“Well that’s good to hear.” I sat down on the chair next to her and closed my eyes, taking a deep, cleansing breath. Gam’s big ole covered porch was one of my favorite places in the whole world. It was full of brightly painted birdhouses and comfy wicker furniture that was just begging to be napped in. Bushes along the front and side provided privacy for you to see out but not many to see in. It was heaven.

“You look tired, honey.”

I lifted my head and opened my eyes. “I am tired. Life has turned into a caveman and he’s dragging me around by the hair.”

“Well, why don’t you fill me in since no one seems to want to.” Gam reached under the couch and pulled out a small container of Maura’s favorite toys. Her eyes lit up and she squirmed to get down, quickly spreading all of the little Disney figurines out on the coffee table.

“What do you mean?” I played dumb.

Gam shook her head. “I’m not dumb.”

Busted.

She continued, “Viper has been weird and avoiding me. You haven’t been around as much. Something is going on and I want to know what it is.”

“I thought he would have told you by now.”

“Told me what?” Her voice lowered and her eyes grew big.

“Well, I don’t really know. I’m not sure what to tell. After his surgery he started acting really weird, pulling away from me and not talking to me. I knew that the injury was a lot for him to handle, so I just kinda dealt with it.”

Gam’s eyes softened in sadness and I had to look down at Maura as I told her the rest of the story.

When I was finished, she licked her lips and pinched them together, but she didn’t say anything for at least a whole minute. That minute felt more like a year. She stared down at the coffee table and let her eyes drift over to Maura, but they never lifted to mine. I sat quietly, listening to the sound of blood rushing through my ears, and waited. Eventually, she swallowed and lifted her gaze to me.

She placed her hands over Maura’s ears and shook her head. “I’m so mad at that fucking boy right now I could kick the shit out of him.” Letting go of Maura, she patted the couch next to her for me to come over. Without saying anything, I slid next to her. She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and squeezed me tight as she pulled me close and kissed my temple. “Sweetheart, I’m so, so sorry he’s done this to you.”

Somewhere between the kiss on the head and her comforting words, tears filled my eyes and began to drip onto my pants.

She didn’t let go of my shoulders, but she continued talking. “I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this alone for as long as you have. Please promise me you won’t deal with it alone anymore.”

I nodded and sniffed back more tears. “I promise, I’ve been okay. I talk to Kacie a lot, and she’s going to go to all of my doctor appointments with me. I’ll be fine.”

“I know you will. Michelle,”—she turned to face me and took my hand in hers, looking me straight in the eye—“I’m not lying when I say this. I can’t think of one woman on this planet who is stronger than you. You have been through so much already, and I know you can handle whatever life throws at you.”

I pressed my lips into a tight smile and dropped my eyes. “Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.”

“And I’m also going to add that even if that brat doesn’t want to be part of this baby’s life, his or her great-grandma sure does. I love my grandson like he’s my own, but that doesn’t mean I have to like his behavior.”

Letting out a heavy sigh, I shook my head. “I don’t want that, Gam. I don’t want you guys to fight or not have a relationship because of this. I’m glad you want to be part of the baby’s life and I’ll gladly accept, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have Viper in yours.”

“We’ll see about that,” she said. It sounded more like a warning than a statement. “But I just want to say this one last thing—If you never want to speak to him again, I support that, but if there’s even a teeny, tiny part of you that still loves him, give it a little more time. There are few human beings on this planet more stubborn than that boy, but when he loves, he loves hard. And he loves you. He loves you in a way that I’ve never seen him love anyone before. Love like that doesn’t just go away in a couple of weeks.”

Gam’s words filled me with hope. She knew Viper better than anyone, and if she believed there might still be a chance, I owed it to myself, Viper, Matthew, Maura, and the bean in my belly to hang on just a little longer, too.

Maura swung her head up to Gam. “Juice box?”

“You want a juice box, Little Mo?”

Her head nodded excitedly and her eyes sparkled.

“Well, all right then. Let’s get Maura a juice box and her momma some food.” Gam smiled at me and took mine and Maura’s hands in each of her own as we walked into the house.

 

Kat was in the kitchen sweeping the floor when we walked in. When she looked up and noticed us, her dark red lips spread into a wide, tight smile.

“Hi,” I said cheerfully.

“Hi. Can I get you guys anything?” She looked back and forth from me to Gam.

“Nah, that’s okay. I just want to make this sweet girl here some food. She’s eating for two now,” Gam said proudly as she pointed at me and made her way over to the fridge.

Kat’s dark eyes opened wide and traveled down to my belly. “You’re pregnant?”

I nodded. “I am.”

“Wow, congratulations!” Kat said warmly.

“Thanks.” It felt nice to be congratulated without having to explain to someone where Viper was or what was going on with us.

“Okay, what are you in the mood for? I have just about everything, literally.” Gam turned from the fridge to face me.

“I don’t know.” I shrugged as I sat down in a kitchen chair and pulled Maura up onto my lap. “Anything. I’m starving.”

Gam started pulling containers out of the fridge and dumping things on plates as I dropped my head toward Maura, who was babbling and chewing on my necklace. I brushed her thin little baby hairs off of her forehead and pressed my lips against it. She still smelled like her strawberry soap from the night before, and I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. My mind wandered to the thought of her being a big sister. Matthew was such an amazing big brother from day one and never jealous, but Maura was definitely a little more of a spitfire. It was still months away, but I couldn’t wait to see her face when she saw the baby for the first time.