Marcus was getting off the elevator a few weeks later when he heard raised voices coming from further down the corridor.
“Stop, you’re not understanding me.” a familiar female voice said.
“I understand you’re not accepting my apology out of spite, Valentina.”
The mention of her name made Marcus creep closer.
“You wanted me to have an abortion and when I said I wouldn’t, you told me that I got pregnant on purpose and that you didn’t think it was yours. Then you throw me out of her house and I’M being spiteful.” she fired back. Marcus peeked over at them and saw Valentina and a taller man who was dressed in a suit.
“I was upset and I have to say that you didn’t it any easier.” Marcus knew that mind game. You turn the tables so quickly and so often that you end up winning the argument due to their confusion.
“It’s more than that, Peter. You don’t love me.” she said sadly.
“That’s not true.”
“Yes, it is and my feelings have changed for you.” she told him softly. She could feel the thick lump in her throat threatening to suffocate her. In her heart, she knew she was doing the right thing.
He narrowed her eyes at her and walked to her slowly. She stepped back until she was against the chilly wall.
Marcus felt his blood race as he watched the man place his hand on the wall next to her head. He leaned in close and said something that he couldn’t hear.
She tried to walk away , but he grabbed her arm and Marcus took that as his cue. He approached them casually.
“Excuse me, do you know where I can find room 403?”
The man released her slowly and Valentina walked away quickly.
“Sorry, I don’t know my way around. There’s an information desk downstairs.” she told him, walking toward him, but did not recognize him. Together, they proceeded to the elevators.
“We’re not done here, Valentina.’ Peter said loudly. His echoing voice carried throughout the corridor, but she continued to walk on. It wasn’t until they were inside the elevator that she finally looked at him.
“Are you alright?” he asked her.
She was angry, sad, insulted, scared and lonely.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thanks.” she told him as she zippered up her jacket. They both knew she was lying. He wanted to reach out to her, to hold her and tell that everything was going to be okay. It was strange how she effected him so deeply, but he knew it would be impossible to fight or ignore it. They watched the numbers count down in silence and lost in their own thoughts. When the doors opened, she rushed out ahead of him.
“Have a good one.” she called out of her shoulder to him before hurrying on.
Valentina could feel the droplets of sweat running down her back as she crossed the street. Angry drivers blared their horns at her and she didn’t even notice. A bruise was growing on her arm and she shivered as she recalled the look in Peter’s eyes.
She walked until she ca,e to an empty playground and sat on one of the benches. The swings rocked in the October breeze and she pulled up her collar to dick her chin inside the damp warmth. She warmed her face with her breath enough to calm the rushing thoughts in her head. She didn’t know why Peter had a sudden change of heart and if it had happened much earlier, she would be with him now. Happy and blissfully ignorant that he didn’t respect her or love her, but she was aware of too much to be with him. When she saw him after her therapy session, she didn’t feel the same pull that brought her to him.
He smiled at her like a naughty boy and the only thing it accomplished was give her confidence in her decision. She didn’t think she would ever forget how his anger transformed before her eyes. Her heart raced even now with the thought of how he leaned in close, how his face became dark. She never feared him, but she knew how ruthless he could be when he wanted something. The sadness was filling her up and geared up to pull her under.
She felt someone slide beside her. Marcus wore a buttery black leather jacket and a dark blue scarf around his neck. She felt her heart come alive and skip a different beat.
“I didn’t think you should be alone right now.” he told her and he fought the urge the urge to pull her close to him. His heart broke to see her eyes raw sad eyes.
“That’s nice of you.” she was glad for the company.
“Now, I think I understand why you turned me down for dinner.”
She shook her head. “No, it was over before that. It’s just that it seemed like the fair thing to do. I’m pregnant with Mr. Congeniality’s baby.” She watched his reaction, but couldn’t read it. He nodded.
“That’s understandable.” he told her. He could feel the chill on his face, but his heart was on fire. “What are the circumstances, if you don’t mind me asking?” he asked softly. She turned to face him and looked deep into his light brown eyes.
“His name is Peter and we used to live together until I told him I was pregnant. He threw me out and now he has a change of heart. He wants to reconcile, but it’s too late for that.”
“I see. Where are you living now?”
“I’ve been staying with my friend, Kate and I keep her books to return the favor and give myself something to do. She thinks I should take some Accounting courses and become CPA.”
“That sounds like a good plan.”
“Yep. Now all I need to do is figure how I’m going to do that with a baby.”
He was quiet for a moment then moved closer.
“I think it was a good decision to keep it, Valentina.” he told her and took her hand gently. That first touch sent him through unforeseen lifetimes that they had shared in a single moment.
She could no longer doubt what she felt was real and it made every other emotion pale in comparison.
“I think so too.” she smiled at him. They chatted for a bit more until the cold started to get icy.
“Let’s go somewhere to get you warm.” he said. His strong hand still holding hers as if he had no intention of letting go. They walked out of the playground with gusts of wind pushing them with every step.
From across the street, Karen watched them from her hiding space between two parked cars. They looked like the perfect couple, except that Marcus belonged to her. The rage was shaking her and she fought for control. The sense of loss was almost unbearable that she considered walking into traffic and be done with it. She sensed she was being watched and glared around. A good looking man in a dark coat and suit stood in the distance staring at her. Karen smiled and he smiled back then began to walk toward her.
She waited for him and when he reached her, he put out his hand and his charm.
“I noticed you over here alone and you looked like you might like some company. Can I offer any help?”
A usual snaky comment was lost in her and she decided she needed some comfort. And wouldn’t it be sweet if they bumped into Marcus and this skank, she thought. She licked her sticky lips and smiled coyly. The first thought that entered her mind as she took his hand was delicious.
“I don’t think so, but I appreciate the company anyway.”
His hand coiled around her firmly as he looked toward the street then at her. His dark eyes seemed to grow more pitch despite the bright day.
“You look like you could use a drink.” he offered and gently pulled her with him. She followed him under the fog of rejection and pain. She drank down every compliment and funny anecdote with every shot. Peter watched her eyes glaze over and she was somewhere in the bliss of forgetting. With the help alcohol, her hurt and anger seeped through every word.
“I know he’s telling her all the things he told me. They’re lies and I gave him everything and he gave me lies. Now, he’s with the next bitch and me, I’m yesterday’s garbage.” she said sadly. Peter listened without interruption.
“That bitch is my ex girlfriend.”
He told her. She stared at him surprised and took a moment to digest the information.
“That it is.”
She turned her attention to her empty glass.
“It’s weird, I never believed that there was a line between love and hate, but Marcus has shown me the light. I mean, sometimes I get so angry I know I can do something crazy.”
“Well, who wouldn’t understand that? I have those same feelings about my ex. We’re not so different, men and women. We still get hurt, don’t we?” he told her.
His sensitivity and their shared torment brought tears to her eyes.
“All of it is understandable when you see him with someone new, while you’re alone and hurt. They say sorry, but they don’t act like they are, do they?”
Karen shook her head though she was caught off guard by how easy it was to share her personal pain with a stranger, but he was right.
Marcus said he was sorry but he left anyway. He didn’t even give her a chance to make it better and when she recalled how he held that bitch close for warmth, a rage that had laid dormant had awakened, cranky and determined.
Peter noticed the change in her eyes, when she looked up at him.
“No one should be able to get away with that, don’t you agree?”
Karen nodded and listened.
Valentina arrived at Kate’s apartment without kate who had been called away by a catering emergency. She was thankful for the short walk and looked forward to enjoying a nice hot shower.
She washed her body with the silky lather and paused over her belly. The fear overtook her and she wept bitterly.
She felt a little lighter after the shower and laid down on the sofa. She wrapped herself in Kate’s hooded red bathrobe and relished in the warmth. She sighed and thought about the steps she needed to take to rebuilding her life. Then she thought about Marcus and the feelings that welled up inside whenever his name crashed through her mind. It was easy talking with him and he made her feel as if she were the only woman in the world and everyone else were walking mannequins. At least that’s how she felt, she had to admit that his confidence in the future was contagious.
Marcus laid in bed that night and thought about Valentina. Actually, he had not stopped thinking about her since the day they met. It had occurred to him that she was now a package deal, but it didn’t take much to convince him that they were suppose to be together. He knew that he would take whatever he had to, to be with her.
A few nights later, Kate had a small dinner party and invited some friends and clients. Valentina borrowed a silk black dress and black and white twisted strand pearls at her throat and ears. She met many influential people who told her that Kate had been praising her organization and accounting skills. By the end of the night, she was mapping out a plan.
In the morning, she awoke feeling refreshed and confident. It was the first time since seeing those two pink lines that she had felt certain about the road she was on.
The first step was to join a support group. She discovered that talking about how she was feeling was very empowering, it all came spilling out like an uncontrollable river. She found herself talking faster to catch up to her thoughts before they escaped.
In her fourth month, she had just gotten over the morning sickness and was feeling better with more energy. She had not seen Peter since that time at the hospital and she was thankful for it. She started taking accounting classes and did freelance work for a few of Kate’s clients. She felt so powerful that she glowed. Though, she couldn’t take all of the credit, Marcus had been so supportive. He seemed to relish every achievement even more than she did.
“I’m so proud of you, sweetheart.” he told her often. The best part was that she believed him.
He had asked her to move in with him and she told him she would think about it. She rolled it around in her mind as she redressed after a checkup. Everything was fine and she walked with a serene smile.
A woman in a dark jacket walked up to her and opened it slightly to show a large knife tucked into her jeans with her other had pausing over the handle. Valentina’s mouth went dry as she was steered away from the exit by the woman’s pinching grasp.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Valentina asked with a tremble in her voice. She almost gagged as she inhaled the woman’s vile breath as she chuckled.
“You think I’m going to let you trap my man like you tried to trap yours? I’ll see you dead first.” she said through gritted teeth. The woman pulled her further away from the lobby and toward an isolated staircase down the hall. She opened the door and Valentina could feel the terror in her bones. She tried not to think about of knife pressed up against her belly. She faced the woman as she pushed her on the landing. Her pale face was sweaty and red blotches were on her plump cheeks. Her eyes were wild and glassy.
“Please, don’t do this. I’m pregnant.”
She pleaded and the woman smiled at her sweetly.
“I know.” She said ominously. She pushed Valentina hard and she tumbled down the concrete stairs.
She tried to reach out for the railing, but a hit on the head knocked her unconscious. She landed on the bottom rumpled and still.
Karen watched her fall and land. She was only satisfied when she didn’t see her move. She ran down the stairs, stepping over Valentina and fleeing through the exit.
She zippered her jacket as the adrenaline burned through her veins and she had to breath through it. She took large gulps of air of the cool air that made her cough and tried to steady her heartbeat.
Walking, near sprinting through the people burned off the edge, but brought a crushing feeling in her lungs. She thought of only of going home as she searched for her cigarettes. Her fingers were stiff and white, but she was able to hold it against the brisk wind.
With every inhale and exhale, she didn’t feel any better. Her mind was muddled by the act of revenge that she was sure would take away the pain, the anger and lead into something more palpable. It wasn’t working and the feeling of foreboding was closing in fast.
Marcus was unloading a truck when a call came in for him.
It was Kate telling that Valentina was attacked and she was being admitted. He quickly explained the emergency to his supervisor and hurried toward the ER.
His heart and mind raced with worry. When he arrived he was told that she was in surgery and now he was stuck in the brightly lit waiting area with uncomfortable chairs. He could hardly breathe from the grief that loomed nearby. He prayed that she and the baby would be alright, he’d give anything. He vowed that if God spared her, he would do whatever it took to make her happy and his wife. He was silently begging and bargaining, when he felt someone near him. He looked up and saw an attractive redhead dressed in a fashionable trousers and loose blouse in dark blue. Her green eyes peered at him and he could feel her earthiness from across the room. He suddenly had the strongest urge to run into her arms like a scared child.
She smiled at him and instantly, his anxiety was gone. She walked over to him with her arms open.
“You must be Marcus. It’s so good to match the voice with the face.” She