chapter 18

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I listened to the ticking. Tick Tock, Tick Tock. Each second felt like an hour, my mouth parched and eyes shifting impatiently as my stomach rumbled with hunger. I couldn't eat; I'd forced down a half slice of dry toast, but the nerves proved too much for me and my insides threatened to heave the small amount of food back up my throat again. I wanted to do something, to pass the time somehow, but TV seemed irrelevant to me these days. It seemed that when everything in your own life was a mess, the appeal of watching other people's drama unfolding disappeared. I'd barely slept a wink, but I wasn't tired, not even a little. I was wide fucking awake; eyes peeled, senses on high alert for the slightest knock at the front door, or the smallest vibration of my phone.

This waiting was like hell, and it only made my mind grow wilder by the second. If she was taking her time with delivering the news, did that mean she was avoiding it? Because the news she had for me was bad, because she knew it would crush me? Or perhaps she'd simply been held up. Traffic. That could be it. Or she might be busy, unable to call; pregnant women had plenty of business to pursue, I was sure. Maybe it was better that she hadn't arrived yet. I didn't know for sure if I was ready for this news yet, if I was fully prepared, emotionally. What if it was good news? Would it really be good news at all? My stomach churned uneasily with my restless thoughts, and I took a tiny sip of water to settle myself. I tried not to let it show - not around Niall, and especially not around her - just how awfully terrified I was of everything that was going on. And I really was terrified; I was scared shitless. Whatever the news she gave me today, everything was on its head. Everything was a huge mess of careless mistakes and knotted feelings and that horrible confusing, dark and yet glowing sensation I had inside me now every time I thought about Tamara, that horrible little smile that she kept giving me that brought on that painful flutter of emotion in my heart. Everything was chaos; a mess.

Neither of us had meant for it to happen. We'd ended up spending so many long, wonderful hours just talking everything through, all the different possibilities and aspects of her pregnancy. It was only as we conversed into the small hours of the morning that I realised with a pang of heartbreak that I wasn't the only one who was petrified by the idea of the baby inside her; Tamara was just as mixed up on the inside as me, but she held it together perfectly. She'd been acting for a long time, I supposed - she was good at keeping face. She'd done it for a long time with me, evidently, when she'd been with her other man. When she'd been so frightened of me hurting her, never once had I guessed that her rejection was down to a crisis of confidence. It was only in her most vulnerable moments, when the charade fell away, that Tamara's cracks started to appear. Only when she confessed all of her thoughts to me, pouring out her feelings, did I see that side to her, the girl who seemed to strong otherwise...

How could I cope with a baby, Harry? What if the baby's his, Harry? What will everyone say, Harry? I'll be so alone, Harry...

"I'll be there for you," I told her confidently, "No matter what happens. Whether it's mine or his, whether you keep it or not. I'll be here if you need me."

"You'll stay with me, won't you?" she sniffled through her thick flowing tears, cowering into my arms that instinctively pulled her close, "If it's...yours? You won't let me be alone. I couldn't do it alone..."

"Of course not," I promised easily, soothing all of her woes with a few sweet words that I didn't quite know if I really meant. "I'll stand by you. We'll be a family. That would be okay, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah. That'd be nice, Harry."

I hadn't meant for it to happen. I couldn't stop it, though I knew it was a bad idea. She was just suddenly looking up at me, as she cowered in my arms, with her tear streaked face and those pink, pouted lips. Those God damn lips, that were quickly locked in mine, my hands pulling her close tenderly, though a little erratically. It wasn't the right thing to be doing, I knew. It would only mix the two of us up more, only fuck with her head and mine more than was needed, but I wanted her so awfully much. She was all I needed, she was like oxygen to me. I loved her, I loved her so much. And we would be a family, despite how terrified I was. I didn't care what the world thought, or about whether or not it was mine in that moment. I just loved her, and my heart was breaking and bursting with amazement all at once, and I just needed to have her in my arms or I might explode. If it was wrong, I didn't care. As long as I had her, and the silent dream inside my head of me and her and our little one, the baby that bonded us together. I prayed it was mine. I hoped beyond all hopes that the amazing little life inside her belonged to me as well.

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