A woman appeared at the end of a hallway. The moon's light shined through the large windows, lighting certain parts of the dark hallway's path as the woman forced herself to walk. She was a beautiful older woman with strawberry blonde hair that reached just above her shoulders. Her face was distraught with worry as she clutched various papers against her blue satin blouse. She wiped at a tear and her eyes caught the diamond ring on one of her elegantly manicured hands.
"You've left me," she whispered through quivering lips. The woman closed her eyes, the tears failing to stop. When she opened them, she took in the darkness of the large stone mansion. How could a house hold such an array of different kinds of memories? Some of happiness, others of anger and hatred … then loneliness.
The woman pushed forward and stopped in front of the banisters just before the grand staircase that spiraled into a slight curve that lead down to the main hallway. She looked down at the banister, running a hand over them before turning to face the large arch window that was behind her. The window overlooked a little courtyard that was in the middle of the mansion in the open air. An old water fountain stood in the middle with a large statue of an angel. Staring at the window, the woman knelt to the floor. She turned around to look down towards the foyer of the house and held the rails of the banisters tightly as the papers fell out her hands softly all the way down to the first floor.
A different version of the house suddenly appeared in the back of the woman's mind. The blues of the walls changed to an off white, the see-through drapes of the windows reverted to those of a time long ago, and the old Angel water fountain in the courtyard came to life spitting out water through its extended hands as the woman drowned herself in memories …
20 YEARS AGO
A melodic tune filled the house. A young pregnant woman with dark brown shoulder length hair sat in the family room at a grand piano. By her side stood a handsome man, watching the young woman with pure admiration. Her hands moved along the keys with precision and expertise. Her eyes were closed and her face was painted with a look of concentration. When the piece was over, the woman opened her eyes and a smile appeared on her face while the man clapped.
"My favorite, that's my favorite one," he said to the young woman as he helped her to her feet. He held her hands in his and looked lovingly into her blue eyes.
"I know," she said, bringing her hand up and running her fingers through his blond hair. Her eyes suddenly widen. "Oh, Heath, feel this."
The woman brought Heath's hand down to her huge belly and paused. His eyes filled with happiness as he grinned at her. "Looks like it's someone's favorite too!"
They laughed before bringing their face close to one another for a kiss.
"I don't think it's possible for you to make me any happier, Alison," Heath said softly to her. "Not at all."
"The feeling's mutual!" Alison giggled and went to lean in for another kiss when suddenly they heard a crash.
They turned to see Alison's best friend, Beatrice, standing by the family room's entrance. At her feet was a broken frame of Alison and Heath that had fallen from the little table near the entrance.
"I am such a klutz," Beatrice said pushing back her strawberry blond hair with a hand. She bent down to pick up the pieces.
"Don't be silly, it was an accident." Alison replied going to her. "Careful, don't cut yourself. Dorothy!"
Suddenly a tiny woman of about fifty years old appeared. Her eyes immediately fell on the broken frame. "Oh my..."
"Will you please bring the broom?" Alison asked her. "Beatrice, leave it. It's okay."
"I'm terribly sorry," Beatrice said, standing back up. "I didn't want to interrupt the both of you. I must've bumped into it."
Dorothy eyes move from the frame to Beatrice suspiciously before she disappeared to fetch the broom.
"I must say you're a wonderful pianist," Beatrice smiled at Alison, walking over to her and kissing her cheek. She then turned and looked at Heath. "I have quite the talented best friend."
"Yes, you do," Heath laughed. "We were just feeling her belly. Our little bundle of joy likes it too."
Alison nodded, "It's been kicking up quite a storm."
Beatrice turned to her and placed her hand abruptly on her belly. She waited a second before shrugging her shoulders. "I don't feel a thing."
Dorothy finally returned with a broom and started to sweep up the broken glass into the dust pan. She glanced at the photograph of Alison and Heath inside the broken frame and made a face.
"It's such a shame," she said aloud, "It was a beautiful frame for this picture."
"Oh we'll get another glass for it," Alison smiled. Dorothy picked up the frame and placed it on the little table before leaving with the broom and dust pan. "So, what brings you here?"
"Just needed to get out of the house," Beatrice said sheepishly. "Sorry, I know it seems like I'm always here but … Leandro … well, you know how he is."
A troubled look washed over Alison's face, "Yeah, I know all too well."
"What did he do this time?" Heath asked with a serious tone.
"I don't mean to be rude Heath," Beatrice said quietly, "But could Alison and I talk in private?"
Heath looked at Alison, who nodded at him.
"I'm sorry," Beatrice said to him quickly. "You can stay if you want. I know whatever I have to say to Alison I can say in front of you. You both … you both are my family."
"And you ours," Alison told her, putting an arm around her shoulder.
"Yes, this is true," Heath offered a smile. "And don't worry. I'll go. There's some paper work I need to go through anyway. But Beatrice please, know that if it ever gets really bad you have a room here in our house."
"Thank you," Beatrice replied. He smiled at her and turned away. Beatrice watched him longingly as he left the room.
"What's the matter?" Alison asked.
"Can we go upstairs to your room?"
"Of course, let's go," Alison says and started to leave.
Beatrice followed her but briefly stopped next to the little table where Dorothy had placed the broken frame. A dark look overcame Beatrice's face as a flair of jealousy burned in her green eyes when she saw the photo of Alison and Heath. Taking a deep breath, she continued and followed Alison out into the main hall and up the long-curved staircase.
Once they were inside her bedroom, Alison looked at her friend with worry.
"What's he done?"
"Nothing too serious this time," Beatrice replied. Alison noticed her friend's eyes filling with tears. She knew something was terribly wrong.
"Beatrice, what is it?" she asked her, starting to get worried.
"Everything," she replied gravely. "My whole world is coming to an end."
Alison took her and sat her down on the bed. She noticed Beatrice's hands were shaking. Her eyes were suddenly glued to Alison's belly. Alison looked down at it and then at Beatrice.
"We're in the same situation," Beatrice finally said with a shaky voice. "The same situation and at the same time a very different situation."
"You're not making any sense," Alison shook her head. Beatrice looked up at her and a chill ran down Alison's back.
"I'm pregnant," Beatrice told her. "I'm going to have his baby. I'm going to have Leandro's baby."
Beatrice then bursts into tears. She fell into Alison's arms.
"Oh Beatrice," Alison said quietly. She held her friend tightly.
"I'm stuck now," Beatrice sobbed. "I'm stuck with that monster."
"A baby," Alison whispered, "You're going to have a baby too."
Alison pulled Beatrice up and smiled at her. "You're going to be a mother, Beatrice."
Beatrice looked at her, not sure how to react. How could Alison look happy for her?
"You seem like you've forgotten what it's like for me to be with him," Beatrice said defensively. "This is not a happy occasion."
"Of course it is!" Alison tells her. "You're bringing a child into this world."
"Exactly," Beatrice said angrily and stood from the bed. "A child into this disgusting wretched world."
"Beatrice don't talk like that," Alison told her. "Everything happens for a reason. Maybe this baby is what you both needed all this time. As a matter of fact, you know what? Forget Leandro. Maybe this is exactly what you needed all this time. Who says you're stuck with Leandro anyway? There are plenty of single moms out in the world. You are more than capable of raising this child all on your own. Who's to say this baby isn't what you've been waiting for all this time to finally leave that monster?"
"Easy for you to say," Beatrice said icily, turning to her friend. "You're expecting a baby from a wonderful man. Anyone would be lucky to have a husband like Heath."
"Yes, they would," Alison nodded. "But everyone has a different situation and therefor need to find a way to make things work – no matter what it is. You're an intelligent woman, Beatrice. You know you can get through this. You just need to stop sulking, especially now that you're expecting a baby. You need to look for a way to find your happiness."
"Happiness," Beatrice said bitterly. "What, like you and Heath? Speaking of which, you two seemed very happy downstairs."
"Because we are," Alison replied, suddenly growing uncomfortable.
"Are you?" Beatrice asked, her eyes scrutinizing her friend. "Because I remember during this same time one year ago you were considering divorcing Heath to be with another man."
Alison jolted from her bed and grabbed Beatrice's arm.
"That is over and you know it," she told her.
"All I'm saying is you should appreciate him more," Beatrice said.
"I do," Alison gritted her teeth. "That was a rocky period for Heath and me. He and I were always arguing. We never listened to each other and … and now we're better."
"You were in love with another man, Alison."
"I thought I was," Alison corrected her. "And I never did anything."
Beatrice scoffed, "Sure."
"I didn't," Alison said firmly to her, grabbing Beatrice's arm tighter when she tried to turn away.
"Fine. Whatever you say," Beatrice tells her and yanked her arm away.
"When we learned that I got pregnant everything changed for the better," Alison said, her hands touching her belly. A little smile appeared on her face. "This baby was a true blessing. We grew close again. We fell in love again."
Beatrice didn't think she'd be able to contain her anger. She stared at Alison with a violent surge of jealousy as she looked down happily at her big belly. At one point Beatrice truly believed Alison would leave Heath – she hoped she would. Beatrice had urged Alison to follow her instincts and run away with that man who had briefly stolen her heart so that in turn she could be the one Heath turned to for support. Beatrice had prepared herself to leave Leandro to be Heath's salvation. She loved him and wanted him for herself. It was odd, Beatrice partly hated Alison for not appreciating a perfect man like Heath and another part loved her for having fallen for another man. Why did she have to get pregnant? Where Alison thanked her pregnancy for saving her marriage, Beatrice cursed it for shattering her hopes of leaving Leandro and running to Heath after Alison left.
Instead she had to remain by Leandro's side taking his endless insults and abuse.
And now, to top it all off, she was pregnant with his child. Oh, how Beatrice hated Alison and Heath's baby.
"It wasn't love anyway," Alison said, snapping Beatrice out of her thoughts. Beatrice blinked and looked at her.
"It wasn't love – what I had with that man," Alison repeated. "I was just lonely because Heath was always working, trying to pull afloat his family's tile business. Never paying attention to me or to our marriage. I only got carried away by that man's sweet words and attention."
Beatrice stared at her with judgmental eyes, "Well, let's see if that new-found love you have for him lasts."
"Of course it will," Alison told her firmly, "I love Heath. Nothing or no one will ever come between us ever again. I assure you."
"Let's hope not."
After talking some more trying to cheer Beatrice up, Alison finally saw her to the door.
"You sure you'll be alright?"
"Yeah, thanks for listening to me," Beatrice said. "And I'm sorry for bringing up… well, you know."
"It's something I'm not proud of, Beatrice," Alison tells her. "I made a mistake and … honestly if I could turn back time I would have never gone out with that man."
Beatrice only smirked. She leaned over and kissed Alison on the cheek. "Good night."
Alison watched Beatrice walk to the cab that'd been waiting for her before closing the double doors. When she turned around she saw Heath coming down the stairs.
"Is she alright?" he asked with concern.
"I hope so," Alison replied. She took his hand and let him embrace her. "She's pregnant."
Heath looked down at her with surprise. "Pregnant? Is it…?"
Alison nodded sadly, "Unfortunately it's his. She was so upset, Heath. She was getting ready to leave him any day now. And now she's pregnant. I mean, I told her it's no big deal, that she can survive without him."
"But she doesn't think so?"
"I don't think she believes in herself enough," Alison said, wishing she could do something for her best friend.
"Well, if she ends up leaving him and she has nowhere to go, she's more than welcome to stay here for a while."
Alison smiled at him.
"I don't know what I ever did to deserve you," she said to him. Heath grinned.
"I ask myself the same thing about you all the time," Heath replied and kissed her. Alison smiled and hugged him tight, ignoring the painful guilt she felt in her heart.
Beatrice and Leandro's Apartment
Beatrice entered the small apartment. She dropped her bag on the sofa and looked around the dark apartment with bitterness.
While the Queen is at her castle with her King, I'm at this dump with …
Beatrice's heart skipped a beat when she noticed Leandro was sitting in the shadows in his recliner. He reached over and turned on the lamp next to him.
"You wanna tell me what time this is for you to be coming home?" he said in a low angry voice. He stood from his recliner. He was a big brute of a man. Beatrice's hands started to shake as he drew closer to her.
"I was at Alison's," she stammered.
"At Alison's," he said nodding his head, his eyes on her. "Always at Alison's."
"I was just…"
"It seems to me," Leandro said, his lips curling back in an ugly way, "that you like to spend more time at that house with those people than you do here with me."
Suddenly he grabbed a clump of Beatrice's hair and held on to it tightly. Beatrice cried in pain.
"Can you blame me?" she said gritting her teeth, "I hate it here. Is that what you wanted to hear? I hate being here with you."
Leandro let go of her hair and slapped her hard on her face. Beatrice screamed and fell to the floor.
"I know that," he spat, "You're an ungrateful bitch, Beatrice. I work and I make sure I bring home money and this is how you repay me. By treating me like garbage."
"Because that's what you are!" Beatrice shouted. She got up to her feet. "You're nothing but garbage, Leandro. Garbage and a coward. You hit me because you could never do the same to another man. You only pray on me because I'm a woman and I'm smaller than you. Garbage. Coward."
"Shut your mouth…"
Leandro grabbed Beatrice by her blouse with one hand and with the other started to slap her over and over.
"Stop it, STOP!" she cried out.
"YOU DISRESPECTFUL GOOD FOR NOTHING –"
"I'm pregnant!" Beatrice blurted out.
Leandro's hand froze before he could hit her again. He stared at her with his mouth agape.
"You're having a baby?" he said dumbfounded. "A baby?"
Beatrice saw Leandro smile with happiness as his eyes filled with tears. He let her go as he looked at her with joy.
She hated him so much. How could he look so happy, so content when only seconds earlier he'd been ready to kill her? Oh, how she wanted to do the same to him.
"Yes, I'm pregnant," Beatrice said and suddenly, though she wasn't sure why, she gave him a sardonic smile. "But it's not yours."
Beatrice saw the smile disappear from his face. She backed away from him when he started to move towards her again.
"What did you say?" he said, a heavy dread now crushing the happiness he had started to feel.
"It's. Not. Yours," Beatrice repeated.
"And whose baby is it then?" Leandro said, his face contorting in agony.
"Heath's," Beatrice lied, relishing the pain she was seeing on Leandro's face. "I'm having Heath's baby."
The woman descended the flight of stairs and slowly made her way to the dark family room. Her green eyes fell on the old grand piano that remained untouched for so long.
What a difference 20 years make, the woman thought. She walked over to the mirror and looked at her reflection.
Beatrice sighed heavily, the weight of her guilt becoming too much to bear with every passing second. A loud chime suddenly filled the house. Her eyes moved towards the grandfather clock that stood in the foyer.
It was almost midnight.
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