Disaster by Due Date – A One Shot
Marissa really didn't know why she was there, sitting in a bland waiting room, reading an out-of-date magazine, and waiting for a woman who had the ability to single-handedly destroy her life, but, nevertheless, there she was, accompanying Theresa to her doctor's appointment. It wasn't as if she didn't have better things to do. Despite it being summer break, she was busier than ever, working two part time jobs, giving tennis lessons at the country club and filling in shifts at a vintage record store, in an attempt to help Ryan out. According to his ex, the very same woman she was spending her morning with, he was going to be a father in another six months and that meant responsibilities and costs he wasn't prepared to handle yet at the tender age of sixteen. So, wanting to be the girlfriend he deserved, she had stepped up and taken some of the burden off his shoulders, working to save money for a child that wasn't even hers. It was a sacrifice she would make again though if it meant keeping Ryan in her life.
When she really thought about it, having two part-time jobs wasn't really that bad. Giving tennis lessons had provided her with an opportunity to, once again, play the sport she loved so much, and she got a killer discount on old albums and new CD's by working at the record store. It wasn't as if she would be able to spend time during the day with Ryan anyway, because he was working full time for a construction company, putting in long, tiring, physically exhausting hours six days a week. In fact, everyone was busy that summer, stepping up to do their part to help a boy who had so effortlessly made himself a place in all their hearts.
Sandy and Kirsten had been the greatest influence in keeping him in Newport, something Marissa would always be thankful for. At first, Theresa had insisted that he go back to Chino with her. Why she had been so adamant that her child be born in a medically inferior hospital system, she would never know, but the Cohens had denied her plea and basically ordered Ryan to stay in Newport with his family and friends in the home they had created with him. Seth was back to his old tricks, giving sailing lessons to the privileged children of their beachside community, and he had even voluntarily auctioned off a large portion of his comic book collection to start a savings account for what he was calling 'The Chino Prodigy.' Summer, too, had offered her services to help, and she was working for her father at the hospital, running errands, filing paperwork, and doing simple office tasks to earn money she felt she had the right to give to someone else. But none of their efforts would have been necessary if Theresa's pride wasn't standing in their way.
Marissa could understand the other woman's insistence that she pay her own way in life, but why she absolutely refused the Cohen's help when it came to taking care of her child, she would never know, especially since she was not against accepting monetary assistance from Ryan's friends. After finding out that Theresa was pregnant and making sure that Ryan stayed in Newport, Sandy and Kirsten had offered to add her to their health insurance, making sure that she and the baby would receive the best medical care available and not have to worry about paying for it. She had declined their offer, and, because of that decision, she and Ryan were now forced to find a way to pay the thousands of dollars having a baby would cost. If Marissa didn't hold a grudge against her boyfriend's ex for any other reason, she at least resented the fact that she was putting such undo financial pressure upon him.
But, all the same, here she was waiting for the other woman to finish with her checkup. No one else had been available to take Theresa to her appointment, and, despite the fact that she was only three months pregnant and fully capable of getting around on her own, Marissa had felt the need to accompany her. Perhaps it was instinct to take care of Ryan's child, maybe it was a sick sense of masochism, and, yet, it might just have been her inability to say no when someone seemed in need of her help, but, whatever the reason, she was there and determined to make the best of the situation. So, with that in mind, she had offered to treat Theresa to lunch after the appointment before dropping her back off at the Cohens where she was staying in the poolhouse and going into the club for several lessons she was scheduled to teach that afternoon.
"Everything is looking right on track, Theresa," the doctor's voice snapped Marissa out of her thoughts, "and, if everything goes to plan next month and that little one you're carrying behaves, we'll be able to find out whether you're having a boy or a girl."
"Thanks, Doctor Ramirez," the raven haired teen replied softly, offering her OB-GYN a warm smile. "I'm looking forward to finding out." Nodding towards the receptionist desk, she excused herself. "I'll see you next month."
Marissa knew what was to happen next: Theresa would make her next appointment and then they would leave, but, no matter what she did, she couldn't get up out of her chair. Something didn't feel right, and, as soon as the uneasy feeling washed over her, she realized why she had been so adamant that she take Ryan's ex to the doctor's. Although she wasn't an expert on babies or pregnancy, she and Ryan had been preparing for his son or daughter together for the past month. They read parenting books at night, watched movies, and even practiced changing diapers on one of Caitlyn's old cabbage patch dolls, and she precisely remembered that it wasn't until the fifth month that a child's sex was discernable on an ultrasound. Why would Theresa be able to find out the baby's gender the next month if she was only coming to the end of her first trimester? Suddenly living in Newport Beach where the scandals ran rampant and having Julie Cooper, an authority on operating a good con, for a mother were going to be two things in her favor. Theresa was trying to pull a fast one, and Marissa had an idea she already knew exactly what it was. All she needed was the proof.
"I'll be right back and then we'll leave," she said discreetly to the woman supposedly carrying her boyfriend's child. Signaling towards the ladies room to explain her departure, Marissa quickly left the other teenager standing there alone to wait for her. Once she was safely inside, she checked to make sure she was alone before she pulled out her cell phone.
"Seth's Seaside Sailing, how may I serve you?"
"I need your help."
"Cosmo girl," the curly brunette asked rhetorically for confirmation before continuing to ramble. "What's wrong? Did your magic flask let you down? I know it's pretty early in the day to be drinking, but you've had a stressful last couple of weeks. What with your Mom marrying my Grandpa, finding out you have to move into the haunted house on the hill, and finding out you're going to become an honorary step-parent to Ryan's unborn child, I guess no one could really blame you for imbibing a little bit. Who am I kidding," he continued with a derisive laugh, "it hasn't just been a bad few weeks, you've had a bad year."
"Thanks, Seth, you really know how to lift a girl's spirits," Marissa smarted back, "but, just so the record is straight, I haven't been drinking, and I'm not going to. I can handle Theresa's pregnancy, but that is what I'm calling about."
"Did something happen the 'The Chino Prodigy?'"
"No, mommy and baby are perfectly healthy. I just heard the confirmation from the doctor." Taking a deep breath, she pressed on. "This is more about uncovering a secret about the baby. How are you with a computer?"
"I've been known to wield a mouse with expert skill, I'm adept at pointing and clicking, and I might even have the ability to hack into confidential records…as long as the security isn't too tight."
"Perfect," she exclaimed with a wide smile that he couldn't see. Bracing herself for an onslaught of questions and, eventually, his answer for her request, Marissa posed a very important question. "How do you feel about breaking into the clinic's medical records?"
"I know you hate living here," Ryan commiserated, soothingly running his right hand up and down her bare arm while his left hand was firmly wrapped against her exposed abdomen in order to pull her closer to his body. They were sitting on a raft together in her pool, blessedly alone and enjoying the quiet that surrounded them in the warm summer night. "But you have to admit that this place does come with some really nice perks, especially when your Mom and Caleb go away for the weekend."
"It's the only time I like to be here," Marissa sighed as she turned her head into his shoulder and breathed in the scent that was purely her boyfriend, "when you're with me, and we're alone. The Cohen's poolhouse used to be our sanctuary, but, with Theresa living there, it's definitely lost its appeal."
"And it's practically impossible to get any alone time at your Dad's," he pointed out with a slight chuckle, "what with him and Hayley always hanging out there, and I don't know about you, but my idea of a perfect night is not double dating with your father and his much younger girlfriend who just so happens to be my sort of aunt."
"Especially since they're not shy about…expressing their relationship," she added with a shudder. "Never did I think as a teenager that my Dad would be more into PDA than I am."
"He's definitely ruined the idea of kissing in public."
"That's why this is so nice," Marissa agreed with him, carefully turning over so that she was facing him while still lying on top of his body. The movement caused only the barest of splashes to land upon them. "Nothing is better than you and me here by ourselves without anyone to interrupt us or anyone to make us feel uncomfortable." Proving her point, she dropped a quick, lazy kiss upon his lips. "Plus, it's very relaxing, and I know you could use some leisure time after the week you've had."
"It wasn't that bad."
"Ryan, you worked 72 hours this week, because you volunteer for all the overtime you can get, and it's not like you're playing on a boat with a fifth grader or recommending music in an air conditioned store; you're out there doing backbreaking labor under the summer sun."
"Hey," he argued, grinning wickedly at her, "I don't mind working up a sweat, and, for that matter, I know you don't either. I've seen you play tennis before. By the time you're done, you're thoroughly flushed and exhausted."
"Listen to you and all that innuendo," she teased, smirking at him. "Are you hinting at something?"
"It's not a hint, just….hopeful persuasion."
Their relationship had changed once she found out he wasn't leaving to go back to Chino, that he was going to stay in Newport, indefinitely, and raise his child there. While some would argue that she had perhaps initiated sex into their relationship as a way to keep him with her, they both knew that to be false. Because of their feelings for one another, it was more than just sex, and it brought them both comfort and made their connection stronger. After everything they had been through together and survived, they had agreed that it was the logical next step in their relationship, and, just to make sure that they weren't going to sleep together for the wrong reasons, they had discussed the issue on more than one occasion without embarrassment, without hesitation, and without awkwardness, a sign, Marissa realized, that they were really ready to embark upon an intimate relationship. Plus, unlike his experience with Theresa, they had both made sure they were as safe as possible, using both condoms and birth control.
"Well, I'll admit, a nice, pleasant night in bed with you does sound appealing," Marissa divulged.
"That is my favorite thing about your room," he revealed, "your bed."
"You are way too confident in your ability to get me into bed," she realized but couldn't help showering him with a loving, gentle smile. "But before we go upstairs, there's something I want to talk to you about, something that might make you change your mind."
"What do you mean?"
"Well…I don't think you're going to be too happy with me." Curious, he remained resting there, patiently listening and waiting for her to explain. "I did something that you probably won't approve of. Hell, I'm not proud of it either, but I felt it had to be done."
"You're being very cryptic, Marissa."
"That's because I don't want to say anything until I have my answer."
"Answer about what," he pushed her. "Can you give me some kind of hint here?"
"Okay, I'll tell you this much. I stumbled across a little bit of information that may help us out of this latest….mess."
"You mean Theresa and the baby?"
"Yes," she agreed, but quickly moved to reassure him. "Don't worry; no one is going to get hurt by what I'm working on. Actually," she revealed, "Seth's working on it. He's doing some research for me, research that I couldn't do myself, and, as soon as we know more, I'm going to reveal everything. I just didn't want to get your hopes up if it was nothing."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Ryan shrugged, clearly unsure of why she was so apprehensive about admitting her news to him. "Why were you worried that I'd be mad at you?"
Whispering, she confessed, "because Seth's research tactics are slightly illegal."
"What," she returned defensively. "I think we both know that you've broken the law before to help those you care about. Why is it so bad for Seth and me to do the same thing to help you? Don't you know yet how much we love you?"
"Maybe I don't feel like I deserve everything the two of you do for me," Ryan stated guardedly. "Maybe I don't think that I'm worth you risking your own neck."
"To me," she told him confidently, "you're worth everything."
"Alright," he agreed with a sigh, "then do what you have to do. I trust you."
"Thank you," Marissa said graciously. "Now, about that hopeful persuasion you mentioned earlier…."
She didn't have to say another word. With that simple statement, she was in his arms, the raft was floating empty behind them, and Ryan was quickly moving them towards the edge of the pool and the stairs that would take them up onto the patio. Leaving a trail of moisture as they went along, the young couple made their way through the large house, dropping various pieces of their swimming attire on the way, as they moved into the sanctuary of Marissa's bedroom to lose themselves and their troubles in each other. Despite everything against them, they were together, they were happy, and they were, in their own way, as perfect of a couple as they could ever be.
"So, Theresa," Summer queried, turning to face the woman who was technically her best friend's rival, "what do you plan on doing after the baby arrives? I mean, I know you'll be on maternity leave, but even you will need some help."
They were sitting around the Cohen's dining room table, all seven of them, as awkward and uncomfortable as the grouping was, having lunch a week later on a Sunday afternoon. He was sitting with Marissa on their own side of the table, Sandy and Kirsten on the far ends, and Seth and his girlfriend shared the other long side with his ex.
"Ryan will help me," the Hispanic teen replied quietly.
"I'm sure Atwood would love to help, but he'll be in school."
Ryan went to argue, to claim that they would all be on winter break right around the time that the baby would be born, but something about the expression on Seth's face and the force of Marissa's hand on his made him stop. This wasn't a casual conversation. Summer wanted to prove something.
Cautiously, Theresa argued, "no, he won't be in school."
"Oh, Yay," Summer squealed, "I didn't know we had off such a long break for Thanksgiving." Rapidly her mood changed and she turned to face her boyfriend, previewing her question with a pinch on the back of his neck. "Why didn't you tell me, Cohen?"
"The baby's not due in November," Kirsten corrected the highly strung brunette sitting to her right. "It's due in December, and your Thanksgiving break is of its normal length."
"I don't know what baby you're talking about, Mrs. C., but Theresa's kid is due right after Halloween."
Ryan watched as his adoptive parents exchanged confused, curious glances before narrowing their gazes upon his ex, as his adoptive brother actually quit eating to sit back and enjoy the show that was being performed before them, and as his girlfriend watched him for any sign of hurt or anger, just so that she could help him handle his emotions, whatever they may be.
"Summer," Sandy stated confidently, "that's impossible."
"Well then I don't get how they do math in the medical world," the volatile young woman countered, a perplexed expression on her pretty face, "but it sure as hell is different than the way I was taught in school."
"What do you mean," Kirsten wanted to know.
"Well, it's pretty simple," Summer replied looking at both her boyfriend's parents before pressing on. "When Coop went with Theresa to her appointment last week, she heard the doctor say that they'd be able to find out the baby's sex at the next visit. According to this friend of my Dad's, and between you and me, I think she would like it to be more than just a friendship, but that's just…ew, I don't want to think about my Dad's sex life, especially when I already know he's sleeping with the step-monster between her drug induced comatose bouts of depression."
"Please," Sandy begged, "can you get to the point?"
"Like I was saying, this doctor friend of my Dad's told me that it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to tell if a baby is a boy or girl before a woman's fifth month of pregnancy, but, if Theresa was due in December, she'd only be hitting her fourth month by the time she goes to her next appointment. That's why I just figured she was due towards the beginning of November."
Stumbling over her words, Theresa jumped in, "Marissa must have misunderstood what Doctor Ramirez said."
"You know, I thought of that, too," Summer admitted with a shrug, "but then I saw your medical records…."
"How the hell did you get my medical records," Ryan heard his ex explode, standing up from the table and facing the woman who was slowly shedding light upon the lie they had all believed without question. "That's illegal!"
"So is perjury," the petite brunette countered, "and, true, we're not in a court room, but Mr. C. is a lawyer, and I would think you'd have enough respect for the people who were providing you with a place to stay that you would tell them the truth."
"Summer, just tell us," Kirsten pleaded, "what did those medical records say. We'll deal with how you saw them later."
"They said the baby's exact due date is November third, and, true, it wouldn't be impossible for Ryan to be the father, but that would mean that he and Theresa had slept together while she was still living and working in Chino, that he would have had to sneak out the house to go and see her, because, obviously, the two of you wouldn't have known about this trip, and that he lied to Coop, something, through all their problems, Ryan's never done to Marissa. So, with that explanation a no-go, I can think of three things. One, Atwood was desperate for cash one day and made a sperm deposit at a fertility clinic, and Theresa bought his little swimmers. Two, there's some weird, freaky, Twilight Zone-esque, sexual telecommunicating going on, and Theresa got herself knocked up by Ryan by merely wishing and thinking about it, or, three, the kid's not Chino's, and she knew that the whole time. She knew that she was already pregnant when she came here to work and slept with Atwood, she knew that when she went back home to make it work with her boyfriend, the man whom I presume is the father, and she knew that when she came running back to Ryan with her black eye and unplanned pregnancy, hoping he would do what he always does and ride to her rescue. He can't help himself," Summer excused her friend, "he just has this annoying white knight complex, no matter how undeserving the damsel in distress may be."
"I'm just…I'm going to pack," Theresa excused herself from the table, avoiding everyone's eyes. If she had looked at them, she would have seen a mixture of anger, hurt, and relief washed over everyone's faces, but she didn't have the strength of character to confront her lie and live up to it. "For what it's worth," she whispered, "I am sorry. I was just….I was scared."
No one said anything to make her feel better. Perhaps their emotions were still too fresh to be gracious, but, without another word, she fled from the room and escaped into the poolhouse. Silence descended upon the kitchen as they all contemplated the mess their lives had just avoided and the one Theresa would now be facing alone all because one small truth had been revealed. Slowly, eating resumed and the meal continued but still no one said a word until Seth felt the need to put his own unique spin on the situation.
"I don't know about you," he quipped, taking a large bite of take out and talking around the food in his mouth, "but I think this would make one hell of a chapter for my graphic novel. I even have a title for it."
"This should be lame," Summer taunted him with a roll of her eyes. He simply ignored her before settling back in his seat, propping his arms behind his head, and looking around the table at the people he thought of as his family, a smug grin on his goofy face.
"Disaster by Due Date."