“Yeah,” I scoffed. “For all of five minutes.”

Her hand landed hard against the side of my face. “How dare you say something to me like that? Get out! Get out right now!” Sobs fell from her mouth uncontrollably as she put her shaky hands over her eyes.

“Momma?” Maura walked up to her and pulled on her pants. “Momma okay?”

My face stung and my head throbbed.

I wanted to bend down and scoop Maura up and tell her that her mommy was fine. I wanted to put my arms around Michelle and tell her that everything would work out. I wanted to go back in time twenty minutes and not react the way I had. I wanted to go back in time even further and not answer her fucking phone in the first place.

But it happened. It had all happened, and there was no way to make it go away.

So instead I did the one thing I knew how to do best.

I left.

 

 

I slumped down into the kitchen chair and pulled Maura onto my lap.

“Momma okay?” she asked for the third time, staring up at me with big eyes.

I sniffed and gave her my best fake smile as I tucked a wild curl behind her ear. “Yes, baby. Mommy’s okay.”

But I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t even a little okay. The last twenty minutes had gone so horrifically wrong that my head was spinning and I felt sick to my stomach. I swallowed the puke that was attempting to climb up my throat, determined to keep it together for Maura. She’d already seen, and heard, way more than I ever wanted her to, and having another meltdown was not an option. She put her head against my chest and we rocked back and forth slowly.

My hands shook as I picked up my phone and sent Taylor a text.

Hey, I’m not feeling great. Is there any way you can grab Matthew from school for me and let him play at your apartment for a bit?

 

My whole body tingled with adrenaline and fear. Adrenaline from the confrontation with Viper. In the whole year we’d been together, we’d never had a fight like that. Not even close. And fear for my future. Fear for Matthew’s and Maura’s futures. Fear for the future of the tiny baby inside of me who I already loved just as much as the other two, even though he or she was only about the size of a kidney bean.

Could I do it alone if I had to?

Yes.

Did I want to?

No.

 

When I’d first taken the pregnancy test a couple of weeks ago and saw those two pink lines, I had a little freak-out of my own. Sitting alone in the bathroom, on the edge of the tub, I panicked.

What would Viper think?

What would he say?

Am I ready for three kids under the age of six?

But . . . as quickly as the panic came, it left. Common sense crashed over my anxiety like a wave over a match, and I started to think about my life, but more importantly—my boyfriend. On the outside, Viper was all tattoos, trucker mouth, and a razor-sharp edge, but on the inside, he was caring and sweet and loved harder than almost anyone I’d ever met. In that moment, I knew everything would be just fine.

And now, just a couple weeks later, I wasn’t sure about anything anymore.

My phone beeped loudly, scaring me half to death.

Maura flinched, too, then immediately relaxed again, and I could tell by the weight of her body that she was asleep. Holding her head against me, I carefully stood and carried her over to the couch. I laid her down, pulled the blanket over her shoulders, and kissed her soft cheek.

I sat on the other end of the couch and checked my phone. I’d said a quick little prayer as I walked Maura over that hopefully it was Viper and he’d cooled down and was going to come home so we could talk . . . but it wasn’t him.

Taylor: Hey! Sorry, I was in the shower. Sure! I can totally grab him. I don’t work until 6, so I can drop him off before then?

 

That’s perfect! Thanks so much!

 

Taylor: No problem! Feel better!

 

Not likely.

Taylor had no idea I was pregnant, and to be honest, I was nervous to tell her. She’d been so helpful with Matthew and Maura since her big brother’s death, and she supported my relationship with Viper completely, but having a baby with another man was an entirely different story. Unless I was going to be having a baby without that man.

My mind drifted back to Viper and my eyes welled up with tears at the thought of all the moments that wouldn’t happen the way I thought they would. Viper and his goofy smile when he saw his baby on the monitor for the first time during an ultrasound. Him rubbing my protruding belly and pampering me in a way that only Viper knew how. The look on his face as he watched his son or daughter enter the world . . . then cut the cord. And the moment I was looking forward to probably more than any other: the first time he fell asleep with our baby sleeping on his chest. In my head, I already knew where I was going to put that picture in the house, and now that picture might never even be taken.

I curled up in a ball and lay down, letting the tears flow freely down my cheeks and drop onto the couch until I fell asleep.

 

The doorbell rang over and over and over, pulling me straight out of a deep sleep. I sat up in a hurry, not really sure where I was or what time it was. I blinked hard and looked around the room, waiting for my eyes to focus and relay the information to my brain. Maura was still asleep on the couch, but the loud doorbell made her roll over and moan.

Maybe it’s Viper.

My heart sprang into my throat as I stood and hurried to the front door. I rounded the corner and tried not to look disappointed when I saw Matthew’s grinning face looking back at me through the glass. I wasn’t sad that it was him, but I was sad that it wasn’t Viper.

“Hey!” I greeted as I pulled the door back.

Without even a hello, Matthew sprinted past me toward the back of the house. My eyes followed him until he disappeared around the corner. “Wow. Hello to you, too.” I giggled and turned back to Taylor.

“I’m so sorry,” she rambled, shaking her head. “I tried to call and text, but you didn’t answer. I got called in to work early.”

“Oh my God. Taylor, I’m so sorry.” I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my palm. “I totally crashed on the couch with Maura and didn’t even hear my phone ring.”

“I called Viper, but he didn’t answer either.” She handed me Matthew’s coat and backpack.

“You called him?”