Chapter 3.15

—Logan—

What a bust talking with Tobi had been. I should’ve known he’d never be able to understand what I was feeling—how could he? He’d only ever been remotely interested in one girl; Colette was now his wife and the mother of his twins. I doubted the guy could even fathom romantic interest in anyone else.

Memaw might be able to understand. She’d been married to a guy before marrying Granny. But she was an ocean and several timezones away, not to mention she was my grandmother. I didn’t really want to talk to her about my romance issues.

All I could think to do was talk to Felix. My stressing was a moot point if he didn’t want to be in a relationship at all. If all he wanted was to fool around, I thought it would be downright easy to tell him thanks but no thanks. But if he wanted more…then I was still stuck.

1

I left practice to find him waiting exactly where he usually did, a smile on his face that would make me want to kiss the hell out of him if I even knew up from down anymore.

“Hey, can we talk?”

2

The redhead frowned slightly, looking at me apprehensively. “You’re still upset about the party, aren’t you?”

I shook my head and started walking, expecting him to keep up. “No.” I wanted to be far enough away from the pitch that none of my teammates could eavesdrop.

3

I sat down on a bench and gestured for him to do the same. “Look, Felix, I’ll be honest. I like you. But you know I have a girlfriend, and, besides that, I don’t even know what it is you want from me.”

A hint of pink tinged the other boy’s cheeks. “I thought I made myself pretty clear.”

The ghost of a smile curved my lips. “I know that. But is that it? Or are you looking for a relationship here?” After so long being confused and conflicted, it felt good to ask bluntly for an answer.

4

Felix leaned closer to me. “Oh, yes. I’d like for us to date, Logan.”

Just like that, my problem remained unsolved. “I don’t know what to do, Felix,” I admitted quietly. “I like you—I really do—and I’d like to see where this could go, but I lo—like Zoe a lot, too. I know I’m an indecisive asshole.”

He shook his head. “I’d think you were an asshole if you weren’t feeling like this. Maybe you could just date us both?”

“I told you—“

“I never said don’t tell her.”

I stared at him, nonplussed. Surely he wasn’t suggesting…?

5

“You should tell her where you’re at. Maybe she’ll be okay with sharing.”

I doubted it, but the idea was so tempting. To be with both of them, to not have to choose…

“I…guess that’s a possibility.”


6

I held Zoe against my side and stared into the flames of the bonfire. She felt right and perfect tucked into me. I could almost pretend that this was months ago, long before I ever met Felix, before my world devolved into chaos. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that there ought to be someone else on my other side.

Zoe let out a soft, contented sound. “I love it out here. Did you have to make a blood pact to get your parents to let you come out tonight?”

“Close.” This was my last chance. If I wasn’t home by eleven, I could fully expect a house arrest ankle monitor in my immediate future.

7

“I can’t believe they grounded you for hanging out with Tobi.”

Inwardly, I winced at the lie, but I couldn’t very well have told her that I’d gotten grounded for going to a college party and staying too long with a boy who I’d also kissed. “It was just the last straw.”

“It’s almost ten,” she said with a sigh. “We need to leave soon.”

8

“Yeah.” Now or never, Thoreau. Reluctantly, I pulled away from her. “Zoe, I need to talk to you about something, and I want you to keep an open mind, alright?”

A deep frown creased her face. “What’s wrong, Logan?”

I took her hand and guided her over to a stone bench. “There are some things that have been going on—some things I’ve just found out about myself.”

9

Worry filled her eyes. “Are you okay? You’re not sick are you?”

I shook my head. My stomach was full of writhing snakes; I wasn’t sure I had the balls to finish this conversation. Somehow, I forced myself to keep talking. “Do you remember the first day I met my friend, Felix? You came over, and I told you about him. You joked that I sounded like I had a crush on him.”

Confusion quickly replaced her concern. “Sorta. If you try to tell me you’re gay, no power on this earth will make me believe you, Logan Thoreau.”

10

That almost made me laugh. I bit back a smile. “No, I’m not saying that.” I exhaled a deep breath. “But, actually, I’m bisexual. I…I have feelings for Felix.”

“Wh-what?”

“But I haven’t stopped having feelings for you,” I rushed to add. God, I was fucking this up. “I like both of you.”

11

Zoe got up and put her hands on her hips. “What are you saying, Logan? What are you actually saying?”

12

I swallowed, throat suddenly gone bone dry. “With your permission, I’d like to start seeing the both of you.” There, I said it. I’d practiced a whole speech, but this was the only sentence that had actually made it past my lips tonight.

13

“You what?” Her eyes lit up with anger. “You want my permission to cheat on me!?”

I shot to my feet. “No! It wouldn’t be cheating.”

“Fuck you, Logan! You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you’re my boyfriend, you’re my boyfriend. Felix can go get his own. I thought you—I thought you might actually—“

14

“Zoe,” I entreated pleadingly. “I don’t feel anything less for you than I did the night I gave you that necklace. That’s why I had to be honest with you. Please, just understand.”

“Maybe you do, but obviously you don’t feel enough for me if you want him, too.” Her voice was thick, like she was on the verge of tears.

“Zoe…”

15

She swiped at her eyes. “You can be with me or you can be with him. You can’t have it both ways, even if you go that way.”

My eyes started to burn. My chest ached. “Fine,” I responded tightly. It wasn’t much of a choice at all now, I realized. I knew that Zoe and I would never be the same now, whether I stayed with her or not. More than that, being with Felix was something I needed. I needed to know the other half of myself. Yeah; in the end, it really wasn’t a choice anymore.

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Chapter 3.14

11-20-17_4-03-45 PM

—Blake—

I paced the living room anxiously, scouring the area for any hint of dirt, anything less than perfect. Everything had to be perfect. Our dog, Piccolo, danced around my feet with a whine.

11-20-17_4-07-02 PM

“Blake,” my husband said gently from the couch. He stood up, gave the pibble a soothing pet, and took my hands, forcing me into stillness. “You need to relax. You’re winding yourself up.”

“I know,” I admitted. “I can’t help it. Maybe I should take my earrings out…”

11-20-17_4-09-09 PM

“Babe.” He wrapped his arms around me and squeezed tight. “Remember, we’re the ones who are supposed to be interviewing her.”

I laughed weakly. “You’re right. I know you are. I just…”

“Want to make a good impression.” Danny tugged me down onto the couch and put his arm around me. “Just relax, Blake. Breathe.”

11-20-17_4-14-14 PM

I forced myself to take a deep breath and slowly let it out, then did it a few more times. The urge to panic slowly faded. We’d contacted an agency, and they’d sent us files of potential surrogates. We’d pored over them for ages to narrow the pool down to a few. Today we were beginning the interview process. I really had no idea what to ask these women or what they’d want to ask us.

I nearly leapt off the couch when the doorbell rang.

11-20-17_4-19-03 PM

“Breathe,” Danny murmured to me again as he rose to answer the door. After a couple calming breaths, I told Piccolo to stay and got up to join Danny.

11-20-17_4-23-19 PM

The woman who stepped inside was around my age; she had a kind, somewhat nervous smile on her face.

I offered her my surprisingly-steady hand. “I’m Blake Casillas, this is my husband, Danny Forrester. You must be Wanda Hartman.”

She shook hands with both of us. “I am. It’s nice to meet you both.”

I showed her to a seat and sat down beside Danny. I looked over at him, suddenly at a loss for what to say.

11-20-17_4-31-02 PM

Before I could grab him, Piccolo bounded over to Wanda, tail waving faster than eyes could track. “Piccolo, no! I promise, he’s not dangerous. He just likes people.” Just because I knew he’d never hurt a fly didn’t mean she’d believe me.

She just smiled and scratched his ears. “It’s alright. I love dogs.”

11-20-17_4-33-18 PM

I felt a smile come to my face and some of the tension eased out of my shoulders. If she liked dogs—especially pit bulls—how badly could this possibly go?


Forty-five minutes later, I showed her out of the house. I knew we’d still interview the other women we’d narrowed it down to, but Wanda would be a tough act to follow.

As I resumed my seat next to Danny, he echoed my thoughts. “I like her.”

11-20-17_4-41-48 PM

“Me too.” Liking the surrogate was important. We had to trust her with our baby, and we’d be around her all the time so we could be as much a part of the pregnancy as possible.

My phone started to buzz. Irritation spiked as soon as I saw the caller ID. Naturally, my day had just been going too well.

11-20-17_4-43-06 PM

“What do you want, Brad?” I asked by way of greeting.

“Is that any way to say hello, little brother?” Without waiting for a reply, Brad continued, “I need a favor. Could you loan me a couple thousand dollars?”

“There’s no way you just said what I think you said. Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Come on, Blake,” he cajoled. “We both know you’ve got it to spare. Fancy businessman and all. Mom didn’t have enough, and I need a car.”

“Fuck. You. You think Mom doesn’t need all the money she’s wasting on your worthless ass? I’d sooner burn every cent I own than give it to a piece of trash like you, Brad.”

11-20-17_4-45-43 PM

I hung up angrily and stood up. “I need to go see Mom. This is getting fucking ridiculous.”

Danny frowned and rose to his feet as well. “Do you want me to come?”

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine. I just need to get through to her. I’ll be back later.” I gave him a quick peck on the lips and left the house. Mom was going to lose everything she’d worked for if I didn’t get through to her.

11-20-17_4-57-37 PM

A short while later, I walked into Mom’s small house.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” she chattered as she waved me into the living room. She stood and turned towards the kitchen. “I was just fixing to see about supper.”

“Where’s Brad?”

She slowed to a stop. “A friend of his came by a bit ago and they went out.”

“How much did he bum off of you for that car he wants?”

11-20-17_5-06-48 PM

She sighed heavily. “Blake…”

“No, Mom, this has to stop. Can’t you see that he just doesn’t care? He doesn’t care about anybody but himself. He’s using you.”

11-20-17_5-09-52 PM

Mom looked stricken. In a small, tearful voice, she said, “Who can blame him? Do you think that being Huy’s ‘golden child’ was really any less abusive? I failed my son—I failed all of my kids, but I failed Brad more than anyone. Brad is this way because I didn’t save him from the ideas Huy put in his head. It’s my fault he’s like this.”

Hearing my mother so upset was like a punch to the gut. “Mom…no.” I crossed the short distance to her. “He’s a grown man. You did the best you could.” There were times I’d been angry with her—even still, rarely, I’d feel those old resentments flare up—but I knew that she’d done her best when we were growing up.

She shook her head. “How can you say that? After everything.”

11-20-17_5-14-57 PM

“Because look at me, Mom. Look at Bri. We’re both fine. You didn’t fuck Brad up. He’s like this because he wants to be. He chooses everyday to be this person. All you can do is keep him from taking you down with him.”

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Chapter 3.13

10-25-17_2-45-21 AM

—Logan—

I paced around my bedroom like an animal trapped in a cage. I felt like shit. God, what an idiot I’d been to go to that damn party. It was pure luck that we’d only had the one, little kiss. Even luckier that it had been thrown by college students and no one from school had seen me there. It was one thing to come out to my family—I was not ready to go public.

Especially since I’d, you know, been cheating on my girlfriend.

10-25-17_2-46-13 AM

I sank down heavily onto my bed. Even if Felix hadn’t kissed me, it was still cheating. I’d never cheated on anyone. It made me sick to realize I’d done that to Zoe. I’d apologize if it wouldn’t mean she’d have to know about it.

What was I going to do? I liked Zoe a lot—maybe more than liked. But I was beginning to think that I could feel the same way about Felix.

The way he made me feel whenever we were together was so different from how I felt with Zoe and yet exactly the same. Like I was a coin and Zoe had one side and Felix had the other.

Did I stop seeing Felix? Cut him out of my life? Even as I considered it, I shied away from that as a solution. He was my friend more than anything. I couldn’t do that to him. But I also sure as hell wasn’t breaking up with Zoe.

I needed to talk to someone. Which was insane because that would probably mean admitting to cheating on my girlfriend, but I needed to talk it out. I was grounded so my options were limited. Unless I convinced my parents to let me go somewhere else. It was worth a shot, I supposed. Otherwise I was going to keep stewing up in my room.

10-25-17_2-53-49 AM

Downstairs, the smell of food drew me into the kitchen. Mom was at the stove while Dad had taken up a spot at the island.

Mom smiled at me. “Hey, kiddo. Lunch will be ready in a bit.”

“Actually…Could I go over to Tobi’s? I know I’m grounded, but I really need to talk to him.”

10-25-17_2-57-33 AM

My parents shared the kind of look that seemed to contain an entire conversation.

“Alright,” Dad said, rising to his feet. “But I’m driving you.”


10-25-17_3-16-52 AM

“Hey, are you okay?”

I looked over at Tobi. “Yeah.”

“Are you sure? You’ve been quiet ever since you got here.”

He wasn’t wrong. As soon as I’d gotten there, Tobi and I had gone to sit on the back porch, and I’d probably only said a handful of words in the last fifteen minutes, for all that I’d come over here to talk.

10-25-17_3-18-31 AM

I exhaled deeply. “No, actually. Some stuff has been going on…I’m not sure how to deal with it.”

The blond frowned. “What is it? Does it have anything to do…y’know, with the last time you were here?” The time we’d gone to the burger place.

“Yeah,” I admitted.

10-25-17_3-20-13 AM

“So, are you gay? ‘Cause what you were saying last time…”

I smiled a little and shook my head. “No. I like both.” I laughed quietly. “I guess I’m an equal opportunist.”

“Have you told your parents?”

10-25-17_3-21-57 AM

I nodded. “The other night. Something happened…Something’s been happening. See, there’s this guy, Felix…”

I told him everything. Felix turning up suddenly in study hall. Zoe’s offhand comment that turned my world upside down. The practices and the party. The kiss. I unloaded it all and, to his credit, Tobi sat there stoically and took it all in until I finally said, “I don’t know what to do.”

10-25-17_3-22-48 AM

“I mean, I think you have to pick one or the other, Logan. You can’t love two people at once. If you’re feeling this way about Felix, isn’t it pretty obvious that your feelings for Zoe have changed?”

“But they haven’t. When I’m with her, nothing is any different than it was before I met Felix. Why does it have to be either or?”

“Look, man, you admitted to cheating on her once already. You kissed somebody else. If you keep hanging around both of them, you know it’s going to happen again. You should break up with her now so you don’t cheat on her later.”

10-25-17_3-25-02 AM

I glared at him, but I was as upset at myself as I was at him. He was only parroting back my own thoughts. “Whatever. I’ve gotta go.” I ignored his attempts to call me back and all but ran out through the house.

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Chapter 3.12

10-25-17_1-43-20 AM

—Theresa—

“Zury, come on, honey. You love applesauce.” I couldn’t believe I was practically pleading with my toddler, yet here I was. She was usually such a good kid, but this morning she’d woken up in the foulest mood.

10-25-17_1-45-12 AM

“NO!” A fierce glare on her face, she flung her applesauce from the tray of her highchair.

Anger threatened to swell in me, but I harshly tamped it down. I was already running late; getting pissed at Zury wasn’t going to help.

10-25-17_1-46-25 AM

“Theresa, you go to work,” Mom said, suddenly sweeping in from the other room. She bent to clean up the mess Zury had made. “I’ll take care of her.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

She turned a kind smile onto me. “I know. Now get going.”

10-25-17_1-47-30 AM

I hated to leave her with a fussy toddler, but I really did need to get going. Besides, Mom had raised four kids; she probably had a handful of tricks to calm little ones down. “Alright, thanks, Mom.” I pressed a kiss to Zury’s hair and left the house.

Fortunately, Willow Creek is a small town—at least compared to San Myshuno—so traffic was minimal. I just managed to make it to work on time.

10-25-17_1-56-27 AM

When I walked onto the show floor, I immediately turned my attention to prospective buyers—only to find one of my own works staring down at me from the wall. I looked up at it in open shock. It couldn’t possibly be mine, yet it had to be mine. How could it be hanging there?

“That’s a lovely piece.”

I turned to find Angie next to me. “It’s mine,” I said dumbly.

10-25-17_1-59-34 AM

She smiled. “I know. Your mom brought it in. When Mr. Sheffield saw it, he had to put it on display.” Surely she didn’t mean Mr. Sheffield, the owner of the gallery.

“My mom brought it in?”

10-25-17_2-01-04 AM

Angie nodded. “It really is great. You should’ve brought it in sooner; you know Mr. Sheffield loves to showcase local artists.”

“I guess I forgot,” I said absently, turning my attention back to the painting.

Angie wandered off, but I stayed rooted in place. I wanted to take it down, hide it away. There were real artists up on those walls next to it. What was my painting doing up there where it had no business being? Mr. Sheffield was out that day, but he was supposed to be in his office tomorrow.  I’d talk to him about it then.


10-25-17_2-06-43 AM

I got home earlier than usual and immediately went to find Mom—which didn’t take long, since she was in the living room.

“Why did you give them my painting?” I asked, anger and more than a bit of hurt in my tone. I wished I could remove the latter.

10-25-17_2-07-47 AM

Mom looked up at me, completely unapologetic. “Because it’s beautiful. It deserved to be there. I knew Richard would agree.” Of course, she was on a first-name basis with Mr. Sheffield; they were the same age. She’d likely worked closely with him back when she worked at the gallery.

10-25-17_2-09-45 AM

“You shouldn’t have done it. He probably just put it up as a favor to you.”

Mom shook her head and patted the spot next to her on the sofa. “Theresa, come sit down.” I hesitated but reluctantly took a seat.

10-25-17_2-12-21 AM

“Sweetheart…why don’t you think your work is good enough? What happened to the girl who moved to the big city to make her dreams come true?”

I remembered the day I’d told my parents I was dropping out of college and moving to San Myshuno. They’d been dead set against it, and I’d made a rather impassioned speech about living my dream to become an artist. I’d been filled with drive and passion…until the rejections had started. One gallery after another had glanced at my work, paintings that I’d slaved over, meticulously choosing every color and brush stroke, and found it wanting.

10-25-17_2-13-10 AM

Gently, Mom spoke again. “Your work is beautiful, Theresa. It’s rich and evocative and just as good as anything else in the gallery.”

Tears burned my eyes. I used to think so, too. When had I stopped? When had I started to listen more to the snooty, plastic automatons that filled the galleries in San Myshuno than my own heart? When had I become ashamed of my paintings?

10-25-17_2-15-03 AM

“You’re my mother; you have to say that,” I said with a sniff.

She smiled softly. “Maybe, but Richard didn’t have to display your painting. You know he wouldn’t have if he didn’t believe it was good enough to be up there. Just watch, Theresa. It’ll sell before you know it.”

As it happened, she was right.


As a quick heads up, I’ve updated the Story Builds section with Loralee and Tommy’s three houses and Hadley’s house post-renovation if anyone would like to check it out. I’m planning to add more in the future.

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Chapter 3.11

10-25-17_12-03-11 AM

—Logan—

I left the stadium after practice and immediately saw Felix waiting for me. I couldn’t help the smile that curled my lips as I made my way over to him. He’d been doing this most days for the last couple of weeks, and it never failed to put me in a good mood to see him waiting for me, whether practice had gone well or I’d eaten turf the whole time.

10-25-17_12-05-23 AM

“How was practice?”

“You should know, you were watching.”

He shook his head as we started to walk. “I watched, but I don’t know shit about football.”

Neither did Zoe; that was why she’d never stuck around for my practices, not that I’d ever begrudged her that. I watched pro soccer, but I doubted I’d be very interested in watching practices, myself.

10-25-17_12-06-47 AM

“It was good,” I finally said. “You want to go get something to eat?” I was supposed to be home for dinner, but I could eat twice. I’d worked up a hell of an appetite.

“Actually…” Felix came to a stop. “A friend told me about a party—one a friend of hers is throwing. I was thinking we could go together.”

I stared at him for a long moment. “Together?”

10-25-17_12-08-46 AM

He smiled, a hint of shyness to the curve of his lips. “Yeah. Maybe like as a date. It’s seemed like…well, I get the feeling that you’re into me.”

I shifted on my feet. The “yes” was on the tip of my tongue, just begging to be released, but I reigned it in. “Felix, I…I’d like to,” I admitted quietly.

10-25-17_12-10-24 AM

“But I can’t. You know I have a girlfriend—Zoe.” The two of them hadn’t gotten to spend any time together at school; they didn’t share any classes, and Felix was on a different lunch than Zoe and I were. It was theoretically possible that he’d forgotten…I had a tendency not to talk about her as much when I was around him.

Felix’s smile fell. “I thought that she might…ah, that you might not…” He huffed a frustrated breath. “I thought she might be your beard.”

10-25-17_12-16-18 AM

Whatever I’d thought he was going to say, it definitely hadn’t been that. It drew a surprised laugh out of me in a loud burst. “No, it’s nothing like that. I’m bi.” Inwardly, I was a bit shocked at how easily that little sentence—I’m bi—rolled off my tongue. I’d thought it to myself numerous times since I’d reached that conclusion, but I’d never once said it aloud.

“Oh.”

I bit my lower lip. “I’d love to go with you, but I can’t do that to her.”

10-25-17_12-19-21 AM

Felix looked up at me, quiet for several moments. “We could still go. Just, you know, not as a date. I mean, you don’t have to be on a date to go to a party.”

It’s definitely still a date, I thought to myself. And yet…I really wanted to go. I didn’t give a shit about the party—I just wanted to spend more time with Felix. I wanted…I wanted to dip my toe in the water, to test out what it would be like while having the safety net of “it’s totally not a date.” It wasn’t really cheating unless there was kissing involved, right?

10-25-17_12-20-24 AM

“Okay. Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”


10-25-17_12-46-25 AM

I moved along to the thumpa-thumpa, my body brushing against Felix’s. I had no idea who anybody else was at the party; they were all older, college aged. It was apparently being thrown by the older cousin of Felix’s friend—who I had no idea if I’d met or not.

The music was so loud, I didn’t know if it had words or not. It was just a beat thrumming through my veins, pushing reason out of my head and leaving room for only it and the boy in front of me.

10-25-17_12-49-39 AM

Felix smiled at me and leaned up to shout in my ear—I just managed to hear him. “It’s getting late!” He held up his phone to show me.

12:33

“Shit! We need to go!” Just what I needed. My parents were going to shit a kitten.

10-25-17_12-54-36 AM

He nodded but caught my hand. Before I could question him, his lips were on mine.


10-25-17_1-04-51 AM

My lips were still tingling when I got home. I replayed the kiss over and over in my head the whole way; it had been brief and almost chaste and it had made fire sing over every inch of my skin.

I was actually so wrapped up in my own head that I totally missed Mom and Dad waiting for me in the foyer.

10-25-17_1-08-56 AM

“Logan. Thoreau. Smithson.” Mom gritted out. “Where the hell have you been?” Dad glared at me from her side.

I came to a stop. Normally, I’d brush them off. Cop an attitude and get into a fight. Tonight…the urge to battle just wasn’t there. “I was out with Felix.”

They both paused for a second, as if what I’d said had surprised them.

10-25-17_1-16-46 AM

“Felix?” Dad finally said. “Wasn’t he that new boy you mentioned a while ago?”

“Yeah.” I shoved my hands in my pockets and shifted on my feet. “I kind of need to tell you guys something.”

10-25-17_1-21-04 AM

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Chapter 3.10

1

—Blake—

One of the best things about owning my own company was, occasionally, being able to work from home. I may have to work, but I got to do it from the comfort of my own study. And in my pajamas, if I so chose. Which, on this particular day, I chose. Danny and I just couldn’t work from home on the same day.

Because…reasons.

At the sound of the doorbell, I stood up and cracked my back. What had it been last time? Jehovah’s Witnesses, I though. It was probably the Mormon’s this time. They seemed to coordinate, somehow.

2

To my surprise, however, it was Brianna, looking distressed, on the other side of the door. As soon as I opened it, she stepped inside, wiping at her teary face.

Maybe Dad had kicked it with unexpected haste. “Bri? What happened?”

She sniffled. “I’m not a match.”

“A match?”

3

“For Dad! I got tested to see if I could donate a lobe of my liver.”

I stared at her in shock. “You were going to donate a piece of your liver? To him?”

She glared at me. “He’s our father, Blake. I’d do the same for you or Mom or…” At least she had the good sense to hesitate over the Brother-Who-Would-Not-Be-Named.

I sighed softly. “Bri…”

4

“Don’t ‘Bri’ me!” Wow, does she sound like Mom. “If he doesn’t get a direct donation, he’s going to die, Blake. He can’t go on the transplant list—“

“Because he’s an alcoholic.”

“So he has to get a donation from one of us. You have to get tested.”

5

My eyes widened. “Me? I wouldn’t give that man a dirty tissue much less a piece of my liver.”

“So you’ll just let him die?!”

I sighed harshly and scrubbed a hand over my face. “What do you think he’d do if I did give him a piece of my liver? Do you think he’d change? Turn his life around, get his job back, quit drinking? No. He’d burn through it just like he did his own—if he even kept up with the anti-rejection therapy to begin with.”

“Blake,” my sister said pleadingly.

6

I took her arm and guided her over to the couch. “Brianna, why is this so important to you? It’s not like Dad has ever been great to you. You only got treated slightly better than me.”

“He’s our father. Our blood.”

“Yeah, that didn’t stop him from shitting on me or disowning me, did it? Who, exactly, are you trying to save—the father we have or the father you wish we had, Bri?”

7

Brianna buried her face in her hands.


That evening, long after Brianna had left, I sat in the living room. In the kitchen, I could hear Danny putting together something for dinner.

8

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed Mom’s number but didn’t hit send yet. I hadn’t talked to her since that disastrous day I’d stopped by. I doubted she was still mad at me; in my experience, she’d never been one to hold grudges. I needed to talk to her. I hit call.

Her voice picked up after a few rings. “Hello?”

“Hey, Mom.”

“Hi, honey,” she said warmly, without a trace of her previous anger. “What’s up?”

9

I sighed. “It’s Brianna and Dad. Did she tell you what’s going on with him?”

“She did. It’s a terrible shame.” She sounded sympathetic but not altogether that sad. I could hardly blame her.

“She came by today. I guess she’s not a match for him. She wants me to get tested and donate part of my liver.”

Mom was quiet for a moment. “Are you going to?”

I let out a breath. “No.”

“It’s alright,” she said quietly. “You know that, right? You don’t have to subject yourself to that for anyone, especially not him.”

Tension I’d been carrying around all day finally eased out of my shoulders. I hadn’t even realized how much I’d needed to hear that. Danny had said basically the same thing, of course, but this was different.

10

“Brianna doesn’t see it that way.”

“She’s always wanted to see more in him than is there. Just like I used to. You don’t owe him anything.”

As good as it was to hear her say that, I couldn’t help but find it ironic. She could feel this way about Huy but not Brad.

“Mom…you don’t owe Brad anything, either. You did the best that you could. The way he is now…that’s his choice.”

The line went quiet. It was quiet for so long, I thought the call had been dropped. Then she said in a quiet voice. “He’s my son.” The line went dead.

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Chapter 3.09

09-19-17_4-41-40 PM

—Theresa—

I turned my face up to one of the many paintings on the wall. It was one I kept coming back to over and over again. The bright splashes of color called to me, reminded me of my own work.

When I was a little girl, Mom would bring me to the art gallery whenever we had a girl’s day. While Dad and Nathan were playing with worms or hitting balls—whatever it was they’d done together—Mom had told me about art. The history of it, the passion behind it. Even at home, I’d happily spent hours sitting quietly, just watching her paint. It had mesmerized me—the way she seemed to see the picture hidden in the canvas.

I’d wanted to keep them all—I loved each and every one, after all. One day, I’d even told her as much.

09-19-17_5-15-19 PM

“Art is like love—it’s meant to be shared,” Mom had told me.

Of course, as a little kid, I hadn’t realized that those paintings were keeping us all fed. Dad made music because he loved it, not because it paid well. Mom never made it “big” but she’d done well by selling artwork to friends and local businesses. More than I’d ever done.

“Theresa. Theresa. Theresa.”

09-19-17_4-43-41 PM

I blinked and pulled out of my thoughts. I turned to find my supervisor frowning at me. “What?”

“You’re supposed to be showing the artwork, not admiring it.”

“Sorry, Angie,” I replied sheepishly. More or less, I enjoyed working at the art gallery. It sure as hell beat flipping burgers and most of the other things I was actually qualified to do. But I often got distracted by admiring the pieces I was supposed to be selling. Admiring, and dreaming.

09-19-17_4-18-32 PM

When I got home late that afternoon, I found Mom upstairs at her easel. Though she and Dad had converted my childhood bedroom into a studio for her when I was in high school, she still seemed to favor working on the upstairs landing.

09-19-17_4-21-06 PM

I sat down and watched her for a while, like I had when I was little, before I asked, “Mom, why didn’t you ever try to get recognized? I mean, your paintings are beautiful. You could’ve had a real career.”

Mom turned to look at me, put down her brush, and wiped her hands on a rag. She lowered herself onto the sofa next to me. “Fame was never what I wanted. Call me old fashioned if you want, but I always wanted to be like your grandma.” She smiled softly, remembering the woman I’d never gotten to meet. “I wanted being a mom to be my career. I got very lucky because I was able to do that; a lot of people don’t get that chance.”

09-19-17_4-27-46 PM

She studied me for a minute. “What about you, Theresa? Your work is remarkable. You should already be in galleries.”

I could lie. San Myshuno was a big place where everyone was trying to succeed. I could easily tell her that I’d tried my heart out, submitted pieces to every gallery I could find, done everything I could but still hadn’t gotten my name out there. It would be believable.

But it wasn’t the truth.

As much as I loved art, as passionate as I felt about it, I’d never felt good enough. I’d come close so many times to trying to show my work to a gallery only to chicken out. Maybe my lack of fame was why Peter had dumped me; perhaps he’d hoped to have a famous artist as a girlfriend instead of the nobody he’d ended up with.

“Honey?”

09-19-17_4-29-18 PM

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess my stuff just isn’t that good.” I stood up. “I’m going to go check on Zury.” I fled downstairs.

09-19-17_4-30-18 PM


08-25-17_10-57-11 PM

—Logan—

At the sound of the final bell, I hurried out of the classroom and headed downstairs. I didn’t stop at my locker or wait for Zoe; I hadn’t for days now. I just…My head was a total mess.

Downstairs, I glimpsed Zoe’s mom’s car at the front of the line. Like the pussy I was, I ducked into the boys bathroom to wait until the coast was clear. Then I slunk out onto the steps to wait for Mom to pick me up.

I was being an idiot and a coward—I knew that. But everything was so fucked right now. Had I just imagined being attracted to Zoe and other girls? Was I really into guys at all? God, I was just…there wasn’t a good enough word for whatever I was. “Confused” just didn’t seem to cover it.

08-25-17_11-11-45 PM

At home, I got out of the car only for Mom’s voice to call me back. She looked at me, concerned. “Are you okay?”

I grunted. “Yeah, why?”

08-25-17_11-16-59 PM

Her frown deepened. “You don’t seem okay. Did something happen? Maybe with Zoe? Did you two break up?”

“No, we’re fine, Mom. Nothing happened.” I shrugged. “It was just a crappy day.”

“Alright,” she said slowly, disbelief in her voice. Fortunately she didn’t press it further. “I’ve got to get back to the restaurant for a few hours. You know the rules.” Yeah, yeah. I was in charge. No parties or booze or sex yada yada.

08-25-17_11-22-27 PM

I turned and went into the house. I banged around the kitchen, half of me actually wanting something to eat, the other half just wanting to vent a little frustration by violently opening and closing the cabinets.

The doorbell rang.

“Jaz! Get the door!” No answer. He was probably playing a game upstairs.

08-25-17_11-29-44 PM

I skulked to the front door, and my stomach twisted into knots when I saw Zoe on the other side. I wanted to run away now, but she’d seen me; I could hardly pretend I wasn’t home. Reluctantly, I opened the door to her glaring face.

08-25-17_11-33-12 PM

She shouldered her way inside. “If you want to break up, you could at least have the balls to tell me.”

Immediately, it felt like I’d been punched. I deserved that; I was being a dick. “I’m sorry I’ve been acting weird, Zoe. I don’t want to break up.”

“Then what the hell is your deal? You’ve been avoiding me for a week. We didn’t even have a fight.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

08-25-17_11-36-57 PM

“Stop saying you’re sorry!” She glowered at me—God, she’s cute when she’s mad, I thought—and gave my shoulder a shove. “Just tell me what the fuck is going on.”

How could I possibly tell her what was going on? I’d never admit that I had a crush on another girl much less a guy. “I’ve just…I haven’t been feeling like myself lately,” I said lamely.

08-25-17_11-39-23 PM

I must’ve looked pretty pathetic because her expression softened some. She reached up and touched my cheek. “Is that really it? Because you can tell me if—if something happened. We could work it out.”

My heart squeezed in my chest. I really was the luckiest guy in the fucking world to have a girl like her. I took her hand. “I’m sure,” I said with actual confidence. “I don’t know why I’ve been such a jackass.”

08-25-17_11-41-08 PM

She smiled then, bright enough to light up the whole house. “Well, if you’ve just been feeling wonky, I know exactly how to get you feeling better.” She leaned up and kissed me with a sudden passion that went straight to my pants. “Are your parents home?”

08-25-17_11-42-11 PM

It wouldn’t have mattered to me if they were. Feeling lighter than I had in weeks, I pulled her into me and led her up the stairs.

A while later, I rolled onto my back, breathing hard. There was no way that I could feel that good with her if I was gay.

But I bet I could if I was bi.

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Chapter 3.08

08-25-17_10-02-19 PM

—Logan—

Study hall. Less than a week ago, it had been a welcome breather from real classes. Now I dreaded it as much as I was excited for it. Because of him.

My stomach did a flip as Felix walked into the room, and I mentally chewed myself out for the reaction. I didn’t care what conclusion I might have come to after talking to Tobi; I was a straight guy. I had a girlfriend I liked a lot—to myself, I’d even tried out stronger words and hadn’t been put off by them. My life was actually good; I didn’t need these weird ass feelings over Felix.

Yeah, well, tell that to the telltale thump-thump of my heart.

08-25-17_10-05-13 PM

Felix dropped down in the seat next to me with a wide smile. “So, I watched you practice yesterday.”

A red flush threatened to creep up my neck. “Really?” I played soccer—or football, as it was called there. Unlike a lot of guys, like Tobi, I hadn’t joined one of the professional clubs. It was just a hobby for me, not my future.

“Mmhmm. I had to leave before it was finished, but it looked like fun. I never really got into sports.”

08-25-17_10-06-16 PM

“It’d probably be hard getting into clubs and teams when you move around all the time.”

He nodded. “Partly, yeah. I also just never had much interest. I don’t mind watching, though.”

“So I’ll see you at some of the games then?”

“I suppose I can go. As long as you’re not just going to sit on the bench or something.”

I laughed. I may not be the star player, but I was hardly a bench warmer. “I promise that I’ll be playing.”

08-25-17_10-08-00 PM

Felix grinned and something shone in his eyes. It made my stomach twist. “Good. I mean, it’s not like I’ve lived here long enough to have school spirit. I’ll just be there to cheer for you.”

I felt a responding smile come to my face. Was I leaning closer to him? Was he leaning closer to me? “You’re gonna cheer for me?”

“What else would I be doing? I don’t even know anyone else on the team.”

08-25-17_10-15-32 PM

My voice dropped to almost a whisper. “I’m nothing special.”

Felix’s head tilted slightly, reminding me of a puppy. “Liar.”

Just like that, I started to lean in. At some point I hadn’t realized, my eyes had dropped to his mouth, and I was moments away from throwing caution to the wind and just going for it.

08-25-17_10-20-44 PM

I jumped to my feet, heart pounding in my ears. Behind me, my chair crashed to the ground. Every eye in the room turned to me; Felix stared up at me with surprised confusion. I opened my mouth to say something—what? What could I even say? So I didn’t say anything. I just ran out of the room.

08-25-17_10-22-03 PM

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Chapter 3.07

08-24-17_6-28-16 PM

—Blake—

I parked outside Mom’s small house. It was the same one she and Brianna had moved into after Mom had saved enough to rent her own place. It had been intended as a temporary house, but Mom had ended up loving the little thing; she’d even bought it from the landlord a few years ago. She’d made it into a great little home.

Only now Brad was trying to fuck it all up. I knew my brother; he was just like our piece of shit father—worse, perhaps, in some ways. After all, Huy Casillas had a laundry list of faults but, to his credit, “convicted felon” wasn’t among them. Call me a pessimist, but I knew Brad. He was going to sit on his ass and mooch off of our mother until she had nothing left to give. I’d be damned if I was going to let him do it.

08-24-17_6-29-03 PM

I got out of the car and went to the door. I knocked and, from inside, I heard, “Ma! Someone’s at the door!” I could hear the TV—I could see him sitting right there on the couch. He was just too lazy to get up. I gritted my teeth.

A few moments passed by before Mom, looking a little frazzled, opened the door. A smile immediately took over her face. “Blake, this is a surprise.”

I stepped inside and gave her a hug. “Yeah, I just thought I’d swing by.”

08-24-17_6-36-25 PM

“Well, come in. Sit down! Can I get you anything?”

A weak smile curled my lips. She never stopped trying to take care of me. “No, Mom, I’m good. Actually, could we talk?” I gave Brad the side-eye. “In private?”

08-24-17_6-38-22 PM

“What?” Brad piped up, pulling up from his slouch. “Something you can’t say in front of me, little bro?”

“Go back to watching TV. And don’t call me bro.”

“Blake,” Mom said reproachfully.

I shrugged, refusing to apologize. There was no love lost between me and Brad—he’d been an asshole to me from the day I was born and hadn’t gotten any better with age. I’d figured out a long time ago that I didn’t have room in my life for people like him. “So, can we talk?”

She sighed with a gentle shake of her head and gestured to her bedroom. “Sure, Blake, of course.”

08-24-17_6-41-48 PM

I stepped inside with her and took a seat on the edge of the mattress. “Brad’s in typical form.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Come on, Mom. He’s bossing you around. I bet he’s not doing a damn thing around the house. He’s treating you like crap.”

08-24-17_6-43-38 PM

Her eyes narrowed slightly in irritation. “Mind your language. Your brother is adjusting. It’s been hard for him since he…since he got out. He just needs help.”

I sighed softly. Different lyrics, same tune. Hell, Brad and Dad even rhymed. “Are you sure this is ‘helping’? Has he even tried to find a job?”

08-24-17_6-47-03 PM

“That’s not so easy for him, now,” she hedged.

“So, no, then. Mom, you know he’s using you. He’s just like Dad—although at least Dad had a job. This is what Brad always does. He’s never going to change. At least, not if you keep going like this. Kick him out, Mom, and make him grow up.”

Her face twisted in anger. “Blake Casillas, you don’t tell me what to do. Bradley is your brother—my son—and he’s in a rough patch right now. He needs my help—I would do the same if it were you or your sisters.”

“Mom—“

08-24-17_6-48-14 PM

“Don’t ‘mom’ me! This was my house, Blake, the last time I checked, and I’ll decide who stays in it and who doesn’t. And I think right now that you should go and think about things.”

I couldn’t fucking believe how deep in denial she was. I’d thought she’d gotten over that when she finally left Dad. “You know what? Fine.” I stood up. “He’s going to bleed you dry, Mom. Fucking dry.” I left the room and then the house, slamming both doors behind me.

Anger seethed under my skin. She’d kick me out—the son who actually gave a shit about her—but not the one who only cared about the spare bed and her bank account. Un-fucking-believable.

I was so wrapped up in my own head, I didn’t even notice that someone had joined me outside until Brad came into my sight.

08-24-17_6-51-16 PM

“Still rude as shit, huh, little bro? Aren’t you ever gonna change?”

I turned a glare on him. “I don’t know. Are you ever going to stop being a useless waste of air?”

“Hey, fuck you!”

08-24-17_6-52-00 PM

“No, fuck you.” I jabbed a finger at him. “You need to get off your ass and out of Mom’s house. Go stay with your fucking dealer or something—just leave Mom alone. She’s been through enough.”

Brad snorted, a derisive sound. “Whatever. She’s my mom. I’ll stay here as long as I want to and you can fuck off.”

“Yeah, I figured you’d say that.” I turned away from him, only for him to open his fat mouth again.

“Hey, bro, can I have fifty bucks?”


08-24-17_7-02-28 PM

I walked into the house—my house, one in which Brad would never step foot—and all but collapsed onto the couch, emotional exhaustion so heavy it threw me right onto the cushions.

Oh, but I was fifty dollars lighter, wasn’t I? My knuckles had itched to connect to his face, but I’d given him the money—knowing it made me just as much an enabler as Mom was. If I hadn’t, though, he’d have just bummed it off of her. I could spare it easily; I doubted she could.

“It’s been a day,” I sighed to the empty room.

Just when I’d decided to give up on the rest of the afternoon and climb into bed, my phone rang.

Brianna’s distressed voice came over the line. “Blake? Dad’s in the hospital.”

08-24-17_10-24-56 PM

Just shy of an hour later, I walked into Willow Creek Medical Center, wondering just why I’d let my sister convince me I so desperately needed to be there. I hadn’t said a single word to Huy since I moved out, for God’s sake.

Brianna waved at him from down the hall, grabbing my attention. “Over here.”

I walked over to her. “So, what exactly happened?” She’d been pretty much hysterical on the phone and hadn’t made a whole lot of sense.

08-24-17_10-30-00 PM

She reached up and rubbed at her red, puffy eyes. “I went to see Dad today—you know I do every so often.” Unlike me, she still had a relationship, albeit strained, with the old man. “Everything was fine until he collapsed. I called an ambulance and they rushed him here. They haven’t told me anything yet.”

I started to ask her why she’d called me and not her husband, but, at this point, did it even matter? I was already there. Although, not for long, if I could help it.

“I’m sorry you were there for that, Bri.” It was the best I could come with, since I honestly couldn’t give a shit about our father’s health. “All his drinking is probably catching up with him.”

08-24-17_10-31-20 PM

My little sister turned a glower on me. “You’re not helping.”

I sighed, feeling like a dick. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I just pulled her into a hug.

She pulled back after a long minute and scrubbed a had over her face. “It just…it really scared me. He went so pale and then he just dropped.”

“I’m sorry, Bri.” And I really meant it. For her, at least.

She sniffled softly and then focused on something over my shoulder. “Oh, here comes the doctor. Maybe he finally has news. Doctor, this is my brother, Blake. Can you please tell us what’s going on? I’m going crazy.”

08-24-17_10-34-17 PM

The doctor, a man in his sixties, made a soft sound between a sigh and a hmm. “I wish I had good news for you, Mrs. Hartman, Mr. Casillas. The preliminary tests indicate that your father has cirrhosis. It’s a condition that affects the liver. Unfortunately, it’s something we see in a lot of heavy drinkers.”

Since Brianna seemed to be barely holding it together, I asked, “When will you know for sure?”

“A few days, a week at most. Although the diagnosis isn’t certain yet, you should prepare yourselves. I believe your father’s case is advanced. It’s highly likely that he’ll need a liver transplant.”

08-24-17_10-38-53 PM

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Chapter 3.06

08-24-17_4-48-37 PM

—Blake—

As I moved around the kitchen, my sister, Loralee’s, cookbook propped up on the counter near me for reference, my mind was only half on the carbonara I was making.

Tomorrow, I really have to talk to Rachel in accounting, I thought to myself, idly stirring the pot on the stove. I wonder if there’s room in the budget for another development team…

The little indie game development company I’d started back in college had actually taken off—we were a major name now, competing with Rainy Day Entertainment, the very place Camille used to work. Honestly, I could hardly believe the success I’d had, most days. We’d gone from four guys in a rental unit at a strip mall to having a dedicated building with actual departments and teams.

08-24-17_4-51-30 PM

“If you don’t stop thinking about work, you’re going to ruin dinner,” came a teasing voice from behind me.

I laughed softly and glanced back at my husband, Danny. “How do you know what I was thinking about?”

08-24-17_4-56-09 PM

He leaned in and pressed a kiss to my cheek. “Come on. What don’t I know about you, Casillas?”

I snorted softly. “Yeah, alright. I was thinking about getting a new game into development. It’s one Camille and I have been brainstorming for a while.” After she’d helped me get away from my asshole father, Camille had become like a second mother to me over the years. Though she’d always been a willing person to bounce ideas off of, she’d often consulted for me since she retired. There was still no one else I’d rather talk games with.

“There’s probably some wiggle room somewhere,” Danny assured me. “We’ve had a really good year.”

08-24-17_4-59-25 PM

I turned off the stove. “Maybe I can just stop paying you,” I teased. After Danny had finished his marketing degree, he’d come to work for me; now he was the head of said department. It was nice working together.

He leaned in to nip my ear. “Ha, don’t even try it.”

“So when’s your sister getting here? Food’s going to get cold if it isn’t soon.”

08-24-17_5-03-34 PM

“I’m sure they’re almost here. I doubt it’s easy getting out of the house with a two-year-old.” At the mention of my little nephew, I felt a tug in my heart.

Five years ago, we’d really hit our stride; we’d released Terror to massive success. Though we’d been doing well before it, that game seriously put us in the big league. After that—after I’d realized that we’d “made it”—I’d had the chance to actually think about something other than the business. I’d realized I was ready for the next step. A family. Danny had been right there with me.

First, we looked at adoption. More than looked, we’d nearly adopted a baby boy—only for the birth mom to change her mind at the last moment. Just after that, my nephew was born. The moment that I’d seen his squishy little face, I’d known that I wanted a baby that was a piece of the man I loved.

Danny and I had talked and talked. We’d considered our options. It had taken us over a year to finally broach the subject of surrogacy to Brianna. Tonight, we were hoping for good news.

“There she is,” I sighed in relief at the sound of the doorbell.

08-24-17_5-14-26 PM

I left the kitchen and went to the door, Danny a step behind me; I smiled at the trio on the other side. “Hey, guys.”

“Sorry we’re late.” Briana stepped inside and lowered her son, Andy, onto the floor. “He’s been in a mood all day.”

08-24-17_5-17-15 PM

As soon as he was on his feet, Andy toddled over to me. “Up!” I was only too happy to oblige. The tugging on my heart worsened when his chubby little arms wrapped around my neck.

“You’ve got perfect timing. Dinner is only just done.” Danny gestured towards the kitchen. “Corey, how about you dig out the high chair while I make the food presentable?”

A few minutes later, we all were seated at the table. While the adults had chicken carbonara, Andy was dining on chicken nuggets; he’d made his feelings about carbonara very clear. Which was probably not remotely cute to his parents but was pretty adorable to the uncle with baby fever.

08-24-17_5-28-10 PM

“So, I went over to Mom’s yesterday. Brad was there.” Brianna glowered briefly into her plate. “I saw him actually giving Mom orders.”

I sighed and resisted the urge to vigorously rub my face. “Yeah, he’s been there since he got out last month.” My delightful older brother, Bradley—or Brad as he’d come to insist on being called—was now an ex-con. He’d broken into a house and stolen thousands of dollars in electronics and jewelry. Before that, he’d gotten popped for shoplifting a couple times and spent nights in the drunk tank. What a fucking winner. At any rate, as soon as he’d finished his jail time, he’d taken up residence with our mother—and showed no inclination to leave.

“I know he’s our brother, but…” Brianna shook her head. “He just treats Mom like shi—garbage. And she just lets him treat her like a doormat.”

08-24-17_5-30-03 PM

“You say that like you’re surprised.” I loved our mother, but she’d still be married to our father if it weren’t for Brianna’s sake, I was sure. A backbone had never really been one of Anna Casillas’s strong suits.

“Blake, you should talk to her.”

My eyes widened in surprise. “Me? Why?”

Brianna gestured vaguely at me. “You’ve always been better at it.”

I honestly wasn’t sure exactly to what she was referring, but I could guess why she didn’t want to have that conversation herself. I was pretty sure Corey was the one with the conflict resolution skills in that relationship.

08-24-17_5-38-52 PM

“I guess I can try,” I reluctantly agreed as I got to my feet. I gathered up the empty plates and put them in the sink, leaving them to wait until later.

I turned towards the living room where the other three had already taken their seats. I looked over at Andy, who had toddled over to the armchair. My heart squeezed in my chest.

Please don’t leave us hanging anymore. Whatever Brianna’s answer was, I just wanted to finally know.

08-24-17_5-43-34 PM

I went into the living room and sat down next to Danny. At once, Brianna’s gaze turned serious. I shared a look with Danny. This is it.

“So, Corey and I have talked. A lot. I didn’t want to take so long to give you an answer, but…” She smiled softly and shrugged her shoulders. “It was kind of a big thing to process.”

I swallowed thickly, throat suddenly gone dry. “But now you’ve made a decision?”

08-24-17_5-45-22 PM

“We have.” Brianna and her husband linked hands. “We know how much Andy means to us.” She cast the toddler a tender look. “Every day, I see pieces of both of us in him. I want for you and Danny to have that, too.”

Relief coursed through me, making my heart flip and beat wildly in my chest. I almost couldn’t hear the rest of what she had to say over the thundering in my ears.

“Corey and I talked a lot about this. The only thing I can’t do is carry the baby for you. The bond Andy and I had before he was even born…I don’t think I could give up a baby after carrying it. So I’ve decided to donate my eggs. If you’re okay with finding another surrogate, my eggs are all yours.”

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I was up and pulling her into a bone-crushing hug before she’d even finished speaking. “Yes, yes, that’s perfect. Thank you. God, thank you, Bri.”

My sister laughed and squeezed me. “You’re welcome, big brother.”

Then I felt my hands being taken, and I wasn’t in Brianna’s arms anymore. Now I was looking up in the beautiful brown eyes of my husband.

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“We’re going to be parents,” I said, beaming up at him like an idiot. It was actually happening. We were going to be parents.

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