Extreme Close Up Chapter 26
|By dirafum |
sad this week
“Brittany’s coming over,” Jack told Carter a few days later.
Carter’s brows flew up. “Brittany’s coming here? What for?”
“She has the results of the testing. She wants to talk about it.”
“Oh.” Carter fidgeted. “I’ll go out for a while, then.”
“Nah, that’s okay. It’s your place, you can stay. Not like we have any secrets.” Except they did, guilt still eating at his gut over sleeping with Ally. He felt like a piece of shit hiding what they’d done from Carter. He sighed. Carter’s doorbell rang and he grimaced. “Guess that’s her.”
Carter looked strained as he went to answer the door, but when Jack saw Brittany’s face, he was even more alarmed. Shit. This was not going to be good.
“Long time no see, Brittany,” Carter said with his usual easy charm. “Come on in, have a seat.” Brittany’s eyes met Jack’s as she walked into the room and she gave him a weak smile.
They sat on Carter’s sleek leather furniture. Brittany’s fingers twisted the strap of her purse over and over again.
“Would you like a drink?” Carter offered.
“No thanks.” Her eyes sought Jack’s again and his heart sank. Oh man. This was going to be bad news, he could just feel it. He probably wasn’t a good match for donating and Brittany was upset and worried.
The churning in his gut started up again. He took a breath, smiled reassuringly at Brittany. “So what’s the deal?”
“Um...” Brittany’s eyes darted from Jack to Carter and back to Jack again. “I gather Carter knows what’s going on?”
“Yeah, I told him about Sarah.” Jack glanced at Carter, hoping Carter wasn’t going to start talking that crap about Brittany suing for child support. “It’s okay with you if he’s here, isn’t it?”
He watched as she visibly straightened her spine, fingers still tightly clasped on her purse. “I...I guess so.” She looked even more distressed. Jesus.
“Anyway,” Jack continued, his own nerves stretched like an elastic band ready to snap. “Did you get the results of the tests?” He looked at her expectantly.
She nodded, looked down again. “Yes. I’m afraid it’s not good news.” She paused, drew a breath, and Jack’s heart sank. The silence amplified as Brittany gathered her thoughts, then she looked up and met Jack’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Jack,” she whispered. “I am so, so sorry.”
He nodded, felt his throat tighten. “It’s okay,” he said gruffly. “You don’t need to apologize. I’m sorry.”
She continued, licking her lips nervously. “The tests showed that you’re not a good match.”
He nodded again, chest aching. “I figured that.”
“Not even close, in fact.” She closed her eyes, opened them again. “In fact, the tests showed that you’re not even Sarah’s father.”
The room was so silent you could hear the faint tick of Carter’s Patek Phillippe watch.Jack shook his head. What did she say?
He frowned, peered at Brittany. Now she met his eyes steadily, her own shiny with tears. She nodded. “I’m really sorry,” she said again, her voice trembling.
“Uh...Brittany...what the hell?”
“I guess I screwed up,” she choked out.
She guessed she screwed up? Jack shook his head again. “What do you mean you screwed up? Are you serious? I’m not Sarah’s father?” His heart started a slow, heavy thudding in his chest.
“But...you said Sarah is nine years old.”
Brittany nodded again, biting her lower lip. “Yes. She’ll be ten in December.”
Jack’s mind whirled and he couldn’t do the math, but he’d done it before and it worked out. “I...I don’t get it,” he muttered, shaking his head. “If I’m not her father - then who is?”
Brittany lowered her eyes. “I really didn’t want to do this like this.”
“Brittany...” Jack’s face felt like it was going to crack. “Who’s the father?”
She lifted her head and looked at Carter. Jack followed her gaze, saw Carter grow visibly pale, eyes flickering.
No. No, no, no.
Jack looked back at Brittany. Questioning. Accusing. Incredulous.
She nodded, a small, jerky nod. “Carter. I’m sorry. Like I said, this wasn’t how I planned to tell you.”
Carter jumped to his feet. “You’re saying I’m the father?” His voice was loud, strained.
Brittany looked up at him, her eyes watery, and nodded.
Jack stared at Carter and Brittany, who were staring at each other, Carter standing there with fists clenched, Brittany in the chair, her fingers tightly knotted.
“You can’t be serious,” Carter finally said, with a short laugh. “That is ridiculous.”
Brittany’s eyes widened in shock. “Are you...denying it?”
“I sure as hell am!” Carter cried. “Jesus Christ! What the hell do you think you’re trying to pull on us, coming here like this, nine years later, looking for the father of your child?”
Brittany was speechless for a few seconds. “I...I’m trying to find the person who can save my daughter’s life,” she whispered. “She’s dying, Carter.”
He scowled. “Oh, please, spare me. This has nothing to do with me.”
Her head moved slowly from side to side as she continued to stare at him with disbelief. “Carter...you know. You have to know.”
“Are you saying that he...that you and he...” Jack stumbled over his words, shook his head to try to clear it. “Brittany, you and Carter...?”
Her face crumpled with shame. “Yes. I am so, so sorry Jack. Like I said, this wasn’t exactly how I saw things going. I was so sure you were the father. For the last nine years, I believed it, even though I never told you. I never dreamed...Carter and I...it was only once. It just happened.”
“When we were going out?” Jack was incredulous. This was unfuckingbelievable.
“Yes.” She dropped her eyes. “I know I keep saying it, but I’m sorry. We slept together, but we both agreed we would never tell you about it. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“It just happened? How the hell did it just happen?”
Brittany looked nervously between him and Carter. “It was...you don’t really want to know the details, do you?”
Jack stared at her. Then he shook his head abruptly. “Hell, no.” He turned his gaze to Carter. He glared at his friend with burning eyes. “You slept with my girlfriend? I cannot fucking believe this!”
Strangely enough, he was more offended by Carter’s betrayal than Brittany’s unfaithfulness. It was almost too much to take in. When Brittany had discovered she was pregnant, how had Carter not wondered? How had he faced Jack, knowing he’d slept with his girlfriend? What about all that talk about standing by him, supporting him if he became a teenage father?
“Once,” Carter bit out, his face pale and tight. “It happened once.” He turned to Brittany. “That does not mean I’m the father of your child.”
“There was nobody else,” Brittany said firmly, still struggling with tears. “And Jack has already been proven to not be the father. That leaves you, Carter.”
He shook his head, his jaw clenched. “No. No fucking way.” He drew in a breath. “I know what you’re trying to do. You have to know, Brittany, when you didn’t tell the father nine years ago, kept it secret all these years, chose to raise the child yourself, there’s no way you’d be successful if you try to sue for support.”
Her eyes widened. “That’s not what I want!” she cried. She, too, jumped to her feet and faced Carter, eyes blazing. “You asshole!” She poked him in the chest and he took a surprised step backward.
Jack’s mouth dropped open.
“All I want is a bone marrow donor for my daughter!” Brittany cried. “I chose to raise her on own my own, for my own reasons, and I’m not looking for anything more than that. I just want to save her life.”
Carter shook his head. “Well, screw that. I’m not getting involved in this. I am not the father and that’s that.”
He looked at Jack. “What a bunch of bullshit,” he snarled, then turned and left his home. He slammed the door behind him.
Brittany stood there looking pole-axed. “I can’t believe he just walked out on me.” She put a hand to her mouth, turned to Jack. He stood immobile, paralyzed with shock and dismay.
“You’re probably mad at me, too,” she said on a sob. “And I can’t blame you. I made you come all the way home for nothing. Got you all worked up about nothing. I can only say again, I’m sorry, Jack. For everything.” She bent and picked up her purse. “I guess I’d better go too.” She started to leave, then stopped and turned back. Her eyes were wet. “I want to thank you. For coming and for getting tested and agreeing to donate, even though it didn’t work out. Thank you, Jack.”
Jack just stared after her as she, too left the room, closing the front door more quietly behind her than Carter had.
Jack swallowed. Holy shit. What had just happened here? He covered his face with his hands and sank down onto the couch before his legs gave out. How could this be?
Jesus. He’d put his whole life on hold to come home and meet his daughter. Then he found out she might be dying and he was the only one who might be able to save her. Now ...he had no daughter. And found out his best friend had betrayed him all those years ago and he’d had no fucking idea.
He stared up at the ceiling with burning eyes, feeling like he’d just been run over by an Abrams M1 tank. Then he knew he couldn’t sit there alone. There was only one person who could help him deal with this shit.
Extreme Close Up Chapter 27