Jessi Macis white-knuckled her car into the driveway of the Johnson’s household thankful she made it there. During parts of the trip she thought the snow would get the best of her little car. Just shy of eight months pregnant, she had no desire to get stranded by the weather. She wouldn’t let the blizzard stand in the way of the commitment she made to spend the holidays and last few weeks of the pregnancy with the child’s parents.
She pushed open the car door surprised no one had come outside. They should have been expecting her, especially since she was two hours late. There had been times she didn’t think she’d make it at all. The cold air whipped in swirling eddies sending shivers through her as she slogged through the snow to the house.
The large three-story house had huge white pillars lining the front, with large windows to take advantage of the beautiful setting surrounding the house. White Christmas lights trimmed the house giving it a warm feel without being over the top with the holiday decorations. To look at the house and realize the twins she would give birth two in just a few short weeks would grow in up that house was amazing. She never thought she’d do such a thing, but Jessi had agreed to be the surrogate for Doctor Michael Johnson and his wife Peg.
The feeling of giving children to a couple who could give them so much more than just love was a mixed blessing. She felt honored to help them have a family, but sad that in a few weeks she’d have to leave the children she had grown attached to as they grew in her womb.
Jessi stomped the snow from her boots, then rang the doorbell. Seconds passed and the entryway light didn’t come on. She pushed the bell again, before wrapping her arms around her body. Gosh, it was cold. Even if something had happened, the housekeeper should have been there.
When she was about to go back to the car, to the warmth of the heater, and call Michael, the door opened. He stood before her, his hair shaggy and tussled from dragging his hand through it. He gazed at her as if he didn’t recognize her, there was something haunting in his eyes. His clothes were wrinkled, the tie he normally wore was loose and just draped over his shoulders, while the first two buttons of his dress shirt lay undone. She had never seen him so disheveled, not even when he was an intern and worked the long hours at the hospital in Denver.
In that moment she forgot about the chill. “Michael, it’s me Jessi. Is everything okay?”
“Jessi?” He dragged his hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes. He shook his head, as if trying to focus and it seemed to push away the cobwebs. “Jessi, what are you doing here? You shouldn’t be out in this.”
“What? I’m here as we agreed upon. Michael what’s going on? Where’s Peg?” She looked past him, trying to see into the house.
“Come in. You’re going to catch your death out there.” Still in a daze, he moved away, allowing her to step into the warmth of the house.
Jessi pushed the door shut and shrugged out of her coat, before she unlaced her boots. Something was wrong with him and she was eager to get to the bottom of it. She touched her hand on his arm, to draw his attention. “Let’s sit down and you can tell me what’s happening.”
“I need a drink.” He moved from her touch and into the family room.
Somewhat taken aback, she followed. Even when Michael and her brother James were in medical school together he rarely drank. In all the time she had known him, she only saw him drink once, and that was at the graduation celebration she put together for them. He had a half of a glass of champagne for the toast, and not another sip through the rest of the party. Stepping into the living room was even more of a shock to her already overloaded system.
The normally spotless house looked—the only word she had for it was lived in. It wasn’t dirty, or even a mess, it was just lived-in. His suit jacket was flung over the back of one of the chairs, an open pizza box that was barely touched on the coffee table, with a large bottle of whiskey and glass next to it. A stereo played soft jazz in the background. Old memories pushed to the surface, Michael was the one that took her to her first jazz club, one night after his intern shift at the hospital. It was a night she’d always remember, it was also the night they shared their first and only kiss, provided by a few drinks.
She refused to let the memory of his lips on hers cling to her. Right now there were other issues that needed to be attended to. “Where’s Peg? Is Betty here?”
Michael poured himself a large whiskey. From the way his eyes seemed to gloss over, she was sure it wasn’t his first. “She’s gone.” He sank onto the couch, his shoulders slouched in defeat as he took a long drink from the glass he just poured.
“Gone? As to the store? To work?” It was highly doubtful that Peg, a lawyer, was called to work at this time of night. She mostly dealt with divorces and some family law. Why would she go out in a storm like this, especially when she knew Jessi was due to arrive? Even if Peg was out, it didn’t explain the absence of Betty.
“No, she’s gone for good. Divorce papers were served a month ago.”
“Divorce?” Her voice was so low she wasn’t even sure he heard. Running her hand along the curve of her stomach she couldn’t believe it herself. A month ago—that was right around the time of her last doctor’s appointment. He’d come to it alone. Had the papers been served then? If so, why didn’t he mention it? What would happen to the twins now? He was in no shape to provide for them, especially not alone. She became a surrogate mother because the child, or in this case children, that she delivered would have a family home. She wouldn’t have agreed to do this for a single parent.
He finished the glass of whiskey in record time, his head rested against the back of the couch and his eyes shut.
He’d be no use to her tonight, she’d have to head back out into the snow to get her luggage and find a guest bedroom, because the snow was now fully upon the sleepy town of Clearwater. Jessi got up from her perch and went to him. “Michael, wake up.” She shook his shoulder until his eyes opened just a crack. “Where’s Betty?”
“With Peg.” His eyes closed again and this time there was no waking him.
With her host passed out she was left to find her own guest room. “Guess we’re on our own.” She looked down at her protruding stomach and wondered what would happen now. She had no means to provide for twins, but she was damn sure that unless Michael got his act together she wouldn’t let him have them. She had to have some rights to stand on. After all it was her egg that helped create the twins. Besides, there was never any paperwork signed between them, it was all a verbal agreement. Before then it never struck her as odd, but now she wondered why Peg being a lawyer never forced the issue. She’d have to think about that later.