I finished up the dishes and stood back to survey my little apartment. There were still some of Caleb’s toys strewn about, but, other than that, the place was cleaner than it had been for a while. I would’ve been cleaning today anyway, as it was my day off, but I had extra motivation; Loralee was bringing Logan over. In the two months since he’d been born, this would be just the second time I’d gotten to see him.
“Knock knock,” Loralee said as she stepped into the hall, putting down Logan’s portable bassinet.
“Loralee! Did Mrs. Burgess let you in? You should’ve texted me. I’d have helped you with that.”
She smiled and pushed the bassinet into the living room. “No worries, I’ve got it.”
“How is the little man today?” I asked as I crossed over to them.
“A little fussy this morning, but he’s been an angel the rest of the day.”
I smiled and carefully lifted him up, inhaling that unique scent of baby. “He’s getting so big already.” I touched my nose to his, and he blinked his green eyes at me.
Loralee took a seat. “I know.” She laughed softly. “I think we’ve had this conversation before.”
I snorted softly. “This is kind of a reversal, isn’t it?” Of course, Loralee was doing it all right, where as I’d done everything the wrong way. She’d gotten married, planned things, had a kid with a loving, supportive man…I pushed away those self-destructive thoughts and played with one of Logan’s tiny hands. “It’s hard to believe Caleb used to be this little.”
I put Logan back into his bassinet just as the door to the stairs opened and Caleb bounded inside.
“Aunt Loralee!” He ran over in excitement and hugged her tight.
Loralee laughed softly. “I’m really your cousin, you know, Caleb.”
“It’s no use,” I said with a chuckle. “I’ve tried explaining it. Use your inside voice, honey. You don’t want to upset the baby.”
My son’s eyes got wide as saucers and he crept up to the bassinet. “Hi, Logan,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Do you remember me? I’m Caleb.”
I sat down next to Loralee, smiling tenderly at him. I almost wanted to give him a little brother or sister. Almost.
As if able to read my mind, Caleb turned back to us. “Mama, can you have a baby? It’d be really cool to be a big brother.”
“Oh, Caleb, I don’t think – “
“You can be Logan’s big brother,” Loralee said smoothly. “Everyone needs one of those, right?”
The little boy beamed. “Okay!” He glanced back at Logan and lowered his voice. “Okay. I can teach him to do stuff?”
Loralee nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Why don’t you go play in your room for a little while? I think Logan is ready for a nap.”
He poked out his lower lip like he was ready to pout but eventually just let out a humph and ran back to his room.
I laughed quietly. “Now we’ll definitely never get him to stop calling you ‘aunt.’”
The other woman let out a soft laugh. “Oh well. I’m aunt-like to him anyway.” She looked over at me with a glint in her eye. “Hmm so, speaking of making babies, is there anyone special, Nora?”
Wasn’t there a saying about happily married people wanting all their friends to be like them? “There’s only one special someone in my life – Caleb.”
“Nor, you know it’s great that you’re so focused on your career and your kid, but you don’t have to give up on dating because of one bad experience.” She smiled gently. “I can’t even imagine my life without Tommy in it. My life is better – I’m better – for having him around. And, as shitty as Kurt was, look what he gave you.”
“You know that I wouldn’t trade Caleb for anything. But some people just don’t get the happily ever after, Loralee. I don’t want to put myself out there again.” As much as I loved my cousin, she would never understand my perspective. Why would she? She was beautiful, and she’d met the man of her dreams on the playground. She’d never understand what it was like to be the ugly duckling that never turned into a swan.