“Yes,” Max said. He finished putting the treatment on. He removed his latex gloves and stapled the care instructions Trey insisted they all give the clients. The building site was shut down for a couple of days as they waited for a couple of permits that had failed to make inspection.
It wasn’t unheard of for construction to come to a halt, but this also meant he was close to his friends, which was the first time he’d been in a month. Between work and Aria, he’d not seen much of Trey or Dale, even though he knew the guys wanted to talk about his newfound relationship.
He followed the client out to the main reception, gave him the bill, accepted payment, and waited for him to leave.
Trey and Dale had finished with their clients, and it was only a few minutes before lunchtime.
He tried to avoid looking at his friends, going to the window to glance out at the street. Aria had started to get sick in the morning. Not only had she started to get sick, but she’d complained about sensitive breasts, and he’d also noticed she hadn’t stopped wanting sex. No menstrual cycle had shown.
The first condom Aria put on him had broken.
Running a hand down his face, by his calculations, she could be a couple months’ pregnant. It had to be.
“So, you and Aria,” Trey said.
Here it came. He turned to look at his friends. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”
“A couple of weeks.” Trey nodded across the road. “Are you playing with her?”
“If you are, I know Mols will be pissed.”
He let their questions hang in the air. They always assumed the worst of him. Always had and they probably always would. He didn’t have the best track record for anything, and he got it. He’d been an asshole most of his life, and would make no end of mistakes. But he wasn’t a bad person.
“I’m in love with her,” he said, speaking the words aloud for the first time.
“In love?” Trey asked.
“Yep. I’m in love with Aria Smith. The girl I bullied in high school that I don’t even remember bullying And here is another blinder for you both. I think I knocked her up.”
“Aria’s pregnant?” Dale asked.
“I think so.” He ran a hand down his face. “I’m not using her. This was never about using her or making fun of her. I like her, a lot. I can’t stop thinking about her every single day. The first night we slept together, I felt so fucking privileged to hold her in my arms. I have no intention of ever hurting her. You don’t have to worry about your women hating me. I’ll never give them a reason to.”
“Wait, she’s pregnant? Does Aria know?” This was Trey.
“Nope,” he said. “She thinks she caught some kind of bug even though she can no longer stomach that black shit she used to drink. The coffee was way too strong.” He rubbed at his temples, stressed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re going to have to tell her.” Dale and Trey spoke up at the same time.
“How? How do I open up that conversation without her hating me? The condom broke, and I didn’t say anything about it.” He knew he should have, but what if she’d tried to handle it with the morning after pill? Gripping the back of his neck, he cursed. He’d taken the choice right out of her hands, and now he was fucking shit scared of losing her. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Love wasn’t meant to be complicated.
“You’re going to have to tell her,” Trey said.
“The longer you leave it, the harder it is going to be for the two of you.” Dale added his advice.
“I know. Are we good here? I need to go and see her?” he asked. He wasn’t a good tattoo artist. He did enough to get by.
“Sure,” Trey said. “Thank you for your help today.”
He nodded, grabbing his jacket from out in the back, and heading on over. June and Molly were serving on the counter, and he looked at each of them in turn. “I want to take Aria out for a bit. You guys going to be good doing this?”
“Of course,” June said.
“Trey told you?” he asked.
“He sent a text.”
“Good.” He didn’t want to get into it right now. Moving around the counter, he went into the back, finding Aria at the kitchen counter. She looked pale and tired. He hated seeing her like this. Staring at her body, he wondered if he could imagine the baby there, inside her.
“Hey, babe,” he said.
“Max, what are you doing there?” She walked away from the counter, rushing up toward him, wrapping her arms around his neck, and kissing him. “I missed you.”
Not once had she told him she loved him. He knew not to expect anything from her. He’d never
been the kind of guy to be needy or demand affection. With Aria though, he was breaking every single one of his rules.
“What is it?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I think we need to go somewhere to talk.”
“It sounds serious.”
“We just need to talk. June and Molly can handle everything here.”
“I’ll, erm, grab my jacket.” She pulled away from him, and all he wanted to do was hold her close, to never let her go.
Gritting his teeth, he waited for her, knowing by the end of the day, she could hate him. This wasn’t how he wanted their relationship to go.
Aria didn’t keep him waiting. She’d changed out of her apron, and she wore a jacket. Her hair was still tied at the nape of her neck. To him, she looked stunning. Once again, he took her hand. While he could do so, he was going to use every single excuse available to him to hold her in some way. He didn’t want to let her go. He wanted to hold her, love her, and be with her, forever.
He’d never had the staying kind of power, but Aria had changed him. She’d fucked with his head, and now he wanted things he’d once laughed at.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“A little tired. Kind of worried about you.”
“You’re not feeling sick?”
He walked them to the park, a place where kids were, and he knew they’d be able to talk without much interruptions.
On arrival, there was a spare picnic bench, which he took her to. It was far enough away from the kids who were playing.
“I’m not feeling sick.”
“Aria, there’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
She nodded and leaned forward. “I’m pregnant.”
Max paused. “What?”
“I’m pregnant. I took the test before work this morning. I’d bought the test a couple of days ago. I realized I’d missed my period, and I’m like clockwork. I’m pregnant.”
Max felt his eyes fill with tears. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry. I’ll understand if you don’t want to be involved in our baby’s life.”
“No, no,” he said, kissing her hands. “I want to be involved. Erm, I … the condom broke. Before you were on the pill. It broke, and I didn’t say anything.”