Authors: Sadie Grubor
"It's a coincidence, that's all." I shake my head, but I can't stop comparing them, no matter how hard I try.
"I told you. We're connected. I've been trying to discuss everything with you, but you've done nothing but fight me each step."
His thumb rubs my cheek, the longing and want returning to his face.
"N-no," I cry.
Shoving his hand away, I push him back from us.
"Get out," I demand. "I won't entertain your delusions. Go, now."
Alex begins to sniff and whine. His tears start next and my heart aches. I wrap my arms around his little body.
Damon comes to us slowly, holding out a hand. I slap it away.
"Don't touch us," I sneer, keeping my voice low. "We are not connected. You are delusional and I'm suing for the divorce if you refuse the annulment. Stay away from me and my son or I will get a restraining order," I threaten, moving further away from him.
Damon's face goes stone still.
"I'll go, but I won't stay away. You are my wife and he is my son."
"No." I shake my head. "He's not. He's my son."
"Reproductive Health Center. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Doctor Cubeck." His tone is velvet, yet edged with steel.
"Stop it," I whisper, not willing to believe.
"If you want, I can give you a copy of the letter the clinic sent to me when they informed me of the mix up."
"You're lying," I grind out. "They would've contact me."
"I didn't actually see the letter myself. Not at first. It wasn't brought to my attention until almost a year ago." He shrugs. "I'll be sure you get a copy."
"Get out. Now." A sob tears from my chest, my knees weaken, and the sound of my heart beating fills my ears.
"Olivia?" Mercedes calls from the hallway before rushing into Alex's room at the sound of my sob.
"Take Alex, please," I beg Mercedes, my eyes never leaving Damon's face.
"Come on, buddy." Alex goes right into her arms and she swiftly exits the room.
Damon twitches in Alex's direction, but I move my body between them.
"Don't," I sneer.
His eyes return to me.
"You need to leave."
Footsteps on the stairs tell me Ced has taken Alex downstairs.
"I'll go, but I'll be back." His words are both a promise and a threat. "You won't file divorce papers, Olivia." I open my mouth to argue, but he continues. "If I get one notice of restraint, divorce, annulment, separation, or anything like that, I won't hesitate to counter file for custody of Alex."
"The fuck you will!" Now that Alex is with Ced, I can really unleash.
"The fuck I won't!" he shouts back, stepping close to me. "One document, Olivia. That is all it takes for me to file custody papers and a paternity test."
"Just because you resemble my son, invade my life with your delusions, and make ridiculous claims—"
"Not a claim, Olivia. It's fact. You want proof? You will have a copy of the letter from the clinic by tomorrow morning. If you need more than that, let's get a paternity test. I have absolutely no hesitation."
"I want you to go away." I shove hard at his chest. "Go!"
Hurt washes away the anger on his face. He wraps his arms around me before I can get far enough away from him.
"I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted to talk to you, explain, and make you understand." I jerk in his arms, until his lips press against my head. "In Vegas, I wanted to tell you everything, but the night escalated so quickly. I never expected you to be so…captivating, so amazingly open. Regardless of the alcohol, I saw exactly who you are and in that moment, I knew I wanted you."
When I stay silent, still processing his claims, threats, and admissions, he sighs and releases me.
"I will return. We'll discuss everything later, after you have time to think."
He leaves Alex's room and a few minutes later, I hear my apartment door close.
Dropping down, I bend until my forehead rests on the plush carpet. I release all of my pent up emotions in a scream that leaves me breathless. Sobs roll from the pit of my stomach. Sure that the hard jerk of my stomach muscles would make me sick, I crawl to the bathroom and lie on the cool tile floor.
Thin arms encompass me, pulling me from the floor.
"Alex?" I croak.
"Sarah has him." Ced rubs my arms, steering me to my bedroom and lying me on the bed.
A few moments later, the sounds of the shower fill the room. Mercedes emerges and walks me to the bathroom. Helping me undress, she doesn't say a word. With a small nudge from her, I enter the shower, standing under the hot water until it starts to cool. Even as the water goes cold, I don't move. Everything is numb.
"Come on, Liv." Mercedes reaches in, shutting off the water.
She opens the curtain and stands with a large towel open for me. Once I'm wrapped in the towel, she hugs me.
"Wanna talk about it?" she whispers.
"I need to get dressed," I say, my voice deceptively calm. Inside, I'm a typhoon of emotional madness.
After dressing, I follow the sounds coming from my kitchen. Alex is in his highchair trying to spoon oatmeal into his mouth.
Seeing me, he shouts, "Momma!"
Smiling, I walk over and kiss his head. Guilt for bringing Damon into our lives assaults me. If I'd stayed away from Vegas, maybe this wouldn't have…who am I kidding? He clearly would've just shown up here.
"Let's talk." Mercedes settles into a chair at the dining table as Sarah excuses herself back to the bakery.
"Thanks, Sarah," I shout after her.
"No prob," she calls back just before I hear her feet on the steps.
Sitting across from Ced, I stare at Alex.
"Spill it." She sips at her coffee and pushes a mug toward me.
Sighing, I sit up straight, sip from the mug, and then replay the events from my confrontation with Damon. Throughout the tale, Ced's face ranges from anger, worry, shock, and disbelief.
"But, how…I mean, is it possible he's the donor?" Ced doesn't seem to know which question to ask first.
I shrug. "I don't know. He knows so much and says he has documentation from the clinic, but couldn't he falsify all of it?" I take a deep breath. "But why go through all this trouble? Why go as far as a paternity test?" Burying my face in my hands, I groan.
"Call Alfonso," she blurts.
"If I do that then he’ll—"
"He said no documentation or filing. You can still talk to Alfonso and get his opinion on things. Find out what you can do." Ced reaches for her cell phone and pulls up his number. "Call him." She slides the neon yellow phone across the table.
Picking it up, I touch the screen, initiating the call.
After three hours on the phone, half an hour of which spent on hold while he cleared his schedule for me, it boils down to me being screwed.
Damon may have broken some laws, but we don't have any proof. I could get a restraining order, but he has the money and power to manipulate the system in his favor. Also, if he's willing to bury me in court for years over a divorce, I'm pretty sure he's not above further manipulation. Plus, I have to worry about a possible custody issue.
"We can still proceed, Olivia. I mean, I'm not saying you should back down. I want you to be prepared for battle, though. It could be a long one, especially if the mix up at the clinic turns out to be true and in his favor." Alfonso clears his throat. "We'll have to bring in a family law attorney for this. I've got experience, but going against a man like Damon will take some expertise."
Alfonso is doing his best to be unbiased, but I can hear the concern in his voice. If I do move forward, he isn't confident in the results.
"Thanks, Al." An unwanted feeling of resignation washes over me as I end the call.
"Liv?" Ced questions from her spot on the floor with Alex.
"I'm screwed." A humorless laugh escapes my lips.
Dropping my head to the table, I begin to bang it a couple times. Alex mimics me by banging a block on the floor.
"I'm so sorry. Can't you—?"
Before she can finish, I tell her everything Alfonso told me.
"So, you're just going to let him—?"
"I'm not going anywhere, Ced. We may be married, because of a piece of paper, but I'm not his slave or some Stepford wife at his beck and call," I snap. Then, realizing what I'd done, I say, "Sorry, I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"I know." She gave me an understanding smile.
"What's left to do in the bakery?" I ask, trying to take my mind off things.
"You aren't seriously going back to work?" She stands from the floor, looking at me incredulously.
"Um, yes. This is my bakery, it's my name on the sign, and I need to get my mind off this shit."
I walk from the table to the living space, stopping next to Alex to pick him up.
"Momma." He snuggles against me.
Pulling back, our eyes meet. Damon stares back at me through my son’s face. My lungs suddenly won’t hold air. I can't get enough. Desperately searching Alex's face, I try to find something to make Damon wrong, but the more I look, the more I can't breathe.
"Liv," Ced says, concern in her voice. She takes Alex from me and rubs my back with a free hand.
"Let's get downstairs," I gasp, still trying to take in air.
Once in the kitchen, everyone is quieter than usual.
"Give me a cake," I announce, wiping a tear away before slipping an apron over my head.
No one moves, except Ced who places Alex in his play area.
I stand next to my worktable, put my hands on the top, and lean forward, closing my eyes. "Someone give me a damn cake, please," I beg, fighting more tears.
"Here you go." Greg shoves an order sheet and a twelve-inch round sponge cake at me.
After looking over the order for a four-tier marshmallow fondant anniversary cake, I look up at Greg's smirk.
"Oh, nice try, but you are so helping with this monster." I laugh a real laugh, and it feels good.
The next day, I receive a certified carrier letter. There, in black and white, Mr. Damon Knyght is informed about the mix up between him and another donor. But, it also states a letter was sent to all affected parties. Since I never received any type of letter, there's still a chance, right?
Two weeks pass with no word from Damon. Feeling rather hopeful and positive about the turn of events, Alex and I sit icing cookies together. Well, I’m icing cookies. He’s doing more of a lick-the-icing-off-his-finger thing.
I laugh as he makes green and blue icing prints on the tray of his highchair, but my good mood falters with a knock at the door.
"Who could that be, huh?" I coo to Alex.
"Cookie," he announces.
"You think it's a cookie at the door?" Laughing, I wipe my hands on the towel over my shoulder and stand.
As I reach for the doorknob, I notice a missed glob of green buttercream on the knuckle of my ring finger. I pull open the door and instinctively put my knuckle to my lips.
"Can I taste?" His familiar velvety voice sends warmth down my spine.
My eyes meet his and I swallow hard, quickly pulling my finger from my mouth.
"What are you—?"
"I told you I'd be back." With a crooked smirk, he leans against the doorframe.
"We're busy. You should have called instead of just showing up. Sorry." Faking a smile, I push the door closed.
His arm juts out, stopping the door halfway before pushing it back open.
"Not so fast, Olivia."
He leans down, picking up two black leather duffle bags. Straightening with the bags in his hands, he steps around me and into my living room.
"What are you doing?" I snap.
"I'm here to see my family." He turns, looking at me from over his shoulder. "Should I put these in our bedroom?"