Author’s Note: So… I was expecting a longer story, but I think this might just be done, too.
“I know what I’m going to do. I’ll marry Darren and adopt you, and we’ll be a perfect little family. It’s the solution to everything, don’t you think? Everything will be great. No, it will be wonderful. Let’s just ignore the fact that I don’t love him and that you’re the result of my husband betraying me, and the whole thing is a beautiful, touching idea. It’s the stuff of romance novels and made for television movies. I love it.”
Apparently, so did the baby, because she clapped her hands together after Fi’s speech, sounding like she might be giggling. Fi shook her head. She must look hilarious like this, but it was not funny. None of it was.
She didn’t like being jerked around like this. She’d been lied to and manipulated, and that had to stop. She needed to make sure she wasn’t the one lying this time. She knew what Richard’s lies were, she knew how he’d manipulated her. She knew that she might have let herself be talked into keeping the baby when she shouldn’t have, and she knew that was a weakness she couldn’t afford.
She couldn’t lie—she had wanted a child for so long that she was tempted. She didn’t understand, though. Wasn’t that like… letting go of all that Richard had done? Did that mean that she was forgiving him? If she could adopt the baby without him, why couldn’t she do it with him?
She shook her head. “I am such a mess.”
“I have to agree. When was the last time you showered?”
“Darren, go away.”
He leaned against the door frame, shaking his head. “I should apologize for before. I didn’t—I lectured, I guess, in my way, and it wasn’t my place. You have been through a lot and me doing some of your dishes… Not exactly what you need right now. You need to be able to think and make decisions, and you can’t even breathe with everything that’s going on.”
“When did you get sensitive?”
He shook his head. “Don’t read too much into it. I’m not… I don’t even know why I’m up here because we’re not… We don’t say we’re sorry. We’ve been hurling insults at each other since we were, what, eight?”
“Six, in my case, but yeah.”
“Maybe earlier. About as soon as you could talk.”
“Well, I always said Ransom had poor taste in friends,” she said, almost laughing. She gave the baby a glance, letting out a breath. “I called the social worker. I need to take the baby to her.”
“They found her family?”
“Chloe has an aunt who wants the baby. It’s… It’s for the best. Really.” Fi rubbed her neck and let out a breath. “You may be right. Maybe a part of me did want it, and maybe a part of me is still torn, but she’s not mine. I have—there are good reasons why I shouldn’t do this now. The baby can have a good home, with family, and in time, when things are less… chaotic for me, I can try this for real. I’ll sell the house and get an apartment in the meantime, and I’ll… You know, it’ll be good for me to be single for a change. I didn’t do much on my own before I met Richard and married him, and now I’m free to figure out who I am and what I want again.”
Darren nodded. “You are. That’s important.”
“Will you go with me? To take her back?”
“Thank you. I… I appreciate it.”
“You know you’re almost family.”
He took a step closer to her, wrapping his arms around her, and she closed her eyes, trying to breathe through it and not cry. She hadn’t wanted this. No, she did, but she didn’t. She was so confused and messed up by the whole thing, and she didn’t know where she was or what she wanted, what she should do. She couldn’t sort out how she felt or if anything was right anymore.
“Remember, you’re not alone. Whatever happens, whatever you decide, you have people to turn to. If it’s Ransom and my sister or me or your parents… You don’t have to do this alone, any of it. I know you want to try that, want to prove you’re independent, but you don’t have to. Not with this. This is one of those times when you need support more than ever. Don’t turn away from it.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing?”
“I don’t know. I can’t tell what’s going on with you.”
“Probably because I don’t even know. I wish I did, but I didn’t. I’m so confused. I didn’t want the baby when Richard told me about her, but I’ve cared for her and… How can I think I want her now when I refused her before? That’s not right. Nothing I’ve done since I found out seems right. I needed to get away and get some space to clear my head, yes, but I didn’t… I didn’t figure anything out, didn’t know what I wanted. Maybe I could have forgiven Richard. Maybe we could have done it together like he wanted—”
“I hope not. He didn’t deserve that. Yes, you’d be a good mother. Yes, you could do it, raise her on your own, but to let him get away with doing that to both of you—”
“I didn’t say that. I don’t… No, I think I would still have divorced him, that I wouldn’t have been able to trust him after what he did, but none of that matters with him gone. What I have to worry about is the people that are still alive. Me, the baby… She’s going to a good home, and I’m going to… going to put myself back together again.”
“Sounds about right.” Darren gave her cheek a quick brush with his thumb. “Don’t forget that you have people who care about you and want to help.”