I tried to smile as big as I could as they ran past me and down the hall to the playroom, a room they’d become very familiar with over the past couple of weeks. Kacie had stopped by numerous times just to see how I was doing, and I couldn’t have been more appreciative. She had three daughters of her own and was pregnant with baby number four, yet she drove an hour just to check on me. I was so lucky to have her.
“How ya doing?” Kacie set her bag on the kitchen table and turned back to me.
My eyes stung and I shrugged. Why was it that when anyone asked how I was doing, I instantly lost it?
“Hold that thought.” She disappeared into the playroom and set Emma down. “Watch her for me for a couple minutes, okay?” I heard her say to Lucy and Piper before she came back to the kitchen.
“Oh my God, look at you!” I squealed, staring at her belly.
She looked down at her stomach and back up at me. “I know. What the hell? Last week I was still small, and all of a sudden, I’ve popped.”
“You totally popped.” I wrapped my hands around her stomach. “Feeling any kicks yet?”
“Not really. A flutter here and there, but nothing substantial. I tried to make Brody feel one last night, but he told me I just had gas and he refused to feel gas.” She rolled her eyes and sat at the table.
“Want some coffee?”
She nodded eagerly. “Yes, please. I would love some.”
I took a sage green mug out of the cabinet and poured her a fresh hot cup of coffee—no sugar, extra cream, just the way she liked it.
“Here ya go.”
“Thanks.” She smiled, dumping extra cream in it like she always did. “So, how’s your week been?”
I sighed. “Aside from Matthew asking me every three minutes when his daddy is coming home? Great.”
Kacie’s face fell. “I’m so sorry.”
“It is what it is.” I waved her off, not wanting to be a Debbie Downer—again. “I know I have to get used to it; it’s just so damn hard.”
“I can’t even imagine.” She shook her head slowly, her green eyes starting to water. “Did you decide what you’re going to do about the house?”
I looked around my dream kitchen and sighed again. “Yeah, I think I’m gonna keep it for now. Thankfully, Mike was a smart money man and he invested wisely. If I’m careful, I can continue to stay home with the kids.”
Her eyes grew wide and she reached out and touched my hand. “That’s great. What a relief, huh?”
I nodded. It was a relief. I didn’t want to sell the house we’d built together, the house I loved so much. Mike’s parents had both passed, my mom had died when I was in high school, and my dad was remarried and living on the West Coast. For a while, I’d thought about selling the house and moving closer to him, but we didn’t have a great relationship as it was, so I didn’t see the point in uprooting the kids.
“I think Taylor’s gonna move here,” I told her.
“That would be amazing!”
“I know. I’m excited for the kids to have their aunt here. I think it’ll be good for them and an extra hand for me if I need it.” I walked back to the cabinet and grabbed the bag of goldfish crackers. “Sorry,”—I lifted them in the air—“I haven’t been to the store, so my snack selection is limited.”
“Oh, please.” Kacie laughed and snatched some crackers out of the bag. “These are practically a food group at our house.”
“So how is everyone else? Have you talked to Darla lately? Andy? Viper?” I poured some fish into a bowl and set it between us.
“Andy’s good. Busy. Very busy. Darla is good. Things appear to be progressing nicely with the doctor.” She wiggled her eyebrows up and down.
“Yep. He’s taking her to his hometown this weekend to meet the folks.”
“Whoa.” I took a sip of coffee. “That’s kinda soon, no?”
Kacie shrugged. “They’ve been seeing each other for like a month and a half, so not really.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed in disbelief. “Has it really been that long already? It’s so strange, sometimes it feels like the accident was months ago, and then the next minute it seems like no time has passed at all.”
“I know, honey. It’ll get easier.” Kacie reached over and rubbed my hand again.
“Speaking of the accident, have you talked to Viper at all?”
Kacie shook her head slowly and sighed. “No, actually. Brody is worried about him. He’s kinda gone off the rails.”
“What do you mean?” I tossed a couple more crackers into my mouth.
“I don’t know. It’s weird.” Her foot bounced up and down nervously. “They haven’t talked much at all, as far as I know. He’s almost always late for workouts, if he even shows up in the first place. Brody calls and texts… he doesn’t answer.”
“Momma!” Matthew whined as he ran down the hall from the playroom. “Lucy and Piper are playing house and they want me to be the daddy. I don’t wanna be the daddy. I wanna be the monster who lives in the sewer.”
I let out a hearty laugh while Kacie hollered down the hall. “Girls! Stop teasing him, please. Let him be whatever he wants.”
“Sorry!” they both yelled back in monotone.
Kacie looked at me and bit her bottom lip, trying not to laugh. “The monster in the sewer?”
Still laughing, I rolled my eyes. “Clearly he’s been watching too much Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately. Actually, he’s been watching too much of everything lately. When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, it’s just become so easy to put the TV on for him.”
“Oh, please.” Kacie waved me off. “Welcome to parenting. You don’t want to know how much TV the girls watch. You do what you gotta do to get through the day, right?”
“Ain’t that the truth.” I smiled at her just as Maura started fussing in the monitor. “Oh,”—I set my coffee cup down—“I better grab her. I’ll be right back.”
“We’ll let you get back to your day. I don’t want to take up your whole morning.”
I stopped in the kitchen doorway and turned back to her, probably looking more pathetic than I’d meant to. “Do you have to go?”
“Not at all. I just didn’t want to bug you.”
“You’re not bugging me at all,” I replied, happy that she was staying. “You’re saving me.”
Kacie smiled at me and sat back in the chair. “In that case, I’m all yours.”
“Great!” I started up the stairs to the nursery. “I’ll get Maura, we’ll chat for a bit, and I’ll order a pizza in a while.”
“You had me at pizza!” She giggled from the kitchen.
“HEY!” PORTLAND SMILED and hurried over to me the minute I walked into Stumpy’s. Damn, she looked fucking hot. A little red T-shirt that dipped low in the front showed off her beautiful, full tits and tight black shorts made it hard for me to keep my hands—amongst other appendages—to myself.
“How are you, baby girl?” I picked her up and spun her around.