I can’t help it. My first instinct is to laugh. Hysterically.
“Brynne, it’s not that funny. I’m being serious,” Michelangelo says, trying to regain my attention.
“Why on earth would they want me to be a surrogate mother? I’m not even in a relationship, it’s illegal for me to be pregnant!” I tell him after I’ve caught my breath.
“Right, because you’re such a law follower to begin with,” he retorts, looking around my painted walls.
“Touché. But unlike with paintings, I can’t keep a pregnant belly hidden. That requires a little bit more than steel shutters and extra bolts on my door.”
“And that’s where I come in to save the day,” he says, striking a heroic pose in the bathroom doorway.
“Wait, let me get this straight,” I begin, koi scales now forgotten. “You want to have a fake engagement to me so that I can carry a child for your sister and her fiancée? What happens when the rest of the world realizes that after nine months, I don’t have a baby to show for it? What are all of Ashely’s coworkers and friends going to say when she’s not pregnant for nine months, and then shows up with a baby? We’ll get caught then, and we’ll all get executed, and the baby will become a ward of state. We all know what happens to the children that go into the system. They never come out. Or if they do survive to seventeen, they’re all kinds of screwed up.”
“You turned out okay,” Michelangelo gently points out.
“I was only in the system for a year after my great grandmother died. And because my parents died in the last war against the Middle East, I’ve always had tons of money and the government watches out for me. They take care of me because of my parents. They wouldn’t do that to my child if they found out about this.”
“Your child? So you’ll do it?” he asks hopefully.
“What? That was hypothetically speaking, you idiot. And why do they want me to carry their child, anyway?” I stand up and start washing out my paintbrush. I’m not getting any more painting done as long as I’m having this conversation.
“Because Ashely knows you won’t sell them out. She knows about your dislike for most of the laws. And she wants the baby to look like a combination of you and Abel.”
“Why? Ashely’s beautiful,” I reply. “Why me?”
“She didn’t tell me that. She just asked me to ask you.”
I sigh and lean against the wall and start scratching dried paint off the handle of my paintbrush. “So Ashely wants me to sleep with her fiancée and carry her baby for nine months while I’m pretending to be engaged to her younger brother. What happens to the fake engagement after I have the baby?”
“We can stay engaged, or break it off. We can find some reason that it didn’t work,” he replies. “And there doesn’t have to be any sex involved. Ashely was planning on just doing a gene splice with their DNA and then having a fertility doctor implanting that in you.”
“Is it awkward for you to have this talk with your best friend?” I ask, noticing his blush for the first time.
“You have no idea how awkward this is to me,” he replies. “It’s even more awkward that Ashely told me to offer Abel as a stud for this.”
Now I start blushing. “No, we can just go to the fertility doctor. I’d rather not sleep with Abel.”
“You don’t find the golden boy attractive?” Michelangelo asks in mock shock.
“No, I find Abel very attractive. And I know that you have a total man-crush on him. But I don’t want to sleep with your sister’s fiancée. That’s really weird. How do they know the fertility doctor won’t sell us out?”
“It’s one of Abel’s sisters. She won’t tell anyone.” He looks at me again. “All your bases are covered. Does that make you feel better?”
I shrug. “Almost. As crazy as this whole thing is, I’m most concerned about the fake engagement. My last engagement didn’t go so well,” I remind him.
“I’m not Dean,” he says gently. “I’m your best friend. And while I don’t know what he did to you before he conveniently dropped off the face of the earth, I just know that our fake engagement won’t be anything like your last real engagement.”
I sigh again and run my hand across my face. “Fake engagement, fertility doctor, and a surrogate mother. This sounds like a bad movie.”
“Not the point. Will you do it?” he asks, watching my face.
I shake my head and slowly look back up. “This is insane. The entire plan is completely and utterly insane. But because I love Ashely and Abel as much as you do, I’ll do it.”