“So, what are your plans for today?” Mama asked, looking across the breakfast table at me and Luc.
“Alison texted me last night and said she was going to come over today.” Between my school, Tommy, and work and Alison’s own classes, I hadn’t seen much of her in the past couple of months.
Mom smiled. “That’s great. I hope she’s having fun with her courses.”
“I don’t think she’s as huge of a nerd as Luc is,” I said with a grin over towards my brother. He just rolled his eyes at me.
To be honest, I was a little surprised Alison was coming over. Lately when we did talk, we mostly kept the subject to me or her classes. I’d actually gotten the feeling that she was keeping something from me. Occasionally, I’d ask if she was seeing anyone – she really needed a man, I thought – and she’d immediately get all weird and change the subject. Maybe she had a secret man, but why she’d feel the need to hide such a thing from me, I have no idea.
“When is she coming?” Luc asked suddenly. He looked over at me with a closed expression on his face.
I looked sideways over at him and shrugged. “Sometime around noon maybe?” For a while, he and Alison had been spending a lot of time together. I’d even started to wonder if they’d start going out, but then she’d started college and stopped hanging out quite as much. Did Luc have feelings for her still? Had he ever?
Luc didn’t say anything else. He just got up and went into the kitchen to wash his breakfast plate.
Mom opened her mouth but then shut it as her phone started going off. “Sorry, it’s Hadley,” she said, putting the phone to her ear. From my seat, I could just make out the sound of Aunt Hadley’s voice, though not what was being said. Mom’s eyes widened and she got up from the table. “Okay. Okay. I’ll meet you there. Just let me get dressed. Yeah. No, if you get there first just wait outside my office. Yeah. See you in a bit.” She hung up, a very concerned look on her face.
Mama and I both frowned at her. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll tell you everything when I get home. No one’s hurt or dying,” Mom rushed to assure us. “I’ve got to get moving; I promise I’ll tell you everything I know when I get home.”
I frowned deeply as she ran up the stairs. “You think Aunt Hadley is alright?”
Mama looked towards the stairs, her brow furrowed. Finally, she looked back at me and her expression cleared, though her eyes still revealed that she was worried. “I’m sure everyone is fine.” She forced a smile. “Maybe Hadley is pregnant again. Wouldn’t that throw everyone for a loop.”
“I guess so…” I got up and cleaned up the remaining dishes. I hoped nobody was sick or hurt or anything. I couldn’t help but think back a few months to my own trip to Mom’s office. Could Nora…? I almost snorted. I knew she’d been – rather shockingly – seeing a guy for a month or so a little while ago, but the idea of Nora getting herself knocked up was pretty preposterous.
To distract myself from my worried curiosity, I settled down on the couch to read Dust to Dust. Typically, I wasn’t super into reading – not like Nora and Luc were – but Nora got Luc to read it last summer. Then he got Mom and Mama both to read it. With all of them bugging me, I couldn’t very well hold out any longer. And, though I liked to joke that I’d like it better as a movie, I secretly was devouring the story.
As I’d hoped, I soon forgot all about Mom’s curious phone call and fell into the world of the Ainsworth’s. “Oh, my Watcher, Lucas, you beautiful moron. Don’t you do it,” I exclaimed to myself. He couldn’t possibly…
The doorbell rang.
Reluctantly, I marked my spot – just when it was getting really dramatic! – and put the book down. I went to the door and couldn’t help but smile when I saw Alison on the other side.
“Long time no see,” I said as I let her in.
She smiled broadly and gave me a hug. “I know, right?”
I pulled her down to sit on the couch. “Okay, so, you’ll never believe – “
“I’m dating Josh,” Alison blurted.
Everything I was about to say flew out of my head. I stared at Alison. “Wait, what? You’re whatting who?”
She beamed at me. “Josh and I started dating a while ago. I’ve been wanting to tell you but we both really wanted to keep our relationship private for a while. We haven’t even told Hadley or my mom yet.”
“Oh, my Watcher, Alison, that’s amazing. But I don’t understand. How did this happen?” I was thrilled that Josh and Alison were together – I’d always been secretly (maybe not so secretly) shipping them – but I felt like I was missing some key information. “You have to tell me everything.”
“Okay, well, when Dad died…” She trailed off for a brief moment, her eyes growing solemn. She shook her head, the darkness clearing from her expression. “Anyway, when Dad died, Josh was there for me. And, I don’t know, it just sort of clicked in me. Josh had always been there. He’s my person. I actually brought it up to him that night, but he made me wait a month before he’d consider us having a relationship.” She smiled softly. “It was probably a good idea. But, yeah, now we’re together.”
“Wow.” I stared at her wide-eyed. “I mean…wow.” Okay, Lor, say something else. “Hold on, doesn’t he live like right next to his ex?” Technically even in the same house, since it was a duplex.
Alison winced. “Oh, yeah. It’s pretty awkward. He’s started looking for a new place. I’ve told him he’s not going to really find anything as nice as where he’s living – not in Willow Creek’s current housing market – but he wants to move.”
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Look at you throwing out that grown up phrase – housing market.”
She snorted and rolled her eyes. “I’ve looked at enough places with him to be able to feel at least slightly knowledgeable. I never would’ve guessed how hard it is to find an affordable place to live these days. There’s tons of offers for places in Oasis Springs, but that’s way out of the question.”
“Newcrest is always an option.” Not all of this town was for the wealthy.
“He’s looked into it, but he wants to stay in Willow Creek, which is good for me.”
“What’s good for you?” Luc asked as he came around from the other end of the house. He smiled and walked over to sit on the couch. “It’s really good to see you, Alison.”
She smiled back at him. “You, too. I was going to come and find you in a few minutes. But I was telling Loralee about how Josh is looking for a new place. It’s kind of awkward for him living next to his ex.”
“Oh, yeah, I heard he and Maggie broke up. Shame. I met her a couple of times and she seemed nice.”
“It’s not such a shame. That’s actually why I came over today. Josh and I are seeing each other now.”
Luc’s eyes widened. “Oh.” For a heartbeat, I thought he might be upset. I saw something flash across his face in the space of half a second, then it was gone, replaced with a smile. “That’s great, Alison. I’m really happy for you.”
She beamed. “Thanks, Luc. Watcher, I’ve missed you guys. I’ve just been so busy with Josh and classes and everything.”
I nodded sympathetically. “Ugh, I know. You won’t believe what happened last week…”
Alison stayed for a few hours. About halfway through, Luc excused himself to go do something, so I was finally able to get the real juicy details from Alison. I was going to have to live vicariously through her until I graduated; I was determined to remain true to the promise I’d given Mom and Mama.
I was just about to pick up my book again when Mom got home. I looked over at her and couldn’t help but notice that she definitely looked off. “Mom? What happened at the hospital?”
Mom sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose before sitting down on the couch. “Nora is pregnant.”
“No.” Nora? Shy, bookish Nora couldn’t possibly be pregnant. “You’re joking,” I said in disbelief.
She sighed again, shutting her eyes. “I did the test myself. She is definitely pregnant.”
“Oh, Watcher,” I said softly. I couldn’t believe it. Just a few months ago, I’d been absolutely terrified when I thought I might be pregnant, and now Nora actually was. Of the two of us, even I had to admit that I was far more likely to be a teenage mother than Nora. “Is she okay?”
“Physically, yes, but emotionally I think she’s a wreck.”
I could imagine. She probably was mortified by the whole experience – I certainly had been. She probably felt guilty, too. I know I would’ve felt extremely guilty if I’d brought a kid into the house that my parents would have to help me take care of so I could finish school.
“I should go over there.” Nora would absolutely need a friend right now. We’d always been friends, but we’d never been close. The age difference was just enough that it’d been a little difficult when we were younger to be really close friends. We’d just begun to reach the age where it was less of a barrier, but I’d been so busy with my own stuff that I’d never felt compelled to reach out and get closer to my cousin. But she was my friend, and she was family; I should be there for her.
Mom smiled gently at me. “I’m glad you want to be supportive, but I think you should wait until tomorrow.”
“I guess that I can.” It was probably a good idea anyway. “Man, I seriously just can’t believe this.”
“Believe me, I know.” Mom got to her feet. “You better not have sex ever again. Or, like, until you’re thirty.” We shared a couple of weak smiles. “I’m going to go tell Camille, I guess.”
Mom walked away, and I picked up my book, turning it over in my hands, Nora swirling through my thoughts. Oh man, I thought suddenly, Josh is going to kill the guy that knocked her up. I wasn’t sure if I didn’t want to see that confrontation or sell tickets to it.