We sat on the couch for a long time, and I told her everything. About how Viper had been acting since his injury, the phone call and his reaction to the news—every single depressing word. I was able to hold it together just enough to get the story out, even though my voice shook. She sat stunned, her mouth hanging open and her blue eyes as wide as I’d ever seen them.

“I don’t even know what to say,” she finally responded.

I exhaled loudly. “So . . . that’s why I called and asked you to get Matthew, because it had just happened and I was too upset to drive.”

She scooted closer to me and took my hand in hers. “You should have just told me then. Not only would I never judge you, I would’ve been here hours earlier to help.”

“I know that, but to be honest, I was nervous to tell you that I was pregnant, and I feel horrible about it now.”

“Why were you nervous?” she asked softly.

I shrugged. “I was married to your brother, made a life with your brother, had babies with your brother.”

“You were, but your relationship didn’t end because you or him stopped loving each other and gave up. He died. It’s horrible and sad, and I think about him every day, but he died. You didn’t. Life goes on, and you’re allowed to fall in love and make a new life that was just as great as the one you had with him.” She gave me a tight-lipped smile, then added, “And even though I’m not going to be blood related to this baby, you bet your ass I’m still going to be cool Auntie Tay and spoil the crap out of him or her.”

A small laugh broke through my sadness. “How is it that you’re younger than me, never been married, yet you seem to have it all figured out?”

“Ah.” She waved her hand and sat back against the couch. “My head is still in the clouds with Isaac, and I still want everyone to be in love all the time. I’m sure it’ll wear off eventually.”

“I sure hope not.” I looked across the room at the bookshelf in the corner that held dozens of picture frames and memories. Some of me, Viper, and the kids. Some of me, Mike, and the kids. Some of Viper and Mike. Hopefully I would be adding to that shelf, not taking pictures off of it.

“So . . .” Taylor said after a minute. “What are you going to do about Viper?”

I picked my water bottle off of the coffee table and took a long drink, trying to think about my answer. “I don’t know what to do,” I finally said as I screwed the cap back on. “The things he said and they way he said them—totally not okay. But I do love him, and I do want him to be here with me. I don’t know, Taylor. It feels like . . . he got on the plane for that road trip as one person but came back as someone totally different. And I miss that other guy, but I don’t know how to find him again.”

Taylor’s eyebrows lifted quickly. “Wow. That was . . . wow. You know him better than anyone though, Michelle. If there’s anyone that’s going to bring him out of this, it’s you.”

Part of me hoped that she was right . . . but not only did I not know how to bring him back, I wasn’t sure how much more rejection I could take.

 

 

Driving home from Michelle’s felt weird. Not only was I on pain meds and not supposed to be driving, I hadn’t been home to my house in a really long time. A couple of months, at least. When Michelle and I got serious, I’d started spending a night or two at her house a week, but over the last year that had gradually increased to every night. Since then, I only ran to the house to check on it maybe once every couple weeks or to grab something that I needed. All of my buddies gave me a hard time and told me to sell the house since I was never there, but for some reason I couldn’t. I liked having an escape hatch if need be. But turning into the driveway, opening the garage, and pulling my car in felt foreign.

I didn’t want to deal with my feelings or think about anything that had happened that day, so I went straight into my bedroom and never left.

 

The next morning I woke up to my knee throbbing. Michelle had texted to see if I wanted my pain meds, but like a stubborn douchebag, I’d said no. As I sat on the edge of my bed, I regretted not going to get them. I regretted a lot of things about the day before, actually. While I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole baby thing, my response to Michelle, and the things I’d said to her, wasn’t something I was proud of, nor could I take it back. I’d acted like a first-class asshole, and she’d had every right to tell me to leave . . . and slap me.

As I limped to my bathroom, I prayed that I had Advil or Tylenol in the cabinet; otherwise, I’d have to come up with plan B.

“Boom!” I called out when I pulled the mirror back and saw the bottle of pills. I tossed three in my mouth and swallowed them without any water, then went in search of food. I wandered aimlessly around my kitchen. It felt weird. Every piece of furniture, every appliance, every coaster in the house was mine, but I hadn’t walked around and actually looked at everything in so long, it felt like I was in someone else’s house.

I didn’t even bother opening the fridge because anything in there wouldn’t have been good anyway, and the pantry wasn’t much better. Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I checked the time to see if I could run and grab something to eat before my therapy appointment. I would only have enough time for food or a shower, and I chose the shower.

 

“Morning,” I said dryly as I walked past Gina, the receptionist at the physical therapy center. I propped my crutches up against the wall and climbed onto the exercise bike. I looked toward the ground and closed my eyes as I pedaled through the pain and stiffness in my knee.

“You’re five minutes early!” Sherman bellowed from across the room, making my head snap up. With his signature jolly grin plastered to his face, he crossed the room toward me and I shook my head with a laugh. He had on a bright orange Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts with white socks pulled up to his calves.

“Sherman, these outfits of yours. Let’s just say you’d lose terribly at hide and seek.” I sat back and wiped the sweat from my brow.

He paused and put both hands on his hips, striking a pose. “I know, don’t I look fabulous?”

A couple women a few stations over laughed. “You always look fabulous, Sherman!” one of them called out.