Quarterback's Unwanted Baby(8)

By: Nicki Jackson

She jumped as Gerard walked right back in. He was still mumbling something. She panicked. “Gerard?”

“It’s okay,” he said, nodding to himself. Not even glancing at her. His eyes were fixed to a spot on the floor. Then he shook his head. “No.” His eyes met hers. “No, Hartford.”

Hartford’s limbs tightened at the crazed, wild look in his eyes.

“I have plans!”

Hartford’s entire body froze in confusion and rejection of the reality of the moment. It was as if someone had dumped iced water on her head, and it was slowly flowing down her body, freezing every inch that it met. Slowly, her shaking legs managed to carry her weight and she stood up. “What are you talking about?”

“I have plans, Hartford. I can’t have the responsibility of a baby.”

Hartford’s brows furrowed. “Gerard, I didn’t make myself pregnant on my own.”

He shook his head. “No. No way. I have plans.”

“Well, news flash, Gerard, so do I!” she cried.

“Don’t worry. I can help. I’ll pay for everything.”

The words hung in the air. He said them casually and calmly, his crazy-person tone not so crazy anymore. One moment he’d been comforting her, and the next he’d snapped. I have plans. Why was he not concerned with her life and what she was going through? Why had it all turned into something about him?

“You’ll pay for everything?” She couldn’t believe her ears. “A termination?”

“No.” He paused and his mind trampled over itself to come up with an explanation. “I can’t be a dad right now, Hart.” He choked back a laugh that was anything but gleeful. “It’s preposterous. I’ll help you pay for… whatever it is that you decide.”

Right. Termination. An abortion. That is what he meant. Her heart shut down completely, and she’d never felt such livid, liquid fury in her life.

“Hart…” He reached forward to clutch her shoulders. “I can help pay for whatever you need… abortion—anything you want. I don’t even know what your options are... and honestly, I can hardly think straight right now. But can you blame me? My life plans don’t consist of any children. I can’t deal with this right now. I have so much to do. I have so much to work toward.”

“My life. My life. My life. Mine. What had gotten into you?” she cried.

Gerard swallowed and pushed his hands through his hair, panic settling. Hartford’s fearful expression did nothing to calm the calamity that was brewing. “I don’t know what else to say. I’m trying to help.”

“Are you?”

His fury flared. The shock, the fear, the look on her face was too much to handle and process. “Hartford, how exactly does a baby fit into your life?” Then his expression faltered. “You’re actually considering… having it?”

Hartford hadn’t got that far. She’d come to him to sort out her own sordid thoughts. “I don’t know.”

He stepped back, wanting to be done with it, putting a distance between them and somehow hoping it would all dissipate when he did. “Just… I’m just going to pros.”

“And I’m going to start my M.D. You think I wanted this to happen? I can’t even believe we’re having this discussion.”

“You can stop it and it won’t change anything in your life.”

She was reeling. “Why is suddenly everything your life and my life? Why about our life? Have you always been this selfish and self-centered and I didn’t see it?”

Gerard drew back from the insult. “I’m not being selfish. I’m worried about you. As you said, you have your studies…” He was breathless as if he’d been running, but it was just the adrenaline, the flight response. He wanted this chat to be over. “Okay, let’s talk about you.”

“Wow, thanks, Gerard. You’re so kind. I’m surprised you finally got the chance to get off your high horse, and the high of your incredibly insane paycheck, and decide to look my way again.”

His face lost all color. “For Christ’s sake—”

“I came here for your support.” She shook her head and turned away, back to the door, regretting ever coming there in the first place.

He clenched his eyes shut. “I can’t even…” He tried to sort the words jumbling in his mind. “I can’t even feel like it’s relevant to me right now.”

Hartford’s heart skipped a beat, and she turned back around. It was a sadistic, self-tormenting move. She was watching a side of him she’d never seen before. “Oh.” Technically, she wasn’t relevant to his life right now.