Brian remained surprisingly calm throughout her phone call. “The child is yours,” she said. “I’m sure of it. Which means you’re going to be a dad soon, because I’m having this baby, Brian. ” “I know the child is mine,” he said. “And I intend to take care of it. Any help you need, I’m here for you. What are you going to tell Drew? ” “I’m not sure it’s his business anymore. ” “He’s still your husband. He has rights. And I will respect that, Ariel. I don’t have any expectations from you in that regard. ” “Brian, I’m going to divorce him. I was planning to even before I found out.
I’m not the kind of person who sleeps around. Not that I’m judging, I’m just saying I don’t believe in that kind of thing. Which I know sounds rich coming from me. ” “Me either,” Brian said. “In all the years I’ve been running this place, believe me I’ve had offers. ” “I’m sure you have. ” “I never expected to fall in love, Ariel. If you need help with anything, including a good attorney for you and for – for our child. I can hardly even say the words.
If that’s all you want, then…. I’m willing to give you anything. ” Ariel wanted to say no, but did she have a choice? “There was a pre-nup,” she confessed. I get nothing if I leave him. Oh God, Brian, I can’t afford an attorney. And I can’t ask that of you. ” “Then don’t. Just say yes. This is my child too. And there’s something you should know about me. Money’s really no object with me. ” “I don’t want you to put your business in debt, if that’s what you mean. ”
“Before I tell you anything more, I need to know. Ariel, when all is said and done, will you consider marrying me? Not just for the child, but because I love you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. ” Ariel went still. Was he serious? Was he really asking her this over the phone? But I thought – it was just a fling. ” “Of course,” he said, voice dropping. “I didn’t expect you to feel the same way. ” “That’s not what I mean. ” What was she doing? Her choices were hard on either side, marrying someone she barely knew or having her child born without a father.
Ariel asked herself the question she had been asking for months: what would Donna do? For an instant, it was as if Donna were there in the room with her. When she closed her eyes, she could picture Donna smiling as she leapt heedless from the highest point of the swing, trusting in the sand below to catch her – which it always did. Yes,” she said, at last. “Yes, I will marry you. ” “Thank God,” he said, breathless. “In that case, a deal is a deal. You’ve probably, definitely heard of my father, although I’m sure you never connected me to the name. Winston Mackenzie. ” “Winston Mackenzie,” she repeated. She knew that name. He had donated some money to one of her friend’s campaigns, a staunch conservative with deep pockets. Slowly, the details came to her.
“Wait, you’re telling me that you’re the son of Winston and Jasmine Mackenzie? ” “Yes. ” “Doesn’t your family own like half of Manhattan? “Well, not half,” he said. “A bit, though, yeah. A few buildings” “I remember now. Brian Mackenzie, only son, left after college to tour the world and then fell out of the social scene. For a month or two, your disappearance was the subject of a lot of gossip. ” “I imagine it was,” he said, laughing. “As you’ve apparently discovered, the high life isn’t always so high. Sometimes you need to jump and trust whatever happens. ” Ariel laughed, giddily, because the way he said those words sounded exactly like Donna. “Fine, you can pay for the attorney.
Apparently, you could pay for a hundred attorneys. ” “I really hope it doesn’t come to that, but yes. I could. ” That afternoon, she met with a lawyer in nearby Nashville, someone who could be trusted and who already knew almost all of the story. Judging by his fine-tailored suit and his city view office, his hourly rates had to be crazy. Thirty minutes and a signed non-disclosure form later, she was on her way to a doctor’s office for an official pregnancy test, also paid for by Brian. It was too early for a paternity test, but she set up an appointment for a blood test in a month and a half.
For now, the doctor confirmed that she was indeed pregnant and provided her with a list of instructions to take care of her body. On her way home, she received a call from Drew, who had already received her divorce papers and was livid, but not for the reasons she might have thought. “My lawyers are saying that you’re alleging that you are pregnant and that it is not mine. Or possibly not mine and if it isn’t mine, I have no custody rights. ” “Drew, I’m sorry you had to find out this way. I should have told you sooner. ” She stopped and took a calming breath. I had an affair that weekend and that’s why I decided to leave you. I’m sorry. I still love you, but not like that. ”
“You have got to be kidding me. Are you crazy now? Is that what happened, you went crazy? We had sex before you left and obviously the retreat center that I paid for, it worked. I don’t know what you think you were doing while you were there, but you were there to conceive my baby. Our baby. Do you understand me? If you leave me, my lawyers will eat you alive. ” “Good luck,” she said. Over the course of the next few months, she got divorced from Drew, who she sincerely hoped would forgive her one day.
A month to the day after her divorce was finalized, she was married again, this time to the father of her child, the love of her life. She would never forget the look on Drew’s face when he found out that unless he let go of all parental rights to what paternity testing had confirmed was Brian’s baby, unless he let go, he was going to ruin his family’s business. Apparently, the Mackenzies had a good deal of money and even more influence in the business of building development and they were only too happy to use that influence to make sure that Brian and his son were kept out of the limelight.
Drew sputtered and he screamed but he was forced to give up. And then, two months before the birth of their child, one month after the divorce in which Drew got everything but her and her baby, Ariel finally she got her happily after ever, with Brian. The truth began to sink in when she read the wedding announcement, tastefully compiled , announcing that they would be taking the bride’s surname, her maiden name, becoming Mr. & Mrs. Brian and Ariel Thorne.
That’s right. Her wedding might be taking place in a quiet, undisclosed location with only a handful of close friends, but there was no avoiding the truth. She was now the start of a whole new matriarchy: the Thornes. On her way back from yet another wedding planning meeting, the one where she got to see the announcement for the first time, she happened to pass a park where two girls were playing on the swings, giggling as they pushed each other to go higher.
Another memory came to her, a dim one. “We’ll be friends forever,” Donna had said. “Promise. ” “Friends forever,” Ariel had said then, and she whispered the same words now. “Friends forever. Thank you for giving me your brother, Donna. Thanks for giving me everything. ” Standing in front of the swings, a single tear dripped down her face. “Wherever you are, I know you can hear me. I promise to take care of your brother and to live our happily ever after, for the both of us. “