Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 21

Jaxon

    going to keep up.” Martin smirks.

“I’m sure I’ll manage.” I give him a half-smile and slap him on the back.

I love morning runs like this. When it’s early and there’s hardly anyone about. The air has a distinct quality about it, a fresh scent. It’s calming. It’s not like I struggle to get up, either. I’d have had to have been asleep in the first place for that.

We set off at a gentle jog to warm up.

I know we won’t take it too hard today. Martin’s building his stamina back up, now his treatment has finished—just as I’m about to start mine. The world works in fucked up ways. We used to run a lot together before he got ill. We would push each other, neither wanting to admit defeat before the other. Him always joking about my age, me always proving him wrong. It’s nice to be getting back into it together, for however long it lasts.

“If you don’t mind me saying, you look like shite,” Martin quips as we fall into a nice pace beside one another.

“And if I do mind you saying?”

“Too late, I’ve already said it,” he laughs.

We run in silence for a minute until he breaks it, as I suspected he would.

He can leave nothing alone.

“Megan?”

I glance at him, wondering how much he knows. If he knows about the… baby.

“It’s complicated.”

“When is it not with women?” He pauses. “Look, Abigail told me the two of you have had some kind of disagreement. She said Megan’s pretty cut up about it.”

I wince as I pick up the pace. Martin matches it with ease.

The idea of Megan being hurt because of me makes me sick to my stomach. None of this would have happened if I had just kept away. But then the night at the hotel, that first night when she fell pregnant, would have still happened. I didn’t know my life was on a non-stop ride to crap-ville that night. It was the last normal night of my life. I had no reason to keep away from her that night. And it was an incredible night. Way to go out with a bang.

But a baby?

I still can’t get my head around it.

Megan’s pregnant.

Pregnant with our baby.

“I’ve screwed up, Martin. I’ve really screwed up,” I say, my voice low and weary.

“Relax, I’m sure it can’t be that bad.”

I turn my head and look straight into his eyes. “Believe me, it’s bad.”

His breathing increases as we talk and run. “You’ll work it out, won’t you? I’ve never heard you talk about anyone the way you talk about her. It’s just a bump in the road.”

I shake my head.

More like a bloody sinkhole.

Sweat’s running a trail down my back, underneath my running top. Only half of it is from the running. The rest is from the sense of impending doom that’s been sinking its teeth into me since Monday. Tearing chunks out of me, so I can’t even think straight.

“We can’t be together. She deserves better than me. Someone who will be there for her for years to come.”

“Finally admitting your age, old man?” he jokes.

I take a deep breath.

“I’ve got cancer, Martin. Got the diagnosis on Monday.”

I’ve got to give it to him; he keeps running, his step doesn’t even falter. He knows me well enough to follow my cue and keep going.

“Fuck, man, that’s… I mean… balls!”

“Just one.”

He looks at me in confusion.

“Just one ball. It’s testicular,” I say, my voice thick.

We keep running in silence until the benches we use to do our cooldown stretches come into view. We used to run the route twice, sometimes three times, if we were pushing ourselves. Looking at Martin’s shoulders, heaving with the effort to get a deep breath, I’d say one will be us done for today.

“I’m sorry,” Martin pants as he rests his hands on his knees. “That’s shit, Jaxon. Really, fucking shit.” He swipes the sweat off his brow with his hand as we stretch. “Is Joanna your doctor?”

I nod, and relief washes over Martin’s face. “She’s the best. She’ll sort you out.”

Joanna has also been Martin’s doctor, and now he’s placed her on a pedestal and hero-worships her. He probably thinks if she can save him, then she can save me… save the entire world… one cancer patient at a time.

“And Megan, she didn’t react well?”

“She doesn’t know.”

“What? Shit, Jaxon,” Martin groans, eyeing me as I drop into a calf flex.

“She doesn’t need to know. It won’t change anything.”

“You’re kidding?” He looks at my face. “You’re actually not kidding, are you? Jesus, for an old guy, you aren’t that wise.”

“It’s for the best. She needs to live her life and not be tethered to a ticking time bomb like me.”

The colour drains from Martin’s face. “Why, what did Joanna say? What are we dealing with?”

I put my hands on my hips and straighten up as a young woman passes us, pushing a jogging buggy. The little fair-haired baby inside leans their head out and watches Martin and me with interest, extending a chubby hand in a wave.

I wave back, my chest tight. “She’s not sure yet. She thinks there’s a good chance it hasn’t spread. They’ll know for definite after surgery on Monday.”

“This Monday?”

I nod.

“How are you feeling about it?” Martin’s eyes study me.

I shrug. “It’s the way it is.”

“You sure seem calm? When I found out I wanted to punch the wall, hell, I did punch the fucking wall. I was angry and wondered why the hell it was me. What I did wrong to deserve it.” His eyes are wide, questioning as he looks at me.

“And then you started doing all your daredevil crap,” I deflect as I smirk at him.

He knows I’m proud of him and all the money he’s raising for charity.

“Yeah, after a complete load of self-pity and wallowing. Abigail pulled me through it. Kicked me up the arse and told me to get on with it. Said the sight of my sorry face every day was worse than me dying. She was what I needed. Maybe Megan—”

“No!” I cut him off. “She’s not to be involved.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.” Martin blows out a long breath next to me as we finish up our cooldown.

I clear my throat as my scalp prickles.

“Look, I need a favour. Joanna suggested someone stays with me Monday night, assuming I’m discharged the same day as I should be. I don’t think there’s any need, but she’s insistent. You know how she can be.”

“Stay in your sweet arse apartment? I can do that.” Martin grins. “So long as I don’t have to change your dressings or shit like that? I don’t fancy touching grey pubes.”

I shove him in the side as he laughs. He knows I find asking for help hard. I’m grateful he didn’t make it harder than it had to be.

“Megan knows nothing, then?” he asks as his laugh stops, and he grows serious again.

“No. And I intend to keep it that way.” I fix him with a warning look.

“Hey, I just need to know the score. You know Abigail’s going to be fishing for info.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry,” I groan, running my hand across my brow. “I don’t want to make it awkward between you and Abigail. I can ask someone else… maybe Pen.”

“No. I’ll do it.” He grabs my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. “I just don’t want to put my foot in it. I’ll tell her I’m coming over for a boy’s night. Watching sport or something, she won’t want to know any more if I mention sport.”

“Thanks.” I place my hand over the top of his and pat it, my shoulders relaxing.

“What did you tell Megan?”

I sigh as I meet Martin’s eyes. “I told her it was my age. That I was too old for her.”

It’s true, mostly.

I did tell her that.

I just can’t tell Martin about the baby. Not yet. Not until I’ve spoken to Megan and discussed it with her. It’s her news to share, not mine.

The realisation stabs me in the gut like a knife and twists.

It will never be mine. Megan and the baby can never be mine.

“Oh,” Martin murmurs as he stares out across the park.

It’s the first time he’s been presented with an opportunity to make a joke about my age and not grabbed it in delight.

He doesn’t even smile.


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