An Ultimatum of a Different Kind

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The ping of the text echoes in the Early morning stillness of the kitchen, and I jump at the sound, hoping it's Justine

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The ping of the text echoes in the Early morning stillness of the kitchen, and I jump at the sound, hoping it's Justine.

Instead, it's Christina. My stomach gurgles with indigestion, thinking about the previous evening.

Here's Javi at breakfast!

I sigh at the photo of him in his high chair, covered with what looks like gooey applesauce. Yes, he's adorable, but I wonder if this is going to be a regular thing, Christina's texts. If they're about the boy, perhaps I don't mind. I've been up for an hour, and it's already been a shitty morning.

No, it's a shitty week.

Would you like to see him today?

No. Today's not good. Have to catch up on work.

I know I'll have to spend time with him—and her—at some point, but today's not the day. I don't want to see her if I can help it. Ever again. She repulses me, honestly.

Ok. BTW, sorry about last night.

I don't respond. I'm in my condo, drinking espresso, and it's all I can do to unpack my complicated feelings about last night. The boy. My son. The sinking realization that Javi looks like me is too unsettling for words. So unsettling that I'm seriously considering foregoing the paternity test. What's the point? The boy looks like me, doesn't have a father, needs help. Javi's innocent eyes had bored into my soul, and I refuse to abandon him. I know all too well how it feels to be abandoned, intentionally or not.

I'd looked at that photo of the boy all night, the one Christina had taken. The pull I felt to that little guy was like nothing I'd ever experienced. Maybe I could overlook his mother's behavior entirely because the boy is innocent.

Christina.

I'm surprised she's so eager to text, because I was harsh with her last night, harsher than I'd ever been with a woman. Other men would have kissed her. Other men would have screwed her—especially after what happened with Justine. But I couldn't, can't, won't.

The very idea had made me nauseous. I love Justine too much and hope to win her back. Have to win her back, by any means necessary.

Not that Christina hadn't tried to lure me into bed. The way she'd tilted her pink mouth toward my face, how she'd ever-so-slightly thrust her chest toward mine. By the time she'd fluttered her eyelashes at me, I knew I had to put a stop to the madness—otherwise I would have vomited on her. I'm pissed at her for even trying. As if she was trying to take advantage when I was half-drunk and mentally not on my game.

"Christina, stop," I'd said sharply, stepping back while keeping her in place by holding onto her upper arm. "No."

She'd looked at me like a kicked puppy. A mixture of anger and guilt had washed over me.

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