Monday, May 27, 2013
Chapter 4: Labeled
During the early months of her pregnancy, Delilah struggles with acute nausea and debilitating headaches almost every single day, and the sudden influx of hormones coursing through her system often leaves her feeling tired and cranky. Most mornings, she doesn’t even want to get out of bed, let alone go to the studio or perform on stage with her band.
Throughout these challenging first few weeks, Kieran devotes himself wholeheartedly to helping Delilah whenever he can, and despite her bad mood and short temper the friends grow closer than ever before.
“What are you reading?” Delilah asks one lazy Sunday afternoon as she quietly comes up behind him.
Kieran jumps at the sound of her voice and frantically attempts to close the browser, but in his panic he fumbles with the mouse and misses the “X”.
Frowning, Delilah folds her arms across her chest and glares at him irritably. “Houses? Really? Are you in the market, Kieran?” she demands.
“Don’t look at me like that!” he snaps, sounding almost sheepish in his embarrassment. “I just thought that… You know, with the baby coming… You might need a bigger place, and…” Kieran sighs and rubs his head anxiously. “I didn’t want to ask you this way.”
“Ask me what?” she replies stiffly.
“I already spend most of my time over here, Lila,” he begins with a nervous smile. “And when the baby arrives, I imagine I’ll be here even more often. So, I thought that perhaps we could, I don’t know, move in together or something…”
Tilting his head back, Delilah traces her hand along the edge of his rough, unshaven jaw. “Why do you care?” she scowls. “You aren’t the father of this baby, Kieran. You aren’t my husband. You aren’t even my boyfriend. You have no obligation to me or my child. So I repeat- Why do you even care?”
“So now I need a label to care about you?” he exclaims. “I don’t give a damn if that kid shares my blood or not. I want to be its father, Lila. I want to be your boyfriend and someday, someday soon I hope, your husband too. I don’t understand why you keep pushing me away. You said that you love me, so why can’t we be together?”
But Delilah has no answer for him. She never has an answer for him, so she just sighs moodily and changes the subject. “I haven’t told Beau yet,” she says as she idly runs her fingers through his hair. “I don’t think I’m going to either.”
Kieran frowns. “He has a right to know, Delilah. He’s just as much a parent to that baby as you are.”
“But I don’t want to get him involved,” she pouts.
“Sooner or later he’s going to find out,” Kieran reasons. “It’ll be easier for everyone if the news comes directly from you.”
“I’m going to take a nap,” Delilah announces, pointedly deflecting his argument. “Don’t do anymore house hunting while I’m asleep.”
If Kieran had his way, he’d happily spend every night cuddling with Lila on the sofa at home, but she refuses to stay cooped up in a “shoddy old apartment drinking cheap wine and gossiping about their neighbors’ love lives like that crotchety old married couple who lives downstairs”. So, with no other plans and nothing better to do, the pair find themselves back at their old high school hangout, a loud and brightly colored arcade located just outside downtown Jericho.
“Can you drop it please?” Delilah exclaims when Kieran attempts to bring up their living arrangements yet again that night. “The baby doesn’t need a father. I will be its father.”
Kieran smirks, his eyes twinkling in amusement. “Must you always be so stubborn, my love?” he laughs.
“Don’t call me that,” Lila snaps with a withering glare. “I am perfectly capable of raising this child without you, Kieran.”
Sighing, he pauses the game and looks straight up into her stormy violet eyes. “Yes, yes you are,” he agrees. “And I have no doubt that you will make a wonderful mother, Delilah, but until you stop running away from reality and start facing your problems head on that baby will need a father figure in its life. Let me be there for you, my love. Let me be there for both of you.”
“And what do I owe you for that fascinating and insightful lecture, Dr. Everard?” Delilah glowers. “Or is the counseling session free today?”
Kieran frowns. “You didn’t hear a single word I said, did you?”
“My brain shut down once I realized you were talking psycho-babble at me again,” she retorts crossly.
Shaking his head in resignation, Kieran turns his attention back to the game. He doesn’t want to start a fight tonight, and he knows that if he continues to push her she’ll just completely shut down on him.
Tired and ready to call it quits, the friends prepare to head home, but before they get to the door Delilah stops suddenly and grabs Kieran’s hand.
“I want a picture,” she explains as she pulls out her phone.
“Of what?” he asks.
“Of us!” she grins enthusiastically.
Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, Kieran turns to say something to her, but before he gets a chance Delilah presses her lips against his in a surprisingly public display of affection.
“Oh, it turned out awesome!” she giggles as she flips to the photo.
“Let me see,” Kieran says.
“Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all,” he chuckles. “I must admit that I look pretty badass with such a hot chick on my arm.”
Delilah punches him indignantly, but she can’t resist smiling at his lame attempt at a compliment. “I’ll text it to you,” she decides. “That way we can both have a copy.”
As the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months, life in Jericho drifts by in uneventful harmony. Despite her steadfast insistence that she doesn’t need, let alone want, him around, Delilah grows increasingly dependent on Kieran, not only for his help around the house and with the band but for his company and friendship, his tender words and gentle affection, his unwavering support and unconditional love. Tonight in particular she welcomes his soothing presence.
“Bexley wants to speak with me tomorrow,” Delilah sighs as she snuggles up against his chest. “She said that we need to discuss my figure.”
Kieran nods. Even with her excruciatingly careful efforts to hide it, Lila’s baby bump has definitely begun to show, and they both knew that it was only a matter of time before their bosses at the record label noticed her ill-fitting clothes. “What are you going to tell her?” he asks.
“The truth,” she replies with a contented smile. “That I’m pregnant and the band will just have to live without me for a few months.”
“Yes, well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Bexley confesses the next day when Delilah tells her the news. “I’ve been suspicious for quite a while now, ever since you turned down that swimsuit photo op last month. Who is the baby’s father?”
Delilah freezes, her eyes widening with panic. She wasn’t expecting Bexley to be so blunt, and the question catches her off guard. It’s probably my ex-boyfriend’s kid, but honestly it could belong to any number of other men, including my band mate Kieran. You know, the guy you explicitly forbid to get involved with me... “I’m, uh- He’s a- You wouldn’t recognize his name,” Delilah blurts out.
“Try me,” Bexley retorts coolly.
Delilah flinches. “I’d, uh, I’d rather not say…” she whispers faintly.
Bexley’s eyes narrow into angry little slits. “Delilah, dear, if you can’t trust me with a harmless little piece of information such as that, then I’m afraid that my job as your manager is doomed to failure. I’d hate to put an expectant mother out on the street, but we have girls lining up around the block to take your place, many of whom actually know how to keep their legs closed…”
Whether it’s her pregnancy hormones, the threat of losing her dream job, or Bexley’s cheap jab at her less than pristine reputation, she isn’t sure, but whatever the cause Delilah breaks down into hysterical sobs right there in her boss’s office.
“Delilah, dear, calm down,” Bexley scolds with an uneasy laugh. “I’m just as eager to break in a new lead vocalist as you are to find another job, and besides, your album is selling well right now and Roscoe quite likes you for some reason. However, as your manager it’s my responsibility to cultivate and maintain your image, and in order to do so I need to know exactly what I’m dealing with here. I need to know the name of your baby's daddy.”
Wiping her eyes, Delilah glances up miserably. “I’m not entirely sure,” she sniffs, “but I think it probably belongs to Beau.”
Bexley’s eyebrows shoot up. “Beau Henderson?” she asks. “The actor you were dating last summer?”
“Interesting,” she purrs, suddenly sounding much more upbeat. “You should go home and rest, Delilah dear, while I take care of the announcement. There’s already been some speculation about your, uh, condition in the press, but obviously we have yet to confirm anything.”
“You won’t mention Beau though, will you?” Delilah pleads. “I haven’t told him yet, and I really don’t want him to find out through the tabloids.”
“Don’t worry,” Bexley smirks. “I wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t in your best interest.”
Across town, Kieran attends his weekly lessons with Phineas Ellsworth, the young professor who tested Delilah’s magic a few months back. Atticus, Kieran’s mentor and Delilah’s maternal grandfather, insisted that he continue his training under the supervision of the more experienced mage, and so once a week Kieran drops by the Ellsworth residence to practice his spells.
However, after just a few months of these sessions Kieran outgrew his instructor’s teachings, and Phineas decided to let him train on his own, turning the visits into little more than a formality. Still, Kieran enjoys spending time with the well-studied mage, and he finds Phineas’ stories about the secretive world of magic fascinating and informative.
“You didn’t know?!” Phineas exclaims in a hushed tone when Kieran asks him about the rigid ban on human mage marriages. “The law came into being around the time of the Great Plague, during the darkest of the Dark Days when the epidemic was wiping out hundreds upon thousands of people every month. Facing extensive protests and an ugly civil war, the ruling monarch, King Aylwin, became desperate to find someone, anyone, to blame for the deadly outbreak, and in his fear he turned on us magic folk, claiming that we started the plague. He ordered anyone suspected of using witchcraft to be tried and hung, and so we were forced to flee our homes and hide our powers in order to escape the massacre. The mage’s council forbade interbreeding with humans as a way to further distance the community from our bloodthirsty neighbors, and over the years the custom became ingrained in our culture. I admit, to an outsider it can seem a bit dated by today’s standards, but with the widespread unrest currently sweeping through the community nobody would dare challenge such a familiar and well-established law right now.”
Kieran frowns. “Unrest?” he repeats.
Phineas nods solemnly. “Oh yes, and it’s reached a fever pitch as of late.”
Lowering his voice to a soft whisper, Phineas leans in and locks eyes with Kieran. “Most mages in the community refuse to discuss it, and those who will usually condemn it as a lie. However, denial never fixed anything, and I believe, as do many of our foremost academics, that this problem demands awareness and attention. What I say here should not be repeated thoughtlessly or discussed within the earshot of strangers,” he warns in a somber tone.
Kieran nods in agreement, and Phineas begins his tale.
“Several centuries ago, a pair of scholars started investigating a perceived decline in the raw power of magic throughout the known world, and they gathered and compiled encyclopedias full of data. They were never able to substantiate their hypothesis, however, but some five hundred years later one of our leading analytical minds at the university in Arundel discovered their research. Professor Cyrus Delmar, my mentor as a matter of fact, reopened the study, and using current numbers he conclusively proved their theory of magic decay. He even went so far as to predict that in another five hundred years or so, there won’t be any magic left in the world at all.”
“Wow, that’s intense,” Kieran breathes.
“Quite,” Phineas agrees. “Professor Delmar just recently released his findings to the public last year, and it set off quite a buzz throughout the community. People have long speculated about such a phenomenon, but there were never any hard figures to back it up. Naturally, this new information makes the community extremely uneasy, especially as no one knows what’s causing this rapid disintegration of power or how we can stop it.”
With his mind still churning from his conversation with Phineas earlier in the afternoon, Kieran welcomes the thought cleansing peace of Delilah’s latest fad, candle-lit meditation sessions on the living room floor.
“You’re tense tonight,” she notices as he settles down beside her.
“Everything okay?” she asks.
Kieran grunts indifferently.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Aren’t we supposed to be silent when we do this?” he retorts.
Delilah opens her eyes and glares at him. “I’m bored,” she complains. “Besides, you’re distracting me.”
“How?! I haven’t said a word.”
“You took your shirt off again. You know what that does to me.”
With a grin, Kieran leans back and winks at her enticingly. “Maybe that’s why I did it,” he smirks.
Delilah groans and shuts her eyes again. “Now you’re just being cruel. Besides, wasn’t the ‘no sex until I commit’ rule your great idea?”
Kieran laughs. While he hadn’t phrased it quite that way, he did make it clear that their relationship was strictly nonsexual until she agreed that they were officially and exclusively a couple. “I can always make an exception…” he replies mischievously.
Delilah’s eyes fly open. “Really?” she breathes.
Coming up behind her, Kieran kisses her deeply. “I miss you,” he murmurs when they break apart. “And I’m sick and tired of waiting for you to make up your mind.”
With a satisfied moan, Delilah turns around to face him. “You don’t have to wait any longer,” she whispers. “I’ve decided. I’m ready, Kieran. I’ll be your girlfriend.”
As her words gradually sink in, Kieran struggles to contain the explosion of happiness ricocheting through his chest. My girlfriend, he thinks with a thrilling jolt. After so many years of waiting, he can finally call her his girlfriend.
“And I think you should move in with me,” he hears her say. “I don’t want to be alone any longer.”
“Of course, Lila,” he murmurs as he leans down to kiss her. “You know I will.”
They make love that night, sweet and slow and unhurried love, and for the first time Delilah notices how well they move together, almost as though he can read her thoughts and anticipate her actions.
When Kieran wakes up the following morning to find Delilah still fast asleep beside him on the bed, he feels blissfully relieved. After his two previous, heartbreaking experiences with her, he feared that she might have changed her mind and snuck out sometime last night, but he’s never been so happy to be wrong. She’s in it for good this time; he’s absolutely certain of it.
The couple drops by Rigby and Heidi’s new apartment later that morning, and they don’t make any effort to conceal their relationship status from Delilah's brother and sister-in-law, even cuddling together on the sofa before lunch. At first, Rigby seems genuinely taken aback by how openly affectionate they are toward each other, but he wisely holds his tongue and goes with the flow.
His wife Heidi, however, proves far less tactful.
“Darling, can you pass the salt?” Kieran asks as they sit down for lunch a short while later.
“Darling?!” Heidi sputters and chokes. “But, Lila, you’re not dating… I mean, what about B-”
Rigby kicks her under the table. “Heidi and I weren’t aware that you two were an item, but congratulations! That’s exciting news, isn’t it dear?” he adds with a meaningful glance at his wife.
“Oh, um, yes. Quite exciting. Thrilling even.” She smiles at them, but it looks rigid and forced.
Delilah laughs and squeezes Kieran’s hand. “Yeah, I guess so,” she replies before turning back to her meal.
Kieran, however, sees right through their act, but he decides not to push it right now. He has more important matters to worry about today, like telling his roommate Austin that he’s moving out of their shared apartment next week.
After lunch, the couple says goodbye to their friends and leaves. Delilah has some errands to run and Kieran wants to see if Austin is home, so they go their separate ways, making plans to meet back at Delilah’s place later that night.
Unfortunately, it isn’t Kieran’s cheerful face that greets Delilah at her doorstep when she gets home. While she can’t quite make out his expression through the pouring rain, Delilah can tell that Beau Henderson doesn’t look pleased. Not pleased at all.
Blargh. Sorry for the walls of text. :| I didn’t realize how bad it was until I typed it up in blogger, and I’m too lazy to go back in game and take more pictures. My apologies.
So, for those of you who didn’t skim right through the ridiculously long paragraphs, I’m curious what you think! Some more of the overarching plot came out this chapter, and much, much more will be revealed in my next update. I have some (hopefully) very exciting things planned for Delilah and Kieran, and I’m dredging up some old characters from Luca’s generation. I haven’t forgotten about anyone, by the way, it’s just taken me six months to get back to them. o_o
Also, this is turning out to be the longest goddamn pregnancy ever. Just as a warning, I’m using the pregnancy controller mod to try and keep Delilah’s baby bump consistent, but it’s a lot more challenging than I realized it would be. Prepare for some strange fluctuations in the size of her belly. Sigh.