Lion's Den Ch. 05byElektrical©
After being out of her condo for two months Max was grateful to be back. She made a mental note of all the things she needed to do, get new plants, buy food, unpack, do laundry, and go to the doctor. She sighed at the last item on her list. Rubbing her belly contemplatively she began cry. "Hey little man, what is your mama thinking? You father hurt me badly, but I can't punish or blame you can I? Whatever we were or weren't to each other is irrelevant, you are a part of me. From here on out it's just going to be you and me, can you handle that? It will be ok. Let's eat."
Max went to the supermarket to fill up the fridge and get some plants. Now that she had decided to keep her baby, she formulated a new plan. She went to campus to speak to her dean.
Professor Moore was awesome and had a genuine affection for Max. On her first day at the university she met with him, and told him he needed to do something about her foreign language requirement.
"Dean Moore, my name is Maxine La Costa and I need a waiver on the foreign language requirement."
"Ms. La Costa that is a rather unusual request. You cannot get a waiver because you're are bilingual." He responded assessing her bi-racial heritage.
"Thank you, Dean but I speak seven languages fluently, as well as read and write. So spending my parents' money learning to conjugate verbs seems like a waste." Max was determined to get her way and Dean Moore could see it in her fiery grey eyes.
"Ok, Miss La Costa, let me make a deal with you, I will grant you your waiver if by Friday you can present to me and the other language professors a ten minute piece of your choice in the language of your choice."
When Friday came Max entered the room dress like a Shakespearian actor, she did the soliloquies of Julius Caesar in Russian, Macbeth in French, Romeo & Juliet in Italian, and Midsummer's Night Dream in Chinese, then thanked the audience for their attention in German. The faculty gave her a standing ovation. Max got her waiver, since that day Dean Moore had become her advisor.
Max knew he would be in his office since the first day of school was about a week away. She knocked and waited for a response. He was another person she did not want to disappoint, but she knew he would help.
"Hello Dean," Max smiled.
"Miss La Costa how goes it dear?" he asked hugging her.
"I am great and pregnant," Max blurted trying to treat the situation like she was pulling off a Band-Aid.
"Huh? Come again?" Dean Moore was sure he had misheard. Max was a super sensible girl, always had a plan she was working, and pregnancy had never been part of her plan.
"Yeah, I'm pregnant and I've decided to keep him, but I need to put a plan in to action to ensure I'll still graduate in May."
"Ok let me hear it." Dean Moore knew the only role he could play with Max was supporter right now. Having had a daughter go through this situation in high school he was a seasoned vet in unplanned pregnancies. He was just glad Max had such a great foundation before all this; she was four years into a five year master's program.
"I have completed all my requirements to graduate except my thesis and my internship. I can complete and present my thesis before we break for Christmas, and I can fulfill all my internship hours before April."
"Max that is an intense plan. Is this good for the baby? How far along are you?"
"I'm not too sure. I have a doctor's appointment after I leave here. I just needed to know if I can count on you."
"You have my support, but if I see you are stressing out or anything, all this will come to an end and you will graduate when you are able. Comprende?"
"Je comprends. Thank you so much." Max hugged him and headed out to the doctor.
Antonio could not sleep during the night, he kept thinking about his grandchild that will never be. Tara was rubbing his back thinking on the same things.
"My love, we must not torture ourselves with these thoughts. Maxine is grown."
"Woman, how can you be so calm about this, that is our grandchild. Would you have done the same thing?"
In the twenty three years Tara had never been asked that question, and was not sure if her honesty would help her husband, but she couldn't lie. "Yes, I thought of it when I found out I was pregnant with her. I was a black girl in a foreign country, no family around, and you were a dangerous cartel boss, it seemed that it would have been for the best."
Antonio turned to look into his wife's eyes. "Why didn't you?"
"When I was going to get it done, I suddenly felt I shouldn't but I still had to protect us. That is why I left you."
"Are you happy with the life I have given you?" Antonio was a little hurt by Tara's confession, and needed to be reassured he hadn't screwed up her life, and by default, their daughters'.
"Come here my love," she tenderly drew her husband to her breast, "I have never regretted a day with you, even when I saw the ugly sides of you. I loved you then and I love you now. Get some rest we are having lunch at the Carbones tomorrow.
Isabella was moving like a fury in the kitchen. They had not seen the La Costas in awhile and this business with the kids had made it necessary for them to reconnect.
"Woman slow down before you make me sick," Carmine joked. He loved to see his wife excited like this. The years had been good to them, their friendship and love had gotten deeper and stronger.
"Don't talk to me Carmine our guests will be arriving soon. Go to the cellar and get some wine."
When Carmine was coming from the cellar he heard the doorbell. He opened the door with a great smile on his face. "Hey, old friend," he took Antonio's hand shaking it with vigor, and double kissing on the cheek. "And you Tara, just get more beautiful with time."
"Thank you Carmine. How are you?"
"Alive and well. What else could a man ask for, except for the love a beautiful woman to prolong that life."
They laughed and made their way to the kitchen.
Tara hugged Isabella and donned an apron to help her in the kitchen. The men went for a stroll around the grounds to catch up on business and family. When lunch was ready they sat in the outdoor dining room. The conversation flowed nicely until it hit the evitable subject, Leo and Max.
"I can't wait to see Max later this week," Isabella chirped. Both Tara and Antonio stopped eating.
"She's not here; she went back to North Carolina last night," Tara responded.
"Oh, that's too bad. I thought she was staying in the city for a week and leaving on Sunday?" Isabella was confused, something was amiss.
"That was the plan, but she came home yesterday morning and told us she was going back to North Carolina in the night. Young people," Antonio said shaking his head trying to close the subject.
"Young people nothing, did she and Leo have a fight?" Isabella was ready to call and scold Leo.
"I suspect so," Tara replied.
"Gosh I wish he was here so I could wring his ears. I am sorry. I just want them to make it work so badly. To see them together is magic, they have that spark and fire, but they are stubborn." Isabella was near tears, thinking of how the lovers were missing their chance.
"Oh, don't start the water works woman, they are still young, and they ain't no Romeo and Juliet." Carmine closed the subject raising an eyebrow to Antonio.
Lunch went on for two more hours. Tara gave Carmine and Isabella the gifts Max had left for them. They bid good-bye sending hellos to each other's child.
The doctor informed Max she was two months pregnant, and the baby was due at the end of March. He gave her an astounding list of things she needed to do to get ready, first things first get some vitamins and supplements. She decided to tell her parents about her decision and plan tomorrow, tonight it was just all about her and her baby.
Max called her mother and father in the morning and told them she was keeping the baby, but swore them to secrecy. She let them know flat out that Leo was not going to be part of her life and her baby's. Antonio was overjoyed with the news, he did not pursue any other line of questioning with her. However he was interested to know what would make Max be so adamant about keeping Leo away. Tara heard her daughter's words and it was like history repeating itself. She had made the same kind of decision twenty-three years ago and it did not go over too well. She decided she would not attempt to make Max see reason, but let it all play out. When they got off the phone Max's overjoyed parents looked at each other and an understanding passed between them. They were willing to put their relationship with the Carbones in jeopardy to keep Max's secret.
As the days passed Max fell more and more in love with the young one growing inside her. Those days turned into months, and true to her plan Max worked on her internship during the day and her thesis at night. The schedule was pretty grueling, but Max was going to prove she could do it all...alone. Not alone really, but without a man. She had Laney, who lived across the hall from her, as big help. Her parents were coming out to spend Christmas and help get the baby room together. Max was grateful that she had gotten a three bedroom condo.
Her presentation before the thesis committee in December went great. She took four weeks off her internship, at the command of Dean Moore, to rest. Rest for more than two weeks would normally drive Max to homicide, but she had plenty to do with preparing for the baby. It was all very exciting and sad, at the same time. She was wondering what it would have been like to do all this with Leo.
Pauley had never seen Leo like this. Leo was always the voice of reason, which allowed Pauley to be the hot head, but now those roles were reversed. Leo was out of control. His body count was rising, and that was definitely encouraging some unwanted attention. For the smallest infraction, soldiers were getting some serious punishment. Pauley needed to put a stop to this before they both faced time. He spoke to his uncle and they decided sending Leo to Italy for a season would be the best solution. Carmine had been hearing the reports about his son for months and knew what he was doing for business. He tried to get Isabella to talk to him, but she couldn't get through. He stopped coming by for Sunday dinner, and when she did see him all she saw was the ghost of her former child. This Leo was leaner, face harder and eyes like black ice and distant. She agreed wholeheartedly with her husband, Italy would do him some good.
Antonio and Tara were ecstatic to see their daughter in all her maternal glory. They saw her on Skype weekly, but nothing could beat seeing her in the flesh. Max did not realize how much she would have loved having her parents around; she did not mind the smothering at all. Since she had phoned and told them she was keeping the baby presents and items had been continuously arriving at her apartment.
Leo called C.J. to put a track on Max's travel. He knew Christmas was coming and she would be back in New York during her break. He told his parents he would go to Italy after Christmas, and they acquiesced, glad they did not have to fight him. Plus it would have been sad to have him away during the Christmas season. C.J. informed Leo that Max was not coming to New York for Christmas but her parents had flown out to be with her. Leo was disappointed. He figured she needed a few months to cool off, and he would try to win her back during Christmas, but damn she was proving to be more stubborn than him.
C.J. was never one to feel bad for Leo. Leo was a guy that had everything and got what he wanted, but the agony on his face was too much for C.J. No man should have to endure that kind of heartache. He was still secretly keeping tabs on Max. He noticed her semester schedule was strange. Also she had some interesting charges on her debit card. He was formulating an idea but didn't draw any conclusions until he started checking her parents' finances. They also had some purchases that supported his suspicions. Leo's girl was pregnant.
Leo decided since he could not see Max during the holiday he would just leave for Italy early. He called his parents and told them his plan, went home and packed. He passed by the La Costas' apartment and left her presents with Rick.
Rick was surprised to see Leo. The man was still carrying a torch for Max, and it would have been sweet if Rick liked him for her. She was a good girl who deserved a good man; still he would overnight her packages to North Carolina.
Max went to bed leaving her parents fighting over the putting up of the crib and furniture in baby's room. Her father was so funny. For all his money he always insisted on doing stuff like this himself. Max had painted the room yellow and green since she did not know the sex of the baby. She referred to it as him, because she did not like saying "it". She did some changes to the adjoining bathroom to make it more baby friendly. She had the regular sink removed and put in a farm sink that could hold a baby's tub. Everything was taking shape nicely.
Neither Max nor her parents were expecting any deliveries so when the package arrived they were all suspicious. Antonio called Rick, he confirmed he sent the package and told Antonio who it was from. Max noticed worry flash across his face when talking to Rick.
"Papi, what's it?"
"The package is from Leo. He left it with Rick."
"Leo?" Max asked shocked.
She had not communicated with him since she left New York. For the first two months she was back her phone was inundated with countless texts and messages from him, but all that stopped now. Although, she thought about him daily, she had hoped he had forgotten about her. She needed him to forget about her, it would make all this so easy. "Dad could you put the box in my room please."
"Yes darling, but are you sure." Antonio worried about Max's stress level. He remembered what happened to her mother when she was stressed during her pregnancy.
"I'll be good," she followed her father to her bedroom. When he left she stared at the box. If I open it would that mean I accept his apology? If I send it back would that be too rude? Max, deep sighed and opened the box. She could tell he had put a lot of thought into the items, but decided not to keep them. She repacked the gifts and had them returned to his home.
Tara saw the box repacked at the front door and was troubled. She knew her daughter was stubborn like a mule, but cruel, was not her style. She had to get to the bottom of what transpired between her and Leo, but knew she had to do it gently. "Max let's get out of here and have a Christmas Eve spa day."
Max knew that tone, it was not a suggestion it was a command. She had been waiting for her one of her parents pry, they had been extremely patient.
While they laid on the massage table he mother's questioning began, she knew it was serious because her mother was speaking in Spanish. Although Tara was fluent, she usually only spoke in Spanish for serious and emotional topics. She believes Spanish has a better command of emotions that need to be expressed in words.
"What happened between you and Leo when we came back from France?"
Max had thought about that morning about a million times and couldn't make sense of what transpired. She told her mother, starting with the drive back to his place, the sex, him telling her how much he loved her, then what surfaced in the morning and the names her called her.
Tara was listening filtering what she could tell her husband. She tried to listen rationally but was now enraged that Leo would disrespect her daughter like that. She wanted to punch him in his face, and was more convinced that Max made the right decision. Despite her husband's volatile nature, he had never verbally derided her.
"Alright baby girl."
When they got back home Antonio gave his wife a questioning nod. She just smiled and nodded back. He would get the cliff notes when they went to bed.
Christmas Day went by superbly. Max's parents went all out for their daughter and grandchild. New Year's passed great too. Max was getting loads of rest and the baby's room was almost finished courtesy of the parents. They spent two more weeks with her after the holidays, and then headed back to New York. During their last week they went with Max to her see her doctor. They gushed on and on when they saw the sonogram, and was happy to take the picture to put on their fridge.
Leo sat on the veranda at the villa contemplating his next move with Max. The holidays had been lousy, not being in New York with his family or seeing Max. He was resolved that being without her was not an option. His behavior for the past few months had been reckless; he had endangered himself and Pauley, not to mention their income streams. Italy had been good to him. It gave him some perspective on who he was, and what he wanted. Come hell or high water he was getting his Max back. First he had to hit New York to see his family, make some amends and then he could devote some time to wooing Max.
Laney stood in Max's living room trying to convince her to go out with her for Valentine's Day.
"Come on Blue, you have not been out, really out in a long time."
"Because I am a house Lanes, a massive house." Max was feeling fat. She was big but now with someone living inside of her she felt enormous.
"You look gorgeous. You are pregnant and glowing, plus I bought you a really nice fancy red number so please get ready."
Max relented, she really had been feeling like scaling the walls these past few days, and the dress was lovely. She dressed in record time. After all the doing was done she had to admit to herself that she did look good. Damn I am one hot mama.
"See what did I tell you?" Laney remarked seeing her friend. "Tonight is going to be awesome."
Laney had spoken too soon, as she opened the door to leave, they walked right into Leo. Jaw dropping fine, tanned, sexy ass Leo.
"What the fuck?" Laney spat out, and tried to shut the door.
Leo put his foot in the doorway and pushed his way in. He assessed Max and his emotions swung from anger to confusion back to anger. He started to pace back and forth running his hand through his hair. I must be hallucinating. I must be hallucinating.
"Laney please leave us."
"Oh hell no Leo! You better leave."
"I am not leaving. Max explain yourself." Leo had steam coming out his ears.
She could not believe his tone. "Explain myself? Explain myself? Who the hell do you think you are? Leo you are the one who dismissed me out of your life like some common ho, yet you think you get to come into my home and question me. Get the fuck out."
"Oh no Miss La Costa you're not getting off that easy. Yeah I fucked up. Yeah I hurt you. It's all on me, but I apologized and apologized. I called you, texted you but I guess you were too eager to move on to care." He gestured at her belly for her to get the point.
"Leo, we are done, have been for months. Why now? I loved you and you broke my heart. Shattered it actually, but I moved on. Had to or my grief would have killed me. You spoke of love, and gestured it so grandly, but you know nothing of love Leo. Love is putting the needs of the other person in front of your own, and putting your ego in check. I never wanted you to love me, I know how love can destroy, but no, you had to insist and declare it. But don't worry I am not leaving you to take the blame alone, I am just as guilty as you. I didn't want you to love me, but I didn't stay away. I gave into the basest of my needs, and got burned in the process. Leo this thing between us was doomed from the jump so let us move on before we do more damage." Max had lowered her tone so he could hear how serious she was.