“Oh.” She nodded and tilted her head to the side. “It was accidental? What, did you just forget her phone number and address? I hate when that happens.” Her tone was sarcastic and condescending, and I deserved every bit of it.

“I know you’re mad at me—”

“I’m not mad at you,” she interrupted. “I actually want to thank you.”

“Thank me?” I said skeptically.

“Yeah, for showing her what a true asshole you are now instead of five years from now,” she snarled coldly. “But don’t worry about her. She doesn’t need you anymore.”

I dropped my eyes to the table and didn’t respond. Everything she said was true and I deserved to hear it.

“I’ve been taking care of her. Joel’s been taking care of her. You’re not needed anymore,” she said one more time.

“Kacie, that’s enough,” Brody warned, taking a couple steps toward the table.

“Joel?” I kept my head down toward the table but peered up at her.

“Yeah. The neighbor across the street. He’s shoveled her driveway, taken Matthew when she needed a break. They even spent Thanksgiving together.”

My stomach rolled and I thought I might puke. I licked my lips and tried to take a slow, steady breath in through my nose.

“Some other man will be holding your girl’s hand and carrying your kids through the park . . .” Sherman’s words from earlier that day suddenly had a very different meaning.

“Do you know where I was yesterday?” Kacie came back again.

I shook my head.

Kacie raised one eyebrow. “I was at the doctor, with her. She was bleeding, so they told her to come in.”

I had many emotions running throughout my whole body, but when Kacie said that Michelle had been bleeding, ice ran through my veins and froze out everything else. “Is she okay?”

“Yep, she’s fine . . . thank God.” Kacie opened her purse and slid a black and white picture across the table so angrily it bounced off my chest. “So is your son.”

Brody marched over to the table. “Okay, that’s enough. You clearly need to go up to bed and sleep this off.” He gently took Kacie by the arm and lifted her.

“I’m not going to bed, it’s not even eight o’clock yet,” she argued.

“I know, but let’s just close our eyes and sleep all this anger off, okay?” Brody said. “I’ll be back, Viper.”

I heard their muffled voices arguing all the way up the stairs, but I didn’t give two shits what they were saying. I stared down at the grainy black and white photo of a silhouette . . . of my son. My son. My hand shook as I brought the picture closer to my face, desperately wanting to see it better. Suddenly, in that moment, sitting at Brody and Kacie’s kitchen table . . . I was furious.

Furious at myself for acting like a selfish prick after I’d gotten hurt.

Furious at myself for blowing up at Michelle when I’d found out she was pregnant.

Furious at myself for not telling her about Kat.

Furious at myself for not calling her sooner.

Furious at myself for not going up to her door Thanksgiving morning.

Furious at myself for not being there when she’d been bleeding and scared.

But most of all, furious at myself for not being in that room with her when she’d heard the news that we were having a son.

I stared down at that picture of my son. “I’m so sorry,” I said as my eyes stung. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for your mom and your brother and sister. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.” I blinked back a tear, got up, and left Brody’s house without saying a word . . . and I took the picture of my son with me.

 

 

“But, Momma, I don’t understand. We just had turkey and now we’re singing Christmas songs,” Matthew complained as I stuck the comb under water and brushed it through his hair, trying to calm his crazy bedhead.

“I know, buddy. It’s hard to explain. Your school goes on break for a month, so they have to have your show kinda early, but Christmas still isn’t for a couple of weeks. And they’re holiday songs, not Christmas songs, remember?” I kissed the side of his head as I took him off the counter and set him on the floor. “Go find somewhere to sit completely still, please. I’ll be ready in just a minute.”

I threw on my stretchy jeans, boots, and oversized red sweater and looked at myself in the mirror. “How is it that my belly seems to have doubled in size overnight?” I said out loud with a sigh.

“Your tummy is big, Momma!”

I jumped and turned around. Matthew stood in the doorway with a big smile on his face. “You scared me, you little monster!” I reached out and pulled him to my side.

He raised his hand and set it on my stomach. “What’s in there anyway?”

Matthew was a smart kid. He’d asked a couple of times about my growing tummy and I’d been able to change the subject and avoid his answer, but with Maura down for her morning nap and him and I alone, it just felt like the right time.

“Come with me, honey.” I took his hand and we walked out to my room. I sat on the chair in the corner and pulled him onto my lap. “Okay, you wanna know why mommy’s tummy is getting big?”

He looked up at me and nodded.

“It’s because there’s a baby growing in there.”

His eyes bulged and he leaned back and stared down at my stomach. “There is?”

“Mmhmm.” I nodded. “And do you know what else? That baby is a little boy. You’re going to have a baby brother.”

He let out a tiny gasp. “I was gonna ask Santa for a brother!”

My heart overflowed. I knew that he’d probably just made that up, but I didn’t even care. “You were?”

He nodded. “When does he come out?”

“Not for a while yet. He’s gotta grow big and healthy first.”

“Okay,” he said, sounding a little sad.

“I know it’s hard to wait, but it’ll be worth it. I promise. Now, go sit and wait for me. I just have to brush my teeth, grab Maura, and we’ll leave for your party.”

He hopped off my lap and headed toward the door as I walked to the bathroom.

“Hey, Momma?” he called back.