I sat on the toilet for a few minutes, letting my brain wrap around everything.
I was pregnant.
I tried ignoring the sickness that came and went with no provocation. I tried to ignore the fact that suddenly my jeans weren’t fitting quite right. But then my belly kept getting bigger and bigger, daily. It was like watching a slowly inflating balloon.
And then the cravings. Dear God, the cravings.
Two weeks ago, my one-time-boyfriend stopped over at my house and we had three days of fooling around. Then I found him dead.
Now I’m pregnant with his child and the monster is growing faster than I can comprehend.
It’s all part of the land, my mom told me. The land is blessed with fertility – the babies mature and grow quickly and grow strong and smart. That’s why I have to stay here and keep the land going, or else the land will rebel against me.
“Fucking horseshit!” I exclaimed.
I’d been saying that a lot recently.
There was a knock on the bathroom. I couldn’t decide if I was touched or annoyed to still have Sergio here – albeit in a less permanent basis. He had cut back on his watch so he was here for a few hours each day, usually around lunch, and a few hours each night.
He was still sort-of living with me. He spent some nights just to save on gas and running around. Plus, Annabelle had taken quite a liking to the house.
I opened the door and there he was, looking gorgeous and sunkissed. That was one nice think about living in such a hot environment – easy tans. He took one look at me and said, “What is it?”
“I’m pregnant,” I groaned.
He blinked. “What?”
“I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a kid. Aric’s, obviously.”
He stared at me like I’d grown a second head. “It… It’s only been two weeks. How would you know so soon and… how would you be so…” he didn’t want to say fat, but I saw the word forming behind his eyes.
I sighed and shook my head. “I can’t even begin to explain anything. I think I’ll just have to call my mom in.”
I think he saw a third and fourth head sprout. “Your mother’s been on the missing persons lists for the past twenty two years, Layla. Lets get you in bed. I think you might be-“
I held up my hands, dialing my mom’s number. Damon answered.
“I need you all to come over and explain things to Sergio.”
“Whoa, whoa, since when were the local cops on first name basis?”
“Damon, damnit, just get everyone over here.” I hung up.
Sergio’s cogs were spinning. “Damon? As in, Damon Jones, another missing person?”
I shrugged. “You’re going to be in for a real treat tonight, Sergio.”
Why they arrived to the house, my mother rushed me. Her hands were all over the bulging stomach, ooh’ing and aww’ing. “Oh, honey, you didn’t tell us! How long have you known? Do you have the room set up?”
“Mom,” I whispered, meeting her eyes with mine, widening them and nodding toward Sergio. “I don’t think you’ve been introduced. This is Sergio Quezada. He’s the local Sheriff. Ironically, he has an open file on you as a missing person. Damon, too.”
“Ah,” she nodded knowingly, glancing over to Sergio. “So you have a weakness for men in uniform? Just like your mother.” She chuckled, pressed her ear to my stomach. “Sergio, are you thrilled? Is this your first child?”
“It’s not his,” I blurted, embarrassment coloring my face. “It was Aric’s. The one who… died.”
“Oh,” she murmured, looking put out and concerned. Sergio was red-faced and wouldn’t meet my gaze. “Well this won’t do,” mother huffed. “You can’t care for the baby on your own. Not with the land and the horses-“
“Grandma took care of me just fine,” I argued.
“Your grandmother had cared for children before – three of them, in fact. You have no experience.” My mother shook her head, glancing over to where Jeremie sat quietly on the couch. “With your permission, I would like to come here and care for the baby during the day so that she can focus on her other duties.”
It was odd seeing my mother ask someone for permission. But then I remembered how she and Damon seemed to focus on Jeremie’s wants and needs above their own. The fact that they were dead and revived tied into Jeremie more so than I realized.
Jeremie nodded. “That would be wise. Damon and I will stay in our home through the day and take up our vigil nightly, as usual.”
I blinked. Nightly vigil? Evidently after Aric’s death, I had even more eyes on me than I knew.
“Forgive the intrusion,” Sergio began, finally recovering from his shock at being named the father of my child. “But I have to ask… how in the hell are you two standing here, not looking a day older than when you left?”
Mother settled herself down beside Jeremie on the couch. “Well, that is a very long, very strange story. Jeremie, perhaps you should begin?”
Jeremie supplied most of the story, explaining his talent of raising things from the dead. He said that my mother had been his first ‘Poppet,’ or servant, that he had risen. Damon had been his second. He rose them specifically for the task of protecting me.
“Jeremie felt the rumblings in the land after your grandmother died,” Damon added in, excited to be a part of the story telling. “The island was starting to whither and die. The horses were growing weak. He knew you had to come back and you had to be persuaded not to leave or else everything would get crazy messed up.”
“How?” Sergio asked the question that lingered on my lips.
Jeremie cleared his throat. “I am of the same power as the land. I am tied to it. A guardian, I guess you could say.”
“How did that happen?” I snorted.
Jeremie met my gaze. “The Fae that offered your grandfather the secret of this island in exchange for his life? That was me.”
“Wait, hold on-” Sergio exclaimed. The story just went from fucking weird to unbelievable in his mind. For me, it was just another complication. It’s odd how commonplace those were becoming.
“I was cast out, my wings torn, and I was forced to serve as a lookout for this land. Hoping that one day, the Unseelie Court, the realm to which I belong, will accept me back.”
Sergio made a noise like he was choking and I patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry. Stick around long enough and this shit won’t even faze you.”
True to her word, my mother was over daily – usually with more plushies or furniture for the coming baby. I didn’t go into the hospital because I didn’t want to know the sex. Call me crazy – I was hoping the longer I ignored my ballooning tummy, the longer it would take for the child to come.
Most of my time was spent painting in the bedroom, my back to the increasing amount of baby paraphenalia.
It had been about a week since my mother had begun henning around the house, helping with this and that. While beginning a painting, there was a rap on my bedroom door.
“Come in,” I called, sure it would be my mom checking to see if I needed anything – for the one hundredth time.
Instead, it was Sergio. “Can I come sit for a bit?”
“Sure,” I shrugged, continuing with my work. Sergio rocked for a while, nothing but silence filling the air. And then he said, “It could have been mine, couldn’t it? If we’d had sex that night on the beach. That child could have been mine.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Guess you dodged a bullet there, huh?”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said harshly. “I… I told you I always wanted children.”
I didn’t know where he was taking this, so I stayed silent.
“I don’t want your reputation ruined,” Sergio said finally. “I’d rather step off this case and stay close to you, protect you from here, then have the towns folk talk.”
He stood in one fluid motion and grabbed my hips, turning me around to face him. He pulled me close, his lips meeting mine. I was shocked; pleasantly shocked, in fact. I returned the kiss even while feeling slightly ill at the thought of – the last person I kissed died.
“Marry me,” he said as he pulled away.
“What?” I sputtered.
It was then that the first contraction hit and I felt my water break. I was going into labor.