The food is utterly delicious, tender roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings with a rich, thick gravy… a perfect Sunday dinner.
“How do you know her?” Maya jabs me in the side and I glace over at Elsa – Sa Sa – who smiles at me and I feel a rush of warmth envelope my body at the memory of our final night together.
“Um… we met in Sunlit Tides,” I say honestly, “I had my driving lessons with her…” and we slept together, I add silently, my eyes flick over her body encased perfectly within her denim dress.
“Oh, OK…” Maya pushes her plate away, I feel her stiffen beside me and know I’ve let my eyes linger for too long.
“Was it OK?” Rueben asks, appearing next to Maya and collecting our plates.
“It was lovely, thank you…” Maya smiles and I catch Rueben looking down her dress, inwardly I cringe, however I’ve been imagining his sister naked, so can I really complain?
“So how come you’re not drinking…?” Bee asks Maya, taking a sip of her wine.
“Er… I’m driving,” Maya says with a well rehearsed smile.
“I thought you walked?” Rueben asks, making his way around the opposite side of the table and adding more plates to his stack.
“Sa Sa’s not drinking and no one’s making a big deal…” Fin winks at me. I glance over to Elsa who stares at the table cloth, avoiding everyone’s eyes.
“Oh for god’s sake…” Maya looks around the gathering, “I didn’t want to say anything yet… but… I’m pregnant!” I cringe. Would it have killed her to ask me before she made the announcement? I wanted to tell everyone together… Dad will be gutted he wasn’t the first to know.
Everyone cheers and Fin smirks at me, downing his champagne… he gestures for me to do the same – as though I’m going to need it.
Bee squeals and starts congratulating Maya, whilst Rueben eyes me suspiciously and then my thoughts turn to Elsa.
I glance across the table to her and she stares back, her expression pained – I feel I betrayed her when the one I’ve really betrayed is Maya.
“Excuse me…” I hear Elsa whisper, but no one is listening… they’re all smiling and chattering with Maya… telling her how beautiful she looks and how she’s glowing.
As afternoon gives way to evening, I’m bored to death of all this baby talk; plus I’m hurt that Maya didn’t ask me before she made the announcement… I’m ready for home.
“Well the first trimester is probably the worst, all that sickness!” Bee explains, passing her empty champagne flute to Fin who rolls his eyes at me.
“Although saying that, the third trimester? Wow. My ankles were like balloons, and that’s nothing compared to my belly. I looked like a beached whale!” she laughs and I cringe as she continues, “Then there’s the piles! You know, haemorrhoids? Ouch! Also I was torn between gagging for it and wanting to punch Finny baby in the face!”
“OK honey, I think it’s time to go home now…” Fin scoops Owen up and smiles at his wife kindly.
“Yeah, we’ll be going soon,” I stand, wanting to get out of the room and be alone. Maya has disappeared and I’ve had about enough of today.
“Did I say too much?” I hear Bee say as I exit the room, “I said too much, didn’t I…?”
I make my way upstairs to the bathroom and away from everyone when I hear hushed voices coming from a room to my left.
“Maya!” I hear Rueben’s deep tones and Maya’s response.
“Rue, It’s not yours!” she whispers, “Please… It’s Yves, I feel it.”
I listen more intently, what…?
“How do you know? Maya, I can support you, you know I can…”
“This baby is Yves’, it’s not yours. I love Yves.”
“You said you loved me.”
“I was caught up in the police case, I was scared for everyone, I only broke up with Yves to get him away…”
“Maya, I’m in love with you, and I’ll do anything to keep you happy, but if there’s any chance that the child you’re carrying is mine…”
“It’s not your baby!”
I’m frozen to the spot.
What am I listening to?! Rueben thinks Maya’s baby is his?!
I’m about to burst into the room when I’m tugged into the bathroom by some unseen force and pushed against the toilet.
Elsa slams the bathroom door and locks it.
“Yves!” she hisses, “What are you doing here?!!” her face is flushed and her hair has come loose from its ties, she looks amazing.
“I could ask you the same thing!”
Elsa shakes her head, “Isn’t it obvious? Rueben is my brother!”
A knocking on the door interrupts her. “Yves! Hurry up, we’re leaving!” Maya snaps, and I hear her as she heads down the stairs.
I open the bathroom door to see her half way down the stairs, “Yves wait! I need to talk to you!” Elsa pulls me back and Maya turns, seeing me stood with her.
“What are you doing?” I snap at Elsa who looks wounded, “Maya is my girlfriend!” I hiss.
“Yves?” Maya stares at me, “What are you doing in there with Sa Sa?”
Rueben appears from the bedroom, his face is red and he has tears in his eyes. “Maya, if you won’t tell Yves the truth then I will!”
What? I turn to Rueben.
“Rueben!” Maya starts back up the stairs, “Don’t!”
“Maya and I slept together,” Rueben says, he has the grace to look ashamed… “There’s every chance that the baby she’s carrying is mine… I’m so, so sorry…”
It’s like a reflex, I’m not aware I’ve punched him until he’s lying on the floor.
Maya gasps and runs to his side, I peer down the stairs and spot Fin and Bee peering up at us all.
“Nice one, Yves,” Fin nods at me and Bee gives him a warning glance.
“Is this true?” I yell at Maya.
“No!” she cries, “Well… I…”
“What?! It either is or it isn’t!”
“We did sleep together…” Maya murmurs… “But we used protection…”
I’m frozen to the spot. Why didn’t I trust my judgment in the first place? I knew there was something going on between the two of them.
“Is the baby mine, Maya?” I search her eyes.
Maya nods, “I…I think so…”
Shaking my head I back away from her, “That’s not good enough,” I say, “I want a paternity test…”
“Yves don’t go…” Maya starts towards me.
“Don’t come near me,” I snap, “I want to be alone…”
Aptly, it’s raining.
It should be, I mean I feel like my life’s ended in the matter of a few moments.
I’ve left my coat behind at Rueben’s house but I don’t care, I let the water droplets soak through my clothes and onto my skin.
My hand is throbbing, really, really throbbing from the impact with Rueben’s face – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I haven’t broken something.
“Yves!” a voice behind me startles me and I turn to see Elsa running down the path towards me.
I cringe. “Go away Elsa, I want to be alone…”
“I need to speak to you…”
“Whatever you have to say, I’m not interested…”
“I’m pregnant!” she blurts and I stop walking, her words echo around my mind, reverberating around my skull like a clock tower bell tolling midnight.
Elsa sighs, “I’m so sorry… I… I didn’t intend this to happen…”
“I’m the father?”
Elsa nods and I yell down the street in anguish.
How the hell is this happening to me?!
“How do you know?”
“You’re the only guy I’ve slept with since Carl… and he and I broke up a year ago…”
I close my eyes, trying to make out like this hasn’t happened.
It feels like the walls of my life are crumbling down, tumbling apart around me – like I’m stuck in some sort of nightmare where each day brings something new and more horrific than the last…
The clouds around us swell and the rain falls harder, splattering down in huge droplets onto the tarmac roads and pavements. I’m speechless.
“I don’t expect you to be there for us…” Elsa clutches her abdomen, cradling her unborn child.
“I want nothing from you,” she says, drenched. Water droplets are falling from her lashes and dripping down her nose, her dress is soaked. “I just thought you should know.”
I nod slowly as she walks away, I watch her departing back… my mind is alive with thoughts and wishes… my stomach lurches with cold fear and dread. Either way I look at it… I’m going to be a father… and I have no idea what to do.
A/N – I hope this first degree doesn’t feel as though it’s ended too abruptly.
My intention is write more using Yves’ children as the protagonist(s) but for now we move on to the Second Degree, which is Maya Hart.
Sorry this has taken so long to upload – I wanted this wrapped up sooner but other things got in the way as they do 🙂