Cynthia’s wedding day was perfect until she noticed a pregnant stranger slip something into her fiance Eden’s drink. Who was this woman, and why was she trying to hurt Eden?
“Mom, Dad?” Cynthia glanced at her parents sitting across from her at the dinner table. She couldn’t wait any longer to share her news. “I have something important to tell you. Eden and I are going to get married…”
“That’s wonderful news!” Cynthia’s mom, Jennifer, said.
“…and I’m pregnant.” Cynthia finished.
Mom gasped, but moments later, she sprang from her chair and circled the table to hug her daughter. Both women cried joyful tears.
“Excellent news.” Dad grinned and reached over to clap Eden on the shoulder. “And I have the perfect wedding present for you both. “Since you’re such a wiz with business, Eden, I want to put up the capital for you and Cynthia to start your own business. A couple hundred thousand, sound good?”
“Very good, sir.” Edin grinned at his soon-to-be father-in-law.
“No need for formalities now; call me Ted.” Cynthia’s dad returned to his seat. “I know I can trust you to use this money to ensure my daughter and grandchild have a bright future.”
“Of course.” Eden took Cynthia’s hand. “Nothing but the best for Cinty and my baby.”
A week later, Eden was at a bar for his bachelor’s party. He was surrounded by friends, several of whom were his business partners. They’d eaten well, and now they were drinking the most expensive whisky available.
“Soon, all our problems will be over.” Eden raised his glass.
“To Cynthia and her wealthy father. Thanks to them, our days of being in debt are over. Our camping supply store will never struggle again, no matter how often Jim misuses the petty cash.”
“You truly hit the jackpot, Eden,” Mitch said. He raised his glass as well.
“And how.” Eden grinned as he dangled his car keys for everyone to see. “The old man’s throwing so much money at me I thought I deserved a treat for putting up with his dull daughter. Every time she starts blabbing, I just smile and think of my shiny new corvette.”
“Dang! Has she got any sisters?” Jim asked.
Eden and all his friends laughed. “Even if she did, I wouldn’t want you in my family, bro. That’s my cash cow, you’ve got to find your own.”
The waitress appeared then to check if they needed anything else.
“Well, it’s getting chilly in here,” Eden said with a smirk. He waved a hundred-dollar bill at the woman and patted his lap. “Why don’t you come over here and warm me up, gorgeous?”
After a few more rounds of drinks, Eden and his friends went to a casino. He turned fifteen thousand dollars into eighty thousand at the roulette table, then lost it all playing blackjack. Then he lost even more playing poker.
“Loan me a couple thousand?” Eden asked Mitch. “I’ll pay you back after the wedding. You know I’m good for it.”
“You better be.” Mitch pulled out his wallet and started counting off bills. “And I want it back tonight if you win big, got it? Not all of us are lucky enough to marry a bank.”
“This man is a liar and a useless excuse for a human being.”
Eden laughed and returned to the poker table with his borrowed funds. He won his next few hands, but then he lost everything in the next game.
“My luck is sure to turn around,” he told Jim when he asked to loan money from him. “I should’ve stuck to the roulette table instead of playing cards. I’ll return your money by the end of the night.”
But Eden’s luck was all used up. He didn’t win anything substantial at the roulette table, so he decided to try the slot machines. He lost there too.
At the night’s end, Eden owed his friends thousands of dollars and could not pay them back until after the wedding. He texted them to say he was leaving and slipped out a back exit.
Soon, the big day arrived. Everyone gathered in the restaurant at the wedding venue for a light lunch before the wedding started. They’d rented a private dining room with a patio overlooking a lake. The happy couple sat together at a table with their close family and friends.
“I’ve dreamed of being a father for so long. I can’t believe it will soon come true.” Eden smiled lovingly at Cynthia as he placed his hand on her belly.
“There’s still a few months to go, sugar.” Cynthia laughed.
After lunch, the group spread out across the patio to chat. Cynthia stood to one side with her friends, admiring the view, when she noticed a heavily pregnant woman weaving among the guests. That would be her in a few months.
Cynthia smiled to herself as she watched the woman. She didn’t recognize her. As Cynthia watched, the woman approached the table and leaned against it.
Cynthia assumed she was resting until the woman took a small bottle from her purse. She uncapped the bottle, glanced around, and emptied the contents into Eden’s glass.
Cynthia’s jaw dropped. She hurried to the table while the woman disappeared inside.
Cynthia emptied the content of Eden’s glass into a nearby plant. What had that woman put in Eden’s drink, and why? Cynthia stood on tiptoes to search for the pregnant woman. There! Cynthia spotted her just as she slipped out of the dining room.
Confusion and fear warred inside Cynthia. She had to get to the bottom of this! She strode across the room and followed the woman out into the main dining room. Cynthia spotted her weaving between the tables and set off after her.
“He’s so deep in debt that they took everything he owns, and he still owes money. Seems like he tried to make it up with some clever bookkeeping, and failed. They caught him trying to cross the border.”
This lady was speedy despite being heavily pregnant! Cynthia caught up with her at the entrance to the restaurant and put a hand on her elbow.
“I saw what you did,” Cynthia said. “You aren’t leaving here, and I’m calling the police!”
The woman arched her eyebrows. “Don’t do that, please. It was just a laxative.”
“A laxative? Why?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but now I have no choice.” The woman frowned. “Eden isn’t who you think he is.”
“My name is Caroline,” the woman continued. “Eight months ago, I was on a date with Eden and told him I was expecting his child.” Caroline shook her head. “He pretended to be happy for about five minutes before saying his stomach hurt and he needed to go to the bathroom.”
“And that was the last time I saw him before today.” Caroline leaned back against a pillar and set her hands on her swollen belly.
“He moved house, changed his phone number…I searched for him for five months before I realized that lowlife didn’t deserve to be in my or my child’s life.”
“My Eden did that?” Cynthia put a hand on her chest. “Are you sure it’s the same man?”
“One hundred percent.” Caroline looked her dead in the eye. “You love him, obviously, but don’t be so sure he loves you back. His business was on the verge of bankruptcy when we were together, and, if I had to guess, he’s using you for your money.”
“But I didn’t come here to ruin your wedding. Not really.” Caroline smiled slyly. “I just thought it would be apt to give him a genuine stomach pain since that’s the excuse he used to run out on me in that restaurant. Nothing personal.”
Cynthia stared at Caroline as she waddled away. She couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. That didn’t sound anything like the Eden she knew and loved, but how well did she really know Eden?
She remembered visiting the camping supply store he and his friends owned. At the time, she’d been surprised by how rude his buddy, Mitch, was when he thought she was a customer. She remembered how Mitch laughed when she said she was Eden’s girlfriend.
Cynthia smiled as she marched down the aisle to where Eden and the priest waited. She studied Eden’s face as the priest spoke. When he asked if anyone objected to the marriage, Cynthia raised her hand.
“I’m sorry to be so dramatic about this,” Cynthia said to the guests, “but everyone here deserves to know the truth.”
The family and friends seated in the church began to whisper and move restlessly in their seats. Some of Eden’s friends stood and seemed about to leave.
“Sit back down, Mitch, Jim, and the rest of you, since you’ve just shown that you’re as guilty as Eden.” Cynthia pointed at Eden. “This man is a liar and a useless excuse for a human being. Not only does he want to marry me for my money, but he abandoned his ex-girlfriend when he discovered she was pregnant.”
Eden was about to speak, but then he doubled over with his hands on his stomach.
Cynthia smiled and removed a small bottle she’d tucked into her bouquet. “Caroline wanted to say hi.”
Eden looked in horror at the label on the bottle, then sprinted down the aisle.
“By the way,” Cynthia shouted after him, “I’ve locked the restrooms!”
Several months later, Cynthia was at home watching TV when her water broke.
“Caroline! It’s time,” she cried out as she rose from the couch.
In minutes, Caroline appeared in the sitting room with her baby, Denise, in one arm and Cynthia’s maternity bag in the other. “Let’s go!”
The two women had struck up an unlikely friendship. Soon after Cynthia kicked Eden out of her apartment, Caroline moved in. The two women turned the third bedroom into a nursery and shopped for baby supplies together.
Now, Caroline held Cynthia’s hand while she gave birth.
“You can do this, Cynthia. Just remember to breathe,” Caroline encouraged her.
When it was over, Cynthia lay in bed with her beautiful son asleep on her chest. She could never have imagined loving anyone as completely as she loved her sweet little boy.
“Welcome to the world, little Gabriel.”
Cynthia kissed the top of her son’s head.