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© A. Meredith Walters-2017

I wanted snow so badly I could taste it.
Every morning I woke up and I looked out the window hoping that the winter gods would smile down on me and give me what I wanted.
Every morning I was disappointed.
“Snow is cold. It makes everything slushy and you make wet footprints on the kitchen tile,” Flynn remarked when I complained about the lack of white stuff.
“Yeah but we haven’t had a decent snow all year,” I muttered, though he made a good point.
Flynn handed me a cup of coffee. Milk and two sugars. Just how I liked it. He never, ever forgot.
I took a sip of the hot beverage and looked around the warm, cozy kitchen. It was familiar. It was home.
Just like the man who lived with me in it.
“Do a snow dance, Flynn. Make it snow,” I teased, trying to smile. I was feeling strange this morning. A little off. I couldn’t place why.
“I can’t make it snow for you, Ellie. Dancing doesn’t affect the weather. That’s impossible,” Flynn intoned pragmatically.
I chuckled, wrapping my arms around him and kissing him on his downturned mouth. He didn’t pull away. He didn’t stiffen. He returned my affection with an ease that we had fought hard for.
Three years.
That’s how long we had been married. Some days were happy. Some days were frustrating. But they were our days. Together.
Seven years.
That’s how long since he had walked back into my life. Changing me completely.
Fourteen years.
That’s how long I had loved him. Even when I tried to deny it.
“I know you can’t make it snow.” I kissed him again. His lips were always insistent. Not urgent. Not desperate. Just insistent. As if the meeting of our lips were as necessary as breathing.
And for me it was.
For him too.
We were two sides of the same coin. We went together perfectly in our own imperfect way.
“I don’t want it to snow. I know you like it but I don’t. I have to shovel the steps and it takes a long time. Then my back starts to hurt. I don’t want to do it. But I have to. If I don’t do it just right, it will get icy and you could fall. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. That would be awful. And Murphy’s feet will get muddy. And he tracks it onto the floors even if I wipe his feet. I hate the mess. And we both have to go to work and I don’t like you driving on the roads when they get slick. It makes me worry. I don’t want it to snow when we have to go places.” Flynn’s brow puckered and he was working himself up to a state of anxiousness I had witnessed many times before.
I took his hands and squeezed. Not hard. Just enough to ground him. To ground me. To remind us both of what was important.
“It’s okay, Flynn. It’s not even calling for snow. Don’t worry about it,” I told him calmly. I squeezed again. “But if it snows this winter, we’ll shovel the porch together this time. Okay?” He was right. Snow was wonderful when you didn’t have to go out into it. And I had to be at work in an hour. I had a busy day plan. So as much as I wanted a sky full of white stuff, I didn’t have the option of staying home to enjoy it.
Flynn took a deep breath. I knew he was working through his calming techniques. He had gotten a lot better over the years with controlling his outburst. And I had gotten better at being patient with them. Leonard, Flynn’s therapist, was amazing. And even though he had bothered me at first, over the years, I had come to depend on the older man’s guidance. Navigating marriage was hard enough without all our issues and baggage on top of it. Flynn and I had jumped a lot of hurdles to be together.
But here we were. In our home. Living our life the way we were meant to.
I leaned against the counter, drinking my coffee. I took a sip. The liquid hit my stomach and I suddenly felt sick.
Whoa. What a minute.
I put the mug down and took a deep breath. Black spots danced in front of my eyes and for a brief moment I thought I was going to pass out.
I quickly walked to the sink and poured the contents down the drain. No coffee for me this morning.
I put a hand to my forehead. I didn’t feel warm but my skin was definitely clammy. And the nausea hadn’t gone away. My throat felt tight and my mouth went dry. I swallowed a few times, trying to keep the bile down.
I couldn’t afford to get sick. Not now. I was due to start a new support group this afternoon. Julie and I had been collaborating for months on a group focusing on the transition into care for foster children and their new families. We would be co-facilitating and we had five families signed up. The agency I worked for had made a lot of strides in the community to provide necessary services for at risk children and teens. This group was a desperately needed in a town with very few resources.
I got a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water, drinking the contents in one gulp. It made me feel a little better.
“What’s wrong?” Flynn asked, sounding worried. He came over and put his arm around me, pulling me close.
Each caress was significant for Flynn. Made with purpose. He wasn’t a man that was careless in his affection. I loved that about him.
“Was the coffee bad? I made it just the way you like it. I’m always so careful not to put too much milk or too much sugar in it. Because you make that face when you don’t like it. I hate it when you make that face. I want to make things you like. That’s important to me.” He was frowning again.
His frantic rambling was a sign he was feeling uneasy. It seemed we were both a bit on edge today. I didn’t know why. I felt all jangled up inside. Maybe Flynn was feeding off my mood.
“The coffee was fine, Flynn,” I assured him. “I just feel a little sick, that’s all.”
Flynn pushed my hair back from my face, his eyes troubled as he looked at me intently. “Then you need to go back to bed. If you’re sick, you rest. That’s what my mom always said.”
The dizziness abated and I was able to breathe without feeling like I was going to hurl all over the kitchen Exorcist style. “I feel better. No need to play nurse.” I kissed his firm mouth. “Stop worrying about me.”
“Of course I worry about you, Ellie. You’re my wife. I love you. I’ll always worry about you because I will always love you.” My heart swelled. I never tired of haring him say those three words.
Flynn said it as though this were common sense. For him it was. He loved me. He didn’t question it. It was simple for him. A part of who he was.
And I had stopped wondering whether I deserved his love. I didn’t allow myself to indulge in self-hatred or wallow in self-pity. I had worked hard to overcome the hardened, broken girl who had worked hard to destroy everything good in her life.
“You shouldn’t go to work if you’re ill,” Flynn continued to lecture.
“Why don’t you get me another cup of coffee? That’ll convince you I’m fine, won’t it?” I asked.
“Okay. I will.” He poured me some and brought it to me. I put it to my lips. The smell hit me and the nausea returned full force. But I made myself take a sip. Even if I wanted to retch. What the hell was wrong with me?
“See? I’m fine,” I said, even if it wasn’t exactly the truth.
“Okay. I believe you. We need to get to work. I’ll go take Murphy out and you should make sure you have everything you need. Your laptop and your car keys. And don’t forget your water bottle and a snack for later because you always get hungry.” Flynn rattled off everything the same way he did every morning.
“I will.”
Flynn called for Murphy, who came bounding out of the bedroom, running towards him. The mutt stopped momentarily to lick the back of my hand before following Flynn out the kitchen door. I noticed that the older dog took longer to go down the steps than he used to, but he still ran with the energy of a puppy when Flynn threw a tennis ball for him to chase.
I quickly drank another glass of water, willing the nausea to go away. I leaned against the counter, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick.
As if telling myself over and over again would make it fact.
And in a few minutes I began to feel better again.
When Flynn came back inside, we gathered up our things, made sure Murphy had a bowl of food and clean water, and headed out to our respective cars. Flynn asked me two more times if I had everything I needed for the day and I reassured him that I did.
“Are you sure you feel okay?” he asked, holding open the car door for me to get in.
I cupped his cold cheek. “I’m great.” And I was. Because I had Flynn. And our life together.
And that made the day just about perfect.
He leaned down and kissed me. Soft and tender and full of everything in his heart.
“I love you, Ellie.”
“I love you, Flynn.”

“You’re looking pale. You feeling okay?” Julie asked, putting a hand to my forehead. I shooed her away with an exasperated huff.
“I’m not five, Jules,” I reminded her, though I appreciated her fussing over me.
“Oh hush, I can worry.” Julie squeezed my shoulder, not bothered in the slightest by my attitude. She laid out crayons and blank drawing paper on one of the tables in the large room.
“Between you and Flynn I won’t ever need to worry about myself. I have you guys to do it for me,” I deadpanned, flipping through my notes for the group. I felt a fluttering in my stomach that had nothing to do with the persistent need to vomit that had lingered throughout much of the day.
“You have people that love you, Ellie. We just like to see you healthy and happy,” Julie lectured good-naturedly. She added more craft items to the pile of art supplies.
Julie and I were setting up for the Happy Transitions support group, which was set to start in fifteen minutes. We decided to hold it at the Child Response Center, where I had been working as the Child Services Coordinator for the past three years.
I was feeling a little nervous about the session. I had coordinated and facilitated a number of groups over the years, but this one was more personal than the others. When Julie had suggested we work together to provide services aimed at helping new foster families, I was immediately on board. As it stood, local foster parents had to go outside of town for most support and counseling programs.
Julie, who still worked as a child support worker at social services, was making the group mandatory for new foster families.
I wondered how different my life could have been had I had access to something like this when I was a child.
“You look ill. What’s wrong?” Julie probed.
I sat down heavily in a chair, the lightheadedness having come back with a vengeance. “I’ve been feeling weird all day. It comes and goes though. Maybe I should eat something.”
“Here.” Julie handed me a box of chocolate chip cookies. I took one, brought it to my mouth, and immediately put it down again. Julie frowned. “What is it?”
“They smell funny. How long have you had them?”
Julie sniffed the box of cookies and gave me a strange look. “I just picked them up for the group this morning. There’s nothing wrong with them.” Then her gaze become penetrating, a strange expression on her face. “Ellie, how long have you been feeling like this?”
“Sick?” I asked. Julie nodded. I shrugged. “It’s worse today, but I’ve felt icky most of the week. Maybe it’s the flu or something. Why?”
Julie shook her head, wearing an amused smile. “Ellie, I think—”
“Hey, the first family just got here,” Sebastian, one of the child advocates at the center, said, poking his head through the door.
“Thanks, Seb,” I replied, getting to my feet.
Julie put her arm around my shoulders, rubbing my arm. I leaned into her a bit. “This group is going to be amazing. I’m so glad to be doing something like this with you. You make me so proud,” she murmured.
I felt warm all over. Julie’s good opinion had always mattered to me. Even when I was punk teenager and claimed not to care about anything. She had stood by me when most everyone else had bailed. She had been my rock. My constant when I had absolutely nothing to hold onto.
Impulsively I put my arms around her, hugging her tight. Even though I had become more comfortable with physical affection over the years, I still caught Julie by surprise.
I held the woman who had been the closest thing I had to a mother tightly. “Thank you, Julie. For everything you’ve ever done for me. I don’t think I could ever say that enough,” I told her, my voice breaking slightly.
Julie pulled back and looked at me, that knowing look in her eyes again. “You’re awfully emotional today,” she observed.
I wiped at stray wetness on my cheeks. Where did that come from? I couldn’t actually be crying, could I? What in the world was wrong with me?
“I just wanted you to know I appreciate you is all. No need to make me feel strange about it.” I rolled my eyes.
Julie pulled me in for another hug. “You don’t ever need to thank me. It’s been my privilege to see the woman you’ve grown into. You and Flynn have built an amazing life together. And one day you’re going to be amazing parents.”
I snorted. “Parents? Uh, I don’t think we’re ready for that step.”
Julie raised an eyebrow. “Don’t be quick to dismiss the idea. Things have a funny way of happening whether we think we’re ready for them or not.”
Why were we even talking about this?
I chuckled a little uncomfortably and pulled away just as the first families came into the room.
I turned to greet them, forgetting about feeling sick, and started the group.
“This is wonderful. I’m so thankful we have this group. Being a new foster parent is a lot tougher than I thought it would be.”
I gave the woman with frizzy brown hair and kind eyes a warm smile. “I can only imagine, Darlene. Julie and I wanted to provide support services to help ease the transition for everyone. This is just as hard for you as it is for Bridget.” I glanced at the child in question. A small girl of about ten years old with a scowl as angry as her hair was red.
I knew the girl’s story. It was a sad one. All too similar to my own. I looked at her and saw myself. She was angry. She was hurting. She hated everything and everyone, including her well-intentioned foster family.
It was going to be a rough road for all of them; I only hoped Darlene and her husband Mark stuck it out.
Darlene looked at her foster daughter who hadn’t moved from her chair for the past hour. She had refused to answer questions when asked and had pushed away the paper when directed to draw a picture of herself. She wouldn’t participate in any way, choosing instead to clam up and glare at everyone else in the room.
“Will it get better?” Darlene asked softly, sounding concerned.
I put a hand on the woman’s arm. “I don’t know.” That was clearly not what Darlene wanted to hear. “What I mean, is that it will take time for Bridget. She won’t be able to let go of everything that happened to her, maybe ever. What she needs is love and whole lot of patience.”
Darlene sighed. “We’re trying. We really are. But she gets angry so easily.”
“She’s trying to push you away. She wants to hurt you before you have a chance to hurt her,” I explained. Darlene’s eyes widened.
“But why? We only want to help her,” she exclaimed.
“Because she’s been hurt. A lot. In ways she can’t even begin to process. She doesn’t trust you. She’s expecting you to hurt her the way her parents did. You have to prove to her otherwise.” Bridget kept her eyes trained on the ground, her small body a coil of tension.
“That makes sense. Thank you, Ellie. I guess I just needed to hear it’s not something we’re doing.” Darlene wiped her eyes.
“What you and your husband are doing for Bridget is so important. And one day she’ll appreciate it. I can promise you that,” I said with total sincerity.
“I hope so,” Darlene said. I watched her coax Bridget out of the chair and towards the door.
“See you next week, Bridget,” I called out as they left. Bridget never lifted her eyes, but that was okay. I had hope that her life would get better one day at a time.
“Wow, I’m exhausted,” I sighed, cramming crayons back into boxes.
“Maybe you should head home,” Julie suggested, throwing off cuts of paper into the recycling bin.
“I have two client meetings before I can leave today. Plus I have a mountain of paperwork—”
“Ellie, I really think you should take it easy,” Julie interrupted.
“Take it easy? I don’t think I understand what that means,” I laughed.
“How are you feeling now? Still queasy?” Julie asked, throwing me off guard.
“Uh, I feel a little better. Why?”
Julie chewed on her bottom lip, a sure sign she was stewing over something. I groaned loudly. “Just spit it out already, Jules. I don’t have all day.”
“When was your last period?”
I recoiled instantly. “Over stepping boundaries much? What kind of question is that?” I barked, embarrassed.
When was my last period? Why was she asking—?
“Wait a minute, you’re not actually suggesting…” my voice faded away into nothing.
Julie’s expression was sympathetic, which annoyed me. And here I had been feeling so warm and fuzzy about her earlier. “Just stop it. I’m not pregnant.”
“The symptoms sound about right, that’s all I’m saying. And it’s not the worst idea, you know,” she placated.
I hadn’t had my period this month. I was never one to keep track. I didn’t write it in my calendar or anything, but I knew it usually came around the first week. It was now the end of January and nothing.
I sat down in a daze. “Well damn it,” I choked out.
Julie sat down beside me, patting my arm. “Don’t look like that, Ellie.”
“Like what?” I asked, confused.
“Like you’re standing in front of a firing squad. You’d be a wonderful mother. Don’t underestimate yourself,” she scolded, still patting my arm.
“I can’t. No, I can’t be a mom. I’m just not ready,” I gasped, feeling short of breath. And the damn nausea returned. I wish I could throw up all over Julie’s shoes.
“Okay, so you may not be ready, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” she reasoned.
I looked up at the woman who had literally saved my life and felt a strange sort of heaviness in the center of my chest. “What if I mess up? What if I screw up a kid the way I was screwed up? I can’t deal with that, Julie. I can’t.” The words came out agonized. And terrified.
Julie smiled. “You are not your mother. You are an intelligent, compassionate, kind woman with a lot of love to give the people in your life. Will you be a perfect mother? No. Will you mess up? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you won’t still be great at it.”
“I might not even be pregnant. You could be giving me a pep talk for nothing,” I countered.
“That’s true. But if you are, I’ll be there. You have people who care about you so much. And you have Flynn. You aren’t alone anymore. Remember that.”
“I know.” I got to my feet a little unsteadily. “I think I need to go to the store. And then go home.”
Julie nodded. “Call me later? I’d like to know.”
I gave her a hug, the emotions coming on strong and hard. “I will.”

The pharmacy was too full of people.
I felt like a teenager trying to buy condoms instead of a full grown woman purchasing a variety of pregnancy tests to confirm whether she had conceived a child with her husband.
It wasn’t shame I felt. Not even close.
It was…hope.
And a good dose of fear as well.
Because in spite of Julie’s cheerleading, I still had a lot of doubts about my abilities to parent. I knew from personal experience that you could become something more than your past. I had proven that. Flynn had helped me.
Yet the thought of being a mother resurrected so many feelings that I had hoped never to experience again. The worst being doubt and self-condemnation.
What sort of mother could I be when I had no positive role models?
The idea of doing irreparable damage to a child chilled me to the bone. My skin was coated in sweat by the time I made it to the counter. I wouldn’t make eye contact with the cashier as I handed her the cash to pay for the purchase.
I kept my head down, hoping to leave without running into anyone—
“I’ve been trying to call you all day, Ellie!” a voice exclaimed, grabbing my arm just as I was about to leave the store.
I came to a stop, dropping the bag, the boxes of pregnancy tests spilling onto the floor.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Dania apologized, stooping down to help me pick up the items. She lifted one of them up and grinned like a maniac.
“Oh my god!” she squealed. “Are you serious?”
“Shh, Dania. Don’t announce it to the whole town please,” I hissed, grabbing the pregnancy test and shoving it back into the bag.
Dania looped her arm with mine and pulled me from the pharmacy. Outside the air felt thick and heavy and it really did look like snow. I couldn’t even be excited about the prospect. Not with my head reeling with other things.
“You think your pregnant?” she asked giddily, her face flushed with excitement.
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ve been sick for a week. Julie thinks I could be. But it’s probably nothing. Just the flu—”
“Do certain smells make you want to hurl?” Dania asked all knowingly.
I nodded.
Dania poked me in the arm. “That was me every time! The worst was with Leo. Don’t you remember when I came to your house last year and you were making fried chicken and I threw up in your sink?”
“Oh yeah, one of my fonder memories,” I replied sarcastically.
“With Lyla it was the smell of coffee. Couldn’t handle it.”
“That was me this morning. Flynn made me coffee and I almost lost my breakfast right there,” I told her.
Dania and I walked down the sidewalk together, arm in arm, the way we used to when we were younger. Only I liked the women we were now better so much more than I ever liked the girls we had been.
We had come a long way. Both as individuals and as friends. There was a time when I had never planned to speak to Dania again. I had cut her out of my life. The toxicity we infected each other with was too much to bear.
But since moving back to Wellston after college, and more so since marrying Flynn, I had found a new appreciation for Dania and all the ways she too had changed.
Dania was a different person. She was a good mom to Lyla and Leo, who was only a year old. I genuinely liked her husband, Chris, who had made an effort to become friends with Flynn. They were a great family unit, proving again that a crappy upbringing didn’t have to dictate your future.
I was happy to call this woman my best friend once again. There had been a time when I hated her. Avoided her. Detested the decisions she made. And I had been justified in those feelings. She had been a pretty horrible person.
Now I was glad to have her in my life.
But I could always see the pain that always lingered behind her eyes. Behind her smiles. A pain that had everything to do with the baby she gave up for adoption many years ago and so many bad choices that she could could never take back.
“Have you said anything to Flynn?” she asked, practically bouncing up and down.
“No, I haven’t. I wanted to wait until I knew. I’m not sure how he’ll take it.”
I had tried to picture telling Flynn he would be a father and the image just wouldn’t come. His reaction was uncertain and that bothered me.
I had become so adept at reading Flynn. At knowing him better than he knew himself. But this was new territory for both of us. I worried it would send him into an emotional tailspin that I couldn’t get him out of.
“Do you want me to come with you? To be with you when you take the tests?” Dania asked.
I shook my head. “I think I’d rather do this alone.”
Dania glared at me and then cupped my face between her hands. “Stop it, Ellie McCallum. Stop it right now or I’ll slap you.”
“Stop what?” I frowned, trying to pull away. She frowned and dug her glove covered fingers into my cheeks.
“Stop questioning yourself. And doubting and all those other horrible things you do when you’re feeling unsure. You have nothing to worry about. If you are pregnant, you’ll be a good mom. Flynn will be a great dad. You’ll be kick ass parental units together.”
I rolled my eyes. “Who died and made you Dr. Know-It-All?” I quipped, trying to make light of the situation.
Dania gave me a little shake, squishing my cheeks. “I could stand here and psychoanalyze you all day. You’re not that hard to read. Particularly since I’ve known you for way too long. Now go home, take those tests, and call me as soon as you know something! Lyla wanted to come by after school and see Murphy, but I think we’ll wait until this weekend.”
“That’s probably a good idea.”
Dania looked up at the sky. “Yeah, it’s starting to snow anyway, so you’d better get going. That road of yours is awful in bad weather.”
I followed her gaze upwards and she was right. Big fat snowflakes began to fall. Slowly at first and then as the minutes went by it grew heavier.
“Thanks, Dania.” I leaned forward and kissed her cheek. Something I would never have done before.
But we were different people. In a different life.
“That’s what friends are for,” she reminded me.

By the time I got home the snow was coming fast and thick. The weather report hadn’t called for it at all. Everyone was taken by surprise.
I noticed that Flynn wasn’t home yet, which wasn’t unusual. He typically stayed on campus until early evening grading papers. I didn’t expect him for hours.
Which was good. I had to deal with the issue at hand before I dealt with my husband.
I walked into the house and was instantly greeted by Murphy who had been sitting in the front window waiting for either myself or Flynn to get home. His large, hairy body collided with mine and I stumbled backwards, dropping the bag onto the floor.
I crouched down so I was level with the furry beast, scratching behind his ears. “It’s good to see you too buddy.” He leaned into my hand, trying to get as close to me as possible.
I sat in a heap on the cold, kitchen floor with the dog, that in some ways, brought Flynn and I together. In this house I was surrounded by memories. Some of them wonderful.
Some of them so, so tragic.
It was here that a sad and lonely girl found comfort with a sad and lonely boy. Over banana bread and television shows, we had formed an unlikely bond that never went away.
Not even when I tried to burn it to the ground. Literally.
Sometimes I swore I could still smell the acrid tang of smoke, particularly when it was hot, and a flush of shame would overtake me. Flynn would tell me I was imagining things. And perhaps I was. Maybe it was my lingering guilt that would never let me forget the horrible things I did to the man I loved so many years before. Even if he had forgiven me I didn’t think I’d ever be able to really forgive myself.
But I couldn’t dwell on those things. Not anymore. Not when there were more important things to consider.
I opened the kitchen door and let Murphy out into the yard. I watched him bound through the freshly fallen snow and thought about the muddy footprints he’d be tracking in, knowing how annoyed Flynn would be.
Carrying the bag, I went back to the bathroom and closed the door. Pulling out the three tests, I opened each one and laid them on the counter.
Peeing on a stick is an uncomfortable process. And messy. And more than a little gross. You’d think they’d find a better way of doing this by now.
Then I left them to do what they needed to do and went to let Murphy in.
Only to find Flynn drying off his paws methodically by the door.
“I didn’t expect you to be home until later,” I said in surprise. I thought of the tests laid out in a row on the counter in the bathroom and started to panic. I had wanted some time to come to terms with whatever those tests said before having to face my husband.
Damn it!
Flynn looked up, hair falling into his face, making him look so young. He was so handsome. I loved every detail of him. I never tired of tracing the lines of his face in my mind.
“Why are you home? Is it because of the snow? I told you it’s messy and dangerous,” he intoned blandly, in his unemotional inflection.
“Why are you home already?” I countered, avoiding his question. Not ready to answer it.
Flynn frowned, not fooled in the least by my change of subject. “Are you feeling better? You still look pale. You should rest if you’re feeling bad.”
He gave Murphy one final wipe down before letting him free to run back into the living room.
“I’m feeling a little off, I guess,” I admitted.
I had to tell him.
How do I tell him?
What would he say?
Would he freak out?
What would I do if he freaked out?
“You’re thinking about things that are upsetting you. I can tell. Your mouth presses into a line and you frown a lot. I can read you, so just tell me what’s wrong,” Flynn insisted, his voice rising slightly.
I crossed the room to him and wrapped my arms around his waist. He was still wearing his coat and melting snow was dripping onto the floor. “I love you so much, Flynn,” I told him, burying my face into the damp fabric of his jacket.
“I love you too, Ellie. You know that. I’m wet. I need to take my coat off. The water is making a mess. I have to clean it up. And you need to tell me what’s going on.”
“Take off your coat and I’ll get a towel. Then I’ll tell you,” I promised him.
When we were finished Flynn put the towel over the radiator and then turned to me. “Ellie, I don’t like it when you don’t talk to me. It makes me think things are bad. Are things bad?” He was nervous. I was upsetting him. I didn’t want to upset him. But he wasn’t wringing his hands the way he would have years before.
“Can you come with me?” I asked, holding out my hand for him to take. He nodded and we walked, hand in hand down the hallway towards the bathroom.
“Why are we going to the bathroom? If you need to go, you should do that alone. I don’t have to go in there with you.” He was confused.
I turned on the light and pulled Flynn into the tiny space. I picked up one of the tests and saw the result. My heart squeezed tight in my chest.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked him.
Flynn took the white stick of plastic from my hand and looked at it. “It’s a test. One that tells you if you’re pregnant or not. I’ve seen the ads on TV, Ellie.” He gave me a patronizing look.
“What does it say?” I asked breathlessly, my voice trembling.
Flynn squinted at the result window. “It says pregnant.” He looked up at me, his eyes bright. “You’re pregnant.”
I swallowed thickly, unable to speak.
“You’re pregnant,” he repeated.
I nodded again.
“We’re having a baby.”
My eyes began to burn. I didn’t try to stop the tears that started to fall. “Is that okay?” I whispered.
Flynn stared down at the test in his hand. Then he put it down and picked up another test that I had taken. “This one has a plus sign. That means you’re pregnant too.”
He picked up the third test and stared at. “This one has a smiley face. That one looks strange though. Why do they all have to say different things? It’s confusing.”
I took the test from his hand and put it on the counter, gripping his fingers tightly between mine. “Flynn, we’re going to have a baby.” I could barely believe the words.
I had been so terrified by the idea, now I was more terrified of Flynn hating the idea.
Because, I realized, I wanted to be a mother. Desperately. And I needed Flynn to want it just as much.
“We’re having a baby.” He seemed only capable of parroting me. That worried me. I watched him intently, waiting for him to lose it. To freak out. To fall apart.
Then he smiled.
A big, beautiful smile.
“I’m going to be a dad,” he said with the first real emotion I had heard from him since he came home.
My eyes were blurred with tears. “You’re going to be a dad.”
“And you’re going to be a mom. To my baby. Our baby.” His smile grew even wider.
“And that makes you happy?” I dared to ask.
Flynn lifted my hands to his mouth and held them there. He didn’t kiss them. Just pressed them against his mouth and closed his eyes.
I didn’t dare speak. I wanted to give him time to figure out what to say.
Finally he opened his eyes and the look in them told me everything I needed to hear.
But he gave me the words anyway. As best as he was able to.
“Ellie, I love you. And I will love the baby we have made together. I’m scared to be a dad. But I’m excited to. Because we’re a family.”
I let out a sob and kissed him. There was passion in our kiss.
And love.
So much love.
After a while, he pulled back and smiled. “We should put on our boots and go walk in the snow.”
I sniffled, wiped my face dry. “But you hate the snow. It’s slushy and makes a mess.”
He put his hand on my flat belly, leaving it there for a heartbeat.
“I love the snow. Because you love it. And the baby will probably love it too. So I need to learn to deal with the mess.”
I laughed and hugged him tightly.
Ever so grateful for the wonderful life I had fought so hard for.
For the wonderful future that seemed certain.
For a girl from nothing to now have everything, seemed like a fairytale.
But it was our fairytale.
And it had one hell of a happy ending.