Quarterback's Unwanted Baby(10)

By: Nicki Jackson

Gerard had been a part of her identity for too long. Now that she had lost him, she was trying hard not to feel like she was losing half her identity.

When he finally came toward her, his smile was wide and his heart was in his eyes. “God, I’ll miss you.” He wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug and clenched her tight.

Hartford melted into him but automatically released him after a few seconds. He didn’t. He held on, his breath hot against her ear, and his arms seemed to be getting tighter around her.

Hartford’s resistance evaporated. She buried her face into his shoulder to hide her face, her heart thrashing and twisting in agony. But they weren’t the feelings she’d thought she’d have when she’d cried on the night of the party.

Today, she knew she wasn’t going to see him again. She knew she wasn’t going to pursue him. She wasn’t just seeing him off; she was letting him go in the truest sense of the word.

She loved him. But she’d underestimated his ambitiousness and determination. She couldn’t blame him for wanting all the things he did. But she’d also assumed she meant something to him. Clearly, she hadn’t.

When he’d so casually told her to get rid of the baby, she’d been hit with the true intensity of her expectations from him, her feelings for him. They’d been a unit for so long. He was as much a part of her existence as her medical journals and volunteer awards.

When she pulled back, he wiped her tears off her cheeks. “I love you, Hart.”

Hartford didn’t say anything. She looked away. She wasn’t going to allow herself to be vulnerable to him again. She kept her mouth shut.

He clenched his jaws when she refused to reply. “Are you mad at me?”

“Not really,” she said truthfully. She was simply broken, and she was terrified that the damage was past repair.

“I’m sorry you had to go through the termination all alone. I knew I should’ve been with you, but it was so hectic.”

Hartford pursed her lips and slowly looked at him. She was crumbling, and she didn’t want to crumble in front of him. The last time she had, he’d abandoned her and left her all alone to fend for herself. For as long as she lived, she’d never expect anything from any man.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said.

He was about to say something when his father called him away, and then it was rush and hustle as he was surrounded by his friends and heralded toward the gates. She clutched a pillar, her legs giving way as she saw him leave. The moment was symbolic. It was her meek attempt at vindictiveness. She wasn’t going to tell him she wasn’t with him anymore. She was just going to disappear from his life. Just like he’d disappeared from hers when she most needed her.

She knew it was petty and it wouldn’t matter to him as much as it had shattered her, but she was only glad. She’d loved him, and she’d assumed they’d always be together. But as he looked back at her one last time and waved, she lifted her chin, suppressed the scream of pain bottled up inside of her, and forced herself to smile one last time, then turned around and walked away.

Chapter Three

Four Years Later

Hartford was just about to take the second bite out of her sandwich when she was paged. Knowing this would be the last chance to get food in her system for the next two hours, she quickly took two big bites before checking her pager. She dropped the sandwich into the disposable box it came in, snatched it up, and stalked quickly back out.

Her strides swift, she made her way to the emergency room. Her stomach rumbled for more food, but she wasn’t paying it any heed. She was used to skipping meals. She was used to putting her patients first. That had been her life for the past four years. It had only gotten way more hectic since she began her residency two months ago, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She was ecstatic for all she had accomplished. Her patients counted on her for more than their life. They counted on her for their livelihood, for their passion, for the ability to do what they loved.

She spotted the patient she was paged for. It was easy to spot the sports jersey in the ER. There was only one, but her throat went dry at the sight of it. A Nittany Lions uniform. Her steps slowed for only for a moment, and she shoved the memory away. She did not have time for it.

The football player was writhing in pain, and Hartford went to work, snapping instructions, asking questions, and all the time she refused to let the familiar Nittany Lions shirt remind her of the man she’d thought was the love of her life.

An hour later, she found her crumpled-up sandwich box on the counter. She flipped it open, but her appetite was dead. The football player hadn’t even been injured on the field; he’d merely twisted his foot very badly while getting off a bus near Baltimore.