There was a little piece of Nikolai growing inside of me like some sort of parasite, greedily sapping away my energy even as I gaped in disbelief at the positive result. It was impossible. How could I have just gotten pregnant after all of those nights of unprotected sex? Why had it just happened now instead of back then?
"No, no, no," I said frantically, sinking to the floor. I ran a hand through my hair and suddenly erupted into tears, furious that this burden was placed upon me.
The test could've been wrong, but I highly doubted it was. The vomiting, the irritability, the weak muscles . . . it all made sense now and probably should have from the moment I noticed. He had succeeded in violating the last part of my being and I was now nurturing a future psychopath.
I wiped my eyes and hastily chucked the pregnancy test in the garbage, then quickly piled a few items of trash on it so Nikolai wouldn't notice when he walked by. When it was sufficiently covered, I hurried back out to the main living space, immediately grabbing the TV remote as a weapon for self defense. If worst came to worst, I would protect both myself and my baby at any cost.
"It's not your fault," I sniffled.
I hid my face as best as I could and slipped quietly into the front hall. Night was falling by now, which would give me a bit of cover against Nikolai's piercing green eyes. Part of me wanted to wonder about what our child would look like, but I scurried down the stairs, pushing the thought from my mind. Right now, escape was more important.
No one seemed to mind the woman walking briskly down the street; I was immensely grateful that crowds tended to mind their own business. The television remote was quivering in my palm as I stopped near the bus station, glancing furtively down the sidewalk. Nikolai would be back to the hotel room soon enough and he'd be outraged that I had managed to slip between his fingers.
It was an odd feeling to be free again, outside in the fresh air. I took a comforting deep breath of the cold air, trying to suppress the panic building steadily in my chest.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?"
My eyes flew open immediately and I spun around, expecting Nikolai to be standing behind me. But a surprised man with blonde hair stared back at me and straightened his business suit vainly when I apologized for the rash action.
"No problem," he said stiffly. "Where are you headed?"
I was calculating his expression to pick out any malevolence, something second nature ever since Nikolai had begun tirelessly stalking me.
"Uh, toward the inner city," I said.
He smiled and proffered his hand, which I reluctantly shook.
"My name is Peter Haber. You are?"
"Adel Gun- . . . I mean, Pathsia."
The bus squealed to a stop in front of us and Peter gestured for me to get on first. I nervously bit my lip as I realized I had forgotten to bring any spare change, but he gently reached past me to pay the fee. After we sat down together towards the back where some other businesspeople were reading newspapers, my profuse thank-yous began.
Peter waved it off. "No problem, Adel. Are you alright, though? You look a bit pale."
I scratched the back of my head nonchalantly.
"I'm just a little anemic," I lied. "Where are you going to?"
But before he could start to answer my question, someone suddenly banged on the window, startling both of us. Peter peered curiously over my lap to see who it was, but I stared straight ahead as my body began to tremble uncontrollably. I already knew it was him.
"I think he wants to speak to you," Peter said unsurely.
I shook my head, lips pressed into a tight line. "Do not look at him."
But I hypocritically snuck a glance at Nikolai before the bus drove off, and he was absolutely livid. He pointed at me angrily and shouted something incomprehensible while people openly gawked, stopping on their brisk commutes to watch the scenario unfolding. But the bus pulled away from its stop and the two outraged emerald eyes vanished from my view, hopefully for a very long time.
Peter blinked quizzically.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
When I started to laugh happily, he drew back a bit.
"Sorry," I said, "but I've just been freed from a thousand pound weight."
We both got off at Ronald's house because my new pal insisted that he accompany me, just in case. I relented and allowed him to follow me like a guard dog up to the front of the house; it was actually kind of flattering. He appeared to be a nice man, but I was prone to being gullible.
After a few excited knocks, Greaves answered his door groggily. He had probably worked a late shift the night before, this the exhaustion, but I still eagerly hugged him. Peter introduced himself soon after and we all entered the warm house while earnestly chattering. My being alive was clearly a gigantic shock to Ronald, who thought I was either dead or sequestered somewhere.
"Is he after you again?" Greaves asked seriously.
I grimaced and nodded. "But I just had to get away. I couldn't think of anywhere else."
Peter was already dialing 911 on his cell phone and calmly relaying Ronald's address. He then shut the phone and slipped it back into his pocket, smiling.
"Who is this man, if I may ask?"
Greaves and I exchanged an almost amused glance.
"That's a long story," we both said.
But as Peter started to grin and pester us about it, there was a heavy thud on the front door. All three of us turned to see it groaning inward, obviously being pushed from its hinges.
"Take this and go upstairs, Adel," Greaves said while offering me a large silver knife.
Just as I accepted the weapon, the door fell flat down to reveal Nikolai's hulking form blocking the minimal sunlight from flooding through the house. He clenched his fists and stalked toward us, withdrawing a knife from his pocket when I brandished my own.
"Put it down," he snapped. "We have things to discuss."
When I immediately tried to drop my weapon, Greaves took it from my hand.
"You need to return to prison," he responded harshly.
Nikolai threw his knife down on the floor so it burrowed deep into the expensive wood.
"SHUT UP, Ronald!" he shouted. "Mind your own fucking business for once!" I recoiled a bit when he pointed an accusatory finger in my direction. "She is pregnant."
The room grew incredibly quiet after that revelation. I couldn't believe that Nikolai had figured it out so quickly, what with me covering the test as best as possible. But Greaves was staring at me in horror while Peter just looked confused and uncomfortable.
"You aren't," Ronald said flatly.
I looked down at my feet, ashamed.
"She is, and I'm going to make sure that she and my child are both within my circle of protection," Nikolai said. "This no longer concerns any of you besides Adel and I."
"You're incapable of raising another human, Nikolai," Greaves replied. "Stop being so stubborn."
We all took a giant step back when our psychopathic intruder moved forward. He glared at each of us, green eyes cold and violent while his demented mind conjured up various ways of torture.
"The baby is mine," he said icily, "so please-"
His sentence was cut off as the wail of police sirens shattered the tense situation. Nikolai scowled and swore, whirling around to see if they were close enough to catch him. I pressed myself a bit closer to Greaves, euphoric that Nikolai was finally going to be thrown in jail for the rest of his life, if the authorities didn't seek the death penalty.
"Don't worry," I said sweetly when he turned to face me again, "you'll see them occasionally."
And for the first time in the two and a half years I had know him, Nikolai truly looked distraught.
He gazed at me for another moment while I continued to hold out the sharp knife defensively, then ran a hand through his thick hair and laughed.
"I'll be back in nine months," he purred with a wink. "I love you, Adel."
Doors slammed outside and Greaves smiled down at me, positive that Nikolai would be caught. But as usual, our psychopathic stalker was prepared to slip between the fingers of the authorities, always slippery as an eel. He was in front of me one second, then vanished into thin air the next.
I separated myself from the growing crowd as the police created a perimeter about the house in hopes of capturing Nikolai. They would never find him, though. He was like a will-o'-the-wisp; passing through people's lives leaving them burnt and miserable, but keeping himself firmly ingrained in their memories via that scarring. I didn't know if he did it deliberately. I didn't know if he even realized how easily he implanted himself into people's minds. But either way, he was impossible to forget, like a traumatizing nightmare.
So as I sat alone in Ronald's backyard, watching the moon glowing lovingly back, I smiled. He changed me, much more so than I had ever dreamed a person could. It was sick and wrong on countless levels, but I loved him for that.
"Always will," I murmured, curling an arm around my lower abdomen.
Sad as it was, I knew that I had finally admitted the irrevocable truth.