His eyes searched my face. “What are grown-up things?”

“It’s hard to explain . . . just stuff that adults have to deal with sometimes. I don’t want you to worry about that though, okay? You just keep being the great kid that you are and everything will be fine.” I leaned forward and gently kissed his forehead, letting my lips linger for a second.

His eyes fluttered open as I pulled back and I knew that he was tired. I ran my finger back and forth along both of his eyebrows and swirled it across his forehead. Within a couple of minutes, his breathing evened out and he was sound asleep. I kissed his soft cheek a couple times and nuzzled into him until our foreheads touched. Then Iwent back to sleep.

 

After I made mediocre pancakes, and Matthew complained that he wanted Viper’s again, I bundled the kids up and we headed outside. My energy level was still pretty wiped out, but thankfully Matthew and Maura were content making snow angels and throwing the snow up in the air while I sat on the big bench on my porch.

My cell phone rang from somewhere deep in my jacket pocket. It was Kacie.

“Hey!” I answered cheerfully.

“Hey yourself! How are ya?”

“I’m good. Well, at the moment I’m sitting outside while the kids play, trying not to freeze to death, but other than that I’m good. How about you?”

“Ugh. I’m good. It’s been one of those days though. Is it frowned upon to have wine at ten o’clock in the morning?”

I laughed out loud. “What happened?”

“What didn’t happen? Piper took one of Lucy’s shirts and tried to wear it to school, so I had them screaming at each other. Then Emma dumped her plate full of French toast and syrup on Diesel’s back.” She paused and let out a heavy sigh. “I’m just waiting for Grace’s head to spin in a circle or something.”

“Holy crap. Syrup on the dog? I would have given up right there.”

“Right? I was tempted. Anyway, how was your Thanksgiving? I wish you would’ve come over and spent it with us.”

“I know you do, and I love you for asking, but it actually turned out really nice. My neighbor ended up coming over and brought this whole feast with him.”

“Him?” Her tone raised in curiosity. “I thought we were talking about Jodi, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a penis.”

“No,” I said through a small giggle. “Remember I mentioned Joel before? The one with the son who moved in across the street?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, it was just him and Gavin for Thanksgiving, so we decided we might as well spend it together. I was planning on making grilled cheese, but he showed up with this huge Thanksgiving feast in a box. It was amazing.”

“Wow!” Kacie said incredulously. “That’s awesome. So . . . what’s the deal with this guy?”

I shrugged even though she couldn’t see me. “He’s just a neighbor. Nice guy.”

“Michelle. It’s me. Don’t lie.”

“I’m not lying!” I defended with a laugh. “I swear.”

“Is he cute?”

“I don’t know. Sure.”

The line was silent.

“Hello?” I asked slowly.

“I’m here. Just waiting for you to tell the truth.”

“You’re such a brat,” I grumbled. “Yes, he’s good-looking. Tall, broad shoulders, really dark hair, the craziest light blue eyes you’ve ever seen.”

“Hmm . . . interesting. Any feelings?”

“Feelings? I have nothing but feelings, Kacie. I’m heartbroken, I’m furious, I’m confused, I’m lonely. I have feelings coming out of every pore in my body, but none of those are for Joel. Tiny butterflies, maybe, but all of my feelings are stuck on someone else right now. And all of these hormones raging through my body aren’t helping.” I took a deep breath and stared at my babies running happily around the front yard as they threw snow at each other.

“I’m so sorry, Michelle,” Kacie said sadly. “I’m so fucking mad at him. I swear if I ever see him again, I might just kill him.”

“I might be okay with that.” I laughed. “All right, I’m gonna run and try and get these kids in the house. I’m not feeling so hot and I want to lie down.”

“What’s going on?” Her voice turned concerned.

“Nothing. I think I’m just dehydrated. I didn’t drink a lot yesterday, and now today I’ve been a little crampy.”

Kacie let out a heavy sigh. “Listen, I want you to call your doctor if anything doesn’t feel right, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Promise me,” she demanded.

“I promise,” I agreed.

“And if you call them and they want you to come in, you call me. Got it?”

“Yes, Mom,” I joked.

“I can’t help it. It’s the nurse in me.”

“Yeah, yeah. I love you for it. I’ll check in with you later, okay?”

“You won’t have a choice.” She laughed.

We got off the phone and I called Matthew and Maura into the house. They whined at first, but I promised hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and they came running.

 

A couple hours later, after a nap with the kids, my hands shook as I called Kacie back. “Hey, uh . . . can you come over? I’m gonna head in to the doctor.”

“Yes! Of course. What happened?” Her words were rigid and nervous.

“I took a nap with the kids and when I woke up and went to the bathroom, there was a little blood.”

“Oh, shit,” she mumbled under her breath. “Yes, I’m on the way. Be there in a while.”

Thankfully Taylor had the night off and rushed over to sit with the kids when I’d called.

“Keep me posted, okay?” She gave me a quick hug as I slipped my feet into my boots.

“I will. Thanks, Tay.” I squeezed her hand and was out the door.

On the way to my doctor’s office, I could tell Kacie was trying to keep my mind busy by talking about everything she could think of, but I barely listened as I stared out the window. If something was wrong, I had no idea how I would feel. Devastated about the baby, but that was a given. I would also never, ever be able to look at Viper again. Ever.