Alex and Dillion are of course referring to Liam, but Liam has zeroed in on Alex. He points directly at him and looks back at me.
“Explain to me, please. Why does he keep showing up? You two have a thing going?” Liam demands, obviously angered.
“And what if she does?” Alex counters.
“Yeah!” Dillion adds, “She’d be doing a hell of a lot better than you. I’d say she’s finally come to her senses.”
I see my parents about to jump into the fray but I try to stop them with a raise of my hand and a shake of my head, and to my surprise, they stop. Maybe things can be different?
I now position myself between Alex and Dillion who are on one side and Liam on the other. “Liam, if you want to talk, let’s talk, but Alex and Dillion, you're not helping,” I say, suddenly feeling very tired, too much adrenaline with all these emotions running high, it’s exhausting.
“Sorry, Cat," Alex immediately replies and stands down, but Dillion and Liam are still glowering at one another. I shouldn’t expect less as they have a long-standing history of hatred between them and my brother now has more reason than ever.
“You should be sorry,” Liam taunts Alex before looking back at me. “And you never answered my question?”
“I wasn’t talking to you!” Alex says, and Liam takes a step forward.
Dillion puts the pizzas down and states coldly, “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t rearrange your face for what you have done to my sister?” Liam takes two steps back.
Alex’s face immediately changes and he takes a defensive position beside me, between Dillion and Liam. Putting his hands on Dillion’s chest to hold him back, Alex implores, “No Dillion! You know that’s not what Cat wants.”
Dillion struggles to get hold of his emotions.
“I’m here to try and set things right,” Liam says, “but I need to talk to Cat. Alone!”
“What could you possibly say to make up for the fact that you were messing around behind her back?! How is she supposed to trust anything you say or do?! The one time you’re expected to step up and take responsibility, you abandon her, leaving her feeling isolated and scared!" Dillion hollers, pressing on further but Alex still has him in check.
“I love your sister!” Liam announces, “and I know she loves me, too.”
Alex looks back at me and that little bit of distraction is all it takes for Dillion to get the upper hand. He gets past Alex and grips up Liam by his shirt. My father now jumps in, getting there quicker than I would have expected him too.
“Let him go, Dillion!” Dad demands, trying to push them apart. I see the searing anger in my brother’s face and I can't help but notice the fear in Liam’s. Liam is no fool. He is well aware my brother can knock him flat in a heartbeat, but I don’t want my brother to get into trouble, especially over me.
I’m on the other side of them imploring my brother to stop. “Please, Dillion. I…” My heart is pounding in time to the throbbing in my head. The last thing I hear is Alex saying, “Shit, not again,” before my world turns black.
_ _ _
My eyes open and I shield them immediately from the light above. I feel like a vampire looking into the sun. It’s scorching my brain.
“Cat! Oh, thank God!” I turn my head towards my mom’s voice and peek out from under my arm. “Mom?”
"Yeah, KittyCat. I’m right here.”
“Where's here?” I question.
“The hospital, Sweetie. You passed out.”
My head feels so fuzzy. “I …” then the realization dawns. “The baby?!” I scramble to sit up, however, a firm but gentle hand holds me down. “The baby is fine, Cat.”
This time I turn the other way and see my dad. “Really?” I ask, my voice trembling and my eyes stinging from the tears waiting to be shed.
“Alex told them this wasn’t the first time. He filled the EMT’s and us in on everything that happened before, so they didn’t take any chances. When you got to the hospital they did an ultrasound here in the room.”
“We got to see the baby for ourselves, Cat.” Mom adds. “Your baby is thriving.”
I sink back in my pillow as the tension drains from my body. “Thank God,” I say in a hushed whisper.
Dad pushes the hair away from my face. “Cat, the doctors are concerned. We are concerned. You have Chronic Hypertension. Since this is only the beginning of your pregnancy, there is increased risk that you’ll end up with Preeclampsia, which could mean serious complications for both you and the baby. Your mom and I have been talking…”
“Please, don’t,” I say, looking from my dad to my mom.
“Cat, listen to your father. Please.”
“I don’t want to give up this baby. I can’t. Please, don’t ask me again.”
Dad sighs. “I would love to ask you just that, Cat, but I know you won’t have it. However, your Mom and I think it’s best you don’t return to school.”
“It’s too much pressure, Cat,” Mom adds, “I don’t want something bad happening to you.”
“But I have to stay in school, Mom.”
“No, you don’t, Cat.” Dad assures me, “You don’t have anything to prove.”