Blame it on the Stars (The Blame Game) (22 page)

BOOK: Blame it on the Stars (The Blame Game)
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I thought I did, but you’ve changed. It’s been nothing but secrets and lies for weeks now, and frankly, you’re not a very good liar. You’ve been a bundle of nerves. Honestly, I’m not sure you’re the person I thought you were.”

Anger set in and s
he put her hands on her hips. “And just who do you think that I am?”


From what I hear, it sounds like you’re nothing but a slut.”

His words cut through her like a knife. She thought about slapping him, but when she looked at his face she knew she could never
do it. She loved him too much.

She forced herself to remain calm
. “I don’t believe you meant to say that. You’re being very quick to pass judgment. Don’t you want to hear my side of the story?”


You admit there is a story, then. I guess that’s something. God, Catlin, I don’t want to hear anything about it. I’m totally sickened by this whole situation. I feel extremely foolish that I got so caught up with you. I want you to leave, and I’m going to try to get back some semblance of a normal life.”

She couldn
’t believe her ears. “You’re nuts! It was one kiss! I told him
no
. End of story.”


You’re really getting much better at this lying business. Of course, you had the trip back to get your story straight.”


I’m not lying! Why would you think otherwise?”

He scowled.
“You disgust me.”

Anger kicked in, shoving aside the frightened, hurtful feelings.
“How dare you? Who have you been talking to? I’m supposed to be the most important person in your life. Who do you believe more than me?”

He got in her face.
“I called you this morning. I wanted to hear your voice before I went to church. Your son couldn’t find you in your room. He found you in his father’s room. And he took that opportunity to describe to me what he saw happening. It was pretty graphic. I don’t believe a nine-year-old could make it up, even one with an imagination like his.”

Catlin
’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach with a thud.
Christian
. She thought he’d acted funny at breakfast. Craig mentioned a phone call, but Chris said it was a wrong number.
Why had he lied?
And worse yet, why had he lied so vulgarly to Steve?


I’m sorry,” was all she could think to say. She couldn’t throw her son under the bus.


Don’t even tell me you’re sorry! I trusted you! I believed you when you said you were just going there to see your son! You took my trust, and you took my heart, and you flushed them right into the sewer. God damn it, I can’t even stand to look at you. I want you out of my house, and out of my life, you two-timing bitch.”

The life sucked out of her, Catlin
picked up her purse and jacket, and slowly left the house. She drove home, and threw her suitcases on the floor of her bedroom. Between bouts of sobbing she threw up, pounded her fist into her pillow, and finally fell into bed, too exhausted to sleep.

She
tossed and turned all night, and was miserable the next day.

Dana wouldn
’t look at her, or speak to her.

She forced herself to make it through the day,
narrowly avoiding Jetta, who would really read her the riot act when she found out.

But when Jetta called her later that night
, she told her parts of what happened. She could tell Jetta was angry, and she couldn’t blame her. But Catlin refused to rat on her son. She was the adult. She’d made her own bed, now she had to lie in it. For the second night in a row, Catlin punched her pillow and cried until she fell asleep.

Tuesday afternoon, Jetta came to Catlin
’s classroom. “Things are not good,” she said simply. “I tried to talk to Steve.”

Catlin
couldn’t even look Jetta in the eye. “How is he?”


A hot mess. He was polite, but he said there was nothing to discuss. He’s torn up, Catlin.”


What am I going to do?” Catlin felt horrible again, like she might be sick.
Damn!


Give us one more chance.” Jetta held her hands up. “Tonight, Jimmy’s going to drop in on him. He’ll make him talk. I’ll tell him to use the handcuffs if he has to.”

Catlin nodded.
“Excuse me.” Stomach churning, she hurried to the restroom.

 

Wednesday morning, Catlin pulled her favorite pair of black slacks from the closet. She slipped into them, and realized there was no way they could be zipped. Her tiny little stomach was puffing out.
Oh my God!
She felt like a load of bricks had just been dumped on her head. “What have I been thinking?” She quickly found some other clothes to wear, and left early so she could stop by the drug store.

Her mind raced on the drive. Steve hadn
’t used condoms since their first night together, but she was on the pill. She took it every morning.
Well, almost every morning
. She recalled one night she’d slept over with him, spur of the moment, and hadn’t taken her pills. And then there was the weekend that she’d forgotten to pack everything—
shit!

In the pharmacy aisle, s
he looked at the wall of home pregnancy tests. She chose one that showed a plus sign for positive or a minus sign for negative. She paid for it and hurried off to school, where she made a beeline for the teacher’s lounge. She waved as she passed through, and went straight into a stall.

Catlin read the instructions quickly, and took the test. For an agonizing five minutes she leaned against the wall in the tiny
space, going over in her mind all the signs she’d missed for the past month.

She looked at her watch,
and then down at the test stick. There was a definite minus sign. There was also a faint plus sign. “God damn it!” She wrapped up the trash and tucked it in her purse to throw away someplace more private. The lounge was full of people so she couldn’t use the phone then. She waited until first hour had started, and left the yearbook staff for a few minutes to call her doctor’s office. They told her if she got to the lab by noon, they could have her results that day. Catlin made arrangements to take an early lunch, and went to the lab for a blood test.

She finally caught up with Jetta in the afternoon.

“Where the hell have you been all day?” Jetta scolded her. “I’ve been missing you or something.”


Running here and there. Did Jim talk to him?”

Jetta nodded.
“Not good, girlfriend. Steve is not interested in sharing you with your old boyfriend.”


Damn!” Catlin slapped her hand on the table. “He’s so stubborn. I told him that’s not what happened. We did
not
sleep together. He refuses to believe me.”

Jetta tiptoed around the subject.
“Jimmy suggested perhaps it was just a bit of leftover passion, which is out of your system now.”

Catlin blinked.
“You don’t believe me either.”

She screwed up her face.
“He seems pretty convinced. Regardless, Steve’s too far gone to reason with now. He doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to talk about it. Something’s going on with him, Catlin, and we’re not sure what it is.”


Son-of-a-bitch!” Catlin muttered to herself. “What am I going to do?”

 

She found out one thing she was going to do when she talked to the doctor’s office later that day. She was going to have a baby.

 

Catlin went home and lay down on her bed. Her hands kept finding her stomach, which had pooched out ever-so-slightly. Her life was in shambles and her path wasn’t clear, but one thing Catlin knew for sure.
I’m keeping this baby
. She wanted Steve desperately, and she realized right then that she wanted his baby just as much.

She had to talk to him. Catlin wished she could talk to Jetta, but she felt it was cruel, since Jetta was so anxious to get pregnant. Catlin had done it a second time without meaning or even wanting to. She couldn
’t talk to Jetta. But she had to talk to Steve.

She called the newspaper anonymously and was told he was out all day Thursday, but would be back Friday.

Friday was the last half-day of school before the holidays. Catlin wanted to reach out to Dana, but the girl was very quiet and withdrawn. She barely looked up, so Catlin kept her distance. When the final bell rang at eleven-thirty, she said her good-byes and “Merry Christmas’s” to her friends. She caught up with Jetta. “I’ll call you later. I’m going to track down Steve Naughton and make him listen to me!”


You go girl!” Jetta cheered her on.

Catlin hurried to her car.
She drove to the newspaper office, praying she could get in to see him. Her prayer was answered when she bumped into him, leaving as she was coming in. They stopped in the foyer.


Hi.” She blinked, startled. She’d wanted to see him so badly, but now wasn’t sure what to say. She could barely stand to look into his gorgeous eyes, it was that painful.


Hello.” He fidgeted. His eyes shifted uncomfortably.

Catlin
plucked up her nerve. “We need to talk.”

He shook his head and started to reply, when the door behind him opened.

Barbara Naughton appeared in a sleek, mink-trimmed fur coat. “I think everything’s ready—” She stopped when she saw Catlin, her eyes flickering surprise. Barbara regained her composure and smiled smugly. “There’s so much to do this time of year, don’t you think?” She put her arm through Steve’s. “We’ve got the company Christmas party tonight, and then we’re getting ready for our trip. Steve’s taking us skiing in Vail the week after Christmas.”

Catlin
forced her jaw to remain closed as she glanced at Steve. He appeared very uncomfortable.

She
drew on inner strength and said to Barbara, “How nice for you. Would you excuse us for a moment? I need to have a word with Steve.” Catlin brushed her hair back from her face with her left hand. The big diamond ring was obvious to all, sparkling away.

Barbara
’s face reddened and she started to speak.

Steve
touched her arm. “Could you give me a minute, please? Go on out to the car.”

Reluctantly, Barbara obliged.
She shot Catlin one last glare before exiting the foyer.

A customer walked in and inserted coins into the newspaper rack by the wall. Catlin looked at Steve.
“Shall we do this here?”

He
glanced around. “Come on.” He walked back in through the front office, going into an empty conference room. Catlin followed him, and he shut the door.

She could barely contain herself.
“What could you possibly be thinking?”


What I do is no longer any of your concern. Didn’t your friends get the message to you?”


They’re your friends, too. They care about us.”


Well, they’ll have to do it separately, because there is no longer an
us
.”

She held up her left hand. The engagement ring
glittered under fluorescent lights. “I’m still wearing this, aren’t I?”


You shouldn’t be.”

Catlin couldn
’t have felt worse if he’d punched her in the face. She looked at her stomach briefly then back at him. “You know what? It was
I
that misjudged
you
. You are a spineless, gutless, jackass of a so-called man. The first sign of trouble and you high-tail it back to
mommy
.”


The first sign of trouble should have been when you walked into my life, you conniving cunt.”

She thought her head might explode.
“Ohh!” She pulled off her engagement ring, grabbed his hand, and slapped the ring into it. “Now who needs to wash his mouth out with soap? You’re screwed up, Steve. You don’t know the difference between trouble and the best thing that ever happened to you. Well, there you go. Have a nice life with that fucking ice queen psycho-bitch and the rest of your wacked-out family.” She pulled the door open and looked back at him one last time. “I’d like to say I hate you, but whether you believe it or not, I don’t like to lie.”


Well, I hate—” Steve hesitated.

Catlin looked at him warningly
.


—what you’ve done to me. And how you’ve made me feel.”

She tossed her hair over her shoulder.
“Yeah, well, life sucks and then you die.” She walked out of his office, and out of his life.

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Catlin went home, fighting back tears the whole way. When she got inside, she broke down and
sobbed for an hour. When it was finally out of her system, she called Craig.


I’m out of school for Christmas break, and I have nowhere to go.”


What about Steve?”


Oh, I’m definitely not spending Christmas with him.”


Trouble in Toyland?”


You could say that. He called me a cunt, and I gave him his ring back.”

He chuckled, but there was no humor in it.
“So that’s the end of that story, huh?”


Not quite. Color me stupid, but for the second time in as many relationships, I find myself pregnant.”


You’re what?” Craig made a horrible choking sound.

She tightened her grip on the phone.
“Are you all right?”

He coughed.
“I swallowed my gum. Did you say pregnant?”


You heard me. Knocked-up. With child. Bun in the oven.”


You seem to be in a pretty good mood about it.”


It’s either that or suicide. But technically, that would now be murder/suicide, wouldn’t it?”


Cat, you’re rambling. Are you sure you’re okay?”

She chuckled.
“Yeah. I’m just trying to come to terms with being unmarried and pregnant,
again
.”


You don’t have to keep it, you know.”


Thanks for pointing out the obvious. I believe you suggested that last time, too. Lapsed Catholic I may be, but I refuse to consider abortion.”

He got into the spirit of her teasing.
“That adoption route worked pretty well for you.”

“Oh, sure, that worked out super great. Craig, I’m keeping the baby. If I have nothing else, I’ll have my children.”


Oh, you have us too, sweetie. Come home, where we love you.”

That was the invitation she
’d been fishing for.
“I’m packing now. I’ll be there in a few hours.”


Drive carefully. Remember, you’re driving for two now.”


Ha ha. See you later.” She hung up and proceeded to pack her things.

She went to the closet and sorted out Christmas presents. Except for
Chris’s, most of them were for Steve, Dana and David. She left those in the closet. She pulled out her son’s presents and packed them. She found the gifts for Jetta and Jim that she and Steve had picked out together. The simple memory brought a new round of tears. Catlin stuck their packages in the front seat, and decided to drop them off before she left town.

When she was
loaded and had taken one last look around, Catlin left and drove to Jetta’s house.


Hey.” Jetta answered the door. “Come in.”

Catlin went in with the two presents in hand.
“I’m leaving for Kansas City. I wanted to drop these off before I left.”


Thanks!” Jetta took them and set them under her tree. “Did you talk to Steve?”

Catlin waved her empty left hand in the air.
“Boy did I.” She told Jetta about their encounter and added “Oh, and guess who was with him? The former, current and future Mrs. Naughton.”


No way!” Jetta exclaimed.


Way.” Catlin nodded. “They’re off to the company Christmas party, and,” she raised her voice to a nasally whine, “Steve’s taking us skiing in Vail the week after Christmas.”


Well I’ll be damned!” Jetta paced around. “That’s what he was acting so funny about. She didn’t waste much time moving back in, did she?”


He’s a pantywaist.” Catlin shook her head. “Like I told him, first sign of trouble, he’s running back to mommy.”

Jetta chuckled.
“Gee, I can’t imagine why you argued.”


Yeah.” Catlin shrugged. “It was right after that when he called me a—never mind. I’m off to spend Christmas with my son, and bring him back here. I can’t wait for you to meet him!”


Wow, quick change of mood. I would have expected more tears.”


Been there, done that. Now it’s time to look ahead. I have my children to look forward to, and I can’t sit around crying all the time.”

Jetta smiled
. “Please tell me Chris isn’t a twin.”


What?”


You said ‘children’ plural. You have your ‘children’.”


Oh!” Catlin back pedaled. “I guess I’m going to have to get used to just the one. I’ve been thinking of Dana for a while now.”

Jetta laughed
. “But not David?”

Catlin made a face
“That little bastard. Him, I can live without.”

Jetta laughed louder.
“Oh no you can’t. You’ll have him in English second semester.”


Crap!” Catlin remembered, and wondered for a second how that might work out. Then she shrugged. “No more thoughts of school for two weeks. I’m off to my son!”

Jetta hugged Catlin
. “Thanks for the gifts. We, uh, got you something...but it was for the two of you. Perhaps I can rethink and come up with something more appropriate by the time you get back.”

Catlin hugged her back.
“No need. Your friendship is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. I love you, honey.”


You too, kid. God bless.”


Thanks. See you in two weeks!”

She got in her Jaguar and headed out to the highway. She felt better than she had in ages. At least she knew what was making her sick. And it made her very happy. A corner of her heart was aching, but she blocked it out. Christmas was almost here!

 

When Catlin pulled up to the house,
Chris flew out the door and into her arms. “Mom!” He grinned from ear to ear.

She hugged him to her tightly
and finally pulled away. Her heart ached seeing him. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to, and she wanted to get it out of the way. “We need to talk.”

He gazed at her, confused.

“Help me get my stuff inside, will you please?”

He helped her carry her bags into the house, where Craig was on the phone.

He waved to Catlin, and continued his conversation.


Where’s your dad?” she asked Chris.

He shook his head
. “He said he’d be back soon.”


Okay.” She nodded, and they put her stuff in her room.

Craig ended his phone call, and gave his sister a hug.
“How ya doing?”


Pretty good.” She nodded. “Psyched for Christmas with my family.”


Great. Nick and I have been making plans all day.”


Such as?”

He shook his head.
“Nope. Have to wait for Nick. He’ll be home soon. We’ll talk tonight.”

“Okay. But Chris and I are going to talk now. He lied to Steve on the phone and it created a huge problem.

“He what?” Craig stared at her.

She on the edge of a chair and held her son’s hands as he stood in front of her. “Chris, why did you lie to Steve when he called here last weekend?”

“I didn’t,” the boy said without much conviction.

Craig spoke up. “What did you say?”

“Nothing! I didn’t!”

Catlin squeezed his hands gently. “Steve said you did. You told him that your dad and I were in bed together. It caused a big problem, Chris. Steve was so angry when I got home, he wouldn’t speak to me. When we did talk, he said some horrible things. It upset me very much.”

“No!” Chris jerked away from her and ran to Craig, burying his face in her brother’s chest.

Craig hugged him for a moment, then peeled him off. “Why did you do that, buddy? We’ve never approved of lying around here, especially about important stuff. Seems to me you lost your Wii for a couple weeks the last time something like this happened.”

Chris shook his head, but didn’t reply.

Catlin felt lousy. She hated to put him through this, but hated worse what he’d done. She rose, deciding she needed to leave the room before she really got angry. “Lost your video game for two weeks, huh? Well I lost my fiancé for good. Not quite the same, is it?” She headed toward the hallway. “I’m going to go unpack. I can’t talk about this anymore right now.”

“Catlin,” Craig called, but she kept walking.

She closed the door to her room and leaned against it. Tears fell fast and furious, she finally had to find some tissues to squelch the flood. She sat on the edge of her bed, trying to decide what to do.

Chris is coming to live with me
. She wanted him very much. Somehow, she had to get past the anger that seeing him brought out in her.

I can’t undo what’s been done
. Even if Chris admitted the lie to Steve, it was too late. Barbara was back, and they were preparing to celebrate Christmas as a family.

She sobbed into her pillow for a few more minutes, until she heard a light rap at her door. She sat up and dried her eyes. “Come in.”

Christian opened the door, a terrified expression on his face. Craig stood behind him. “He’s got something to say to you,” her brother offered.

She looked at Chris.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I just wanted you and Dad to be together.”

“I know you did.” She sniffled into a tissue. “I understand this whole thing has been hard on you, too. Not seeing me, then suddenly spending time together. We’re not a normal family, that’s for sure. But Chris, lying to get what you want is never the right thing to do. Your actions hurt a lot of people.
Steve, and his kids—”

“I don’t care about them! I just care about you, and Dad!” He flew into her arms.

Catlin held him stiffly for a moment, then drew him close. She pulled him onto her lap and whispered to him as she rocked him back and forth. “Your dad and I are always going to be here for you. We both love you very much. But this behavior, you have to understand, it’s not the way to get what you want. Do you see that?”

He nodded.

She rocked him again and looked over his head at Craig as she spoke. “There’s nothing we can do about this now, we just have to move on. With the understanding that lying is not going to be tolerated in the future, in either household. And it won’t be something like losing your Wii for two weeks. I’ll take that sucker and smash it to smithereens with a ball bat! You got that?” She looked at her son.

He grinned at her through his tears, nodding.

 

Catlin and
Chris got caught up on each other’s lives while Craig grilled hamburgers for dinner. Catlin was teasing him about grilling in December, but he insisted, “It’s never too cold to grill out!”

She froze as she recalled Steve telling Jim the exact same thing. She shook her head, realizing there were going to be a lot of things that reminded her of Steve. She was going to have to put him out of her mind.

Nick arrived before dinner with a dozen red roses. “Hello there.” He kissed the side of her head. “These are for you.”

She
inhaled the fragrant aroma as she took the flowers. “You’ve never brought me flowers in my life. Craig must have spilled the beans.”

Nick shrugged.
“How are you?”


Pretty good.”


Great.” He rubbed her shoulders, and sniffed. “I smell charcoal!”


Uncle Craig’s cooking hamburgers!” Chris told him.


Yes!” Nick made a fist and pulled it in to his waist. “This truly is a great day.”

They ate and Catlin played games with
Chris until his bedtime. She tucked him in, and pulled his door closed as she left his room.

Craig and Nick were waiting for her in the front room.
“Have a seat,” Nick said. “I want to talk to you.”


Yes?” She sat on the sofa. She looked at Craig as he lit up a cigarette. “Don’t smoke around me, please.” She smiled sweetly.


It’s colder than shit outside. One smoke isn’t going to hurt you.”

She made a face at him, and
deciding not to press the issue, turned to Nick.

He said
, “How are you, really?”

She sighed and leaned back into the chair.
“Really, I’m traumatized by this whole past week. I’m mortified by the idea that Chris spoke with Steve on the phone and made up some wild sex story that he says happened between you and me.”

BOOK: Blame it on the Stars (The Blame Game)
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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