“I don’t believe that for a minute.”

“Believe what you want. I don’t know who I am anymore and I’m trying to figure it the fuck out the best way I know how.”

Her head jerked back in surprise. “By ignoring your family? That’s the best way?”

“I don’t know what to do!” I yelled and threw my hands in the air as I stood and paced the room. “I don’t know that I even want a kid. I wasn’t even given the choice. What if I’m a bad dad? What if this kid doesn’t like me? What if I never play hockey again and can’t support it? What if I can play hockey again but my team doesn’t need me anymore? These questions, plus a million others, buzz around my head all fucking day long until I can’t see straight anymore, so I check out. I ignore everything and everyone until I figure out how to deal with all of this shit.”

Gam took a slow, deep breath and tilted her head to the side. “I know there has been a lot of change for you in a very short period of time, but running away isn’t going to fix it. It’s only going to make it worse.”

“I’m not running away, I’m just thinking,” I defended.

“Same thing,” she said in a gentle, but stern tone. “If you want to solve your problems, you need to turn toward them, not away.”

Gam wasn’t the first person who’d said something like that to me. “I know,” I said with a sigh. “Look, I’ll come back later if you want to yell at me more, but I have therapy at ten thirty and I gotta get going.”

“I don’t want to yell at you, Lawrence, but I do want to shake the hell out of you and wake you up. If you don’t think fast, you’re going to lose your lid.”

I frowned at her. “My lid?”

“Yes, my mother used to say that every pot—”

“Has a lid,” I finished the sentence for her with an eye roll. “I remember you saying that now. You used to say it all the time when I was little.”

“I said it to Michelle yesterday, and she loved it.”

My gaze dropped to the ground and I rubbed my cheek with my hand. “How is she anyway?” I asked nonchalantly. “Like, I mean, how did she look? Okay?”

“I should tell you that she was sad and heartbroken and had dark circles under her eyes and cried all morning, but you know what . . . she looked radiant. Her hair looked shiny, her eyes were sparkling, and her skin absolutely glowed. Pregnancy looks amazing on her. And of course, she has a little baby bump.”

My eyes shot up to hers. “She does?”

Gam nodded with a small smile. “It’s still pretty tiny, but it’s there. Cutest little belly I’ve ever seen.”

The thought of Michelle happily rubbing her pregnant belly popped into my head, and my heart started racing. My throat felt like it was closing and my fingers started to tingle again. “Okay, I gotta run. I’ll call you later.” My stomach twisted and turned as I walked to the front door an opened it, gulping in as much fresh air as I could all at once.

“Think about what I said,” Gam called out.

I gave her a quick wave and hurried out the door to my car. Once I sat down, I gripped the steering wheel tight in my hands and tried to breathe slow so that I didn’t pass out.

After a few seconds, everything calmed down and I felt like myself again, but instead of heading to therapy, I rescheduled my appointment with Sherman and headed back home.

The third week of November rolled around, officially marking one month since Viper and I had spoken face to face. With every day that passed, I lost a little more hope and anger grew in its place.

Gam and I talked regularly and every time we did, she asked me to keep holding on, but what was I holding on to?

Fantasies? Dreams? Fairytales?

Those didn’t exist to me anymore.

Gam would tell me what Viper was up to and that he’d asked about me and the kids, but it only irritated me. I wasn’t in junior high and I didn’t like Gam being the middleman, so eventually, I asked her not to talk about him anymore. Until, and if ever, he grew up.

“This was so silly,” I said to Kacie as we pulled out of the parking lot at my doctor’s office.

“No it wasn’t,” Kacie disagreed as she buckled her seatbelt. “I haven’t been to a baby doctor in a long time. I missed the smell.”

“The smell?” I shot her a quick glance out of the corner of my eye and shook my head. “You’re so weird.”

“Shut up!” she squealed in a high-pitched voice. “I am not.”

“Uh . . . if you miss the smell of the OB’s office? Yes, that makes you weird. Do you miss peeing in a cup, too?”

“Ugh. I’ve peed in enough cups to last me a lifetime. Wait, where are you going?” she asked as I turned the car to the right.

“I’m celebrating the fact that I only gained four pounds this month with a milkshake.” I let out a quick giggle. “Want one?”

“Hell yes! Chocolate, please. This might be the first milkshake in my whole life that I haven’t had to share with any kids. No joke.” She laughed as I pulled up to the window.

“In that case,”—I turned toward the speaker—“can I get two extra-large chocolate shakes, please? With extra whipped cream?”

Kacie let out an exaggerated sigh. “I just love you. Here, my treat.”

“Get outta here.” I pushed her hand away as she tried to hand me money. “Buying you a damn milkshake is the least I can do for you going with me today.”

“Seriously, it’s my pleasure. While I don’t exactly miss being pregnant, I loved my baby appointments, looked forward to them all month long.”

I looked over and gave her a tight smile. “They are kinda fun.”

“And . . . in like eight weeks, you get to find out what you’re having.”

“Thank you,” I said as I took the shakes from the worker and handed them to Kacie. “I totally forgot about that. I haven’t even decided if I want to find out.”

Kacie turned to me with wide eyes and a frozen expression.

“What?” I asked defensively. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Cause Auntie Kacie wants to find out so she can go shopping. If you don’t want to know, look away, but I am all over that.”

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