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[ This has been sitting in my unfinished writing file for moooonths. Needed to finish it if only so it would stop mocking me. And just as an FYI for new readers, Tanim isn’t usually married. The storyline with him and Daren having an affair is unrelated to any other storyline, so no need to be confused when his wife never shows up anywhere else. ]

Tanim didn’t know how the news spread so quickly. Had Catherine been up all night calling every person she’d ever spoken to or had she simply sent out one mass text message to everyone in the world on that damned Blackberry of hers? The moment he stepped through the firm’s heavy glass doors he was inundated with ecstatic well-wishers, receptionists and associates and women from departments on floors he never even visited. He waded through the throng as politely as possible, bobbing his head in thanks and repeating “yes, yes, we were quite overjoyed, yes, it was such a surprise but of course we’re so happy” over and over until he wanted to vomit. The words felt thick and tasteless in his mouth, but he long ago mastered the art of lying through an easy smile and so they came easy to his tongue nonetheless.

Finally through the gauntlet of well-meaning coworkers, Tanim ducked into the break room to grab a much needed cup of coffee. He had only managed to fill his mug to the brim with the delicious liquid when the door burst open and a strong hand thumped his shoulder, splashing hot coffee over the sink board. “Just heard the happy news, Tanim!” Jonathan grinned, apparently oblivious to having nearly scalded his friend’s hand. “You and Catherine must be thrilled. I didn’t even know you were trying.”

“We weren’t,” Tanim responded absently as he hunted down a sponge, using the need to clean up the spilled coffee to hide his less than enthusiastic reaction. “Came as a surprise to us both. I mean, a wonderful one, of course. And yes, she’s just ecstatic. She’s already talking about buying some house in the suburbs, you know, somewhere really nice to get out of the city.” Jon nodded in emphatic agreement as he poured himself a cup, managing not to recreate the disaster of a moment ago. “Absolutely. You can’t stay in that apartment; I mean, it’s great for the two of you, but you need somewhere with a yard and a picket fence and all that. Won’t envy you the commute, though. Do you know when the big day will be?”

Tanim began to answer when the door opened a second time. “Did I miss something?” Daren, briefcase in hand, gestured out toward the lobby with a curious eyebrow raise. “Cindy and Beth are buzzing around like humming birds on speed. I’m guessing it’s not bad news or they’d have upped the histrionics.”

Tanim fought to veil the sudden despair that washed over him like nausea. He’d known he would have to tell his paramour about the baby sometime, of course, and better Daren hear it from him than someone in the office, but he would rather do it privately and on his own terms, not in front of Jonathan so he and Daren were both forced to hide their true feelings. Couldn’t he at least have twenty-four hours to digest this abrupt life change  before dealing with what it meant for Daren and him? “Oh. Um.” Tanim choked on a false start, had to clear his throat and try again. “Catherine’s pregnant.”

The silence which settled over the room after his announcement could only have lasted a few seconds but to Tanim it seemed an agonizingly long moment before Daren finally managed a polite, if not perfunctory, response. “Congratulations,” the younger man replied with a thin, feigned smile which Tanim didn’t buy for a moment. “You two must be very happy.”

Jonathan spared Tanim from dredging up an equally meaningless platitude in thanks by throwing an arm across Tanim’s shoulders. Endearingly dense, Jon had yet to pick up on the tension in the room. “Hey, we should go out tonight to celebrate. My treat. Daren, you wanna come?”

Unwilling to glimpse anything of Daren’s inner thoughts in his eyes, Tanim glanced away and so only heard his poor excuse and the unfamiliar strain in the other man’s voice. “I’m, ah… busy tonight. Sorry.” And then after another painful pause Daren added with uncharacteristic nonchalance, “Gotta run. See you two at the staff meeting this afternoon.” The click of the break room door announced his abrupt exit.

“His loss,” Jon gave a cheerful shrug and turned back to Tanim. “How about the Blue Moon, eight o’clock?”

“Sounds good, yeah,” Tanim forced a smile onto his strangely unresponsive face, resigned to celebrating the child whose very existence might tear his life apart. Daren would never continue the affair now; he struggled enough with the fact Tanim was married in the first place, no matter how loveless the marriage or miserable Tanim might be. A child only strengthened Daren’s unrelenting stance that Tanim must remain with his wife. And it was not as if Tanim could continue his schedule of “early morning meetings” and “late nights at the office”, his only chances to ever be alone with the man he loved, once the baby arrived. No, this new addition would change everything. In mere months his one source of true happiness would finally and irretrievably be taken from him.

Suddenly getting drunk tonight didn’t sound like so bad an idea.

2 thoughts on “Next Post

  1. OMG! Noooooo, I can’t cope with THAT. Thats awful. You have to do something pleeeease! I’m off for a coffee and a Valium. Poor poor Daren. I’ll shut up now. Lol. :-)

    Shove Catherine off a cliff.

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