Every WayBy: Lexy Timms
The Brush Of Love Series, Volume 4
“I feel like a hot-air balloon,” Hailey said.
“Well, you’re as colorful as one,” I said, grinning.
“No sex for you,” she retorted and stuck her tongue out.
“Oh, come on, sweetheart. You’re due in eight weeks. You look spectacular. You know you do.”
“No, I don’t. I feel like a beached whale, and I look like a bloated antelope.”
“A bloated antelope?” I asked.
“Yes. Go with it,” she said.
“Anything you say, beautiful.”
The June summer day was absolutely breathtaking. It started with waking up to the woman of my dreams and was ending with my arms wrapped around her protruding stomach. I peppered the side of Hailey’s neck with kisses, allowing myself to feel the stubble of hair that was now growing back. That hair was the sign of health for me. A sign that Hailey’s cancer was gone. I loved the feel of her stubble against my skin as I ran my hands along her stomach. Not only was her body healthy, but it was blooming with life.
“Does it still feel wrong to call the baby a her?” I asked.
“Yep. Just wrong,” Hailey said, grinning.
“But the doctors are insistent that it’s a girl.”
“Which is why I insisted everything be in gender neutral tones. Something doesn’t sit right with calling our child a ‘her’.”
“It’s okay. You can get away with that because you’re an artist. You’ve bought and painted things in colors I didn’t know existed.”
“So, you like the nursery?” she asked.
“I love it,” I said as I kissed her shoulder.
“Good. Because now it’s time for you to get to work in it.”
“Did you think I was going to put together the furniture? The paint’s dry, and I have no more finishing touches. Now, it’s your turn.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then you can knock out one of those things on my list already,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
Hailey turned around in my arms, and I lost myself in her dazzling eyes. I hunched over and took her within my arms, molding my body to her curvature. I captured her lips with mine and tasted the essence of dinner she had been cooking. She tasted like chicken and cheese with a hint of broccoli and a lot of spice. My lips tingled as I smiled against her skin while her hands ran through the locks of my hair I’d allowed to grow out a bit.
“I like having a little bit to grab onto,” she said.
“So I’ve come to find out,” I said, winking. “Just let me know when you want the furniture in the nursery, and I’ll get it in there.”
“What do you mean? Doesn’t that stuff require assembly or something?” she asked.
“Your cheap furniture does, sure. But did you think I was going to put my child in cheap furniture?”
“What did you do, Bryan?”
“Nothing! I just made our baby’s furniture is all.”
“You what?” she asked.
“Did you really think I was going to buy our baby’s furniture when I could custom-make something unique for her?”
“Him,” Hailey corrected.
“By our knowledge, it’s a girl.”
“I think too many people get wrapped up in the gender of the child anyway. I’m more concerned with the health of my child. Plus, he’s been a bit stubborn. He’s practically burrowing back into my spine during those appointments.”
“I don’t blame her. That gel looks cold.”
“Him. And you have no idea,” she said, groaning.
“Would you be upset if I told my mother the baby is a girl?” I asked.
“Why would you do that if I’m this unsure about it?”
I watched the light in Hailey’s eyes slowly morph into darkness. It happened every time I brought up my mother. She had been practically hovering over us, trying to get us to do things her way every damn second. She would guilt-trip Hailey into eating things she didn’t enjoy, and she tried to get me to back down on making my child’s own crib set. She insisted that she have a professional come in and do up our nursery for our child because they “deserved the best the family could give them.”
The woman reveled in making snide remarks that I couldn’t give our child the best without my mother’s help.
“Dinner is baked chicken with a spicy sauce and cheddar broccoli,” Hailey said, sighing.
“She’s really upset that we won’t tell them the gender yet,” I said.
“Not my problem. And I don’t get why she’s so upset about it.”
“She just wants to tell her friends. You know, announcements or whatever it is she’s wanting to do.”
“If I let her, she would have this child on her own and claim it as hers,” Hailey said. “But with my feet aching the way they do, I’m almost tempted to let her.”
“It’s been nice having them around though, right?” I asked.
“Come on. Remember when my father came over with that pan of cinnamon rolls?” I asked.
“That was nice,” she said.
“Or the time my mother brought you lunch because you called me saying you were light-headed?”
“She came because you called her. Not because I did,” she said.
“What about the time she popped in to say ‘hi’ and you were trapped in the bathtub? She helped you out. Got you dried off. Got you food. All that stuff,” I said.
“Yeah.” Her agreement was on the reluctant side. “It was nice she popped by for that.”
“What would you have done without her?” I asked.
“Sat there and pruned up until you got home,” she said.
“My father’s really warmed up to you.”
“I like your father. I’ve never not liked your father. Your mother, on the other hand ...”
“Is slowly coming around,” I said as I kissed her neck.
“You keep doing that, we aren’t going to be having dinner,” she said.
“And where’s the threat in that?”
My father had warmed up to us greatly. In fact, my father had done exactly what he said he would do. He cashed in most of his favors and pulled just about every connection he had in order to figure out what happened with my deceased brother, John. By the time witnesses were polled and the bit of evidence they did gather was pulled for my father’s liking, it was all but proven that Hailey’s story of what had happened to John was accurate, that John had been trying to help Hailey when he’d gone after those guys threatening her and that they had shot him up with an overdose-level amount of drugs to shut him up.
The thing was, my father was angry that there was no one alive to punish for the crimes. Despite Hailey’s insistence that there wasn’t, he kept digging. He became almost obsessed over it, trying to find someone to take his anger out on.
It wasn’t until we told them we were pregnant that he stopped his witch hunt and turned his sights to our growing family.
But as much as learning the truth had brought my father out of his shell, it had pushed my mother back into hers. She had her moments where she was loving and caring, but her snotty comments were worse than ever. Her tongue had been sharpened and set on fire, and when she started flailing it around, someone always left in tears. Many times during our family dinners at their house, Hailey would excuse herself to the bathroom, and I would find her crying. Quips about Hailey growing her hair back or putting on baby weight would rush her off to the other end of the house, and I finally put my foot down. I told my mother that if she couldn’t get her attitude together and cope with whatever the hell it was that had crawled up her ass, then we weren’t coming back over.
So, the weekly dinners dropped to once a month, and now my mother was only present if we called on her for something.
“Look, I only care about what you think,” Hailey said as she pushed me away. “I’m sorry your mother’s mad, but it’s our decision. Your father doesn’t seem to have an issue with it, so it sounds like a personal problem. And she can deal with it personally.”
“How are your parents doing with everything?” I asked. “You told them about it, right?”
“Of course, I told them I was pregnant, you maniac. Anna’s over here all the damn time checking on me.”
“Anna’s not your mom or dad,” I said.
“I mean, it is what it is with them. Now that I’m cancer-free and they aren’t losing me, things are sort of settling back into their place. They’re in Phoenix, so they can’t really do anything for me.”
“They could come see you. I keep offering whenever I do talk with them. We’ve got plenty of rooms in this house for them to occupy.”
“And whenever we do talk, I offer. But, it’s my parents. I don’t really know what to say other than that. We didn’t really grow close during my treatment. They were just there because they felt guilty. And speaking of my sister, how’s she doing at the foundation?”
“Good, as far as I know. Ellen hasn’t regretted hiring her on yet. She’s keeping her as her own personal in-house counsel as well as funding Anna’s cost-friendly legal service.”