“Hurry the fuck up,” Lark pleads with the pregnancy test, “please!”
It’s early in the morning, barely past sunrise. She had stayed up all night kept awake by two questions, only one of which could be easily resolved. In pursuit of that resolution, she drank almost a liter of water and then waited until morning, when hCG levels are supposedly at their highest.
After three intense minutes, the results are clear. She’s pregnant again.
Lark leans back against the chilly tile wall, ignoring the shock of the cold as it seeps through her shirt and into her skin. Tears well up in her eyes and she blinks aggressively, trying her hardest to hold them back. The following minutes both drag and speed by, atemporal dismay having displaced her previous hyper-awareness of the passage of time. The sun rises higher and higher, the room grows brighter and brighter, and Lark’s heart sinks deeper and deeper as all the potential scenarios run through her head.
This complicates her ideal answer to her second question.
Lark’s brooding is interrupted when she hears the back door slide open then slam shut, heralding Nikolas’ return after a night of hunting. She’s proud of herself for how she handled herself last night, and Karl praised her quick thinking when she called him. He promised to keep Nikolas safe at they hunted, and Dominic also contacted her to tell her he was mostly unscathed from the fight. But despite her ingenuity, the night’s events caused an avalanche of doubt that fueled the night’s insomnia.
She stands up and slowly opens the bathroom door, then peeks out: Nikolas, still in his wolf form, is at the dining room table. He’s crouched on a chair, shoveling food into his mouth. The door creaks a little as she opens it further, and his eyes dart up, locking with hers. He flashes a slight devious smile, but continues to eat.
Lark sees two paths in front of her: the one she had resolved to take, which ends with Nikolas’ joy at realizing they’re going to have the second child he’s long wanted, and the one she prefers.
Her preference stems from recent reflections on her own childhood. Lark’s parents were--are--perfect for each other. Even their occasional arguments came from a place of love and concern, not resentment. So she never once had the feeling they were staying together “for the kids.” She did, however, get that feeling from Kyra’s parents, who remained together through bitter arguments, vicious backbiting, and torrid affairs until the two finally split during Kyra’s sophomore year of high school. And even oblivious teenaged Lark could see that her bright, friendly, cheerful best friend was often brought down by her parents’ behavior. It was a dismal situation with only the supposed adults to blame.
Lark is aware that her relationship with Nikolas is nothing like her parents’; it’s at best mildly dishonest but profoundly passionate, and at worst nothing more than toxic. Lately, in the wake of not only Nikolas’ lycanthropy but his growing distrust in her, she’s been leaning towards the latter. But she has a chance right now to remedy that before Bjorn has to go through the same heartache as Kyra, and before the embryo in her even has fully developed organs.
Nikolas growls as he licks a bit of food off the back of his hand. She hesitantly steps out of the bathroom, her eyes surveying the room as she plots possible emergency escapes.
“Nikolas,” her voice is cautious, “can we talk?”
“Eating,” he replies. His nails are filthy, covered in dirt and what seems to be flecks of blood.
“Um, your hunt went okay?”
He nods vigorously and shovels the last bit of food in his mouth. “Caught three rabbits,” he says as he chews, “lost a deer, though.”
A shiver runs down her spine. “Can we talk?”
His ears twitch and his eyes widen. With some preternatural sense, he can tell something is wrong. “No,” he leans back in the chair and scowls at her, a warning look that she ignores.
“Please, Nikolas,” she says as she slowly approaches him, holding her hands up defensively, “we need to talk.”
“Why?” He scrambles out of the chair, nearly knocking it over in the process.
“I just need to say my piece about something, okay?”
“No,” he repeats himself, “I don’t want to.”
“For fuck’s sake, Nikolas, just listen!” She snaps, and he winces.
With a strangled howl, Nikolas transforms back into a human. It’s an impressive--if not slightly disgusting--sight. In the span of a few seconds, the fur falls of his body, his claws retract, and his face shifts back to normal. With a forceful blink, his eyes return from inky black to bright blue. This is the first time Lark has witnessed this. Last time, he went to sleep werewolf and woke up human, leaving a pile of fur in the bed.
It takes him a moment to acclimate. His heart races as he looks around the room, taking in his surroundings with his newly dulled senses. He feels weaker, slower, more vulnerable, as if his body is weighed down by some invisible force. It’s a belittling sensation, and it triggers a long forgotten memory: he was eight or nine years old, forced to participate in pee wee football team by his parents. He complained bitterly, particularly since he had wanted to join a basketball team instead. Despite his protests, he was placed on a team with older boys, which was overseen by a despotic coach. On his first day of practice, Nikolas cried when a particularly vicious tackle from one of the older boys knocked the wind out of him The coach yelled at him, mocking the boy’s sobs and drawing derisive laughter from the rest of the team. Nikolas begged his parents to let him quit, showing the bruises on his back as a testament to the cruelty of the team. But he was forced to finish the season--it was a lesson, his father said, about never giving up. He spent most of it either sidelined or taunted, learning nothing more than the boundless brutality of other sims.
Nikolas shakes his head, trying to force the memory back to the recesses of his mind.
“So are you ready to talk?” She presses him.
“Lark, I had a long night,” he says, “and I’m not in the mood right now.”
“This isn’t really a ‘on your terms’ conversation,” she replies.
“Seriously, I don’t want to deal with this bullshit right now.”
“Bullshit? Good to know that’s what you think of me.”
“You’re putting words in my mouth,” Nikolas rolls his eyes, “I’m just saying that whatever it is can wait, okay? I’m exhausted.”
“I’m asking for one fucking moment,” she snaps, “so suck it up.” Suck it up, the words echo in his ears. It’s what his coach had said, too.
“Fine. Just spit it out,” his body tenses, preparing for impact, “whatever you want to say, say it.” He knows what she’s going to say, but still, he looks at her expectantly. He doesn’t know where this newfound masochism came from, and why it’s forcing him to participate so savagely in the demise of the single relationship that means anything to him.
“I can’t take this,” she says. Tears well up in her eyes and she silently curses herself. She hasn’t ever been the type of woman to cry easily, save for when she’s pregnant. She chokes back the tears, turning all her focus to her rage instead.
“This?” Nikolas asks stiffly.
“This!” she gestures angrily at him, “you. Whatever is going on with you, I can’t handle it.”
He clenches his jaw. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I’m done,” she pauses to correct herself, “we’re done.”
“You’re breaking up with me,” he says. It isn’t a question, but Lark answers him anyway.
“Yes,” she says, haughtily raising her chin, “I am.” His eyes search her face.
“Are you fucking serious?” he bellows, “and this is how you do it? Like two minutes after I shift back? Right at the moment when I probably need you most, Lark?”
“Oh, excuse me for not knowing the etiquette on how to break up with my werewolf boyfriend,” her tone is laced with venom,“Was I supposed to wait for a certain amount of time after you shifted back?”
“Fiancé,” he corrects her, “or did you forget that?”
Her eyes widen, and then she shrugs. “It hardly makes a difference now.”
“Wow,” he scoffs, “I guess I should thank the maker this is happening now rather than later. Because I’m guessing you wouldn’t have taken that ‘for better, for worse’ part of the vows seriously, considering how quickly you’re trying to get away from me now that,” he stumbles, “you know.”
“This has, like, ten percent to do with you becoming a werewolf, Nikolas. You haven’t exactly ever been the most honest person and…” she trails off.
“I’m not your property.”
“I never said you were,” Nikolas yells, “and I don’t know where the hell you’re getting this from.”
“It’s not about what you say,” she retaliates, “It’s about how you act! And I’m tired of you acting like I should be content with only you.”
“But you should! You’re the center of my fucking universe, Lark. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the same from you.”
“You want too much from me! You want me to cut my brother out of my life, and my friends, and you give me shit anytime I go see my parents--”
“Because they don’t like me!”
“Well gee, I wonder why?”
“I’m just trying--”
“Just stop,” she holds a hand up, “Stop trying. Stop talking. This isn’t a debate. You can’t talk your way out of this. My mind's made up.”
“What a miracle,” he sneers, “you actually made a decision on your own.”
Lark clenches her fists, digging her nails into the palm of her hand. “You know what? Leave.”
“Get the fuck out. I’m sick of your face.”
“No,” he says firmly, “I’m not leaving Bjorn.”
She laughs condescendingly. “Yes you are.”
“He’s staying here, with me, until I think I can trust you with him. If I can trust you with him.”
“I wouldn’t do anything to my own son,” he snarls.
“Right now, you wouldn’t. But what about next time there’s a full moon? How can you take care of a child if you can’t even think straight?”
He deflates. She’s right. He hardly trusts himself half the time. He can never tell when he’s going to lose his temper, for what reason, and what he’ll do as a result. “I can’t abandon him,” he says weakly.
Lark’s stern face wavers for a moment. With a deep breath, she collects herself. “Leave,” she says again. She turns around and starts to climb the stairs.
“Wait,” he calls after her. She pauses, looking back at him over her shoulder.
“You didn’t do this for,” he hesitates, “for anyone else, did you?”
“No,” she she looks down at him, “I did this for myself.”
As Nikolas despondently watches her retreat, he’s hit by staircase wit. It’s the correct response, that which he should have said when the fight first began: “I love you, Lark, and I know it’s difficult right now. But we can make it work.”
They’re words he can never bring himself to say, but he will think about for years to come.
Unsure of what to do next, Nikolas clears out his dresser drawer, shoving as many clothes that will fit into his backpack. He then picks up his phone and scrolls through his contacts. There are few numbers that don’t belong to clients, but in truth there’s only one person he can turn to right now. The phone rings several times before there’s an answer.
“It’s early,” Karl’s voice is grumpy, “I barely slept.”
“I need somewhere to stay for awhile,” Nikolas says, ignoring his friend’s complaints.
There’s a pause. “Come on over,” Karl replies.
Nikolas takes one last look around the bedroom. Photographs of him and Lark decorate the walls, interspersed with carefully painted portraits.The room smells fresh and clean--she must have done laundry last night--and he can tell the plants are freshly watered, errant drops left to form dirty spots on the otherwise clean wood floor. It’s comfortable, familiar, home. For her, at least.
Outside, clouds are gathering. He sighs as he throws the backpack over his shoulders.
I think it’s been apparent from early on that Lark’s marital roll isn’t couple. I kinda wish I hid it better, but OH WELL. Initially Nikolas was meant to be a lot more mean spirited and all-around awful. I decided after introducing him that it’d be more interesting to create a “gray” situation; ideally, people would pick a side and both sides would be “right” in some way. So yeah, Nikolas is possessive and jealous, but Lark is secretive and teetered on having an emotional affair with Dominic. On the other hand, Nikolas is funny and clever, and Lark is spirited and brave. However, I think that decision also made the split more painful. If Nikolas had cheated on Lark (or vice versa), it would’ve been cathartic to write out their break-up. Instead it just made me feel really mean.
In game, Nikolas has already moved out of the house. I was so sad to see him go because he was so much fun to play, especially once he became a werewolf (seriously, I should’ve turned him earlier! He was doomed from the moment I made him, but I took forever to do it). I know some of you are probably a little upset about it, too, but at least I didn’t kill him, right? Death and arrest were never on the table, btw. Their relationship was always going to end in a rather mundane way (other than the werewolfery).
Another note, because I never know what to clarify when I include Americanisms in my story: pee wee football (youth tackle football) is American football played by kids as young as five. It’s full contact, so it’s basically a bunch of kids running around and beating the shit out of each other in pursuit of a ball. My nephew started playing in when he was six and it’s AWFUL. The coaches are assholes, as are the parents. I went to one game, and a kid on my nephew’s team punched a player on the opposing team after a contentious play. He wasn’t taken out of the game, and spectators started yelling “atta boy! Punch him harder next time!” But I live in Texas, and football is a huge deal here. I mean, who cares that these children could be seriously and permanently injured playing a stupid sport? Football!