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*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes. Tagged Chapter Directory*
Vanderwood woke slowly and checked the time. Damn, he’d kind of slept in? It was already 10, and he needed breakfast. He untangled himself from Cerise, looking at her for a moment, thinking about the night before. Maybe a little dangerous to do, but his thoughts were interrupted anyway as he heard shuffling in the kitchen. So, Crystal was probably up and searching for food. What the Hell was going on with his life right now?
He made his way in there, grumbling a good morning. “You should sit down. I can make breakfast.” She had an amused look on her face but just leaned against the counter, hands cupping over her small baby bump before he looked away. He did not want to think about kids right now. “So, you’re a gentleman and an idiot.” Vanderwood snorted at her. “Sure, I am. What are you insulting me over now?” He figured she would probably need something a little heavier, so omelets were the way to go, even though Cerise wouldn’t be cutting the broccoli for him today. He couldn’t help thinking that she shouldn’t be anyway. Bringing his old life back into his new life with her, he didn’t deserve her.
Crystal’s voice had his eyebrow twitching. “She said yes, you know. To all of it.” He didn’t like people nosing into his life, but Crystal continued as he tried to focus on preparing food to stay relaxed. “Doesn’t mean I should bring it home.” The woman sighed heavily. “Doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, more than anything in this world.” Vanderwood bit his tongue.
Alright, so maybe she was right. Cerise had fought him on a similar situation before, and he remembered her saying that she was ready to accept everything that came with being with him. Still, he couldn’t help thinking that maybe she didn’t fully understand what that meant. He shook his head, too tired and annoyed to want to think much more of it. “Why am I taking the advice of an escort who probably got pregnant by one of her johns? Whose is it?” That was none too polite, but if she was nosing, he was going to nose in, too.
She narrowed her eyes at him before she smacked the back of his head, not hard, but enough to get the point across. “Absolutely none of your business, you ass, but my baby is no john’s.” Crystal huffed as he turned to stare at her over his shoulder. Had she just? She had. Granted he deserved it, in hindsight. She just ran her hands over her belly. Calling Zen’s baby that of some john’s…it was insulting to him in a weird way, insulting to the baby. She didn’t so much care for being insulted herself, but not Zen and not her baby.
Cerise had woken up by now and walked into the kitchen, following the voices she was hearing coming from it. She arrived just in time to hear Marion asking Crystal a really inappropriate question. Cerise had opened her mouth to say something to him, but Crystal’s swift smack to the back of his head beat her to it. Stifling a laugh, she made her way beside him to start some coffee. “You deserved that, you know.” With a yawn, she set a pot of coffee to brew. ” …Morning, by the way.”
Well, she wasn’t sure if Crystal liked coffee or not, but if she did, there would be more than enough for the two of them. Marion would probably end up drinking his usual breakfast tea. When she passed Crystal to go sit at the table to wait while the coffee was brewing, she grinned at her and uttered a, “Good job.” Her fiancée definitely deserved the smack. “Marion, don’t be such a jerk, by the way.” She called to him from her place at the table.
“Yeah, I know.” He sighed and focused on breakfast. Vanderwood was not about to have an easy life for a while, it seemed. Crystal gave Cerise a wink before going to join her at the table, mostly to get away from the enticing smell of coffee, although it followed her. Maybe she would just have a little, although a doctor would probably say it was best not to have any. That was, if the baby was even okay after a certain stunt she’d pulled recently and all the stress she’d managed to put herself under. It was far easier to focus on the problems of others rather than her own, so she redirected her attention to watching.
Once the food was done, Vanderwood set down a plate for each of the women and himself, placing his plate next to Cerise’s before going to get her coffee. Maybe he could get some bonus points by making it just the way she liked. “Did you want some, Crystal?” The lavender haired woman looked up from the food she’d apparently been too hungry to resist starting on to mumble past her hand, thanks to her full mouth. “Just a little. Not good for the baby to have too much.” He nodded and got her a smaller amount, setting it down before getting tea for himself.
Oh, Cerise didn’t even think about coffee not being good to have while pregnant. Cerise guessed that caffeine wasn’t so great for the developing baby, then. She was also guessing that Marion was trying to earn points by making her coffee. Cerise took a sip once he put it in front of her. Okay…so it was good. Really good. She took a few more sips. He was safe. For now. As he was making his tea, she may as well get to know Crystal a little better, but once she put her coffee cup down to do so, Cerise scrunched up her face.
Crystal was really going at that food. It was all over her mouth, and she looked a bit wild, really. For such a gorgeous and seemingly elegant woman, she sure ate like she hadn’t been fed in years. Was that a pregnant thing? Her hair was already put together into a neat ponytail, and she was even dressed in a tight blouse and a pair of pants that looked really good on her, even if they were pants, and her jewelry was stunning on her. Someone this put together couldn’t possibly eat like that on a regular basis…Unless she was the weird one. Cerise eyed her food. Should she shovel it in?
It took the kettle a little while, and the women were quiet as they ate, so he had plenty of time to think. Cerise was right, he really was being a douche. He didn’t exactly have a relationship of any kind with his former escort, but…the least he could do was be decent and apologize. Vanderwood filled his mug, making his way back over to them and sinking into his chair next to Cerise, who was looking at her omelet a little oddly. “Hey…I’m uh….sorry for that question by the way.”
The lavender-haired woman just shrugged, accepting his apology. God, he was an ass for having asked her, but more than anything Vanderwood was just happy it wasn’t his. He looked over at Cerise, still looking at her omelet, before leaning to give her cheek a quick kiss that made her almost jump. She gave him a little peck and started on her food, finally. If he was having children with anyone, it would be her, although he still wasn’t sure he could handle it. Not now anyway. More than likely, he’d be an absentee father, too worried about screwing the kid up to do much. He picked a little at his food, earning himself a raised eyebrow from Crystal who was observing him again. It made him uncomfortable, but obviously he was going to need to get used to it.
Cerise had been totally zoned out before his kiss to her cheek had brought her out of her stupor, unable to keep from giving him a little peck in return. That just started her to thinking about how wonderful he was and all of the snuggling she wanted to give him when they got the chance to be alone. She just couldn’t help it; she loved him, and she loved the affection he showed her. It made her feel warm and giddy, like she wanted to dance around. Cerise found that she couldn’t really stay upset with him for a long period of time. She reached over to give his arm a squeeze, still smiling. “Thanks for breakfast~ It’s good!” To make her point, she speared some of her breakfast onto her fork and put it in her mouth with an audible, “Omph!” sound, winking and giving him a thumbs-up of approval.
Vanderwood’s smile grew wide at her behavior. She was adorable, and she was his. He wrapped an arm around the back of her chair as he ate. Crystal seemed to be enjoying what she was observing….as well as the food… “Crystal, slow down before you choke, Bloody Hell.” The lavender-haired woman shook her hand at him before covering her full mouth. “I’m pregnant, I’ll eat as much and as fast as I want.”
Cerise had never really encountered a pregnant woman before, so she didn’t know whether or not Crystal was just like this or it was something the pregnancy was making her do. Holy crap, this woman put away some food. It was kind of impressive…in a way. She glanced between Marion and Crystal during their exchange and noticed that he backed off. Smart move.
He had opened his mouth as though to argue before deciding better of it. Probably best not to argue with a potentially hormonal pregnant woman. Vanderwood wasn’t risking it. “So, uh…you want to watch some TV after this, or?” He wasn’t used to social interaction, let alone with Crystal. She just swallowed hard and looked between them with excitement. “Either of you heard of telenovelas?”
After Crystal’s question, Cerise’s eyes widened, and her face lit up. She had the most ridiculous smile on her face, and she felt like she could jump out of her seat. “Do…do you watch them, too?” Her tone was pitched with excitement. It would be great to watch them with someone who appreciated them as much as she did. Marion would watch with her, but he just wasn’t into them as much as she was, and there were some times where he wouldn’t tell her what they were saying, even though she knew he could understand.
Vanderwood just stared, his cup with tea still up to his lips. Oh, dear God. Crystal watched them, too. Not that he really disliked them, other than the stupid donkey ones, but now there were two super fans in the house. Did Crystal speak Spanish? He really hoped not, because there were plenty of times he just couldn’t translate for Cerise, because he felt the things being said weren’t appropriate.
Crystal was overly excited. “You know them!!! Ever since I learned Spanish, I started watching them all the time. They’re just so exciting!” Vanderwood felt like he had a headache, and besides that…translating was his thing. Maybe he was being childish, but helping Cerise understand what had been going on in her favorite shows…when they’d first started dating, it had made him feel…proud, like he could offer her something that was important to her. He bit his tongue. Yeah, that probably was childish.
“Yes! But…” Cerise smiled a little sheepishly, “I can’t really understand them. Luckily, though…” She gestured towards her husband-to-be. “I have this cutie to translate for me! It’s been a lot more exciting now that I know what’s going on.” This was so exciting…to meet someone who loved these things as much as she did. Cerise wondered what her favorite one was; she’d have to ask. Her friends back in Paris just didn’t understand. Telenovelas were like an art form. Other similar programs from other countries never came close…Though, she’d heard that there were some interesting ones from India. She’d have to try them out one day. “We should watch after breakfast! I think my favorite one is going to air soon! Ahhhh~ I think today we find out who the maid’s mystery lover is!”
Vanderwood’s face turned bright red at Cerise’s comments and he coughed softly, wrapping his arm around the back of her chair again. Crystal was too excited to notice the deep blush on his face, at least for now. “I think I know which one you’re talking about! I’ll have to fill in whatever gaps this one leaves for you.” He was still red, and she managed to catch it now, chuckling a little. “I’m sure I’m a better translator.” His eyebrow twitched. “Try it.” How had Crystal even learned Spanish? Vanderwood’s total immersion probably won out over however she had learned it.
Crystal just rolled her eyes at him and went back to chatting with Cerise about their favorite telenovelas. Cerise’s honey-gold eyes had been flicking between them as they seemed to get into some sort of competition over who would be the better translator. While it was exciting to have a new friend to watch with, nothing could replace the time she spent watching with him and letting him translate for her. Plus, he let her snuggle into him while they watched television. No way was Crystal going to take his job; Cerise was just thankful to have someone to fangirl with. She was going to speak up and tell them it didn’t really matter, knowing that Marion was clearly getting frustrated, but just as quickly, she and Crystal were discussing their favorite shows.
The lavender-haired beauty of a woman loved a lot of the same shows she did; plus, she went in being able to understand them from the get-go and was able to talk about them more in depth than Cerise could. They had been talking for a while until the conversation led to the awful rapping donkey. Was it just her or was there a chill in the room? He was totally tuning it out until he heard something about the rapping donkey. Immediately, he was paying full attention. “I hate that stupid donkey. It’s the worst plot I’ve ever seen. Completely senseless.” Cerise was happy as well to find that Crystal also hated the dumb thing, responding to Marion. “I have to agree. It’s a bit of a disaster, and I usually love weird things like that.” Well, maybe it was a little concerning that she tended to like ‘dumb things like that,’ but Cerise wasn’t about to split hairs. “Yeah…I have no idea who thought that was a good idea…”
Cerise got up to clean up the plates and put the dishes in the sink before setting off towards the television in the living room. She turned it on and switched to the promised station, delighted to see that her favorite one was on the opening credits. Crystal was already up and positioning herself on one side of the couch while Vanderwood stretched and started to head towards their bedroom before Cerise caught his attention. “Hey, you wanna come watch too, Marion?” She called out to him. Maybe he wouldn’t mind watching with two women.
He had been intending to just let them do their thing, but it was also tempting to out-translate Crystal. That and he did enjoy the way Cerise curled into him when they watched together. Although he wasn’t sure how comfortable she would be doing that with someone else watching. Vanderwood thought about it for a moment before Crystal spoke up, holding her hand out to the side with a smirk. “Don’t you want to find out who the better Spanish speaker is?”
His eyebrow twitched briefly. How did she know exactly what would bother him most? Was she a mind reader? No. He’d asked himself that millions of times before, but she was just irritatingly observant. “I mostly just want to spend time with my fiancée.” He grumbled a little before taking his place on the couch, the middle, so he could leave room for Cerise to snuggle with her feet over the other armrest if she wanted to. That and he just wanted to keep the women a little more away from each other. It made him uneasy that they were forming some sort of camaraderie. Before he knew it, he would have two women bossing him around and only one that he could tolerate it from. “Let’s watch.” His voice was a little gruff, but he softened up pretty easily once Cerise took her place. She just had that calming effect on him. Even the night before when he’d almost slipped, she was his saving grace.
Cerise threw her feet over the armrest and took her place snuggled into him as the opening credits on the show faded away. It had opened with a dramatic close-up of a lady’s face, who she had realized, thanks to Marion, was the employer and not the maid’s sister or friend or anything else that Cerise had made up in her head. In the long run, it did make sense as to why the lady was so bossy.
The woman had pointed accusingly towards the maid, yelling something or other before picking up a shoe and throwing it towards the maid, which hit her in the shoulder. Offended, the maid threw it back, and it began to look like a weird game of hot potato….except with a shoe. More yelling once the shoe was dropped, and then this guy came bursting through the doors. Both ladies looked completely shocked, because another guy who looked exactly the same followed. Cerise furrowed her eyebrows and instinctively looked up to her fiancé, waiting for him to explain, because…what was even going on there?
Vanderwood was maybe a little hyper focused. So, a challenge could maybe get him a little hyped up. Usually, he had nothing to prove, but he rather liked the job of being Cerise’s translator. When Cerise looked up at him, Crystal looked over at him expectantly as well, although he knew she was more interested in seeing how good his Spanish was. “The boss lady says she saw the maid together with her husband again last night, so this is just the same fight again. They’re insulting each other. The boss lady is saying the maid is stealing the love of her life, and now the twin brothers enter. It seems that the maid is not sleeping with the man of the house but with his far richer brother.” They watched a little further before Vanderwood’s stoic face turned a little gruffer. “Now the boss lady is going for the brother, so she’s pretty shallow.”
Cerise listened and the scene made a lot more sense than anything she would have thought up in her head. It seemed that she was always way off when it came to figuring out what was going on. So, to the lady…it seemed that she didn’t care as long as the guy was rich. That was really rude of her, and Cerise did not like her one bit. “That’s really crappy of her…” She mumbled as she watched what was going on now. More yelling and screaming. Cerise looked up to Marion again, whose face had begun to turn red. It must have been one of those times that he didn’t feel the need to translate.
The boss lady had shoved her husband towards the maid before attaching herself to the richer brother. Now the maid started screaming at the richer man and the boss lady, and Vanderwood’s face filled with color. “I’m not translating that.” Crystal started to actually laugh at him, soft and dainty but definitely laughing at him. “I never pegged you for a prude, Vanderwood.” She flicked her ponytail before beginning to translate, looking at the TV, and there was nothing he could do about it.
For him, it was like watching a car crash. Also, his fiancée was in his lap, so that didn’t help, because as usual the problem was his imagination more than anything. “She’s telling them that she is far better at satisfying a man and can deep-throat far better than any other woman out there. The boss lady seems to think that she’s better, because she’s the woman on top.” Thankfully, Vanderwood knew Cerise wouldn’t understand any of that, so he relaxed somewhat.
Cerise hadn’t expected Crystal to start translating and had pretty much accepted it that she wasn’t going to find out what was being said. Now, Cerise scrunched up her nose at Crystal’s translation. Okay, so the boss lady thought that she should be with the guy, because she was powerful, and the maid…had something lodged in her throat? That didn’t seem helpful at all. How in the world did she think that would be helpful to the guy? “Wouldn’t…erm…” Cerise was trying to find the right words. “…how does that help anyone? Wouldn’t she need to go to the hospital?” She stopped to think for a moment before a light went off in her head. “Oh! I get it now!” That’s where the doctor guy comes in!” Now that made sense. How scandalous.
Crystal was looking at Cerise like she had two heads before she figured out that apparently, she didn’t know those phrases. Vanderwood caught her too late before she was explaining. “Being the woman on top means you’re on top of the man when you’re having sex. Deep-throating means his dick deep into your throat, so you can take more in.” His eyebrow was now twitching like crazy, and he was biting his tongue, focused on not letting his mind wander anywhere. “Could you not? I liked it much better when I paid you to be quiet. How much would that be now?” That was way inappropriate, but he was not in a good mood. Crystal looked over to lock eyes with Cerise’s before she smacked the back of Vanderwood’s head, who just grumbled and accepted it, sinking back into the couch. “She has as much of a right to know as you do, and I have as much of a right to talk.”
Okay, so that wasn’t anything Cerise had been expecting. She’d just kind of stared at Crystal before Marion spoke, saying something again that he really had no business saying. Cerise was starting to get a little irritated that he kept alluding to the fact that he used to pay Crystal for her ‘services.’ Was he dense or something? In what world did he believe that if he kept mentioning it, she wouldn’t get at least a little upset? The smack to the back of his head delivered by Crystal was so well-deserved, but it didn’t really make her feel any better.
Cerise took out her phone and typed up a message. `Just bcuz I’m ok w/ evrythng doesn’t mean u shud continue 2 bring it up.` She wasn’t quite ready to have this conversation in the same room with the two of them, so Cerise got up from the couch, announcing that she was going to chill in her room for a little while. Once she was inside and the door was locked, she hit send on the message. Cerise had no issue with Crystal being around; she actually liked her. What she didn’t like was Marion’s constant reminder of what he used to do with the person who was sitting right there. That was a little too uncomfortable for her. She just knew that it happened; she didn’t need specifics, nor did she want to be constantly reminded…yet this was the second time he had alluded to it just that day. She loved him but jeeze. Cerise grabbed a kitty-shaped pillow and squeezed it to her chest. That jerk…
Vanderwood had known almost immediately as it had left his mouth that he’d said something way beyond propriety, but he hadn’t expected Cerise to walk off and lock herself into the bedroom. He sat there in silence with Crystal glaring at him before his phone pinged, and he checked the message. Damn it… Vanderwood bit his tongue and looked up at the ceiling. It made sense, he just hadn’t thought about it, not in the moment. Should he reply? He really didn’t know how to.
“You know you’re not making it any easier on her.” Vanderwood grumbled in response before sending back, `Sorry.` Crystal just kept talking, and although he was irritated, he had to admit, she was pretty good with this stuff. Certainly, a lot better than him. Taking advice from a whore, imagine. “She’s obviously insecure. Not that anything is wrong with her; she’s lovely, and I’m certain you feel more for her than you ever have for anyone else, but she doesn’t look like your type or act like your type and continuing to point out what you did with me, not helping that either.”
Crystal looked towards Cerise’s room with a sigh. Was Vanderwood even listening to her? From his body-language, it seemed like he was. His head had slightly tipped in her direction, even if he was staring at the TV with his arms folded. “Yeah, you slept around, you’re a bit of a screwed-up guy, no pun intended. She knows and accepts that, but you don’t have to push it in her face.”
Vanderwood furrowed his brows momentarily before he returned to his stoic expression. It already made sense to him that he shouldn’t be making reminders of what Crystal used to do for him, but he hadn’t thought about her insecurity before. Now that Crystal pointed it out, the last night had been a little odd. The way she responded to Crystal’s presence as she’d come into the room, it hadn’t been the way she normally responded to other women.
He felt really fucking stupid, and Crystal seemed very aware of the fact that he was actually listening to her. “So. Talk to her. Oh, and let her know I’ll gladly watch more of these with her when you’re done.” Crystal gave him a little push which had him glaring at her again. She hadn’t ever touched him in their interactions before, other than when he’d requested it, which was basically never. Still, Crystal gave him a little wave to make him keep going. They didn’t have that kind of situation between them anymore, and whether he liked it or not, she cared about what happened between him and his sweet little bride-to-be. God, he hated being touched, but it wasn’t like she wasn’t pushing him in the right direction. Vanderwood lightly rapped his knuckles on the door to Cerise’s room. Would she even want to hear him out right now? Usually, she was pretty good about it, but he was acting like a shit lately, so he couldn’t blame her for not wanting to deal with it right now. “Hey, Cerise…can we talk?”
Cerise looked up from her pillow and towards the door. She had a feeling that he would have wanted to talk sooner or later, although she hadn’t expected it right away. Cerise didn’t answer at first, choosing to remain quiet. It’s not that she didn’t have anything to say or that she didn’t want to talk and get things settled. Cerise just knew that it would bother him if she didn’t answer right away. It was petty more than anything, but she didn’t even care.
Vanderwood had known why she wasn’t opening the door. That was a habit of hers sometimes, making him stew in it. Cerise knew he wasn’t the most patient person in the world, but in this case, he wouldn’t blame her if she made him wait all day. He leaned his hip against the doorframe as he waited until she opened the door a few minutes later.
She let this go on for two or three minutes before finally getting up and going to the door. If she knew him, he wouldn’t leave so easily. Sighing, she opened the door to let him in. “You really are a jerk, you know that? She turned around to take her place on the bed, pulling another pillow into her arms and holding it close to her chest.” His response came out as a sigh. “Yeah, I know…” Vanderwood closed the door after he entered, not wanting Crystal as a fly on the wall, even though she seemed to know when to butt out. Cerise eyed him for a moment. “So…let’s talk
He watched Cerise for a little while, the way she was hugging her pillow a long-familiar pose now. Words didn’t come easily to him. Vanderwood wished he could just hold her, but they really did need to talk, or at least he did. He chose to sit on the floor so as not to loom over her. It always felt more right to talk on level ground when they were discussing important things, although like this she was just a little above him. That was fine on his end; he’d just rather not be the one looming.
Her eyes silently followed him as he sat down on the floor, waiting for him to say his piece with a hard gaze. At least he realized what a jerk he was being. She could tell that he was having a little trouble finding words to say, which wasn’t unusual for him. Cerise waited patiently while he debated with himself. She could wait all day if she had to, but it wasn’t long before he did start talking. “I’m sorry for being an ass. I don’t really know how to act with her in normal situations, since my life has never been normal…not that that excuses it. I didn’t mean to…dangle the situation in front of you. I’m just irritated and confused about a lot of things.” He wrapped his arms around his knees, feeling like he looked and felt a lot like a small child, but so be it. “I’m sorry. I’m just bad at this…but I’m trying. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She listened and tried to take it in. At least he was apologizing and realized what exactly it was that made him an ass mcvanderjerkface. Being irritated did tend to make him act out, and usually, she found it kind of funny, but there was a line that he had crossed that was not okay today. Cerise waited for him to finish before asking a question of her own, making sure to look him in the eye as she spoke. “I get why you’re irritated…but why are you confused? What’s there to be confused about?” She was trying not to focus on how adorable he looked right now, because she was mad, dammit.
Her question had him confused again. What was it really that he was so confused about? Everything was the only thing he could think, but that wasn’t right. His whole life was just weird. “I went from one lifestyle to a completely other one. I love you, I love our relationship, and I love our life together, but it’s confusing when the two lifestyles mix. It’s making keeping myself calm the proper way difficult…I think that’s what’s confusing. My brain is telling me two things.”
Vanderwood felt even more like shit admitting it, that he felt like he was slipping a little. “I’m sorry…It’s not that I’m not happy or that you don’t satisfy me…I’m just a mess of a person…” His addiction was a barrier, one he was doing everything he could to get rid of. “I won’t ever use you like that…but the mix is…that’s what’s confusing.” Did she understand? It felt like he was drowning. He didn’t want to hurt her any more than he already had, but she needed to know. Above all, she needed to know he wasn’t going to step out of line that way. She was all that mattered to him now, and he would do anything and everything to protect her and their relationship.
Cerise’s eyes widened for a moment. So, the issue was that his addiction was starting to try and complicate things? She thought she followed. Having someone around from that past was probably hard for him…especially if it was the person he would rely on the most. As much as she understood what he was telling her, why it was hard and confusing for him…she couldn’t help but to feel a good deal of self-consciousness. It wasn’t his fault; he was just a victim of circumstance. At first, she wasn’t quite sure what she could say; she loved him and understood that it was a difficult situation.
“Marion…” Cerise sighed and put her pillow to the side, crawling down onto the floor with him. “I trust you…okay? I think you’re stronger than you realize.” She made her way to sit beside him, leaning against him a little. “It’s going to take a while…but look how far you’ve come in such a short time. How about…during these times, if you feel like it’s becoming too much, text me. We’ll come in here and just talk.” Cerise looked to him to study his face. It was such a childish solution, but in this particular case, she felt that maybe isolation from the situation could be the way to go, not wanting to overexpose him to his past and stress him out further…which would stress her out, causing arguments aplenty.
He’d tensed just a little when she moved towards him to lean on him, but he was really trying to listen to what she was saying, pay attention to her words rather than the tenseness of his body. Vanderwood leaned his head lightly against hers before turning his head to kiss the top of hers. “I just don’t want to hurt you…” He pulled back to see her studying his face. Her suggestion, while helpful, also raised worries for him. “But I don’t know if I should be alone with you when I feel that way…last night…holding you made it go away, but I wanted to…and I shouldn’t think of you like that.” Vanderwood bit his tongue and moved to wrap an arm around her, needing the closeness. “You deserve better. I’ll work on better.”
Cerise could see why he was concerned, but she also did really trust him to do the right thing. Ever since the first time he’d kissed her, he had been very good about controlling himself around her. “If…you feel like you need to get away and be by yourself, that’s okay, too. Even if you don’t feel like you can be alone with me…” She held up her phone, letting him get a good view of it to get her point across, “…I have this. You can call me or even text me; even if I’m in the other room. I want to help you. You don’t have to do it alone.”
If he thought that he needed to better himself, she wasn’t going to stop him. She knew what she was getting into when she’d agreed to be in a relationship with him; she was prepared for bumps in the road. Cerise knew it would be hard for both of them, mentally and physically. Now she leaned into him, enjoying the warmth of his arm around her. “Don’t try to rush things…Go at your own pace. I’ll be here no matter what. I love you, Marion. Nothing’s gonna change that.” As much as Cerise enjoyed annoying him and poking at him, she did have a lot of respect for how hard he was trying, what he wanted to be for her. Again, she couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Even if he was a jerkface.
He squeezed her a little tighter as she talked, his other hand coming around to take her chin once she was done, pressing a soft kiss to her lips that he let last. Cerise seemed to know him better than he knew himself sometimes. When he broke the kiss, he lightly nuzzled her nose. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me…” He let the moment stand on its own, leaning his forehead against hers for long enough to just soak it in. This was what he loved most about his new life, taking the time to just exist.
She enjoyed the moments after they had a disagreement where they would make up. For whatever reason, it just felt sweeter. He was so soft and gentle with her, and a part of her was happy that only she really got to see this part of him. Nobody would ever know him like she did; nobody could even come close. Cerise took pride in that fact, as weird as it was. She muttered something in French, not realizing she had changed languages as she nuzzled him back after their kiss. Vanderwood just smiled, loving the sound of her native language.
After a while, he remembered Crystal’s offer, and felt like maybe he should tell her about it at least as some sort of…show of being able to handle the situation at hand. “Crystal said she wanted to watch more telenovelas with you. I’m okay if you want to make that a girl thing. I feel a little…awkward, as much as I love watching them with you.” She would probably understand what he meant. At least he hoped so. It just felt like he wasn’t going to be able to relax with Crystal translating the parts he couldn’t…well wouldn’t.
Cerise blinked and stared at him as he mentioned Crystal and her offer to her. Okay, so, she guessed that was fair. Guys, Marion or otherwise, didn’t tend to like being around ‘girl talk’ or during a female hangout session. Plus, she just didn’t want to stress him out further by having both herself and Crystal around when they both seemed to have big personalities. “It’s okay, I understand ~ Don’t worry. We’ll have to watch another secret agent movie later to make up for it though, okay? I need some chill time with my future hubby.” Cerise giggled and kissed his nose, getting up from her place on the floor and dusting off her clothes. Jokingly, she held out her hand as though to help him get up, finding it more amusing than probably a normal person would.
Vanderwood’s heart positively melted at her suggestion of watching one of his movies alone together later and the way she said ‘Future hubby’ would always get to him. She was so good at that. When she offered him her hand to help him up, he laughed and kissed it gently, holding it as he stood on his own. He had a feeling he would break her if she really tried to yank him up, thankful that she wasn’t the type to try something there was no way she could manage. Vanderwood couldn’t help but to bend and give her another kiss, slow and long. These kisses were what he liked to remember when he wasn’t with her, the moments he cherished more than anything else.
She’d giggled as he humored her and took her hand when he got up. It actually made her feel rather giddy, especially so after he bent down to kiss her. She loved when they could take their time with it, really feel that moment and take it in. Sometimes, she would randomly recall those moments in her head and end up a little blushy for seemingly no reason. It just had that effect on her. He broke the kiss before he opened the door for her, walking out into the living room to see Crystal patiently waiting, looking their way with a smile. “Thought it was about time you were done. So, are we watching more?” God damn it, was she actually a psychic? Cerise shot Crystal a smile and replied with a, “Yep! I think Marion will be heading out to do man things, though.”
With a soft snort, Vanderwood went to get his jacket and gloves on, which were hung by the door. “I’ll be…out getting more groceries for a little while, since we have another mouth and a half to feed. I’ll be back soon.” Cerise had followed him, and he gave her hand a kiss before she grabbed onto him for a hug that just melted his heart all the more. It took him a moment before he actually broke away from her, making it a point not to look at Crystal, who was smiling into her hand. Almost as soon as he got into the car, he was sending Cerise a message. `Text me. Otherwise I’ll miss you.`
Crystal watched him go before looking over at Cerise. “So, I guess the big guy is capable of apologizing after all?” It wasn’t really her business, but she felt on some level she was actually making a normal friend. Far better than Marie, anyway. Cerise had been smiling before from their interaction, but her smile widened when her phone went off, knowing it was him before she could even check it. She took a quick selfie to send as a response before she was looking over towards Crystal who had started talking. “Huh? Oh, yeah.”
She made her way back to the couch and plopped down beside the elegant looking woman. “Actually, he’s really good about it.” Crystal had noted the way that Cerise replied to her phone nearly immediately with a selfie, guessing the recipient easily and smiling. They were really a cute couple. That would probably drive Vanderwood insane to know, but that’s what they were. “That’s good. I always thought he was a good man. Not the brightest when it came to talking to people, but a good person, whether he wants to admit it or not.”
Cerise nodded to what Crystal was saying as she looked around and then grabbed for a nearby pillow to hold before turning towards Crystal again. “Are you comfortable enough? Do you need anything before we start watching again?” She wasn’t really sure how to act towards someone who was pregnant, especially when they were a guest in her home. Crystal shifted a little in her place on the couch before she cupped her hand over her stomach and shook her head. “No, I’m just fine. Although you might have to fill me in on what I missed when I go to the bathroom every five minutes.”
She joked about it, but being pregnant really was rather a rough gig, particularly doing it alone. There was a way to not do it alone, she knew that, but it just…wasn’t a viable option. Crystal sighed and flicked her ponytail back over her shoulder before she managed to throw up the facade of perfection again. It seemed more difficult to pretend that everything was great and she was perfectly calm when around someone else for extended periods of time. She was a social person, but even she wasn’t used to being around people for much longer than a couple of hours.
Honey-gold eyes widened a little. “Every five minutes?” that seemed rough, and she knew it was an exaggeration, but still. Being pregnant seemed like a hassle, always having a bump in the way and going to the bathroom so often. Plus, she had seen something on TV about this woman demanding pickles smothered in peanut butter, and that alone just sounded like a bad time. Cerise mentally shuddered and went to turn the TV up so they could continue watching, making sure to keep in touch with her fiancé every so often via text.
Cerise didn’t exactly know Crystal’s situation, and it wasn’t her place to ask, even though the sigh and the way the woman seemed so flippant made her feel like there was something more to it. Crystal seemed to have a good head on her shoulders and had an air of maturity around her that Cerise didn’t think she’d ever be able to achieve. Still though, she couldn’t help but think it was probably hard on her in some way. Something happened on the show that made her frown. One of the twins from earlier was hitting on who she had found out was the maid’s grandmother. “…Wow. What a douche…and she’s so old!” She stuck out her tongue in disgust as she watched the main character present the old woman with a rose and take her hands while kneeling. “Wow, okay then. “
Crystal was honestly really enjoying how Cerise reacted to things. It was almost too good to bother translating and resolving the misunderstanding, but she did anyway. “Actually, he’s asking her if he can marry the maid. Since her father is deceased, he has to ask the mother. Common courtesy, I guess.” She gave Cerise a smile before she was shifting again. That made so much more sense than what Cerise thought was going on. Now she didn’t have to be so disturbed at what was going on. because otherwise that would have been so gross. Cerise shook her head to get that imagery out of her mind. She let her eyes shift over to Crystal who was beginning to look uncomfortable.
It was a little annoying, the way her hips were aching, and she had a stitch in her side that wouldn’t go away. God, it hurt, and oh, God, no, hormones. This was not the time, but now she was crying. Everything had a tendency to hit her all at once when pregnant, and fate had decided that now was the time. Crystal was suddenly crying way harder than she needed to be in front of this person she’d just met. Thank God Vanderwood wasn’t home, because that would have been way worse. “I’m sorry. I…hormones…and life, and I’m sorry.” Not classy at all.
Cerise had been about to ask if there was anything Crystal needed again before she…started to cry. Her eyes widened, and she had no idea what to do. Was there something wrong? Did she need to call a doctor? Oh God, she couldn’t even function in the kitchen correctly, so how was she going to deal with a sick pregnant woman? Her panicking was cut short when Crystal said it was just hormones and apologized. Oh, so that’s what it was. It didn’t surprise her that pregnancy would put your hormones on the fritz. She didn’t know Crystal well, but she liked her well enough.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Cerise scooted just a little closer and gently patted her back. “I would think that you had every right to cry, hormones or not. It seems tough, so I don’t blame you one bit…Just let it out if you need to. I’m not about to judge you…” There was a look of concern on her face. Crystal probably didn’t have many people to talk to, and considering everything, she probably had to mask her emotions pretty well. “You know…I cry over really dumb things. At least you have a reason to. Like, ummm….” She laughed nervously before she spoke. It was embarrassing but maybe it would help Crystal take her mind of things at least a little? “I might have cried because I ran out of bubble bath…because I like to pour it down the drain in the bath. You know…so the sharks won’t get me.” Oh God, she knew how ridiculous this sounded, but she kept on anyways. “I got in the tub before I realized it, and I just lost it. I made Marion run to the store to get more before I could calm down.”
Just a second ago she had been crying, sobbing really, but now Crystal was laughing. “Sharks?” Could she really think that was a thing? Cerise seemed to realize how ridiculous it was. Crystal wiped at her eyes, thankful that she hadn’t bothered to put makeup on that morning, since that would have been everywhere by now. “You’re fascinating, you know that?” She finally calmed down enough from her laughter to talk like a normal human being. Cerise laughed and nervously pulled her hair over her shoulder. At least Crystal was laughing again, she had a beautiful laugh, too, looked beautiful laughing. How was that fair? Oh well, Cerise knew that she was pretty darn cute herself, even if she was lacking in a few certain areas. Still though…some people got all the luck.
The stitch in Crystal’s side had seemingly disappeared, so that was fantastic. Crystal made eye contact with Cerise, golden eyes to grey, and now she was spilling her feelings, God knows why, but that was what was happening. “I’m just scared of doing this alone…” She coughed and sat back up, clicking her nails together lightly to distract herself. “I’m sorry. I think we were watching a show.” That’s right, deflect. This was the way she was used to dealing with her problems lately. There was no reason for her to be afraid of being alone now.
Cerise blinked as Crystal began to talk again, letting out her true feelings. Crystal probably really needed to talk it out, and honestly, Cerise didn’t mind listening. “That kinda thing can wait, you know?” She turned down the television, so she could better hear Crystal’s soft and airy voice, turning towards her. This really wasn’t any of her business, but she knew that at least for her, talking about things tended to make her feel somewhat better. “I think that’s a normal thing to be afraid of. I know we don’t know each other so well, but if you need to get it off your chest, you can. It’ll be just between us.” Cerise put her phone to the side to show Crystal that she had her full attention. “No boys allowed~”
Crystal eyed Cerise a little warily. The younger woman was willing to listen, but Crystal wasn’t sure if she wanted to let her in. She’d never let anyone in, no one but the man she’d fallen in love with, and this woman was a virtual stranger. Then again, she seemed to have some sort of connection with her. Besides that, she’d been sticking her own nose into Cerise and Vanderwood’s business the entire time she’d been staying with them, so it was only fair if she at least told her a little.
She chuckled a little about Cerise’s comment of no boys allowed, patting her stomach as she deflected with humor once more. “I have no idea what this one is, yet. I try not to think too hard on it.” Cerise laughed lightly at Crystal’s joke. It was probably hard for her to talk about, and she wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t want to. Cerise would have been a little wary herself to talk about her personal problems with a complete stranger. Crystal bit at her thumb nail lightly before she took a breath and decided to let it out.
“So…I know exactly who the father is, and he’s not just some random john…I met him through my job, though. First, I stripped, and then I became an escort. I’ve paid off all my loans and even built myself a house, have tons in savings, and at this point that’s just all I’ve been working for…” So, she was telling Cerise more than she’d meant to, but now it was too late to stop. “Anyway…I met him at a gala party, and we started talking. Not only was he attractive, but he cared about me. He wasn’t trying to just sleep with me.”
There was a small pause as she took another deep breath before continuing on. “I love him…At first I tried to pretend he didn’t mean a thing to me, that it was just a little fling, but I was hopelessly smitten from the moment I met him, even if I didn’t realize it at first. When we met up…I was fully intending to sleep with him, that was a given, but I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant. When we parted ways, I started to ignore him again, because I had to. It hurt more, since…I’d figured out how I felt about him, that he feels the same way, but we can’t be together because of his job. Obviously, I’ve quit working as an escort, and I have plenty of connections, but…He’s…” Could she really trust Cerise with this information? For someone like Vanderwood to be with her, Cerise had to be good at keeping secrets. “Zen, a musical actor…Even if I didn’t have the history I do, a baby would kill any chance he has of making it unless I gave him every connection I have.”
Honestly, Cerise had been a little surprised when Crystal began to talk, and she made sure that she was giving her her full attention. She soaked up the information that Crystal was giving her. Wow, she had a hard life. Wasn’t it good, though, that she knew the father? Even loved him? She continued to listen, letting Crystal take her time, nodding where it was necessary to show that she was still listening and paying attention. Cerise could tell that Crystal really cared about this guy, and she really felt for her. It sounded, in a way, similar to the way her own parents had ended up together. She’d caused her father’s retirement from K-pop music, because he loved her mother. They had all been happy…for the most part.
Cerise took a moment to collect her thoughts before she tried to offer any sort of comment. The name ‘Zen’ sounded a little familiar, but that wasn’t really the point at the moment. “Does he know at least?” When Crystal shook her head, Cerise sucked in her cheek, thinking before she spoke again. “I’m not really an expert on these things, but…he should at least know about his baby, even if it might cause the end of his career. Doesn’t he have a right to know that he’s a father? Especially if he feels the same way about you as you feel about him.” Would it do any good to talk about her own experiences? She did on some level have experience with this situation, obviously not exactly, but close.
“My dad was a K-pop star before he married my mom. They only got married because of me. Surprise!” Cerise giggled for a moment before she continued. “Anyway…my dad chose my mom and me, because he loved us both, and we’ve been happy. My dad found his ways to still work in the music industry, and it’s not like it’s impossible or anything. Things will be hard, that’s for sure, but you know, I’m sure you can face things a lot better together than you can alone.”
Crystal had gone back to biting at her thumbnail as Cerise talked, not because she wasn’t listening, just because it was a nervous habit. Cerise wasn’t stupid by any means, and her family history had its similarities. What Cerise was saying, it wasn’t unlike things she’d told herself several times. Just…telling yourself and trying to build up the strength to actually face the results were two different things. “I’ve told myself plenty of times that at the very least he deserves to know, and my baby deserves the chance to meet their father, that there’s some way to keep his career going…but actually telling him is a completely different beast.”
“Yeah…I could see that. Honestly, if I were in your shoes…I’m not sure what I would do. I think that all you can really do is let it play out. At least trying it and knowing is better than not knowing, you know?” Having that looming overhead seemed like it would be killer. Cerise was the type of person where she would rather get it over with and know rather than trying to worry about it and go through the what ifs over and over in her head.
Cerise watched as Crystal played around with her phone, seemingly aimlessly as she continued to chomp on her poor thumbnail. That made Cerise wince a little. Crystal’s nails were so well-kept, too, and a manicure needed to be respected. “Maybe…you should text him?” That got Crystal to stop playing with her phone, actually turning it over to check the screen. Really, that wasn’t the worst place to start, and Crystal had honestly been playing around with that thought much like she’d been doing with her phone.
“Alright…” Crystal took a deep breath before she typed something up, asking Zen if he wanted to meet and talk, preferably at his place if they could manage it. He almost immediately replied, although he seemed way more excited than her heart could take. He’d understand soon enough. “Okay…so…that’s going to be taken care of.” She felt relieved and nervous at the same time, but she had a day or so to think through what she was going to say to him, what she could do with the situation.
Crystal rubbed her stomach lightly as she felt that little stitch in her side again. “God, I have a little wiggler in there.” Cerise just giggled at the comment about the little one. Crystal would probably have a really cute baby. Even if its father were super ugly, Crystal’s good genes would more than make up for it. “I dunno…but I have a feeling things will somehow work out.” Talking to Crystal felt a lot different than talking to her friend back home. It was like Crystal actually cared about what she had to say. That was actually a really nice feeling.
The lavender-haired woman laughed somewhat nervously. If anything, at least she would have the baby, and now she felt like she had a friend. “You’re a much better friend than Marie…” Crystal had meant to muse that to herself in her head, but it had slipped out. At least it was true. Cerise probably didn’t even know who Marie was. When Crystal mentioned the name “Marie”, Cerise was pretty sure who she was talking about and scrunched her face up. Cerise wasn’t really a fan of Marie, considering what went down the last time they had encountered her. “I…don’t think that would be hard.” She couldn’t imagine being that woman’s friend, if Crystal had to put up with her…she felt even worse for the poor woman. Jeeze.
She was surprised by Cerise’s reaction. “Wait, do you know her?” Come to think of it, it was right about the time that Vanderwood stopped calling that Marie had come to her complaining about her broken wrist. She had blown the girl off, thinking she probably deserved it. If it had anything to do with Cerise, she definitely thought Marie had deserved it. “You’re right, it’s easy to be better than Marie. She’s a complete dunderhead.” Crystal flicked her ponytail as she continued. “The girl kept trying to touch me all the time once she found out that I was pregnant. Not that I would have minded if she’d asked, but she was just all over me touching me. I am so glad I won’t have to deal with her anymore. She nearly told my boss before I could.” How Marie had any clients, Crystal had no clue. Maybe some guys just loved that complete bubbly idiot vibe.
“That really doesn’t surprise me.” Cerise shook her head, recalling the incident from before. “She doesn’t seem to know how to keep her hands to herself. ” Aaaaand that’s how you get a broken wrist. She thought to herself. Marie kinda deserved it. “Ya know…I don’t blame you. I never knew people like her could exist, really.” That woman seemed like a complete idiot who didn’t know when to quit. How did she even get into the escort business? Did guys really like girls like her? Honestly, she didn’t understand. She knew that at some point Vanderwood had seen her, but for the sake of her sanity, she wasn’t about to ask him about it. “Silver lining though, right?”
Crystal shrugged with a chuckle. “Fair point…There’s a lot of silver linings.” Not that her job had been so terrible really; it was a dangerous occupation that had become boring, but she’d made a lot of money, and that was the whole reason she’d done it in the first place. Sex had never really mattered to her, had always been a regular biological need, so that hadn’t been an issue for her. Still, all in all. “I’m glad it’s over…Would be nice to be a normal person for a while.” Crystal gave Cerise another smile. “Well, as normal as I can be.”
Cerise shrugged with a smile. “I wouldn’t say that you weren’t ‘normal’ before. There was nothing wrong with you.” Everyone had their different circumstances; Crystal just happened to have some that were more uncommon than others. It didn’t make her weird or anything. At least, she didn’t get that vibe from her at all. Crystal actually had a fairly pleasant aura. In fact, it was a little reminiscent to that of her Uncle Emil’s.
The lavender-haired woman was surprised at how quickly she’d let Cerise grow on her. Cerise seemed to have that effect, and it was probably part of the reason that she worked so well with Vanderwood. Crystal couldn’t imagine getting that guy to open up, but Cerise had done it somehow. She moved her hand up higher on her stomach. “Would you like to maybe touch?” That wasn’t something she offered lightly, because it was still her body, and she was very clear on who got to touch her and who didn’t.
Cerise’s eyes lit up and she nodded. She’d never been around a pregnant person, much less gotten to touch their tummy. “If you’re okay with it, I’d love to!” Very gently she reached out to touch Crystal’s mildly protruding belly. She wondered if she could feel anything from the baby; Crystal had said the baby was active. She was entirely fascinated by it, and it felt so weird. Her stomach wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t soft either. Cerise looked up towards Crystal with a curious look on her face. “Erm…this might seem like a weird question but…does it hurt? Doesn’t your skin start stretching and stuff?” Hopefully, Crystal wouldn’t mind her asking possibly dumb questions. She’d probably never experience these things for herself, well…maybe at least not for a long, long time. Cerise might as well ask someone currently experiencing it.
Her questions weren’t all that weird, and honestly, Crystal might have asked them herself if situations were reversed, but she shook her head. “It mostly itches, but if you use moisturizer religiously you can avoid stretch marks and the itchiness. The only thing that really hurts is your hips adjusting. Then as you get bigger, your ligaments stretch. I’ve heard that can be painful, but I’m only around ten weeks pregnant, so I haven’t experienced it yet.” Cerise moved her hand around a little more. There was really a baby in there, huh? That was so weird, but life was weird. Crystal, as much as she was nervous and maybe even afraid, Cerise was pretty sure she, her baby, and the dad would come out of things okay. Maybe that was just wishful thinking, but that’s what she was hoping for. Either way, she felt she’d made a good friend, and she was totally up for giving babysitting a try.
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