Three Years Later
“I haven’t done this in a while,” I mumble to myself as I shuffle my favorite deck of tarot cards. “Just remember, the cards don’t know everything.”
I take a deep breath and lay the deck flat on the table before flipping the first card over. The Empress card lies face up, staring at me.
“Okay, so I’m ready to have a baby. We knew this already, although the cards still haven’t given me anything else.”
Ever since Connor and I started trying to have a baby shortly after our wedding a few years ago, I’d consult the cards every month around my period, and every month, they told me I wasn’t having a baby. Although I used to live my entire life by what the cards had to say, I’ve chilled out over the years, using my card readings as more of a guideline of what’s coming next in our lives instead of the end-all, be-all. Living like that almost cost me the love of my life, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen again.
“The Fool.” I cock my head to the side, trying to understand what this card means. “Am I a fool for worrying about having a baby at thirty-six years old?”
Of course I am. Most women my age are worrying about getting mammograms and the possibility of early menopause, not about whether they are pregnant. Connor and I talked about having kids after we were married but decided if the universe wanted us to be blessed with more children, we would be, but we weren’t going to stress ourselves out over it. The girls have continued to ask us for a younger sibling, especially since all our friends seem to be having children recently. Both girls love their little cousins and want to have a baby of their own to spoil, just like they begged for when they were younger.
When I missed my period a few weeks ago, I thought nothing of it. But when I vomited up the entire contents of my stomach at the smell of sweet tea, I figured something else might be going on, but I was afraid.
What if I am pregnant? It’s been almost eighteen years since Love was a baby. Do I really want to start all over again? I mean, it’s not like we haven’t been surrounded by babies over the years. Between babysitting for Selina and Bristol, we’ve had a ton of practice, but are we ready to be on full-time baby duty again?
“Might as well keep going. All my readings have started like this. It could be nothing.” I give myself a pep talk as I reach for the next card, my hand shaking as I grip it and flip it over.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” I push back from the table and begin pacing in the kitchen.
Connor and Jade are the best thing that has ever happened to us. They opened their arms to Love and me, making us feel like a part of their family even before we made it official right before the girls’ seventeenth birthdays. When Love and I came to Tyson’s Creek, I was determined to keep my heart closed off to love and focus on raising my daughter, but there was something about Connor that called to me. I tried to deny it, but my heart knew its other half the moment I laid eyes on him.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I mumble, flopping down in the kitchen chair.
Right now, I have two options: I can march right into the bathroom and take a test, or I can stick my head in the sand and pretend none of this is happening.
Yeah, right. If I’m pregnant, there is no getting around it. This baby is coming whether I feel ready or not.
I push back from the table for a second time, head directly up the stairs to the bathroom, and pull out a brown paper bag with a lone pregnancy test in it.
“Time to put on your big girl panties, Audrey. It’s not like this is your first go-round,” I say before pulling down my panties, doing my business, and placing the test on the sink.
Connor and I have talked about how things would change if we had another child of our own, but after actively trying to get pregnant for the last year, we figured another baby wasn’t in the cards for us. We have two amazing girls, Jade and Love. Although another child would be nice, our family is perfect just the way it is.
What the fuck am I going to do if it’s positive?
I set a timer for three minutes on my phone before shoving it back into my pocket and sitting on the closed toilet.
That’s the million-dollar question. I don’t know what I’m going to do if it’s positive. The girls are headed off to start their first year of college at the University of Alabama in a few weeks. It damn near broke Connor’s heart when they chose to go there, but after making them promise not to date football players, he was slightly less upset about the idea. Apparently, the rivalry between Tennessee and Alabama is stronger than family blood.
I shake my head, knowing that if the test comes up positive, our lives are going to change. Connor and I have been raising two girls on our own for years, both of us growing up a lot sooner than we wanted to. This was supposed to be our time to have some fun, travel the world, and not have to worry about children or responsibilities for a while.
My hand instinctively slides down to my belly as I imagine what it would feel like to have Connor rest his hands there and to hear the sound of his voice as he whispers to our little one all the things he plans to do with him or her. I missed out on that with Love, her father being the piece of shit that he is, and until this moment, I didn’t know how much I yearned for that experience for both of us.
“Mom, are you in there?” Jade whispers as the doorknob turns slightly. I jump to my feet, running to the door and pushing it closed.
“I’ll be out in a minute.” I giggle nervously as I pull my bottom lip between my teeth.
Jade and Love would both be elated to find out they are getting a younger sibling, but I don’t want to get their hopes up. This could be nothing. A missing period could be explained away by any number of things besides a pregnancy.
“What are you hiding?” Love’s voice filters through the door as one of them attempts to shove the door open.
“Nothing. Just trying to use the bathroom in peace, that’s all.”
“Do I need to call Dad?” Jade asks before a strong shove comes from the other side of the door, the force knocking me to the floor and they come tumbling in. “Now are you going to tell us what’s really going on?”
Love holds out her hand and I grasp it tightly before she pulls me to my feet.
“I’m late.” I sigh, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible.
“For what?” Love asks, cocking her head to the side as she tries to make sense of what I said.
“How late?” Jade asks, having already caught on. “A few days, or are we talking weeks?”
“Almost a month?”
“Are either of you going to explain to me what the heck is going on?” Love huffs as Jade grips both her shoulders and turns her toward the sink.
“Oh, that kind of late.” Love’s eyes widen in surprise as she pushes the door closed. “Have you told Dad yet?”
“No. I wanted to take a test first.” Both girls nod their heads in agreement before taking a seat on the floor. “We’ll wait right here with you.”
“You don’t have—” I begin, but they both cut me off.
I shake my head as my mind wanders to Connor. He’s an amazing father to both girls, even though Love isn’t biologically his. She is the daughter of his heart, as he says daily. Although I know deep down that he was slightly disappointed every time I had to tell him I wasn’t pregnant, he’s been a trooper. He keeps reassuring me he has everything he needs and tells me how much he loves and cherishes me and both our girls. It’s one reason I never give up hope that we could have another baby, that someday all the stars would align and give us another little one to love to bits.
Maybe today is that day. My phone chimes in my pocket, and I jump, damn near killing myself trying to get it out of my pocket to check the time.
It’s only Bristol. I sigh before unlocking my phone.
Before I even say hello, she shouts into the phone. “Holy fucking shit! I’m pregnant!”
“You’re what?” I lean back against the bathroom sink, knocking my now-forgotten test onto the floor. “How the hell did this happen?”
“What?” Both girls yell in unison. “What’s wrong with Auntie Bristol?!”
“Nothing is wrong,” I reply, trying to think of the best way to tell the girls.
“You can tell the girls that super Seth strikes again.” She giggles before lowering her voice. “This is the second time this man has knocked me up while I’m on birth control pills. This is so going to go to his head.”
“Bristol is pregnant again.” Both girls squeal loudly and begin jumping up and down.
I snort at their antics, wondering if they’d be equally excited for a baby brother or sister of their own. After a few moments, Jade and Love calm down, both of their eyes locking with mine. “We’re going to miss everything.”
These two have been campaigning for a younger sibling since Connor and I made things official. I doubt the last thing either of them wants to do is go off to college in the fall, but they don’t have a choice.
“You are not. You can come home whenever you want. We can video call and send you pictures every day if that will help you feel better.”
“But we’ll never see our baby brother or sister?” Jade pouts as Love nods her head in agreement.
“Their what?” Bristol shouts into the phone before groaning.
Shit. I was so focused on making the girls feel better that I forgot my nosey best friend was on the phone. I freeze in place, trying to decide if I should say anything or not as Jade squeezes my hand, “Tell her.” She whispers as I take a deep breath and reach my free hand toward Love. She takes my hand in hers and nods her head, “I have a good feeling about this, Mom.”
“Maybe you won’t be the only one pregnant all summer.”
“Shut your fucking mouth!” she screeches. “You’re pregnant?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” I sob into the phone, unable to keep my emotions in check any longer. “I was pouring a cup of sweet tea with my lunch and barely made it to the bathroom.”
“The smell always did me in with Rebekah. Here’s hoping I can eat this time around. Being sick for nine months isn’t fun,” she responds as both girls release my hands and wrap their arms around me. Love takes the phone from my hand and puts it on speaker before laying it on the floor in front of us.
I nod, forgetting that she can’t see me, before answering. “They say the second time around is easier.”
“Here’s hoping that’s true for both of us.”
“What the fuck are we going to do, Bristol?” My chest tightens as the panic I’ve been barely keeping at bay settles in. “We’re in our mid-30s. Jade and Love are heading off to college in the fall, and I’m about to start over.”
“What are we, chopped liver?” Jade huffs “And there’s also Selina, Uncle Vance, and everyone else here to help.”
“She’s right, Audrey. You don’t even know if you’re pregnant,” Bristol murmurs in a soothing tone. “I’m barely keeping it together right now, and I still have to tell Seth when he gets home from work.”
“Both of you need to take a chill pill.” Love replies, “Whatever happens, everyone is here for you. They will help you with anything and everything you need.”
“Okay,” Bristol and I respond in unison as the timer on my phone beeps.
“Is that the timer?”
I nod my head as I reach toward the plastic stick sitting a few feet in front of us on the floor.
“Well, what does it say?”
“Just give me a minute,” I grumble before taking a deep breath and checking the test.
I jump slightly at the sound of Connor’s voice. My eyes widen in surprise as both girls laugh loudly.
“We’re in the bathroom.” Love shouts as she pushes to her feet and opens the bathroom door.
“Traitor.” I grumble as I stand, gripping the test tightly in my hand and hiding it behind my back.
“You had to tell him at some point.” Jade shrugs her shoulders before grabbing my phone and standing. “Right, Auntie Bristol?”
“Yup.” Bristol responds just as Connor comes around the corner.
“What are the three of you in the bathroom?”
“Because Mom—” Love begins before I pinch her hard on the side. “Ouch. What was that for?”
“Nothing.” I plaster a fake smile on my face before grabbing my phone from Jade. “Bristol’s pregnant.”
“You bitch!” Bristol screeches through the phone as I send up a silent prayer for my safety. “I didn’t even tell Seth yet.”
“You called Audrey before Seth?” Connor quirks an eyebrow in question before his eyes flick toward the mirror. “What are you hiding, Audrey?”
“We said the same thing.” Jade responds, pushing me toward her father.
“I’m not hiding anything.” I avoid looking him in the eyes.
“I saw the cards on the table,” he whispers before stepping all the way into the bathroom and backing me up against the sink. “Show me.”
“I’ll call you back later,” Bristol whispers before ending the call.
My entire body tenses as he grips my hand holding the test and pulls it around my body.
“Connor,” I breathe, tears once again streaming down my face as he stares at the positive pregnancy test.
He continues to just stare at the test, not saying a word or even blinking. If I didn’t see his chest rising and falling, I would be worried.
“Can you say something? Anything?”
“We’re having a baby,” he states as a huge smile spreads across his face, and he plants a kiss on the top of my head.
“We’re getting a sibling!” Both girls shout, matching tears streaming down their cheeks as they wrap their arms tightly around each other.
“It would seem so,” I mumble before burying my nose in his chest. “Are you happy?”
When he doesn’t answer right away, I pull back and notice the unshed tears in his eyes, and I smile. He slides his hand under my chin before pressing his lips to mine, lifting it slightly and deepening our kiss. We groan in unison as I suck his tongue into my mouth, tasting the coffee he had this morning.
“Happy doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel right now.” He pulls me into his chest. “What about you?”
“I’m afraid.” I give voice to that tiny nagging in the back of my head.
“Is that what you told Bristol?”
I shake my head. “But what if something goes wrong?”
Connor places a finger over my mouth, silencing all my doubts. “Our baby will be perfect. I love you, Audrey.”
“Not nearly as much as I love you,” I respond as he leans down, capturing my lips with his.