A/n: I think we're close to the end. All chapters following will have all our main characters. Warning, this chapter has mild violence. Thanks for your support. No copyright infringement intended.

Her eyes were filled with tears. She wasn't crying from the stinging pain on her cheek. She wasn't flooded with tears from uncontrollable anger. She wasn't crying for any reason but one.

Her baby.

She held her stomach as she stumbled and nearly fell on the floor. Her eyes widened and behind heavy tears she watched Franklin grab her husband by the throat. They fought in front of her. Shoving, punching, yelling, swearing – 'fuck' over and over and over and over and over. What had she done?

She watched and it all seemed to happen in slow motion. The force in Franklin's legs as he lunged for her husband's throat. His sneakers pressed hard into her beige rug. The vein that was visible by his temple. His eyes, narrow and glittering with a murderous intent. Rage.

'Dawg, calm the fuck down!' Lamar grabbed onto Franklin, trying to hold him. There he was. Franklin. Her Franklin, filled with a rage she was not familiar with. Holding his bloody mouth, her husband stood there, staring. She could see the fresh drops of blood as they hit the beige rug. Again, in slow motion.

How did it happen? How did they reach that point?

She expected them to be mature. She expected the anger – she planned for it. It was the slap across the face she didn't anticipate.

Her husband was normally such a calm and cool guy. He was well mannered and collected. Everything about him was serene. His skin was dark and smooth like melted chocolate. He had dark hair styled in a kinky afro. So much beautiful hair. One of her favorite things about his appearance. He wore thick rimmed glasses and had a mustache that tickled when they kissed. He loved reggae and always made her laugh. She never expected him to be violent. They had argued before, but never once did he lose his cool. Never once – until Franklin.

"That's my wife!" He shouted at Franklin. "My wife! This is my damn apartment and that's my damn wife! How dare you!?"

"Motherfucker she came to me!"

They shouted back and forth. Back and forth. Forth. Forth. Forth. Forth.

She couldn't hear anything anymore. She felt she was sinking into the bamboo wood of her apartment floor and held her stomach. Tears pouring down. More. More. More. More.

Could her unborn child hear the shouts of its unknown father? Could it hear it? It was early in the pregnancy yes, but even so, could its heart hear? Feel? What she was feeling…could it?

"Leave." She whispered. The two men continued their screaming, swearing and she could tolerate it no more. She wouldn't let them drown out her requests any further. It was time for them to recognize how she felt was important too. "Leave! All of you! Leave, damn it!" On her knees, hunched over, her eyes closed tight and slamming her fists into the floor she mandated a moment of peace in her house, for herself; for her unborn child.

The three men paused and looked at her. The doctor breathed heavily and immediately stomped out the apartment first. As the door slammed Franklin bent down to the ground as to aid the mother of his possible child. She resisted him, not looking up and not touching him. Franklin understood and arose slowly. He motioned to Lamar to follow him out, and there he left Tanisha on her knees in tears. He hated himself then. From that moment on he promised he'd never leave her in tears like that again.

The night came and silence was her only companion. She hadn't moved from her spot on the floor. She leaned her back against the wall and stared blankly at the ceiling fan. It turned. Spun. Every blade. Over. Over. Over. Over. It stopped.

She looked and saw at the entrance to the apartment, her doctor husband. He turned off the ceiling fan and stumbled in, drunkenly. She carefully got up from the floor, using the wall for support. She walked over to him and caught him in her arms as he walked forward and tripped on the rug. The wet sand and dirt from his shoes left a trail from the doorway. She sighed deeply and brought him over to the sofa.

The two of them sat on the opposite end of the sofa. He stared into the distance and she kept her eyes to the rug. The blood from his bleeding mouth, earlier that day, dried into the beige -

"I don't know what to say." He nodded. His head seemed to bobble a bit. Perhaps it was his drunken state. "Wha – wha did I do? I'm…I'm a good husband. Yeah?" His speech slurred, and his expression far from sober, Tanisha kept silent. She knew no matter her answer, he would not properly remember it. "I guess I'm not." He answered himself. "I guess I'm a bad guy. I try, but I just am no good. He's what you want. He always was. Wasn't he?"

She kept silent. His heavy breathing was the only other sound besides her own.

"What did I do to deserve this?" He buried his head in his hands and sobbed loudly. Guilt felt hard on Tanisha's chest, as if meant to suffocate her. She turned and looked at the man she had wronged.

How could she? How could she have done such a thing? Before sleeping with Franklin. Before taking him home that night. Before staring at him at the New Year's party. Before acting too good for his congratulations. Before announcing to him she was getting married. How could she have told this man she loved him, when she never stopped loving Franklin? How could she?

"I'm sorry." She whispered. She was so frightened by the thought that she would lose him. She loved him, but there was no more denying that she loved Franklin more. That she always, always, always loved Franklin more. "I'm sorry!" She shouted the second time around. At that time his sobs had ceased.

"You're sorry?" He said.

"Yes. I'm sorry." She repeated. She looked at him with eyes that seemed overwhelmingly filled with sorrow, but also, somehow, more with pity.

He felt anger in him like he did earlier that day. He was always too calm. Always too collected. Always too cool. That was his mistake. He decided to marry the woman who had taken his reserved manner for granted. "I'll show you sorry." He said behind gritted teeth.

He arose and then stood before her. Tanisha held her head low, afraid from making eye contact. The guilt was too much. He ran his fingers through her hair and he whispered. "I'm sorry too." He grabbed her hard by her hair and she held his wrist, shocked and confused.

"Sto – stop it!" She cried. He began shaking her head and hot tears welled in her eyes once more. With his free hand he squeezed her mouth, his fingers bruising her mocha skin.

"I'll show you how sorry I am I made you my wife!" He pulled her from the sofa, still gripping onto her hair. She tried hard to move his hands from her, but his frame was unmoving. "You ought to be sorry! You need to be on your knees, begging me for forgiveness. BEG YOU BITCH!"

He brought the woman to her knees, still with a hold on her hair. Once she was there, he raised his knee to her stomach and she pulled away, ripping her hair and protecting her unborn. His knee had instead hit her in the shoulder. She yelped and cried as she looked at strands of hair falling from his hands. In his frustration he stared at her. Shocked. Angered. Confused. Why was she protecting this child? This thing that would ruin their marriage. How could she?

Tanisha hunched over on the floor and held her stomach. She cried. Over and over again. Tears following like long rivers. So many regretful rivers. "Do whatever you want to me. I don't care. "She breathed heavily. Her breaths were shorter. Shorter. Shorter. Shorter. Shorter. "Don't. Don't you dare hurt my baby, or I'll kill you."

He stared at her. A long and awkward silence followed. He lowered himself to the ground and sat by her side. He unzipped his slacks and looked up at the ceiling. The ceiling fan was no longer spinning. No longer. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

He now remembered turning it off when he came in. "Turn on the fan." He ordered. Tanisha slowly arose from the ground and walked to the doorway. She switched on the ceiling fan. "Turn off the light." He told her and she did as told. "Come over here." She slowly walked back over to him. She lowered herself before him and fought oncoming tears. "Now take off your clothes, bend over, and let me fuck my wife."

And without a word, that she did as well.

Weeks passed and Franklin hoped to receive some correspondence from Tanisha. When she hadn't contacted him, he drove to her apartment, and parked a distance away, watching her husband leave for his work day. Many days had passed before he had found the courage to go to her door after the last incident.

He held his breath and was about to ring the bell when he saw the door was left ajar. Franklin paused, feeling in his heart, something was not right. He slowly made his way into the apartment and called out to Tanisha, who did not answer. There, on the sofa, she sat, her head thrown back, with her mouth open as if to scream. Her lips, bruised badly. Black and blue marks on her exposed arms. Her hair, cropped short. Her eyes, swollen. She stared into the ceiling fan and Franklin, with tears welling in his eyes fell to the floor. Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry. That was all he thought to himself. Those words on repeat.

For certain. He would never leave her in the grasp of that man again.