156,634
07.03.2019

I sniffled and felt the beat within my body.

“I think we got us a drummer!” Gerry laughed.

Mike scowled, “No way, bass for sure.”

I closed my eyes and felt Loch’s hand on mine. He squeezed hard, “I love you, baby.”

The doctor smiled, “I’ll say you’re about fifteen weeks along. How much have you gained?”

I shook my head, “None yet.”

Lochlan nodded, “She’s been a crazy woman about her food.”

The doctor shook his head, “The first three months, it’s common for women not to gain anything, but from here on out, I need you to maintain the calories on the piece of paper I’ve got here, and make sure you’re getting those food groups. Okay?”

I nodded.

“The less fat in your diet, the less brain development in your baby.”

“Okay.” I knew nothing about babies and the books scared me. I couldn’t read them. I didn’t even really want sex anymore, after what I’d read in the last one.

He wiped me down and let me get up. “Everything sounds normal, but your sonogram at 19 weeks will be the photo shoot.”

I smiled, “Thanks for doing it here.”

He nodded, “Anytime.”

I got off the table and let everyone hug me. Lochlan wrapped his arms around me, “You ready for tomorrow?”

I nodded and looked back at him, “I am.”

He attacked his mom, “You’re gonna be a grandma.” She smiled. She was gaining back little bits of movements. Living in the home was helping tremendously. She had full physio every week and constant care.

I kissed her goodbye and left with Dean, Lise, and Lissie. We went to the hotel room while Alex, Mike, Danny, Leon, and Gerry went with Loch to take his mom back to her room.

We had done everything in the few weeks we had to organize. Having money helped a lot. When money was no object, people just said yes.

Dean looked at me, “Did you ever hear why Lochlan beat that guy up on the show?”

I nodded, “Yeah.”

“It came out to the press yesterday. Look.” He laid down his iPad. I read the article, “Wow. That Andrew guy really thinks a lot of Loch.”

Dean nodded, “I do too. I never knew that was why he did it.”

I nodded, “I only just found out. He let me believe he was jealous of the guy winning.”

He shook his head, “Wow.”

Lissie nodded “Yeah, we were sworn to secrecy on it. I hated listening to everyone talking shit about him, when they didn’t have clue.”

Lise shrugged, “I always thought it made him hotter to be so crazy and unpredictable.”

I smiled at her, when Dean and Lissie gave her a confused stare.

A knock on the door interrupted their judgments. Dean answered and was instantly cougar-attacked by my mom, “Oh myyyy. You must be in the band.”

I rolled my eyes, “Mom, this is professor Dean. He’s married to Gerry.”

She blushed, “Ohhhh right. Of course he is. How is young Gerry?” She got a predatory look in her eyes. Dean stepped back. I laughed, “He’s married and happy.”

She smiled, “Well, anyway. Congratulations. And how is the bride to be?”

I smiled, “Good. Little tired, but I’m good.”

“How is my little grandbaby?” she actually talked to my belly, or even my vagina, depending on the angle you were at.

“Good. We heard the heartbeat today.”

She looked up from my low, low abdomen, “Was it high or low? There’s some old wives tale about that.”

I shook my head, “I don’t know. It sounded fast.”

Lissie nodded, “To me it was really fast.”

Dean nodded, “Yeah. I know right.”

Lise laughed, “I thought that too, but then he said it was normal.”

My mom stared at us like we were insane, “Of course it’s faster, you didn’t know that?”

We all shrugged and shook our heads. We slept in the room, all of us, but mom. She was oddly fast to leave, for her. She usually hovered and it got awkward.

I heard a light knock at the door. I slipped out of the bed and answered. Lochlan stood there, looming in the doorway. He looked down on me and smiled, “I needed to see you two.”

I smiled back, “Hi.”

“Did you eat?”

I nodded, “Just some room service.”

He pulled a brown bag from behind his back, “I brought you fudgy-brownie swirl!”

I closed the door with a shoe in it, not mine, and sat in the hallway with him. We sat beside each other. He pulled off the lid and passed me the spoon. I dipped it in and took the first bite. I closed my eyes and let the flavor of the fudge ice cream melt across my tongue, “Mmmmmmm. I wuv yew.”

He laughed and took the spoon, “I know you do.”

I looked at the ring on my finger and nodded, “You’re cool, if I just keep it a sapphire right?”

He smirked. My smile dropped right off my face, “Was it ever a sapphire?”

He shook his head, “I was seriously going to ask you that night. I know your ex had tainted the insta-love for you, but I wanted you to be mine. Your face when I pulled out that box was sheer horror. So I came up with a super-fast lie. You bought it and I got my ring on your finger.”

I stole back the spoon, “No fudgy-swirl for you.”

He laughed, “You can’t get mad about old shit.”

“I can and I will. I can even overreact, thanks to the baby bunny.”

He gave me a look, “Baby bunny?”

I felt my face burning, “Yeah. So?”

He bent down and kissed my belly, “I love you.”

I smiled and let him kiss the small roll we were both pretending was baby, but was more like coconut-cream pie from before.

I leaned into him when he sat up, “You see the news article about Andrew?”

He nodded, “Yeah. He called and told me he was doing it. I told him not to worry, but he said he had taken the coward’s path or some crap. Anyway, he came out to his family.”

I smiled, not looking at him, “At least he got the chance. At least that wanker, never got to out him.”

“Agreed.”

“You nervous about tomorrow?”

He looked down on me, “No. You?”

I shook my head, “No. It’s bizarre but I’m not. I should be. I didn’t want any of this and now it feels like I always wanted it.”

He kissed my temple, “Maybe you just didn’t know you did.”

I nodded, “Maybe.” I sighed, “Maybe it just needed you in the equation, to make me want it.”

He lifted me off the floor and kissed me sweetly. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him like I meant it. He growled, “Not here.”

“Fine.” I kissed him goodnight, getting lost in his eyes. He pushed me inside, “You need sleep for you and the baby bunny.”

I closed the door and sighed against it. My heart was full from him and some ice cream, and a hallway. I never knew I was such a simple person.

The next day, swathed in a princess-cut, strapless wedding dress and a huge grin, my dad gripped my arm. He kissed my cheek, “You ready, kid?”

I nodded.

He beamed, “You look beautiful.”

I laughed and rubbed my still fairly-flat stomach, “Can you tell it’s a shotgun wedding?”

He shook his head, “No. It’s not anyway, he asked me for my permission last November. He’s had it since.”

I frowned, “He did?”

He nodded, “You two belong together. Just like me and your mother do.”

I made face, “You’re back together?”

He nodded, “Yeah. Something about visiting Nashville affected us both. We saw how selfish we were being. We compromised. Winters in the city, summers in the country, and spring and fall is whatever.”

I laughed, “Wow. Is that my wedding gift?”

He laughed, “No.”

The music started and my dad frowned, “You’re walking to Bob Dylan?”

I nodded, “Shelter From The Storm has special meaning for us.”

“Weird, I guess though, musicians are different.”

I kissed his cheek, “Let’s do this.”

We walked down the aisle slowly, I never really noticed though. I was stuck on the dark-blue eyes in front of me. His expression was getting darker with every step I took. His face was all I saw. He shook my dad’s hand as my dad kissed my cheek. I took Loch’s hand and let him pull me to the minister.

I barely recalled the words I spoke, the eyes had me mesmerized. The next thing I knew he kissed me. I melted into him. He dropped to his knee and kissed my stomach, whispering things to it. I smiled at him.

As we walked down the aisle, he whispered, “Mrs. Barlow, how are you feeling?”

I smiled, “Good. I’m married to this super-cheesy guy, but it’s good.”

He kissed my cheek.

Epilogue

I finished setting up the kitchen, everything was where I wanted it. I wondered how long it would stay that way.

“Come see.”

I looked up. He was standing in the hall in cargo shorts and a baby-blue tee shirt. I sighed looking at his tattoos and muscles. I looked down at my belly and rubbed it.

“Erin, I swear to God, you have to see this.”

I followed him, waddling out into the hot, summer night. Kids were playing on the cul-de-sac and people were mowing their lawns. It was the furthest thing from a condo downtown New York, that I could imagine. It was a house in the burbs, down the road from Alex, Lissie, Gerry, Danny, and Mike. We had become those barbecue people who were exhausted by ten at night.

I got out into the yard and snarled, maybe even hissed like a vampire, when I saw what he wanted to show me. It was hideous. I covered my mouth, about to cry, but he wrapped his arms around me, “Just give it a chance. I swear I’ll buy you the sports car, one day, but for safety features this is the shit. I mean who knew BMW made a minivan?”

❮❯