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Knocked Up By The Billionaire

By:Tasha Fawkes

nd he gently shook his head, ashamed. He spoke, his voice subdued.

“He said if I don’t pay up within a week, the goons will pay me another visit.”

His good eye turned toward me.

“I got the impression that they wouldn’t go so easy on me next time.”

Oh God, oh God, oh God. I shook my head and said the first thing that came into my head. “You’ve got to get out of town, Charlie!” Panic bubbled up inside me. “You can’t stay here… you need to find a place to hide. Maybe you can go to Uncle Greg’s.”

“No way!” he refused. “I’d sooner risk my life here than ask that lush for any favors.”

While I had little affection for my fifty-two-year-old alcoholic uncle on our dad’s side, he was about the only family we had left. Our parents’ had died in a plane crash seven years ago. After the tragedy, Charlie and I had moved in with Uncle Greg, but he was always drunk and paid little attention to us. He demanded that I take care of all the cooking, the cleaning, and the laundry.

At fifteen, with a fourteen-year-old brother, I had basically become Charlie’s parent, but I took the responsibility seriously. Even at such a young age, Charlie had realized that Greg Sommer was worthless. Our uncle had only agreed to take us in because my father’s life insurance policy provided him with an allowance that would enable him to support us.

Problem was, he didn’t use the money to support me or my brother. He spent it on booze and women. How many nights had I relied on boxed macaroni and cheese to feed us? More often than not there was no milk for breakfast, and supper usually consisted of Campbell’s tomato soup with saltine crackers. During the three years that we had lived with him, I had rarely tasted real meat. Everything came from boxes or cans.

“Dana?”

His voice pulled me from the awful memories, and I gazed down at him, torn between anger and compassion.

“I’m sorry, I. Really I am. I just got… got carried away. Thought that the next hand would be the winner…”

I said nothing, disbelief the strongest emotion I felt at the moment. Now was not the time for a severe tongue lashing. I fought back the growing lump in my throat. How the hell were we going to get out of this mess? He squeezed my hand.

“I can make a payment plan. A friend owes me some money. As soon as I get it, I can make the first payment.”

I didn’t believe a word of it. How many times had I been through this with him? Where he got the money to gamble was beyond me. Charlie was a handsome young man with lots of potential that he failed to recognize, either through a lack of self-confidence or just plain laziness. At seventeen, Charlie had dropped out of school and refused to return to complete his senior year.

Thinking that a change of scenery and getting away from Uncle Greg would help, I had started putting out feelers. The moment Charlie turned eighteen, Charlie and I had left Uncle Greg’s and headed for Dallas, where I had a job lined up at a local diner and a college scholarship. I encouraged Charlie to find a steady job, to take night classes at the local junior college to get his GED, to make some goals for his life.

Most of my scholarship went toward my tuition and my books. I had found a small studio off campus. While part of the scholarship money helped with that expense, the rest: utilities, food, and clothes, was generated from my job at the diner. I worked long hours and picked up every extra shift I could, even on holidays.

Charlie had worked various jobs after we arrived in Dallas, and I had never approved of many of them. The people he worked for were shady, perhaps into drugs and God knew what else. Honestly, I didn’t really want to know. He shared a small apartment downtown with his best friend, Eric, who was two years older than Charlie. Shiftless, also hopping from job to job, fond of alcohol, prostitutes, and drugs. He was a bad influence on Charlie, but I couldn’t do anything about that.

Charlie was an adult, by age anyway, and I couldn’t make him do anything he didn’t want to do. But I tried. I was all he had. I would always fight for him, no matter what.

“Oh, Charlie…” I sighed, wishing... wondering what I could have done differently to help him along in life. The death of our parents’, the years spent living with my alcoholic uncle, devoid of affection with barely enough food to subsist on, had turned Charlie inward. He was an angry, bitter young man. I knew he loved me as much as I loved him, but he was dissatisfied with what life had offered. While I worked hard and focused on making my life better, for the both of us, Charlie had turned into a prisoner of his own bitterness. He never touched alcohol, but I suspected that at times he dabbled in prescription drugs to dull his pain. To escape. My heart ached for him.

“It’ll be all right, I—”

I heard footsteps and turned to watch a nurse approach with a suture tray. In the not so distant future, that would be me, perhaps approaching another young man who’d gotten himself beat up over God knew what. Stitching up the superficial damage, though not healing the wound.

“The doctor recommends your brother stay overnight for observation. He might have a concussion.”

My heart sank. I glanced at Charlie and then turned my shoulders slightly so he couldn’t see my face. I looked at the nurse and gently shook my head. “We don’t have insurance, and little money to pay for a hospital stay. But I’m a nursing student—almost done—and I’m familiar with the signs of a concussion. I can take him home with me and watch him,” I said. “If I even think he’s experiencing symptoms, I’ll bring him back. I promise.”

The nurse looked as if she would disagree, but she seemed to understand. “I’ll let the doctor know. You’ll have to sign the AMA statement—”

“What’s that?” Charlie asked.

“Against medical advice, Charlie,” I told him. “It just states that we know you’re leaving against medical advice.”

He nodded. “Fine with me.”

“Y

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