Chapter 21 - News

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TRISTAN

I finally feel so relaxed and happy. People are even noticing. My coworkers at the zoo tell me that I'm smiling all the time and that I look rested.

Harper and I took three days free and headed together to Bellesea. We left Maddie in charge and told her to call us if there was an emergency that she couldn't handle.

When Oliver called me to tell me about what happened, I couldn't believe it. I needed to see Dad, first because I worry about his health and second, to thank him for his help with the unfair lawsuit. I also wanted to introduce Harper to them. Harper and I went to the admin office and asked to talk to Mr. Bauman, the director of the zoo. We decided that being honest was the best policy and told him that we are in a relationship. He just smiled and told us that he wasn't surprised and that he was happy for us. We asked for a bit of time off, and as we didn't have any surgeries or big projects scheduled, were free to go.

Harper was nervous. I talk often about my family and she has a good idea about them, but she had doubts on whether they would like her. Harper is quite different than Elizabeth. She is a bit of a tomboy. She is not afraid of getting dirty, and doesn't mind at all if there are a couple of twigs stuck in her hair. Harper fussed about her clothes, even saying that she needed to go shopping. I told her that it wasn't necessary. I come from a family where we don't put importance on things like that.

We arrived to Bellesea and could see the surprise in her face. My hometown is beautiful and charming. I was lucky enough to find a parking spot behind Oliver's car and headed to my parents' house. I opened the door and could hear my family having a loud conversation in the backyard.

"Tristan! You are here!" said my mom while carrying a tray with coffee.

I walked to her and took the tray from her hands so that we could hug properly. Oliver is very attached to Dad, and my mom is my first love.

"Mom, this is my girlfriend Harper," I said while Harper looked at us shyly.

"Welcome to our home Harper. Thanks for putting a smile on my boy's face. I'm Vivian," said my mom, hugging Harper.

"A full house! That is how I like it," said Dad, walking towards us, supporting himself from a crutch. "You must be Harper," he said with a grin while shaking her hand. "I'm Greg, Tristan's dad,"

Harper finally seemed to relax. Dad was wearing an old pair of sweatpants and a faded t-shirt from the university. Mom was also wearing a simple cotton dress and was barefoot. I followed the voices to find Darla, Eddie, Oliver, Uncle Louis and Aunt Ximena sitting in the backyard. Eddie seemed to have been telling a very amusing story that had everybody laughing hard.

I introduced Harper to everybody and she sat next to Aunt Ximena, who started engaging my girl in conversation immediately. I sat with my dad in the living room to catch up. Since I'm a doctor, he is more open and detailed with me about what he spoke with the doctor than he is with my siblings or even Mom. Of course, he knows that I feel concerned, but I won't scold him or judge him. He even allowed me to check his knee. It looked really red and felt warm to the touch. I called Harper for a second opinion and she thought the same as me: it looks as if Dad has an infection.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening chatting and eating. My girlfriend seemed to enjoy herself, participating in the conversations and even teasing me a bit. We have known each other for a long time and she knows many things about me. I felt happy to be home and to have the chance to spend time with each of my family members. When it was time to sleep, Harper and I crashed in the couches upstairs, while Oliver took the one downstairs. The next morning, I went with my dad to the doctor and he confirmed my diagnosis. Dad is now on proper treatment and hopefully he will be back on track soon. I got to show Harper a bit of where I come from and introduced her to the people that mean a lot to me. We ate at Charlie's cafe and I could introduce her to Jaden who was having lunch there, Uncle Louis sorted us with enough candy for a year and we had an amazing time at the fairground where Brian treated us to a homey meal in his home.

That mini vacation with my family recharged me with energy. Having Harper with me made it even better. So now, I'm sitting at my desk, working on my admin and looking forward to what the future has planned for us. Maddie comes into the room and there is something odd with her.

"Hi Maddie,"

"Hi," she says softly.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I think I am," she says and looks distracted.

"Is everything okay between you and Oliver?"

"I... I don't know," she says, taking the sit in front of my desk.

"Look, you don't need to tell me if it makes you feel uncomfortable,"

Maddie looks at me in the eyes and hers are so full of sadness.

"Tristan, I think that Oliver is going to break up with me. Not that we have a real relationship to begin with. He has been acting odd around me since he came back from Bellesea. We don't fight, but the silences are very awkward. After you and Harper went to your parents, I realized that Oliver and I see each other often, but I have never met your family or his friends. I think that he is ashamed of me,"

"I don't think that is right. My brother is not ashamed of you. As to why he has not introduced you to anybody else, I can't answer that in detail. What I do know is that he is trying to be careful. The situation with the student that wrote a piece of erotic fiction about him shocked him. Now imagine if word spreads that he is dating and ex-student,"

"He was my teacher four years ago! I'm an adult for God's sake! I know that there is a big age difference between us and I must admit that I feel so stupid sometimes when we are together. He is an educated man with life experiences and I have barely been out of this city. Maybe he will be better with somebody else," she says, trying really hard not to break down.

"Maddie, do you love my brother?"

"I do. I have tried to convince myself to not fall for him, but it is too late,"

"Why don't you have a serious conversation with him? Tell him how you feel and what has you worried,"

"There is something else," she says, a tear escapes and goes down her pale cheek. "Tristan, I'm pregnant,"

I feel as if somebody has thrown a bucket of ice water over me at the news.

"Does he know?" I say, my voice sounds unsteady and she shakes her head.

"I just found out. I got the lab results this morning. I have been feeling exhausted lately, and went for a check up thinking that maybe I have a lack of vitamins. The doctor sent me to get blood tests done,"

"How far do you think you are?"

"About two months. I should have been more careful,"

Maddie starts crying softly. I walk around my desk and kneel next to her. I open my arms and she cries on my shoulder.

"You need to talk with my brother as soon as possible. It takes two to make a baby. You shouldn't take the full blame for this. You can also count on Harper and me for anything. You are carrying our niece or nephew after all,"

"Thanks Tristan, but how am I going to continue my studies with a baby on the way?" she says between the tears.

"We will help you to figure something out,"

Harper enters the office and her smile turns into concern immediately.

"What happened?" she says to me while rubbing her hand on Maddie's back.

"Maddie is pregnant. Oliver doesn't know it yet. She thinks that things between them are not going well,"

"We will help you. I'm only confused about the part of things not going well. He talks a lot about you. At least while we were in Bellesea, he talked about you with the family and even with me when we had time for a one on one chat,"

"He did?" Maddie says with a hopeful look.

"Yeah, he even asked me if you were allowed to take a few days free during the internship. He would like to take you with him for a small trip,"

"Then why is he acting so weird around me?"

Harper looks at me and caresses my cheek. Then turns to look at Maddie again.

"Because the Walker boys have been hit with the same love bug. He doesn't know how to tell you, but Oliver is in love with you,"

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