After rushing from the house Ian plopped down on a bench outside his first class. Why did Celia have to be so unreasonable? He wondered. All he had wanted was one day to sleep. Was that too much ask for? She didn’t seem to realize how much he was doing. It seemed that no matter what he did. How much he did. She always wanted more. He thought they’d share the responsibilities but as far as he could tell he was doing most of it . He had class everyday same as she did. Had homework and tests to study for same as she did. Yet it felt to him that she deserved the luxury of studying without interruption. He was the one always stopping to tend to Katrina. It was him who had to prop his books up while he held their daughter attempting to study and give Katrina half his attention. He was amazed he got anything out of his studies being so distracted with the baby. On the nights he had to work Celia would take Katrina downstairs for his parents to care for.
When Ian confronted Celia on it she had become defensive accusing him of never being home. Shirking his duties towards her and their daughter. When he wasn’t working she’d complain that he wasn’t taking being a father seriously and that he needed to grow up. Why was it ok for her to go out at night? Go to parties? If he even hinted he wanted a night off to have a little fun he was the one who was lazy, immature, irresponsible the list went on and on of his deficiencies.
“Excuse me can I sit here?” a female voice asked.
Nodding Ian scooted over to allow the girl more room to sit.
“Thank you,” she smiled at him “I’m Lucy.”
“No problem,” he mumbled his thoughts a million miles away. A soft giggle had him turning to look at the girl beside him on the bench. “What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she giggled again “usually when someone tells you their name it’s customary for you to introduce yourself.”
Feeling his face flush hot Ian stammered “I’m sorry ….. I ….. I’m Ian.” He hastily gathered his things and got to his feet.
“It’s nice to meet you Ian,” she called after him as he walked away.
Shoving his hands in his pockets he aimlessly walked around campus. His stomach growled loudly as he passed a group of cheerleaders who erupted into fits of giggles to his discomfort. Glancing at the time he decided to run to the coffee shop for a roll and a latte. As he approached the shop a couple emerged. The girl smiling up at her companion as he leaned down to kiss her…
If he had been struck by lightning he wouldn’t have been more shocked. Her happy smile. The sparkle in her eyes. He had thought he was the only one she had looked at like he was the only man for her. Turning he ran. Sprinting across the road to the sound of screeching tires and someone calling his name.
Losing her smile Celia looked into the shocked and startled eyes of her boyfriend. The father of her child, “Ian” she whispered. As he darted into the busy street she screamed his name as she watched helplessly as a car barely missed hitting him. Forgetting the man she was with she moved to follow after him. I tug on her arm halting her as a deep angry voice demanded “let him go,” Professor Lyons said. “He’s acting like a spoiled brat.”
She dragged her eyes from watching Ian’s fleeing figure in the distance to the man standing beside her. She wanted to scratch the sneering self-satisfied smug look from his face “John I ….”
Shaking his head “Professor. Can’t you get that through your stupid little head?”
“Sorry…Professor,” Celia enunciated clearly pulling her arm free from his grasp. “I should go…”
His eyes narrowed as he took her arm again forcing her to walk with him towards his car. “I thought we discussed this Celia. You said it was over between you and that boy. You’re the one who said you wanted a real man. So let the baby cry over his loss ….”
Stomping on his toes she pulled away from him “you self-centered, self-absorbed ass,” she scowled at him “I can’t believe I fell for your bullshit. What was I thinking?”
Bending to rub his toes grimacing at her “I really must ask you to lower your voice. Your calling a lot of attention to yourself.”
“I’ve been a fool,” she shouted as if she hadn’t heard him. Her eyes opened wide as she said “all those things you told me. The clinical analysis of Ian and his parents were just to get me to trust you and to distrust them.” Tears streaming down her face “they were the only family I had and I treated them horribly. I’ve probably ruined the best thing I ever had because of you.”
“That’s really more your problem than mine,” the professor stated coldly “You really are a stupid little girl. I only ever wanted one thing…” Eyes widening in shock and anger Celia moved to slap him. He caught her hand before she could connect with his face. Laughing at her he said “You gullible little fool. I only told you what you wanted to hear. You wanted an excuse. You wanted someone to blame for your unhappiness. I only gave you what you wanted.”
“Why didn’t you just tell what I needed to hear? That I was the problem and not Ian and his parents? I’ve done and said things …. all they’ve done was help me….make me a part of their family….”
“If you really appreciated and loved them then I would never have been able to manipulate you,” he laughed in her face.
“I know,” she shouted feeling like she had lost herself and as much as she wanted to blame this despicable man standing in front of her she couldn’t. The blame was hers.
Nodding his head he reached out and petted her head saying “well it’s been fun while it lasted.” He moved to his car. Before getting in he tossed over his shoulder “see you in class tomorrow.”
“No I won’t be there. I’ve decided I won’t be pursuing that field of study.”
Shrugging “probably a wise decision.” He got into his car and drive away.
Stunned Celia watched him drive away. Muttering “jerk” under her breath. Shaking her head she couldn’t believe how she had been acting. It was unforgivable. She decided to change her schedule and because her choices were limited to available classes she wound up changing her major to business management. She would have taken anything to avoid seeing the smug face of Professor Lyons.
By the time Ian reached the student parking lot he had tears streaming down his face. Wiping them away he threw his car into gear and drove. Unsure where he was going, he drove aimlessly through the back roads surrounding Starlight Shores he became aware of flashing lights coming up behind him. “Shit,” he muttered glancing at the speed-o-meter. He was going at least 20 miles over the speed limit. Pounding his fist into the steering wheel he slowed the car pulling over to the side of the road.
A cop walked up to his window tapping on it. Rolling his window down “do you know how fast you were going?”
“I’m really sorry officer,” Ian glanced up “I’ve had a terrible day and my mind was elsewhere.”
Something in his manner and tone caught the officer’s attention He gave Ian a sympathetic smile while saying “well I hope this helps improve you day. I’m going to give you a warning but only if you promise to slow down.”
“Yes sir I will sir,” Ian said relieved that he wouldn’t have to explain how he managed to get a speeding ticket. “Thank you officer.” He pulled onto the road and drove home deciding not the push his luck.
Walking into the house he fond his dad playing with Katrina. The sight brought a smile to his lips. “Ian what brings you home so early?” Gene asked noting the droop in his son’s shoulders an his defeated manner.
Shrugging Ian looked away unable to meet his fathers concerned gaze. Tears sprang to his eyes as he said “I saw Celia kissing her professor today….”
“Oh Ian I’m so sorry,” Gene put Katrina in her swing. Going to his son he pulled him into a firm hug. He held him close as he felt Ian’s shoulders heave from his uncontrollable sobs.
“I knew things weren’t right between us but I didn’t think she’d cheat on me.” Ian blubbered on his dad’s shoulder “what am I going to do?”
“At the moment, nothing,” Gene told him “the last think you need to do is be making life changing decisions while your upset. You may do something you’ll regret.”
“It hurts so much dad,” Ian sniffed “I thought we’d be together forever…”
“Listen to me Ian,” Gene told him waiting for his son to look at him “you can still have that if you want it bad enough. Even if it’s not with Celia. There’s someone out there that will want forever. Have you talked to Celia yet though, gotten her side?”
“What side? That she’s leaving me for professor wonderful?” Ian grumbled.
“I know this is hard believe me I understand. When you mom was with Wallace I thought it was over. When I finally got her back I almost walked away.” Looking deep into his son’s troubled eyes “if I had done that you and your brother wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you have to fight for what you want. Do you love her?”
Ian began to nod hesitating “I thought so but no I’m not so sure.”
“When did you start to have doubts? Before or after you saw her kissing the professor?”
“What difference does that make?” Ian demanded sitting down resting his head in his hands.
“Well for one there’s that little girl over there who is going to grow up needing answers.” Gene nodded towards Katrina cooing in her swing. “Do you want her growing up knowing her mother?”
“Yes of course I do,” hesitating Ian looked at his daughter “it’s never going to be easy is it?”
“No it’s not. I wish I could tell you it will get easier but I can’t. Life is sometimes a series of trials and errors.” Squeezing Ian’s shoulder Gene asked “have you tried calling Celia since this all happened?” Shaking his head Ian remained silent “don’t you think you should?”
“Shouldn’t she call me?” Ian asked anger vibrating in his voice “she’s the one in the wrong not me. Why should I be the one crawling back to her?”
Shrugging Gene got up to start the swing again “someone has to be the bigger person. What if she’s just as lost and confused as you are? What if she’s waiting for sign from you? I’m not saying you have anything to apologize for. All I am saying his you need to talk and don’t let her spew any of her psycho babble bullshit at you. It’s abundantly obvious where that was coming from.”
“Yeah professor wonderful,” Ian grumbled starting into the far distance. Shrugging Gen let him stew on it. It had to be his decision regardless of what Gene thought he should do. Ian was an adult, a father, he had to be treated like the adult he was.
Staring at her phone as it rang in her hand. She wasn’t ready to talk to Ian yet. She was tempted to let it go to voice mail, ignore it just little bit longer, pretend a little longer there wasn’t a deep chasm forming between them. That’s what she hand been doing all day. Pretending her heart wasn’t breaking. Pretending she hadn’t ruined the best thing in her life. Nothing she did erased the image of Ian’s hurt shock filled eyes. What had possessed her? Did she really think a highly respected professor really wanted her for her brains? He as much as told her it wasn’t her intelligence he was attracted to. She was such an idiot. She had been flattered by his interest. His praise. Had any of it been real? She’d never know.
Her phone went off again. Same ring tone as before. What did he want? Couldn’t he take a hint and leave her alone? A flash of memory of how close that car had come to hitting him as he darted across the street. What if he had been hit? It would have been her fault. She was a terrible person. Ian was better off without her. She didn’t deserve a family. She was jinxed. She was sure of it. Her father never wanted her. Her Aunt barely knew she existed. Now she had ruined her relationship with the only family she had. Looking at the phone in her hand as she received a text. Frowning as she read it. Why could Ian just leave her alone.
Opening the text she held her breath preparing herself for the worst. Exhaling as she read “we need to talk.” She was tempted to ignore it but Ian would just continue until he received a response. She wanted to give it and meet him somewhere neutral where they could talk. Where he would forgive her and she’d feel his arms around her making her feel safe, wanted and loved. But who was she kidding? He deserved so much better. In the end she typed two letters “NO” then sent it. Getting up feeling tired and shaking she walked towards a dormitory where some friends lived hoping to be allowed a couch to sleep on for the night. Tomorrow she’d worry about where she was going to live.
Ian was beside himself after receiving that single terse reply to his request to talk. All his others texts went unanswered. Where was she? With professor wonderful? Lying in bed alone missing her presence he found himself crying into his pillow. A gentle knock on his door had him sitting up “what?” he called out hoping it wasn’t more bad news.
“Ian?” came the timid response.
“Matty?” Ian said in relief. Reaching over he turned on a light “what’s up bro?”
“Are you alright?” Matt asked coming up to sit on the edge of the bed.
Sighing Ian thought about lying but at the concern in his brothers sympathetic pink eyes he thought better of it. “No I’m
“I’m sorry Ian ” he said softly “I wish there was something I could do to help.”
Ian nodded unable to answer as fresh tears appeared. Matty crawled into bed beside him like Ian had when they were kids after he had a nightmare. This time it was Matt holding his brother offering what comfort he could give. A couple of hours later Matty woke up to the sound of a baby’s wail. Getting up Matt went to check on Katrina to let his brother sleep.
“Hey little one,” he said coming into the nursery. She seemed fussier then usual and kept tugging at her ears screaming louder. Picking her up Matt thought she felt warmer than normal and after several minutes had passed where she continued to scream he gave up and took her downstairs. Knocking on his parents door Matt went in “Mom I think something’s wrong with Katrina.”
Coming fully alert Aimee flew out of bed and took Katrina from Matt’s arms. “Gene honey get up and tell me if you think Katrina is hot to you.”
Coming over to them Gene frowned “I think you’re right. She feels like she’s burning up. Matt go get your brother we may need to take Katrina into the ER.”
Running up the stairs Matt yelled “Ian get up Katrina’s sick.”
Jumping up Ian threw some clothes on and raced down the stairs two steps at a time. “Mom what’s wrong with her?” He asked taking his daughter from her arms trying to calm her cries.
“I don’t know. She has a 103 temperature” Aimee told him “Matt checked on her and when he noticed she wasn’t right he brought her to me.”
“Thanks Matt,” Ian smiled gratefully at his younger brother.
Waiting in the ER Gene asked “have you contacted Celia?”
“I’ve called and left messages all night Dad. She refuses to talk to me.”
“I mean about Katrina,” Gene told him “surely she’d want to know her daughter is sick.”
A nurse called Ian’s name. He got up to go “call her if you want Dad. I don’t care.”
Aimee looked anxiously over at Gene who was getting his phone out. Putting a hand on his she asked “do you think it’s a good idea to call her?”
“I don’t know but they need to talk and if she wont be adult enough to face up to her mistakes I would hope she’s be grown up enough to be concerned about her daughter.” Gene looked grim and Aimee knew him well enough to know just how angry this situation was making him.
“Do what you think is best,” is all she said.
Walking outside Gene let his phone ring until it went to voice mail. Then he dialed Celia’s number again repeating the process until she answered.
Laying on the dormitories lumpy couch Celia groaned as her phone began to ring. “Leave a message” she mumbled as it continued to ring. Glancing to see who was calling her she groaned seeing Gene’s name come up. If she didn’t want to talk to Ian it went doubly so for his dad. Twenty minutes of non-stop ringing her irritation drove her to answer “What?” she screamed into the receiver.”
“Where the hell are you?” Gene let loose unable to keep his anger under control.
“None of your damn business” she shouted back.
Frowning at her response Gene took a deep breath before continuing. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do but that’s not why I’m calling.”
Worry creased her forehead as all kinds of scenarios ran through her mind. “Did something happen to Ian? The baby?”
“We’re at the ER as Katrina had a 103 temperature. I thought you might like to know,” Gene told her is voice deadly calm and deep.
The click in her ear informed her that he had disconnected. Why hadn’t they called her sooner? Completely forgetting all the ignored calls and unanswered messages she’d received through the night. Shoving her feet into her shoes she rand from the dorm as she called for a taxi.
Rushing into the ER she looked around spotting Ian’s family sitting in a far corner. Clinching and unclenching her hands as she approached. Coming to a stop in front of Gene she demanded “how is she?”
Looking up Matty jumped to his feet scowling “why are you here?”
Ignoring him she repeated her question directing it towards Gene “how is she?”
“We’re waiting for Ian to come out and tell us.” Gene said remaining calm “why don’t you have a seat.”
At the hostile glares from Matt and Aimee she took a seat a few spaces away.”
For the next 30 minutes she glanced anxiously at the ER door each time someone came in or out of the ER doors. Finally Ian emerged carrying a sleeping Katrina in his arms. Locking eyes with him Celia noticed the anger but mostly she saw the hurt and betrayal in his violet eyes. Rushing up to him reaching for Katrina demanding “let me have her.”
Side stepping her Ian smoothly handed the baby to Gene before turning to Celia. “Katrina has a double ear infection. She’s going to need tubes when she’s older but she’s going to be ok.” He frowned at her as she continued to try to grab for Katrina while Gene evaded her attempts and walked purposefully away towards the car. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked grabbing her arm so that she couldn’t follow.
“She’s my child,” she screamed at him.
“No one’s trying to take her from you” Ian told her “she just fell asleep Celia. She doesn’t need you upsetting her with your wild behavior and accusations.”
“You can’t take my baby away from me,” She said as if she hadn’t heard a word he told her.
“Is that what you think we’re doing her?” Ian asked dropping his hands shocked “Our daughter is sick. I’m thinking about our daughter and as usual you’re thinking about yourself. Are you just giving up on us? Without giving me a reason why? As much as I don’t like you right now I haven’t stopped loving you. You hurt me but I would never try to hurt you back by keeping Katrina from you. What kind of monster do you think I am?” Shaking his head he walked away. Head down hands in pockets.
Aware of all the stares Celia ran after him, grabbing his hand “I’m sorry.” Pulling his hand from her Ian kept walking. “Ian please can’t we talk?” she pleaded.
“Now’s not the time,” he said walking towards the waiting car. “We’ll talk later. Right now I might say something I might regret.”
“Ian don’t be like that…”
“Like what?” Ian asked whirling around glaring at her. “You’re the one being unreasonable. I called and called you but you ignored me. When I wanted to talk all I got was silence. Now when you want to talk I’m supposed to drop everything. Now I’m the one being unreasonable.” He threw his hands up in the air “why am I always the bad guy? I bring our daughter into the ER for medical attention and you accuse me of trying to take your daughter away from you. I’m immature because I want one day to sleep in when you do nothing. You don’t clean, cook or take of Katrina. All you do is study and go to class. News flash. I do all of those things plus I have a job but I’m the one being immature, lazy, irresponsible.” Shaking his head as tears threatened to fall from his eyes “I’m tired Celia of always being the one giving and getting nothing in return. I thought we were in this together but I guess I was wrong.”
Reaching out she grabbed his hand only to have him snatch it away from her “Ian please let me explain.”
Shaking his head “I’m not interested Celia. I just want to get our daughter home and getting some sleep before I have to start my shitty life all over again.”
The car ride home was silent. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts. As they entered the house Gene turned to Ian “son if you need anything just let us know.”
Nodding Ian accepted his father’s offer. “She should sleep for a couple of hours before I’ll need to give her another dose of her medicine. If I need any help I’ll have Matty come get you.”
Smiling Gene and Aimee retired to their room. Walking up the stairs Ian turned towards the couch “Matty do you mind sleeping on the couch?”
Shaking his head Matt asked “where are you going to sleep?”
Yawning Ian said “on the floor next to Katrina’s crib. I want to keep a close eye on her in case she gets worse.” After putting Katrina in her crib making sure she was comfortable Ian was surprised to find Celia handing him a sleeping bag. “Thank you,” he mumbled.
Staring at him Celia shrugged backing out of the room. Head down to avoid the angry glare Matty threw at her she went into her bedroom. Laying on the bed she’d normally be sharing with Ian. Tears flowed from her eyes as she realized the gulf between her and Ian may be insurmountable.