Ally had spent another frustrating day at her computer, almost in tears over her inability to figure out what she wanted to do. The ideas she came up with were farfetched, she couldn’t invent any kind of motivation for what her characters needed to do and her head ached from going around in plot circles. Then her doorbell rang. Through the peephole she saw Jack leaning against the door frame.
Her heart slammed to a stop. She opened the door. My God, he looked like he’d been beat up.
He looked at her with a wry smile. “You want to say ‘I told you so’?”
She stared at him. “Huh?”
“About Carter.” Jack straightened and walked past her into her home. “You kept asking why I was so concerned about hurting him by getting involved with you, when he was a liar and a cheater. Well, you were right. He is a liar and a cheater.”
She followed along behind him, confused. “What’s going on, Jack?”
He threw himself down onto her couch and told her what had happened.
“Oh my God.” She put her fingers to her mouth, staring at him. “Oh, Jack. Are you okay?”
He shook his head. “I have no fucking idea. This is the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me.”
He fell back against the cushions of the sofa, closed his eyes, covered his face with his hands.
They were both silent for a long time.
“Wow,” Ally whispered finally. “I don’t even know what to say. Are you...are you disappointed? That you’re not a father?”
“Hell,” he growled, lowering his hands to the couch beside him. He stared up at the ceiling. “I don’t even know. I think I actually am, a little. On the other hand, all I’ve wanted since I got here was to get back to my nice, normal, bombs-exploding life.” He grimaced. “I’m really, really confused.”
That’s what he wanted ever since he’d gotten there - to leave. Well. Ally’s heart began a slow descent.
Then Jack lifted his head. “I need a drink.”
Ally nodded and jumped to her feet.
“Do you have anything stronger than beer?”
She went over to her small bar and opened it, revealing rows and rows of bottles.
“Excellent.” He got up and walked over to the well-stocked bar. “My old buddy Jose. Jose Cuervo.”
Ally pulled two glasses from another cupboard and set them on top of the bar. Jack poured golden liquid into each glass, recapped the bottle and set it down. Then he handed a glass to Ally and took one himself and they carried them back to the couch.
“Well,” Jack said heavily.
Again they were silent, processing the evening’s astonishing turn of events.
Finally, Jack turned to Ally. “I can’t believe it. That dickhead. He slept with my girlfriend and never said a word, even through the whole pregnancy thing. He was so supportive about it all, and it turns out it was actually him. It was his baby! God!” He rubbed his face. “I can’t believe he let me take the heat for that! Christ, my parents were so pissed off. Brittany’s parents probably hate me to this day. Oh, man.”
“Um...you could have been the father, Jack.”
He stared at her and color washed into his cheeks. “Yeah. Okay. We had sex. But we were always careful. Unlike goddamn Carter. Didn’t it even enter his head that it could be his baby?” He frowned. “It probably did. He just didn’t say anything. Technically,” Jack’s mouth twisted wryly, “he didn’t have to.”
Ally drew a long breath into her lungs. She had been right about Carter - he didn’t deserve Jack’s loyalty. But she didn’t feel good about it. On the contrary, she felt crappy seeing Jack have his friendship trashed, all his memories of Carter and the experiences they’d shared now tainted. She knew how he felt, because she’d been through the same thing when she’d found Carter cheating on her.
“I’m sorry, Jack,” she whispered. “I know how it hurts when someone betrays you like that.”
He met her eyes. She could see the pain and confusion in them and ached for him.
He held up his empty glass and gave a rueful smile. “I am going to get totally shit-faced.”
She got up and went and got the bottle of tequila, splashed more into their glasses and set it on the table between them. She leaned back against the couch, sitting beside Jack, and they both lifted their feet to the coffee table, holding their drinks.
“You know what’s the worst thing?” he said, swirling the amber liquid in his glass.
“Carter is Sarah’s father and he isn’t going to help her.”
Ally was silent. “Shit.”
“Yeah. What a scumbag.”
They continued naming Carter the worst, most imaginative insults they could come up with until they both started laughing. Jack reached for the bottle again and refilled their glasses, leaning back with a sigh and a smile.
“Are you mad at Brittany?” Ally asked.
He thought about that. “Nah,” he finally said. “She was just doing what she thought she had to, to save her kid.”
“I meant...for sleeping with Carter.”
“Oh.” Jack gulped his drink. “Nah. It was so long ago, it doesn’t even mean anything.” He sighed. “I just wish she had figured out who was the father nine years ago. Wow, would things have been different.”
Ally considered that. “Yes.” She knew Jack’s relationship with his parents had never really been the same after that. ”You need to tell your folks.”
“Yeah.” He grimaced. “And think how different Carter’s life would have been. You and he would likely never have gotten together.” The curve of his lips looked endearingly satisfied at that thought.
“Probably not.” And how different would things have been for her and Jack? Would they have figured out their feelings for each other sooner? But what if they had? They’d been awfully young to know who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with.
Yikes. Where the hell did that thought come from? There was no way she and Jack had any kind of future. She had to just wash those thoughts right out of her slightly drunk and fuzzy head.
“Thank God you and Brittany didn’t get married,” Ally said suddenly. “Wow. What a mess that would have been.”
Jack groaned. “No kidding. And, thank God we didn’t tell Sarah yet. Oh man.” They were silent again for a moment.
“This is good stuff,” Jack said, leaning back into the cushions of the couch and lifting his glass. “You know we have to do something about dickhead Carter.”
Ally grinned and leaned back too. “Like what?”
“How about beat the living crap out of him.”