Actor Chris Evans, OFC Elizabeth Peterson, OFC Victoria Moore
Chris sat motionless in shock, his face not giving away whatever he was thinking.
After Beth’s initial bombshell Chris silently walked to the front door and let them both in the house, walking to the living room and settling himself on the couch, sitting stiffly upright.
Beth continued her explanation, “When I found out I was pregnant I . . . I just wasn’t ready to be a mother. The father, well he was out of the picture. I decided to give her up for adoption. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of.” Beth sat on a chair across from him, hands in her lap waiting for him to process what she had said.
An awkward silence lasted minutes before he finally spoke. “You would have been eighteen when you had her.”
Beth nodded her head. “I was almost nineteen.”
He looked at her with hard accusing eyes. “Nineteen? Nineteen? You were a fucking adult Beth. And you gave your child away? Is that what you’re saying?”
She whispered almost inaudibly. “Yes.”
“Why? Tell me why you felt that as an adult you couldn’t take care of your own daughter. You were old enough to be in college. You were old enough to have a job and responsibilities. But you weren’t old enough to be a mother? Tell me why, explain that to me.” Chris had a harsh tone in his voice.
Beth hung her head. This was why she never told anyone. Especially Chris. He came from a large, happy family. He loved being around his family, he loved kids, he wanted a family of his own some day. There was no way he could understand what it was like being an only child without a father. Raised by a mother who was barely a child herself. Who worked double shifts just to pay the bills.
Tears formed in her eyes. It hadn’t been an easy decision. Even though she had firmly believed she was doing the right thing, it hadn’t been easy giving up her child. Her own flesh and blood. And she had paid dearly for it.
The last time she spoke with her mother was the day she signed the adoption papers giving up all parental rights. The look on her mother’s face had haunted Beth for years. There were no more celebrations of Beth’s achievements. No longer did Patricia feel proud of her daughter. She was ashamed of Beth and had basically cut her own daughter out of her life.
And Beth lost the one person who mattered to her. The one person to whom she could turn to for guidance or advice or just to cry on her shoulder. After that day she felt alone against the world. It had hardened her and molded her into the successful professional she was, but it also took a piece of her heart away.
She turned to look Chris defiantly in the eyes. “Yes, okay. Maybe I was selfish. I had big plans and I didn’t want anything to get in the way. I wanted an education. I wanted a career. I wanted more than I had when I was growing up. But I also wanted more for my baby.” Her voice rose with each word she spoke, finally relieved to let this out.
“Chris, my mother,” she stopped and took a breath to calm herself. “My mother had me when she was barely 17. She didn’t get to finish school. She worked as a waitress to put food on the table. She did the best she could but she struggled. And I saw that everyday. That’s what I had to look forward to. Living in a trailer park, working double shifts, barely seeing my daughter just to feed her macaroni and cheese.”
“I wanted more for my child. I wanted more for myself. If that makes me selfish then you can hate me for it. God knows my mother does.”
“My child, my daughter, was adopted by a good couple. They couldn’t have children, they tried for years. They were on adoption lists for years. They just wanted a baby. And they could give her the life she deserved. The life I couldn’t give her. I did the best I could.” She thought if she repeated that sentence enough times it would exonerate her sins but a feeling of remorse still washed over her.
“Is that the best you could do Beth? You let strangers take your daughter. Is that really the best you could do?” His voice was pure venom. She didn’t understand where the hatred was coming from. “I’m so glad you didn’t have a child holding you back from pursuing your career. At least your priorities were straight.” His voice dripped with sarcasm.
She shook her head, fighting back tears. “Chris, that isn’t fair. It wasn’t all about my career. Trying to raise a child alone is hard enough not to mention getting a college degree and a law degree. That would have been impossible.”
He closed the distance between them, invading her personal space while looming over her. “Well at least you got the career you wanted. Except I’m the stupid one who contributed to your success. I got you the promotion to another attorney.”
She looked bewildered at his confession. “What? What did you say? Please tell me you’re joking.”
He snorted. “When you wouldn’t go out with me I asked the firm to reassign you to another attorney so I wouldn’t be your client anymore. You wouldn’t date me and I arranged it so you could date me with a clear conscience. So I guess you have me to thank for your successful career.”
“You self-absorbed asshole.” Her response was so hushed he could barely hear it. His smug face told her his attempt to lash out and hurt her as much as she had hurt him had worked.
His blood was boiling but he tried not to let her see the pain she had caused him. Four years, an engagement for Christ’s sake. And she kept this a secret from him. “Was it all a lie Beth? Our entire relationship? Was any of it real? Never mind, I don’t think I would trust anything you had to say to me at this point.”
The silence hung heavily in the air between them. They stared at each other with a contempt neither had never felt before. Finally Beth gave in to her anger and broke the silence.
She quietly said, “Her name is Victoria. Tori. She came looking for me four months ago.” The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “She was curious about her birth mother. I think that’s natural.”
Beth frowned then, her brows furrowing. “It’s more complicated than that though. Her parents recently died in a car accident. She’s been living with her aunt but she feels disconnected. Like she has no real family anymore. Tori knew she was adopted. She had never wanted to find me until her parents died.”
“She felt a sense of abandonment and her aunt encouraged her to find me, just to meet me. I was contacted by a social worker in Seattle who explained the circumstances. She gave me the choice to contact Victoria and I decided to meet her.”
Beth paused taking a few deep breaths to steady her nerves. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself.
“When I was pregnant was I thinking about myself? Yes I was. I was thinking that if I gave her up for adoption I could still pursue my dreams. So no, I’m not the good guy in this story.”
She looked at Chris with wide eager eyes. “But now I have a chance to do something right. It won’t change anything that’s already happened. It won’t undo the past. But hopefully I can give her a stable life for the future.”
Chris stood and paced, his jaw clenched and his fists in tight balls hanging at his sides.
“Why didn’t you talk to me? When you found out about her? This affected both of us. I think I deserved to know what was going on. I was after all your fiancé.” His voice was deep and angry; he couldn’t hold back the betrayal he felt.
“I didn’t tell you so that I could protect you. The attorney part of me kicked in. I wanted to give you plausible deniability. What you didn’t know couldn’t threaten your image or your career.”
He turned and glared at her. “That’s fucking bullshit and you know it. We’re in a relationship Beth. We were in love.” She sucked in a breath at his use of the past tense verb. Still, she defended her position, defended the fact that she protected his interests.
“You know that I will always think like a lawyer. First and foremost I’ll do what it takes to protect the people I care about.” As hard as she tried to justify it her words rang hollow.
He cursed under his breath and ran his fingers through his hair. “So what happens now?”
“Her aunt is in her fifties and Tori is almost a teenager. It’s not an ideal living situation for either of them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Tori these past few weeks. We’ve all talked about it. I’m going to move to Seattle to take care of her. To be her, I guess to be her mother.”
“What about your job? You can’t just leave.” The look on Chris’ face turned from anger to despair at the thought of Beth leaving again.
“They have great law firms in Seattle. I can switch specialties. I just have to pass the state bar to be certified to practice in Washington.”
“What about me?” As hard as he tried to hide it Beth could see the pain in his eyes. “Where do I fit into this? Or do I even have a choice?”
“Chris, this is a huge lifestyle change. You live in Los Angeles and Boston. When will you find time for Seattle? And she’s going to be a teenager. You never planned for this life.”
“Neither did you apparently.” He spat the words out, still feeling a mixture of anger, betrayal and pain.
Beth took in a deep breath and let it out slowly trying to calm herself. “But you’re not her father. I feel responsible for her. More than that, I feel . . . I want to do this. I want to get to know her.”
“So I don’t have a say? You just get to make the decision that you don’t want me in your life anymore? We were engaged for Christ sake. I believe in the vows even though we haven’t taken them yet. For better, for worse.” He paced back and forth again in obvious frustration.
“You know it’s not that simple. I know you Chris. You always do the right thing. I don’t want you to do this because you feel noble, because you feel a sense of responsibility. I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on you.” Beth stopped him and took his hands in hers and gently stroked them in soft circles. “Plus, what would it look like that you’re involved with someone who gave up their child because she was an inconvenience?”
He blew up again, his emotions on edge. “I don’t care what it looks like. Fuck the media. Vultures with cameras ready to pounce anytime you leave your house. Is that all you can think about right now? That’s what the bottom line is for you? Not me, not us, not love but a public image?”
“You know it’s not that easy. Tori isn’t used to being on display. I’m not sure how she’ll handle it. And her home, her friends, they’re all in Seattle. I’m not going to uproot her now.”
“So this is it? No discussion? I don’t even get a vote? Just a good-bye?” His eyes pleaded with her.
Beth had to look away as a few tears swept down her cheeks. “I think this is the best way to handle it.”
“And this is really what you want? To move away and never see me again. Just write me out of your life?” Chris ran his fingers through her hair and turned her to face him. “Look me in the eye and tell me that this is what you want.”
The tears fell freely now down her face but she maintained her stance. “I want to do what’s right for Tori. Chris I love you. More than you can imagine. I just don’t see how this can end well for you. You have an image to protect, whether you care about it right now or not. And I’m sure your life plans didn’t include starting a family with a teenager. You deserve white picket fences and babies and a pregnant wife to spoil.”
“You don’t think I can have all those things with you?” His voice cracked and he bent his forehead down to meet hers.
“I don’t think it will be the same. I have baggage now. You need a fresh start. You deserve a fresh start. And you said yourself, you didn’t know if you could get past me lying to you.”
“Beth, I said that in the heat of the moment.”
“And you can be certain that you won’t ever wonder if I’m lying to you again?”
He was silent. “That’s what I thought. Chris you deserve a happy ending.” Beth ran her fingers along the side of his face and stared into his clear blue eyes. She could never forget those eyes as long as she lived. She kissed him gently at first, then deepening it for one last time. “I know there’s one out there for you. It just won’t be with me.”