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Pregnancy was tough on Ariana as it made her feel tired all the time. At various times during the day she had to lie down and take a nap. The doctor told her it was normal and as long as she maintained a healthy diet and kept as active as possible.

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Cooking was something she never tried before becoming pregnant. It was always easier to have a bowl of cereal, some chips or order take out when she got hungry instead of cooking. Plus she didn’t even have a stove yet. But Ariana’s doctor warned her already about maintaining a proper diet to ensure the baby was well nourished so she figured she had to start preparing her own meals. It surprised her how difficult it was for her to handle a knife. She cut her fingers several times while chopping lettuce just to make a salad!

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In the end, minus the blood, the salad turned out to be quite good and Ariana had two servings back to back. Pregnancy made her hungry all the time as well as super emotional.

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Some days she’d feel sad, other days she’d be angry but most days she’d be just fine. The rollercoaster ride of emotions was starting to bother her but the doctor said all of that was normal too. If Don even bothered to stick around from the beginning he’d surely be gone by now, she thought. He wouldn’t have been able to handle her mood swings.

Without a boyfriend as a distraction, Ariana was able to complete more paintings. Her skill improved so much that she was earning more money for each painting she sold to the museum and art collectors. The extra money came in handy when it came to clearing her debt and getting her power and water turned back on. She was even able to put some money aside for future expenses like when the baby was born.

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She was also improving her cooking skills though it would be a while again before she was able to buy herself a stove. One night during her third trimester while she was cooking dinner there was a knock on her door. When she went outside and saw the person standing in her yard she was pleasantly surprised.

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“Ray!” She exclaimed. “It’s been a while! What are you doing here?”

“I just came by to see how you were doing. I heard you were pregnant.”

“Yeah. Don’s the father.”

“I know. He told me you were trying to pin some other man’s baby on him. I knew he was lying. Basically, we’re not friends anymore. I can’t be friends with a man who could deny his own flesh and blood.”

Ariana was glad to hear that Ray stuck up for her even though he and Don had been friends for much longer. She invited him inside and they caught up on everything that happened in their lives since they last saw each other.

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“You have to excuse me for eating like such a slob. My baby girl has a healthy appetite!”

“It’s a girl?” Ray asked.

“Yup, the doctor told me a few months ago. I’m having a girl!”

“Congratulations!” Ray said. “I’m sure she’ll get her mother’s looks.”

“Thanks, I hope so too. Don doesn’t deserve to have her look anything like him.” She said bitterly.

“I’m sorry he wasn’t good to you. You and your daughter deserve better.”

Hours passed as Ray and Ariana caught up on everything that happened in the last few months. They also began sharing stories of their childhood and family members. Ray’s parents also passed away when he was a teenager as well. They both talked about how hard it was being on their own at a young age with no one else to turn to. Talking about their past dampened the mood so Ray, being naturally gregarious and playful, started cracking jokes to liven things up. “…And then the clown said ‘he ate the apple’!”

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Ariana couldn’t remember the last time she laughed so hard. Ray was very charismatic when telling stories and he had this child-like viewpoint on everything that made him hard to dislike. In fact, she was starting to like him even more.

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Ray looked at her laughing at his stories and jokes and was pleased that he was able to put a genuine smile on her face. She was so beautiful to him. Even more beautiful now that she was pregnant. She had this glow that made her stunning. He stayed away from her for as long as he did because he knew his feelings for her would only grow stronger the more time he spent with her and he didn’t want to come between her and Don. But now that Don was out of the picture he could finally have a chance with her. Still, he knew it was too soon and she already had so much on her plate to deal with having a baby and all. Ray decided then and there that he would patiently wait until the time seemed right.

“It’s getting late. I should go home now.”

“Ok thanks for coming by. I really needed the company…oh..aah…” Ariana grabbed her stomach. Ray was nervous until he saw her smile. “She’s kicking!”

“Really? Can I….can I feel it?” He asked nervously.

“Sure.”

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Gently, Ray put both hands on her belly. At first, he didn’t feel anything but then there was a sudden movement where his right palm was resting. “Oh I think I feel her!” he said with excitement.

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“Yeah, she’s kicking up a storm. She’s such a night owl.”

He looked up at her with a gentle smile. “Ariana you can always call me if you ever need anything. I’ll be there for you…for both of you.”

“Thank you. That means a lot to me Ray.” She thanked him with a hug.

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He left soon after and Ariana went to bed.

The next morning Ariana got out of bed feeling discomfort in her back and cramps in her abdomen region. She was sure it was just hunger pains so she immediately fixed herself a bowl of leftover salad. But while she was eating the mild cramp she was feeling turned into something else. “Aaaahh” she cried as she realised she was going into labour.

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Immediately she got dressed and called the one person who could help her.

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Zoe came over as fast as she could when Ariana called. Zoe and Ariana became close so when Ariana decided she would have a home birth Zoe volunteered to help out and became a certified midwife. She brought with her a white and yellow bassinet to facilitate the baby’s birth.

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Ariana stood in front of it using the breathing techniques she learned as she felt the contractions coming along faster. They were just minutes apart so she knew it was time to push.

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Zoe took a seat in the chair as all she could do at this point was support her. “Come on Ari, you can do it. Take a deep breath and push!”

It was the most painful thing Ariana had ever experienced but it was all worth it when she heard the loud cries and saw the tiny limbs and bright eyes of her baby girl.

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“Hey pretty girl! It’s me, your mummy!”

“Oh she’s so beautiful!” Zoe exclaimed. “What are you going to name her?”

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“Adrienne. I always liked the name ‘Adrienne’.”

After cleaning her up, feeding her and rocking her to sleep Ariana finally put little Adrienne down in her bassinet and turned to Zoe. “Thank you so much for everything Zo.”

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“Don’t mention it. Though I do feel like I didn’t do much at all to help you.” Zoe said.

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Ariana disagreed. She was worried about giving birth alone with no support but thanks to Zoe she didn’t have to. “No, you did plenty by just being here for me. You’re a good friend!”

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