She stopped just in front of the door and took a few steps back; leaning against the wall, she reconsidered her decision once again. She still wasn't sure it was the best idea, but she couldn't not come. As she had told her best friend after she had explained it all to her, she had to do this. But now, she regretted having told her that it would be best if she was alone; what she wouldn't give for her presence here with her, now.
She was glad that he was still in town. After all, he told her about his job when they met and she was grateful that in the meantime he hadn't had to go elsewhere. But in a way, she wouldn't have minded that; that would have given her more time to think about it, think about what she was going to do, what she was going to tell him.
It was here that she met him and she knew he came here from time to time, alone or with some friends. She hoped that he would be here tonight; deep inside her, she knew that if she didn't tell him tonight, she might never.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door of the pub open. She was immediately welcomed by that smell of tobacco and alcohol that filled every single pub, and if usually she didn't mind it, tonight it was making her sick. But she pushed that feeling aside for the moment and scanned the area for him. She finally spotted him at the back, a beer bottle in his hand while talking to some of his friends. She couldn't help that sigh of relief mixed with anguish that escaped her lips when she saw his profile. It was now or never. She still could turn back and leave, he would never know she came. But she would never do that.
Walking towards where he was sitting, she wondered not for the first time if he was going to remember her. But she guessed there was only one way to find out. And if he didn't remember her, she would have to remind him who she was.
She was just a few feet away from the table when he turned his head and spotted her. She stopped, waiting to see what he was going to do, and when she saw him talking to his friends and then leaving the table, she released a breath she hadn't realised she caught; at least it seemed he had recognized her.
"Hey," she said as he stopped in front of her.
"Hey… Clare," he replied and she was actually surprised that he even remembered her name. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks. You?" she asked back, knowing that a little chit-chat before the big talk could be necessary, was necessary.
"Fine, too. One of my friends got promoted. We were kind of celebrating. Want to join? I'm sure the guys won't mind"
"No thanks. Actually, I came here to talk to you. Can we go somewhere quieter?"
He took her hand in his and led her outside, and she was relieved to not have that smell under her nostrils.
"You ok? You look a bit sick," he said, a hand on her arm and looking really concerned.
"I'm fine," she reassured him.
After those few words, they stayed silent for a while. Clare knew that she should be the one to talk, she sought him out after all, but she couldn't bring herself to. Once it was be out, there would be no turning back, for either of them. Strangely, as she was trying to find the courage to tell him, what happened between them came to the front of her mind.
It was the first time she came to this pub; usually she went to the pub just down her street but tonight she needed the change. Dinah, one of her closest friends and her housemate, had told her once that it was a good place, with good music and she had to agree with her. She would have liked to come with her but Dinah was out of town, at a family reunion of some sort. So she was sitting alone at a table, nursing her glass of martini, and enjoying watching the band playing and people dancing to the sound of music.
She was so enthralled in all that, that she hadn't noticed that a man was watching her from his seat at the bar. Finally finding his courage, not that he really needed that to talk to a woman, he stood up and walked towards her, stopping just in front of her. Clare looked up to see who it was and saw that he was offering her his hand. She hesitated for a second before taking it.
"John," he said, a charming smile on his lips.
"Clare," she replied with a smile of her own.
"May I?" he asked, gesturing to the other seat at the table. She nodded in answer and he sat down. "I've never seen you here, before…"
"If this is your pick-up line," she interrupted him, "you should really change it."
"Damn!" he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. "So it didn't work?"
Clare couldn't help but giggle at that. He seemed to be a funny man and he was handsome too. They talked about anything but each other for the first few minutes until John asked:
"So, since you haven't sent me back to my own misery, I take it you're single."
She raised an eyebrow at his boldness though she knew she could expect this question at one point or another.
"And what makes you think I just didn't tell you to leave because I take pity on you?"
"Ouch," he said, putting a hand over his heart. "You certainly know how to make a man feel loved." He paused and they looked at each other for a few seconds, both sporting a smile on their face, before he continued. "So? Was I right? Although, I think it's a shame that a girl like you is alone."
"And if I was…"
"Then I'd ask you to dance."
"I'd love too," she simply said, thus answering his previous question too.
She took the hand he was offering her and stood up. Once on the dance floor, he put his other arm around her waist while hers came to rest on his shoulder. They were swaying slowly to the music, exchanging a few words here and there, but staying silent for most of the time. Their gazes were locked, each trying to decipher what they could see in the other's eyes.
After three songs, Clare went back to her table while John excused himself to go get them other drinks. She took the time to decide what she should do. She knew by looking in his eyes where that would bring them, and though any other day she would have shied away from that, tonight, she was feeling bold.
"And here's another Martini for you," John said, startling her. "Hey, you ok?"
"Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I was just deep in thought."
"And what were you thinking about? If you don't mind…," he added as an afterthought.
"You," she answered; yes, definitely feeling bold.
"Well… I'm flattered," he replied, so seriously that she had to laugh at that. He soon joined her, always happy to make a woman laugh. When they both finally calmed down, he asked. "So what do you do for a living?"
"I work at home. I read over manuscripts before they're published."
"Interesting job!" he said, without an ounce of sarcasm in the voice like she was used too with other people.
"It is. Being one of the first to read a new book is fantastic because you don't know what other people think about it, you can have your own opinion on it. And you? What do you do?"
"I'm with the USAF."
"Really? So you're a pilot?"
"Yeah, a helicopter pilot. Apache, Black hawk, Cobra, Ospry… Name it, I've flown it."
They continued talking about John's job until it was time for the pub to close for the night. Clare could see that he was really passionate with his job; he loved what he was doing.
Once alone outside the pub, they fell silent, both unsure of what the other was thinking.
"So err…," John finally bit the bullet, "want to go for a walk?"
She nodded in answer and being a gentleman, he offered her his arm. She accepted it, and they went to the nearby park, enjoying the quietness of the place at night.
After an hour or so, he offered to drive her home, and she accepted. When John stopped the car in front of the house she shared with Dinah, the boldness she had felt back in the bar was still there and she leaned over to kiss him.
The next morning, when she woke up, he had already left. How they had made it up to the bedroom, she didn't remember. She couldn't help but blush at the thought of the previous night. She usually wasn't the kind of girl to have one night stands, but the night before, she just wanted it. Entering the kitchen, she saw a note from John on the counter, saying that he had to go to work early and leaving her with his phone number if she wanted to see him again.
End of flashback.
She never called him, even when she found out a few days ago. It wasn't something she could tell him on the phone. But tonight, in front of him, she still couldn't voice the words.
"Clare?" he prompted her, and she could hear his own anxiousness in his voice.
"I... I'm sorry I didn't call you," she said before closing her eyes, frustrated at herself.
"Don't be. I can understand. That night was great, but it wouldn't have brought us anywhere," he put into words what they both thought.
"But something… Something came up."
There, it was out. She scrutinized his face to see a reaction, any kind of reaction. He was shocked, she could understand that; she was too when she had found out. They had taken precautions that night, that shouldn't have happened.
"I know," she said, when he finally talked again after a minute or so of silence. "But I'm really pregnant and you're the only man I've been with in the last few months."
She could see that he still hadn't really taken in the news. And she could understand. Her pregnancy hadn't sunk in before around a week, and that was because she was finally aware of some little details.
"Can we… Can we go somewhere else?" he asked, finding his voice again.
She nodded and followed him as he walked down the street. She soon realised where they were going; the park where they had a walk two months ago. Some people were walking down the alleys, the early September night sill somewhat warm. They stopped and sat on a bench, and Clare waited till John started talking again.
"So err… What are you going to do?" he asked.
"I'm going to keep it. I don't want to force you to be part of the life of this baby. I just wanted you to know. I'd like my baby to have a father, but if you don't want to, I'd understand. We don't know each other, it was just one night…"
"One night was enough…"
"I'm glad you told me. But I have to say that for the moment, I don't know what to say or even think about it."
"I know. And I'm not asking you to make a decision tonight. Take all the time you need, you know where to find me."
She stood up and left the park without even glancing back towards where John was sitting. In just a few minutes, she managed to disrupt his life, but he had a right to know. She couldn't have hidden that from him; she owed him that much even though like she said they had just spent a night together.
The walk back to her house was spent in a complete blur. She opened the front door and immediately noticed that there was a faint light in the living-room; Dinah was waiting for her.
"So how did it go?" she asked her as soon as she stepped in the room.
"Ok, I guess… I've told him."
"And…? What did he say?" she prompted.
"He was a bit overwhelmed by all that. I didn't want him to make a choice tonight. I don't think he could have taken a decision tonight anyway."
"Let's just hope that he'll make the right choice…"
"And what would be the right choice? I don't want him to be there because he feels he has too."
Clare saw that Dinah didn't know what to say or do. Would it have been the opposite, she would probably be like her friend at that moment. Despite them being close, no words Dinah could say could help her. She knew she would be there for her and the baby, and for that she would always be grateful, but she also knew that it would need a father, and only John could fill this part.
She felt even more at loss than she was before. Now that it was all out, she didn't feel relieved. Actually, she felt another pressure falling onto her: she was going to be a mother and she didn't know if she was ready.
"You're going to be a good mother," Dinah said, as if sensing what was gnawing at her.
"I know that. Yes, sometimes it's going to be hard, but in the end, I know that you would do anything for your child," she assured her with a smile.
Clare smiled back; somehow, with those words and the confidence she placed in her, Dinah managed to restore some of her own confidence. Yes, with or without its father in its life, this child would be loved.
"No worries. And you know, this child will have the most fantastic aunt in the universe!" she added, and they both laughed at that.
"You're right. I think I'm going to bed now. This pregnancy really tires me!"
"You do that. I'll check the doors."
A week later, Clare was going through her mail when the doorbell rang. She went to open the door and was surprised at who it was.