Author’s Note: This is a word-prompt one shot/Drabble series. All one shots will feed into a continuous story.
“Where’s the damn box?” she muttered under her breath. Spying it on the floor she bent down picking it up and turning it over.
Her hands were trembling as her fingertips quickly scanned the tiny print. She took a deep breath as her eyes fell on the plus sign again.
“My God,” she whispered. “How am I gonna tell him this?”
“Didn’t you two use protection?” Lauren stared wide-eyed at Phyllis across the table.
“Would you keep your voice down?” Phyllis sighed, glancing around the room at the Athletic Club making sure no one was within ear shot. “Not exactly,” she whispered, looking down at the napkin in her lap. “I mean, I didn’t think I could get…after everything with Jack and Nick…”
“Phyllis!” Lauren opened her mouth again, then stopped. No doubt Phyllis had beat herself up enough for this one. “Ok..Look, I get it. Trust me, I’ve made my share of bad decisions.”
Phyllis forced a small smile, grateful that Lauren had at least screwed up enough in her life to know how it felt.
“So,” she paused for a moment, considering her words as she looked at her. “Have you told him yet?”
“Ugh.” She brought her hand to her face, wishing she could hide from the world for a few months or years. “No,” she admitted. “I mean, I don’t have a clue what to say. We’ve only known each other for a little over a month. I can count the dates we’ve been on on one hand.”
“They must have been some dates,” Lauren smiled, giggling a little until Phyllis’ glare silenced her. “Oh, come on, Phyllis . This isn’t the end of the world. Just tell Ronan the truth. He might take it better than you think.”
“And just what truth is that?” Ronan asked, flashing a sexy smile at Phyllis as he stood behind Lauren.
Lauren turned around, glancing at Ronan. “Hi, Ronan,” she said quickly as she stood to leave.
“You don’t have to leave on my account,” Ronan protested, looking over to Phyllis .
“It’s fine,” Lauren smiled. “You two need some time to talk.” She looked over at Phyllis . “Good luck,” she whispered as she quickly made her exit.
“So,” Ronan took a seat across from Phyllis . “You want to talk to me?”
“Oh, we don’t have to get into it here,” she smiled nervously. “We can talk about it later.” She felt a wave of nausea rush over her and she swallowed hard to regain her composure.
“Why wait,” he smiled, reaching across the table and taking her hand. “No time like the present.”
If it were any other time, she would have melted at the sight of his bedroom eyes staring at her, but right now she felt as if she were staring into the barrel of a gun.
“Seriously, Ronan…now really isn’t a good time. We can talk later.” She pulled her hand away from his gently and moved to stand. The quicker she made her escape the better. She’d have to tell him eventually, yes, but she didn’t have to do it tonight and she certainly didn’t have to do it in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
“Wait a minute.” He stood, grabbing her elbow and stopping her in her tracks. “This is a switch. You’re normally the one that wants to do all the talking and tonight you’re clamming up? What’s going on here?”
Damn him. He’d been on the force too long. He could smell a cover-up from a mile away. “Nothing…Nothing’s going on.”
“Right,” he sighed. “Look, Phyllis . I thought this was what you wanted and if it’s not….I mean, if you’re thinking something else—just tell me. I’m not great with the signs and signals, so if you want me to take off, you need to just say it.”
“It’s not that that.” The words rushed from her lips quickly…too quickly. She brought her hand to her mouth as she stood there, wishing she could reach into the air and grab them. The last thing she wanted was for him to walk away…not now…not when she really, truly needed him to stay. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do it on her own, but God she didn’t want to.
“Well, ok then,” he smiled, taking her hand again. “Why don’t we go have a little lunch and talk about whatever it is you wanted to talk about.”
Phyllis shook her head. “No…not here. Maybe we could go upstairs and order in….something quieter.”
Ronan smiled. “No arguments here,” he smiled.
“Thank you,” she smiled, handing the waiter a tip and pulling the cart back into the door. She looked back at Ronan, who had pulled an extra chair in front of the small table in the center of the room. “You hungry?” she asked, trying to keep things as normal and light as possible.
“Starving actually. I was at the station until almost two in the morning, so I didn’t have dinner and breakfast was a cup of coffee. This will be the first real food I’ve had since lunch yesterday and…” He reached into the mini bar, pulling out a few small bottles, “Since I’m off duty, I could use a little of this.” He placed the bottles on the table, smiling at Phyllis . “Do you have mixers or should I run down to the bar and grab some?”
“I’ve uh…I’ve got some tomato juice and I think there’s some orange too,” she managed, her throat almost too dry to speak. “You go ahead though…none for me.”
Ronan stopped, looking up at her. “You’ll pass, huh? Don’t take this the wrong way, but you kind of look like you could use one of these right now.” His smiling face grew serious as he watched her reaction.
“Come on, Phyllis .” Stepping across the room, he closed the distance between them, reaching around her back and drawing her closer to him. “I was just kidding around. You look great and besides,” he leaned into to her ear and whispered, “I’ve got some alternative methods to relax you.”
She brought her hands up to his chest, pushing him away gently. “Ronan, stop. We need to talk.”
He stepped back, his face now serious. “Ok.” Sitting the glass on the table, he lowered himself into the chair and motioned for her to do the same. “What is it? What’s going on?”
Deep breath, she reminded herself. What’s the worst thing that could happen, she thought? Well, he could walk out and never come back. That was pretty bad. She shook her head, banishing the thought.
“Phyllis ,” Ronan repeated, more than a little confused as he watched her shake her head in apparent confusion.
“I’m pregnant.” She forced the words from her lips before her mind had a chance to stop them. Now they were out, hanging in the air, and as she looked at his stunned face across the table, she’d do anything to take them back.
She’d played this moment in her mind over and over again. Sometimes he was angry and he stormed out of the room, other times he was apathetic and asked her if she was going to take care of it, but never–not even in her worst nightmares had she imagined this.
He hadn’t said a word. The silence had settled over the room for what seemed like forever. He looked up at her, stood, and left the room. No response. No goodbye.
Crawling on the bed, she drew her knees up tight against her body. Now, more than ever, she needed someone to hold her.
Ronan stood outside the tall building. The cold, winter wind stung at his face, but it was a welcome distraction from the chaos inside his brain. Pregnant–the word seemed to echo in his mind.
He ran his hand over his face. If this was a dream, now would be a fine time to wake up, he thought to himself. He spied an empty bench and staked his claim.
What was he supposed to do now? He’d never had a decent relationship before in his life. Even his relationship with his mother was awkward at best. How was he supposed to help raise a kid?
Slowly he rotated his wrist in circles, the familiar ache causing him to wince slightly. And then there’s that, he thought. How do you sign on for a lifetime commitment when you don’t even know how much life you have left.
He brought his hand up to the door and stopped, thinking back to a moment a few weeks before.
“Here’s an extra key card,” she’d whispered, “you know, just in case you’re ever too tired to drive across town to your place. You can always stay here.”. She’d slipped the card into the pocket of his jeans allowing her hand to linger there much longer than necessary. He hadn’t gone home that night–or the next.
Taking a deep breath, he slipped the card into the reader, the green light flashing at him as the lock clicked open. It was dark. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting out there. Maybe he should go…come back later.
The sound of rustling sheets made his decision for him.
“Is someone there?” Phyllis say up slightly, her eyes struggled to see through the darkness. “Ronan?” she whispered.
“Yeah..it’s me,” he responded quickly, fighting the overwhelming urge to turn around and run.
He watched as she reached over, turning on the lamp on the bedside table. The light shown a soft glow across her face, but he could see she’d been crying.
What kind of a person does that? What kind of a person just walks out without so much as a word? He looked down at the floor, unable to look at her tear-stained face any longer.
“Look,” she began, shifting her legs over and motioning for him to sit beside her on the bed. “I know that this isn’t something you were planning. Believe me, I wasn’t planning it either, but I don’t want you to think that I told you this because I have any kind of expectations.”
“Phyllis,” he forced himself to look up, to make eye contact–to face her. “I…I don’t know how to do this,” he stammered. The words in his head were jumbled. They didn’t come out right.
He swallowed hard, beginning again. “I didn’t want to get involved with someone because I was afraid….”
Her hand covered her mouth quickly and he heard her sharp intake of breath. Reaching out to touch her, he shook his head, “Wait. No. I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt her and that’s exactly what he’d done and what he was continuing to do. Every word he spoke was like another slap in the face to her.
“If there was a chance that we could be together…that we could have a future, I would do that.”. Her eyes met his again, a little of the sadness fading from them.
“We could have that,” she responded softly. “I mean, I know this isn’t the way we thought things would go and it isn’t exactly what either of us was looking for, but maybe that doesn’t matter. We could still make this work. We could still have a family. We could still have a future.”
As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t buy into that dream. He’d tried it before and each and every time the pain and disappointment seemed more difficult to bear. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
“You don’t have to be sorry. It was a shock. I know that you were just..”
“No, Phyllis stop. That’s not it. What I’m trying to tell you…what I have to tell you is that we–you and I–there is no future…not for us.”
For a moment, she didn’t move–she couldn’t. She felt as if she’d just been punched in the gut. It wasn’t just that he didn’t want to have a baby. He didn’t want to have a relationship. He didn’t want to build a future…not with her.
Everything in her wanted to scream, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t lose the shred of dignity she had left. Slowly she slid to the edge of the bed, standing and walking slowly across the room.
She turned her back to him, not trusting herself to look into his eyes. “You can go,” she managed, her voice a hoarse whisper.
Ronan stood, walking up behind her and reaching out to softly touch her shoulder. “Phyllis ..you don’t..I…This isn’t about you.”
Not one more word. She couldn’t hear one more word from him. It was one thing to be humiliated and rejected. It was quite another to be tortured. She turned around slowly, her eyes shining at him.
“Just go,” she said again, her voice now eerily calm.
“For the love of God, didn’t you hear me?! I said I wanted you to go. Get out now.” She could feel her eyes begin to sting and she knew she was moments away from falling apart. She couldn’t do that–not in front of him. Taking another deep breath, she turned around again, gripping the edges of the dresser for support.
She heard the door shut as she slumped to the floor and allowed the flood of tears to fall.
No matter where you went, hospitals were always the same. The people, the sounds, the smells–they were all there and they never changed. Phyllis shifted uncomfortably in the small wooden chair. She’d never understood why chairs in rooms designed for waiting couldn’t be at least a little more comfortable.
She’d planned to go to the clinic across town, but Lauren had gone through a lot of trouble to get her a quick appointment with her doctor. She’d even offered to go with her so she wouldn’t be alone, but Phyllis had politely declined.
“I guess I need to get used to being alone,” she whispered. She heard the door open and a young nurse smiled at her, motioning her inside. No turning back now, she thought as she walked through the door.
Lauren drummed her fingertips impatiently on the counter. “Come on,” she hissed, checking her watch again. “How hard is it to make an espresso?”
“Small coffee black” a male voice said.
She turned around, looking at Ronan as he stood there. She knew she shouldn’t say anything. Phyllis certainly didn’t want her to, but she needed to do this….just as much for herself as she needed to for Phyllis .
“You’ve got some nerve,” she whispered, through gritted teeth, glancing around the bustling coffee bar to make sure no one was listening in. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
He sighed. She had no idea. This cup of coffee would be his fifth of the morning, another in a series of futile attempts to compensate for the last two sleepless nights. All he could think about was Phyllis and the look on her face when she’d told him to go.
Walking away was nothing new. In fact leaving was something he was rather well versed in, but this time was different. This time he didn’t want to leave. This time he would have given anything to have been able to stay.
“I mean, I know it was a surprise and all, but God…I just…I expected better from you, especially since you grew up without knowing your real parents.”. Lauren shook her head, still trying to process the fact that he’d simply walked away.
“How is she?” he asked, afraid of the answer, but also afraid of not knowing.
“How the he’ll do you think she is, Ronan? This morning was hard on her and every day from now on will be.”
“What happened this morning?” he asked, feeling a lump rise in his throat.
Lauren turned, grabbing the cup from the counter. “Her appointment was this morning, but what do you care?” Without another word, she was gone.
Appointment…She wouldn’t? His breath caught in his throat as stood there. He had walked out on her. He had let her think he didn’t want a relationship, a future. Worst still, she thought he didn’t want her or their child.
“Sir, your coffee,” the woman behind the counter called out, but he was already gone.
“Come on!” Ronan smashed his fist into the steering wheel, the sound of the horn echoing through the air. He had to get there. He had to stop her from doing something she’d regret…something they’d both regret for the rest of their lives.
The wheels screeched as he took a sharp turn into the hospital parking lot. He had no idea what he would say when he saw her, but somehow that didn’t matter. She had to know the truth. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be there for her and certainly not that he didn’t want this child. If anything, it was because he wanted it all too much.
He struggled to stand, his legs feeling weak beneath him. “Not now,” he whispered, closing his eyes. He hadn’t prayed in a long time, convinced that if anyone was actually up there, they weren’t worried about the life of a screw up like him.
Looking up, he sighed, “She doesn’t deserve this. Please…if you’re up there..if you’re listening. Don’t do it for me. Do it for her.” Bracing himself against the door frame, he pulled himself to his feet.
“Thank you,” Phyllis smiled weakly, walking out the door clutching the pamphlets and paper bag.
“Call us if you need anything,” she muttered under her breath as she approached the door to the waiting room. “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
She heard him before she saw him.
“I don’t give a damn about HIPPA,” he screamed, his booming voice echoing through the room. “I just need to know if she’s here and if she is, where she is. I’m not asking for you to give me her chart!”
“Ronan” she said quietly, pulling him away from the counter and mouthing an apology to the shell shocked secretary. “What are you doing here?”
“I…I came to..” He looked down at the papers in her hands. “It’s over?” His voice trembled, “You’ve already seen the doctor and..”. He stopped. He couldn’t complete the thought, much less the sentence.
She vacillated between relief, sadness, and anger. At the moment, anger was winning. “Well, what did you expect me to do Ronan? You walked out not once but twice but not before you made it pretty clear that you had no intentions of building any kind of future with me.” She stopped, looking at him, unable to understand the tears that now glistened in his eyes.
“Did you think I was just going to sit around and wait? Hope you’d change your mind? Well, it doesn’t work that way. Someone had to step up.”
The thought of having a child had terrified him. He’d been afraid he couldn’t do it, afraid his health would prevent him from seeing him or her grow up. But now, standing here, he realized his own fears had done that for him.
“I just wish..I wish..”. He shook his head, unable to find the right words. How do you explain how much it hurts to lose something you didn’t even know you wanted.
“Dammit, Ronan!” She threw her hand in the air, the paper bag flying across the room. “It’s a little late for wishing isn’t it?”
She bent down to grab the bag as he reached down to grab the bottle at his feet. Rolling it over in his hands, he read the label quickly. “Wait,” he whispered, his heart beating faster as he felt his hands begin to shake. “Are these?”
Phyllis grabbed for the bottle. “They’re just prenatal vitamins, that’s all. Nothing for you to worry about…none of this is.”
Relief swept over him as his thoughts became clearer. “Oh God,” he breathed, grabbing hold on one of the chairs and slumping down into it. “You didn’t…You didn’t come here to…”
She stood there confused.
“Lauren,” he explained. “She ran into me this morning at Crimson Lights and she told me you had an appointment. I thought…”
Phyllis nodded, his words and actions now making more sense. “Oh,” she whispered, taking a seat in the chair beside him. “I wouldn’t…I couldn’t do that.”
He nodded as he ran his hands over his face. The pounding in his head was finally beginning to subside. “I’m glad,” he said finally. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
“Is that why you came here? To try and stop me?”
Ronan looked up at her again. This was it…the moment when everything could change. “Partly,” he admitted, “But also because there’s something you need to know….something I need to tell you before this goes any further.”