It was almost a week since I’d been kicked out of home after discovering the life in my belly. I had the choice to end that life, or end my own. It had been an easy choice.
My first port of escape was staying up north at a girlfriend’s just to get away for a bit. The surfaces of mozaic- topped tables and wooden drawers were adorned with aztec jewellery and candles. The concrete walls were plastered with posters of famous actresses and religious figures. Piles upon piles of books covering topics from feng shui to finances made suitable stands for our cups of Turkish coffee and with incense wafting around us and the soothing melodies of Katchafire stealing my worries, Tia’s room was just the homely sanctuary I needed.
Our quiet evening discussion over our hatred of the male race, (due to the abusive messages I’d been receiving from the sperm donor and Tia’s recent breakup,) was interrupted by the idea to go out. A couple of friends showed up, heels and handbags, ready to go. Apparently there was a fire show down at a lakeside bar worth seeing.
I dragged my tired body off the bed and stood before the mirror hanging from the wardrobe door. Morning sickness had already crippled me three times that afternoon and I looked in no state to be seen in public. But Tia, Jay and Hamilton, (one of Jay’s friends we had just met,) insisted.
Before long I was stripped of my baggy pants and cozy hoodie and was dressed in black slacks and heels and a winter jumper covered in happy, mocking little reindeer. Tia wore the matching skirt. I laced my sleep- deprived eyes with a little liner, but couldn’t really care less for makeup at that point, as I’d given up on trying to appear attractive to anybody. In my head, I was a pregnant loner who would never go on another date again. Males were dangerous. I wasn’t attached emotionally to anyone. And I was going to stay that way. It’s for the best, I’d told myself. From now on, this child is my one and only. We don’t need anyone else in our life. And at the time, I suppose I’d meant it. I’d locked my heart up and tucked away the key for safe keeping.
The crowd had already gathered around the courtyard by the time we arrived. There was a woman in her fifties wearing a tiara, jamming out some hideous rendition of a Celine Dion song on the karaoke machine, and the bar inside was buzzing. Male eyes were already upon us and it made me want to hurl for the fourth time that day.
“Hello ladies, and what are we drinking?” A Manchester accent floated over the crowd, directed at us. The girls shot back their orders and I remained silent, grinding my heel into a leaf on the ground.
“And what about you?” Manchester Number Two appeared at my side from nowhere. Without lifting my gaze from the crushed leaf, I told him I wasn’t drinking, but the annoyance persisted.
“Uh, a cranberry juice will be fine, thanks,” I muttered to shut him up.
“One cranberry and vodka!” He yelled over to his mate.
“No, no vodka. Just cranberry. I’m not drinking” My response evoked laughter. Amused, the Manchester boys focused their attention on me, and I focused harder on the leaf which I was now crushing into dust.
“What do you mean? You’re not drinking?” These idiots didn’t seem to get it. I didn’t exactly want the world to know I was the pregnant chick at the bar. They’d ask a million questions I didn’t know the answers to, so instead I turned to Tia to make up a reasonable excuse. She was good at that. But Tia was in the bar with Jay taking shots of Tequila. It was just me, Manchester Boy and Hamilton, who was busy chatting up Manchester Number Two.
I’m allergic to alcohol? I get terrible gas every time I drink? I’m actually a twelve year old? If I drink I turn into a werewolf?
“I’m driving” I lie, and Manchester Boy pretends to look disappointed. I only need to decline his offer three more times before he finally gives up with a shrug, letting me know he thinks I’m weird. Not that I could care less. I shuffle inside to look for my friends.
A few drinks later, after Tia swore she wouldn’t drink too much, hated men and flirted with two, I found myself sitting on the edge of a plant box in the courtyard, sipping an orange juice. Everyone was drunk and having a great time but me. I was miserable and tired and feeling a little queasy again. I didn’t want to be a party pooper, so I’d hidden here instead, grizzling to myself. I hate alcohol. I hate men. I hate being pregnant. I hate this stupid Katy Perry song…
I was quickly snapped out of my grumble when a spark shot up into the sky. Ah, “firework,” like the song. I get it. How bloody original. Jay, the least drunk of the three, stood next to me and pulled out a camera.
The courtyard was suddenly alight with burning orbs of fire, swivelling in time with the music, painting spirals before my eyes. Dancers in bandanas flicked their wrists, creating flaming butterflies, and a Maori guy with a whip set on fire seemed to get quite a reaction out of the girls, who seemed to know him.
What happened next I wasn’t prepared for.
He stood a few metres from us, tall and slim, his hair shaved into a scruffy mohawk, a flaming torch in one hand and a bottle in the other. Flames continued to dance around him, casting shadows and auras and halos. Then, without warning, a hot breath of flame leapt from his lungs and past the wick, higher and higher til it kissed the stars. A roar of applause followed, before he blew another flame, then another. My heart jumped in its cage.
That’s him, Mummy. He’s the one.
“You alright?” Tia had joined us. I must have been wearing a funny expression. I turned and nodded to the handsome dragon with the mohawk.
“I’m going to marry that guy one day” I said, without a moment of hesitation.
After an argument of who was meant to be driving and the girls had settled on who was most sober other than me, the non- driver, I slouched in the back seat and was taken to a house where there was apparently an after party. Little did I know, this was the house of the guy with the fire whip- a friend of the girls. This meant the rest of the fire crew would be here. And maybe even him.
Drinks, drugs, laughter and food galore. What I politely refused in drugs I definitely made up for in the food I consumed that night. It seemed they had catered especially for pregnant women with the platter of crackers and dips and salty chips on tap. I’m pretty sure I swept the table clean within the few hours we were there. I sat inside a bedroom on a giant squishy dice stool and a dark figure in a hooded jumper sat on the couch opposite me, his head down as he focused on rolling. Someone walked into the room and he lifted his face, then for a quick moment our eyes met. He was gorgeous.
A moment later tipsy Tia was at my side and tried to introduce herself to the dark stranger, who said “hey” without looking. She asked if he was from here, he said no. She asked what he did for work, he said he drove machinery. At that I put my palm to my face. Great. You mention trucks or machinery around Tia and she can go on forever. Especially in that drunken state. He was polite and nodded as she gave him her life story and answered all her questions with short answers, but every time she turned away he’d roll his eyes at me and smile. He was obviously uninterested, but I liked having his attention.
“Well,” he interrupted Tia as soon as he’d had enough, “I’m gonna go smoke this. Have a good night.” He shook the hood off his head and ruffled his hair. His mohawk.
“Ooh, it’s your husband!” Mocked Tia. I clamped my hand over her mouth to shut the alcohol up. He smiled at me, confused and amused, and left the room. My cheeks were burning. I could’ve throttled her.
The night dragged on and my “morning” sickness threatened to strike at any moment. I sat outside by the fire for some fresh air. As I was poking at the embers with a stick, someone came and sat by me. The guy with the mohawk. I could’ve guessed. My heart was pumping at about a million miles an hour and when he introduced himself I could barely breathe. All I could manage to do was blurt out whatever ridiculous thought was on my mind. And that couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“Have you ever eaten a hedgehog?” I exploded.
“…What? No?” I think he could tell how nervous I was.
Nice one, Whiskey. He could have been ‘the one’. And you go and ruin it by asking him if he’s ever eaten a frickin hedgehog. What. A. Freak.
I reminded myself to punch myself later.
Jay called out to me from the driveway. She was rounding up the troupes to take us home again. Saved by the bell. I was glad to get away from the embarrassment, but I really didn’t want to leave this crazy dragon I’d just met. I didn’t know a thing about him, (other than the fact that he’d never eaten hedgehog and he was wickedly handsome,) but I was drawn to him so deeply it was almost painful to leave, as if our souls were tied together and if I got up to go they’d snap.
“Please ask me for my number, please ask me for my number” I prayed as I reluctantly rose from my seat. He rose too as I walked slowly up the driveway and my heart rose with hope.. but he stopped a few feet from the car and stood there waving awkwardly instead. My heart sunk again, and I punched myself twice. Once for letting my heart escape its cage and once for being a fool.
“That guy seemed to really fancy you,” Tia smiled. “You gave him your number, right?” I shook my head.
“Nah, he didn’t. If he liked me he would’ve asked.” I stared at his shadowed figure as it disappeared in the distance. Disappointment welled up inside me and my heart went cold.