|The confirmation in Maureen's tiny bathroom|
Without looking directly at Beckett, she perched herself on the small toilet seat, and slowly dragging her arm from behind her back, stuck the object out in front of him.
He stared at the white stick as if it were a live cobra. "Is that what I think it is?"
She nodded, barely lifting her face up to meet his, her eyes round emeralds set in white porcelain. "I was going to tell you as soon as I was sure."
"And are you?"
"Am I what?"
She pulled the wastebasket away from the sink, showing him that it was filled to the top with an assortment of cardboard boxes. Her lip had a slight tremble, but she took a deep breath, and answered. "I guess I'm pretty sure. This was the fifth one. They all had the same result." She pointed to the mocking little plus sign in the window of the stick. "It's positive."
"I see that." Beckett ran a hand through his hair, and leaned against the door frame, gathering the beads behind him. "How?"
She tisked loudly, and made a face of disgust at the stupidity of the question. "I guess the same way it usually happens... as far as I know."
Embarrassed, he clarified. "I mean...I guess what I'm asking is if you have any idea... when? I thought we were always pretty careful."
"I thought we were too. Super cautious. All I can figure is it was that...one time...in the Mustang."
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, he remembered. It was about seven weeks ago, shortly after they had first started seeing one another. At the time, it had seemed romantic, spontaneous, and sexy as hell. Now, standing in her bathroom at 5 AM, it just seemed stupid and risky. And the worse thing of all, was the fact that it had solidly been his idea. Someone who most assuredly should have known better.
"Shit. I'm sorry, Maureen. I kinda feel responsible for that night." The whole experience was surreal, and the words idiot...idiot...idiot kept flashing in his brain. He had spent the last twenty years working at guaranteeing he would not find himself in this position. Built a lifestyle of discipline and control, one in which he was always in charge of the moment. And now, here he stood...in total shock...contemplating the irony that a momentary lapse in judgement could change everything. He waited for her to say something, and when she didn't, he spoke up. "So, what is it you want to do?"
She flew upward so quickly, she kicked over the wastebasket, scattering the boxes across the small space. Going toe to toe with him, she growled, "What do "I" want to do? Is this how it's going to be? Suddenly, I'm on my own with this?
It was his turn to be indignant. "Whoa, baby! That's not what I meant at all. Look, can we sit down and talk about this like reasonable adults? I don't want to have this conversation standing in the bathroom." He reached over to put his arms around her, but she wiggled out of his grasp, pushed past him, and flung herself across the bed.
Beckett followed, and despite her resistance, forced her into his lap, holding tight against her struggling. "Damn it! Stop fighting me, and listen for a second." He felt her relax a bit, and turning her chin to face him, explained, "You are the one carrying this baby, and you are the one that has to deliver it. I don't feel I have the right to insist you do that for my sake. But if you're willing to carry my child, then you have my support, sweetheart."
"Of course I'd have this baby! What kind of person do you think I am? I can't believe you just said that." Angry, she turned her face away, but eventually, contemplating the meaning of his words, she looked at him curiously, the fight suddenly gone from her. "You're not angry?"
"Surprised? Yes. Guilty? Yes. Angry? Absolutely not."
"I thought for sure you were going to be mad at me. For being careless."
It both annoyed and shamed him that she could contemplate him being that kind of asshole. From his perspective, he believed he had been quite patient with her ability to turn the simplest things into major drama, and her lack of faith in him stung. "Well, you thought wrong," he retorted, his voice gruffer than he intended. "I take full responsibility for this...situation. What's mine is mine. We'll get married, of course. The sooner the better."
At the word "married" she scooted off his lap. "Married? That's...that's impossible! We hardly know each other."
He made a face, and pulled her back toward him, unwilling to physically lose contact. "A little late to worry about that, don't you think? Besides, once we're married, we'll have plenty of time for figuring it all out." When she didn't comment, he continued, "I'm off duty this weekend. We can fly to Vegas. It'll be fun. An adventure of sorts."
"You mean...get married without Kevin officiating? Without my family there?" Her expression was one of complete disbelief, eyes wide and blinking. "I couldn't do that. It's just not how things are supposed to be. You and me all alone in some seedy casino chapel?" She shook her head fiercely back and forth, her loose curls bouncing as she did so. "No, that's not going to happen."
Exasperated, Beckett argued her logic. "First you tell me you don't want to get married. Next minute, you're pushing for a big ass wedding. Where exactly do you stand, babe?"
"I'm not "pushing" for anything, Ted Beckett! This whole getting married thing was your damn idea! I just have no intention of doing something this important in front of a preacher dressed like Elvis. You can just forget the whole frickn' thing if that's what your expecting. Me and my baby will be just fine without you."
He could tell by the arms crossed firmly across her chest, and the stubborn look in her eye, that there would be no pleasing her. In addition, her bitchy attitude, and the phrase "my baby", were beginning to seriously piss him off. It wasn't like this was any easier for him. Choosing the path of least resistance, he offered a compromise. "Look, if you want a wedding, then fine...go ahead and plan one. Have whatever makes you happy. Money's not an issue. I'll take care of the expenses. But you have one month to get this together. That's it. Otherwise, I'm dragging your ass in front of a judge, and taking care of business. Are we clear? And just for the record, let's get this straight once and for all. That baby you're carrying is "ours", so knock off the "me and my baby" shit."
|Difficult early morning conversation|
"Well, if this is important to you, then I suggest you give it your best shot. Use a pro if you have to. Just get it done."
She blinked, trying her damnedest not to cry in front of him. "Aren't you going to help me at all? This is supposed to be your wedding too."
"If you ask my opinion, I'll give it, but you need to narrow down the choices. There's no way I'm sitting through hours of discussion on stationary, or chair covers." He watched her shrink under his dictates, seemingly smaller than she was at the beginning of the conversation. Observing her huddled against the wall, clutching the throw pillow to her chest, he felt lousy. She deserved better than a pre-dawn tirade, but at this moment, it was the best he had in him. Trying to be upbeat, and hoping to relieve some of his growing guilt, he suggested, "Do you want do this at home in Boston? Closer to your family and friends? It's fine with me if you do."
Maureen squeezed the pillow tighter, tugging at the fringe on the corners. "I don't know right now. I'm not sure what to do. It's all so overwhelming. I have to think on it."
"That's probably a good idea." Knowing her as he did, he took her right foot in his hand, and began kneading it, working the arches with his thumbs. Despite feigned disinterest, she quickly relaxed, as he expected she would. He finished the right, and then started in on the left foot, both of them silent, and lost in thought. By the time he finished, the sun had risen through the eastern kitchen window, throwing beams of color from the stained glass screen across the expanse of the bed.
Beckett fished his cell phone out from the drawer of the vanity, and checked the time. Seeing it was nearly six, he stretched, and giving Maureen's feet a final pat, drew himself off the bed. "It's later than I thought. I think I'm gonna hit the shower." He offered her his hand. "Join me, babe." When she shook her head no, he leaned toward her, and grinned, "Come 'on, love...I promise to make it worth your while. Besides, it wasn't really a request."
She hesitated a moment, but again shook her head. "No...I'm gonna pass. Too much on my mind right now."
His face registered annoyance, calculating how big a deal he wanted to make of her refusal. The stand-off lasted a full minute, and eventually backing down, he grunted, "Suit yourself." Then Beckett turned, and headed toward the bathroom, dropping his boxers on the floor before disappearing behind the beads.
Maureen waited until she heard the shower running for several minutes before she let the tears escape from the corners of her eyes. She wasn't sure what she had expected, but the experience of the last hour left her more confused than anything else. Anger she would have understood. Even appreciated. She was used to facing the consequences of her dumb ideas and unplanned disasters, and had been dealing with the aftermath of her bad decision making since age five. But Ted's matter of fact bravado left her stunned, unsure as to what was really going on his head.
He claimed to want to marry her. Even conceded to the idea of having a traditional wedding. But the whole thing seemed so damn impersonal, and although she didn't have a lot of experience with marriage proposals, she was pretty sure this one wasn't the stuff dreams were made of. On the other hand, he had taken full responsibility, and didn't seem to blame her for their unexpected predicament. It was true. The Mustang escapade had been his idea, but like everything else he desired, she went willingly along, wanting nothing more than to be in his good graces. Which, when she thought about it too much, made her a tad uncomfortable.
Ted Beckett was, for lack of better words, a total pain in the ass. He was demanding and opinionated, with a confidence level that well exceeded the normal range for any man she had ever known, including her brother Patrick. When they were together, he expected her whole, undivided attention, and was quick to point out when her focus was elsewhere. And if he gave an order, many times craftily delivered as a strong suggestion, he expected it to be followed without any argument. Difficult as all these issues were, they paled in comparison to his obvious penchant for kink, a side of him she had just begun to discover in the past few weeks, and had crazily accepted as part of the whole relationship package.
Still, there was no denying that when she was with him, he made her feel as if she were the absolute center of his universe. He knew her moods and desires better than she did, and never once had he made her feel less than totally cared for and treasured. She had never been more miserable than the week they had broken up, and she couldn't imagine him not being part of her life, or in her bed. It was terribly difficult to contemplate Beckett as a husband, or a father. Hell, she didn't even know much about his family, his past, or even bits and pieces of his present. But at that moment, one thing was very clear. If he was going to belong to anyone on a permanent basis, it was going to damn well be her. And rethinking her decision just a few minutes earlier, she slipped off her robe, and headed toward the shower.
The hectic pace of the work day did little to keep Beckett's mind off the problems at hand. No matter what he tried to attend to, musings of Maureen and the surprise pregnancy pushed it's way to the center of his thoughts. Each time they did, he took a different stand on the matter. Originally, he had argued that marrying her was the decent and responsible thing to do. Then came the doubts, and he railed at himself for his stupidity. He had no business being with that girl. And girl she was. Ten years his junior, naive, and barely past virginal adolescence, she should never have been on his radar in the first place. When he was done beating himself up mentally, he would return to logical reasoning that all these points were moot. What was done, was done, and the hands of time could not be turned back.
What he needed to admit was the fact that she had stolen his heart for all the same he reasons he should have walked away. In her youth and naivete, she gave herself to him fully, joyfully, and without reservations, and it made him feel damn good. In addition, she was down right beautiful, utterly charming, and he never seemed to tire of losing himself in the green depths of her eyes, or all that divinely pale skin. And although part of him was horrified at the long term commitment a baby required, the other side was delighted at the prospect of a wife and child who would share his life. Simply put, for the first time in many, many years, he was a mess of indecision, insecurity and contradiction, a position that made him extremely miserable.
He'd have to let the powers that be know his current situation, and they would assuredly be less than happy for him. Extra entanglements meant additional problems, and they were of the mind that less was more. In his line of work, spouses and children were a definitive risk, an opportunity to take advantage, and a door to open. He knew he needed to make arrangements on his end for their long term security, and there was that twinge of guilt about being less than forthcoming with her about what it was he actually did for a living, and how it impacted the both of them.
Determined to take control of his wandering mind, he pushed aside his problems, and tried to focus on the tasks at hand. He was required in court later that afternoon, had a meeting with the county commissioner in an hour about increased jail cell space, and had pushed the same paperwork in a stack on his desk for three days. Sheriff Beckett reached for a file folder on the top of the pile, and forced his brain to focus on the words in front of him. He had only gotten a page into the report, when Grace, his secretary knocked on his door, obviously worried
"Sheriff, a package came for you via private messenger service. It has no sender information, so it falls under our protocol for suspicious parcels. What do you want us to do with it?'
Beckett rose from his desk, and followed Grace out of the office, and into the station room, where a medium sized package wrapped in common brown paper lay on the front counter. He noticed that the usually busy area was now empty, and he was pleased that his staff was following the rules he had put in place for just this type of situation.
"I want you to leave the building, Grace. Just like we established."
"Do you want me to phone the county bomb or haz-mat team, Sir?"
"Not just yet, Grace. I'll let you know. Now please, exit the building."
Grace looked unsure, but then nodded and headed toward the exit. Beckett moved closer to the package to try and get a better look. It was highly unlikely that the parcel had anything to do with his other occupation, but it was unwise to take chances. From his position a foot away, he could just make out the hand addressed label on the front, and something about the handwriting clicked. He moved closer, and carefully examined the box. There was little doubt in his mind who it was from. He'd recognized the flourish on the end of the capital letters, and the small "i"s dotted with tiny hearts.
He picked it up, and carried it to his office. Then, Beckett called for the return of his staff, assuring them he knew who the package was from, and that they could safely return to the building. Once the staff was settled, he shut himself in his office, and picked at the brown paper until a white box sat unwrapped, and unopened, on his desk. Common sense should have dictated that he throw the thing away without even checking what it was. There was nothing Cassie Donaghue could send him that he would ever want, and the fact that she was still hounding him made him angry. His sources had, as of yet, been unable to locate her whereabouts, and knowing she was still out there, a minor threat, and a pain in his ass, added to his list of concerns.
Flipping off the lid, he rummaged through the tissue paper, and found the flogger at the bottom of the box. It was obviously custom made and expensive, the leather strips smooth as butter, and his initials, "THB", carefully carved in the wooden handle. A note on heavily scented paper was tied to the end.
"To Sir...with all my love. Please let me come home. C."
|Beckett's surprise "gift" from Cassie|
"Sheriff, Fr. O'Kenney is here to see you."
He picked up the box and wrapping, and shoving it under his desk, said, "Show him in, Grace."
The secretary did so, and ushered the priest into the room, then quietly shut the door. Beckett came around from the back of the desk to meet Kevin at the center of the room. Sticking his hand out, he replied, "Kevin, I was ex..."
Beckett's words were cut off as Fr. Kevin's right fist sharply connected with the Sheriff's left jaw, catching him off guard, and knocking him into a chair that stood directly behind him.
Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved