Everett cleared his throat, inhaled deeply, then he felt ready to meet the new client.
He may favor his father and grandfather in appearance, but did not inherit the outgoing confidence of either of them.
With a sigh he now exited the car and crossed the large parking lot towards the hotel entrance.
He was on the shy side, usually quiet until talked to and with a kind, soft heart like his mother and had been this way since he was a child.
Normally this wasn’t much of an issue in his books, but whenever he had to meet clients it became one. Most of the time Katie would be with him, who was very outgoing and not one bit shy, so she would start the conversation and lead most of it until it came to the technical parts, which was Rett’s domain. Tonight she could not make it, leaving him alone with his worries.
By now he had reached the reception to announce himself and was told that his party would be down shortly, then shown to a seating area in the lobby, where he sat down, looking through his phone to pass the time.
It only took a few minutes, if that long until he heard his name. Shy or not, he would have been speechless regardless when he saw who it was.
“Maddie!” he exclaimed.
“Hi Rett. Sorry about all this. I … had to. Let me introduce myself: Mr. Smith. Or better, his imaginary secretary.” she smiled shyly.
“I think I will go now.”
“Rett please. This is not what you may think. I need your help. Really.”
“So you are planning to remodel or build? Unless you need my architectural services I am out of here …” he asked, obviously not pleased with this situation.
She shook her head, but something in her demeanor made him stay as she sat down next to him with an old familiarity that seemed out of place.
“Can we talk? I swear it will all make sense.” Maddie asked.
“Sure, all ears.”
“In private. I mean really without all these ears around.”
The lobby had filled up now, and there was a dull roar making a private conversation hard.
Everett looked around. It was not that unusual to meet new clients in hotel lobbies and he realized that any minute someone who knew him could walk in and see him with his ex-girlfriend.
In a hotel.
“OK, Rett, this hotel has a pretty decent restaurant. Can we go there?” Maddie pointed at an arched entrance behind him and Rett noticed the faint but typical sounds of a restaurant.
“OK, I cannot go in like this. Let me run up and change, won’t take more than 3 minutes, promise!”
Maddie kept her word and was back down in a maxi dress at record speed.
Once seated, neither of them hungry, they ordered drinks.
Everett felt he needed one for his nerves.
Situations like this overwhelmed him, rendering him near speechless and barely able to move.
His father – or grandfather – would have known how to react without causing a scene. All he felt capable of was be quiet and go along to avoid any drama.
“I forgot how pretty Newcrest is…” Maddie began with small talk, which Everett had no interest in.
“Maddie, why am I here?” he asked impatiently.
“I am in trouble Everett, and you are the only one I could turn to.”
“What about your parents. You guys are close.”
“No. We WERE close. My dad had high hopes for us, meaning you and me. When that failed, he was so disappointed. And mom just went along. Until I found out I was pregnant …”
Everett’s mouth fell open ….
“Don’t even recognize me anymore, huh?”
Katie turned around, her mouth opened when the man who had addressed her placed his coffee cup on the table she was sitting at before taking a seat uninvited.
“In the flesh. I see you got yourself knocked up. Congrats, I suppose.”
“Umm .. thanks?”
“Good thing I ran into you. Ever since you left I had no idea where to find you. Are you still with that strange nerd? Brad?”
“Rett, and yes, that ‘nerd’ is now my husband.”
“Congrats, I guess. Again. I wouldn’t know, since nobody invited me to the wedding.”
Katie blushed. Awkward!
“Sorry. So much was going on and ..”
“Save it Katie. But you can make it up to me by helping your ol’ uncle out.”
“Matt, I really do not have money like that …”
“Yeah, right. I saw your new ride. And I am not an idiot. I did some research. That nerd husband of yours is Liam Cameron’s son and Natalie Cameron’s brother. Are you kidding me? No money?”
“Everett and I do not take their money. We work for our living.”
“At his own BIG ASS company? Come on Katie…”
“OK, how much?”
“Tempting. But I need a place to stay. I am getting foreclosed on. My ass is gonna be out on the street right about .. well, I guess I am already technically homeless. Decided I didn’t want to be home for that shit.”
“OK, we’ll get you booked into a hotel.”
“Oh no. I prefer to stay with family.”
“Uncle … no.”
“Oh. I seem to remember that when you needed a place to stay, I opened my home to you without playing hard to get. Guess that wasn’t worth much to you, or you already forgot.”
Katie felt backed against a wall. Her uncle was right, he had helped her out when she needed a place to stay.
“OK, let me talk to Rett about this. Or maybe his parents could help out. Where can I reach you?”
“Just let my secretary know. Seriously Katie, were you not listening? I am out on the street.”
“Fine, come with me…”
Everett had no words as he took a big gulp of his Martini.
“After I told them, dad was furious and kicked me out. I have not spoken to him since. I meet with mom secretly.”
Rett’s thoughts did somersaults in his head.
“Are you okay, Rett?”
“Fine.” He said and took another gulp, then waved at the waitress for a refill. He was not okay. Not one bit.
“Wanna see pictures?”
“The kids. Since you are about to have one, I figured you may be interested.”
“KidS? Plural?” Everett’s face got pale.
“Yes, twins. Two girls, Hope and Faith.”
“And you want me to … pay?”
“Pay? No. I was hoping I could … stay with you.”
“Stay? With? Me? What?!!!” Rett thought he was in some nightmare.
“Rett, I am sure you have a guestroom. However small, it will help. I need to leave. My husband, he is abusive. I do not know how much longer I can protect my children. I cannot go to my parents. They do not condone divorce or separation, especially if there are kids and father tells me it’s my fault, I provoked my husband.”
“Husband?!” Everett parroted.
“Yes, husband. The father of my twins.” Maddie seemed confused about having to explain it.
“Oh!” Everett exhaled, the relief he felt apparent in his face.
“Wait, you thought the girls were … yours? Ha, I should be so lucky. Sorry that was uncalled for but to be fair, I was not the one who broke us up. Nor would I have ever. And that sudden breakup forced me straight into my husband’s arms … and bed, without even dating long enough to realize what he really was like. I got pregnant right away, so he married me after only 3 months of dating – if you can even call it that – he never wanted a family, and if, not two girls but one son. To make matters worse he got laid off, took to drinking … you know, the same old story. And me in the middle of it. All alone. Aside from my sweet girls, the apples of my eyes. You thinking they were yours is funny, ironic and sad on so many levels, not alone because ever since finding out I was expecting until even now sometimes I dream and imagine what my life would have been like had they been yours … and you my husband instead of that louse I married. I bet my life would be very different.” she seemed saddened.
“Wow, your husband sounds … bad.” Everett was still at a loss for words and just tried anything to steer the conversation away from the uncomfortable issue.
“If he knew I was here, talking to you, he would kill me.”
Everett thought to himself ‘If Katie knew I was here talking to you, she would kill me too!’
“Everett, please, I will tell you everything, but not here. I have a room, just for the night. I will show you everything and tell you all you need to know to believe me. Please.”
Everett saw desperation in her eyes. She had been his very first girlfriend ever. They did have good times and he knew her to be warm and caring. She was a doctor, so it was a given. And it had been him who left her high and dry after admittedly stringing her along when he already knew he loved Katie. Not the best way to go.
“Ok.” he agreed quietly.
He paid, then went to her room with her, feeling iffy all the way but also pity for her.
The entire time he felt as if he were doing something he shouldn’t be.
He could not abandon her now. What if it all were true? What if she and her children were in danger?
She opened the door and let him in.
They stood around awkwardly for a while until she broke the silence.
“Rett, I know this is more that awkward. Maybe it is wrong. But I had no choice. I really need someone in my corner and the only one I could ask is you. Most of my friends are married with children in small homes, hardly anybody even still lives near.”
“Just what exactly do you want me to do, Maddie. Judging by your choice of hotel, you are not hurting for money. Just rent a place for you and your kids, file a restraining order and get divorced.”
“Rett, I am afraid it is not that easy. Once I am gone, with the kids, he will kill the credit cards. We have joint accounts with him as the main account holder. Dumb, I know, but didn’t think anything of it then. I don’t get paid badly, but also not stellar as a general practitioner in a small town. I need to live somewhere safe for the kids for a while until all this is sorted out. Again, I know I am asking a lot, Rett, but you are a kind man and I hope you have not changed …”
Her voice broke and she started crying.
Everett could not take it. It felt genuine. So he allowed her to lean against his shoulder, gently patting her back.
Once she had calmed down some, he asked her to explain everything to him, as he pointed to a comfortable seating arrangement in a corner.
She agreed and began telling a terrible tale of abuse and neglect, of a controlling husband and terrible father who would be a nice person on the surface to everyone else. Except his wife and children.
Unless she was a better actress than his sister Natalie, this was real and she truly was desperate.
“OK Maddie, I cannot make any promises now, as you know yourself, this is not an easy situation. Let me see what I can do and I will be in touch as soon as I know more, okay?”
“Thank you Rett. You really are a great guy. Hope Katie realizes how lucky she is.”
Once all the typical topics had been covered and enough of the usual hugs had been exchanged, Everett came straight to the point.
“Mom, dad, I have something to discuss with you. Basically a favor I need.”
“Oh anything, baby. You know daddy and I will always be here for you. What do you need?” Leonie told him warmly, while Liam was suspicious.
“Hold on there Leo. I am not liking this. There’s something fishy here…”
“No, dad, not fishy. Just … unusual. I need you to listen to me, okay?”
“Of course, honey. Liam, really!?” Leonie gave her son a soft look and her husband a warning one, who in turn shrugged defeated.
“You guys remember Maddie, right?”
“I just saw her. She needs help. It’s ..”
“How much does she want?” Liam barked.
“Liam!” Leonie warned again.
“Not like that dad. She needs a place to stay. Not on good terms with her parents after the pregnancy …”
“PREGNANCY!? Oh, here we go! So she wants to move herself and your supposed kid in with you? How cute! Always the old story!” he roared angrily, the lion in him coming out to protect his cub.
“Dad no! She never claimed the children were mine. She has an abusive husband and he beats her and the kids. Her parents won’t help. I cannot offer my home, for obvious reasons but you have so much room…”
“Your dad means of course we will help, right Liam!?”
“Leo, she is his EX-GIRLFRIEND!”
“So? You want to leave her in an abusive relationship? Do I have to remind you what that is like?” Leonie was referring to a similar situation at her parents’ home once when they were still teenagers, where a very dominant father almost made sure that there would never be a Liam and Leonie and who was very demeaning and abusive to his wife and daughter, while grooming his son, Leonie’s older brother, to be just like him.
Liam felt defeated. That was never a good situation. But having his son’s ex-girlfriend move in with her children, while he and his wife were excited about Katie and Rett soon having their first child together? They both loved Katie like a daughter. This had potential to cause big problems.
“Guys, we have not seen Maddie in what, over 6 years? And just have her and two children we do not know move in? How old are those kids anyway?”
“6. Twin girls.”
“Have her come over. We’ll talk. And if we feel comfortable, we’ll have her and her children stay for as long as they need to.” Leonie offered softly.
“Emphasis on temporarily. Few days. Maybe a week.” Liam added quickly.
Everett called Maddie and she was there in less than an hour.
The meeting went well.She truly was a nice girl, if you dismissed her possessive jealousy towards the end of her and Rett’s relationship. Could anybody really blame her? She had not been wrong about Katie and Rett.
Everett felt a pang of guilt.What Maddie definitely did not deserve was an evil husband and her parents to turn their backs, nor did the innocent kids deserve distant grandparents. Everett remembered his maternal grandfather and knew how much that hurts.
It was agreed that she and her children would stay with the Camerons until further notice, while Maddie filed for divorce.
Liam warmed up to the idea and both he and Leonie secretly loved having children in the home again. While they had grandkids now, they were still babies and would be for a while and it wouldn’t be until they reached at least toddler age that you could really play much with them. So they lived vicariously through Maddie’s children, watching them until she got off her shift, even picking them up and dropping them off at school.
Everett entered his home and found Katie in the kitchen cooking.
“Hey baby. I have something to talk to you about.” he told her after the usual kiss.
“I have something to discuss with you as well.”
“Ok, ladies first.”
Katie gestured with her head towards the couch, and when Everett looked he saw her uncle sitting there.
“He’ll be staying with us for a few days. Week tops…. sorry.”
“All right, that’s her. Are you ready – and are you SURE you wanna do this?” Jake asked nervously.
“Are you?” Marty asked him back.
“If you want to do this, I am going to be fine with it. But you have to ask her.”
They opened the door and invited the young woman with the dark, curly hair in. For a moment there was an awkward silence, then introductions were made and she was shown to the living room.
“Kassi, Marty and I have a big favor to ask you…”
“More a suggestion. Or an arrangement. Yes an arrangement, beneficial to all of us.”
“Okay?” Kassi looked back and forth between the two men.
“We would like to have a child and would like you to help us with that.” Jake said.
“Huh?” she asked, taken aback.
“We’d pay!” Marty added.
“Marty! But yeah, we would of course reward you financially for all the distress and pain from carrying a child, in case this will be successful…” Jake rephrased Marty’s statement.
“But you have to sign something waiving your parental rights on the child, and letting me adopt him or her …” Marty added again.
“IF there even will be a child.” Jake said.
“So … how are you imagining this? Artificial insemination?” Kassi asked.
“Ummm … no … more simple … kinda like … most people get there … just … with this as the goal, rather than … for pleasure …” Jake blushed deeply, while Marty pulled a face and Kassi looked shocked.
“Sorry what? You – or you – want to sleep with me to get pregnant? And pay? I am pretty sure that is not even legal….” Kassi looked very surprised.
“It would be me. Since you and I kinda … you know … go way back and have done this sorta thing before. And yeah … but … you could use the money and going the official route is just too complicated and too many rejections already. We tried.” Jake told her softly.
“Okay. I’ll do it. With you. No offense there Marty, but I don’t even know you …” Kassie agreed quickly.
“None taken. I am not too keen on this part anyway …” Marty frowned.
The rest was mere symantecs and while Marty excused himself to go jogging .. for a few hours as he did not want to witness what would be next, Jake and Kassi did the deed.
Jake felt weird, but Kassi seemed to enjoy herself, making Jake wonder about whether this was a good idea. When she kissed him way too heated for just a plain business transaction, he realized why she likely agreed so fast. Now he felt guilty, and hoped he had not accidentally given her false hope.
He loved Marty and only wanted Marty.
When she had showered and gotten dressed, she even kissed him hard after he gave her the first part of the agreed amount.