Ten Years Later
I stood on the back porch of our house, supervising Eleanor and her friends as they jumped and squealed and splashed in the pool. There were a dozen kids in the yard and still more inside—Ellie’s friends from school and the children of my friends. That was one consolation for the fact I’d never been able to give my daughter a brother or a sister. She’d been surrounded by children from the day she was born and raised among a high-energy cohort of surrogate cousins.
As my fur babies wound their way around my ankles—a dark duo of adorable and not at all murderous cats we’d named Crusher and Reaper—I stomped on the glimmer of hope fluttering quietly in my chest. I couldn’t let myself imagine, even for a moment, that my family would ever look different from how it did today. And why would I need it to? What I already had was more than enough.
“Great day for it,” Tash observed, coming to stand beside me at the porch railing and looking out over the chaos taking over my usually immaculate garden. She had a pink fabric pouch slung across her body with a tiny baby girl curled up inside. We both watched Ellie dive off the side of the pool, then swim the length of the water to swipe Leo’s legs out from under him. The ten-year-old popped back through the surface and sputtered for a moment before he took off after his nemesis. “And it looks like the birthday girl is having a good time,” Tash added.
“She is,” I agreed with a laugh, glancing around at the balloons and streamers, the table loaded with food and drinks, and the big yellow cake with a sparkly number nine perched on top. “She’s been begging for a pool party since we finished the yard three years ago, so it was probably time to give in.” I reached over and pulled back the carrier pouch to get a peek at Alessa inside. “How’s she doing in there?”
Tash smiled and brushed a fingertip over the baby’s plump pink cheek. “Snug as a bug.”
“You’re so good with her,” I commented. “So chilled.”
Tash snorted quietly. “Fifth time around, you better hope I’m chilled. The alternative is a nice padded room somewhere.”
We swapped small, secretive smiles. Tash hadn’t always been zen about motherhood, and I couldn’t blame her. She’d spent most of the last ten years either pregnant or with a baby strapped to her body, with barely enough time to breathe in between. First, there was Leo, now a precocious kid who I had the pleasure of teaching that year. In quick succession, Tash and Luca had three more boys—Marco, Samuel, and Giovanni—before Alessa was born six weeks ago. They had their hands full, that was for sure.
I’d dealt with my envy a long time ago. Did I sometimes wonder what this house would feel like with more children under its roof? Of course, and never as much as when Ellie asked her dad and me for a brother or sister under the Christmas tree.
Never as much as when I had a pregnancy test burning a hole in my pocket.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked. “Water? A plate of food?”
“I’m all right.” Tash flapped her hand at me. “It’s just nice not to have someone needing something from me for a minute.”
Nodding and returning my attention to the pool, I laughed as Luca ejected Samuel and Giovanni from the water with orders to visit the bathroom before they came back. Tash collected a towel from the basket of clean ones I’d set out for the party, but I took it from her and set a hand on her arm. “I’ll get the boys. You relax.”
I skipped down the stairs and met the little men halfway across the yard. Samuel was five years old, and Giovanni was three, both carbon copies of their father with their dark hair and eyes, an olive tone to their skin, a serious crease on their brows.
“Hey, boys. Let me dry you off—”
I crouched down and promptly lost my balance as a wave of queasy dizziness knocked me off my feet. One minute I was grinning at my adorable godsons. The next, I was flat on my back, staring up at Tash’s concerned face hovering above me.
“Luca!” she called, setting a hand to my forehead, then my cheek. “Jess, honey. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I mumbled, trying to sit up. Not a good idea. There was a good chance I was about to ruin Ellie’s birthday party by depositing my breakfast on the lawn, and that was nobody’s idea of a fun party trick.
Damp hands took hold of me, and welcome droplets of cool water hit my face as Luca ran from the pool and helped me to my feet. “Are you okay, Frost? What happened?”
“I’m just a little lightheaded,” I assured him, flicking Tash a look that she read immediately. “I need some water, that’s all.”
“I’ll walk you inside,” Tash said, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “Luca, keep an eye on the kids, okay?” She scanned the yard, then asked, “Where’s Logan?”
“I think he’s in the workshop putting on the c-l-o-w-n costume,” Luca muttered.
“There’s a clown!” Leo screamed behind us before he started on a zoomie lap of the yard, and the rest of the kids went wild.
“Nice work, babe,” Tash sighed, patting Luca’s cheek. “I’ll take Jess inside and send out Emily and Josh with the rest of the kids. Can you ask Logan to find us when he gets back?”
“Will do.” Luca ran two hands through his hair before shouting, “Leo! Bring that back here! Ellie gets first whack at the piñata!”
Soon, I sat with Tash in the welcome quiet of the empty living room, and she watched me with sympathetic eyes.
“How late are you?” she asked.
I stared at her for a moment, debating what to confess, before I sighed. “Eleven days.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “And you haven’t done a test?”
Nodding slowly, Tash set a hand on my knee. “Have you ever been this late before?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and shook my head. “Longest was nine days.”
“And… you’ve never had a positive test? Even that late?”
I shook my head again. “No. Not since Ellie.”
Logan and I had tried for years to fall pregnant, and when it didn’t happen naturally, we completed two rounds of fertility treatments. We’d never seen a plus sign on a pee stick. Unexplained secondary infertility, the doctors called it.
It was one of those twists we hadn’t seen coming, a bend in the road I’d only been able to navigate because Logan had been there every step of the way. Held my hand when we walked it together. Carried me when I couldn’t stand any longer. There was no way to know for sure the problem was me, but I felt responsible. I’d let our family down.
“Do you have a test in the house?” Tash asked.
I nodded, staring at my hands as I picked at my cuticles. I had ten tests, but I’d been too terrified to use a single one because this time was different. I was late, but I was also nauseated. My breasts were sore. My back ached. I was crying. A lot.
My heart wanted me to believe there was a baby in my belly, but my head told me I’d be a fool to get my hopes up.
Logan and I had given up. We hadn’t even been trying.
Enthusiastic screams erupted outside, signalling the arrival of Bozo, I assumed, and Tash got to her feet.
“Take a minute, and when the kids have had enough of Logan, I’ll send him in to see you. Okay?”
I stood and hugged her. “Thank you.”
Who’d have thought this woman would become one of my best friends?
As soon as Tash was through the back doors, I slipped into the bathroom, dug out a test, and peed on the stick before I knew what I was doing. If I stopped to think about it, my head would have gotten in the way again, and I was pretty sure if Dot were still around, she’d have told me this was one of those moments to listen to my heart.
Fifteen minutes later, Logan found me sitting on the edge of our bed, staring at two white plastic sticks, trying to believe what my eyes told me was true. And, surprise, I was crying.
“Knock-knock,” he said, opening the door, and at the sight of him, I burst out laughing. “You like?” he asked, flapping his long red shoes at me.
“I didn’t know they made them like you anymore,” I said, tears running down my face at the sight of him in a rainbow patchwork jumpsuit, floppy shoes, and a full face of costume make-up.
“They don’t, babe. I’m one of a kind.” He pulled a bouquet of plastic flowers from his sleeve, then honked his big red nose before realising my laughs had turned to sobs. “Hey, what’s wrong? Tash said you aren’t feeling well.”
“I was a little dizzy. And nauseous. My back hurts. My boobs hurt.” I scrubbed at my face. “And I can’t stop crying.”
Logan pulled the fuzzy blue wig from his head and dropped to his knees in front of me. Well, he tried. He tripped on his feet and had to throw off his shoes, and I laugh-sobbed some more. He’d knelt between my knees and set his hands on my hips before he noticed the tests in my hand. A single tear tracked down his white clown make-up.
“Are you telling me…?”
I turned the test window towards him, the bright pink positive signs as clear as day. “It took us a while, but I’m pregnant.”
Logan held my face in his hands and kissed me gently and reverently. “I love you.”
Our road had been long and winding. Nobody could argue against that, but every step of it had been an adventure, and there was so much more to come.
I pushed my fingers through Logan’s blond hair, met his steady grey eyes, and kissed him. I’d always take what we had, with no regrets, including the years we had to wait for this baby. It wasn’t how I planned it, but I had everything I wanted. I’d never want our life any other way.