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Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 22

Megan

    back and let the early spring sun touch my face. The sound of a dog splashing in the distance makes me smile.

I used to walk along the river near my parent’s house when I lived at home. Any time I needed to clear my head. There’s something about being outside, in nature. It cuts out the noise and lets your thoughts flow. I used to sit on one of the shingle ‘beaches’ the curve of the river had created and draw, back when I had dreams of going to art college.

I walk through the first two fields. Being near the road and a small car park, they host a lot of the annual village activities, like the summer fete and the bonfire for Guy Fawkes’s night. A lot of people come here to walk their dogs, or to fish, especially in the first few fields. But it’s the fields beyond that I come for. The quieter ones that only the dog walkers and amblers with a couple of hours on their hands venture to. I can walk the entire way to the next village along the riverbank fields. All the way to the little thatched pub that’s there, waiting for me.

I thought it was a good idea to let Mum and Dad have some time. I said I just needed some air, and they understood. Their intentions are good. But there are only so many times and ways I can tell them the father of my baby doesn’t want to know before the threat of tears claws at my throat again.

I can’t bear to see them so upset. I know they’re only worried about me. But it’s still hard to know that I brought all of this on. What should have been a wonderful piece of news is tainted.

Tainted by the answers that I can’t give them.

I don’t know why Jaxon has turned his back, not the real reason.

All I know is, I’m here alone, telling my parents they’re about to become grandparents for the first time. He’s not here with me. He’s not the man I thought he was.

Not even close.

Nothing makes sense.

“You and me, we can walk here when you’re older. I’ll bring you down, and you can paddle in the river.” My voice is soft as I place a hand on my stomach.

I still can’t believe I’m going to be a mum. It may not be the way I planned. I always thought it would be love, marriage, and then a baby.

But I can have enough love for the both of us.

I have to.

I keep walking, one green field after another, until the roof of the pub comes into view. I head inside and order an orange juice, opting to sit out in the beer garden at a picnic bench in the sun. I take my phone out of my pocket and turn it on. I left it off all morning after receiving Jaxon’s texts, but Lydia and Abigail will wonder if I made it here safely. I text them both to let them know Mum and Dad took the news well—as well as expected, at least.

My phone buzzes in my hand as texts come in.

One from each of the girls, saying they’re thinking of me, and two from Jaxon.

Jaxon: Megan, I hope you enjoy your time with your parents this weekend. Please can I see you when you get back? I have a meeting Monday, but Tuesday? Can we please meet Tuesday?

Jaxon: I don’t want to interrupt your time with your mum and dad, Megan. Please, just tell me you’ll meet me Tuesday, and I won’t bother you again.

I turn my phone face down on the table so I don’t have to look at his name.

Who does he think he is?

One minute he’s walking out on me when I’ve just told him I’m pregnant with his baby. Then the next he’s expecting me to agree to meet him when it suits him? I’m not going to reply. I’m curious to know what he wants, what he’s going to say. But it can wait.

He can wait.

I need to put myself first. I can’t keep being trampled all over. He’s controlled everything since the day we met. It’s all been on his terms, and I’ve gone along with it. I’ve been so blinded by lust and the stupid notion of true love that I’ve forgotten my voice.

Jaxon King does not get to call all the shots.

Not anymore.

“I thought I recognised that wild hair.”

I turn around and look straight into deep, hazel eyes.

“Ryan! Oh my God, how are you doing?”

I stand up and give him a hug. He’s broad and a little soft, just how I remember him.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, Meg.” He motions to the other side of the table, opposite me, and I nod, inviting him to join me. “You home visiting your mum and dad?” he asks, raising a glass of ale to his lips.

He lets out a satisfied breath as he places it back down and wipes the back of his hand across his short, dark beard.

“Yeah, just until tomorrow. You’re looking well. Village life being kind to you?” I smile as I look him over.

He’s wearing a t-shirt with some beer meme on, faded denim jeans and boots with mud on. He’s always suited the country; it’s in his blood.

“Sweet as ever.” He grins. “I’ve taken over the farm from Dad now. All the cows, the milking, the orchards, the lot. He and Mum just concentrate on the holiday cottages now.”

“I gathered that from your selfies.” I laugh.

It may have been eight years since we broke up, but I’ve bumped into him from time to time when I’ve been to visit. We’ve stayed friends, mostly on social media—the token birthday wishes and photo likes. Ryan has quite a following from the selfies he takes with his herd of Friesian dairy cows. They’ve all got names, like Moogan Friesian, and he can tell them apart from one glance at their markings.

“Hashtag king, that’s me.” He laughs back.

I try to smile, but my stomach drops at the word ‘king’.

“I remember that face.” He studies me.

“What face?”

“The one you’re making now. It’s the same one you made when you didn’t hear from art college.” He lowers his eyes to the table as he scratches his chin.

“Can I tell you something?”

“Sure.” He looks back up at me.

I’m not sure what’s making me want to tell him the reason I’m home this weekend. Maybe it’s the freedom and familiarity of talking to someone who knows enough about my life and where I came from but is far enough away from it to just listen. He was always a brilliant listener.

“I met a man, and now I’m going to be a mum.”

“That’s great. Congratulations. Bet your dad’s chuffed.” Ryan’s eyes meet mine, and there’s genuine happiness in them.

“A single mum.” I take a sip of my drink before meeting his eyes.

A cloud of confusion crosses his face, and he rubs his beard.

“I’m sorry, Meg. What happened?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. He just doesn’t want a part of it.” My throat is tight as I say it out loud.

“He’s a fool,” Ryan says through gritted teeth, bowing his head. “But you’ll be okay, Meg. You’re tough, you know that, right? Things don’t always happen the way you think they will, but it still works out.”

“Yeah, I hope so.” I give him a small smile.

“Like, you going to art college.” He clears his throat. “That didn’t work out. But you got the flying job. You travelled like you wanted, and now you’re doing the art thing.”

“You’re right. That worked out. I would never have seen half the places I did if I’d gone to college instead.”

“So, you don’t regret it, then? Missing out on college?” Ryan’s eyes glance up at mine. He’s chewing on his bottom lip.

“I guess not, no. Not now, anyway.”

His shoulders drop, and he lets out a deep breath, “I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear you say that.”

My skin prickles. “Why?”

He looks up at me, his eyes full of guilt. “I didn’t post your application for art college. I meant to, thought I had,” his voice drops, “then I found it under the seat of my truck a few weeks later, way past the deadline.”

I stare at him, open-mouthed. “You never posted it?”

He shakes his head, his lips in a tight line as he drops his head. “I’m sorry.”

“I can’t believe it.” I shake my head, my mind spinning, making me dizzy. “I spent all this time thinking I wasn’t good enough. That my sample pieces I sent them weren’t good enough.”

Ryan’s voice is careful, quiet. “You’ve always been good enough, Meg. Only you doubted yourself.”

“I mean, I—”

My thoughts trail off before I can grab them, make sense of what he’s telling me. Maybe I was good enough, and I would have got a place. I’ll never know now.

Maybe I’m finding this out now because I need to hear it. Hear that I can do this alone. I am capable.

“Hey… it’s okay. I forgive you,” I say to Ryan as his eyes meet mine.

“I don’t deserve it,” he mumbles.

“It was an accident, and it’s done now. It’s in the past.”

And I mean it.

The tension leaves his face as my words sink in. I can’t believe he’s carried that around with him all these years.

If these last couple of months are teaching me anything, it’s that accidents happen. Maybe things don’t work the way you planned, but they can still work out. Good things can come from them.

I reach across the table and squeeze his arm.

“Honestly, it’s fine. I’m fine. Although I won’t be if I don’t go use the ladies’ room,” I joke, getting up from the bench. “Back in a minute.”

When I go back outside and sit down opposite Ryan, my phone is face-up on the table.

“You had a call,” Ryan says.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. A guy called Jaxon.”

My stomach sinks. “He’s the baby’s father.”

“Figured as much.” Ryan’s voice is gruff. “I think I owe you another apology.”

“Why?”

He looks at me, his jaw tense.

“I gave him a piece of my mind.”


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