“Hads, if you’re going to ralph, do it in the trash can.”
I looked up from my untouched breakfast. Shirley was leaning back in her seat like she was expecting something to come towards her. “What?”
“You look like you’re about to puke. Actually, you always kind of look perpetually green lately. Are you sick?”
“No, I feel fine.” A rolling sensation in my stomach told me that was a lie. “Well, just not in the mornings. I’ll feel better in an hour or two.”
One of Shirley’s brows arched up. “Sick in the mornings, you say?”
“Yeah, why…” I trailed off as what she was implying clicked into place. I’d been sick almost every morning for a couple of weeks now. I can’t be pregnant! We’re always safe. Except…One night there was an accident. We were safe but the protection failed. “Oh my Watcher.” I braced my elbows on the table and put my head in my hands, on the verge of hyperventilating. How could this have happened? It was bad enough that I was seeing a married man. Now I was having his baby!
“Hadley, what is it? If you’re pregnant, isn’t that a good thing? You’ve been wanting one for forever now.”
I laughed in harsh rasps as I started to cry. “I messed up, Shirley. Oh Watcher, everything is so wrong.”
In alarm, Shirley got up and knelt next to me, her delicate hand gripping my arm tight. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“He’s married,” I sniffed. “He told me a while ago, but I’ve been so in love with him I just…But now I’m pregnant! What am I going to do?”
Shirley was quiet for a moment. “First,” she said in a calm voice, “I’m going to run to the drugstore and get a pregnancy test. We’ll find out if you’re really pregnant. Then, if you are, you’re going to talk to Houston and give him two options. Either you’re going to leave him, or he has to leave his wife.”
I grabbed a napkin and wiped at my face. “I can’t ask him to do that.”
“If you’re carrying his baby, you damned well can. I feel really sorry for his wife, and I think what you did was wrong, but it’s too late for me to yell at you over it. You have to think about what would be best for your child. It needs to either have a full time father, or it needs a bad influence out of its life. Either way, it needs a stable home, right?”
I forced myself to take deep, calming breaths. “You’re right. Crying about it isn’t going to help.” I looked over at Shirley with watery eyes. “I’m so sorry. I knew how wrong it was to see him, but…”
“Stop.” She looked away, her eyes pained. “People do stupid things when they’re in love.” She stood up and hugged me. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
I sat there for a few minutes before I forced myself into action. I cleaned my face up at the sink and then put the leftovers in the fridge. I cleaned all the dishes and threw out anything that wasn’t good in the fridge. When I was finally out of busy work, I just stood at the counter, my mind churning.
A baby. Could I really be having one? Despite the awful circumstances, I felt joy blooming in my chest and a smile split my face. A baby. My very own baby. A boy or a girl, it didn’t matter to me. Whatever happened, whether I would be Houston’s wife or a single mother, I was going to love this child more than I’ve ever loved anything.
When Shirley returned with a little plastic bag, I went up to the bathroom. The three minutes it took to wait for the results were an eternity, but I forced myself to wait the required amount of time. Finally, I picked up the stick and looked at it. A little pink plus sign. I was pregnant.
I wanted to call Houston right away, but I decided to wait to tell him until the next evening when he was coming over. When he arrived, my hands were shaking I was so nervous.
“Is something wrong?”
It was now or never. “Houston, I need to talk to you.” I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat. “I’m pregnant.”
“You’re – you’re pregnant?” Was that excitement or anger in his voice?
I nodded my head. “Yes. I took a test; I’m definitely pregnant.”
In a rush, he drew me into his arms. “Sweetie, that’s fantastic!” He hugged me tight and I could feel his grin against my hair.
I looked up at him, my relief so sharp it brought tears back to my eyes. “Really? You’re not upset?”
“Watcher no! This is amazing news.”
I smiled and buried my face in his chest. “I am so glad you think so.” After a minute, I forced myself to pull back. “But there’s more. When it was just me, I could live with our arrangement, but this changes things.” After a steadying breath, I continued, “I’m sure your wife is a great person, but you’re going to have a family now. I need you to be here, all the time.”
“You’re asking me to leave Kelsey.” He said the words slowly, as if measuring them for their correctness.
“Yes, I am. Our baby needs more than a part-time dad.”
He reached out and stroked my hair back. “I love you, Hadley Hines.” He smiled softly. “I want you to be my wife. I’ll divorce Kelsey.”
All of the strength I had been shoring up evaporated and I collapsed into his arms with relief. “I love you, too, Houston. I want us to be a family.”
“We will be. We’ll be a perfect family.”
I stood at the top of the stairs, listening to my sister and her boyfriend – fiancé? – talk. I hadn’t meant to eavesdrop; I’d been going to the kitchen when I heard them. As they sat and talked about their family, even tossing around girl and boy names, I realized something. This was Hadley’s home, not mine. I had grown up here, but she was the one who inherited it from our parents. She was the one who was going to fill it with children. There wasn’t space here for a spinster aunt.
After the baby was born, I would talk to her about it. She wouldn’t want me to go – would, in fact, probably argue valiantly against my moving out. But I needed to do it. I had been relying on her more than ever after my break-up with Camille. It was time for me to move out and stand on my own two feet.