It was the day of Alissa’s eighteenth birthday. Alissa and Dale had spoken with each other several times since the day they met. They were looking forward to seeing each other tonight.
Dale had intentionally stayed away until Alissa was eighteen, using work as an excuse. Although he really was working extra hours. He wanted to make more money and he wanted to do whatever it took to advance more quickly in his career.
Although it was not a conscious decision, he wanted a future with Alissa. He wanted to be able to support both her and her baby.
She thought to herself, ” I really don’t see any change in my face, but I’m glad that I don’t look like a teenager anymore!”
She was pleased to see that she looked like the young adult that she was. She was taller.
Then she suddenly panicked. “Oh no! Now that I am taller, none of my clothes will fit.” She was now eighteen. She was five months pregnant, and she couldn’t get into any of her clothes.
Her belly had suddenly ballooned during the weeks since she had last seen Dale. She wondered if he would be embarrassed to be seen with a woman so obviously pregnant.
She told herself, “The only thing that I can squeeze into is this old pair of sweats and old sweat shirt.” They would have to do. She grabbed her sunglasses and her purse and headed for the boutique.
Dale had insisted on continuing to make the deposits into her account. So she was able to finish buying what she needed for the baby, and also some clothing for herself today.
“This dress is pretty. It will be perfect for tonight!” At least she thought so until she tried it on with her huge belly. There was nothing she could do to disguise it anymore. She even waddled when she walked now. It had seemed to happen overnight.
The salesgirl tried to reassure her. “It looks great on you!” Alissa purchased the dress and a few other things.
Alissa thought as she got home, “I’m so tired.” She decided to soak in the tub before she got dressed to go out with Dale.
She fell asleep in the tub, and woke up to the sound of the doorbell ringing. She jumped out of the tub, as quickly as her belly would allow, and wrapped a towel around herself rushing to the door.
“I’m sorry Dale!”, she said apologizing. “I had to go shopping today, and I got very tired. I fell asleep in the tub. I’m sorry, but I’m not ready yet.”, she apologized, heading for her bedroom. Then she realized that Dale was staring at her.
He took her in his arms, and he kissed her. It was literally Alissa’s first grown up kiss. Dale’s body was hard against hers, his arms firm, his lips compelling, and she had the sudden conviction that no one would ever stir her as Dale did.
Then he smiled. “I’ve been wanting to do that ever since I first met you. Take your time getting dressed. You’re worth waiting for.”
As Alissa turned to go to her bedroom, he called her name. “Alissa!”
She smiled at him. “I’m glad you think so Dale.” Then she went to get dressed.
Dale took her to one of the nicest nightclubs in town. It was Alissa’s first time in a night club. She loved the atmosphere.
Alissa cried excitedly, “Come on! Let’s dance Dale!” There was great music, and Alissa had a good time dancing. After a while Dale made her sit down and rest. Alissa wasn’t used to having anyone look after her the way that Dale did.
“I wonder why he is taking such an interest in me? I can’t believe that a man as attractive and wonderful as Dale is, doesn’t have a girlfriend or a wife.”, she thought to herself. She decided to ask him.
Dale was looking at Alissa, drinking in her beauty. She was even more beautiful now that she was a young adult. He even saw a special beauty in her pregnancy. He wished that it was his baby she was carrying. Some day it would be, he promised himself. He wondered what she was thinking about.
“What are you thinking about so deeply?”
Alissa hesitated to tell him, then decided to get it over with. “I was wondering why a man like you doesn’t have a girlfriend or a wife.”
“I don’t know what you mean when you say a man like me, but up to now, I hadn’t met a woman whom I wanted to be my girlfriend or my wife. Is there anything else bothering that lovely head of yours?”
“Well. I wondered why you’ve taken such an interest in me. You’ve gone out of your way to help me. You have bent over backwards for me. I just wondered, why me? I’m a broke, huge, pregnant woman.”
Dale looked into her eyes. “Alissa, are you sure that you are ready to hear the answer to that question?”
She looked away from him, seeing the answer in his eyes. She searched for the right words.
“Dale, I thought just a few months ago that I was madly in love with Bronson. I know now that wasn’t love. I was just infatuated with him. That mistake is why I am pregnant now. I have to think not just of myself, but of my baby too. I can’t afford to make another mistake.”
“Alissa, I’m not going anywhere. You may as well get used to having me around. I will be here for you and for Sharlee. You take as much time as you need to know that being with me is not a mistake.”
“Oh and as far as your being broke, I’m certainly not rich, but I get by. By no stretch of the imagination are you huge. Your pregnancy gives you a special beauty, a special delicacy. It makes me,” he paused, starting to say ” love you even more” and said instead, “care for you even more.”
Alissa didn’t say anything at first. She thought over what he had said. Then she smiled at him. “Alright Dale. Thank you.”
“It’s getting late. I think we’d better call it a night.” Then he took her hand and helped her up. After they reached her apartment, Dale didn’t go in with her. He waited until he heard her lock the door and then he went home.
Alissa was now in her seventh month of pregnancy. Dale had started coming to her job when it was time for her to leave to make sure that she made it safely home. Her coworkers and supervisor had noticed.
One evening her supervisor asked her about Dale. “I know it’s really none of my business, Alissa, but is Dale your baby’s father?”
Alissa asked surprised, “Dale? No. He isn’t. He is just a good friend.”
“He must be a very good friend the way that he looks after you.”
As they were talking, Dale came through the door to take Alissa home.
As soon as she was home, Alissa sat down and removed her shoes. Her ankles were swollen and she was exhausted. She laid her head back against the sofa cushion and fell asleep.
Dale looked at her sleeping. He gently picked her up and took her to her bedroom and laid her on the bed.
Alissa murmured sleepily, “Thank you Dale.” Dale kissed her forehead, turned out her light and left the room.
Dale thought to himself, “She can’t keep working.”, Her health and the baby’s health might be in danger.” He also knew that she could not afford to quit before the baby was born. He had to think of a solution.
The next day at work, Dale’s supervisor called him into his office. Dale was a bit nervous, because he had no idea what it was about.
“Dale a position has opened up in the emergency internship program. Doctor Wallace wanted to know if you would be interested. He knows that you wanted to specialize in pediatric surgery, not emergency medicine, but he felt that you would have an opportunity to treat many pediatric patients in his program.”
Dale was speechless. He had no idea that he was under consideration for a promotion yet.
“Yes! I definitely want that position Dr. Melton. When can I start?”
Dr. Melton laughed. “Well I’m sure it won’t be until next week, but check with Dr. Wallace to be sure. You will receive a pay raise and increased benefits. Mrs. Williams in human resources will be able to explain more to you.”
Dale’s meeting with Mrs. Williams gave Dale the solution to Alissa’s problem if only she would agree to it.
The next day at work, Alissa’s supervisor had a talk with her.
“Alissa, I’ve noticed that for the last few days you’ve been very pale, and you seem to have lost weight. Is everything okay? Have you seen your doctor?”, she asked.
“I’m alright.”, Alissa told her worriedly. The truth was that she was not alright. Her doctor had advised her to either quit her job or cut back on her hours. She could not afford to do either.
Today she felt even worse. She had been feeling pains in her lower back and slight cramping in her abdomen.
“Maybe you are working too many hours. Would you like to cut back?”, she asked Alissa.
“Not yet, Mrs. Anderson. I would like to keep working the same hours for now, but thank you for being concerned about me.”
Mrs. Anderson said worriedly, “Well, let me know if anything changes.”
When Dale came to pick Alissa up from work that evening, he told her that he had a surprise for her. Instead of taking her home, he took her to the outskirts of town near the hospital.
The hospital and a local builder had teamed up to provide affordable homes for hospital personnel. Once a doctor or a nurse reached a certain level in their career, the hospital provided down payment assistance. As an intern, Dale qualified for the program.
He had found a home which he thought would be perfect for him and Alissa. The only problem was that she was so used to being independent and doing things on her own. He had to persuade her for her own good and the baby’s health.
When she arrived at the home, Alissa looked around her, wondering why Dale had brought her there. She just realized that she had never been to his place, maybe this was it.
She asked him curiously, “Is this your house Dale?”
“Not yet, but I thought it would be a perfect house for us to share. We could each have our own bedrooms and there is a nursery for the baby.”
Dale said as she started to interrupt, “Let me finish, Alissa.”
“You can quit your job, and work as my housekeeper until after the baby is born. After that we can share expenses. Alissa you can’t keep going on as you have been. You’re…”, Dale broke off as Alissa started falling.
She had passed out. He caught her before she hit the floor.
When Alissa regained consciousness, she heard Dale speaking with her Doctor.
“For the next week she has to take it easy with lots of bed rest and no stress. That false labor was a warning. I advised her to quit working, but I see she did not follow my advice.”
“I’ll make sure she follows your instructions Doctor.”
The Doctor said, “Call me if she needs anything.” The he left the room.
Alissa called, “Dale.”
Dale came over to her.
He said smiling, “Good you’re back with us.”
She asked worriedly, “What happened?”
He said quickly, seeing the panic on her face, “You went into early labor. The baby is okay for now!”
“Dr. Jones wants you to take it easy for the next week. Plenty of bed rest and no stress.I can take you home now.”
Alissa rose from the bed. “Alissa, you have to quit that job. It is too stressful for you right now. Think about Sharlee, come and be my roommate.”
Dale bought the house and he was able to get an early closing. He would sign the closing documents in two weeks. Until then he insisted on spending every night at Alissa’s place. He did not want her to be alone any more than necessary. After her early labor scare, Alissa didn’t argue.
Alissa quit her job with assurances from her employer that should she ever wish to return she would be welcomed back.
One of the purchasing incentives given to Dale in his contract for the home was for an appliance and furniture package.
“Alissa this is the builders website. Help me pick the paint colors and furniture.” He wanted her to feel right at home.
Finally, moving day arrived. The home was move-in ready.
When she walked into the new house, Alissa burst into happy tears. Dale wrapped his arms around her until her tears subsided.
She said pulling away from him, “I’m sorry, Dale.”
Then she said with a shaky smile, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me.”
Dale returned her smile. “I’m glad I could help you Alissa. I want you to be happy.”
It didn’t take them long to settle into the house. When Dale returned home from work the next day, Alissa had his dinner waiting for him.
“Um, that spaghetti smells good! You didn’t have to do this Alissa.”
She told him firmly, “Yes I did! I plan to hold up my end of our arrangement.”
Any worries Alissa had about Dale trying to take advantage of her quickly faded. He was always a perfect gentleman. They spent hours talking and getting to know each other better.
Alissa asked one evening, “Tell me about your family, Dale.”
“Well my father is a principle at the local high school in Riverview and my mother is a first grade teacher. As you can imagine, education was a high priority in our house. My sister is a division manager for a big corporation in Riverview and my brother is an officer on the vice squad of the police department.”
She asked him, “Is your family close?”
“Yes. We talk every week. They wanted me to do my training in Riverview, but I felt that there were better opportunities here in Bridgeview. I was right.”
“It must be great to have a family like that. Have you told them about me?”
“I’ve told them that I bought a house, and I have a roommate. That’s all that they know.”
Alissa’s baby was due at any time. She was very ready for Sharlee to be born.
Dale told her anxiously, “Alissa, I hate to leave you alone, but I couldn’t get anyone to cover my shift. Call me right away if anything happens!”
“Alright, I will Dale. Don’t worry about me.”
Dale had only been gone about an hour, when Alissa’s water broke. She grabbed her abdomen in pain, then called a taxi to take her to the hospital.
Three hours later, Dale was standing in Alissa’s hospital room, holding her tiny baby Sharlee in his arms.
“She looks just like you Alissa. She is beautiful.”
Almost four months later, Bronson was standing in his studio. A beautiful model reclined on a bed posing for him.
Suddenly Bronson grew frustrated. He had lost his inspiration before he had even begun painting.
Bronson told the model, “You can leave now Lea!”
Disappointed that he did not ask her to stay for the evening, Lea left.
Bronson walked out on the balcony taking in the beautiful view of the city. Bronson’s career as an artist had really taken off due to his family connections and talent. Yet he felt that something was missing from his life.
He had dated many different people since he and Alissa had broken up in high school. Eventually, he always found himself comparing them to her, and the relationships fizzled out.
He asked himself, “How could I have done that to her?” He was thinking about the way that he behaved after she told him she was pregnant. He had intentionally not kept track of her. That way he would not have to feel any responsibility for her or his baby. Now that he was older he knew what a huge mistake he had made.
He estimated that the baby had to be about about three months old now. He knew he had to find Alissa and have her back in his life again. He missed her so much.
The next day as Bronson was walking up the subway steps, he saw a pair of beautiful long, shapely legs walking past the subway entrance. He hurried up the stairs, feeling a compulsion to meet the woman.
He thought with a surprising sense of urgency, “I can’t let her get away!” He saw her rushing down the sidewalk. Bronson watched the graceful swing of her long blond hair, the slim grace of her body. He felt a sense of familiarity. It was Alissa!
Alissa walked down the sidewalk, quickly heading home. Her career was finally going well. She was a freelance writer for a local news program at the television station. She thought to herself, “I wonder what I should write for my next article?”
Suddenly, someone grabbed her from behind! He held a knife to her throat. She was so terrified that she could not even scream.
She heard someone yell. “Let her go now!”
Her assailant released her. She fell to the ground, hitting her head on the concrete pavement. She heard the sounds of a scuffle as she lost consciousness.
Bronson punched the man assaulting Alissa, knocking the knife out of his hand. The man turned and ran.
Alissa said shakily, “No! I’m okay.” She was thinking of the publicity. She tried to stand up, and her knees started to buckle. She sat back down. Bronson waved down a taxi.
He picked Alissa up and carried her to the taxi. She lost consciousness again.
When Dale got home, he was surprised to find that the babysitter was still there, and Alissa wasn’t home.
“Did Ms. Morales say when she would be home Justin ?”
“She was supposed to be home two hours ago, and she hasn’t called.”
Dale paid Justin and sent him home. He checked on Sharlee sleeping in her crib. He began to get worried. It was not like Alissa to not at least call and say that she was going to be late.
He tried her cell phone, and there was no answer. He got her voice mail and left a message.
Bronson laid Alissa on his bed. He debated calling an ambulance even though Alissa hadn’t wanted him to. Instead, he went to the bathroom and got a cold washcloth and put it on her forehead.
Alissa felt the nice cool washcloth on her forehead and regained consciousness. She opened her eyes and looked up into Bronson’s green eyes with shock.
She cried, “Bronson! What are you doing here? Where am I?” She looking around her, feeling bewildered.
Bronson smiled at her. Alissa thought to herself, “Boy, Bronson is even hotter now that he is older!” Then she remembered the way he had treated her after she became pregnant.
“You’re at my place. You wouldn’t let me call an ambulance, and I don’t know where you live. So, I brought you here.”
“How are you feeling?”, he asked her anxiously.
Alissa told him remembering the attack, “I’m alright now. Thank you for helping me, Bronson.”
Something about the attack bothered Bronson. If it were just a plain mugging, then the attacker would have just grabbed Alissa’s purse and ran, but he didn’t. He had grabbed Alissa and was trying to drag her off with him. It was almost as if he had been waiting for her.
“Alissa, do you go that way everyday?”
“Yes if the weather is nice. I like to walk home that way. Why do you ask that?”
“I think it might be best if you take a taxi home from now on. I’m not trying to frighten you unnecessarily, but I think that man was after you and not your purse.”
Alissa remembered her fear when the attacker grabbed her. She knew that Bronson was right. She suddenly thought about Dale and how worried he must be.
“I need to call home! Where is my purse?”
Bronson handed it to her. She saw that Dale had called several times and left voice messages. She played a message back.
Bronson heard the male voice filled with worry and concern and his heart sank. Alissa was with someone.
Alissa quickly called Dale.
Dale answered. “Alissa! Are you okay? “
“I’m fine now.” She briefly told him what happened and that she was at Bronson’s.
Dale asked unbelieving, “Bronson Littler?”
“Yes, he rescued me from the attacker. Is Sharlee okay?”
“She’s fine.” He told her firmly, “I’m coming to get you. What’s the address.”
Alissa gave him the address and they hung up.
“Was that your husband or your boyfriend?”, Bronson asked sadly.
Alissa blushed. “No he is my roommate. He’s a good friend. My best friend. He’s always there when I need him.”, Alissa told him.
Bronson got the point. He had not been there for her when she needed him.
He told her sincerely, “Alissa, I know that you may not believe me, but I am deeply sorry for how I treated you. I am truly sorry that I abandoned you to have our daughter and raise her alone. I regret it from the bottom of my heart. Please give me a chance to try and make it up to you. I want to get to know our daughter and be there for both of you. Please go out to dinner with me tomorrow night so that we can talk?”
Alissa looked at him surprised. She believed that he meant what he said. She thought about Dale. She had believed that he was in love with her, but he had never told her so. She had strong feelings for Dale, but Bronson was Sharlee’s father. She had never known her own father or had a real family life. Didn’t she owe it to Sharlee to give her father another chance?
Alissa decided. “Alright Bronson.” Bronson smiled in relief.
He just stood there gazing at Alissa’s beautiful face. “I would love to paint your portrait Alissa. I wouldn’t sell it. It would be just for me.”
The doorbell rang. It was Dale with Sharlee in her stroller. Bronson let him in, and Alissa walked into the room. The two men stared at each other silently sizing one another up. Bronson could see from the challenge blazing in Dale’s eyes, that Dale was in love with Alissa. He was the first to break eye contact.
Bronson picked Sharlee up from her stroller and gazed into her face.
Dale rushed over to Alissa and looked at her anxiously. He asked while grabbing her shoulders and examining her head, “Are you sure you are okay?”
“I don’t like the way you blacked out. You may have a concussion. I think you need an x-ray.”
“No Dale. Let’s just go home.” Dale took Sharlee from Bronson and put her back into the stroller.
“Thank you again Bronson. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Is 5:00 okay to pick you up?”
“5:00 is great.” She gave him her address and phone number. He gave her is number.
Dale asked Alissa after they got home, “What was that about?”
“Bronson apologized for the way he treated me after I got pregnant. He asked for a chance to make it up to me and Sharlee. He wants to take me out to dinner tomorrow and talk.”
“You believe him?”
“I think he really is sorry. I feel that I owe it to Sharlee to at least talk to him.” The last thing she wanted to do was to hurt Dale, but she had to put Sharlee’s needs first.
Dale felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. He could hardly breath, the pain in his heart was so bad.
Dale put Sharlee to bed. He examined Alissa’s head, and then told her goodnight. He went up to his room and laid on the bed devastated. He blamed himself for not telling her how he felt about her sooner. He had wanted to give her time to get used to him and trust him. He had waited too late!
Alissa had watched Dale walk upstairs with heavy steps. Pain was written all over his face. She had hurt him. Tears came into her eyes.
“I’m sorry Dale.”, she whispered.