Hallie stared out of the window at the beautiful city of Windenburg absent-mindedly. It was time to leave. The Harbour Quarter festival had been over for a while. She didn’t mind staying behind for a bit longer to indulge Vito on his little quest – she couldn’t care less about going back to Newcrest.
But now that she’d had that call from Sera, things had changed.
Not that she was particularly looking forward to breaking the news to Vito.
He strolled into the room that morning, beaming from ear to ear.
“Beautiful day, Hals, isn’t it?”
“I take it things went well yesterday at the Von Haunt Estate then?” Hallie asked. Not that she really needed an answer.
“You could say that,” Vito giggled conspicuously.
“That’s great. Listen… we need to talk.”
“Of course!” He said happily.
“You better sit down for this…”
He took a seat beside her and looked at her, expectation palpable in his face.
“So, you know how we’ve stayed here for quite a bit longer than we planned?” Hallie started cautiously.
“Yes! And let me tell you Hallie, you have no idea how grateful I am!” Vito enthused. “It’s making all the difference. Things are finally on track between Louis and I… He might not be completely sold on it yet, but there is a smidgeon of hope now. I know I can get him back, with just a little bit more time. I mean, yesterday we…”
“Um, Vito? I did actually have something I needed to tell you, remember?” Hallie interrupted him gently.
“Oh. Yeah, of course! Sorry. I need to work on this. It will help my relationship too… Here I go again,” he chuckled. “Sorry. Again. You go! What’s up with you?”
“Well… it’s not so much me. It’s Carly.”
“You talked to her last night? How is she holding up? I’ll give her a ring later today,” Vito made a mental note.
“She needs us, Vito. We need to go home.”
“But now is the worst time for me to go,” Vito told her. “I understand that she’s going through a lot, with her relationship blowing up, but I now actually have a chance to salvage mine… I know that sounds awful, I do, but…”
“She’s pregnant. She’s gonna have a kid, Vito.”
“No, that’s impossible…. Our Carly would be careful. She’s the responsible one.”
“I guess that means she’ll also be a good mom,” Hallie shrugged.
“Wait, so are her and Ralph getting back together again?”
“I don’t know Vito, does it matter?” Hallie lost her patience. “She needs us to be there for her, ok? We have to go back to Newcrest. Or at least, I’m going. You’re free to do your thing, I guess. It’s not like your sister is in a tough situation or anything…”
“Hey, don’t be like that! You know I love Carly!”
“I want to be there for my sister, you know I do,” he continued. “It’s just… things have only just started to take a new turn with Louis. And now he’s going to think I’m giving up on him again.”
“I’m sure he won’t think that…”
“He’s only just opening up to the possibility of us being… something… anything… If I go now, I’ll lose him forever. I know it.” Vito struggled. “But I do want to do the right thing. Carly’s always been there for me. For all of us. She’s a saint. And she’s stuck with the crappiest brother in the world!”
“Oh Hallie, what am I going to do?”
Hallie almost felt sorry for him. Almost. But he needed to see the bigger picture. Put someone else’s needs first, for once.
“I’m sorry Vito. I know it blows. But I’ve booked our flights for tomorrow morning. So you better make your mind up by then.”
A wave of nausea came over Carly. Morning sickness, they called it. More like an all-day-long sickness, she thought.
She was always tired. Her legs were hurting when she was trying to make sure all the tables at the restaurant were doing ok. And she couldn’t even remember the last time she went looking for collectibles.
Not to mention the state of her bathroom. The toilet was leaking, producing a never ending stream of puddles. She should really do something about that, she sighed.
Just the sight of the toilet made her feel sick again. She never used to be squeamish. This pregnancy thing was plummy.
Of course, it would also be a whole lot easier if she didn’t have a giant belly in the way. She almost dropped the stupid wrench in the toilet, and the toilet situation wasn’t improving whasover.
“Son of a llama…” She never used to curse either.
Luckily, she was saved by the doorbell. The toilet would have to wait.
Her heart melted at the sight of him. She hadn’t seen Ralph since that impulsive night that presumably got her into this whole predicament.
She opened the door a bit too eagerly.
“Ralph! You look good! I mean… hi!” Stupid hormones, she grumbled inwardly.
“Hi Lottie,” Ralph smiled. “You look great too. Listen, I…”
“Have you left your shower on or something? Sounds like you’ve got a fountain in your bathroom…”
Carly felt embarrassed. “Oh, it’s nothing….”
Ralph didn’t listen, he just barged straight into the bathroom.
“Ah, that’s the culprit. Easy enough to fix.” He crouched right down as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do when visiting your ex, and picked up the wrench. The toilet was good as new in a matter of minutes.
“Thanks for that, Ralph,” Carly told him when he was done. The amount of gratitude she felt seemed disproportionate to the fact it was just a silly broken toilet. It seemed that Ralph could fix everything just by being there.
Stupid hormones, she repeated to herself.
“You need to call me when stuff breaks around here.” He said. “I mean, I am a handyman after all. Or if you don’t feel comfortable calling me, I can at the very least give you a number for someone good…”
“No, have been meaning to call you,” Carly shook her head. “Not about the toilet, that is. About… well… I am… we are…”
“I know,” he eased her pain. “Sera told me this morning. That’s why I’m here.”
“Plummit, Sera!” Carly exclaimed. “Is there anybody she hasn’t told?”
“Oh come on, I am kind of the dad,” Ralph laughed. “Besides, it’s not like it’s easy to miss. I mean, look at you!”
Carly looked down at her belly and smiled. She was showing more than she’d realised.
“I was going to tell you, of course. It’s way too big a deal to keep away from you, obviously.” She felt like a hypocrite. “I just… haven’t had a chance to wrap my own head around it yet.”
“Of course,” Ralph nodded. “I brought you something, by the way.”
He placed a wooden horse toy on the counter.
“Technically, it’s not for you, actually,” he said. “It’s for the baby. Once he or she gets a little bigger, obviously. And, you know, doesn’t live inside you.”
The laughed briefly.
“That’s really sweet Ralph. I’m sure he or she will love it.”
“You know what it is?”
Carly shook her head. “I think it’s too early to tell. Besides, I don’t think I’d want to know anyway. It doesn’t matter.”
“I agree,” Ralph smiled.
“So, where does this leave us?” Ralph asked. “I mean, this changes things, doesn’t it? You can push me away from you all you want, but I do need to be in the baby’s life.”
“I know,” Carly nodded. “And I want you to be.”
He smiled with relief, moving closer to her.
“Wait Ralph, no,” Carly drew away. “I want you to be in the baby’s life.”
“Lottie… I miss you every day. Don’t you miss me?”
“I do. But that’s not what this is about. Nothing’s different, other than the baby. We’re still two people with two completely different mindsets. And you still lied to me about something major.”
“Technically, I just didn’t mention it.” Ralph pointed out calmly. “Kind of like you haven’t mentioned, I don’t know, being pregnant with my child? So no biggie or anything…”
“That’s different!” Carly defended herself. “I’ve only just found out myself! And I was going to tell you!”
“Well, maybe I was going to tell you about the undercover job…”
“Except that you weren’t. Don’t lie again.” Carly shook her head.
“Look Ralph, I don’t want to fight.” She said. “And I do want you to be in the baby’s life. Without a shadow of a doubt. They’ll think you’re the coolest dad ever.”
She tried to smile.
“I think you’re making a mistake,” Ralph shrugged. “We have a baby on the way. We love each other. You’re making it more complicated than it really is. This isn’t algebra, Lottie. It’s simple. You’re the love of my life. And without being cocky, I think I’m the love of yours. So let’s just be a family. Please.”
Carly didn’t know what to say. But before she could answer, she was interrupted.
“Oh wow! This never happened before… the baby is kicking!” She felt like laughing and crying at the same time. “You… want to feel it?”
“Do I want to… what sort of a question is that!?” Ralph jumped right up.
He gently placed the palm of his hand on her belly.
“I can’t… break it, or anything, right?” He asked nervously.
Carly laughed. “No. No you can’t.”
“I think the baby likes you,” Carly smiled.
“I think I like the baby too,” Ralph looked pensive for a moment. “This sounds ridiculous, but I’ve never felt more proud of anything I’ve done. How stupid is that, huh? I mean, the baby’s not even here. And you’re doing all the heavy lifting… literally.” He chuckled.
“It’s not stupid. I feel the same way.”
“You’ve got to let me help though,” Ralph scolded her. “Anything you need. Even if you’re just craving spaghetti on toast or something… ok, I don’t know that much about pregnancy. But I’m here for you, ok?”
Carly hugged him, melting into his strong arms. She knew everything would be just fine, as long as Ralph wasn’t too far. Even if they were no longer together, he still knew how to make everything ok.