Chapter 30

     "Mmm, you feel so good, sweetheart," Michael whispered in Leila's ear, caressing her breast softly.


    "Michael, sweetie-- I'm sorry, but that actually hurts a little."


   "Really? But it's never bothered you before..."


    "I know, but for some odd reason, my breasts have been really tender lately. I have a doctor's appointment next week, so I'll be sure to bring it up then."


      Placing his hands delicately on her stomach, Michael noticed that it was a bit fuller than what it was a few weeks ago. As he stroked her stomach lightly, he smiled to himself but quickly brushed the thought aside.

    [But maybe she is?] his brain replied, loud and clear.

     When Leila awoke the next morning, Michael was nowhere to be found. She wasn't particularly worried, but she had been feeling mildly anxious ever since being kidnapped by Calvin. The whole ordeal had taken a significant toll on her, but she was slowly getting better.

    When Leila entered the kitchen, she found Michael sitting at the table reading a box. He had gotten up early, donned his disguise, and picked up a few pregnancy kits from a nearby convenience store.

    "Good morning, baby, I miss you. Why don't you come back to bed?" She cooed sweetly in his ear.

    Turning around to face her, Michael passed her the box. "Leila-- would you mind taking this? I know what you're going to say but please... Don't. Just take it, OK?"

   Even though Leila wanted to protest, she could see the hope behind Michael's eyes. It was a hope that she had inside of her as well, but it was just a fleeting glimmer. Over the past few weeks, she too noticed some changes in her body but didn't think much about it. [But what if he's on to something? Maybe you are?] She thought silently to herself but also knew not to get her hopes up.

    As Leila proceeded to the bathroom, Michael followed closely behind her. He knew it was a long shot in the dark, but he had to know. After following the directions on the pregnancy kit, Leila called Michael into the bathroom with her.

    Wrapping his arms around her from behind, he kissed the side of her face as they awaited the results.

   "No! That can't be. Can it?" Leila gasped.

Trying to hold in his excitement, Michael breathed slowly. "I bought two other brands from the store... Won't you try those as well?"

    After getting the same results, Michael placed his forehead against Leila's and smiled. "Our cherry tree has sprouted its first blossom."

    As Leila kissed Michael sweetly on the lips, she remembered the beautiful words he recited to her while in Japan. At the time, she thought he was just describing their love for one another, but now she knew it held a much deeper meaning.

    "So, what should we name our little blossom?" She smiled.

    "I'll leave that up to you, sweetheart. I'm sure whatever name you choose will be beautiful, just like you."

    Clasping her hand over her mouth, Leila screeched.

    "What's wrong, Leila? Are you alright?" Michael spoke concernedly.


     "Oh, my God! We've been together for a year, and I haven't even introduced you to my family!"


     "That's OK, Leila... We were dealing with so much, but I'd love to meet them soon if we can."


    "Hmm, how about this Sunday? But we need to make a stop somewhere first. There is someone important that I'd like for you to meet."


    "That sounds good, Leila, but who?"


    "I can't talk about it right now, but I'll explain later. It's someone very important to me."


     "OK, Leila... Well, I can't wait to meet them. Also, I think it would be quite a shock for your mom to learn that she's gonna be a grandmother via the news."

    Leila frowned. "I'm scared... What if it's a false alarm? What if the tests have an error? Maybe we shouldn't get excited too quickly until after my doctor's appointment."

    "Stop it, Leila! We need to remain positive. All three tests can't be wrong. You're pregnant, sweetheart." Michael reproached her gently.

    Turning away from him, Leila shook her head sideways. 


    "I want to believe you, Michael... I do. But I've been diagnosed with infertility for 14 years now."


     "Miracles can and do happen, Leila... Maybe you just weren't meant to get pregnant by him?"


     "Hmm-- I never thought of it that way. But you're right... I'll try to be more optimistic. Argh! This is so nerve-wracking!"

    Michael chuckled. "You need to relax, sweetie! We're going to make such amazing parents."


***

    Sunday


    "Why are we at a hospital, Leila, and why did you ask me to wear my disguise? Is everything OK?" Michael asked curiously, unsure of what was going on.

     "Just come on, Michael, you'll find out in a few seconds. Everything is--" Leila sighed.  

     "Everything is what Leila? Please tell me, sweetheart."

     Taking his hand in hers, Leila looked at the ceiling, blinking back tears.


    "Michael, I want you to meet my father... He's been sick for quite some time now. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this sooner. It's been very painful for me.


    "I understand, baby... I understand. Is there anything I can do to help?"


    "Thanks, Michael, but sadly-- No. A few months ago, my father was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor called 'Glioblastoma.' He only has one to two years left to live."

   

    "Oh, Leila... I'm so sorry. I know that you said there is nothing I can do to help but If there is... Please let me know right away, OK?


     "Ok, Michael, I will. But for right now, I just want him to meet my soon to be husband and 'baby daddy." Leila laughed, trying to ease her pain.

      As Leila opened the door slowly, she whispered. "Daddy, I'm here."

    "Hey baby, come on in... I just awoke from a nap." Richard spoke weakly but in good spirits.

     Running to him like a little girl, Leila gave her dad a big hug. "How are you feeling today, daddy?"

    "Much better than yesterday. It's so good to see you. I've missed your visits but understand why... I'm so happy you're free from all of that now."

    "I know daddy and thankyou... I wouldn't have been able to do it without Michael's love and help." Leila smiled while looking in Michael's direction.

    "I've heard so much about you, Michael. Thank you for taking care of my 'sweetpea.' She means the world to me." Richard spoke emotionally.

    "No problem, Mr. James. I love your daughter with all of my heart... I'd do anything for her."

    Patting Leila gently on her back. Richard asked if he could speak to Michael alone.

    "Sure thing, daddy... but please go easy on him." Leila teased, as she left the room.

    Walking over to Richards's bedside, Michael sat down in a chair beside him. Initially thinking he would be too nervous to speak to Leila's dad alone, it was quite the opposite. Even though Richard was gravely ill, he appeared to be very jovial and kind.

    Grasping Michael's hand for a handshake, Richard spoke cheerfully.  "You're a good man Michael... Is it okay if I call you Michael?"


     "Yes... Of course, Mr. James, I wouldn't have it any other way."


    "Good good... It's so nice to meet you finally. I just wanted to thank you personally for all you've done for Leila. But I also wanted to say thank-you for whooping Calvin's lousy ass! If I weren't sick, I would annihilate the scum bag myself! I knew he was an asshole, but Leila didn't tell the family all she was going through until recently."


    "I understand, Mr. James. I try my hardest to reframe from violence, but that jerk was asking for it. And when he kidnapped Leila, I snapped completely. I love her so much, sir... She means the world to me."


    "I can tell, and she loves you just the same. So uh... I'm sure Leila has told you, but I only have about two years left to live. Think you can make this old man a grandpa before I leave this earth?"


    "Well... Actually-- Leila is pregnant. She took three home pregnancy tests, and the results of each were positive, but she doesn't want to get too excited until after getting the official word from her doctor."


    "Really? That's amazing news, Michael! And that's Leila for you. Babygirl has always been a cautious one... She doesn't like getting her hopes up. Do you think she's pregnant?"


    "Yes-- I do. But I understand how she feels. I'm so happy. Not just for myself but mainly for her... She's wanted kids for such a long time."


    "Yeah, she has. And it's such a huge relief that she now has a nice man in her life. God knew what he was doing. She wasn't meant to have kids with that Imbecile Calvin."


    "I said the same thing, sir... I can't wait to start a family with her. Leila is going to make an excellent mother. After all, we've been through; we needed this happiness. My heart is so full."


[Knock Knock]

    "Can I come in?" Leila spoke quietly, peaking her head inside the room.

    "Of course, baby girl! Michael just told me the great news! I'm gonna be a grandpa!" Richard exclaimed joyously.

    Leila looked at Michael with wide eyes. "Michael! I thought I told you to wait before saying anything?"

    "I know, sweetheart... It slipped." Michael chuckled nervously.

    "Aww, Leila-- be nice to Michael!" Richard teased.

    "Yeah, Leila... Be nice to me. You wouldn't want the baby to hear you fussing at me, would you?" Michael smirked.

    Getting on his knees, Michael placed a gentle kiss on Leila's stomach. "You'll have to ignore mommy... She get's a little fussy with daddy sometimes."


***

   After leaving the hospital, Leila and Michael made their way to her mother's house. Like with her dad, Leila had already told her mom and two sisters she was dating Michael Jackson. Instead of just springing him up on them, she had told them before-hand of how they met and all that had happened between that time up until now.

    When they arrived at Leila's family home, her mom Jocelyn James, greeted them both warmly with a big hug. "Hey, baby! How are you? It's been such a long time since I've seen you! How are you?"

    "I'm doing alright... I've missed you so much, mommy--" Leila expressed sweetly before hunching over.

    Becoming alarmed, Michael quickly took Leila into his arms. "Are you ok, baby? What's wrong?" He spoke worriedly but knew it must be due to the baby.

    "I need to use the bathroom!" Leila sputtered, dashing off past her mother upstairs.

    As Michael and Leila's mom chased after her, Michael introduced himself as they ran up the stairs.


     "Hello Mrs. James, I'm Michael. It's a pleasure to meet you finally!


    "Likewise... Is Leila OK, Michael? What's going on?"


    "Leila's pregnant... You and Mr. James are about to become grandparents."


    "Really? She didn't tell me!"


    "I know... She hasn't told anyone but Mr. James. We just came from visiting him in the hospital. Leila wants to hear an official word from her doctor before telling everyone."

    

     "Lord! That girl! How much more official than having morning sickness can you get?" Jocelyn laughed heartily."

    Kneeling beside Leila, Michael rubbed her back soothingly. "Can I get you, anything, sweetheart? Maybe we should head home? We can always come back when you're feeling better."

    "No-no... I'm OK. My stomach is just a little upset. Probably something I ate."

    Jocelyn chuckled. "Girl! Just stop it. I'm about to be a Grandmother... You're pregnant."

    Leila sighed. "Michael... Come on. You could have let me tell her."

    "Sorry, Leila, but your mom was worried... I just couldn't hold it in. My excitement got the better of me." He spoke softly, cupping her face in his hands.

    As Jocelyn looked between Michael and Leila during their mini disagreement, she beamed with happiness. "You two are sooo adorable! God... I'm gonna have the cutest grandbaby on the block!" 

    Later that evening, after dinner, Michael and Leila headed home. They had a wonderful time with her family, and everyone was excited over Leila's pregnancy.

    As silence fell between them on the ride home, Michael kept thinking about all they had been through. It had been a rough year, but things finally seemed to be falling into place. But the one thing he wished he could fix was Leila's ailing father. He knew she was incredibly sad even though she seemed to be handling it all very well.

     While looking out the car's window, Leila yelped when Michael drove past his condo.     

    "Baby... Where are we going? You just missed your stop."

   "Home, we're going home." Michael smiled.

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