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Define Me by findingalways

Format: Novel
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 27,607
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Slash (same-sex pairing), Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Harry, Albus, Hugo, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, OC
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Rose/Scorpius, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/30/2014
Last Chapter: 01/03/2015
Last Updated: 01/03/2015

Summary:



 
Lovely banner by Ianthe at TDA!

Taylor Bowie had always been defined by her money woes, dysfunctional family, and lack of a completed education.

That all changed when she got pregnant; by a boy who called her a muggle.

This is her story.

[James/OC]


Chapter 1: Prologue: Positive
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Once.

We slept together once.

It wasn't supposed to turn into anything, just be a bit of fun and get my mind off everything; a one time thing.

But, that would mean life wasn't completely against me.

Which of course, it is.

Nothing was supposed to come out of this, especially not a baby.

Yet, here I am, heaving my guts out in a cubicle in the loo of the restaurant I work at and I bet the reason would be because that one night led to me procreating.

Classy, Taylor. Classy.

"TAYLOR BOWIE! IF YOU AREN'T OUT OF THAT RUDDY LOO AND MAKING ME MONEY IN FIVE MINUTES, I AM DOCKING YOUR BILL!" the booming voice echoed from outside.

Henry Acreman, ladies and gentleman. My boss is truly lovely. Because, after all, getting yelled at by employers is said to reduce vomiting.

I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand when...oh no.

No no no.

Here it comes again.

I fall to my knees once again in front of the linoleum throne and get violently ill for the third time today.

Ugh.

I flush away the putrid contents and proceed to wash my hands, checking my watch once again.

Lottie, my coworker and best friend, should be getting back from break any minute and she was supposed to be bringing with her my test.

My pregnancy test.

Because all these other girls can sleep around with the whole town, but when I do it once I wind up with a baby. It's just like when I was ten and went to a carnival with six or seven friends and some kid with chicken pox was there - for some unknown reason - and I was the only one of us to catch it. My luck just works out that way.

I had tried convincing myself for the past week that there was no possible way I could be - y'know, with child - but I couldn't live in denial anymore. Either I was pregnant or had some weird disease. Oddly enough, I kind of hoped it was the latter.

Finally, the door burst open and Lottie scrambled in, locking it behind her, a small, brown, paper bag in her hands, "sorry it took so long," she gasped. "Acreman told me to tell you that he's losing patience with you and that I'm supposed to tell you to 'put on your big girl britches and get to work' before he gets someone more qualified 'like an ape' to do your job for you."

Again, my boss is lovely.

"You got it though?" I asked quietly, eyeing the bag which she was tearing open to reveal a small white box.

She handed me the box and as I took it I noticed for the first time that my hands were shaking.

"Tay," Lottie said, placing her hands on my shoulders, forcing me to make eye contact, "calm. Don't psych yourself out. Stress can cause you to be late and you've probably just caught a stomach bug."

I wanted to mention all the other symptoms, but my throat decided that talking wasn't an option.

She continued her motivational speech when she noticed I wasn't replying, "remember last year when it was me in your place? You stood right here in this loo and told me it was probably nothing and that I was just overthinking. And you know what? You were right. It was negative and everything was fine. So please, just take the test, then you'll realize you're upset over nothing and we'll go back out and make some tips and everything will be good as new."

I nodded, trying to convince myself there was any possibility that it could come out negative.

I locked myself in the cubicle and took out the little stick. I never knew a four inch piece of plastic could control my entire life. Once I had done the thoroughly awkward task of peeing on the object, I slowly walked out and set it tenderly on the edge of the sink.

Now, we wait.

"What if it is positive though?" I ask quietly, the thought making me want to throw up for the fourth time today. "I can't be a mum...I'm sixteen! And we barely even know each other..."

Not to mention the fact that I have no money at all whatsoever. I work full time because without my job we would be homeless with no food. My job is the reason ends meet at all.

"If it's positive, which it definitely won't be," she said, "then you deal with it from there. You have options, after all."

I didn't say anything, I knew she was getting at abortion. I may not want a child, but I couldn't kill it.

After what felt like hours, her watch said that it had been three minutes which meant that the test was ready.

I started towards it, but stopped short of the sink, suddenly unable to move.

Thank you, feet, for picking the most opportune time to stop functioning.

"Tay?" she asked cautiously.

I shook my head, which made her furrow her brows, "No. No, I can't. I can't. You look."

She looked unsure, but nodded quietly and walked over to the sink, picking up the stick (unsanitary, I know - but desperate times call for desperate measures).

"Well, what does it say?" I pushed as she stared down at the little piece of plastic with an unreadable expression.

She set it back down on the sink without a word and pulled me into a close hug, stroking my hair and telling me that everything was going to be alright.

I couldn't stop the big, fat teardrops that were falling like rain from a cloud. They slid down the mounds of my cheeks and fell to the ground, crashing like tiny waves against the floor. My knees began to buckle under the pain but I willed them to hold me.

I didn't have to even see the dreadful test to know what it said; it just confirmed everything that I already knew.

"Shh," Lottie whispered, "it's all going to be okay."

"What am I going to do?" I gasped into her shoulder.

One time. We slept together one freakin' time. He barely knew me, he won't want to raise a baby with me. Afterall, who would?

"Tay," she sighed, "it's all going to be okay, remember?"

I knew she was just trying to be helpful, but I wished she wouldn't say that, it was a lie. Everything was not going to be okay. 'Okay' had never been a factor in my life.

"IF YOU GIRLS ARE NOT OUT IN SIXTY SECONDS, YOU ARE BOTH FIRED!" Mr. Acremen boomed from outside the cramped bathroom.

Lovely lovely lovely.

I pulled away from Lottie, which she objected to, "Tay, don't you listen to that git, we'll come out when you're ready."

Except I wouldn't be ready until a time machine was available.

I looked myself over in the mirror and immediately wished I hadn't. My eyes were swollen and my whole face was bright pink with highly visible tearstains. Great.

I straightened my skirt and took a deep breath, mentally preparing myself to go out there and put on my best show despite the fact that my life was essentially over.

My father would kick me out, that much was certain. The only time he spoke to me was when he demanded my paychecks and tips or when he had one of his episodes and went on a rampage. Our flat was already too small for the three of us and it wasn't uncommon to go to bed hungry. How was I supposed to bring a baby in to that?

"I have to go, I can't get fired. I'm already in enough trouble as it is, I can't afford to lose this job."

She didn't argue with me. She stroked my arm, again trying to comfort me because she could see I was about three seconds from another breakdown.

No.

No breakdowns.

I have to be brave, whatever that is.

Before this I thought bravery meant dropping out of school to work full time so my little brother neither went hungry or got taken away.

Before this I thought bravery was living with my abusive drunk of a father and not complaining.

Before this I didn't know bravery meant raising a baby at sixteen, without a father because I made a stupid decision with a boy I barely knew.

This new definition of bravery made me want to throw myself on the ground and cry, but I couldn't do that.

My child - my baby - is counting on me.

My baby?

Those words shouldn't even be put together, I shouldn't be old enough to even think those words.

Here I was, a screwed up teenager having a conversation in her head about the new life apparently growing in her womb.

I picked up the stick and and tossed it in the garbage before I headed out, but not without seeing the most horrible word in the entire English language printed on it.

Positive.


A/N: Sorry it's so short - the rest of the chapters will be longer, if you like it that is. This was just a prologue to set up the story. I would love a message in the box, if you don't mind, telling my what you like, dislike, etc.


Chapter 2: How It All Began
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8 weeks ago

"Oi! What does it take to get some service around here?" a disgruntled customer grunted loudly, slapping his menu on the table.

I rolled my eyes.

Without even turning around I knew who the man was. His name was Arnold Jenkins. He was a seventy two year old war vet., who lost his wife of fifty years two years ago. Every Thursday evening he would come in, demand a particular booth by the window - if it was filled, he would wait, his foot tapping away - and he ordered the weekly special with a glass of tea. It was a routine he said he picked up after his wife died. He was a good tipper, but that didn't make waiting on him any easier for he thought the world owed him his every whim and that we ought stop everything and cater to his every desire. Plus, every week he would spiel a story from back when he was younger and this usually consisted of a forty five minute tale of something that could be told in five minutes. Needless to say, Lottie and I took turns waiting on the man, although half the time we decided who would do it by the grown up method of a rock-paper-scissors battle.

I put on my best fake smile and walked over to him, "Good evening, Mr. Jenkins, what can I get you to drink tonight?"

"I want the tea," he said gruffly, "I'm already ready to order seeing as getting service is about as easy as teaching a horse to dance the hula. I'll have the special." He thrust the menu at me, "thank you."

I sent the ticket back to the kitchen and stood against the wall for a moment, away from the sight of the fairly empty cafe.

"Taylor!" I turned and saw Lottie rushing towards me, a colossal grin on her face, "hottie in your section!"

I arched an eyebrow, "I'd hardly consider Mr. Jenkins a hottie. Maybe fifty years ago, but-"

"No, not him!" She said forcefully, dragging me to a little gap where we could see the seating area, "him!" She said excitedly pointing across the room.

I followed her finger and saw who she was talking about. There was a guy who looked roughly seventeen with a head full of disheveled black hair, he was certainly attractive.

"Well, get out there!" Lottie hissed, "Make a move!"

"A move? Lottie, you know I'm not like that."

Although for him maybe that could change.

"All I'm saying," she continued, "is that if you don't, I will."

"Fine, I'm going, I'm going," I said with a smile.

It had been a long time since I had had any interest in a guy. Between caring for my brother and working full time, a social life didn't exist. After my last relationship had ended, I swore off guys until I could actually make time for them. Because apparently boys don't like it when they not only don't see you, but the few times they do you aren't willing to have sex with them. My bad.

"Welcome to Pally's," I say cheerfully, taking out my notebook and pen, clicking it open. "My name is Taylor, can I get you anything to drink?"

The boy met my eyes and smirked, "I'll just have water. I'm James, by the way."

"Taylor," I say again, momentarily forgetting that I already said that.

"Yeah, you told me," he laughed. "So, uh-"

"JAMES!" He was cut off when another guy, who looked about the same age as him burst through the door, proceeded to his table, and sat down, as they high fived.

"Oh, this is my cousin, Fred," he said, nodding towards the Carmel skinned boy.

"I'm Taylor," I said shaking his extended hand.

Over the next hour, the boys found every excuse to get me over there, to refill their drinks, ask any question they could come up with and more. But, I won't bore with that because I know that isn't what everyone wants to know.

"So," James says, stirring his water with his straw, "How often do you work?"

"Full time, so...a lot." I laugh, refilling Fred's coca cola.

James nodded, "Your boyfriend must not like that, you working all the time. If I had a girl like you, I wouldn't like it, too many blokes could hit on you."

I smile, "Good line! But, I'm single, so, that problem doesn't really affect me."

"So, that means I can take you out sometime?" He smirked.

"I hardly know you," I wasn't against the idea, at all.

"What better way to get to know me?"

"Alright, maybe we can work something out."

"I'm going to hold you to that, Taylor."

"I'm sure you will."

Over the next two weeks, he came in almost every day, and stayed for multiple hours at a time. I worked all day six days a week, so our "going out" was confined to him staying while I closed up, but neither of us minded.

Over those two weeks I learned that he went to a private school, had a really big family, and wanted to go into detective work, although he didn't go into details, only that his father was in the same business as well. I told him as little information about myself as I could, not wanting to scare him off.

* 2 weeks later *

"When do you get off today?" James asked, tucking his change in his pockets.

"Eleven," I sigh, wishing I was like Lottie, getting off at five, "Late, I know."

He nodded, "The other day didn't you get off at six?"

"Yeah, but they need the help and I need the overtime, so except for the fact that I have to walk home in the dark, I'm fine with it."

He nodded and looked like he was about to say something when Fred sauntered in, "Oiya James, c'mon, Teddy wants to have a guy night!"

"I guess I'll see ya around?" He asked with a smile. I nodded and his smile turned into a grin, which didn't exactly hurt my pride.

"See ya later, Taylor!" Fred hollered, dragging James along towards the door.

Just before he could leave, a large woman pushing through the door, shoved him out of the way and demanded a table.

Oh, how I love my job.

James and Fred started laughing, "Have a good night, Taylor."

They left, leaving me with the rhinoceros of a woman who looked as if she would eat me.

"Right this way," I sigh.

The night went on, fairly uneventful, and I made a decent amount of tips, but I couldn't help but wish that I was anywhere but at work. Eventually, the last customer wandered out and I could clean up and clock out. It was oddly quiet without James asking me all about myself and all the cooking utensils, it was obvious he has never spent a lot of time
helping his mum in the kitchen.

The good thing about closing up wast that there wouldn't be any more customers who thought I was their servant, the bad thing was that I would then have to go home. This morning before my shift, my dad and I had a huge fight because I didn't appreciate him shoving me against a wall and ripping my tips from me the night before and I had stuff to say about it. Needless to say, I didn't care to go home.

Finally, I locked the door and saw that, to my surprise, James was waiting outside, his hands in his pockets, rocking on his heels, "Ready?"

"What are you doing here?" I laugh.

"What? You think I'm going to let you walk home in the dark when there are weirdos out there? Please. Besides, you already said you didn't want to do that."

"Thank you, you didn't have to though, I could have managed."

It wasn't often gentleman came into my life.

"Aw, come on, what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't? Girl gives boy food, boy walks her home. Sounds like a good trade, and I definitely come out way ahead."

"Aren't you supposed to be having a boys night?"

He scoffed, "I'd rather be here with you."

I start to laugh, he was using total lines, but for some reason they worked.

"Alright."

"Lead the way!"

We started off in the direction of my flat, but as we passed an old playground, I couldn't help but detour. James didn't seem to have a problem with it and before long we found ourselves on the swings, talking, flirting and just avoiding everything else in the world outside of our little bubble.

"So," says James as he continued swinging, "Tell me about Taylor."

Well, I'm sixteen, a drop out, and my dad is a raging drunk...so according to society, I'm a taxpayer liability/charity case/troubled teen, take your pick.

"Eh, I'm pretty uninteresting," I shrug.

"You got the first part right, you're very pretty," he smirked, "but I see no way the second is the least bit true."

"Too bad it is," I half laugh, wanting to change the subject.

I had scared many a person away with my life story, and I never got into anything very deep, except with Lottie.

"I'll be the judge of that," he decided, pushing himself of the ground to go even higher.

"What do you wanna know?" I relent, "Give me a specific."

"Alright," he thought for a moment. "Tell me about your family."

Of course.

Of course this was his topic of choice.

I didn't answer for a moment, "Well, my mum ran out when I was young, haven't seen her since my brother was a baby."

"I'm sorry," he said awkwardly.

Afterall, there isn't much to say in that situation. He looked genuinely sorry though, which was rather refreshing to be perfectly honest.

"It's just been me, my dad, and my baby brother, Parker, since then. My dad is an airline mechanic."

"Nice."

"Okay, now it's my turn. What's your favorite thing about this little town?"

"The people, most definitly." He winked at me and I felt awkward as a blush rose on my cheeks, burning my face.

"Okay," says James and I could hear his satisfaction, "What do you find most attractive about me?"

I stopped swinging so quickly I nearly toppled over and fell on my face, "What?"

Even with the moonlight being our only sense of light, I could see that his face had lit up with the laughter that was pouring out of his mouth, he kept trying to speak, but I couldn't make out a word. When he had finally contained his laughter enough that I could be heard, I answered, "Who's even to say I find you attractive?"

"C'mon, don't try to deny that you are attracted to me!" James shot back, "That would be a contradiction!"

"Contradiction to what?" I retort through my laughter.

"To our date," he answered back matter-of-factly. "It would be completely preposterous to think that we would be on a date had you not found me attractive."

"Excuse me, sir, but when did this become a date?"

"Let me take you back to the restaurant! I seem to recall me asking you to go for a walk, which you eagerly accepted, and now here we are. That, my friend, is a date."

"It was a walk home, James. Home."

"Yet, here we are. Swinging on a park swing set, talking. I believe that's called a date. In fact, I would be willing to bet that you planned this whole thing! I think you intentionally mentioned your fear of going home in the dark, knowing I would be a gentleman and offer to walk you home. Then you intentionally had us go by this conveniently located park where you planned to seduce me."

I thought about rejecting that statement and arguing my case, but figured I may as well have a bit of fun with it. "Oi!" I sighed, "I thought I was very convincing!"

"You did great, for a beginner. Your efforts would have probably worked on someone who wasn't an expert."

"I have failed miserably," I drop my head, trying to suppress laughter, "I was just so sure that I would have my way with you right here in this very park!"

Wow.

Did I really just say that?

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry because surely that statement scared him away.

I heard the sound of someone hitting the ground - and just knew he had jumped up and ran due to my sheer awkwardness - but, to my surprise, he was now sitting on the ground in front of the swing, shaking with laughter. He was laughing so hard no sound was even coming out.

I got up and sat beside him, and we both stayed there for the longest time. Looking back, it wasn't that funny. But, for whatever reason, it was at that moment.

When we had finally regained the ability to speak, I was the one who spoke up, "It's your eyes by the way."

"Huh?"

"You had asked what I found most attractive about you. It's your eyes."

He looked puzzled, "I didn't expect you to answer that."

"Don't act like you know everything about me yet, Potter. Now, it's your turn to answer a question," I was silent for a moment, thinking of how to properly word what I wanted to ask. "How am I doing?" I asked simply, with a smile, "In my plot of seduction, that is."

He smirked, "Could be better."

"Do I sense a challenge?"

"If you're up for it."

I scooted closer to him and for a moment we had one of those cliche moments in teenage relationships where you just stare longingly into the others eyes. Then, I leaned forward and softly pressed my lips to his, placing one of my hands on the back of his neck. When I pulled back, I pulled away slowly, my fingers curling lightly in his hair, "What about now?" I whisper in his ear, quite seductively, I might add.

He looked back at me, not breaking eye contact, "Much better." He took my face in his hands and this time he pressed his lips to mine. He pressed them there with a little more force, but still gentle. His tongue pressed against my lips and they parted for him and we stayed like that, kissing softly, for quite a while.

Now, let me just say, that while I'm not completely innocent, I'm not the type of girl who does this sort of thing. Ever. I'm never this far forward, but something about James Potter seemed to bring out the worst in me. Or the best, it's up to you.

After a while, James broke our kissing and pushed some hair out of my face, "It's late, I don't want to get you in any kind of trouble..." He was visually disappointed, and it was obvious it was taking all his will power to be a gentleman at this moment.

I thought this over for a moment.

I'm sixteen years old and can either go home and get yelled at, or stay out with a cute boy.

Decisions, decisions.

"I don't want to go home," I say quietly. "I forgot my key anyway, I'd have to wake my dad and he really does not appreciate that.."

Okay, so I really did have my key. But, honestly, who can blame me?

He seemed to know I was lying, but went with it, "I'm a might spot more comfortable than that log," he gestured to said log, "So if you want to spend the night at our cabin with me..."

"Yeah, yeah, I would like that."

"Really?"

"Yeah, why not?"

* 1 hour later *

"So, this is it," James announced awkwardly as we came upon the log cabin. It was nice, I'll admit that.

We went inside, and he showed me around, and before long we found a note from his cousin that the place was his tonight - he was staying at Jenny's (whoever she was).

We made our way to his bedroom. It was a medium sized bedroom with a large four poster bed and plenty of odd looking balls and sporty decorations - typical boy.

"I don't have any pyjamas," I said quietly, more to myself than to him, but he heard.

"I think I can find you something," James says with a sly smirk. He digs in his drawers and pulls out a plain, light brown tshirt, "I'll give you a minute to change," says James as he quietly slips in to the hall, a massive smirk on his face.

I slip out of my waitress uniform and pull the tshirt over my head. It came to my mid thighs and was many sizes too large. I have him the okay to come back inside and it didn't exactly make my pride hurt to see the way his eyes managed to pop out a little before he collected himself. I saw he had already changed into a white tshirt and boxer briefs.

Before I knew it, one thing had led to another and we had picked up right where we had left off, only this time we were on his bed. Our lips moved together, seemingly acting on their own, with very little concentration on our parts and I couldn't help but to feel warm inside as his arms traveled up and down my body, giving me chills. He pulled me closer to him and then rolled over so I was on his lap as we continued our kisses. He slipped the shirt over my head and it fell in a crumpled heap on the floor as I entangled my fingers in his hair once more and continued kissing him. Things escalated quickly from there. As time passed, every piece of our clothing wound up scattered around the bedroom in various crumples.

He looked at me, gently stroking my face, "are you sure?"

I nodded.

In that moment neither of us even gave a moment's thoughts about protection. The word 'condom' never crossed our minds once. All that mattered was he and I. Time didn't exist, it was just us. Two people having a nice night together to kick off a summer night. I wasn't the type of girl who normally did this type of stuff, but something about James made me want to. I wanted him.

I gasped as it happened, as he explored the cradle of my hips. Not out of pain, or fear, or shock, or even bliss. It was just...special. I couldn't explain it. Our breathing grew heavier and neither of us spoke. I kept my hands tangled in his hair the entire time, my fingers roaming freely through the unkempt black hair. He groaned. He looked over at me and kissed me, and this time it was different than the previous kisses.

I gasped against his skin, quietly, into the crook of his neck.

Not long after that, we fell asleep, completely exhausted from not only our evening together, but the burdens of the day. He pulled me closer to him and I couldn't help but enjoy the smell of him. You could still faintly smell the light scent of his cologne. As if filled my nose, everything blackened and I fell into a world that was, except for tonight, much better than my own.

* The Next Morning *

"Good morning," James said groggily, yawning.

"Morning," I say happily, content to stay where I am.

For the first night in as long as I could remember I hadn't spent the night getting screamed at, getting shoved, or being told how worthless I was. It was a refreshing moment.

Oh shit. Work.

"What time is it?" I jump up and start scrambling to find my uniform.

"Uh, around nine," he says, a but confused.

"Shit, I'm late," I find my clothes and start throwing them on as quickly as possible, "Shit shit shit."

"What's going on?"

"I'm late for work, and Mr. Acreman - my boss - isn't going to be happy."

"I'll get you there, don't worry!"

Forty five minutes later we reached the restaurant and the moment I walked in Mr. Acreman was already following me, rattling on and on about how irresponsible I was and how if he had 'any sense of a brain' he would fire me in a moment.

"I'm sorry," says James, who suddenly appeared with us, "But don't be mad at Taylor, it's all my fault. She saw that I was lost and stopped and helped me and then I kept talking, it was all my bad."

Mr. Acreman looked unsure but shrugged, "Just get to work and don't let it happen again. And I'm not paying you for the lost time."

Most people would thank or hug their bosses, but mine was not the sort to like that sort of thing.

I headed back towards the kitchen, but not before mouthing a thank you at James who simply winked as he left.

Perhaps this would be the start of something new? Something good?

* Present Time *

Couldn't have just let him walk you home, could you, Taylor?

Couldn't have stopped when he offered to stop and take you home?

Couldn't have stopped when he asked if you were sure?

I clock out after another fourteen hour shift and lean against the wall, placing a hand on my stomach.

I couldn't help but feel guilty. I had gotten myself in a bad situation, yes, but I also put an innocent baby in an even worse situation.

And that was something I didn't know if I could forgive myself for.

Chapter 3: Options
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Now, I had been told all of my life that pregnancy was a "beautiful thing" and that it should be "embraced" and a mouthful of other hogwash of a similar nature. The people who say that have either never been pregnant or are simply compulsive liars who want others to join in their misery. Because, I had now known I was pregnant for two weeks and "completely miserable" scratched the surface. I threw up at least three times a day - seriously, whoever called it morning sickness is a fraud. I get sick when I wake up, getting ready for work, a couple times at work, when I'm cooking dinner and sometimes before I go to bed. On top of that I have to pee an impossible amount considering I don't drink a lot, my breasts are sore and even I notice my mood swings. Yesterday I nearly bit of Lottie's head (no, not literally) because she asked if I wanted her to cover some of my tables. This was a very kind gesture but for some reason my pregnancy brain interpreted it as thinking she thought I was incapable and blah blah it was a big mess which I have since apologized for. Honestly, it'll be a miracle if both of us survive this pregnancy (because, let's face it I'm done for once my father and/or boss finds out, depending on who finds out first) and if we do both survive, it'll be an even bigger miracle if we're still friends. Even I wouldn't be my friend. Some days I'm normal and then others you would think I was carrying the spawn of Satan and although I do not know James Potter well, I do not believe he is Satan.

"Taylor," I spun around and Lottie was standing there with raised eyebrows, "I know he's in my section, but Mr. Jenkins is refusing to let me serve him today, he's insisting on you."

Of course he is.

"Just get him the special, that's all he wants."

"I know what he wants, Tay, but he's being difficult and really wants to see you. He said he missed seeing you last week," I hadn't been able to stand for longer than twenty minutes without getting dizzy so I got sent home that day. "He said he wants to make sure you still have all "yer limbs and things." I don't know, just please go out there. I feel like he's about to have a mental episode or something."

There was no since arguing. Lottie would end up winning.

"Of course," I didn't want to serve Mr. Jenkins, but for some odd reason he wanted to make sure I had my limbs or something along those lines. And frankly, I didn't feel like arguing to be completely honest.

Walking to the seating area, I didn't even have to look up to know where he was sitting. He had sat in the same spot every single week for as long as he had been coming.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Jenkins," I say with the best fake smile I could muster.

"Afternoon," he replied gruffly. "Didn't see you last week."

"I wasn't feeling well and went home."

Truth.

"You'll be good as new in a few months, don't you worry little lady." He said, flipping over the menu as if he would ever actually order something other than the special.

What did that even mean?

"Ex..excuse me?"

"Pregnancy only lasts a few months, less than a year, nothing too long. Now, which do you prefer, the grilled cheese or the steamed casserole?"

Wait, what?

"Who told you I was...yknow..."

He let out a loud laugh, "I'm not a fool, Taylor. No one had to tell me. My wife and I have five children, and now I have a handful of grandchildren, I know how to tell. Besides, you aren't that great at hiding it. "Tummy bugs" don't last nearly as long as you're trying to pretend."

I looked around to make sure no one was listening, and luckily no one appeared to be paying attention, "Can you please keep your voice down, Mr. Jenkins? My boss doesn't-"

He held up a hand to stop me, "I'm not telling anyone, but you aren't going to be able to hide this as long as you think. Now about the food, which is better?"

This was a lot to take in. Mr. Jenkins had some sort of pregnancy radar and was looking at food other than the special. The world must be coming to an end.

"Um, I like the grilled cheese-"

"It's settled then, I'll have the grilled cheese and a lemonade," he thrust the menu at me.

"You sure you don't want the special, Mr. Jenkins? It's vegetable soup with a side of garlic bread."

He shook his head, "Nope. Change is good. You'll see."

He made a faint point to my stomach and that immediately made me fold my arms get myself protectively, it was almost instinctive.

Not once have I ever thought of this pregnancy as a "good" thing.

I took the order back to the cook and meandered to the break room, unable to take looking at people any more. I leaned against the wall and sunk to the floor and just cried. I had never been a big crier, my life had required I stay strong and be brave, but every ounce of bravery I had had left the moment I saw the word 'positive' printed on that damned pregnancy test.

I didn't hear anyone come in, but after a while I heard my name and by the time I could look up Lottie had pulled me into a hug.

"Oh, Tay," she sighed, "please don't cry. You've been crying for two weeks, I hate seeing you so upset."

"Mr. Jenkins knows I'm pregnant."

She didn't seem too phased by this, "He has some sort of extra sense for knowing something is going on. When I got in that wreck last year and wound up with stints in my ribcage, I hid it, but he still knew. It was weird."

"But if he knows, then it won't be long until Mr. Acreman knows. And when he knows, I'm sure he'll fire me, then I'll have to tell my dad and he'll kill me. The end."

"Tay, stop, your over exaggerating."

"Am I? Do you remember what happened when I broke my ankle two years ago?"

I flipped an ATV and when I fell my foot caught in a hole and my ankle snapped life a twig. I wanted to keep it hidden, but it's kind of hard to do when you broke it as severely as I did. My dad never once showed up to the hospital to see me, Lottie's mom ended up discharging me, claiming to be an Aunt. Everyone knew she wasn't, but no one had the heart to say anything. I at the time had been too hurt that he didn't seem to care and stayed with Lottie for a few days, but when I came back my dad threatened me within an inch of my life if I ever did something like that again. I couldn't work for weeks. At that time I was only fourteen and couldn't have an official job, so I did odd jobs such as cleaning houses and babysitting, but I couldn't do anything for a while and that cost us money. Which cost my dad booze. And booze was the most important thing in the world to my father.

Lottie simply nodded, "You can come live with me. My mum loves you, it'll be fine. She won't judge you. No one will."

"I appreciate it, but I can't. I'm not a charity case and I need to make sure my brother is taken care of. He won't be without me."

"Surely your father isn't that bad, he wouldn't let him starve."

I shook my head, there was no since arguing. When the ankle incident took place, it wasn't odd to have us have a meal every other day. He would let us go hungry. If there was booze money, he was drinking. If there wasn't, he was having a rage filled rampage. Either way, kids lose.

"My life is over," I sniff.

It was true.

"No, Taylor, it's not-"

"Please, stop saying that. It is. You don't know how bad it is. I have no money or place for a baby."

"So what are you saying?"

"I don't think I can have this baby," I whisper.

She pushed her eyebrows together, trying to make sure she understood exactly what I was saying. In my head, I pleaded for her to not say something. The idea broke me.

"Are you talking about abortion?"

I couldn't tell what she was thinking.

"I think I have to consider it."

"Before you were dead set on the fact that you couldn't do that. What changed, Tay?"

I shrugged, "reality."

"Meaning?"

"There is no practical way I can have a baby - raise a baby. It would just be selfish, wrong. I can't bring a baby into this world that's unwanted."

She stroked my hair, "I'm here for you either way, whatever your decision is. Just make sure you make the right decision for you. I don't want you to feel you have to make a certain choice and then regretting it."

"Thank you."

"What about James though?"

"What about him?"

"You're carrying his child, don't you think he at least has a right to know?"

"I don't even know if I'm ever going to see him again. I've only seen him a couple times since that happened. Summer is almost over, he was only staying the summer. He's probably long forgotten about me. Besides, there's no since causing him problems if I'm not even going to have it."

She nodded, "Alright. Well, I was planning on surprising you, but I feel like now I should just go ahead and tell you. I got Jenna to cover our shifts and this afternoon I set you up a scan at the hospital, you and me, we'll go down there and see a doctor, get you a scan. If you still want to take care of it, they have a place there where you can."

"Today?"

I hadn't expected to have to decide that quickly. Although I believe my window for "taking care of it" wasn't big.

When she nodded, I shook my head as if to say "okay."

When I eventually left the stuffy break room, the first thing I saw was Mr. Acreman waiting outside, his face a deep red and his arms folded across his chest, "May I have a word?" He growled entering the break room quickly, me right behind him, fairly scared.

"It has come to my attention the nature of your "tummy bug", Taylor Bowie."

Oh no.

"And I must say that I am quite shocked. You always struck me as a smart young lady, so finding out you've gone and gotten yourself knocked up is quite the game changer."

Do I cry and plead for him to spare me my job? Do I deny it? Do I pretend to faint? Hell, I could probably really faint.

"Uhh"

Very good, Taylor. Excellent word choice.

"Don't try and deny it, I know you're pregnant."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Acreman. I didn't mean to, if was a one time thing it-" the words started flowing out without me even having to think them up, but he stopped me.

"Please, I'm sure it was a very moving and well thought out speech, but it will just waste both of our time. This is however something we do need to discuss as this could impact your place here. Follow me to my office?"

Although it was technically a question, we both knew it was really nothing less than an order, which I obliged to. When we arrived in the office, he sat me down opposite him, clasped his hands together and leaned across the desk, as principals do when you're in trouble.

"Now, Taylor," he began with a sigh, "Tell me, what are your plans?"

"Plans, sir?"

"Are you going through with this pregnancy?" He clarified.

I figured that's what he meant, "I'm not sure. I'm going for a scan this afternoon and that's when I'll decide."

He nodded, "If you do have this child, I will go ahead and tell you that will change things for you drastically, as far as your place here goes."

"What exactly would happen if I did have this...child?"

"Legally, I can not let you go due to this situation. So, you would be allowed to maintain your job here until you become so far along that you will not be able to work adequately. At that time, I will insist you quit. After you have the child, however, if you wish to return when your doctor feels it appropriate, I will allow it if I have an available position since you are a good employee."

Much better than I had thought.

"You're a good employee, Taylor. And I would hate to see you go. I will not, however, try and lean you one way or another. This is your decision. I will not be able to provide you pay or maternity leave if you go through with this. You're a smart young lady, but just know that this is a big decision and raising a child is not something to be taken lightly. Babies don't stay babies, they grow up. Only getting more difficult and more expensive.
This is not a year long project you can throw out when you're bored."

I am aware.

"Are you telling me to get rid of it?"

"I'm not telling you one way or the other, life I side. I am simply informing you of the reality of your situation. In fact, even though it would be hard, I think you could do, if any teen could. Even though you allowed this to happen, you're a decently smart young lady."

Was that a compliment?

"Now, Lottie had come to me asking for you two to get off around five and that is what it is now, so I assume you must be off. Good luck. I expect a decision to have been made my tomorrow morning."

"Yes sir."

*

"Taylor Bowie, follow me please," a tall nurse said curtly, looking at her clipboard. She had her hair up in a tight bun and her eyes glint with boredom.

I followed her, with Lottie by my side, down a couple long halls and then she gestured for me to enter room 218, telling me a nurse would be by shortly to do my scan, then a doctor would see me and answer any of my questions.

We say in an awkward silence for about five minutes before the door opened, revealing a small, curly headed nurse entering the room, clipboard in tow, a grin on her face.

"You must be Taylor," she greeted cheerfully, shaking my hand. "And you are..."

"I'm Lottie."

"Nice too meet you both, my name is Nicki, and I'll be helping you today," she explained. Now have you seen a doctor in the past couple weeks?"

I shook my head.

"Okay, that's fine. Now, you took a home pregnancy test and it came back positive, yes?"

"Right."

"Alright, great. Now, do you drink, smoke or do any sort of substance abuse? I don't mean to pry, it's just a pregnancy precautionary."

"Right, no, I understand. I don't do any of that."

"Excellent. Now, this is your first pregnancy, correct?"

"Oh yes," I laugh.

She smiled, "I just had to ask."

She continued scribbling away at her clipboard and then set it down on the table.

"Alright, are you ready to see your baby?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," I say truthfully.

"Don't worry, it's completely painless. And don't believe the lies that the gel is cold either - we keep ours warm for our patients." She smiled as I climbed on the table and laid down, lifting my shirt to reveal the teeny bump protruding between my hips. It was very small, but still there. Although, if you didn't know, you wouldn't be able to tell if it was a pregnant thing or if I had simply had a big meal.

"Okay," she said, squirting the blue gel on my stomach, "let's see."

She took an object that looking vastly similar to a microphone that was connected to a unique computer screen and ran it over my
stomach. A fuzzy gray screen showed up
on the screen.

"You are definitely pregnant," she confirmed and then pointed to a blob on the screen, "that is your baby."

The blob was my baby? Where?

I was not starting the journey of motherhood off on right foot. First, I find out at sixteen in a loo and now I can't even tell that the object on the screen is even a baby at all.

She turned a knob on the machine and a thumping sound started echoing throughout the room, "and that is your baby's heartbeat."

Okay, I'm not a terribly sensitive person in general, but this made me cry for whatever reason.

"Everything seems healthy. The heartbeat is around 155, and that is right around where it should be. Everything is progressing well."

She excused herself, explaining that the doctor would be in soon and some other stuff I didn't really hear because I was too focused on the screen.

Heartbeat.

My baby had a heartbeat.

A real, loud, strong heartbeat.

Like a real person.

Of course like a real person, what was I expecting? An antelope?

"You're really pregnant," Lottie gasped as if she thought I somehow had pulled off this big immaculate lie as a late April Fools
Joke.

I nodded, "I'm having a baby."

She looked at me with big, puppy dog eyes, "so you're going to have it?"

I didn't even look away from the screen, but my tears started flowing even more as I shook my head, "I don't see how I couldn't...that's my baby. My baby..."

She pulled me into a hug, reassuring me once again that she was there to support me. Maybe it was just the hormones talking, but at this moment I couldn't not go through with it. I had to have it. I couldn't bear to think of telling my dad because I knew that I would be a homeless pregnant teen when I did, although Lottie assured me I could stay with her, I would only do it during the pregnancy. I refused to bring a baby into her home and disrupt her family that way. I would only stay during the pregnancy while I was still working and could pay. Although I hoped I could convince my dad to let me stay until the baby was born.

There was a lot to think about. But right now all that mattered was that I was going to have a baby.

"Come in," Lottie called loudly.

It was Nicki. She came in and shut off the machine and explained that the doctor would see me in his office instead, but that Lottie would have to wait in the waiting room.

I followed her to the office and she gestured for me to go inside. I took a seat, waiting for the doctor to arrive.

"Sorry I'm late," a man said as he rushed through the door and into his chair, running his hands through a thick head of brown hair.

"It's fine," I laugh.

"It's nice to meet you, Taylor," he shook my hand, "my name is Doctor Ramsey, but you can call me Aaron."

"Nice to meet you too," I said, nerves once again fluttering in my stomach.

Would he judge me for being sixteen and pregnant?

"Do you have any questions?"

"Uhm," I thought it over, "how long can I work? I have a job and it's a lot of the income in our home."

"You can work, typically, until sometime in your third trimester given everything is healthy and going as it should. Complications could change that. You're able to work full time the first trimester, but by the second you'll probably need to reduce it to part time. What do you do exactly, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I'm a waitress."

He nodded and then smiled, "I don't know why I asked, you're only sixteen, there isn't much you can do. No heavy lifting though, that's a must."

"Done," I say. There wasn't many times I needed to lift anything heavy, but I wouldn't mind not having to do it at all.

"I'll prescribe to you your prenatal vitamins which you will have to take daily, and you won't need another scan for a while, but you can always schedule an appointment. Most expectant mothers schedule one between 16 and 18 weeks to reveal the gender though. I would like to see you at least once between now and then but that is not necessary unless you have any concerns."

"Sounds easy enough," I say, racking my brain for another question to ask.

"I'll give you a card with the hospitals number and the extension to my office, call any time with questions or concerns. Your health is key."

"Thank you, Doctor- er- Aaron." Calling adults by their first names was odd for me. Being respectful of adults had been something I had found important my whole life. I just felt it was proper.

"You're welcome. So if that's all you want to know, just remember to take your vitamins, stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Don't over work yourself. And don't hesitate to call if you need anything."

He walked me to the waiting room, which was empty except for Lottie who started making puppy eyes the moment she laid eyes on him.

"Thank you," I say awkwardly.

I introduced Lottie to Dr. Ramsey and he shook her hand and I thought her jelly legs might give way underneath her.

When we got back to her car, she was like a
giddy schoolgirl.

"Oh. My. Gosh." She gasped, "Maybe I need to get pregnant."

Luckily she was driving because this statement startled me so much that if I had been driving I would have slammed the brakes, "What? Why?"

"Hello? Get up close and personal with Dr. Yummy."

"Lottie, he's my doctor."

"He's a young doctor though, not like my doctor - the sixty right year old Mrs. Bilson." She shuddered.

Dr. Ramsey was obviously young - and very easy on the eyes - but he was still my doctor.

Lottie always had a thing for older men though, so I couldn't say I found her infatuation with him to be out of character.

We made our way back because I still had to close that night, despite everything.

When I got inside, I was surprised to see that Mr. Acreman was still there, in his office. He normally left around five thirty, but was still here at seven forty five. I knocked and he let me in, quickly shutting a large filing book.

"Taylor." He greeted dully.

"I made my decision."

He suddenly was interested in what I had to say and leaned back, toying with his fingers as he waited for me to continue, "Oh?"

"I'm having the baby."

He raised his eyebrows, "You are?"

"Yes."

"Well, good luck to you both. My offer is still that you can keep your job until you are unable to fufill your duties."

"Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome. Now don't expect any special benefits or treatment, you still have a job to do. It's up to you to know what you're up for. Your job remains the same. I won't have a mistake cost me business."

Maybe it was hormones. Maybe it was "motherly instinct" I don't know, but this angered me. I wanted to tell him off for calling my child a mistake, but that would cost me my job and the last thing I could afford would be to lose my job.

32 weeks left. 8 months to go. Then I would be a mum. A single mum.

That was probably the scariest thought that had ever entered my mind.

I knew I had to tell my dad the next time I saw him, which would probably be tomorrow night when I came home to fix dinner.

So that meant I had less than 24 hours until my world completely crumbled. I may be wanting to have this baby, but I would definitely be the only one.



Chapter 4: Issues
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"Parker, hurry up, you're going to be late for school!"

Correction, he was already late for school.

Double correction, he was going to be extra late considering that it took fifteen minutes to walk there and school started five minutes ago.

Now, I know it's still summer. But, with me working all day and no one around that's capable of watching him, he goes to a family friend's home run tutoring thing. She had essentially a whole classroom worth of children and tried to get them "ahead of the game" for the coming school year. He didn't like it at first, but he had made friends and that made him not make a fuss about going.

I set the pan I had been scrubbing in the drying rack, relieved that my load of dishes was finally almost all clean. For a family of three that ate a lot of leftovers and and fruits that didn't require silverware, we sure did dirty a lot of dishes. It was like laundry; I was never out of laundry which also didn't make sense since all our clothes combined could fit in a large suitcase, easily.

I couldn't continue thinking about the odd occurrences of life for long because thunderous footsteps came towards me, resulting in an eight year old standing before me in a scuffed pair of tennis shoes, a pair of knockoff shorts and an old, work t-shirt with a guy kicking a soccer ball on it. Despite the outfit that looked ready for athletic period, his hair looked very damp and was slicked back.


Leave it to Parker.

I held back my laugh, simply relieved that he seemed ready for school.

"Have you got all your things?" I ask, eyeing his backpack sitting on a stool next to the kitchen table. He just looked around, and when he saw the back pack he seemed to put two and two together and picked up the backpack, slipping it on one shoulder.

"Ready!" He announced cheerfully.

Relieved, I shuffled him out the door quietly, trying to make sure dad didn't hear the noise and wake up and wishing I had remembered to silence Parker from running in the house, although correcting him would not have done much good seeing as everything you tell him goes in one ear and out the other. When I got in last night, sometime after midnight, I did my nightly routine of looking in on Parker, kissing him goodnight and then quietly slipping off to take a shower and then go to bed. For some reason though, I couldn't fall asleep and found myself thinking about my scan. I had heard a heartbeat inside me. There was a peanut sized human being living in me. The thoughts of this peanut kept me up for quite a while, so I knew when my dad wandered in at half three, drunk as a skunk and knocking over everything in the kitchen on his way back to his bedroom with one of his ever classy "lady friends" that stayed over more often than not. I always figured they were too drunk to realize he wasn't worth their time. Love em and leave me was his motto, apparently.

This was obviously not the time to present the news of my peanut to him. One, he was drunk. Two, he had a woman over.

"What do you think I should do?" Parker asked with an exasperated sigh.

He was a dramatic child.

Wait.

Had he been talking to me?

I had been so caught up in my thoughts of previous day/night, I hadn't realized we were already half way to his school.

"Wh-what?" I asked, confused and not having a single idea what he was on about.

He gave a heavy sigh, "Okay. So, last week I ate lunch with this girl, Laney, in my class and now everyone is saying she's my girlfriend!"

Oh the troubles of an eight year old.

I guess at that age girls still had cooties?

I held back my laugh, "Is she your girlfriend? Eating lunch together...sounds pretty serious."

"What! No, that's disgusting!" He replied indignantly, dramatically shaking his head and rolling his eyes, "I only are lunch with her because she had peanut butter cups and you KNOW how I like peanut butter cups!"


"I think that in Greece, peanut butter cups are the food of love, you know."

Okay, it was a lie, but his reaction was worth it.

He skidded to a stop and gave a loud "WHAT!", his eyes growing big.

It was easy to cause him distress.

"Yeah, so she's basically your girlfriend now."

He groaned, "Well how do I break up with her now?"

We went on the rest of the way to school with him going through the ever complicated relationship trials of every right year old boy. Boys ears lunch with girl and BOOM instant relationship, and apparently that is a bad thing because not only are girls "only half human" and this particular girl has a blue pencil box and blue is a boy's color, apparently.

I may have a peanut sized piece of life sitting in my uterus that had the potential to leave me homeless, but that was nothing compared to my eight year old brother's relationship crisis.

I walked him to his classroom, against his will, and when I saw that he made it to his desk, I started to leave, but stopped when I heard "Miss Bowie!" being half shouted in my direction.

Just keep walking.

No.

No, that's rude.

Turn around.

"Yes?" I spun around, trying to put a smile oh my face, but it wasn't hard to hide my annoyance. I only had a half shift today and was eager to get it behind me, but it seemed I needed to talk to Parker's teacher, Mrs. Rogers, first.

"I'm sorry to bother you," she said, rushing towards me, her squat legs shuffling surprisingly quickly in my direction. "I've been trying to reach your father, I need to have a conference with a guardian."

Of course you do.

Because my father is ever willing to participate in those sort of things.

"My dad is sick, is there any way I can do it?"

I noticed as she squared we jaw, and saw her tossing the idea around in her head. Classic. "I suppose..."

Already running the risk of being late, I didn't let her change her mind, "Great."

"Does next Friday at noon work for you?"

No day works for me.

"That's great," I say.

Now please let me leave and get to work.

"Great," she says. "I just think there are some things we need to discuss."

"Happy to," I said.

After a few more painfully stretched minutes of small talk, I finally was able to slip away and run to work.

On the way to work I was given yet another reminder of my impending motherhood when I rushed past a breakfast shop, smelled the eggs and then immediately found myself heaving into the nearest garbage can. My baby was already a rebellious little thing and had decided it didn't like the majority of foods I used to enjoy. Thank you, child.

When I finally got to work, happy that I only had a five hour shift, there were already a few customers in there, mainly chattering amongst themselves. I tied my apron around my waist and took the orders of the customers.

The morning went on without a hitch, surprisingly. I only threw up two more times, thank you, child, and only suffered one mild mood swing. Okay maybe 'mild' is a matter of opinion, but you would get upset too if you had a customer that was having lunch with his sister for the first time in 2 weeks. It was a sweet reunion so I may have cried a little. Or a lot. Either way, no biggie.

I had the afternoon free for the first time in months and while I should have spent that time doing one of three things: one, tell my dad that his first grandchild is currently loading in my womb (although I would probably need to phrase it differently), two, I could take the preemptive strike to already pack because after event one happened, I would be looking at being homeless, three, I could just take a walk and spend some time in my own head.

I chose option three.

Telling my dad about his impending grandchild and preparing for homelessness could wait for another day. With how intoxicated he was the majority of the time,
he wouldn't pick up on it for a while, more than likely.

So, I just let my feet wander and they seemed to subconsciously guide me to the park.

The same park where James and I had come eight weeks ago, that's fateful night.

I wandered over to the swings and set myself down, lightly kicking myself off the ground and swinging back and forth. I had been coming here when I had spare moments ever since I was a little girl, it was where I came to clear my head and get away from everything for a while.

I remember once I came here when I was about thirteen after my first boyfriend, a bloke named Sam who I had only 'dated' for three weeks, broke up with me. I stayed on those swings for hours, thinking about how much my life sucked and no one would ever love me again and blah blah blah. That weekend Lottie let me come over and we drowned ourselves in ice cream and frosting and talked about how much boys suck (she had also suffered a heartbreak, she found out her then boyfriend Michael had gotten a little friendly with a fellow dance team
member). This place was just my go to place when I had stuff to think about.

And I do believe that having a tiny person being held inside my body for the next several months qualified as something that needed to be thought over.

I wonder how I'm going to look pregnant? I had seen many a pregnant mum come through for a bite to eat at the cafe and had learned there were quite a few different ways to carry your baby...

Taylor, back to reality.

Big. Picture.

I really needed to focus on how I would tell my dad. He may be a drunk that could barely remember his name a large portion of the time, but he still was sober enough of the time to find out. He had accused me of it before and had threatened me within an inch of my life, so this was not going to be a sunshine and roses type of conversation.

Maybe I could tell him that I was just getting fat?

No. Because when there was a baby he might get a little suspicious.

I didn't have time to think about this anymore because the next thing I knew I heard "HOT CAFE GIRL!" and a boy with caramel skin had plopped down next to where I had sat down on the grass.

I laughed, "Fred, I've told you my name is Taylor. Say it with me. Tay-Lor. Taylor."

He shrugged, "Ah, but mine is so much more inventive. Yours is so...unoriginal."

"SO sorry to disappoint," I laugh.

Normally when I'm in the park and enjoying my happy place I get upset when other people show up, but for some odd reason I was enjoying his company.

"Fred, what are you doing to Taylor?"

Of course.

James was there.

Fred threw an arm around me and looked at James with a smirk, "I just thought a pretty lady like herself deserved an honor such as my presence."

I faked gagging sounds because I am mature woman who was motherly material.

He threw a hand over his chest, "Ouch, Bowie, that really hurt me."

James sat down on the opposite side of me and I was reminded of just how much I loved his eyes.

Taylor, FOCUS.

"So," James says, "is there any particular reason you're sitting on the ground of the park by yourself?"

"Just cleaning my head," I say honestly.

He nodded, "Fair enough. Gotta have some time to yourself, can't be fighting off blokes all the time. Especially when you know you've already met the best." He smirked.

"And who would that be?"

He looked around, and then gestured towards himself and I laughed.

"Okay," Fred said, jumping to his feet, "I can see in the third wheel here, so I'm gonna take off, try and find some babes of my own to impress."

"No, stay," I insist.

"Really," he argues back, "it's fine. There are unsuspecting ladies out there about to have their world rocked by the one and only. I'll catch you later."

He left, with no argument from James, who then turned to look at me, "Alright, go for it."

I furrowed my brows, "what?"

"Have your way with me, right here in the park."

The boy remembers. Oh god.

I laughed, "Moment has passed."

"Dang," he says lightly, "I'll guess we'll have to make other arrangements to do something."

"Something?"

He broke out in a grin, "Taylor Bowie, head out of the gutter! I meant something casual to fill the afternoon."

"Oh," I say, embarrassed.

"I'm starved, care to get some lunch?"

"Lunch sounds divine."

No, I don't know why I chose the word divine. I could have chosen good, great, delicious, etcetera, but no, I had to go for divine. I have issues.

An hour later we were seated in a restaurant I had never been too and were eating our meals, trying not to choke because we were laughing a lot. And I mean, a lot. People probably suspected drug usage.

"Okay," James says, twirling his pasta onto his fork, "If you could do anything, anywhere, what would you do and where?"

"That's easy," I say, "I want to go to Greece and swim."

He raised his eyebrows, "Really?"

I nodded, "It looks like paradise. Beautiful waters, gorgeous white buildings...I could stay there all day. Swim, paint, the works."

"You paint?"

"Not nearly as much as I would like to, but yes."

"I didn't know that."

"There's a lot you don't know about me, James Potter."

"Alright," he leaned back in his chair. "Give me an example."

"Oh no," I say, smiling, "you don't get to go twice in a row. It's my turn now."

"Go for it."

"What do you want to do with your life? What you wanna be?"

He opened his mouth to speak and then quickly shut it, his eyes showing me that he was clearly thinking, as if he couldn't honestly tell me.

"I think I want to go into the world of law inforcement. My dad does that and it's pretty interesting. I think I'd like it. So, after the end of the school year, I plan to work for him. See if I can do it."

"That's surprising," I said.

"Why?"

"I don't know, I just had you pegged for one of those guys who says they're going to play rugby professionally."

"Rugby? Please." He dismissed the idea with a simple hand gesture.

"You don't like rugby?"

"It's alright, I guess," he said. "Just muggle sports are so-"

"Muggle?"

"Erm, that's what people at my school call sports that are widely, mainstreamly popular," he said quickly.

I didn't entirely believe him, but hey, he was the one attending a smarty pants private school, and I dropped out at 15. So, I guess he would know what he was talking about.

Quickly we moved on from his flub and kept
talking. We probably stayed there a couple hours before politely being asked to leave since we had long finished our food and were still taking up a table.

We went back to the park the rest of the night and the whole time I was, for some reason, very aware of the fact that I was pregnant and had the opportunity to tell him. From what I knew, he was a good, cool guy. Maybe I should tell him?

That was when the guilt came back.

He was a good, nice guy and seemed to have a great future ahead of him and I could take that all away and ruin his life. I may have ruined mine but I didn't think I could handle ruining his too.

After it was dark, I told him that Lottie had asked me to help her clean up - lie - so I had an excuse to keep him from walking me home because I didn't want him to see where I live and I didn't want my dad to see him. I had hoped that the walk home would take longer than it did because I didn't want this night to end. When we got there, we went inside and with Lottie back in the kitchen, probably on her cell phone texting one of her many suitors, he didn't immediately leave.

"Soo," he said with a sly smile, playing with my hand, "I guess this is goodnight?" He sounded disappointed.

I nodded, "I guess it is."

He let out a sigh, "I mean, unless you wanna come back..."

"I appreciate the offer, but I don't think so."

He held up his hands, "hey, totally your call. But you're missing an epic fooseball tourney between Fred, myself and our pal Teddy."

"That's tempting, but I still have to pass."

"Fair enough," he said. "I can see this is a loosing battle. If I can't convince you though, I really must go, but you know where I'm staying. Come by any time."

"Maybe I will."

"Maybe you will," he leaned in and kissed me lightly. Nothing overly passionate, just a light kiss that made me see stars and my head go fuzzy.

When he pulled back I know he saw the look on my face and he smirked, "Goodnight, Taylor."

"Goodnight, James."

I couldn't help myself but to watch as he walked out out of the shop. He turned and waved and I waved back and I couldn't ignore the knot that had formed in my stomach. He was leaving and there was a good chance I might not see him again. He seemed to be a good guy. And I was willingly letting him walk away. It was wrong. I knew it. I was robbing him of his child, if he even wanted it, and I was robbing my child of a father. Could I even do that? Was that even legal?

I didn't love him. He didn't love me. It wasn't about love, it was simply hormones and the realization that on the slim chance that he did want to be involved, I was taking that from him.

I may not have had a good life growing up, but I had always swore that when I did have a baby I would give them everything I never had.

"So," Lottie says, "did you tell him?"

I wanted to speak, but my throat felt chalky and tight, and for some reason I couldn't seem to open my mouth.

Okay, brain, time to speak.

Annnnd go.

Still no words.

Brain, we're going to try this again. Annnnd go.

Nope, no words.

Darn you, rebellious brain.

Fine.

I guess I'll just shake my head. My neck muscles have not developed a mind of their own, have they?

I shook my head.

Nope, they are still just brainless bones.

Lottie sighed, blowing a load of air out her nose and rubbed her temples, "Taylor..." she says with a disappointed sound to her voice.

Great.

Disappointment.

"I couldn't," I heard myself say quietly.

Way to be on the ball, brain. You're really on top of things.

"Why not?" She pushes, unable to see my side of things.

I sigh and lean on the counter, staring down at the granite, not wanting to look at her.

She had a point, I knew that. I wasn't stupid. But I also had to consider the idea that maybe it was selfish to tell him. He seems to have a great life and seems to be someone who's going to make something of himself. Did I have the right to possibly take that away?

Then I go back to the idea that say I never told him then my child would grow up with a single mum struggling to make ends meet. We'd live in poverty or mooching off friends - which I never accepted, I was not a charity case even though the eyes of others spoke differently. He/she would not have nice, new things that the other children had. Even worse, I looked at the prospect of living in a shelter.

I has been going over this same endless loop over and over in my head for the past two weeks straight, ever since I officially found out I can procreated, and still I had yet to come up with the right answer. Maybe because there was no right answer.

Honestly, I don't know how my brain still functions with how hard I work it. It's gears are probably rusty. I'm constantly thinking, deep thinking, not the kind of thinking you do to choose a pair of shoes. I has always been that way but since I discovered I was pregnant it just for so much worse and by the time this baby was born I would be looking at delivery/hospital bills as well as finding someone to be a brain donor. (Do they even make those?) If they do, I'll certainly need one. There's no way my poor brain will be able to recover from this nine month trauma.

Two months down, just seven to go, Mr. Brain. You're well on your way.

Great.

I have reduced my self to conversations not only with myself, but with a particular part of myself.

My mum surely must have smoked something whilst pregnant with me. I never knew her well enough to find out, but I suppose that had to be the case.

I suppose that all pregnant teenagers do what I am doing to a degree, but most probably don't refer to their brains with the name 'Mr. Brain.' Should I just name it? If I did I think Alf would be a good idea.

Oh gosh.

I just named my brain.

Was a loss of brain cells part of pregnancy? Maybe pregnancy included nine months of 'anything goes' thoughts - meaning anything can be thought of/spoken by the woman carrying the child, with no fault on the woman herself.

Okay.

I really need to get back to the big picture.

Lottie wants to know about everything between me and James. Lottie wants to know why I didn't tell him.

Okay, brain, please come up with a good excuse.

Please come up with said excuse...noooow.

"Helloooo, earth to Taylor!" I hear Lottie say, and it's safe to assume that she had called my name more than once before this.

"Huh?"

"I've been calling your name! Why couldn't you tell him? Are you going to see him again?"

"I just..I just couldn't." Wonderful answer, Taylor. Really, totally excellent, you should be a public speaker. Or, better yet, a philosopher. "I wanted to, but I just couldn't make myself. Besides, he goes back to school September 1st, and apparently it's a boarding school, so he'll be in school still when the baby is born and he wouldn't be around for the pregnancy anyway-"

"Who cares!" Lottie screams, looking at me with a look that I had often seen older sisters give their younger sisters and for once I was reminded that she was two years older than me. "Him being around for the pregnancy would be nice, yes, but what's important is what comes after. If you are having this baby, then he needs to be around when he/she is born."

I didn't notice I had started crying until she was done with her speech.

"I know," I sigh. "Why can't I just forget about it?"

"Forget about it? Forget...Taylor!" She sighed. "I love you, you know I love you and you're my best friend. But you have to realize that whether you like it or not, whether you wish you could take it back or not, you and James had sex and now you're carrying his child."

As soon as she finished the sentence, her eyes widened and she dropped her mouth open a bit. I followed her gaze and instantly felt sick for a reason other than 'morning' sickness.

As if my life was a cheesy, predictable comedy, James was standing there and the look on his face told me he had been there long enough to hear the last thing Lottie said and we just hasn't realized he was there.

"James," I choke out.

"I just came by to make sure you weren't walking home alone," he said so quietly it was hard to tell it was he who spoke.

"Thanks," I choke out, not knowing what else to say.

"You're pregnant?"

Shit.

Chapter 5: Wrecking Ball
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In my short sixteen years of life, I have experienced many difficult situations and past experiences have led to me receiving many an awkward look. This one however took the cake.

My mouth went dry and my throat felt like sandpaper, as my brain went numb. I couldn't find the ability to speak, not that I would have come up with a suitable response. Instead I murmured unintelligible 'uhs' and 'uhms', which did not help.

James stared at me with an expression I couldn't place and a steadily whitening face, "Did I...did I get you pregnant?"

Utter humiliation passed over me like a wave crashing against the sea shore and I dropped my gaze, giving him his answer without speaking.

I heard him take a sharp intake of breath and he bit his lip harshly, nodding slowly. His eyes were saucers in the sockets and he literally looked as if he had seen a ghost.

He was obviously taking the news of the pregnancy well. Ghostlike expressions are, afterall, that of sheer joy. The only reason he wasn't speaking was probably the fact that he was so excited that it was taking all his focus to avoid running outside to find a meadow to skip through while throwing flower petals and singing about his child.

This is probably why I have found myself in a sticky situation. It's a miracle I'm not already in an insane asylum.

"And you're...sure it's...mine?"

Ooooh.

Wrong choice of words to say to a pregnant to woman.

"What?" I hissed through clenched teeth, anger boiling inside of me.

Granted, it was probably fair to ask that considering we barely knew each other and only slept together one measly time, but still. I was obviously in a very rough, stressful situation and I hadn't even sought him out to tell him, he walked in the midst of mine and Lottie's conversation.

"Take it back, Tiger," Lottie said quickly, stifling back an ooh-you're-going-to-get-it-because-you-messed-up laugh.

"I just meant-" he said, but I cut him off because I am a rude individual.

"What? That I'm a total slag? That I sleep with all the customers? That I have a little notebook where I carefully plot out my next victim? That I-"

He stopped me because he is rude as well, "Okay, okay, okay! It's mine, I understand that, I shouldn't have said that."

"You think?"

Okay, I perhaps was being slightly harsh with him, but according to Lottie and my doctor when I called him, and just frankly my entire knowledge of pregnancy (which was lacking but not nonexistent), my hormones were running rampant like chickens with their heads cut off. And not to mention I was about to bring a new life into this world with no way to care for it and not even the knowledge to know how to.

My unborn child really hit the jackpot when it was placed in my uterus.

"Well, you can't just bring on me that you're carrying my kid and then except me to just want to start a damn family band."

"I didn't spring anything on to you, you just walked in to the middle of a private conversation."

"Private?" he scoffed, "If you wanted it to be private, you probably should have kept your voices lower. And the only reason I even showed back up was for you."

"And why would you do that? You barely know me."

"Because maybe I want to get to know you, Taylor. I actually liked you."

"Liked? Past tense?" I challenged, the words stinging a little for some reason.

"Well now I'm seeing a side of you that I can't really say that I care for, so yes, possibly past tense."

I opened my mouth to speak, but Lottie beat me it, "Is that any way to talk to the mother of your unborn child?"

"Lottie," I hissed. "Not now."

"I'm just saying-"

"LOTTIE."

"Fine, I can see where I'm not wanted, this should probably be a private conversation anyway. I'm going to head home, let me know if you need anything?"

I nodded, hugged her and as she left I rounded on James who's mouth had formed into a solid line and was running his hands through his unkempt black hair.

"I wanted to tell you."

"Did you? Well, I can see how the opportunity never arose. We only spent the entire day together. Not to mention the past couple of times I've come in here since we've slept together."

"Don't do that," I said.

"Do what?"

"Act like it's just like telling someone to pick up eggs from the grocery store! What was I supposed to say? 'It was good seeing you, James. Nice dinner too. Thought you should know, I'm carrying your child. Want dessert?'"

"Don't make this into a bloody joke," he said angrily.

"A joke? You think I'm treating this like a joke?"

"It seems like it to me."

I rolled my eyes, "This is ridiculous."

"Yes, you are."

"Oh I am?" I said.

"Yes," he said in a flick of the tongue, spinning around.

"So why are you still here?"

"What?" He said returned to face me, his face looking a mixture of innocence and anger.

What a combination.

"If I'm so ridiculous why are we even having this conversation?"

"Oh, I don't know, I just figured we could have a nice little spat to end the night because I do hear that after a fight is the best time to get a lady into bed," he said.

"Now who's making jokes?" I growl.

"Me. I am. Because frankly that seems to be the only way to talk to you."

"This never would have happened if you hadn't walked in here after closing and eavesdropped."

"Eavesdropped?" he seemed stunned for a moment, but quickly recovered. "Stop blaming me for walking in here. This never would have happened if we hadn't had sex,
obviously."

"Well, no one made you show back up to 'walk me home'."

"What? So now I'm a bad person for being a gentleman?"

"Please, you just wanted in my pants," I'm a blunt person.

"Of course I did, you're hot, when you're not telling at me, and I'm a guy, but it's not like I concocted some sort of plan to get you into bed, I had genuinely intended on taking you home."

"Could have fooled me," I spat.

Okay.

I want being fair. It was just as much my fault as his, but you know what? I don't care.

He was angry now, that much was obvious. He looked like he wanted to tell but instead took a deep breath, steadying himself, "So what happens now?"

"Well, I suppose you can just walk out that door and go back to your summer house and then continue living your extraordinary life and just pretend I don't exist."

"Is that what kind of guy you think I am?"

"It could be," I said.

He squared his jaw, "No, no, I'm not going to do that."

"Why not?"

"BECAUSE YOU ARE CARRYING MY CHILD." He shouted.

"And that matters to you?"

Even I knew how unreasonable I was probably being, I wasn't being fair to him, but the words just kept slipping out before I could stop them.

My mouth needed a toll booth for cruel words, too many flowed out freely.

"A little bit, yes it does. I can't just walk around with my head in the clouds while you're walking around wearing my kid like an internal belt."

Now that was a strange analogy.

"Maybe I should have just gone through with..." I trailer off, horrified at myself for going back to the brief consideration I had for getting an abortion.

"What?" He asked, sounding genuinely confused.

"Just that maybe I should have taken care of it already," I said.

"Taken care of it?" He looked puzzled and thought it over for a moment before a sea of realization washed over his face like a wave, "You mean an abortion?"

"It was an option," I said, honestly.

"Was? Is it not still?"

"If I went soon it might be...wait, are you telling me to abort this baby?"

"No, I-"

"Really, because that's what it sounds like."

"Can I please finish one bloody sentence without you jumping down my throat like a lion on a zebra carcass?" He said angrily, effectively shutting me up by comparing me to one of Africa's finest creatures. "I was simply asking you if this was an option you had already ruled out or were still considering."

"I thought about it, but I just don't think I could go through with it, not after hearing it's heart beat."

His eyes brightened, "heartbeat?"

"Yes, you know that thump thump sound you can sometimes hear and nearly always feel in your chest? It's not a little drummer boy in there, it's a heart beat. We didn't conceive a doll."

I am such a weird person. How did he ever sleep with me?

"I know what a heartbeat is," he said with a scoff. "I just didn't realize you had heard it. I wish I had been there. But that would require you having told me you were pregnant."

"I planned on getting an abortion, I was still making my decision," I said.

"Well, I would have liked to have been a part of the decision making process. You didn't make that baby all alone, I feel like I should have some say."

"Well, it's too late, I'm having the baby," I said.

"Okay."

"Okay? That's all you have to say? I tell you I'm going to be birthing your kid and all you say is 'okay'?"

"Blimey, could you pause for one moment. All I said was 'okay', what am I supposed to write a big congratulatory speech? Or maybe I'm supposed to get a card."

"This isn't funny."

"I wasn't laughing."

"So what does this mean, then?"

"I don't know," his voice was lowered now, more controlled. "But yelling isn't solving anything. It's late, how about I walk you home and we talk this through like adults tomorrow."

"I work most of the day tomorrow and then I have to go cook dinner for Parker."

"Okay, what about Saturday? It's only a couple days away."

"Don't you leave town Saturday?"

"Yes, Saturday evening, and I could always move it if needed."

"If that's what you want," I shrug.

"Alright. I'll pick you up at nine and we'll spend the day together and sort this thing out."

"Okay."

"Does your dad know?" He asked stiffly.

Shit.

My dad.

I gulped and shuffled my hair with my fingers, shaking my head, "No."

"He didn't take you to a healer?"

I pulled my eyebrows together, "a what?"

"Er, a hospital?"

"What's a healer?"

"Nevermind that, forgot muggles don't call them that. He didn't take you?"

"No, I took a home test," I said.

He interrupted me, perking, "those aren't always accurate though, right?"

"You didn't let me finish," I sigh. "I took the home test and then Lottie took me to the hospital."

"And you're really...yknow..with child?"

"No, I'm with mongoose."

"Funny," he said, although he didn't seen to be being sincere although I found it quite funny. "How pregnant are you exactly?"

"There's pretty much only one degree of pregnancy. You're either pregnant or not."

"I meant how many weeks," he said.

"Eight and a couple days," I say.

"Sounds about right, now that I think it over."

"Yeah," I say awkwardly, unsure of where to take the conversation.

A normal person would apologize for being a crazed pregnant lunatic but I think it had well been established that I was not a normal human being. I was actually so abnormal I probably barely qualified as a human being at all.

"So, shall I walk you home?"

"If you want," I said.

He laughed but it wasn't a deep, joyous laugh, there was strain behind it, "One of these days you'll learn that I treat ladies like ladies."

I smiled, he thought of me as a lady. And, by the sounds of it, he expected us to be in each other's lives for a long time to come. And for some reason that brought a strange feeling to my gut. A mixture of nerves, happiness and a little (or a lot) of relief.

"Wait, now what are healers? And why do you keep calling me a muggle?"

"All in good time," he said quietly. I arched an eyebrow and he continued. "One thing at a time, Taylor Bowie. Let's sort this baby stuff out before we go hopping on that express."

*

Now, I obviously didn't know everything about James Potter. Hell, I didn't even know his middle name, thus making there a lot more that I didn't know than that I did actually know. But, I didn't know that there was about a ninety five percent chance that he came from money. He was, after all, staying at a pretty nice little cottage for the summer before he went back to a boarding school. And, to the best of my knowledge, boarding schools were extremely expensive. And I lived in a shabby, run down flat in a pretty bad neighborhood. (Robbery was pretty common, hearing police sirens was practically a lullaby to me at this point with how many times the police were called to my street.) I may be sixteen and carrying a child; but I wanted the little bit of spared pride I had to stay so I didn't have him walk me home, we walked to Lottie's home, which I let him believe was my home.

Lottie wasn't rich. But she also wasn't poor either. She was happily bordering the line between the two, comfortable, and lived in a really cute little house with the storybook white picket fence in front. It was a really cute little house and I dreamed of having a home like that someday. Nothing colossal and fancy, but above what I had. I longed for the day I could get Parker and myself, him in particular, in to a better situation.

When we got to the gate, he turned to face me, "Cute place, I like it."

"Thanks, I like it too," I said honestly. I really, truly, did.

"So, see you Saturday?" He asked, his eyes flickering to meet mine and then looking away.

Our entire walk home was very awkward, needless to say. I had ruined his life although I don't know if that reality had struck him yet.

"See you Saturday," I confirmed, nodding a little bit.

We had this little awkward moment where neither of us moved but also neither of us spoke so we just stood in an awkward silence.

"Well," I sighed. "Goodnight."

I slipped inside the gate and made my way to the porch, turning around and waving at him when I reached the door, sighing with relief as he started back down the street. I stood there a moment, not even moving as the lights flickered on and Lottie came outside in her robe, tightening the wrap around her.

"Are you alright?" She asked, guiding me to the porch swing that rested at the end of the porch.

I contemplated the different ways I could answer that question, but the only thing that wound up coming out was an "I don't know."

"Come here," she pulled me into a tight hug, but it wasn't long until I pulled away, shocking her a little. "Tell Lottie all about it."

"I don't even know where to begin. We're meeting up in a couple days to talk about it, not that that is a good idea."

"What? That's a great idea."

"No, Lottie, it's not. He's either going to tell me to shove off and raise it alone which is going to feel like an icicle being shoved in my chest because I know for sure I'm in this alone or he's going to want to be involved in which case that same icicle will plunge into my chest because I have effectively ruined his life and that's something I don't think I can have on my conscience."

"Taylor, first off, what James does is up to James. It's his kid too. And you're never in this alone. Hello? What am I? Chopped liver? I'm with you in this, Tay. You don't have to be the hero all the time."

"Heroine," I correct.

Yes, because that is obviously what needs to be focused on.

"What?"

"Heroine. A hero is a guy, a heroine is a girl."

She just laughed, "Leave it to you, the English professor. Want to come in? Have some tea or something?

"I'm sorry, I just have to go home," I said.

Technically, I could stay over. But I just couldn't make myself ruin her night with the tears and self pity I was bound to drown myself in the entire night.

"You sure? I don't mind," she said.

"I know," I smiled. "But, I just really want to be alone tonight."

"Understandable. Well, if you need anything at all, I'm here for you, sweetie."

"I know," I said.

"Before you go," she says as I start towards the gate. "I'm sorry about earlier, about blurting out that you're pregnant. I should have seen him pass by the window."

I shrug, "It was probably going to happen eventually."

"That makes sense seeing as he is the dad."

"Father," I correct.

"Is it not the same thing?" She asked, clearly a little bemused.

"No. He's the father, that doesn't necessarily make him a 'daddy'. I don't even know what qualifies someone as a 'daddy', so I think I should determine that before I call him a 'daddy'."

Her puzzled expression told me all I needed to know: I sounded like a nut job, although that is not anything new.

Honestly, how do I not only have friends but have a possible suitor or is responsible for half of the DNA in my womb? Oh god. I called him a suitor. Someone really needs to lock me away and throw away the keys.

"Okay..." She said slowly. "Well, it sounds like you need some rest, so goodnight, sleep tight to you and Gregory."

"And Gregory is..."

"Your baby." She answered decisively.

"Lottie, I don't even know if it's a boy and I'm not naming him Gregory."

"What's wrong with the name Gregory?"

"Noting is wrong with the name, it's a lovely name, but this baby doesn't even have a name yet and we don't know if it's even a boy."

"Oh, it's a boy."

"So, you're a psychic now?" I laugh.

She waved her hands around like people do over crystal balls in movies, "You have discovered my secret, Taylor Bowie. I foresee exciting things in your future."

I laugh, "Goodnight, Lottie."

"Goodnight, Taylor. Goodnight, Gregory slash Anita."

I didn't even bother correcting her about the name, it wasn't worth it and she just wanted to make me smile.

I didn't deserve a friend as great as her. I really, truly didn't.

*

The next day I vomited a grand total of five times, ate a pickle smothered in peanut butter for lunch and snapped on three customers. So, it was an extremely productive day.

By the end of the night, I honestly felt like my feet were going to crumble apart they part so badly.

The emotional scarring from my conversation with James last night carried on into today because all I could think about (besides my weak stomach) was everything about the night before. And the whole sex-leading-to-our-illegitimate-child fiasco.

I wasn't sure if I was happy that James knew
or if I wished he hadn't found out. I especially wish he hadn't found out the way he did. Now we had had a huge fight and yet he seemed to want to be involved with me and this child and I wasn't sure if I even wanted that.

It was already dark when I pushed open the door to our shabby flat in the even shabbier building. I was expecting to have to be extra quiet due to the possibility of Parker sleeping, but I heard him laughing from the kitchen, much to my shock. That meant that our father wasn't home and that he had an imaginary friend or had created some sort of game that would likely end with something broken and me in big trouble both with my father and financially.

"Parker?"

"Hi, Taylor! I'm in the kitchen!"

I know this, but thank you captain obvious.

Now, my life has always been anything but predictable. If you try and assume you know what will happen, prepare for a surprise .& had learned that long ago. Walking into the kitchen was, as he has said. Parker. What he did not tell me though was that he was not alone. Seeming to direct him about something, was none other than James freakin' Potter.

"James?"

Why did I put a question mark at the end of my greeting. I obviously knew it was James, there wasn't exactly a question.

"Hiya, Taylor," he greeted casually.

"Um, not to be rude or anything, but why are you here?"

"I was showing Parker here how to be smooth with the ladies," he said with a smirk.

Upon second glance I noticed my little baby brother was attempting the same smirk, although it wasn't quite up to James' standard. Although he had set a high bar.

"James, he's in elementary school," I sigh.

"C'mon, Tay, why you gotta be a buzzkill?" Parker groans.

Okay.

"Excuse me?" I mock gasp, "I am never a buzz kill."

"Are to," he argues.

Typically I might argue back with 'am not', but with James standing there in my shabby flat, I thought I would spare the last bit of dignity I still had to my name.

"Parker, why don't you run back to your room and go to bed, it's late and we need to talk."

"Please, you just want me to leave so you can kiss your booooyfriieeeeend." He said, crossing his arms defiantly.

"Parker, now." I say sternly.

"But-"

"No, Parker."

"At least let me show you what I've learned!" He begged.

Normally I would not take bargaining as a way to handle it, but I did have an interest in what I would be having to kill James Potter over teaching my brother, so I relented with a small 'fine' escaping pursed lips.

He took a couple steps forward, looked me up and down, bit his lip harshly while tipping his head to the side, "Darlin' lookin' flawless. Why dontcha add a little Mister Perfect to ya life?" He says confidently.

Oh. My. God.

James Potter was dead.

I wasn't even able to find words for a moment, which James clearly found amusing. When I had composure, I re-iterated that he had to go to bed and that I would deal with this 'girls lesson' in the morning. When he had left, I rounded on James.

"How could you teach him that?"

"What? It's funny, lighten up," he defends himself.

"Lighten up? You're teaching my baby brother to objectify women like they're objects and-"

"Stop," he says abruptly. "He's like seven years old and everyone will just find it cute. It made him happy, did you see that grin."

"I can't even deal with this right now. What are you doing here?"

"Talking to you."

"Before I got here?" I growl.

"Waiting for you."

"Why?"

"To talk to you."

"We just talked. And how did you even know where I lived?"

"I've followed you home before."

Yes, because that isn't creepy.

"Not something to brag on. Should I be scared?"

"No. But I know when you get off and I wanted to make sure you got home safe and that if something happened I would be there to watch out for you."

"That's still a little creepy."

"Just think of me as your guardian angel," he says, shooting me a smile which I almost want to return.

"Why would you even do that?"

"Let me tell you once again," he sighs. "I like you. And although you make it difficult and make me question why, I do. You're cool."

"Is this just some ruse to make fun of me? Is this a joke?"

"What?"

"What? James Richpants Potter who stays at a summer cottage with friends over the summer before going back to a fancy boarding school gets to laugh at a girl who lives in what's basically a shed? Congratulations, you succeeded. Job well done."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. First off, my middle name is Sirius. And second of all, that isn't what this is about. I like you for YOU, not where you live or how much money you have. I have more integrity than that."

"Why are you even still here? Aren't we supposed to have to talk in a couple days?"

"I couldn't wait, I needed to see you tonight. I lost my cool and talked to you wrong and that isn't how you should talk to a lady and I apologize. You were so upset earlier, I wanted to make sure you were alright. I"

"I'm fine."

"I wouldn't go that far. You're a little antsy."

"Antsy?"

"Oh, did I say antsy? I meant angry."

"Well, maybe I am a little angry but that's only because you keep pushing my buttons."

"But your little buttons are so adorable," he says smugly.

"Stop doing that."

"Doing what?"

"That face?"

"Okay, let me just run back home and change faces."

"Not funny."

"Only because you refuse to let it be."

"That doesn't even make sense. And what kind of a middle name is Sirius?"

"It does, actually. And it comes from my father's godfather. Although I don't understand why I keep offering you explanations when you fail to offer any of your own."

"What what have I hid?"

"Where you live, to start with."

"I explained that well enough and-"

I was cut off when I heard keys jingling around outside the door and a man's voice saying "damn doorknob" gruffly.

Oh shit.

Oh no.

No no no.

"You have to go. Now." I say, pushing him towards my room. "Go in my room and keep quiet." I demand.

"Barking orders? I don't remember becoming your bitch."

It was all I could do not to either laugh or slap him.

"Please, you have to be quiet," I plead.

"Why?"

"My dad is here. He can't see you and you can't see him."

"Taylor, part of the reason I'm here is so we can all three have a discussion about this whole pregnancy thing."

"No, no we can't, that's a terrible idea. He's probably already been drinking and-"

"TAYLOR GET IN HERE!" He booms.

"I have to go, keep quiet. Please. If you care about me at all, you'll stay here and stay quiet. Please."

"TAYLOR LOUISE BOWIE I WILL KNOCK YOU INTO NEXT WEEK IF
YOUR WORTHLESS ASS IS NOT IN HERE IN THE NEXT TEN SECONDS."

I saw James' jaw clench, "He can not talk to you that way," he started to move, but I stopped him.

"Please, James, you'll only make it worse. He probably just was out of money and couldn't get any booze and needs money. That's all. Please...stay."

And with that I slip out of my room toto find my mountain of a father standing in the too small kitchen, peering down at me.

"It's about time you got in here," he growled.

"Sorry, I was busy," I say quickly, quietly.

"Doing what? Making more trouble? You weren't out making money, that's for sure."

"Dad-"

"I wasn't finished speaking. You'd do best to learn your place in front of a man."

"Yes sir." I say quietly.

"What's that?" He challenges.

"I said yes sir," I say louder.

"Is that mockery?" He growls.

"No, it's not. Let me get you a drink-"

"NO!" He booms, throwing a fist on the table. "I haven't had a drink all night because somebody thought they could be sneaky and not give me my money last night. So you think you can steal from me now?"

"I didn't steal anything," I say, although it was a bad choice of words and I knew that.

"Don't lie," he growls. "Now hand it over."

Unwillingly I handed him what little I had and watched as he shoved it into his pockets, "where's the rest of it?"

"That's all, it's been slow," I say.

He bites his lip, "I'm getting tired of your shit, Taylor. Hand over the money."

"I swear that's all I have," I back into a wall and cringe, letting out a slight shriek as I see his arm swiftly move up, as if preparing to strike.

Chapter 6: Up in Flames
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I saw him raising his arm and drawing back as if it was in slow motion, but I also almost felt nailed to the floor, like my whole body was made of lead. I instinctively raised my arms to try and act as a shield for my face, and made a girlish squeal that under normal circumstances would have made me cringe with embarrassment. I tried to duck, but his arm beat me to it. I felt the sting of flesh slapping flesh as his large hand connected with my forearm, making me slump to the ground with a gnarled shriek.

Before I could even react, or my father could get another, better directed, swing on me, either my biggest dream or my worst nightmare came true. I heard a door swing open, footsteps rush towards me and seconds later, James was standing in front of me, his face red and looking angrier than he had the other night when he discovered the whole 'your-child-has-put-up-residence-in-my-womb' fiasco.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" He shouted, helping me to my feet as my dad stood there wide-eyed and open mouthed, confused at his sudden presence for he thought we were alone in the house except for Parker who had learned long ago not to intervene.

"Who are you and why are you in my house?" He growled, edging toward James angrily, like a shark circling a seal.

"You think you're a man because you can hit a teenage girl?" James fired back, blatantly ignoring both of my father's questions.

"How I discipline my daughter is none if your business, now get out of my damn house."

"Sorry, sir, but if you want me to leave you're going to have to make me."

"Don't test me, boy. You're in my house."

"James, just go I can handle it," I plead, pushing slightly in front of him, rubbing my arm because it still stung a little bit.

"No, I'm not leaving you here with this man."

"James? You know this boy?" My father growled, looked exasperatedly between myself and James.

"James, just go," I beg, not hardly hearing my father's question.

"Damn it child, you'll answer when I speak to you!" He boomed.

That was when all hell, literally broke loose. Before James or I could even realize what was happening my father lunged for me, James then interceded and somehow I got shoved harder than earlier in to the wall, smacking my head and crumpling to the ground, clutching my stomach instinctively, protectively I guess. As I was crumpled I saw James, in a split second, produce a long, brown stick from his pocket and pinned my father up against the wall, with the stick pressed to his throat.

"What..the.." My dad gasped, his voice strained with the stick pressing further in to him.

This event was proving to provide my brain with a moral dilemma. On the one hand, I was happy because James had my father contained and he wasn't able to hurt me, but there was also the part of me that wanted to run in fear because James was apparently crazy seeing as he was pressing a stick against my father's throat.

"James, what the hell are you doing?" I choke out, trying to ignore the fact that my latest motion left me in some pain.

"You think beating up on teenage girls makes you a man? Huh?," James growled at my father, a vein pulsing in his forehead.

So he ignored my question. Let's all ignore the pregnant teenage crumpled on the ground.

"James," I gasped, trying to ignore the pain in my abdomen, "Stop."

"Taylor, he needs to learn he can't just beat up on girls, I won't have you and my damn child getting attacked like this."

As the word 'child' poured out of James' mouth like water from a faucet, I was unsure as to who's eyes grew wider with shock: my own or my fathers. I guess this means that telling him 'You're almost a grandpappy' in frosting on a cupcake was out.

"James. Let him go." I demanded, surprised at how strong my voice sounded.

Although I figured that this would just go in one ear and out the other - like apparently everything else I said to him, he actually did as I asked and, with a shove, released him although it was obvious he was ready to attack again and was watching him like a hawk in preparation in case he struck again.

"Wha...what child?" My dad gasped as he struggled to regain his balance and concentration, while grasping at his throat which has a red mark from where James has pressed the stick in to his throat. My father was a large man, so this was particularly interesting to watch him fumble and flail about. My father - who treated myself as a punching bag occasionally and who intimidated many a grown man at his couple inches about six feet tall self - was not normally one to be flailing because of a teenage guy. Granted my father was a raging drunk most of the time, but he still managed to take men down even then.

"James..." I half gasped, my heart in my throat and my stomach twisting around in knots.

"Taylor's pregnant." James answered, ignoring my obvious plea for silence.

He told him nonchalantly, totally casually. Like, 'hey, we're out of bread', 'the sky is blue', 'your daughter carrying you illegitimate grandchild - who is of my spawn - in her uterus', 'which is better, cake or pie?'. Yep. Totally casual. My wide eyes and the tone of my voice should have told him not to say it, but he did. James Potter was going to have to learn to read my mind if we would ever be able to make anything work. Afterall, talking obviously does nothing. He understands nothing. Although no one really understands me. I rarely do.

The moral of the story is that James Potter is a big mouthed, pointy stick yielding nincompoop. Yes, nincompoop is the technical term. Look it up in the dictionary and you'll see him grinning back at you.

Now, under normal circumstances, this is an event to be celebrated. However, ideally, this news is being delivered between a married man and wife to a doting family. Perhaps in a park. And there would be cake and flowers and balloons. I think. Or maybe it's ice cream. I don't know, but the point is that one generally announces future possible leaders of the world in a more adorable manner. But when you're sixteen and the child is the result of a one night stand due to not wanting to go home to your abusive drunk of a father (meaning this was really all his fault) it's not that beautiful of a moment. Especially when the guy who donated his chromosomes to this child just basically assaulted his child's grandfather with a stick.

I wonder if there is a card for this kind of situation.

Doubtful.

"You're what?" My dad hissed through gritted teeth, having regained his balance and, for the most part, his composure.

"I'm...pregnant, Dad." I whispered the words, but I knew he heard them loud and clear.

My dad's face was blank, expressionless for a moment, before he seemed to remember the muscles in his face were in fact fully functional. His mouth formed in to a line, his jaw squared. I knew he wanted to punch something, preferably a person, but James' odd stunt was probably convincing him otherwise.

"And he's...he's the father?" My dad growled, jabbing a finger towards James angrily, jaw clenching.

James took a step in front of me, defensively, and answered, "Yes. I am."

"I didn't realize you even had a boyfriend, Taylor."

A surge of embarrassment at the reminder that I was carrying the child of a guy who I had barely known and slept with without even dating, and I felt my cheeks pinken.

"I don't have a boyfriend," I responded quietly, eyes glued to the floor.

He looked between the two of us for a solid minute and then started laughing, "I should have known." He started shaking his head.

"No, I'm normally at work when you're home and awake, you had no way of knowing," I say.

He shook his head, "not that. I should have known you'd go get yourself knocked up."

"Whoa," James said. "This isn't all Taylor's fault, I'm just as much to blame."

"Boy, was I even addressing you? Of course it's not your fault. She's the one who opened her legs, if a girl was willing to do that for me without me even having to lift a finger, I would take the opportunity."

"Dad..."

That hurt. Like really hurt. I didn't expect him to be supportive and I knew he would make hurtful comments at my expense. But to hear those things come out of your father's mouth...that hurts.

"What?" He said with a smug grin. "It's not like I didn't see this coming. Obvious you were a whore and this was the only place you'd go in life. Just don't expect to crawl to me when you've got a kid and no way to care for it because my house is just that, MY house and you aren't welcome anymore."

That was a lot of knives in the heart. I couldn't think of anything to say, not even one of my little comments that tend to slip out came out. I had cotton mouth big time.

"Whoa whoa whoa," James hissed, clearing the space between himself and my dad again. "Taylor is not a whore, let's get that much straight. We may not be together either, but that damn sure doesn't mean I won't be there to take care of my kid and Taylor as the mother of my kid. She doesn't need you, your house, or your money. I'll see to it that they both have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs, she doesn't need you. The only man she needs is me, and considering you are a lousy excuse for a man, I'm the only one she has. So you can feel free to stop making hurtful comments towards her because I won't have them."

I could tell my dad wasn't sure where he wanted to take his side of the conversation to next. I could tell just how badly he wanted to hurt James, and how angry it made him hearing those words which he surely took offense to even though they were true. But, then there was the possibility of him wielding his stick out again and for whatever reason it gave me and probably my father chills.

Hearing James' speech though, was incredibly heartwarming and, although it could be a lie, a relief. I didn't want charity, but it was good to know he intended on both sticking around for this child and not throwing me out on my own. There was an air of safety about it.

"How dare you," my father growled.

Of all the words he could have chosen from, he HAD to go with those. Because obviously my father is psychotic and refuses to learn from the past experience from a few minutes ago and not make comments like that.

He continued, further proving his utter ignorance, "You think you're a man because you got that garbage pregnant? You aren't a man. You're a child."

James had my dad against the wall in a split second, stick against his throat again, although this time it wasn't against the skin, just a coue inches away, (which gave me a sense of déjà vu a bit), "She is not garbage," he hissed coldly. "You're the grown man who relies on his child to take care of him and who beats up on her? No man lays his hands on a woman, end of story."

My fathers eyes were wide, but still he spoke, "You two aren't even together, what is your damn problem, son?"

"My problem is that I have no respect for any man who hurts a woman, or for a bum that lives off others. Something to know about me is that I take people I care about seriously and Taylor being the mother of my child ensures my protection and care. We may not have it all figured out, but I won't allow anyone to hurt of degrade her like the likes of you."

Honestly, my life is a joke. I keep expecting someone with cameras to say "GOTCHA!" and that this was an elaborate prank. There are daytime television soaps without this much drama.

I wasn't even sure if I was supposed to be flattered or frightened by all this. This was definitely a side of James I never expected and honestly...it was a little scary.

"James," I say, hoping he didn't lash out at me. "Let him go. You've helped enough."

He was unsure but again did as I said.

"Get your stuff...and get out," my dad gasped, massaging his throat.

"My pleasure."

Within ten minutes I had gathered the few clothing and important items I needed into a bag and was ready to leave. James and I didn't speak the entire time, he just threw my stuff into a bag he seemed to have pulled out of thin air, but I didn't even mention it. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to kiss him or run from him. His declarations were sweet in a scary way and I didn't know which side to go with.

"Taylor, are you okay?"

I spin around and see Parker rubbing his eyes sleepily, in his pajamas.

I let my instincts take over and briskly walked over to him, swooping him into a hug and holding him closely, stroking his soft hair.

"Yes, honey, I'm fine." I say pulling away.

"Why are you packing a bag? Where are you going?"

Why does he have to be so smart? It makes it harder to lie to him.

"I'm going away for a little while, but-"

"You're leaving me?!" He cried, eyes saucers

That's it. My heart was broken.

"No, no,no, not you. You'll still see me all the time I promise."

"But...but...if you're not here, who's going to tuck me in? And make my lunches? And tell me that it'll be okay when I have a bad dream."

I wanted to bawl my eyes out. This child was my life.

"Oh, honey, I'll do that as much as I can, I promise it won't be that much different. It's not forever," I didn't know whether or not it was true, but I had to tell him that for both him and myself.

"Why are you leaving?"

Think think think.

No good idea came to me on what to tell him.

"It's a surprise. But while I'm gone, you're going to have to be brave, okay?"

He smiled, but it didn't quite teach his eyes, "I'm always brave, Taylor."

"Good. Because Uncles have to be brave."

"Uncles?"

"Yeah," I said. Now was as good a time as any to tell him. "You're going to be an uncle."

"An uncle? No WAY!! ...what's an uncle?"

I laughed, "It means, I'm going to have a baby and since you're my brother, you get to be called Cool Uncle Parker."

"YOU'RE HAVING A BABY?!"

His grin could not have been bigger. All I could do was nod.

"That's so cool!!"

"Yes it is," even though not really since I'm sixteen, "so be brave and hold down the fort while I'm gone."

"Aye aye captain!"

"Now, go back to bed and get some sleep. I love you."

"I love you too, Tay."

I hugged and kissed him and he ran back towards his room, taking my heart with him.

Before I had time to wallow in self pity any more, my dad waltzed in, "Time to go."

I went ahead of James and as soon as I got out of James' sight, my dad pulled me close, by my arm, "I never want to see your worthless face again. That clear?"

"Crystal."

Now I would like to say that he released me, James came back and we left and lived happily ever after. But of course that didn't happen.

I didn't even hear James enter but the next thing I knew I heard him tell bizarre words, "PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" he screamed.

Suddenly my dad froze, eyes glazing over, and fell to the floor with a thud. When I say he froze, I mean it was literally as you can mean that. He literally was like a stone of the ground. As he fell, he bumped in to me and I cracked in to the wall, screaming as I did so.

"What did you do?!" I scream hysterically.

"I wasn't going to let him hurt you, Taylor. I saw-"

"HE WAS NOT - OUCH - HURTING ME, NOW WHAT - OUCH - DID YOU DO?!"

The 'ouches' were because there was a stabbing pain in my stomach. Something was wrong. I knew it. But right now I had to deal with James and his DAMN STICK I now noticed he had apparently used to kill my dad.

"Don't over-react, he'll be fine. I just walked in...and he had you by the arm...I dunno I just lost it, I thought he was hurting you."

"So you killed him?" I gasp.

"Taylor he's not dead, just stunned."

"How did you- OUCH, son of a bitch that hurts!"

"What hurts?" James said, eyes widening.

"My stomach...I think something's wrong."

"C'mon, let's get you to a hospital."

He tried grabbing my hands to pull me up, but I cringed away from him, "No. No no no. I'm not going anywhere with you."

"Taylor-"

"No! You're insane. You're..you're insane."

"Let me help you-"

As I scrambled to my feet I said, "You've helped enough."

"Taylor-"

"Stop!" I looked up at the ceiling, wincing in pain and blinking back tears. "Really life? Really?!"

My life could not get any worse. I was sixteen, homeless, and pregnant by a sociopath who seemed to have killed my father by pointing a stick at him and freezing him.

Perfect.

And then everything went black.

*

"Why isn't she awake yet?" I heard a voice say distantly.

James maybe?

When I could finally open my eyes, I saw James talking to a doctor several feet away from me, looking extremely disheveled. I was apparently in the hospital - IV and all.

When he looked over and saw me with my eyes open, he rushed to my side and started stroking my hair, making me cringe away from him, "I'm so happy to see your eyes."

"What happened? Is the baby okay?"

I didn't pay James any attention, my sole attention was on the doctor who I'd never seen before.

"You passed out. We're still trying to determine why but we think it was due to exhaustion and pain, your body just shut down."

"And the baby?" I push.

He appeared apprehensive, "We are running some tests, so I can't give you any certain answers, but this young man-" he gestured towards James, "got you here quickly and the fetus-"

"Baby." I correct.

"-the baby seems to be stable. Although trauma on a fet-baby, especially so early on, is always a serious concern so until we get the test results back we can't be sure of anything."

Oh my god.

My minds spinned. My heart hurt. I didn't even know how to handle this. My baby was in danger and it was my fault.

"When will you know?" I ask quietly.

"Should be within the next half hour."

"Thank you," I said.

"That's what I'm here for. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll give you two a minute."

He left, leaving James and I.

"It'll be okay, I know it will," James said, but I turned my head away from him.

"Are you mad at me?" He asked, the very idea clearly shocking him.

"Please go sit down."

Surprisingly, he did as I said.

We sat in silence for several minutes. He was the last person I wanted to be around. I was scared and there was no denying the fact that I was in the hospital and may lose my baby was largely because of him.

"Taylor, please say something," James said quietly, his head buried in his hands from his chair that I had specifically ordered to be a good eight feet away as a precautionary measure.

I turned my head away from him, not even knowing if I could speak to him at all and because I was nervous he'd get up, do some kind of rain dance and bugs would fall from the ceiling as he laughed wickedly and made them crawl on me.

"Taylor," he repeated, this time his voice seeming a little more serious, although my response was the same. I watched the IV drip in my arm.

"Dammit, Taylor," he growled quiet, jumping up out of his chair and clearing the space between us in approximately a second and a half.

"I asked you to stay over there."

"No, you told me to sit over there like a damn dog chained to a tree. I'm not going to hurt you."

"And how do I know that? How do know you aren't going to take your little voodoo stick and remove my spleen or something?" I argue belligerently.

I could tell this got him a wee bit off guard but the least he could do at this point was entertain my questions and concerns. Afterall, he's the one with all the explaining he needs to do.

"If you would just let me explain...it's really no where near as bad as you think."

"But it is still bad?"

"That's not what I said."

"Yes it is."

"No it-okay. You know what? Never mind. I'm not going to argue with you. Your mind is made up and I don't want to have an argument."

"Afraid you'll lose, huh?"

So for a teenage girl lying in a hospital bed after the father of her unborn child went off on a rampage with a magic stick, I wasn't in the best position to be snarky. I was pretty vulnerable at the moment. But did that stop me? No. Of course not.

"Taylor. Please. Just give me a chance to explain," he pleaded, desperation glinting in his beautiful brown eyes.

"Why should I? Haven't you done enough?"

"Just let me explain. You owe me that much?"

Oh, now you've done it.

"I owe YOU? Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that you were the one who's father got attacked by a voodoo stick and was now fighting for the life of your child and is homeless. Wait...wait, that's me."

I was being cold, but honestly, who could blame me?

"I was only trying to protect you."

"What's the stick?"

"What?"

"Your stick. What is it?"

"That isn't a conversation we should have here."

"Here is as good a place as at it seems. This way at least there's doctors. Tell me what the hell you are and it is."

"I will, but not here."

"Why not?"

"It's a secret."

I scoffed, "what are you an assassin or something?"

"No!" He cried belligerently, clearly offended.

"Well then what are you?"

"Not here. I promise I'll explain later, but that time isn't now. I'm sorry."

Before I could argue, the doctor came in and every concern I could muster went to my baby.

"Well," the doctor said as he examined papers in his arms, "Everything appears to be sound. You were lucky to get in here as fast as you did. We can't know if there was any damage done that would be hindering until the child has grown and we can get a solid sonogram, but everything appears to e fine. You're stable."

I cried. I literally cried.

"That's so great," I sniff.

I put my hands on my belly, "I promise, baby, nothing like this will ever happen again."

"Good job getting her in so quickly. You saved that baby's life." The doctor said to James before excusing himself back to work.

I couldn't help but thank James, although it was painful.

My baby was okay.

Soon enough, we were discharged and free to head home. As I entered the waiting room, I was pleasantly shocked and blissfully happy to see Lottie in a chair. She ran up to me and swept me into a hug quickly.

"Oh, Tay, I was so worried!" She sniffed into my hair.

When she pulled away I could see she had been crying. Lottie never cries.

"How did you know I was here?"

"James. Tay, he told me everything..I feel so bad. How can your dad kick you out? That's just crazy. He's just an ass."

I half-smile, "yeah, he's an ass." I agree.

Anything with half a brain cell can agree my father is an ass.

When James reappeared next to me, I felt myself tense up but didn't say anything. He saved my baby and got Lottie here, I had to give him props for those things.

"So," he said awkwardly, "thanks for coming so late, Lottie. I know seeing you makes Taylor happy."

"Of course!" She grinned. "What are best friends for?"

"It's late though," he continued, "so I best be getting her home-"

"In case you've forgotten," I start to say, "I no longer have a home."

"Of course you do!" He said, shocked. "You can come back with me until-"

"No."

"No? Taylor-"

"I...want to stay with Lottie. If she'll have me."

"If?" She laughed. "There's no if! Of course I'll have you, it'll be great. But, don't you want to go with James?..I mean he is afterall the father of your child."

"No. If you don't want me with you, that's fine. But I think we," I gestured between James and myself, "should be apart for a little while while I figure some things out."

"But...Taylor, what I had to tell you-"

"Can wait until I'm ready." I finish for him.

"I don't know..."

"James, I'm not going back with you, end of story."

"I mean it's up to you..."

"Yes, it is. And I think we would be good for some time apart. Lottie, you sure it's okay?"

"Absolutely, Tay."

"Then it's settled."

"But-"

James was interrupted again, but this time it was by Lottie, "James? Something you should know about Taylor is that she's as stubborn as they come. You'll get about as far as arguing with a flamingo."

"I've gathered that," he says, clearly frustrated. "Fine. Well, as you know I'm about to go back to school. But since I don't see you changing your mind soon, that isn't changing. The cottage we...visited...my unbiological brother will be staying in for a while longer. When you're ready to talk to me, go to him. His name is Teddy."

"Teddy?"

"Yes. Teddy Lupin."

Odd name indeed.

"I'll keep that in mind."

He clearly didn't want to leave but obviously knew he had to leave and he eventually left.

"Ready to go home? Get some sleep?"

I nodded, the exhaustion taking over.

"Sleep sounds amazing."

*

We got to Lottie's house earlier than I had anticipated, and I felt like I was going to throw up and not for the typical you-have-a-tiny-person-that's-a-live-in-guest-in-your-uterus-and-hates-just-about-all-foods reason. No, I was sick for an entirely different reason right about now. I was sick because I had lost my house, I was separated from my brother, my child's father was more than likely borderline insane and no I was about to have to ask to stay at Lottie's until I figured out what I should do. I knew that her family wouldn't put me out on the street, but I wasn't one to accept what I considered charity, easily. But this seemed to be the only option I had so I didn't have much of a choice but to stay with her, although I would be making it a point to repay them for the inconvenience when I had money to.

When I walked in to her house, I was suddenly reminded vividly of how much I had missed being there when I smelled the heavenly scent of vanilla radiating throughout the place. Something I had always loved about that place was that it wasn't just a house, it was a home.

"Taylor Bowie, long time no see."

I was broken out of my thoughts when I heard my name and when I spun around I saw the familiar face of Lottie's mom in front of me for a split second before she pulled me into a tight hug.

She pulled away, still holding me by my arms, "I've missed seeing you, sweetheart. So good to see you again!"

I could have cried.

Pregnancy brain, perhaps, but I almost cried.

"It's good to see you too," I say. "I've missed being here."

"Well, as long as you know you're more than welcome, any time you want. Our house is your house."

"Thank you, ma'am." I say, as genuine as can be.

That was what I loved about Lottie's mom, she was so welcoming. Which was good, considering.

"Mom," Lottie said from where I forgot she was beside me, "you don't mind if Taylor stays here a few days, do you?"

"Not at all, you're always welcome, Tay. Everything is alright though, I assume?"

"Oh, yes ma'am," I say, quite convincingly I might add, "my house is just getting fumigated so I need somewhere to go for a bit."

"Well, you're welcome to stay here as long as you need to. Your father and Parker have made other arrangements I'm guessing?"

"Oh," quick, Taylor, think think think. "Yes, my dad took him to visit my aunt Rachel in Manchester, Parker needs to see somewhere other than London."

Okay, I lied and I felt bad, but I couldn't exactly tell her that I got kicked out because I was pregnant by a guy who was off his rocker. She might be a little apprehensive then. And plus, I would also run the risk of her calling social services on my dad.

When I found time to excuse myself to the bathroom, I slunk to the ground and it was all I could do to avoid banging my was against the wall.

For the time being, I had a place to stay, that was reassuring. But I knew it wouldn't last, there was only so long I could avoid telling her about the child growing inside me if I was going to be staying here.

How different life would be if the epitome of karma was not the defining factor of my life.

I put a hand on my stomach and quietly whispered to the life inside me, "I'll make this right somehow, baby."

I didn't know whether it was a truth or a lie, but I was determined to dedicate my every day to trying to give this baby the decent life I never had.


Chapter 7: Mummy Dearest
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I didn't sleep well. I tossed and turned, flipping from side to side, trying to get comfortable enough to get a little sleep before work. However, after tossing until roughly three in the way-too-early morning, and hearing Lottie groan twice, I finally decided to slip out of bed and quietly meander to their sitting room. Every time I fell asleep for even the shortest amount of time, I had the same nightmare, on an endless loop. I was running from something I couldn't see, holding my baby to my chest. I was afraid, clearly whoever or whatever was chasing me was something which I was no match for. I heard myself saying I had to "get to the lake", but in my conscious state I couldn't figure out why. I don't even remember ever even spending hardly any, if any at all, time at a lake. But, every time the dream ended with me falling and the giant monster lunging towards me. Then I would wake up, gasping for breath and fumbling for reality. One doesn't get much sleep when boogey men confiscate your state of mind. So, I found an old magazine, curled up on the couch wrapped in an old blanket that looked handmade, and read about different events happening around the world.

I learned that there was a celebrity who was wearing jewelry that was worth more money than it would take for me to go to university. Twice. I also learned what fashion trends were currently "in" and who was dating the in world of the rich and famous. When it came down to it, nothing in the magazine seemed even remotely realistic or the least but relevent to my life. I wasn't going to be buying an outfit that cost an paycheck. I started to wonder how the girl with the university tuition jewelry would deal with a situation like mine. I imagined the headlines now about how she would be a "teen mum" by an "unifentifitrd young man". In my world, people were going to criticize, gawk at and belittle my life and situation more and more as my secret began to show between my hips. I imagined little old ladies in the supermarket whispering to each other about the "lack of respect" girls in my generation had for ourselves. How we had "no self control", did it "like rabbits" and how we would "shag anything that said we were pretty". They would put down my parenting skills before they had even began. On the other hand, the celebrity, had she been in my situation, would be on magazines, and getting huge checks for the first pictures of her baby. Media and spectators alike would be on the look out for a "baby bump" practically from the moment the misfortune of a condomless night took place. In her world, she would have mad a mistake that was actually a blessing and people would admire her for "stepping up to the plate" and becoming a mother. I knew I would be shunned. I certainly wouldn't get magazine covers and be paid millions for a picture of my child. I could already feel the stares, already see the noses shriveling in disgust..the rich and famous would see this as a chance for a young girl to take responsibility and prove herself and her baby's father would probably "realize his love for her" and they would get their cheesy white horse happily ever after.

Unfortunately for myself and the little person growing inside me, we wouldn't be getting a fairytale. We would get stares, poverty, and eventually my child would grow up to resent me. Wonderful.

I put down the magazine after a while, when I realize I've been far more caught up in my own thoughts that have veered from the magazine. The more I think about the future, the more I'm afraid of it. I can handle people talking about me, they do it anyway, but it still cares me to no end to know what I'm responsible for this child. Would I end up being like Savannah? Raising a fatherless child, struggling to even feed my baby?

I knew it was too late to change my mind, but a part of me couldn't help but wonder if I was being selfish by having this child in the first place when I knew what kind of life he or she would be destined for.

*

"Taylor, honey, time to get up, I don't want you to be late."

It took me a minute to realize the voice was coming from Lottie's mom and it took me an additional few moments for my disoriented brain to realize I had fallen asleep on the couch at some point during the wee hours of the morning.

"Thanks," I mumbled, rubbing my eyes with my hands.

I didn't even work until late evening, but it was considerate of her to try and help any how.

When I made my way out of the sitting room, I was led by the ache in my stomach once my nose filled with the delicious aroma of bacon. My stomach and feet seemed to know where to go before my mind did. But when I meandered into the kitchen and saw a table full of scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and assorted juices, it was all I could do to keep from salivating at the mouth like a canine. My meals normally consisted of something cold and out of a can or a sandwich if I could afford the meat. This was the penacle of delicacies to me.

"Sit down, dear, have a bite to eat, you must be starved," Lottie's mom instructed. "You're practically skin and bones. Let momma put some meat on you."

Ha.

Not for long I won't be, with or without you. Because I was already starting to bloat and get the hint of a belly, so I knew I wasn't gong to have one of those one in a million freak pregnancies girls end up on television for where their body shows no sign of pregnancy. The bloating, puking, nausea, and mood swings were enough that a blind man would know.

As I took a seat next to Lottie, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of family. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't had a solid meal like this in months, maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, or maybe I was just a bizarre freak, but by the time everyone had made it to the table, I was crying. And not just a couple tears falling from my eyes, I'm talking full-on, hole in the dam, waterworks flowing from my eyeballs.

Perfect.

As if I needed another example of why people suspected I was on drugs or at least thought I was extremely weird.

"Taylor? Honey, are you alright?" Lottie's mum said worriedly, scurrying to my side in seconds and wrapping one arm around my should comfortingly.

I nod, hurriedly wiping away tears that have started sopping my face. When I can speak, I muster an "I'm fine, really," but anyone with half an ounce of brain residing in their skills would know I was obviously upset.

Mental breakdown at the breakfast table: check.

Safe to say my morning was starting off swell.

"Taylor, you know whatever is going on, we're here for you. You know that right?" she said as I struggled to speak over that lovely lump that had decided to take up camp in my voice box.

Honestly, crying was bad enough, but then that lovely lump of muteness had to meander into my throat and chill there, preventing much speaking, as if the situation needed to be made any more awkward.

Thanks, big guy. Always got my back, huh?

I swallowed as hard as I could and without giving the room another once over, unable to make eye contact with any of the shocked breakfast para takers, mumbled I needed to be excuses and sprinted like an Olympian to the bathroom.

Wow. I probably couldn't hate myself more at the moment. I mean, these people offer me up a place to stay in their home and I cause I big dramatic scene at the breakfast table. Not to mention the fact that that scene stemmed from the fact that I was harboring a child inside me, unbeknownst to them. Needless to say, I felt like the biggest burden to ever awkwardly grace the face of the European continent.

Being the mother that she is, Lottie's sweet mum was outside the door within a minute or two, politely asking if she could come inside and talk to me about the fiasco. (Although she didn't personally use the word fiasco, that was my own utterance). I told her to come in (in such a weak voice that I should be ashamed of myself and hide in shame).

Now, let me just say that I'm not the type of girl who breaks down and cries any time the world doesn't cater to her every whim. But, one can only take so much before they lead to let it all out and cry.

Lottie's mum, or Angela as she had been insisting I call her since I hit puberty, say down quietly in front of me, and gave me one of those talk-to-mummy-darling looks.

And I cried.

Of course.

Because apparently that's all I was capable of doing anymore. Crying, weeping, sobbing, recreating The Trail of Tears, the works.

"Taylor I don't think I've ever seen you cry until today the entire time you and Lottie have been friends and now you've cried about a dozen times since you woke up. What's going on sweetie? Is it your father? Parker? Work? You can talk to me."

"No," I wiped away the tears from underneath my eyes. "It's not that."

Even though there was part of me that a as always hurting over my interesting family situation.

"A boy? Honey, if you're crying so much over a boy then this boy doesn't deserve you. If he's willing to let someone as-"

"It's not a boy."

She thought this over for a moment and then her eyes lit up and I saw her mouth drop open a teeny bit which she quickly shut again.

This was it.

She knew I was pregnant.

Here comes the tongue lashing and the second time I would kicked out of a home.

I bit my lip and tried to mentally prepare myself for the coming speech.

"I'm sorry, honey, I just never really expected this," she said sincerely.

I gave out a pitiful guffaw, "Me neither."

"Did you not think you could tell me, honey?"

"I was afraid of what you would think," I said, still refusing to meet her gaze, positive it would be one of judgement.

"Honey, you've been like a daughter to me since Lottie introduced you as her best friend. Mothers don't abandon their daughters. Especially over something as minimal as this."

"Minimal?"

I hardly see how an illegitimate pregnancy at the tender age of sixteen qualified as a 'minimal' event.

But to each their own I suppose.

"Yes, minimal, sweetheart. There are people out there dying from disease and famine, this is hardly something to feel ashamed of."

"I suppose you're right," I sigh. "I just can't help but know this is a mistake."

"Honey, this was out of your control!"

Um.

I suppose once you reach a certain age you no longer spend a lot of time in the bedroom, but I still figured she would at least know the basics of sex and pregnancy.

"Mrs-"

"Angela, honey," she corrected.

I didn't want to call her that, it felt wrong and disrespectful, but with how well she was taking it I felt I should at least respect her wishes, "Angela, I have to take responsibility for this."

"Honey, honey, honey," her pet name of choice was truly beginning to get under my skin, "Stop blaming yourself. You should be happy."

"I'm sixteen. Why should I be happy about this? Not to be total downer but..."

"Sixteen or sixty, love conquers us all and becomes something out of control."

Okay.

I'm lost.

The idea of a sixty year old 'doing the deed' and getting pregnant was bizarre. And I don't know what 'love' has to do with anything.

"I just never expected this," I say due to the loss of appropriate responses I could come up with.

"Even though you'll probably receive some backlash, in the long run you'll have someone beside you that you can love and that's beautiful."

"Maybe. If they aren't so ashamed of me they leave me the first opportunity they get."

She crinkled her eyebrows together, "if they leave they just aren't the right one for you."

Now it was my turn to be confused, "I know I'm not the expert but I mean, I don't think it's like a toy store where I can refund and exchange. Pretty sure who I get is who I get."

That probably sounded snarky but I didn't mean it to be but at this point it was like she was talking in tongues half the time.

"There are, how do they say, plenty of fish in the sea. You'll find someone else, sweetheart. You're beautiful and intelligent and loving."

Maybe instead of talking about the fetus casually hanging out in my womb, we were discussing James. Maybe she was talking about him. (True, she didn't know his name but it's not like I impregnated myself...that would be truly weird.)

Going with my assumption she was discussing the impending father to be, "I just don't know."

"I know. But obviously someone is making you have all these feelings and realizations, so they must be someone special."

"I guess," I say.

This whole conversation was hardly making any sense.

Maybe she was on drugs.

"I know you feel like you have to hide this, but you don't have to hide from me. I want you to be able to share things with me and y'know talking can help you realize things you wouldn't until you hear the words aloud. How did you two meet?"

"Work," I say honestly, "not like I go out every night to meet new people." I laugh.

"Does this mystery person have a name?"

Well duh, his parents didn't assign him a number.

I really need to learn how to control my sarcastic nature. It just flows out of me.

But on the bright side I have become slightly better about not saying every single thought that enters my head.

"James."

She looked puzzled by this for a moment this smiled, "Well, that's new. But a new generation means new names, eh?"

She's definitely under the influence. James is one of the most common, old names out there, pretty sure.

"What?"

"I just mean I had never met a girl named James before," she smiled. "But I'm sure she's lovely."

Whoa whoa whoa, stop the train.

"What? James is a boy!"

"But I thought..." She trailed off.

Clearly neither of us have been on the same
page.

Seeing that I was dumbfounded, she continued, "Sweetheart, is this not about you being gay?"

If I had been drinking, I would have spewed everywhere.

My life, ladies and gentleman.

"You think I'm gay?"

"Well, aren't you? If this isn't about a boy and you're feelings of shame...that sounds like a struggling gay teen darling."

I laughed.

Probably not the most opportune or appropriate thing to do but I couldn't help but laugh at the pure irony of this. If only my situation was as simple as that. If only I was gay.

"I'll support you, honey, you don't have to worry about that," she continued.

"I'm..not...I'm not gay." I said as I slowly came to a halt with the hysterical laughter.

"Honey, then what's going on?"

I gulped, but knew I had to come right out with it at this point, "I'm...pregnant."

Annnnd she stared at me.

By the look on her face, she had heard it as me telling her I was growing a horn on my bum as opposed to a child in my uterus.

Time stopped, I'm pretty sure.

"Oh, Taylor, no. No. Please tell me this is a very bad joke," she pleaded and for some odd reason, perhaps the lighting, I could have sworn her eyes were starting to shine with tears.

Oh no, the tears would surely be on their way now.

"I wish I was," I say, shaking my head.

"I didn't realize you were seeing someone," she said quietly.

Well, hello, wave of shame. Lovely to see you again.

"That would be because I'm not..."

Her jaw squared, "this James guy left you because you're pregnant? Where does he live? He's about to be one sore little...what kind of selfish-"

Whoa, mama bear has claws.

"He didn't leave me because I'm pregnant. We were never together, it was a one time thing."

"Oh, Taylor, honey, what good could that possibly have done?"

"It just happened," I say, once again not meeting her gaze as I deliver the classic line every teenager has given their parents when they tell them they're pregnant.

She sat there for a minute, seemingly thinking over what to say next, "Well, telling you that you made a mistake won't do much because it won't take it back and that's the last thing you need right now. So, I'm not going to do that."

"Thank you."

"Instead, I want you to know that I'm supportive and won't turn you away or treat you any differently than I did a week ago."

"Thank you, that means everything to me."

"Is that why you've been staying here? Are you afraid to tell you dad? I know he's not the brightest sunflower in the patch, but..."

"He kicked me out. He knows and kicked me out."

This seemed to visibly anger her. From everything I had gathered over the years, this conversation in particular, she was very much the mama bear who would die to have her children be happy. Finally, she calmed enough to grab my hands and and force me to meet her gaze.

"You have a tough road ahead of you, darling. You created a tough pavement, but you're the strongest young lady I've ever met, and if anyone can do it, you can."

Traditional speech, but it still warmed my heart up a bit.

"That means a lot," I say quietly.

"Have you told the father?"

"Yes, he knows. And yes, he wants to be involved."

"That's good! So many boys would have ran once you dropped the p word, if they even showed up again."

"I guess," I say.

"Honey, I'n trying to be positive here, but if you want a speech-"

"No, a speech isn't necessary."

"Okay, then. Now, what is you guys' plan? Marriage, living together unconventionally..."

This was yet another one of those moments. Where I would have spewed my drink every where had I been drinking one.

"What?"

"Honey, you have a child coming and a child needs a family."

"I barely know him!" I protest, climbing to my get awkwardly, feeling like my throat was on fire and was going to burn me alive.

"That was a personal decision, not the fault of your child. Now, you don't have to figure it all out right now, but pretty soon decisions will come and they'll come hard and fast. But, you're welcome to stay here until you figure that out."

I was at a loss for words. What do I say to that?

"But when the baby comes..." I trail off, knowing what the response would be.

"Then I'll expect you to to be settled. My house isn't equipped for a baby, honey. Not anymore."

Annnnnd there it was.

"That's fair," I sigh.

"Oh, honey," she pulled me in to a hug, stroking my hair while I sobbed into her shoulder because as we all know I'm a perfect crier now. "I'm so sorry this happened to you."

*

"Wait, hold on, hold on," Lottie said through fits of laughter, "she thought you were gay?"

I nodded, "Apparently. I mean if I had bedded a girl none of this would happen so I guess the universe is just extremely ironic."

By this point we were walking our fifth loop around the park, Lottie consistently being the more athletic of us and running ahead, chasing animals, and just overall being an energetic goofball, and I was kicking the occasional rock.

"That's kinda funny," she says. "I mean, if you were gay and pregnant, you'd be like a miracle."

Sometimes Lottie says dumb things.

"Gay people can get pregnant, Lottie!"

"How? I mean aren't there certain parts that are missing but completely necessary?"

I stopped her before she could continue, "They go to one of those sperm bank places, I suppose. I don't know. But gay people have children and I doubt they just sit at the park scoping, find one they like and leave with it like they're picking out a puppy from a pet store."

I guess that was strange analogy number five thousand seven hundred and two of the day.

"Yeah, that would be pretty weird. Okay, I'll hand it to ya, gay people can have kids."

"Children," I correct.

"What?"

"Kids are baby goats. Oh, you know what's it doesn't matter."

"Funny," she laughs. "Maybe this baby will be some sort of prodigy. End world hunger, cure cancer."

"All in a good day's work," I laugh.

"And think of how fashionable that child is going to be? Saving the world one scarf at a time it will."

Looking down at my rag tag attire, I shook my head, "Lottie, my kid doesn't stand a chance. I barely know how to match my own clothes!"

"And that," she ran up beside me, wrapping an arm round my neck, "is why that child has me, the fairy godmother... without wings and a carriage and wand and all that."

I smiled, "One thing about it, his or her life will never be boring."

"Never," she agreed. "But really, Taylor, what are you going to do about James? Do you guys have a plan or...?"

"He left for school, which apparently is a boarding school near...Scotland, I believe...anyway, and he won't be home until Christmas time, by which time I think I'll be around five, six months pregnant and resembling the allusive blonde balooga." I laugh, halfheartedly. "He gave me a way to get in touch with some bloke named Teddy, he's a cousin or a brother or something of sorts. From what I've gathered he has a pretty large family, so I'm not entirely sure. But he said I could get in touch with Teddy and who would help me and reach him and everything."

"Are you going to do it?"

"I don't want to," I answer.

"But are you? I didn't ask whether you wanted to. Your bloody independence would have you 'not wanting' help if you'd been attacked by a rabid tiger and left bleeding in a shark tank."

Okay, I am no longer the only one using bizarre analogies. Lottie just took the cake. Ignoring the analogy I just went straight to answering the question.

"I don't see what choice I have," I answer honestly.

"What am I? Chopped liver?"

"Lottie, I can't stay with you forever, even your mum said so. And I wouldn't want to. This is my responsibility."

"Fine," she relents, "but the door is always open."

"I know," I pull her into a hug, but she quickly pulls away, a serious look on her face.

"Taylor, you have to promise me something though!" She says urgently.

"Of course," I say, pretty confused.

"This Teddy guy...if he's cute then I expect an introduction!"

Lottie: a noun; someone who has her priorities in order. Only not really.

"I wouldn't dream of letting your perfect guy possibly slip through my hands," I laugh.

"As long as we have that clear!"

We strolled and talked for a bit longer until I couldn't wait any longer or I would be late for work, which was the last thing I would need.

One thing for sure, I have my work cut out for me these next few months, not withstanding the amount of work that comes after.



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