It had been six weeks since Luc and I had… since we’d had our date at the park. Emily’s birthday had come and gone, Flynn was home from boarding school for good, and I was expecting a visit any moment now from Mandy Best, now Mandy Hunter, who I hadn’t seen since her wedding to my cousin Ethan. The doorbell sounded suddenly, and I practically ran to answer it. There, on the threshold, stood my old best friend.
“Mandy!” I yelled excitedly, public decorum forgotten as I threw myself into her arms. She laughed and hugged me back tightly.
“It’s good to see you too, Di!”
The two of us made our way through the house to a back room, where we sat down together on a vacant sofa to catch up.
“So,” said Mandy. “What’s been going on with you? How’s things between you and Luc?”
I couldn’t help but blush, remembering… recent developments. Mandy, ever perceptive, saw it and gasped. “Did you…?” she asked excitedly.
She giggled like an overexcited schoolgirl. “You slept with him, didn’t you?”
“W-What?!” I spluttered. “N-No, I… well… yes,” I admitted, flushing scarlet. She gave a little shriek and jumped to her feet, clapping her hands.
“Ha ha! I KNEW it!!”
“Mandy, calm down…” I said hastily, worried that my family would hear her and think something was wrong, but Mandy wasn’t listening.
“So?” she prompted. “How was it?”
I could literally feel the heat radiating from my face. “That’s private!” I gasped.
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. What are best friends for? I’ll tell you all about my honeymoon,” she added with a wink.
“No, thank you,” I said firmly.
“Aww, come on, Di!”
“No.” I cast around for a topic to distract her. “But you can tell me how things are between you and Ethan. How’s marriage treating you?”
She scowled at my refusal to give in to her prying, but let it go with a sigh. “Pretty well, actually,” she said, smiling. “Everyone was warning me about the ups and downs and so on, but so far it’s only been ups. You know, Ethan’s a pretty quiet guy, so we don’t really fight or anything like that.” I snorted, thinking of the contrast between that and my own relationship, which seemed to be nothing but ups and downs.
“What’s so funny?” Mandy asked curiously, sinking back onto the couch beside me.
“Nothing,” I said. “It’s just that Luc and I fight all the time.”
I sighed. It wasn’t exactly my ideal state of affairs.
Mandy nodded. “I believe you,” she said emphatically. “You two used to make sparks fly whenever you got together.” She giggled. “The chemistry was unbelievable.”
I rolled my eyes at her, smiling. But a sudden sickening lurch in my stomach had me on my feet a second later, one hand clapped to my mouth, the other holding my abdomen.
“I’ll be right back,” I muttered hurriedly, then sprinted to the bathroom next door and dropped to my knees next to the toilet. Heaving and panting, I spent the next several minutes emptying the contents of my stomach into the bowl. When I had choked out what seemed to be the last of it, I washed my hands and wiped my mouth on a tissue before heading back to where Mandy waited, looking concerned.
“Are you okay, Di?” she asked worriedly.
“Fine,” I said. “Sorry, I think I might have some kind of bug. It’s not the first time that’s happened.”
Mandy just stared at me, looking thoughtful.
“Di…” she said slowly. “How long have you been sleeping with Luc?”
I frowned. “Mandy, I told you I wasn’t going to talk about-”
“Please,” she cut me off. “Just humour me for a bit.”
I sighed. “About six weeks, why?”
“And in that time, have you, um…”
I suddenly understood what she was asking, and almost said “Of course!”, but something stopped me. Thinking about it, I wasn’t so sure. In fact… I was at least two weeks overdue already. But surely, that didn’t mean…
I looked up at her with wide eyes, shaking my head. “I can’t be,” I whispered.
Mandy looked sympathetic. “Is it a possibility, though?” she asked gently.
I shook my head firmly. “No. I mean, yes, but no. It’s impossible. I can’t be pregnant. I’m going back to university in a few more months, and then I’m going to get a job at City Hall! We haven’t even been sleeping together that long! I can’t be!” My voice was desperate now. I felt like crying. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. Mandy leaned forward and drew me into a soothing hug.
“It’s going to be okay,” she murmured in my ear. “It’ll be fine, I promise.” I didn’t see how that could possibly be the case if I really was pregnant, but I allowed her to comfort me all the same.
I felt slightly better by the time she drew away, but Mandy still looked concerned. “I think you should go to a doctor,” she said. “Just to be sure. I could come with you, if you like. Or Luc.”
I shook my head. “I want to do it alone.” And it had to be now. I couldn’t spend any longer not knowing what was going on. Mandy nodded understandingly.
“Okay, well, you have my number, right? Call me when you know what’s what,” she said.
I nodded, already feeling around in my pocket for my keys. “Thanks, Mandy.”
Mandy smiled and gave me a last hug before leaving. The moment her car was out of site, I jumped into my own and sped towards the hospital in the city.
A quick visit to the doctor’s office confirmed what, deep down, I had known already. I was pregnant. With Luc’s child. What the hell was I going to do?
The next two weeks I spent hiding at home, watching TV with Flynn and eating whatever took my fancy, trying not to think about anything and pretending that everything was still just the way it had been a month ago. Soon, I would go back to university, complete my communications degree, and return to Starlight Shores fully equipped for the political career I had always dreamed of.
There was no way I was really pregnant. Mandy, the doctor… they had just been making it up. Never mind the morning sickness, the cravings, the slight swelling of my belly… none of it was out of the ordinary. False pregnancies were a thing, right? This was just one of those. Nothing to worry about in the long term. I had plans for my life, and I would not allow something like this to ruin them. No way. Not ever.
Luc called a few times, and I became very good at making up excuses not to hang out. I was happy to talk on the phone, but I was too busy to go out. I had work to do, I had to take Flynn to the doctor, my parents were out of town and I had to stay home with my brother, I was studying to prepare for the new semester at university… the list went on and on. But I couldn’t afford to meet up in person. Luc always saw right through me, and I couldn’t deal with his honesty right now. Not when I was trying so hard to bury my own head in the sand as deep as it would go.
Eventually, as the weeks stretched into months, his calls became less frequent, but every time he called now he sounded increasingly worried. Soon, I took to turning off my phone for most of the day so I didn’t have to take his calls. I told Luc that it was getting old and kept running out of battery power, and my charger was nowhere to be found. I could tell he didn’t believe me, but as long as he stayed away, I didn’t care.
After a while, however, the fact of my pregnancy had simply grown too ‘big’ to ignore, such that even I could no longer find excuses for dismissing it. A fact was a fact… but that didn’t change the way I felt about it. I told my parents what had happened and explained the situation to them, but still refused to see Luc, in spite of the fact that I was frankly miserable without him. The hormones didn’t help much, either. But this was his fault, I told myself. My life had crumbled to pieces, and it was his fault.
He didn’t just call, of course. He came to my house a few times to talk to me in person, no doubt trying to understand why I was avoiding him. Every time I heard him at the door, heard him calling my name, the pain in his voice broke my heart. I pleaded with Dad to lie to him, tell him that I was asleep, or out, or anything to get him to go away. Dad did this readily enough, since he himself was feeling pretty angry with Luc over the whole situation. In Dad’s mind, Luc was the one to blame for getting me pregnant, causing me to sink into a depressive slump over the loss of all my hopes and dreams, and breaking my heart to boot. Though I knew deep down that this was unfair, I didn’t bother to correct him. Dad was the main thing standing between Luc and me at the moment, my primary protection against the possibility of being forced to face my fears head-on. As long as I didn’t have to see Luc, didn’t have to talk to him about what was going on, I could still pretend that nothing was.
The day eventually came, however, when Dad was no longer around to protect me. He was at work, Emily was God-knew-where, and Mum was at the lake with Flynn, teaching him to fish. I was relaxing on the couch in the entrance hall when I heard a knock on the door. I stood up quickly and glanced out the window, hoping against hope that it wasn’t Luc.
It was. I didn’t have time to hide. The moment I stood up to look out the window, our eyes locked, and his face lit up with a strange mix of joy, relief, and pain. My own heart ached with the knowledge that I was the cause of that pain, but I ignored it. I had no choice – trying not to think about what Luc would say or do once he saw me, I walked to the door and opened it.
The moment the gap was wide enough, Luc slipped past me into the house, as though afraid that I was going to shut it again in his face. With shaking hands, I closed the door behind me, then turned to face him. “Luc… I can explain.”
He frowned. “I sure hope so. What the hell is going on with you, Di? Why are you avoiding me? Lying to me? Refusing to even talk to me?!” The pain in his voice broke my heart. “Do you have any idea how worried I’ve…”
Luc’s voice died as his eyes finally landed on my stomach. There was no way to miss it, and no way it could be mistaken for anything other than what it was. His mouth opened, but no sound came out.
The silence was deafening.
It was several minutes before Luc managed to regain his power of speech. “Diana…” he croaked, his voice hoarse. “Are you…?”
“I can explain,” I whispered, again. I tried to meet his gaze, but he was refusing to look me in the eye. A confused series of emotions was flitting across his face. Fear… bewilderment… sorrow… happiness… confusion… anger? But why would he be…
“It…” Luc swallowed uncomfortably. “It is… mine… isn’t it?”
I stared at him. How could he possibly believe otherwise? “Of course it’s yours!” I said, disbelieving. I felt anger bubbling up inside me at what he was suggesting. “Do you not trust me at all?”
“Well,” he snapped, his temper rising, “You haven’t exactly given me much reason to, these past few months, have you?”
I couldn’t believe him. “Hold up,” I said. “You think I’ve been avoiding you… because I slept with someone else?”
“Well, did you?”
His question was like a stab through the heart. I felt tears well up in my eyes almost instantly and start to spill down my cheeks. Damn pregnancy hormones.
“Of course not!” I almost shouted. “How could you even think that?”
“Well, like I said-”
“Luc, I haven’t even been out of the house in months! To even suggest something like that… is that how little you think of me? I was so afraid of telling you, afraid of how you’d react – that’s why I was avoiding you! – and now this!” I was furious now. “I didn’t plan for this to happen, okay? It’s your fault! You knew how much my dreams meant to me! How much you meant to me! I thought you understood! I thought…” I was finding it difficult to speak… I kept choking on my own sobs. “I can’t believe… that you would do this. Any of this!” I paused, breathing deeply, fighting to keep my temper under control. I couldn’t believe we were doing this again. Damn it, I didn’t want to fight with him all the time!
But my temper refused to be calmed. He had practically accused me of sleeping with someone else! Clearly, he didn’t know me – didn’t trust me – at all. I meant nothing to him. Chest heaving with emotion, I made sure to look into his eyes when I spoke again. “I never want to see you again.”
Luc’s face turned pale. “Di-” he gasped.
“JUST GO!!” I screamed.
He went. Without another word.
But as long as I lived, I would never forget the look on his face as he turned… or the suffocating pain in my heart as I watched him leave for the last time.
The weeks that followed were the most miserable I had ever had to endure. Unless I was very much mistaken, I had, somehow, just broken up with the love of my life.
I had regretted it the moment I saw him walk out the door. Why hadn’t I called out to him? Run to him, apologised, begged him not to leave? Perhaps, if I had… well, it was too late now. I knew Luc, and he was too proud for second chances – once I had said it was over, which was more or less what I had said, it was over. No returns. But that didn’t stop it hurting like hell every waking second. It didn’t stop me replaying the scene over and over in my head, torturing myself endlessly for hours at a time. And it didn’t stop me wandering around aimlessly at all hours of the day and night, too agonised to sleep, too exhausted to do anything else, unable to think of anything but him. His eyes… his laugh… his voice… his smile… his breath on my ear… his lips against mine… his arms around me, pulling me tight, making me feel like nothing and no one could ever hurt me as long as I was with him. Gone… All of it, gone. I would never see Luc again.
And I was having his child.
I was lying on the couch in my parents room one stormy afternoon – my own was too full of painful memories – staring dully at the ceiling when there was a soft knock on the door and Mum came in. I got up slowly. I had seen the growing worry in her face every time she looked at me over the previous weeks, but couldn’t bring myself to care. I didn’t care about anything much anymore. So I didn’t bother to say anything, knowing she was just going to try and coax me into eating something, or going outside, or talking to her and Dad. Until she spoke.
“Diana, honey,” she said softly. “There’s someone downstairs to see you.”
I stared at her. Something in her tone seemed to hint that there was more significance to this visitor than her otherwise casual statement would suggest. Yet there was only one thing I found significant at the moment, and she knew that perfectly well. And it wasn’t… it couldn’t be… him.
“Mum,” I whispered. “It’s not…”
She nodded, silently, smiling.
“That’s impossible,” I told her, not daring to believe it. “We broke up. He doesn’t want to see me.”
“In that case, you’ll have to tell me what on earth he’s doing in our living room,” she said, a hint of a grin flickering across her face. “I certainly didn’t invite him.” Then she grew serious, reaching out a hand to rest on my shoulder while she looked kindly into my eyes – her eyes.
“Di, baby, that man is crazy about you. Anyone can see it. And we both know there’s nothing in this world that means more to you than he does.” She leaned forward to kiss me on the cheek. “The poor boy looks like he hasn’t slept in weeks, and it’s not hard to guess what’s behind it.”
Was it possible? There was only one way to find out. I managed to smile gratefully through my tears. “Thanks, Mum,” I whispered, and I meant it.
Never had a walk been so painfully long as that from my parents’ bedroom to the front door. My entire body was shaking, and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears the whole way. My sweaty hands slipped on the railing as I stumbled down the stairs, and out of the corner of my eye I could see a familiar figure standing in the hall below.
I paused where I was on the staircase and looked down. My eyes met his, and my heart immediately started thumping against my ribcage so powerfully that I thought it would burst out of my chest. He wasn’t smiling, but he had that look in his eyes – the look he only ever had when he looked at me.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. The world stood still. A single word fell from my trembling lips, a word that meant everything, and more, to me.