got to the elevator.
Millions of thoughts ran through my mind on my way down, and neither of them gave me any logical answers. Then I slightly panicked when I couldn't find her outside either. I already knew her phone was on mute in her purse, so naturally she didn't pick up when I called.
Did she take a cab? Or jump on a bus? Hopefully she wasn't reckless enough to try and walk back home, because a lot of things could happen to a vulnerable woman alone in the streets, and none of them were good.
"Please be at my car," I prayed silently, but got even more anxious when I didn't see her there either. Until I came closer. Then I saw her sitting on the ground with her legs curled up as protection in front of her.
"Hey..." I said, and felt horrible when she refused to look at me.
"What happened in there?"
Then I felt even worse when she finally did look up. I couldn't even describe all the conflicting emotions I could see just by studying her facial expression.
"Bambi. Tell me what's wrong," I begged, but she was reluctant to even let me help her up. And when I tried to give her a hug, she backed away and out of my reach.
"Just take me home, please."
At least she called it 'home', and not 'your place'. That's something, right?
Several times I tried to make her talk on our way back, but she just stared emptily out of the window. So eventually I gave up and tried to grab her hand instead, and for a long time she even refused that. Until she finally let me place my palm over hers. Then new tears started falling. And when I parked the car outside my apartment, she turned to me with big, doe eyes that were now red and swollen.
"This won't work, Aaron."