Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Eight

Max Drake pulled into a Starbucks drive-thru not wanting to go inside to order, which is what he usually did. He glanced at his watch, 6:30 in the morning, “shit” he said in a whisper. There were four cars ahead of him in line, which at this time in the morning irritated him since he worked most of the night.
“If these people would just order a black coffee this line of cars would move faster. No, they have to order some frothy, foamy caramel crap that would make my teeth hurt.” He said out loud to himself.
Finally, he got up to the window, and a young woman wearing a headset looked at him and smiled. “Good morning, my name is Hallie, what can I get you?”
She seemed pleasant and that made him feel better.
“Good morning, I would like a large black coffee,” Max said.
“Would you like anything else, sir?”
“Yeah, do you have any blueberry muffins this morning?” Max said.
“We have blueberry scones, not muffins. They are freshly made early in the morning. I’m sure they are still warm from the oven.” She smiled.
“OK, I’ll take one of those scones, thanks.”
Max watched through the window as this beautiful young woman moved quickly around helping the staff filling orders. She grabbed the large cup and filled it with coffee. She came back to the window.
“Sorry, I forgot to ask, cream or sugar?”
“No thank you, Hallie. Black is all I need.”
Her smile seemed genuine. “Be right back.”
She spun on her heels and finished the order in less than a minute. “Here you go,” she handed the coffee through the window. “Careful it is hot and can burn you. Then she handed him a Starbucks bag folded at the top. “And one blueberry scone. That will be $6.28.” Hallie smiled.
“Oh, dang it I should have collected the money before I handed you your order.” Hallie seemed a little nervous; Max could see it in her expression.
“Not a problem, here is ten dollars. You keep the change,” Max smiled.
Hallie looked over her shoulder then leaned forward into the open window. “I’m new here and feel slightly nervous. Thank you for being honest. I was trained that if a customer gets their food and drives off we have to pay for the loss.”
“Is that a Starbucks policy?”
Hallie shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know, but I know it is here.” She smiled, “Thank you, and please come back soon.”
Max Drake pulled the car slowly down the narrow driveway to the main street. He turned right without signaling, drove about a mile and turned left into a city park. He pulled into a parking spot in the middle of the lot. With a clear view of the whole parking lot, He switched off the car and stretched his legs around the pedals.
Max picked up the cup of coffee from the console holder and took the first sip. This time of the morning there was nothing more relaxing than that first taste of coffee. A slight headache made him close his eyes while rubbing his forehead. In the days when he was married, his wife would say he did not get enough sleep. Thinking of his wife, Susan, made him smile. He thought, ‘she probably was right.’ Max told no one of his pain watching her die a little each day from cancer. After she passed away, he almost went over the edge. He drank too much and came close to losing his job. He always thought of her and being tired this morning deepened the depression.
Max spent over thirty minutes in the parking lot enjoying the coffee and the blueberry scone. Finishing, he laid his head back on the headrest. He fell asleep and woke up about twenty minutes later. Checking his watch, it was 7:40 a.m. It would be a long day.

*****
Max Drake’s shift ended at four o’clock in the afternoon with no emergencies or phone calls. Something to eat and a beer sounded great right now. Max pulled the car into Donte’s Bar and Grill. He parked and went in and waited at the host stand. A young woman came towards him at a fast pace holding several menus. She looked familiar. They had not made eye contact yet as she bent over and stuffed the menus on the shelf of the stand. Max watched her movements. She stood up and their eyes met, she smiled. “May I seat you, sir?”

Max noticed her nametag. “Hallie?”
She looked slightly confused and she tilted her head, “Yes, do I know you?”
Max chuckled, “You were at Starbucks this morning and served me.”
“I did?”
“Yes, I never forget a face. You sold me a black coffee and a blueberry scone.” He playfully said, “You forgot to collect the money first and you were worried.”
A large smile spread across Hallie’s face. “Oh, I remember you. Thanks for not driving off with the food and not paying. Moreover, I should mention thank you for the tip. If I got more of those, I wouldn’t have to have this second job.” Her smile was genuine and seductive at the same time.
Max Drake met new people every day in his job. He prided himself on having a great BS meter. This afternoon the meter told him this young woman–she seemed honest, hard working and worked long hours–was pleasant. He decided he would like to get to know her better.
He slid into a booth and Hallie handed him a menu. “What can I get you? Sorry, I never got your name.” Hallie said.
“My name is Max, Max Drake.”
“My name is Hallie Cook-Knowles.”
“Well, Hallie Cook-Knowles I would like a beer and something to eat.”
“What kind of beer would you like today Mr. Drake?”
“I prefer IPA’s, what would you recommend?
“Sorry, I don’t drink beer, but I see a lot of people drinking Firestone.”
“Let’s go with that, sounds good. Firestone it is.” Max smiled.
“I will bring you an Easy Jack to start. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it and you can try something else.” Hallie smiled. “I’m a betting woman, are you game to try?”
“Absolutely, I’ll try an Easy Jack.”
Hallie headed for the bar while Max watched her. He guessed she was about fifteen years younger than he was. She was mysterious, there was more to her, which intrigued him.
Max sat back in his chair and his attention followed a football game on one of the monitors. His mind wandered back to thinking about this young woman. He wondered if she was married; she wasn’t wearing a ring. He deducted that her diamond stud earrings were cubic zirconia. Her makeup was fresh, especially since she was working her second job that day.
Hallie moved around the empty tables with a small tray. She came up and put a napkin in front of him and sat the beer on the napkin. She smiled.
Max looked up at her, “well try the beer. I need to know if I have to pay for it or not.”
“Oh,” Max tasted it. “This is a good choice. Hallie Cook-Knowles you do not have to pay for it. Outstanding.” He raised the bottle up in a salute before taking another drink.
Hallie smiled, then laughed.
“So what would you like to eat?” She asked.
“I’ll tell you what; let me finish this beer first. When you come back, I’ll have another one and I’ll be ready to order. How does that sound?”
“Sounds great. I’ll be back in a few minutes, enjoy your beer, Mr. Drake.”
“Max, call me Max.”
“Okay, Max,” Hallie smiled and turned to walk away. She thought to herself, “Hmmm.”

Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Seven

Hallie stood up feeling completely exhausted. Thinking to herself, there was nothing more to be said. At that moment it would be the last time she was going to say ‘I am sorry’ to anyone regarding her one night stand and the pregnancy. A new feeling of vindication in that split second gave her more determination than ever to get past the frustration and depression she had lived with since finding out she was pregnant. Moving forward in a positive way for the sake of the baby is what she must do now. The baby would be here in about six months.

She picked up her purse never taking her eyes off Victoria. On the other hand, Victoria stood there with her hands on her hips clearly upset.

“I’m really sorry we cannot be friends Victoria. It breaks my heart to end our friendship this way.”

Victoria smirked, “This is not my fault Hallie, you made choices that put us in this place. Own it and move on with your life.”

Hallie turned and walked to the front door. She could hear Victoria’s heavy footsteps right behind her. Opening the door, and without saying another word, she left. The front door closed and locked while walking down the steps of the front porch.

Victoria walked back into the living room and pulled the front curtains back slightly to watch Hallie get into her car.

“Oh, what’s that?” She smiled.

The hands moved around her waist and pulled her towards him. Parker rested his chin on her shoulder as he peered out of the curtain watching Hallie drive away.

“Well, that went well?” Parker said.

“I’m guessing she came at this time of the morning figuring you were at work. I’m sure she didn’t want to run into you.” Victoria said.

“Good thing my car was in the garage then, huh?”

“Good thing she didn’t show up an hour earlier since you were no longer staying in the spare bedroom. That could have been awkward.” Victoria said.

“After what she has done to us, there is nothing she could say. We are falling in love with each other and what she did is beyond anybody’s forgiveness.” Parker added.

“Well let’s not forget about good old Julian, he is at fault as much as Hallie. The difference is he can pay his way out of this and leave the carnage to Hallie to deal with as a single mother.” Victoria added.

“The part that bothers me the most is this isn’t the baby’s fault. To be born into that screwed up situation is tragic. No father and a mother that is teetering on the edge of sanity and craziness.” Parker said.

Victoria chuckled, “Well thinking about it, I do feel sorry for that child.” She turned to face Parker. Putting her arms around his neck, she pulled him close to her and kissed him deeply. Parker responded by wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her close.

“I would like to stay here and fool around Parker, but I really need to get to work.”

“Yeah, I should go into the office today, my secretary is probably blowing up my phone as we speak.”

Victoria reached up with her finger and touched him on the nose. She ran her finger down his face to his chin then down to this throat.

“I feel lucky that we are working through this situation together Parker.”

“We did fall out of the friendship circle and now we have taken it to a new level. I am glad this worked out this way. You are a beautiful person Victoria. I feel I can trust you. Unlike Hallie and her lies, that conniving bitch. Man, I still cannot believe she did what she did.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. But through all this we found each other and as soon as your divorce goes through we can talk about getting married.”

“That is something I would really like; making you my wife. You are a beautiful person Victoria and I certainly can see myself spending the rest of my life with you.” Parker said.

So what is the next step in the divorce proceedings?”

“Hallie isn’t contesting anything. We went to a mediator and agreed to everything. I have a court date next month on the 17th. Didn’t I tell you that already?”

Victoria shook her head, “No, but that is good news. I will be glad to have Hallie out of our lives forever.” Victoria said with disdain in her voice.

“That makes two of us. Two months ago, I would have never guessed you and I would be together. I was so taken with Hallie I suppose I was blind to what her character is really like.”

“She was my best friend, let’s not forget that. Julian and I loved both of you. Now, wow has it changed. Julian screws Hallie, knocks her up and flees to Italy with his job. What really pisses me off, he never told me or even said goodbye. He just left.”

“Do you think he was embarrassed and couldn’t face you?” Parker asked.

“No, I don’t think so, but I suppose it’s possible. I guess I didn’t see his real character either. I lived with him for over two years. I now regret losing that much of my life to a man that could cheat on me with my best friend.”

 

*****

Hallie pulled into the driveway about twenty-five minutes later. The whole way home, the radio was on, but it was talk radio chatter and she did not pay attention. She was deep in thought. Bewildered she could not believe how she gotten to this place in her life, which in turn completely alienated herself from everyone. She was truly alone.

Hallie unlocked the front door to her home. She dropped her purse and keys on the table. She ran into the bathroom and fell to her knees. Throwing up was not easy and gagging and gasping for air made her light headed. She held on the rim of the toilet until her head cleared. She got up, flushed the toilet, and washed her face with cold water.

She walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and took out a bottle of apple juice.

“Baby, I hope you like apple juice because at this point in our lives together, I love it. Hopefully, it settles my stomach.” She whispered to herself quietly.

Hallie pulled out a chair at the kitchen table and dropped into the seat. She twisted the cap off of the juice bottle and took four small sips. It felt like it would stay down so she sat the bottle on the table.

With her elbows on the table, she rested her head in her hands and let out a long sigh.

Thinking to herself, “This has really gotten out of control. Another lie will make it worse. I wonder if I just told the real truth everything would be better.”

Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Six

Driving up and down the street three times did nothing to settle Hallie’s nerves. She still felt completely undecided if she should stop or not.
Hallie glanced at her watch. It was eleven-thirty and Parker would be at work. Thinking about coming over here took two days to decide. Getting into the car and driving across town, then driving up and down the street three times, made her finally pull to the curb and switch off the engine of the car. She pulled the keys out and sat there with her head bowed anxiously trying to catch her breath. She could literally feel her heart beat inside her chest. She looked up, but sitting in front of Victoria’s house did nothing for her self-confidence, knowing she was about to come face to face with her best friend.
Hallie opened the car door and stepped out into the street. Readjusting her blouse, and with all the confidence she could muster, she walked up to the front door and rang the bell.
The door opened. Victoria stood there dressed in black slacks and white silk blouse. Her blonde hair was pulled into a high ponytail. Her blue eyes never blinked. The stare almost made Hallie turn and leave.
“What do you want?” Victoria leaned her arm on the edge of the door.
“Victoria, can I come in please. This won’t take long. I just want you to hear me out.”
“You are not welcome here Hallie. Besides, I need to leave and open the restaurant.”
“I know, but you own the restaurant. I promise this won’t take too long. I just need to say what I have to say.” Hallie pleaded.
Victoria’s expression slipped from surprise to disgust. Letting out a quick breath she said, “Make this quick, I really need to get to work.” She turned and walked back into the house.
Hallie followed her in and shut the door. Victoria went into the living room and plopped down on the couch. She crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap. Then with one hand she pointed to a chair opposite her and on the other side of the coffee table.
“Victoria, may I have a glass of water?”
“No, say what you have to say and leave,” Victoria shot back.
“I know that whatever I say, even a million times, will never be enough to heal our friendship. I have been thinking a lot, for the past couple of weeks, about my choices. I know how much it has hurt everyone that knows me. I have not seen Parker in almost three weeks since he came over and said he wanted a divorce.”
“Do you blame him?” Victoria asked.
“No, I do not blame him, nor do I blame you for hating me.” Hallie rubbed a tear from her eye with her hand.
“What do you want Hallie? Do you want me to say it’s okay that you screwed my boyfriend. You got pregnant by him and now you wish to say sorry, can we be friends?” Victoria’s voice rose to a level just below yelling.
“I don’t know what to expect Victoria. I needed to come over and at least say, I’m so, so sorry. I showed poor judgment and no common sense or decency. It would be easy to say I don’t know how it happened or why.”
Victoria raised her hand to interrupt, “Okay Hallie, why would you do something like that. You were my best friend and Julian was my boyfriend. We were even talking marriage. I was excited about my future. I was excited about sharing that future with you and Parker, our best friends. We could have grown old together. Instead, you decide that a tryst with Julian would be a good idea. To hell with everyone you love. Then you lie about it to Parker, you even go through with the wedding knowing you were pregnant with another man’s child. Let me ask you one question. A couple days before the wedding, you confessed to me what had happened. That sent Julian and me into a lengthy discussion that resulted in me breaking off our relationship. Neither of us could attend your mockery of a wedding. How in the world did you explain to Parker why we were not there?
“I told him you were sick.”
Victoria shifted around on the couch and crossed her legs. “So you just told another lie. It makes me sick that we were even friends, Hallie.”
“What was I supposed to do? I found out about the pregnancy a week before the wedding. I panicked. I didn’t know what else to do. I love Parker so much, the guilt is unbearable, and I did not enjoy the wedding. You and Julian were not there, I couldn’t tell Parker. Everything was wrong and I had no idea how to handle it. To be honest with you, I thought about canceling the wedding, but it was too late.”
“Parker had every right to know before the wedding. Telling him after you married him is cruel. It says a lot about your character Hallie. I do not blame him for wanting to divorce you.” Victoria stood up and with her hands on her hips she said, “You need to leave Hallie. I have to go to work and there is nothing more you can say to make this better. I have no intentions of forgiving you for destroying our lives.”
Hallie stood up and turned to leave, then turned back to face Victoria. “I hope someday we can be friends again. I miss you. I’ve already said how stupid my choices were and now I have to pay the price for that. As much as I am sorry, you are the lucky one, Victoria.”
“How do you figure that, Hallie?”
“Julian is just as guilty as I am. If it were not for this situation…would you really want to marry a man who cheats?” Hallie said.
“Hallie, if that makes you feel better, go ahead and use it to soften your guilt, so be it. But for me, that is the worst reason to justify your choices. Now leave.”

Secrets Behind A Wedding Cake-Chapter Five

Hallie sat in the living room holding her cell phone. She had not heard from Parker for over a week. He had not answered her phone calls or messages. Matter of fact he never came home after she told him of her pregnancy. Now at nine a.m. on Sunday morning, he called her. He would be there in thirty minutes.

She dressed in blue jeans and a large long sleeved shirt. Her hair, the color of roasted almonds, pulled back in a ponytail. Surprise at Parker’s phone call caused her to put off her plans to clean the house from top to bottom. She started a pot of coffee knowing it could be a slight distraction for whatever kitchen table conversation was about to take place.

“Hallie, it’s Parker, I’m here,” He said from the hallway after closing the front door.
“I’m in the kitchen.”

Parker walked in the kitchen still holding his keys in his hands. “Hi.”
“Hi. I’m pouring a cup of coffee; it’s only decaf, but would you like some?” Hallie asked.
“Sure.”

“Have a seat and I’ll bring you a cup.”

Parker sat down at the table. He sat his keys and cell phone down as Hallie walked up and sat the cup of coffee in front of him.
“Thanks,” He said.

Hallie sat down opposite of Parker. Neither spoke. Instead, they sipped the hot coffee–the only sound in the room. Their eyes met but still deep in thought; it was clear they each wondered what the other was thinking. While the seconds ticked by the silence became more uncomfortable. Hallie wanted Parker to start the conversation.

“So where have you been?” Hallie finally said.
“I’m staying at Victoria’s house.”

Dead silence, Hallie was shocked and needed to formulate her next question carefully.
“You are staying with Victoria?”

“Hallie, don’t let your mind wander. I’m not sleeping with Victoria. I’m staying in her spare bedroom. I called her, and she was kind enough to let me stay there while I figure out what is going on with you and me.”

“Okay,” Hallie said slowly as the shock set in of the possible consequences of Parker staying there.

“I haven’t returned your calls, and I’m sorry about that. I didn’t want you to worry, but I needed to get some breathing room and think things through.” Parker said while never taking his eyes off his wife.

“I think we have a whole lot to talk about Parker. First of all, I am so sorry. I thought about how I have treated you; I made the choice to sleep with Julian one time.” She stuck her index finger in the air to emphasize her point. “I’ve ruined my whole life. My mother will hardly talk to me, and now I’m losing the best thing that I ever had, you.” Tears formed in her eyes but did not spill over onto her cheeks.

“Why did you sleep with Julian?”

Hallie pulled her lips tightly around her teeth, thinking before speaking. “Parker, I suppose being almost twenty-six years old had something to do with it. I’ve only had sex with you, and one other guy when I was eighteen, and that was a disaster. I presumed I might be missing something. Moreover, in a way, facing our upcoming wedding, maybe I felt trapped or unsure. Perhaps being with another man would take that feeling away and I could have a future with you and not wonder about what might have been. I had no intention of building a relationship or affair–that’s not what I wanted.” She shrugged her shoulders, “It just happened and I sure as hell did not expect to get pregnant. I made a huge mistake. If you could ever forgive me, I can promise you right here and now I would never do anything like that again. I love you so much Parker.”

“If you loved me, why didn’t you come to me right up front and be honest. Hallie, we cut our wedding cake signifying our union, and in your heart is this dark secret and a child in your womb. A child that is not mine. How do you expect me to deal with that? Everything is okay Hallie. It never happened. What?”

“I’m trying Parker.”

“What about the baby? You expect me to move back home and raise that child as my own, knowing it is Julian’s baby. I don’t see that as possible.”

“Parker, I haven’t decided what to do. I feel isolated here. My friends are distancing themselves from me. My family wants nothing to do with me. I am not sure what I should do with the baby. As I see it, I have two choices, raise this child or give it up for adoption.”
“So what are you going to do?” Parker asked.

“Can you help me make that decision?” Hallie asked.

Parker chuckled but the tone being more cynical than happy. “Hallie, how am I supposed to tell you what to do with your baby?”

“You are my husband,” Hallie said as seriously as she could. No tears—it was more like determination.

Parker raised his eyebrows in thought. He did not expect that response from her.
“Parker you are my husband for better or worse. I need your help and yes this is the worse part.”

“We got married a month ago, so you call me your husband. I do not feel like one, and now you ask me what to do with another man’s baby in your body. I cannot at this point help you with that Hallie. Maybe you should try and get a hold of Julian and ask him.”

“He is gone, Parker. Julian has agreed to give me fifteen hundred dollars a month. When the baby gets older and goes to school, he will increase it to two-thousand dollars a month. Julian has agreed to pay for college. He also signed over custody to me. This child is now my responsibility and mine alone. Julian is an ass, but at least, he is stepping up to the plate. Now I am asking you as my husband to be there for me.”

A long silence divided their thinking. They both sipped at their cups of coffee without saying anything for several long minutes before Parker finally spoke.

“I asked to come over here for a reason Hallie. I did not expect you to pull this ‘help me’ crap. It is unfair of you to think I would even consider supporting you. I have something for you to consider as well.” He stood up and placing his hands on the table, he leaned forward. “I am going to start divorce papers next week.”