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It was a spilt-second decision – one that would alter the course of her life and possibly take her from sad sod to happy woman. Of course, she didn't know it then; she was hungry and her stomach just gave yet another rumble, and really, having to deal with bills and irate customers for hours while standing on her poor feet probably drove her a little crazy. That momentary insanity caused her to shove her way past a tall man, wincing as his dark hair brushed past her face.
Then she was suddenly caught by the arm, and thrown back, only to find herself being glared at. The aggressor was a man, tall, oriental and somewhat good-looking, but she was not at all pleased to find his hand holding her roughly by her right arm.
"Excuse me?" Allen said.
"Watch where you're going, you little miserable freak," the man growled, his eyes narrowing into a furrow.
"Oh, you she-male?"
"What did you just call me, you Moyashi?"
"Moyashi? What is that!" Allen snapped and pulled her arm away. It hurt where his fingers had clutched at her. Her stomach protested, and she paused. "Oh, never mind."
Food was still the top priority, and therefore, with one last glare at the long-haired man (was he a hippie?) Allen moved off towards Jerry. She collected her food and then walked away to a table at the end where her friends were sitting.
"Allen," Rhode said, "what's up with you?"
"I… I'm just tired."
"Is that so?" Tyki asked, twirling his cigarette smoothly in the air. The smoke drifted up towards the ceiling and Allen watched its path, her eyes half-closed.
"You're acting weirdly," Tyki observed.
"I'm tired. Really. Thanks for the concern."
"Where's Link?" Rhode queried, her golden eyes scanning the eatery. "I don't see a trace of him."
"That's true." Tyki leaned forward. "He's usually hanging around you."
"I – he – he left last night."
"I don't know, Rhode. He has business somewhere else, I suppose."
"Where?" Tyki asked.
"Asia's a big place," Tyki remarked, his fingers curling around the white edges of his cigarette.
"We quarrelled, if that's what you're getting at, Tyki."
"Oh. I'm sorry." Tyki reached out and patted Allen sympathetically on the back.
"No, it's okay. Sometimes I wonder why we're still together. Maybe it's about time to reconsider. But that's not the point, guys. I'm going to Dr Bak's later."
"You're sick?" Rhode looked surprised, her usually narrow eyes now large.
"Uh, no. I'm going to be a surrogate, remember?"
"Aren't you afraid?"
"No, Tyki, I'm not. I need to… do something to ease the guilt."
"Take care, Allen," Tyki said. "You know we're here if you need us."
"Yeah, I know. Thanks." Allen managed a smile and looked ruefully at her empty plates. "I didn't know I was eating that fast."
"You didn't?" Rhode asked, laughing. She twirled her fork in the air, potato chunk still stuck at the end. "I was looking at you eat. I feel a little sick. The speed was too fast. "
"Lenalee, we don't have to go through this if you're not ready."
"No, Lavi, I want to do it. For you. For me."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It's you who needs to be sure. I've made up my mind a long time ago."
"What if you don't get along with the surrogate?"
"What if you fall in love with her?" Lenalee retorted.
Lavi shifted in his armchair. "Must we go through this again?"
"I'm sorry." Lenalee put her fingers to her temples. "You must be as nervous and anxious as I am."
"My poor darling," Lavi said, reaching over and drawing her slim hand into his own. "We'll make this work, trust me."
"Mr and Mrs Bookman?"
Lavi and Lenalee looked up. A nurse with plaited hair and a clipboard in her hands smiled shyly at them.
"Please follow me. Dr Bak is ready to see you."
The couple rose and Lavi slid his arm around Lenalee's shoulders. He squeezed her left shoulder gently as they walked towards the doctor's office. The nurse knocked on the door and opened it, gesturing for the couple to enter the consultation room.
"Thank you, Lou Fa," Dr Bak said and smiled at his patients.
Lou Fa left the room, and Dr Bak offered his patients some tea. "Hello. How're you two feeling?"
"Fine," Lenalee said and managed a small smile.
"Are you ready? Your surrogate is waiting in the next room."
"Yes we are." Lavi's one green eye was bright and alert. "We are fully committed to this."
"Mmm." Dr Bak got up and opened the door into the adjoining room. "Allen?"
A young woman walked into the room. She was slim and slightly pretty. Lavi stared at her hair; it was white and fell gently about her shoulders. Lenalee stared at her scar: it was angry and red and ran down her left cheek. The young woman smiled at the couple, and offered her hand.
"This is Allen Walker," Dr Bak said. "This is Lavi Bookman and his wife, Lenalee."
"Nice to meet you, Mr and Mrs Bookman!"
"Just call us Lavi and Lenalee," Lavi said. "So, Allen, are you sure you are ready to be a surrogate? You look really young. Are you doing this for the money alone?"
"I must say, the financial part was a big draw, initially. It still is, to be honest." Allen blinked. "But, I'm not that young. I'm twenty-seven, actually. And… I will definitely respect you and the child I will be carrying. I have an obligation to fulfil."
"I… did something in the past that I have never forgiven myself for. I think helping a couple to get some happiness is one way I can atone for my sins."
"Oh," Lenalee replied. "If you put it this way…"
"I'm sure Allen will be a great surrogate," Dr Bak put in.
"Yeah," Lavi concurred. "But – do you have family members to be accountable to?"
"My former guardian doesn't give two hoots about what I do. Anything that brings in money is fine by him."
"Any boyfriend or husband, though?"
"I do have a boyfriend, but he's overseas and won't be back in the foreseeable future." Allen's grey eyes swept downwards. "It doesn't matter what he thinks, anyway."
Lenalee patted the girl's hand sympathetically. "I see. What do you do for a living?"
"I work here, actually. On level three of this building."
"I run Judgement."
"The wine shop!" Lavi laughed. "I always get our wines from you. But I've never seen you around before."
"That's not surprising. My ex-guardian, Cross, used to run the counter until about a month back. Then he disappeared and since then, I've had to run the whole place myself."
"I think you're going to be a great surrogate, Allen." Lenalee smiled gently. "I believe we'll get along just fine."
"Me too," Lavi agreed. "I think you don't know us. We all work here as well. I'm a lawyer. My grandpa and I own Bookman & Bookman. We're the best lawyers around here."
"I see," Allen said, her lips lifting into a half-smile. "That's interesting."
"Indeed." Lavi produced his name card with a flourish. "If you ever need any legal help, please feel free to contact me."
Lenalee laughed and hit her husband playfully. "Ignore him, Allen. He gets a kick out of doing that. Well, I own Dark Boots. You know the shop?"
"Uh, it's an apparel shop?"
"More or less."
"I haven't been there before. But I heard some customers talking about your shop before – they said the quality is good and all that."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Me too," Lavi muttered. "Because we really need to start a conversation about the quality of clothes and baubles right now."
"So…" Bak said, anticipating that time was short and he had other patients to deal with, "since you are all pleased with one another, can we all sign the forms now? I've briefed you about the procedures and Lavi here knows the law, so I gather we know enough to start signing now. Then we can move on to the procedure proper."
"Sure." Allen signed on the dotted line.
That night, Allen rested at home. Home, to her, was a dilapidated apartment just blocks away from the mall. The rent was low, which helped to lower the amount she had to fork out every month, and really, it was all Cross Marian's fault. The fluorescent lights were giving out, and she didn't even have money to replace them. Soon she would be living in darkness. With luck, she might be able to buy candles. How romantic.
Flipping her blue-and-white clamshell phone open, Allen amused herself by looking at the photos saved within her phone. She laughed at the photo of her friend Narein – because in that ancient photo he was trying to do a headstand and failing terribly. Then she thought of it, and her throat constricted. Subduing a sob, she moved on.
There was a photo of her with Link. Allen glared at Link's visage, summoning all the terms she had heard Cross use before. The man was an idiot and a total control freak if there was one; she wanted to break up with him, but it was hard to just make him see sense because Link was such an idiot and definitely a control freak. His uncle, Leverrier, had a large stake in the firm that owned the mall, and any word from Link might get Allen kicked out from her rented space. That wasn't something she particularly wanted.
She was therefore glad that Link was abroad and wouldn't be back till many months later. Without him, her life seemed less cluttered and more youthful. She had her own breathing space now.
Her hands drifted to her abdomen. I hope the baby will be fine. I really want to do something to help.
Meanwhile, three streets down, three people had dinner in a stylish apartment decorated with soft rugs and comfortable armchairs.
"You know what?" Kanda growled. "I think you two are plain stupid."
"Yu, stop saying that. Do you know how hurt we feel?"
"Stop calling me Yu!" Kanda exploded.
"Oh, Yu, you know you love me." Lavi beamed beatifically at Kanda.
"Stop gaying onto me."
"There's no such word as gaying, my dearest Yu."
"You damn – "
"Kanda." Lenalee shot her friend a warning glare. "Lavi."
"Let's drink, alright? I hope our surrogate's fine at the moment." Lenalee raised her glass to her lips.
Lavi followed suit, but Kanda stared morosely at the red liquid in his glass. "I'll bet that woman you hired's a bitch."
"Don't be like that, Yu."
"Need we go through this again?" Lenalee sighed. "She's nice, Kanda. Just wait till you meet her."
"Yeah," Lavi agreed, "Kanda won't find her nice. He doesn't find anyone nice."
"Lenalee, darlin'! your friend's threatening me again!"
"Lavi – remind me again. Why did I marry you?"
"Because I'm handsome and charismatic and lovely?"
"You wish," Kanda told him. "You're deluded, you sorry excuse for a man."
"Guys, stop it! If I wanted that much testosterone hanging around me I'd have gone to watch a football match, okay?" Lenalee scolded. "I'm at home, and I want to be happy and comfortable."
She hugged a red heart-shaped pillow for emphasis. Kanda grumbled something under his breath about wanting to go home, but Lavi decided to drag him to the sitting room for a manly heart-to-heart talk. Meanwhile, Lenalee leaned back and dreamed about fair babies with pink cheeks, all crawling slowly over the floor to where she sat, all calling 'mama' at the same, glorious time.
A/n: So… I decided to write something with Allen as a surrogate mother. I just wrote this recently – I think, about two weeks ago? Of course, I mean no offence to surrogates.
I've been reading John Connolly recently, too, and his works are darned funny. I guess some lines in the dialogue here were inspired by his works.
Well, heh, how did you find this? The first chapter's rather short, though.
Reviews would be nice – and, thanks for reading!