Anger was an ugly thing, something vile and vicious. Even so, it felt fucking amazing to give Chris everything he deserved. This piece of shit didn’t even want to be with Terri. He was being bribed. How did he think he was going to get away with any of it? How much were Mr. and Mrs. Cato paying him to get back together with Terri? How was paying a man who very clearly wanted nothing to do with Terri or the child going to fix anything? This was a temporary fix, nothing more. If I had any say in the matter, he would never see the light of day again. The next few seconds were a blur in my memory. I couldn’t remember the moments leading up to it, but I was able to enjoy the sensation of my knuckles cracking against Chris’ jaw.
The party came to a screeching halt.
I was in the middle of admiring the Diaper Genie that Aunt Matilda gifted me when the fight broke out. To call it a fight would have been an over exaggeration, though. Chris looked absolutely pathetic, too small to even defend himself against the furious blows of Joe’s fists. I’d never seen him that angry, so blind with rage. Chris whimpered and cried, sounding more like a whining little girl than a man. The beer bottle he’d been holding was now lying on its side, foaming all over the floor. His nose was all bloody, red stream down from his nostrils and staining his teeth bright red. Joe was on top of him, clutching at the collar of Chris’ shirt while he beat him senseless with his free hand.
“How could you do this to her?” he roared, voice shaking the entire apartment.
I instinctively got up to see what on Earth was going on, but my mother grabbed me by the arm and held me close. Max was the one to rush over, pulling Joe off Chris. My big brother was by no means weak, but even he seemed to struggle to intervene. Max managed to grab hold of Joe and pull him away, the latter of whom was huffing angrily and beet red in the face.
“You’re a son of a bitch, Chris,” Joe snapped.
“What is the meaning of this?” my father demanded bitterly. “Get the hell out.”
“Have you lost your mind?” hissed Max. “Stop it, Joe! We’re at a baby shower, not an MMA fight!”
Joe snarled. “Terri deserves better than you. She deserves so much better than you.”
“Joe,” I called shakily, “what’s going on?”
“They paid him off.”
“Your parents, Terri. They paid Chris to come back and marry you so you wouldn’t have to raise the baby by yourself.”
I looked to my mother in horror. “Is this true?”
She pointed her nose up, too proud and too stubborn. “Don’t listen to him, mija. He’s crazy.” My mother glared at Joe like she was trying to burn a hole into the center of forehead. “I can’t believe you’d accuse us like that, Joey. How long have you known us? Absolutely ridiculous. I’m so hurt.”
I turned to face Chris, who was now climbing to his feet. “Is it true?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stop the bleeding. “Of course, it’s true. I told you already, keeping the baby is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. Didn’t you think it was weird that I showed up all of a sudden singing a different tune? I seriously hope the baby doesn’t end up as stupid as you are. Fucking ow this hurts. Someone call the cops, I’m going to press charges!”
Sound faded into the distance, drowned out by the beat of my racing heart and blood rushing past my ears. The tips of my fingers felt terrifyingly cold, but the rest of my body was burning hot like fire. Everybody was staring at me. The look of shame and disgust on my mother’s face told me everything I needed to know. Chris was telling the truth. I’d once again fallen for his sweet words, too wrapped up and excited with the prospect of having him around to raise the child to see him for what he really was: a liar.
“I… I can’t believe this,” I wheezed.
“No! Stop! Don’t ‘mija’ me. I can’t believe you’d do this!”
I yanked myself from my mother’s grip and headed straight for the door, ignoring her calls after me. I needed a way out, an escape. My legs carried me as far as they could, lungs burning as I ran down the street. There was no destination in mind, no plan. As far as I was concerned, plans could screw themselves. My world was crumbling around me because I’d tried too hard to get ahead, tried to make sure everything was perfect for me and the little one. But the truth was I still had no idea what I was doing. Even if Chris wasn’t a scumbag, even if he really had changed, would us being together have even helped? Any love I had for him had dissipated the first time he told me he didn’t want the baby. There was nothing left between us. If he’d gone through with marrying me, we would have been trapped in an unhappy marriage. Who knew what kind of effect that could have had on the baby?