A Secret Meeting

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School was weird enough with all the stares and whispers, but it was even worse knowing Cler wasn't on my side all the time. I mean, I knew she was, for a lot of things. She would always be my bestie and was crazy supportive.

However, that was when Heather and Maddox weren't around. It was like she was two different people. I didn't even feel like I could fully trust her, but what else could I do? She'd been my best friend for years.

I walked over to meet her before homeroom, and it was the same deal as every other morning. Cler would be talking to Heather and Maddox, and then as soon as I got close to them they'd walk away.

I'm literally just pregnant. I'm not contagious. I didn't even feel sad anymore, I was just pissed off. They were being so childish about it.

I leaned against the lockers and let out a really overdramatic groan so Cler would notice me.

"Hey, what's going on with you, preggers? Is it your feet again?" Cler asked.

"No, it's not that," I said. 

"Oh. Then what is it, Chrys? Jace being a deadbeat dad again?"

"I'm just like, really upset about Heather and Maddox. I'm your bestie and after all these years, those two don't even want to be seen with me! How can you still talk to them?"

"Well...I mean, they're still my friends," she said, backing closer to her locker. 

"But why? How can you—"

"Hey, what do you want me to do? Just stop being friends with them? Just because they don't want to talk to you doesn't mean that I don't want to talk to you. Sometimes friends have feuds. I can be friends with all of you."

"Cler, they literally don't want to be around me because they think they're going to get made fun of. It's ridiculous," I said, crossing my arms over my bump.

"Can you blame them? Do me a favor and look around," she said. I gazed over the hallway. I think I was so used to the stares and whispers that none of it got to me anymore. "I know it doesn't bother you, but it bothers Heather and Maddox. Heather has some other stuff going on, too. I can't talk about it." 

"That's what I don't get. Maddox said the same thing. What's Heather's problem? I was allowed to be there for her when her brother died two years ago, but I'm not allowed into her life now, because I'm pregnant? It makes no sense!"

"Okay," Cler said, her voice barely above a whisper. "She had an abortion over the summer. She didn't really want one but Maddox convinced her to get it. It's weird for them both to be around you, on top of all the gossip of you being pregnant."

I was getting pretty heated and wanted to say something back, but Cler's face went white as a ghost. She pointed to the stairwell behind me. I jumped when I turned around. I could just barely see Jace's shoulder by the wall.

"Look," Cler said.

I watched as his head peaked out and he nodded for me to come over. I remembered the photos in my backpack.

"I gotta go," I said.  

I looked both ways before following Jace to the middle of the stairwell. I didn't want anyone else knowing who the father of my babies was. Jace obviously didn't either.

"I'm honestly surprised you're here. You almost never show up to school," I said.

"Just enough days so I can have the credit to pass and leave this place," he said, eyes glued to his phone. When he tilted his head down, I could see a bruise underneath his sunglasses. "You got my pictures?"

I reached into my backpack and handed him one of the copies from last week's ultrasound.

"There they are. I'm sure Chase showed you already, though." I waited for him to say something back or at least leave. But he didn't. The bell for homeroom rang. I didn't care. "I wish you'd figure out what you want."

"What?"

"You know, you don't talk to me for months and then you ask for a copy of the ultrasound picture after you find out they're both boys! And that's legit all you have to say?"

"Don't know what else you want from me, maid," he said.

I wished so badly that murder was legal.

"I want to know what the hell your problem is! Do you want to be in the boys' lives or not? And if you do, then you better step up and actually care! Because I can see that you don't."

"That's easier said than done. You don't get it," he said.

"Jace, would you just tell me you don't want to be there already? Then you can sign the papers and never have to deal with them ever again."

"Hey, you got yourself into this mess by making me take the paternity test. If you didn't make me do that, none of this would be my problem. Do you even have any idea what kind of mess you've made for me?"

"Mess I've made for you? Are you kidding? I'm the one who's pregnant. You haven't done a single thing!" I crossed my arms. "I was kinda hoping after I proved they were yours, you'd step up and actually want to be involved! That you know, you'd actually kind of care."

"I do, though," he said. 

"What? No, you don't!"

"Yes. I do!" he said, his voice cracking.

I took a step back. He looked like he was going to tear up for a second. I looked at the bruise that was badly hidden by his sunglasses. My stomach dropped.

I thought back to that awful dinner a few months ago. The cheek pinch that left a mark. Could there be more going on than that?

"Jace, who's hurting you?" I asked. "You're not okay. I can tell."

"Mind your business."

"I don't want to. You're hiding something. I know you are! Someone is doing something to you. You're telling me you care but you can't show me. Chase said you snuck diapers into your room—"

"I did...but I don't have them anymore," he said, lowering his sunglasses so I could see his black eye. "And I'm not getting you anything else."

"I-I understand. I don't want anything else to happen to you."

"Knock it off with your sweet, goodie-two-shoes attitude! You shouldn't give a shit what happens to me after how me and my family treated you," Jace said.

"Okay. Just tell me what you want to do."

"It would be nice to have something in my life that matters, for once. I know I don't know shit about kids, but I hate being alone. That's why I constantly have chicks over. It's my only way to get some company that's not a cleaning lady or a butler. Sometimes I get tired of banging random sluts. Kids are something else to fill that dark void in my soul. I want partial custody. I won't give up rights to them, no matter what."

"Okay," I said.

"I'll call my lawyer and make a contract. And I want to name one of those kids, since they're half mine."

"That's something I can agree to. Did you have something in mind?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. For the first time ever, I saw an actual smile come across his face. "I like Blaze."

"Ew! That's hideous! That's not even a real name!" I covered my mouth. After everything that just happened, I really, really shouldn't have said something like that.

"You said I could name one. So one is Blaze, and you're gonna have to deal with that."

"Hey! Who's down there!" a gruff voice said. It was a hall monitor.

We instantly ran down the steps and went our separate ways. I tried to process what just happened when I snuck into homeroom. I didn't see Jace for the rest of the day, but he was on my mind all the way until I went to bed that night. I wish I knew how to help him.

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