I hummed softly as I took the cobbler out of the oven. The warm, sweet smell of blackberries became even stronger in the kitchen. I sighed happily and set the dish down on a cooling rack. I could hardly wait to have some in a few hours after dinner.
With a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmm.
I was tempted to dig into it now – there were few things better than fresh cobbler – but I was trying to lose the baby weight. Dessert was my treat at the end of the day if I exercised like I was supposed to. Since I’d taken a nice long swim today, I was very much looking forward to the evening.
Since Jasper was still snoozing quietly according to the baby monitor, I got started on dinner. In about an hour, Tommy would be home with Logan. Though I was on maternity leave, Logan still went to daycare for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He loved it there, his friends and the caregivers, and, as dearly as I loved him, it was nice to have a little break sometimes. Not that there was much relaxing to be done with a newborn in the house.
I was still cutting vegetables when my phone chimed twice. I put my knife down and picked up my phone to find two texts from Nora.
I smiled and went around to the entryway to see Nora at the door. I wanted to hug the stuffing out of her just for not ringing the doorbell!
“This is a surprise,” I said, letting her inside.
Nora grinned broadly and pulled me into a hug so tight it nearly squeezed the breath right out of me. “I know. Sorry. I meant to call, but I forgot.”
I laughed and stepped back to look at her. “You’re in a very good mood! What’s up with you?”
She grinned and grabbed my arms. “I’m getting married!”
My jaw smacked into the floor as it dropped. “Parker proposed?! Was it at Granite Falls?” I could only imagine how beautiful that must’ve been.
She went into the living room and dropped down onto the couch. “Yes.” Sadness then flickered in her eyes and dimmed her glowing smile. “But I totally ruined that one, so he proposed again at his house.”
Rather than delve into what happened the first time – no doubt, knowing Nora, she’d dwelled on that enough – I laughed and shook my head. “You made the poor man propose twice?”
“I guess I did.” The brightness of her smile returned in full force. “The first one was very romantic, too. We found a waterfall – I think he already knew about it – and, Loralee, it was so beautiful.”
“It sounds so nice,” I sighed. Immediately, my mind drifted back to the night Tommy asked me to marry him. It would always be the most magical night of my life.
“It was,” she agreed, a soft look on her face.
“I’m so happy for you,” I told her with gentle seriousness. “There was a long time where I was afraid you’d never be happy like this.”
The woman seated next to me was nothing at all like the terrified and insecure teenager she’d been ten years ago. For so long, I’d done my best to support her and build her up. But Parker had swooped in to give her the last push that I never could’ve.
“Me too.” Nora looked out of the window, eyes far away. “It’s amazing how much can change in a decade.”
“I wish I could go back and tell sixteen-year-old you how everything changes.”
She laughed softly. “Ditto. But you know I never would’ve believed it. Before I met him, I really thought there was something wrong with me, that it was just impossible for me to be loved. I thought I’d never be normal.”
“Normal is overrated,” I said, even though I knew full well that I was a shining example of normalcy.
My cousin seemed to think similarly. She let out a snort. “You’re one to talk, Mrs. Smithson.”
I stuck my tongue out at her. “That’s Ms. Thoreau.”
With a wail from the baby monitor, Jasper interrupted our banter. I got up and headed towards the nursery. Behind me, Nora did the same.
“You don’t have to tag along; he probably just needs a diaper change.”
Nora smiled as the two of us walked into the room. “I don’t mind. I want to see the little guy, too, you know. What? Did you think I came all the way to Oasis Springs just to see you?”
Normally, diaper changing was, at best, an unpleasant task, but, thanks to that crack from Nora, I was chuckling the whole time.
“Isn’t Auntie Nora silly?” I said to Jasper after he was changed and had calmed down. After Logan had also ended up calling Nora “aunt,” we’d decided to just give up on discouraging any of the kids from it. We were more like sisters than cousins.
I handed the month-old baby off to Nora, then took a seat. “Jasper might have a new friend next year,” I teased.
Nora looked over at me, eyes wide with innocence. “Why? Are you and Tommy planning to go for number three already?”
“Ha!” We’d yet to come to a final decision, but we were both leaning towards being perfectly happy with our two boys. The V-word had even entered into discussion. “Don’t you think you and Parker will want one of your own?”
“We might,” Nora said with a shrug. She settled Jasper into his crib and sat down next to me. “I could go either way, really.”
“Have you talked about it with him?”
The redhead nodded. “Yeah, of course. We’re both happy to postpone a decision on it until after the wedding.”
“But does he want kids of his own?” I persisted. She and I both knew very well how disagreeing on something like that could drive a wedge between couples.
“It’s complicated for him. I think I told you some about what happened in Sunset Valley?” I nodded. “So, yeah. It’s a sensitive subject for Parker. But, like I said, I could really go either way. I’d be happy to just have Caleb, or I could have another one. Whatever Parker wants, I’ll be happy.”
She smiled suddenly. “Right now, we’re both going to focus on the wedding. I never thought I’d have one. You’re going to have to keep me sane during all of this. That’s the Matron of Honor’s job.”
I grinned and leaned over to hug her hard. “I’ll do my best.”