Chapter 7

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The bottle in my hand wavered as I stared dumbfounded at Natalie. Penelope was withholding a laugh at my startled expression, whilst her friend looked on earnestly.

“You really expect me to answer that?” I finally exclaimed after a moment of realizing she was anticipating a response.

She shrugged. “Well, yes. It wasn’t a hard question and I’m curious. Did he clap your cheeks yet?”

Penelope burst out into fits of laughter. My ears began to burn and I squirmed, giving an awkward, forced chuckle.

“Stop it, Natalie.” Penelope laughed. “You’re making her uncomfortable.”

Natalie giggled enthusiastically. “I know.” She reached over, patting my hand. “I’ll stop prying...for now.”

I sighed with relief when Natalie and Penelope began conversing, the topic shifted. Thinking about sex with Xerxes did things to my body; my skin felt hot, little goosebumps rising on my arms in pleasure. My hand sought out my bottle, quickly gulping down some of the sweet juice as I pushed away the mental image I had created of Xerxes being naked.

“Hey mama!” Sam pulled on one of his mother’s dark braids. “I’m hungry.”

Natalie uncurled his small fingers from her hair and shook her head at him. “You had something to eat before we left home.”

“But I’m still hungry.”

Natalie sighed, taking up her purse and searching through it’s compartments. She withdrew a twenty dollar bill and stood. “I’ll be right back.” She told us, taking her son’s hand and leading him away.

“I hope you didn’t feel nervous about her questions. She can be a little blunt, but is generally a nice girl.” Penelope said, referring back to the conversation Natalie had attempted to have with me. I smirked, waving a hand dismissively.

“It’s fine. She seems cool.”

Penelope smiled, leaning forward and placed her chin on her palms as she rested her elbows on the sturdy table. “I am curious however....have you ever thought about having children with Xerxes?”

My smirk dropped immediately, my stare lowering to the label wrapped around my bottle to avoid her inquiring gaze. I hadn’t expected that question and I stumbled for words.

“Not really,” I finally managed. “I’ve never considered the idea of having children with Xerxes.”

Penelope's smile widened. “Well, do you even like the idea of having kids?”

Shrugging, my fingernails scratched at the label anxiously as I met her eyes. “I guess. Perhaps one day I’ll have children. But I have other things to figure out in my life, other things to focus on, before I really decide on that stuff. Besides, I’m only nineteen. I don’t think I’m ready to have kids yet at this age.”

She nodded. “That’s understandable.”

I finished up the rest of my juice and tossed the empty bottle into a nearby bin. Penelope was leaning back in her chair, her hand moving in a circular motion over her belly when my phone vibrated. As I read the message I received from Harold, I began to stand.

“I have to meet Harold in half an hour.”

Penelope frowned, looking disappointed. “We’ll talk some other time then.”

Nodding, I waved a hand towards Natalie and her son who were a few feet away before leaving the mall and heading into the parking lot.

The neighbourhood of RidgeView Lakes was usually a quiet area. People were kind and close-knit. They had been thankful and happy with the work Xerxes and some of his employees had done in reconstructing the homes in which they could live in. I had met a few persons and they were all very welcoming.

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