I practically ran into the hospital. Which, really, was kind of pointless and stupid. I’d already missed it. I’d called to check in as soon as my flight had landed; Loralee had been asleep, but Camille had informed me that I’d missed the birth by a wide margin. Apparently, it had happened so fast that she’d almost missed it herself.
Loralee had told me that I was missing everything, and she was right. I’d planned to be here—ages ago, I’d booked a flight that would get me here two days before the due date. It wouldn’t leave until tomorrow morning.
As I approached Loralee’s hospital door, I tried to mentally prepare myself. I was no doubt in for a royal chewing out, and I was just going to take it. I deserved it. After she’d said her peace, I’d tell her what I’d decided. I just couldn’t do it anymore; I couldn’t miss anymore of my family’s lives.
I knocked quietly. When I didn’t get a response, figuring she was asleep, I pushed the door open. Instead, I found Loralee at the bassinet. A soft humming floated over to me while she rocked on her feet. For a moment, I just stood there, savoring the tender moment, pretending that I was part of it rather than a veritable outsider.
Loralee bent and tucked the baby back into the bassinet. When she straightened and turned towards the bed, her eyes flared in surprise when she saw me. To my shock, a happy smile crossed her face. “Tommy, you’re here.”
I opened my mouth, an apology ready on my lips, only to lose all train of thought. Loralee crossed the room and all but threw herself into my arms. I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t even respond at first; I’d come prepared for battle only to find the opposing general waving a white flag.
My body kicked into gear before my brain actually finished processing the unforeseen turn of events. My arms wrapped around her and held on tight. I probably should’ve been more gentle, but the beautiful woman in my arms didn’t seem to mind. When was the last time we’d held each other like this? When was the last time she’d been so happy to see me? Honestly, I couldn’t remember.
When she eventually pulled back, her smile was blinding. “Tommy, come and meet your daughter.” She took my hand and led me across the room. Then she picked up the tiny little bundle and carefully transferred her into my arms.
All the breath in my lungs left me as I gazed into my daughter’s face. With her tuft of raven hair, she looked so much like Loralee that it made my heart squeeze almost painfully in my chest. She was so, so tiny. And so incredibly perfect.
When I finally found my voice, I whispered, “We still haven’t agreed on a name.” Agreeing to the names Logan and Jasper had been relatively easy, but, those times, we’d been a unit. Lately, we hadn’t agreed on anything.
Loralee smiled softly and reached over to carefully fuss with the swaddling. “I was thinking of Tomlyn.”
My brows raised. I couldn’t help but note the similarity to my name. Considering the last months, it seemed an unlikely choice. “Really?”
“Tomlyn Avery. That’s your mom’s full name, right? Avery?”
I swallowed thickly and struggled to tamp down a sudden stinging in my eyes. “Yes.”
She smiled gently at me. “Let’s talk, Tommy.”
I put our daughter down and took a seat next to Loralee on the bed. “There’s something I’d like to say, too. I think I should go first—“
She shook her head. “Me first.” After a breath, she said, “I’m so sorry, Tommy. For everything I’ve put you—put us through since your father died. I never considered your request to move, and it wasn’t really even because of all the excuses I came up with.”
“Your reasons are justified,” I interjected.
“Maybe, but they were just excuses. Really, I was plain terrified. I’ve been so scared of leaving everything that’s familiar.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m not going to keep being a coward, though. I want to support you, and, also, that’s not the message I want to send to our kids. We do whatever is needed to take care of family, even if it scares us. You need to take care of your mom, Tommy. And I need to be right there with you because she’s my family, too.”
I stared at her in shock. Loralee had always surprised me, but she was really keeping them coming today, wasn’t she?
“Are you serious?” I asked in astonishment. Part of me wondered if I was dreaming.
She nodded. “That is…if you still want me to. After the bitch I’ve been…”
My eyes peeled wide. Did she think I wanted a divorce? I shook my head fervently. “No! No. I do. I mean—well, actually, I had decided to hire a caretaker,” I admitted. “I can’t miss your lives anymore, Lor.”
My wife smiled softly. “You were right before. Ava needs us, her son and daughter and grandkids, around.”
I swallowed thickly. “You’re sure?”
“Completely. We can do this, Tommy.”
I pulled her into my arms and kissed her with every ounce of love and gratitude that I had inside of me. “I love you. I love you so much.”
Loralee beamed at me. “I love you, too.”