Chapter Twenty-Two

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The kitchen was dimly lit by a single light above the wooden table. Oliver found himself sat on one side with a mug of tea in front of him and Meghan's spoiled cat Lady Ragamuffin bumping her head against his hand every time he stopped petting her. On the other side, Meghan clasped her fingers around her own mug, her eyes on the small jewellery box into which she'd lovingly placed the remains of the necklace. She'd sent her daughter upstairs to calm her nerves. Cassidy hadn't been in any fit state to handle a conversation with Oliver about her complicated history, and Meghan felt she was the best to answer the questions he'd have.

After all, she'd played her part in it, too.

'They... they don't give you anything to bury at five weeks,' Meghan explained. 'Not even ashes. I thought the necklace would be a good substitute. It was more for the ritual of it, I suppose.'

'Why that necklace?' he asked quietly.

'It was the closest I could find to the one you gave her. Sort of like having you both with the baby, I suppose. Daisy, I mean.'

'Did they know it was a girl at five weeks?' Oliver asked. 'I thought that was too early...?'

'Cass' said she had a feeling.'

Oliver put a hand to his forehead and let out a long, slow breath. For five short weeks, he'd been an eighteen-year old father to a baby that his girlfriend thought might be a girl, and then she'd passed away without him ever having known about her.

It was a lot to take in for one night.

He'd thought the worst think about Cassidy's lies had been the accident. That was something he could understand – she hadn't wanted him to throw away his education to hold her hand during her recovery – but a child was an entirely different matter. That was something she should have told him as soon as she'd found out.

Unless, of course, she had no idea at the time.

'She knew,' Meghan said, reading him like a book. 'Before the accident.'

Oliver cleared his throat. His voice cracked when he asked, 'Is that how?'

'The impact caused so many internal injuries there was no way the baby could survive.'

A lump rose in his throat which he was quick to swallow down. At such an early point in a pregnancy there was hardly anything there, just a few cells, and it was difficult to think of them as a baby. It was more the promise of what might have been that made it hard to accept that he hadn't been granted the opportunity to meet this new life. Had Cassidy elected to get rid of the baby it would have been a different matter entirely. It was her body, and her choice. It would have been good of her to consult with him about it, but he wouldn't have told her it was wrong.

Losing a child to miscarriage wasn't the same.

The choice had been taken away from them. They hadn't had a chance to discuss the possibilities of a life as a young family. They had a right to that future if they'd wanted it.

'I wanted her to abort,' Meghan confessed. 'Her father – David – said it was her decision. I thought she was too young.'

'He was right. It wasn't your choice,' Oliver said, his voice hard. 'It was hers.'

Meghan smiled sadly. 'She said the same thing.'

'And none of you thought to pick up a bloody phone and tell me what was going on?' Oliver demanded. 'It's not like you'd have to use a damn carrier pigeon! I'd have helped! My parents would have helped! Hell, I'd have married her right away if I'd known. Given up university, gotten a job in –'

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