After a few seconds of silence, I glance at my phone to see if we’ve been cut off.
“Yes,” she chokes out.
“Are you crying?”
“You are. Why are you crying?”
“Gah … nothing. Hormones. And you said tell my dad ‘the good news,’ which means you think …”
“I think this baby is pretty damn good news.”
“I love you,” she murmurs.
I didn’t see this coming. In a little over three months, my life has transformed into this existence I never imagined. On my road to sobriety, there were many days I thought about ending everything. I thought Harrison would be better off without me. Sandy could raise him. My debts to this life would be paid.
And I wouldn’t have been a father to Harrison.
I wouldn’t have met Ellen Rodgers.
And I wouldn’t be getting a second chance to bring a child into this world and do it right.
I’m going to fucking. Do. It. Right.
Fifteen minutes might be a bit long to stand at the top of the stairs, biting my nails. This gives me flashbacks to my childhood. I’d hide in my room after doing something wrong and stew over it at the top of the stairs until I finally got the courage to make the walk of shame down to the living room to confess my sins.
I’m an adult.
I did nothing “wrong.”
I’m pregnant … with no husband … and no job. So what?
I chew my fingernails some more. This is a brand new habit for me. It’s rather disgusting, but I can’t stop.
“You’ve got this,” I whisper to myself as I take the first step toward eternal damnation. That might be a bit extreme, but I’ve never had the dear-daddy-I’m-pregnant speech. It’s terrifying, even at thirty-two.
“Just you … and me,” he says.
I grin as I look down at my dad in his recliner. “Did you just hear yourself? Four words, no stuttering. Barely a pause.”
“Yes,” he says with a resolute nod and a slight smirk stealing his expression.
“I’m not going to lie. I’ll miss Grandma and Grandpa, but I’m not going to miss Bungie.”
“You miss Fl-int?” He cringes at his slight stumble.
“So much. That’s what I need to talk to you about.” I take a deep breath and hold it until I just can’t hold it any longer. Here goes everything … “I’m pregnant.”
Two unruly eyebrows shoot up my dad’s forehead. I may have been wrong. Maybe he didn’t suspect anything more than the feeling that I had something to tell him.
“Go be with … him.”
I shake my head. “Not without you.”
He shakes his head. “M-my home is here.”
“I won’t leave without you. The speech this morning is blowing my mind, really. And your mobility is getting stronger every day. I think you will make a full recovery. I really do. But until then, I will not leave you.”
“No.” I hunch down in front of him, resting my hands on his knees. “It’s more than your health, Dad. I’m your only child, and I’m getting ready to have a baby. A baby, Dad.” I smile and it feels so good to not only want this life, but to know that it’s possible … I can hardly breathe.
“Your first grandchild…” I give him a sly grin “…except for your five grand rat babies.”
He shakes his head.
“I want you to be part of this. I don’t want to worry about not getting the shot to send you photos of first smiles and first steps. I want you to be there.” I squeeze his hand. “Mom would want you to be there too.”
After long moments of concerned looks and a few failed attempts at saying something that I know is just another argument, he gives me one slow nod. “A baby.”
I bite my lower lip as tears burn my eyes. “A baby,” I whisper.
“You took Harrison to New York City for New Years. Wherever did you get that brilliant idea?” Amanda asks when I arrive at the office.
“Technically, my parents took him. I sort of dropped everyone off.” I hang up my overcoat. “And I think my mouthy, occasionally useful secretary may have suggested it.”
“Dropped everyone off?” She swivels in her chair, eyeing me with suspicion as I take a seat at my desk.
I can’t put off the inevitable. “I’m going to tell you something. You’re going to nod once, turn around, and get to work. No questions. No suggestions. No I-told-you-so’s or anything like that. Okay?”
Her jaw unhinges as she gasps. It’s not the response I anticipated. Is she offended?
“Oh my god! You’re confessing to my brilliance. You’re getting ready to acknowledge that I’m more than just a hot piece of ass guarding your door. Swearing me to silence is just cruel. It’s like taking a child to an amusement park and telling them they can’t ride the rides. Just … cruel. So before I start my vow of silence, let me just say how proud I am of you for doing whatever it is you have done. And I’m here for you if you have any more questions for me.”
She draws in one more deep breath before continuing her theatrics. “And finally … I told you so.” With a twist of her wrist at her lips, she signals that her lips are locked.
I’m already regretting this. “Ellen and her father are moving here in one week.”
Amanda nods slowly, eyes squinted a bit.
“They will live at my house.”
Her eyes widen a fraction, lips twist to keep from speaking.
“Ellen is pregnant.”
Her eyes open even more. I’m not sure, but I think she’s holding her breath.
“With my child.”
Amanda’s hand flies to her mouth to muffle her scream. Her eyes are the size of saucers.
“Harrison doesn’t know yet. I need you to turn around and call the baker who made his birthday cake. Order six dozen cookies for me to pick up this afternoon.”
She’s in shock. I think.
Amanda blows out a quick breath.
“Now…” I wave my hand “…turn around. This conversation is over.”
For the remainder of the day she shoots me desperate looks, silently begging me to let her speak about the forbidden topic. I ignore her. On my way out, she grabs my wrist as I pass her desk.
I turn, peaking an eyebrow.
“Congratulations.” She gives me a heartfelt smile.
I feel every bit of her sincerity. “Thank you.”
I take the cookies home and put all six dozen on plates scattered around the kitchen before picking up Harrison from his friend’s house. When we walk through the back door, he stops so fast, I run into his back.
“Whoa! What is this?”
I step around him, shrugging off my coat. “Cookies.”
“Duh. Why?” He grabs one and shoves half of it in his mouth.
I shrug, taking one and shoving half of it into my mouth. He watches me with suspicion.
“Ellen’s moving back to Minneapolis.”
Harrison crams the rest of the cookie into his mouth while his gaze moves around the kitchen counter filled with plates of cookies. There’s a fifty-fifty chance of him piecing this together. But I think, as he meets my gaze, he’s figured it out.
“You want to have sex with her.” He makes another inspection of the sea of cookies. “I think you want to have a lot of sex with her.”
I laugh. He’s not entirely wrong.
“I’ve invited Ellen and her dad to come live with us.”
“She needs to help him, so she can’t leave him behind. And I want her here because …” I pause to think of which direction to take this first. “I love her.”
His head jerks back, brow furrowed. “You love her?”
“Yes. I do.”
After a few more seconds, the shock wears off and his face relaxes. “For how long?”
“Well, her dad will stay with us for as long as he needs help. I don’t know how long that will be.”
“She’s …” I have this child who takes everything at face value. If I say forever and anything happens, then I’m a liar. “Ellen is pregnant. You’re going to be a big brother.”
His head jerks back again. “Uh …” He laughs, picking up another cookie. “No thank you. Hayes’ mom just had a baby. He said it sucks. Everything is about the baby. They even expect him to help change diapers. And he said all the baby does is cry. Hayes has to use earplugs and a noise machine to sleep at night. The baby pukes milk everywhere, and Hayes can’t practice his trombone when the baby is sleeping.”
Kids share too much. I regret encouraging Harrison to make friends.
“I’m trying to be considerate about this. I know you don’t love change. But sometimes things happen in life that we don’t plan on, and we’re forced to adapt or accept them. I didn’t plan on raising you by myself, but it happened. I didn’t plan on falling in love with Ellen, but it happened. I didn’t plan on you wanting pet rats, but it happened.”