Darah despised hospitals as much as she hated Jeremy and roaches. Okay definitely more than roaches but not Jeremy. She really hoped never to cross paths with that ingrate of a man ever again.

There was nothing comforting about the sterile place that smelled like Lysol and metal. It only brought terrible memories from her childhood, memories that only ever surfaced when she heard the siren of a fire truck or ambulance. Though the circumstance with which she became an orphan was a vague memory, she never failed to tremble at the sight of firetrucks and ambulances.

Not to mention the early years of her life in the Teka family were spent in the hospital when Eleazar first came home. He’d suffered mild fetal alcoholism and emergency rooms became the children’s second home. Till this day, she and her brothers shuddered at the thought of going to a hospital.

Phoebe had to practically drag Darah through the doors of the hospital, not minding the stares directed their way.

“Relax, Darah. There’s nothing to fear,” Phoebe muttered an hour later as they sat in the doctor’s office, waiting the results of Darah’s physical.

“I told you this wasn’t necessary,” Darah mumbled, her eyes moving to the large-faced clock hanging above the door. “What’s taking her so long?”

“Maybe you’ll have to take another blood sample.”

Darah shuddered. A twinge of pain in her right arm reminded her of the ordeal she’d just faced with another aversion; needles. She drew in a breath and released it. “Better not.”

Phoebe chuckled. “You’re as bad as the boys.”

The door swung open and heels clicked the floor as the doctor stepped into the room. Dr. Felicia Halliday gave the two women a wary smile before taking her seat. Her eyes bounced between the two women before settling on Darah. “Your results are in.”

Darah squirmed under the woman’s pointed stare. “Is everything okay…?”

Dr. Halliday sighed softly and leaned forward, her hands joined in front of her on the desk. “I don’t know how to say this…”

“A-Am I dying?” Darah’s stomach twisted with unease.

Phoebe’s hand moved to her shoulder and squeezed it gently. “Is something the matter, Dr. Felicia?”

Dr. Halliday met Darah’s gaze. “When was your last menses?”

The question tripped her mind. What did her period have to do with food poisoning?

Phoebe’s hand tightened on Darah’s shoulder. “She usually has irregular periods, ever since she started. Is it related to the  food poisoning?”

“It’s not food poisoning, I’m afraid.” Dr. Halliday’s gaze shifted to Phoebe’s, and her lips tightened. “Both the blood test and urine sample showed a significant presence of a hormone called hCG.”

Darah’s gaze darted to a silent Phoebe, and trepidation tripped her pule at the horror etched on her sister-in-law’s face. She returned to Dr. Halliday. “Hc what?”

The older woman eyed her suspiciously. “Are you sexually active, Darah?”

Blood drained from Darah’s face.

Phoebe choked out an incredulous laugh. “How can a virgin be sexually active?”

Her stomach turning and pulse racing violently in her throat, Darah could only stare at the physician.

“Are you sure you didn’t mix up the results?” Phoebe asked, her hand tightening on Darah’s shoulder.

“I’m sure.” Dr. Halliday’s brow furrowed at the insinuation but pinned Darah with an expectant look. “Well, are you?”

Phoebe nudged her. “Say something, Darah…”

Dr. Halliday sighed deeply. “You’re between six to seven weeks pregnant, Darah.”

Phoebe jerked her attention back to the doctor. “A-are you certain it’s hers?”

“Hers was the only lab test I requested this morning.”

Darah closed her eyes tight, willing this to be just a dream. There was no way she could be–

Phoebe gripped her shoulder. “Get up. We need to talk now.”

That tone spoke volumes and Darah shot the physician a pleading look as Phoebe tugged on her arm.

Dr. Halliday answered with a gentle smile. “Take all the time you need. If you have any questions, you know where to find me.”

Phoebe’s firm grip practically hauled her from her seat, and Darah winced as she was dragged out of the doctor’s office and into the hallway.

“What did you do?” Phoebe’s gaze was incredulous.

At that moment, her fate was in the hands of her sister-in-law who grew more agitated than Darah had ever seen her. She winced when Phoebe’s grip tightened on her arm. “It hurts…”

Pushing out a breath, Phoebe released her arm and reached into her purse.

“W-who are you calling?” Darah grabbed at Phoebe’s phone but unfortunately, Phoebe’s height had her at a disadvantage.

“Backup.” Phoebe turned her back to Darah and put the phone to her ear. A second later, she spoke again. “Geri, where are you?”

Darah’s heartbeat skipped and she circled to Phoebe’s front. “Why are you calling her?!” she mouthed, eyes wide.

Phoebe eyed her warily and turned away. “I need you to come to the emergency clinic within ten minutes… I don’t know, make some excuse. But come immediately.”

Geraldine arrived at the entrance of the clinic a minute later than Phoebe requested. She was gasping for air, her tailored shirt untucked over her fitted slacks. She carried her heels, wearing flip-flops in her haste to make time. Her eyes were wide with alarm as she approached her sisters-in-law, gaze darting from Phoebe to Darah and back to Phoebe.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked breathlessly.

Darah snuck a glance at Phoebe who hadn’t said a word after the emergency call to Geraldine. In fact, she’d wordlessly returned to Dr. Halliday’s office alone and returned a few moments later, her expression more unreadable than before.

“Uh, hello?” Geraldine’s voice pervaded her thoughts. “Is someone gonna tell me why I had to get dressed in the car just to be here in ten minutes?”

Phoebe breathed out a sigh. “Darah’s pregnant.”

Darah flinched at Phoebe’s direct response.

“Who’s pregnant?” Geraldine asked, staring past Darah at Phoebe. “Because y’all are too old to safely have another child… and we’re done with August.”

“Darah is seven weeks pregnant,” Phoebe said monotonously.

Her eyes then swung to Darah’s. “How is that even possible?”

Darah flinched and lowered her gaze.

“What, is this immaculate conception?”

“Geri, that’s not funny.”

“Of course it’s not funny. How do you explain a virgin getting pregnant?”

“She’s not a virgin…”

Phoebe’s firm statement felt like a hot brand searing her from the inside out. She lowered her gaze although she could feel the weight of her sisters-in-law’s judgmental stares. Oh how she wished for the ground to open up and swallow her, and for the second time since their breakup, Darah rued the day she fell for a man like Jeremy. He only brought trouble for her, and this was the worst kind.

Geraldine chuckled, drawing attention to herself. “Your brothers are gonna kill you.”

Phoebe sighed heavily. “We’re not going to let that happen. Right now, we have a baby to consider.”

Darah stiffened, as though realizing the bigger implication of her irresponsible action. Apart from crippling fear of her brothers’ impending wrath, regret and horror set in. Though getting married and raising a family with Jeremy was part of the plan, Darah couldn’t have predicted this hitch—just like she didn’t expect Jeremy to be a complete jerk either. Becoming a single mother was not something she even considered could happen, but unfortunately that was who she’d become.

J.R. nudged the mouse away and leaned forward with his elbows on the desk. He rested his face in his palms and sighed heavily. There were not enough hours in a day to do what he had to do. Between his father’s clients and preparing the center, J.R. was wearing himself out too fast. Not to mention he had to play tour guide and host after work.

Bart’s cautionary words echoed in his head now, and J.R. wondered if his load would lighten if he did confess his intentions to his father. Peeking through his hands at the list of clients yet to be settled, J.R. groaned. It was unlikely his father would easily give in and reassign the cases to another associate in the firm. If anything, his father would add on more cases so he wouldn’t have time to devote to the center.

Shaking his head, J.R. cleared sleep from his eyes. He couldn’t afford to slack off and give his father reason to blame his divided focus on the center. He could do both, even if he lost sleep.

His phone dinged, alerting him of a new message. J.R. gladly accepted the diversion and leaned back in his seat, pulling up the message folder. His brow furrowed at the unread messages; all ten of them. When they came in, he had no idea, totally immersed in his work to hear them come in.

He opened the first, his frown deepening.

Bhaiyaa, this is Hana. Please save my number so we can chat more freely.

J.R. shook his head but saved the number, just in case his father asked about it later on. He couldn’t afford any disagreements with his father. Saving the number as Sister, he moved onto the next message.

Mayday, mayday! Save me.

J.R. frowned, not recognizing the number. He opened the next, from the same number.

If you don’t save me, you’ll have to come to my funeral.

He arched a brow at the hysterics, getting an odd sense he knew the author. Curiosity growing, he opened the next message.

I’ll need representation. Can you do it?

J.R. reread the messages with a quizzical smile, wishing he knew this familiar stranger. He quietly opened the next.

So you’re ignoring me now? Shouldn’t I be the one mad at you for rejecting me?

He slowly sat up, his pulse quickening. There was only one person he remembered rejecting—and that was a misunderstanding he couldn’t fix, even if he tried. But there was no way she’d contact him first, not after what happened between them… J.R. frowned, opening the latest message.

If I end up dying, just represent my brothers since it’s my fault anyway. Don’t let them go to jail.

Brothers. Hysterics. Rejection.

“Darah,” J.R. breathed, silently rejoicing that her stream of messages had finally broken the silence between them. She’d reached out to him first, for whatever reason, and he planned on answering. Or saving her, something he’d missed doing.

He hit the dial button and held the phone to his ear. She picked up on the second ring and he smiled. “What did you do now?”

“Oh good,” another familiar voice answered. “We’ll need legal representation before my husband goes berserk on your girl. Come talk sense to these blockheads before someone gets indicted.”

J.R.’s smile waned at Geraldine’s grumpy tone and he stood from his desk.

Bart’s temper when provoked was a piece of work, and he was well aware Darah knew what buttons to push.

Without hesitation, he grabbed his keys and headed for the door. “What’s going on?”

<<Chapter 5 || Chapter 7>>