By Genevieve Dewey
“But when I realized I was pregnant a few weeks later, I worked up the courage to tell him, hoping it might be just the thing he needed to make a clean break. Oh, don’t give me that look Tommy! I was nineteen! I was alone and pregnant. He said he loved me. But it was too late. They’d just gotten back from their honeymoon. But he promised he would take care of me. Foolish, foolish girl that I was, by the time you were born I had let him back in my heart and back in my bed.” – First, I Love You, Chapter Ten. “I can remember the first night we got back together after finding out about the baby. I was overjoyed to have a second chance with you. You cried in my arms and I promised you I would always take care of you and our baby. I held you close and we would make love and sleep and make love again, never really letting go of each other. We were so close, so close I could feel more than just your heart beat, I felt like I knew the very dreams inside your soul…” – Third Time’s The Charm, Chapter Seven.
Twenty-Six Years Ago
Mickey slipped his hand into his jacket pocket again and grasped the key to his mother’s old brownstone. He closed his eyes as his fingers clasped it tight and allowed himself one more nervous, deep breath.
Nervous… over some girl. A nineteen year old girl. You gotta snap the hell out of it, he thought.
He opened his eyes to the sight of Mary frozen on the sidewalk about twenty paces away. Her face was blanched white, eyes startled and wary. He smiled tentatively, trying not to frighten her any more than his appearance outside her apartment building had clearly already accomplished. His mouth felt dry and his palms had a humiliating dampness to them.
He moved his left thumb and fiddled with the band of his wedding ring to remind himself he had no right to presume anything. No right to even hope.
“May I help you with those groceries?” he asked, remembering his manners at least.
She swallowed then nodded. He took the steps forward to take them from her, keeping her gaze. She looked not just peaked, but slightly unwell. Her trembling hand brushed her hair behind her ears then she looked down and fished out her keys from her purse.
“You, uh, you said you had something you needed to tell me?” he asked in the continuing silence.
She dropped the keys. He watched her pause on her way back up from retrieving them. He followed her line of sight to his ring. He quickly transferred the bag of groceries to his left hand. When her gaze met his again, she had lost some of her trepidation and simply looked tired. She nodded at nothing, as if having decided something then carried on into the building, still without answering his question.
He had placed almost all of her groceries in her nearly empty refrigerator before she did answer.
“I’m pregnant,” Mary said in a matter-of-fact manner.
It seemed to echo in the tiny apartment, or maybe that was his ears… or soul.
“I’m married,” he answered stupidly.
He cringed. Stupid, stupid… shit.
“I know that,” she countered, eyes finally flashing with something other than defeat.
“I just meant…” Mickey stopped and cleared his throat. “I just mean that if I could… that would be the first thing… I mean…”
He stopped speaking and rubbed his face.
“Michael…” he heard her soft voice say.
He dropped his hands and opened his eyes to see she had moved to stand a couple inches from him.
“I understand… you thought you had to marry her. Her father…” Mary began to say.
“No!” Mickey interrupted. “You don’t understand! And it’ll stay that way!”
She stepped back, a trace of fear returning to her face.
He grabbed her in that split second of shock and pulled her in for a desperate embrace. Damn words… they betrayed him, stood useless and obfuscating, against what his heart wanted to say. She struggled briefly then went limp against him. He dropped his grip only long enough to move one hand to her hair and bring her head back.
He claimed her mouth and let his lips speak far better than his feeble and contradictory words. He didn’t know whether it was to appease him or if she still returned his affections, but she kissed him back. She even seemed reluctant to part when he stopped the kiss.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered against her bruised lips. He hated how his voice shook a bit.
Her eyes searched his and a single tear escaped. He stopped it with his mouth, kissing a trail back to her eyelid. He felt her nails grip his back and she both squeezed and shook him. Silent sobs quaked within her delicate frame. He stopped holding her and grabbed her face.
He kissed her again, this time less supplicating, more frantic. He was handling this all wrong, he knew. There was nothing he wanted more in the world than a second chance with her. But he knew what she was about to say; she wanted him to give her and this baby his name. And, of course, it was the one thing he couldn’t give her.
She pushed him away.
“We can’t,” she wailed.
She wiped furiously at her eyes as if she could banish the presence of pain.
“We can’t be together until you leave her,” she continued. “But once you do, we can start over with this baby. Be our own family.”
“I want to be with you,” Mickey replied. “More than you could possibly know. But Theresa and I just got married, Mary. It’s not as easy as you make it out.”
“What’s not easy? You said you loved me, not her. I’m having your child!”
Mickey held up a placating hand.
“I do love you. I want you and this child.”
“It’s more complicated than that. It’s been over a month since you and I parted. You said we were over…”
“Because I found out you were a—”
“Businessman,” he interrupted.
“And you refused to break up with her!” she continued furiously.
“I asked for more time. You said you never wanted to see me again.”
“That was before I…” she trailed off and walked over to the couch.
She sat on the dilapidated tweed monstrosity and wrung her hands. She rocked back and forth, looking ridiculously young and lost.
He felt like the lowest of bastards.
“Mary…” he said softly. “No matter what happens between us, or not, you don’t have to worry about supporting our baby alone. I’ll take care of you, both of you.”
He reached in his pocket and gripped the key again. He’d slipped it in his pocket on the off-chance she had reconsidered being with him and that was why she had called. He was glad he had, because he could give the brownstone to her now as a peace offering. Then maybe when she realized he was serious about taking care of her, she would give in and be with him again.
He sat next to her on the couch. She scooted a bit away. He sighed and held his palm out flat, the key in its center.
“This is the key to my mother’s house, where I grew up. Not far from here.”
Her head whipped over. She looked at him in genuine curiosity. He pressed his advantage.
“She asked me to give it to my realtor so he could find her a renter. I’d be happy to just let you—”
“No,” she interrupted firmly. “If I move there, I’ll pay rent. Directly to the realtor.”
He smiled a little. She had no idea how much easier that made it on him and his mother, to have Mary’s name on the documents and not his. Even if she stubbornly used her own money at first, it wouldn’t be nearly the amount that would actually exchange hands.
“Of course,” he replied. “But, let me pay half, and half the groceries, for the baby’s sake. I have to warn you, it’s not in the greatest shape. No one’s updated it in years. But everything’s in working order, which would be an improvement over this dump.”
“That’s fine,” she said eagerly.
He was pleased to see she was looking less forlorn. He moved his hand to her thigh. She stopped it with both of hers.
“Michael,” Mary warned. “We are not getting back together as long as you’re married.”
He took his hand back and nodded.
Her brows knitted briefly and she tilted her head.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m glad you’re not angry… about the baby.”
“Angry at what? My own carelessness? It was that time on New Year’s, wasn’t it?”
She flushed and smiled down at her hands.
“I’m due the end of September, so probably, yes,” she mumbled.
He frowned as he finally did the math and realized she had kept the pregnancy from him longer than a month. He reached out and nudged her chin back up.
“It’s going to be alright, I promise,” he said.
He placed the key in her cupped hands.
“Take this. I’m sorry I can’t give you more just yet. Just… not yet,” he finished and stood up. “You know how to reach me.”
She nodded. He leaned down and kissed her on her forehead then hurried to the door before he lost his strength and started promising her more things he had no right to promise her.
He turned in the doorway.
“I—I just needed some space. But I… I would like you to be a part of this baby’s life.”
She was wringing her hands again.
He smiled reassuringly. It was endearing how she thought she’d have to ask. If she only knew… he felt like he’d won the lottery; a baby would tie her to him forever.
“I’ll have the realtor drop by with the paperwork. You can move in anytime. It’s fully furnished. Just let me know when you decide to move, and I’ll send some men from the shipyard over to help. You shouldn’t be lifting anything in your condition.”
She released a tiny laugh and clicked her teeth. He thought he could hear her say something about overprotective men as he shut the door. He put his porkpie fedora back on and contemplated the nasty hallway floor. He’d give her a couple months, three maximum, alone in that three bedroom brownstone, playing the gentleman. Then he would start to show her how much better it would be with occasional company, leading to the occasional touch. No pressure.
His good intentions lasted a month.
On a bright sunny day in May, he told Theresa he’d be out of town for a week—and he would be, as Brooklyn was obviously not Riverdale. If it had been up to him, they would have picked a reasonable house on Staten Island, where he “worked”. He despised commuting. Unfortunately, one didn’t turn down wedding gifts from Giovanni Anastasio. But Theresa knew he hated that stuffy mansion, and used every excuse he could to be away, so she wouldn’t think anything of it. He wouldn’t have bothered with chicanery, except he had promised not to flaunt the fact it was a loveless marriage. And he figured a mistress and a baby might stretch the limits of her father’s patience.
Since it was Big Joe that insisted Mickey and Theresa get married in the old neighborhood, at the same Brooklyn church Mary attended, the fact they were immediately afterwards “gifted” with a home nowhere near Theresa’s rival had probably not been a coincidence. Nothing Big Joe did was a coincidence. Until now, Mickey had thought it a blessing since he seemed incapable of forgetting this slip of a girl through mere will-power.
He put in a brief appearance at the new financial office downtown then took the subway to Queens to make a very public show of visiting Luciano’s “social club”. Then he rented a car and drove into Brooklyn. He had a vague thought about changing his clothes but figured less people would recognize him in his suit and tie. In fact, they might just assume he was the realtor checking on the new tenant in the old Downey home.
It was supper time when he showed up on his mother’s doorstep—now Mary’s doorstep—with a bouquet of unopened red roses and a grin full of intent.
She had a nervous, but obviously delighted countenance.
“How are you settling in, Mary girl?” he asked.
“Mary girl!” she laughed.
Her eyes had dark circles under them, but her hair looked a little healthier, and her complexion was a bit less wan.
“That’s the second time you’ve called me that,” she continued as she tugged him inside. “The first time I almost thought you called me a marigold.”
“Well, your name’s Mary, and you’re my girl.”
“I’m not your girl,” she replied and waggled a finger like a schoolteacher.
It was totally incongruous with her youthful appearance dressed in jazzercise clothes, her hair in a bushy pony-tail. A slight thickness to her middle was the only indication she was pregnant.
“You’re a girl,” he bantered as he followed her into the little living room. “Anybody with a teen attached to their age is.”
He set the flowers on the end table nearest her and stood close enough to make her tilt her head up to look at him.
“And what does that make you?” she asked in a pert tone.
“A dirty thirty year old man,” he whispered, his lips just shy of hers.
She shuddered and caught her breath.
“Aye, the lad’s a poet and di’n know’t,” he teased in an Irish accent.
He dipped his head to kiss her neck.
He stepped back before she could push him away.
“So, do you need any groceries?” he asked quickly.
He walked towards the kitchen before she could argue. Being back in this house was making him feel… well, he didn’t know what. Alive? Young again? Filled with purpose?
He turned back around to see her contemplating him with a wary, but entranced, gaze.
This wasn’t even going to be difficult, he thought with a twinge of disappointment.
Then he felt a most unprecedented sense of guilt. It wasn’t stemming from the fact this was morally wrong, him manipulating her into being his mistress, but from the sudden clarity that she deserved much better. But the milk was already spilt. She had his child in her; she would be his responsibility regardless. He might as well make sure it would be a pleasurable arrangement for her.
Unexpectedly, she smiled.
“Would you like to stay for supper?” she asked.
There was just a hint of playful resignation in her voice, enough to tell him she recognized he had intended on wrangling an invitation from the beginning.
He ordered food to be delivered, and while they waited, he quizzed her on the status of her pregnancy and whether she was taking care of herself. He asked questions about her waitress duties at the restaurant. She seemed pleased by his interest, but he just wanted to make sure she would not be exhausting herself working in a different borough. He might see about finding her a desk job at a nice accountant’s office here in Brooklyn, or better yet, convince her she didn’t need to work at all.
After they ate, he insisted she lay on the couch while he gave her a foot massage. She was still staring at him like she couldn’t believe her own luck. He was the lucky one, he knew that. If she knew even half of what there was to know about him, she’d run for the hills. At least she already knew he was connected, so there was that.
When he heard her soft snores, he moved his hands from her feet, took his dress shirt off, and undid his belt. He tugged gradually at her stirrup pants and gently pulled them down to reveal her gorgeous, milky-white legs.
She murmured indistinctly in her sleep, but didn’t wake.
He slowly, firmly, moved his hands along her thighs, over her luscious hips, and underneath her baggy, bright-colored top. He began kissing her stomach and the under-edges of her breasts. As he gently took a rosy nipple in his mouth he reached one hand between her legs and caressed her nub.
She moaned and her hips arched in rhythm with his strokes. He lifted his head from her breast to study her face. Her eyelashes fluttered, but what glimpses he had of her eyes told him she was still more than half asleep. He dipped his mouth to her neck and nibbled just above her collarbone the way she liked. His fingers entered her and he was pleased to see she was very wet. Her muscles clamped around his fingers and she breathed out a long sigh.
He raised his head again, and just as her eyes fully opened and recognition dawned, he captured her mouth. He pressed her head down with the force of his kisses as he fumbled with his pants to liberate himself. Her hands pushed against his chest, but he scooped his other hand underneath her on the couch and pressed their bodies together.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as he entered her.
He kissed her a few more deep times then lightly dragged his lips along her cheeks. She was panting and breathless.
“Tell me to stop, and I will…” he whispered.
“You… you might’ve… asked before… oh, Michael…” she groaned in pleasure as he began to move faster.
He knew he wasn’t playing fair. But he never had before, why start now? He needed her with a desperation that felt like that last second of holding one’s breath before drawing air. There was something different when he was with Mary; he couldn’t put his finger on it. It wasn’t just the sex, it was being with her. There was no shortage of beautiful women in New York City, and she wasn’t even beautiful, more classically pretty in a wholesome, milkmaid sort of way.
But he was captivated by her.
Her smile seemed more radiant than the most cultured of society belles. Her laughter, more real and genuine than any he had ever heard. Everything about her was a novelty to him. Everything she did, unique and precious. He almost felt… cleansed in her arms. The idea someone so sweet, pure, and innocent thought him something of a prize… it was intoxicating.
He bit on her lips, drawing out gasps and squeaks, then grabbed her tight round ass and squeezed its cheek as he brought her hip up a bit. He finished a bit rougher than he’d planned, but he had been hard pressed for her since he woke up.
He allowed himself the physical and emotional release of laying on top of her for a few seconds then rolled them both over so they were side-to-side on the couch.
“Did you get a…?” he asked.
“Yes…” she breathed, eyes still closed.
He rubbed his hand up and down her back, watching the pulse in her neck and the sweat glisten against her pale, flawless skin.
“I guess that’s one advantage to you being pregnant; no need for rubbers.”
Her brownish-green eyes blinked open. She started to smile then it morphed into a frown. She looked a little nauseated.
“Are you… do you have morning sickness?”
Her frown deepened and she pushed from him to sit up. He snuck his hand under her top and ran his fingertips along her spine. She shivered.
“Are you sleeping with her?” she asked, so softly that he barely heard her.
His mouth opened a few times, but he had no words to put in it. Had they been? Yes, of course. Would they now? He had no idea. He hadn’t really thought any of this out.
“She knows I’m in love with you and not her,” he finally managed to say.
That was true enough…
Mary seemed to have enough skepticism to look over her shoulder at him with narrowed eyes.
“Mary, it’s a marriage of convenience. She has trouble standing up to her father. She wants a career and he wants her to be someone’s good little wife. Since I need his support to… properly run my business, we made a deal, her and I. That’s all it is between us, just a temporary arrangement until she finishes her degree in fashion.”
She frowned again then scooted a bit so she faced him more.
“I guess I can I understand that on her end. My parents didn’t approve of me coming here, wanting a singing career. It’s hard when you don’t want to disappoint someone you love. I wish that I could have found a way to follow my dreams and keep my parents happy at the same time.”
Such a sweet girl… feeling empathy for Theresa.
Little did she know; that viper wasn’t worth her concern. Theresa was a great ride-or-die sort of friend, but she rarely did anything out of love or compassion for others’ feelings.
“But I really don’t understand how it benefits you?” Mary wondered.
“See, the way it works in my business is… well, it’s sort of like the military. You have to work your way up through the ranks by proving your worth, by people who are higher than you promoting you. I need her father to vouch for me if I want to be Boss like him some day.”
Good god, man, shut the hell up. Why are you telling her this?
“So… it’s just a temporary means to an end?”
Her tiny hand traced the Sicilian flag on his left bicep.
“Did you get this for him?”
“No, for my grandmother. She’s Italian.”
“I didn’t realize that… there’s a lot about you I don’t know,” she replied in a question laden statement. There seemed to be a catch in her voice.
He sat up and took her hands. He waited until she met his gaze. Her eyes shimmered with fresh tears.
“Mary, I would give anything if I could give you what you want right now, but I really can’t. But I do love you, and you love me, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she replied in a strangled cry.
“We can be happy here. I can spend the rest of this week with you and see you as often as I can after that. I’ll be here for our baby’s birth, to help you raise him or her, and one day, we’ll be together all the time. I swear it. Just say you’ll take me back, and on my life, I will make it happen.”
He meant that. Absolutely meant it.
He just had no idea how the hell he was going to make it happen.
She nodded, flung her arms around his neck, and cried. He rocked her back and forth for a while then lifted her in his arms and carried her into the bedroom. He laid her down on the bed and kissed and caressed her until her sobs turned into sighs of pleasure again.
They never fully slept that night, just made love and dozed, and then made love some more. He found himself yet again whispering promises he had no right to make. He needed her to believe them, believe it enough for both of them. She told him of her plans for the baby nursery, her excitement in finding out her friend Claire lived only a block away, and how much she loved the idea of raising their child on a street with so many young families.
Her eyes sparkled with youthful dreams and he wanted, with his entire soul, to make them come true.
It was a shame he’d already mortgaged his soul away.
–Copyright 2013, Genevieve Dewey.