A/N: Thanks again to everyone who has continued to follow this story. I'm hoping to pick up the pace and get chapters out more quickly; my goal is to complete this story by the time I go away to college in the fall. So stay tuned, and please take a moment to review!
Two weeks later
Lucy walked into Body & Soul, her straight brown hair falling perfectly around her shoulders as she tentatively scanned the room. She was surprised to see the place busier than ever. Upbeat music was playing and there were at least a dozen customers working out. Initially she felt a burst of pride at seeing the business she had helped her cousin get off the ground obviously thriving, only to have her heart fall when she remembered that Rafe had been gone for over two weeks now. Other than a thirty-second phone call a day after he'd left informing her that he had gotten to his destination safely, she hadn't heard from him. He hadn't even told her where he was.
"Lucy, hi," Alison said, interrupting her thoughts. Lucy glanced up to see a slightly-tired looking Alison in a pink sweat suit approaching her with a smile. "It's so good to see you."
"Yes, you too." Lucy managed a small smile. Truth be told she did have some hard feelings towards Alison. She would never forget how broken Rafe had been that night in the park before leaving town, and she had done this to him. But she also believed that this situation wasn't entirely Alison's fault, and besides, she had made a promise to Rafe that she would keep an eye on his wife while he was away. "So, how are you? You look wonderful," she said.
Alison blushed. "Thank you. I'm...I'm okay. I mean, obviously I've been better, but I'm just taking it day by day, and I'm spending a lot of time doing stuff down here. I never really realized just how much work it was to keep this place up and running."
"Well it certainly looks like you're doing a fabulous job." She paused. "How are you feeling?"
"Well, unfortunately the morning sickness is still going strong and I have to pee every five minutes, but other than that I feel pretty good." At least physically, the blonde thought to herself.
"That's good, I'm glad to hear it." There was a brief awkward silence. Finally Alison couldn't hold it in anymore and blurted out the question that had been on her mind ever since Lucy had walked in the door.
"Have you heard from Rafe?" she asked quietly, hating every syllable. She had never thought that she would need to ask someone else if they'd heard from her husband.
"He called me about a day after he left. He told me he arrived safely, but didn't say where he was. Other than that, no." Lucy saw Alison's face fall slightly and she couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for the other woman. "Hey...Rafe's coming back, you know. He just needed to clear his head and sort through everything, but he'll be back. There is no doubt in my mind."
"I hope you're right," Alison said softly. "But I just...I feel like I'm in limo here. I feel like I'm waiting for something that I don't even know what it is. Without Rafe's consent I can't know for sure who the father of my baby is, I have no idea where my marriage stands, and every day is a day closer to this baby coming into the world, and I don't know what kind of life is going to be waiting for him or her. How am I supposed to plan for a baby when I don't even have control of my own life?"
Instinctively, Lucy reached out to touch Alison's arm. "It's going to be okay. This baby is going to be loved, you never need to doubt that. You're going to be an amazing mother."
"Babies need more than that, Lucy. I mean, come on, if anyone knows that it's you and I. We grew up without much of a family. We never really had parents. All my life I have sworn to myself that the day I have a child I will spare them from going through that pain."
"I know. I want more than anything for this child to be Rafe's and for the two of you to move past all of this darkness and have a wonderful family together."
"That's all I ever wanted too." Alison reached up to wipe a tear from her eye. "I'm sorry, I'm really emotional these days."
"Well you need to try to not stress yourself out like this, it's not good for the baby," Lucy reminded her.
"I know, I know. That's what I was trying to do with opening the gym again and everything, I thought that if I went ahead with business as usual it would help me feel more in control or something, but really nothing has changed. I don't know how to fix this," she confessed.
Lucy tilted her head, giving Alison a sympathetic glance. "Well the best thing you can do right now is take care of yourself and this baby. That's all you need to focus on. The universe will take care of the rest."
"I wish I had as much faith as you," Alison said with a sigh.
Lucy frowned. "Hey, you used to be the queen of faith. You saved Rafe's soul by making him fall in love with you when all the odds were stacked against it, you two overcame so much by having faith! You can't tell me that you're giving up on that now."
"I'm not. But sometimes it's really hard," she confessed.
"Um, excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me with one of the machines," a male customer asked from behind Alison.
"Of course, just a second," she said with a smile. She turned back to Lucy. "Well I have to go, but thanks for stopping by. It was good to see you."
"You too. Take care of yourself, and whatever you do, don't lose faith. I know that the universe will put everything right in the end," Lucy reassured her, squeezing her hand. Alison nodded in response. With one last smile Lucy turned and exited the gym. Alison took a deep breath and closed her eyes, composing herself before plastering on her brightest smile as she went to deal with the customer.
That night Alison trudged wearily up the steps to the apartment, her eyes beginning to close already. Just the thought of her bed was enough to make her collapse with relief. She turned the key in the lock and walked in, only to gasp loudly when she realized she wasn't alone.
"Hello Alison. I'm sorry if I startled you," Caleb said. He was standing across the apartment, leaning against the wall and studying her.
Alison glared at him. "What the hell are you doing in my house? You scared me half to death. Can't you use the door like a normal person? Oh, that's right, I forgot, you're not even a person at all."
"I simply thought that if I just knocked on the door you probably wouldn't let me in, and I needed to see you." He scanned her from head to toe in a manner that made her feel suddenly uncomfortable. "You look wonderful. Pregnancy agrees with you."
She closed the door slowly behind her. "What do you want, Caleb?" she said wearily.
"Is it a crime to check on the mother of my child?" He approached her, producing a stuffed animal from the inside of his jacket. "And I wanted to give you this, for the baby."
She had to suppress a smile at the sight of the sweet little stuffed lamb, taking a moment to marvel at the irony of someone like Caleb choosing such an innocent-looking stuffed animal. She took it from him cautiously. "That's very sweet of you, but remember that there is still no proof that this baby is even yours."
"Oh, still on that, are we?" he said dismissively.
She clutched the soft stuffed animal to her chest, looking up at him defensively. "Until I have proof one way or the other, I will not accept that you are the father of this child."
"Fine, if it's proof you want, we can get proof. There has to be some way to do a DNA test," Caleb said.
"Yes, there is, but the thing is that I would need Rafe's consent. And Rafe's...away," she said, avoiding Caleb's eyes.
Caleb considered that for a moment. "You do realize that there are ways around that little obstacle, if this is so important to you, that is."
She slowly looked at him again. "What do you mean?"
He gave her a look. "Come on, a smart girl like you and it never crossed your mind that you could get a test done on your own?"
"Are you telling me to go behind Rafe's back? Break the law?" Alison asked incredulously. "No, I'm never going to lie to Rafe again. I won't do that to him."
"Sweetheart, Rafe isn't here. No offense, but you don't even know if he's coming back."
"He is coming back. He just needed to get away to clear his mind and sort everything out, and I don't blame him. His world was turned upside down, he deserves some time to deal with that." It was her natural instinct to continue to defend Rafe, even though sometimes while she lied alone at night she almost hated him for leaving her like this, when she was most vulnerable. But she still couldn't stand to see Caleb- or anyone, for that matter, but especially Caleb- talk badly about her husband, no matter what the circumstances.
Caleb held up his hands. "Okay, whatever you say. But remember Alison, you need to put yourself and this child first. Rafe's removed himself from the equation by leaving you."
Alison didn't really know what to say. She found herself absentmindedly stroking the soft plush of the stuffed lamb. "Look, are we done here? Because I'm really exhausted."
He nodded slowly. "We're done. But hey, try not to work yourself so hard. It's not good for the baby." He started to head towards the door before pausing and turning back round to face Alison. "And don't forget about my offer. It still stands."
She definitely hadn't forgotten his offer to move in with him at the villa, in fact it had snuck its way into her thoughts more often than she'd liked. But she played it cool, answering simply. "I know. And thank you. For the lamb," she added quickly, holding it up.
He gave her a half-smile. "You're welcome." Suddenly he reached out and brushed a stray piece of hair out of her face with a surprising gentleness. "Take care, Alison." Before she could respond he showed himself to the door and let himself out.
She stood still for a few moments before slowly making her way to the bed. She propped the lamb against her pillow before sitting down to remove her shoes, shaking her head to try and forget about what had just happened. She hated the fact that the way he had touched her just now had...excited her. Was she crazy? This was Caleb, the man who put her and Rafe through hell so many times, who had deceived her by turning her wedding into a game controlled by him and set up to make everyone miserable in the end.
But something about the way he'd looked at her with genuine concern had gotten to her. She'd almost forgotten what it felt like to know that someone really cared what happened to her. Sure, she had Jack and Lucy, but somehow it wasn't quite the same. She knew that the main reason Caleb was being so nice to her was that he believes she's carrying his child...but she had a feeling that even if the baby turned out to be Rafe's, he would still care what happened to her. After all, she had almost considered him her friend once before all of this had started.
"What am I doing, stop thinking about him." Alison absently moved the stuffed lamb to the night stand, propping it against her alarm clock. She changed into her favorite nightgown and went to the bathroom to brush her teeth quickly before finally climbing into bed. She couldn't help but moan out loud at how good the warm covers felt around her after a long day. Alison placed a hand gently on her stomach, smiling to herself. "Good night, baby." As she reached over and turned out the light, the last thing she saw before closing her eyes was the little white lamb, staring back at her innocently.
TBC, please review!