Chapter 33: Abandoning the Allure of Secrecy

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As the day aged the sun canvased the sky a shimmering gold. Safiya stood in Carter's office peering out the window at the vacant street; no cars were paralleled parked along the curb and people were trekking up and down the sidewalks eager to be somewhere at the top of the hour.

She held her mouth as the thought about the things Laurent told her early today. After Alyssa left Mr. O'Connor's office she asked him what rights a biological father had and then after leaving she thought about her own father, then about the type of father Carter was.

The door creaked as it opened and Safiya abandoned her sight of the tree branch being battered by the brisk breeze and drunk Carter in; his damp hair, dewy skin, the navy sweatpants hanging on his taut waist and the cotton shirt stretching across his sinewy chest.

"I took a quick shower." Carter dropped the gym bag by his desk with an audible breath. "I hope you weren't waiting long."

Safiya peeled her eyes off of him as warmth slithered from the pit of her stomach to her heart, "I just got here a couple of minutes ago." She folded her arms with a grimace.

"Are you okay?" He jutted his chin towards her as he leaned against the deck folding his arms as bands of muscles bulged below the shirtsleeve that rode up. He probably did bicep curls—Safiya was sure of it.

"Tender...from breastfeeding." Safiya settled her eyes on the bookshelf as sunrays painted the room in pinstripes. "I'm switching her to formula so my nip—" She stopped then tsked. She really didn't want to get in a conversation about her breast with him.

"What kind?" He asked wafting his silvery eyes over every curve of her body. "I'll pick some up before you drop her off tomorrow."

"About that..." She shifted her gaze towards him. "I'm not bringing her tomorrow." She released a faint breath as confusion drew lines into his forehead and his eyes became slits.

Carter pushed his hip off the desk, "So...when are you going to bring her by?"

"Um...I don't want to be one of those women that won't let their child have a relationship with their father but..." She tucked a tendril of her curling hair behind her ear. "I will not have Ameera grow up thinking she's a secret...tucked in the shadow only seeing you in this room." She sternly pointed her room to the burgundy rug covered floor.

"Every time I blink you're changing the fucking rules!" He stepped closer to her as his chest rose with a heated breath.

"Don't yell at me!" Safiya shouted back, stabbing her finger at him merely inches from his expansive pectorals. "And this isn't about you. This is about my daughter."

"Our daughter." Carter quipped with an uptick of his eyebrows.

"If she's our daughter then you'd understand where I'm coming from."

Carter sighed loudly then twisted on his heels advancing towards the door then quickly turned back towards her. "Then tell me what am I missing here. What am I not understanding?"

"You have two boys..." Safiya held up two fingers. "But will Ameera ever know her brothers. You want her to have your last name but will she ever see any member of your family besides you." She gestured at him flippantly. 

"Ditto to you." Carter rushed towards Safiya—confiscating her personal space. "Have you told your parents about her." He sneered down at her. "Because you tell me how your friends help out but not your mom and dad."

Safiya pushed him back and barked, "I will tell them when I'm ready."

"Then so will I." He rebutted.

Safiya dropped her face in her hand with a shake of her head, "I'm trying to do what's right."

"Cutting her out of my life isn't right."

She placed her eyes—blurry with tears back on him. "I want her to have your Ameera Russell." She let the tears leak from her eyes. "But you will never tell your wife or you sons about her. You will keep sneaking around to see her and she'll grow with a complex. She'll have her heart broken every time you don't show up because she's a mistake you made." He clenched his jaw as she jabbed her finger at him. "It may have been an accident that I got pregnant but I will not have Ameera believe she is one...and that your love is a reward that she has to earn." She sniffed locking her gaze with his. "I know how it feels to be lied love something...want something you can't have." She roughly wiped her face. "And I won't subject her to that."

"I want you, too." He reached out for her.

Safiya slapped his hand away, "I don't want you." She snapped out the lied and hoped he bought it. His gray optic bore into her as if he could read her soul, knew she wasn't being honest about how she felt for him. "What I want is for you to do right by your daughter included her in your complete life." She brushed at the trail of tears on her cheek with the back of her hand then lifted her tote bag off the lumpy couch.

"You're trying to blow up my whole life." Carter held out his arms as if he was Atlas holding up the world.

"No." Safiya tsked as she fished her hand in the tote bag. "You did that the first time we fuck."

He glared at her. "We made love," he clarified as his shoulders squared.

"At this present moment, I feel like I got fucked."  Safiya shook her head, her hair falling into her face as she pulled out a piece of paper,    "This is an Acknowledgement of Paternity." She handed him the paper, "If you want to honestly be Ameera's father do the right thing and be honest."

Carter studied the paper —limp between her fingers, "This gives me parental rights?"

She nodded once, "If we sign it and get it notarized."

"I want my daughter." Carter slid the paper from her grasp. "I'll be honest. Do you want me to record the conversation too?" He smugly grinned.

"Nah." Safiya adjusted the tote bag strap on her shoulder, "What's between you and your wife is between you and your wife." She opened the door then looked back at him, "I'll know if you told the truth when I dropped her off on the weekends."

Carter pulled his eyes off the paper, "You'll let me keep her for the weekend."

"You're her father." She solemnly smiled at him, "Of course I'll give you time to be her dad. A girl needs her dad."

Carter nodded his head as he planted his eyes back on the paper but she caught the mist forming.

Is Safiya doing the right thing? Should she stop Carter's visits if he keeps hiding Ameera? Should she let him get paternal rights?

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