The phone call came that morning from his parents, they wanted to pop over, she agreed. Tidied up before they were due to arrive, Starr was still asleep.
“Hi,” she said as she allowed them to enter the flat.
“How are you dear?” his father asked as sat down on the sofa and waited for his wife to join him.
“Maxine, dear sit down.”
She did as they asked and watched them. She knew what they wanted what news they came to tell. Why were they the ones telling her?
“We thought didn’t we dear that we would take you and Starr out for lunch?”
“You do not have to do that.”
“Yes we do. Now we should have a nice cup of tea before we go. Shall I put the kettle on?”
“I can do it,” Maxine said, as she heard Starr stir.
“In that case, I will get her up, and see to her, if you don’t mind?”
“Of course not. I don’t mind at all, you know where everything is.”
Maxine entered the kitchen area, opened cupboards, pulled out mugs, milk, teabags and sugar. Maxine made the drinks and Starr’s breakfast, a bowl of readybrek. Carrying it through she found her daughter in her bouncer, dressed.
“Can I feed her?”
“Of course,” she said, handing her the bowl. Which she took and her daughter opened her mouth the moment she saw the bowl of food before her.
“She is a hungry little one isn’t she? Dear I think we better tell her the other news we needed to tell her!”
“I have an idea of what it is.”
“I said she would didn’t I dear. My son has a lot to answer for.”
“Your son does, so how far along is she?”
“Well we wanted to tell you. Didn’t we? She is six months pregnant.”
Her face fell. “He got her pregnant when I was in labour with his daughter.” Maxine realised why he could not come to the birth of their daughter. “He was too busy…” she could not finish what she was saying.
“We know, we are sorry, we…”
“You do not need to keep apologising for him. I guess this lunch was where you were going to tell me or had you plans for them to be there?”
“You were right again dear. She knows what we are planning, I told you didn’t I?”
“You did, sweetie. We mean no harm, we just want what is best for all of us and now he realises he wants to be part of his daughter's life.”
“Does he now?”
“Yes, we have tried talking to him, but Ivy. She seems to have made the impact we could not.”
“Ivy is that her name?”
“Yes,” he said picking up the mug of tea and downed half of it.
“So I get to meet her today?”
“Yes, you do, I thought…”
“We thought dear. We thought it was best we were there.”
“Thank you.” It was all she could say. She had to meet the woman who had stolen his heart.
The café was quiet. Three other tables had diners at them. His parents, who had to remind her again to call them by their names. She nodded and took a seat. They waited for them to arrive. They were on time, she entered, her stomach huge. Bigger than her own bump had been, she looked from her own daughter back to them as they walked towards them. His parents stood. She hugged them both as they greeted them like a family would. It made her heart sink. She realised the difference in their relationship, saw the way he looked at her. It hurt a lot to know he loved her. That he wanted their baby. He could not look at her, could not look at their daughter.
Ivy was the one who spoke first.
“Maxine, it is nice to meet you.”
Maxine nodded, lost for words.
“So this is Starr?” she asked.
“Yes, isn’t she a dear little thing, Toby, look at your daughter,” his father Rick told him.
“I am sorry. I am so sorry.”
“You do not get to do that, you do not get to come here all loved up and suddenly want to be a father to the child you wanted nothing to do with. All because you now have another on the way.”
“Should have been more careful. Having unwanted pregnancies, but hang on you want this one. You just did not want our baby.” She stood, picked her daughter up and put her back in her pushchair. “I am sorry, I cannot do this, Rick, Tiffany, thank you, and sorry, but no, he cannot expect to be part of her, our life. When he cut us off, after promising he would be there. And before you say it, I never asked you for money. I don’t want or need it.” That was a lie, she needed money, but she would not take it from him.
“That is not fair,” he said, finding his voice.
“Fair, really. So tell me where you were for the scans. Where were you when I was in labour with our daughter or when I brought her home? You did not even tell your own parents until nearly a month before she was due. So tell me go on. You have not even seen her once, and she is now six months old. Not that you can even look at her, or do you want to play the…she is not my card again.”
“You can see she is yours, just look at her. What more proof do you want. A DNA test?”
“Toby sit down, Maxine, I am sorry he did this to you, he has told me he regretted it the day he left and never looked back. Yes, I knew, he told me.”
“What the day you two were shacked up in bed, I was in labour, yeah, have you worked that bit out yet.”
“Exactly, you expect me to let you back in. Why should I? She has no idea who you are and that is your fault, not mine.”
“I know and I have had a lot to be sorry for, to regret. How could I suddenly expect you to let me back in your life when…”
“You walked out and never contacted me again.”
“Yes,” he said. “We, I want to be part of our daughter’s life. I was stupid, not ready because I did not want to be with you and…”
“Yeah I got that bit. She has a right to know her father, I agree on that much, but this, today, it’s too much.”
“Okay, can I walk you out?” Ivy asked.
“Sure, why not.”
It took her a few minutes to stand. She followed her outside the café, leaving his parents and Toby inside.
“I know this is a lot to take in. I get that and the moment I knew about you and Starr, I told him that he should be in your lives. If he wanted to be a father to our baby, he needed to step up and be one to yours too.”
“I know and I understand it’s hard for you. He never meant to stay away for so long, but the longer he did, he found it harder and as my bump grew. He knew it was something he should have done sooner, but the longer…”
“I get it, but he cannot expect me to be happy to have him back in our lives after what he did.”
“No, he doesn’t. He is scared to be a father to this one too, but he loves me.”
“Well as long as he loves you.”
“I am sorry he did not love you enough to stay with you.”
“Loved me enough, are you kidding. He loved me once or said he did. Maybe he never loved me. For the three years we were together.”
“What did he tell you we briefly dated?”
“Oh, a one night stand?”
She did not deny any of what she said.
“I am sorry. We need to move past this. No matter what we think, we are going to be in each other’s lives. Our children are going to be siblings.”
“You are right. You are, but we can meet up another day. Maybe just me and Toby, no offence.”
“Okay, I will ask him to meet you. Do you still have his number?”
Ivy stood resting her hand on her swollen stomach. Maxine pushed her daughter forward, heading down the street away from the café.
She had a message on her phone, as she looked at it, she thought it was from Toby, but it was not and read it again. A smile on her lips.
She called the number back, a man with a deep gruff voice answered.
“I had a message about a flat to go look at.”
“Sure, how about in an hour. Are you free then?”
The place was perfect, a two bed flat turned out to be a two-bed bungalow. Confused she had thought she was at the wrong place. The woman stood outside and apologised, the flat had been taken before she had called back, but the bungalow came up and as she stood inside it, she knew it was the best place for them. The street was quiet; it had a small park at the end of the road and was an hour’s walk away from her old place.
She took it and was told she could move in, in six weeks. Once the final paperwork was signed which she needed to do the next day.
Arriving back at her flat, she looked around it and smiled. She would no longer be living in this hell hole. Or have to put up with the kids across the street; they would no longer be her problem. She would ignore them for the time she had left to live in that street. Maxine sat her daughter in her cot with some toys while she made a list of things to do and organise. Could she ask his parents to help? She knew they would, even if they had Starr for her. She was not ready for Toby to have her. He could not just walk back in her life and expect to take her from her.
Pen down, she leaned forward, picked up her phone and dialled her mother’s number. She was happy but wished she would move in with them, but Maxine wanted her own life, home. As much as she needed her mother’s help to watch her daughter while she was at work, she could not live with her again. It was not something she wanted, even if having a hand now and again would benefit her. Some nights the lack of sleep could be seen on her face and no amount of make-up would hide the dark circles under her eyes. The late nights did not help, but she had to work. To give her daughter the life she deserved.
“Your father and I will come over tomorrow, help you pack up a few bits. We will bring boxes. We can hire the van for the move.”
“You do not need to do that, but it would help a lot.”
“And I will take care of Starr.”
“I was going to ask you or Toby’s parents, but preferred with the way things are if you took her.”
“Well that part is sorted, is the rent much more?”
“A little, but I can, will manage.”
“Okay, well I cannot wait to see it.”
“It even has a garden for Starr. It’s perfect.”
Laying Starr down in her bed, later that night, Maxine heard a knock on her door.
She made her way to the door, laying the mug of tea beside the notebook with the list she had started earlier. A large tick beside, van and Starr. Both sorted.
Unlocking the door she came face to face with both her ex and new girlfriend.
“We did not come here to fight, but to apologise for earlier. I should man up. That is what I wanted to say. My father is right; I am already a father and should act like it. With a second child on the way I should…”
“Yes, I am sure he did, good man, your father. Is that all you wanted to say?”
“I want to get to know my daughter. Can we come in?”
“No, not now, she is asleep. If you want to see her we can make arrangements, slowly at first. I am not having you come crashing into my, our life and want to take her for days at a time or…”
“You are right. We should not expect that. She does not know us, but she should, she…”
“You will be her stepmum; I know that Ivy, I know. But you have to understand she is not some toy he can pick up and dump when he cannot be bothered anymore. If and I mean you want to be a father, prove it.”
“Let me help you find a better place to live, for the both of you.”
“I have already sorted that thank you. I told you I would. I have had my name down for a new place for a long time now. I move in six weeks.”
“Then let me have her the day you move.”
“No, that is to soon, baby steps. You can meet me and spend time with her, maybe we can go to the park, or swimming, she loves swimming.”
“You won’t trust us alone with my daughter.”
“No, because you did not want to know her or even care she was alive, now, you do. What did you expect that would happen that would let you take her for the weekend?”
“I think she is right, Toby, if you want to be part of her life. Have her in our child’s life, we have to respect Maxine too.”
“Thank you,” she said.
“Is there anything else?”
They shook their heads and turned to leave as those boys exited their house again, music blaring. Maxine pulled the door too, hoping the music would not reach her daughter's ears and wake her.
“Bet you will be glad to get away from that noise,” Ivy shouted over the blaring music.
“Who you calling a noise, misses.”
“Why don’t you learn some manners,” Toby said stepping towards his car and opening the door to let Ivy climb inside.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Well, I could come over there and…”
“Toby, I would not bother, they are not worth it. Just take Ivy home, go.”
She saw him take a deep breath and did her best to not think about naked. She had not thought about him like that for a while, maybe she needed more me time. Sex, she needed sex, she had not had any since she fell pregnant. If and when she allowed him to take care of their daughter, she could think about dating again, or just find a man to have sex with. Not that she was looking for a one night stand, but she had needs.
If she allowed Toby to have Starr overnight, she could go out, meet men. Not just those that came to the pub or supermarket. It was not the way to find a man to date, but what options did she have?
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