A Month Later
“I wish there was a manual for this sort of thing,” Nicole said at her second counselling session with Dr. Mason.
“What do you mean?” Dr. Mason asked.
Nicole sat in silence for a moment, thinking of how she wanted to answer the question. The last four weeks had been a whirlwind for Nicole, Hudson and Ryan. Ryan had been exactly what she needed and he had been a wonderful support system to her since she was released from the hospital. He had taken Hudson to soccer practice, he had done the grocery shopping, he cooked them meals, in fact, in the last four weeks, Ryan had bent over backwards to help them out. She had tried to visit Anna before she left the hospital, but Anna had refused to see her, which she could understand.
“My husband passed away less than two months ago,” Nicole began, “But what is the protocol for something like this? I am very much in love with Ryan, but I don’t know how long to wait before I take that next step.”
“In this situation Nicole, I believe that you were already grieving the end of your marriage before Chad passed away,” Dr. Mason replied, “You were preparing for a divorce because you weren’t expecting a reconciliation. I, honestly don’t think you are moving too quickly. He is exactly what Chad wasn’t…always there. Chad got bored, whereas Ryan is going above and beyond to be the friend and the partner that you need.”
She had been so appreciative of how much Ryan had stepped up to the plate. She had managed to pick herself up and dust herself off, but she would not have been able to do it without Ryan by her side. She had ended up staying in the hospital for a couple days as it took her that long to get back her appetite. Her morning sickness this time around had been worse than she had ever imagined and with all the stress and the lack of care on her part, she had only made it worse.
“I am very enamoured with him,” Nicole said as the smile spread across her face, “I didn’t think I would feel this way for someone so quickly.”
“Nicole, Ryan was your first love, your first everything,” Dr. Mason replied, smiling back at her, “You never expected your relationship with him to end and you never completely got over him. So, unsurprisingly, it was exceptionally easy for you to let go and fall in love with him all over again. This does not make you a bad person. I know that part of you thinks that you are required to mourn your deceased husband for months or even years before you move on, but the other part of you is struggling because your feelings for Ryan are so strong.”
“Dr. Mason, I don’t know what to do,” Nicole replied, looking over at her for reassurance.
“Oh, I think you do,” Dr. Mason replied with a smile.
Anna sat in the waiting room of Dr. Mason’s office with her sister by her side. A couple weeks ago Anna decided it was time to go to a counsellor to talk through her issues, but what she hadn’t expected was that Beth would say yes to coming with her. When it came to her relationship with her sister, she thought she had shot that to hell, but Beth had been nothing but supportive of her.
“Beth, I can’t thank you enough for being here with me,” Anna said quietly, looking over at her sister.
Beth looked over at her and smiled. Anna couldn’t have planned this even if she had tried. Beth reached for Anna’s hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
“I was beyond angry when you told me Anna, but I reacted harshly,” Beth responded, “I was heartbroken by what you had done to Nicole. You grew up with her, she helped me babysit you. I can’t remember a time that she wasn’t a part of our lives. But when you called and told me you were ready to get help, but wanted me with you, I couldn’t say no. I need my sister and she needs me.”
Anna stared at Beth for a moment and she felt so incredibly undeserving of her support and love, but she was so grateful that Beth was there with her. Anna kept her hand in Beth’s and they sat there in silence until Dr. Mason’s door opened and a patient walked out.
“Anna?” she heard a familiar voice ask.
Anna and Beth both looked up and saw Nicole walk out of Dr. Mason’s office. Anna’s heart began to beat at an incredible pace as she looked over at Beth and Beth gave her a supportive smile.
“Nicole, hi,” Anna replied.
“It’s so good to see you,” Nicole exclaimed happily, “You look great! How are you?”
“I’m doing ok. Not quite out of the woods yet, but I’m getting there,” Anna replied with a small smile.
“Well, Dr. Mason is great,” Nicole stated, “She will be able to help you through this. She has helped me through a few things in the last several months. She’s a life saver.”
Beth nudged Anna in the side and Anna gave her a quick glance. In the beginning, Beth had been adamant about not saying a word to Nicole about what she had done, but now Beth had a change of heart and was all about telling the truth. Anna expected that Beth thought Nicole had been doing so well since she got out of the hospital a month ago and now was as good a time as any to tell her the truth. Anna looked down at her hands for a moment before she nervously looked up at Nicole.
“Nic, do you have a moment?” Anna asked quietly, tapping her foot anxiously on the floor.
“Yeah, of course,” Nicole replied, “Ryan is picking me up to take me to my 16 week baby appointment, but I still have a few moments. What’s on your mind?”
“I won’t take up a lot of your time,” Anna stated nervously, “But I have to tell you something that had consumed me so badly that it almost took my life.”
“Anna, you’re scaring me,” Nicole said, sitting in the empty chair on the other side of her, “Please tell me.”
“Nicole, I lied to you. In fact, I lied to everyone,” Anna began quietly, “Chad was getting ready to leave me and go back to you and I couldn’t bear to lose him. So in a moment of panic, I came up with a malicious plan that would make Chad stay with me.”
Nicole looked at Anna and Beth cautiously and Anna felt like she was about to destroy whatever relationship she had left with Nicole. Beth had warned Anna that this might happen, but in order for her to move on, she had no choice but to be honest with Nicole.
“I stole my best friend’s positive pregnancy test and made everyone believe that Chad had gotten me pregnant,” Anna said reluctantly, “After he passed away, I had no choice but to fake my miscarriage. It was heinous and I feel awful because that’s not who I am and that’s not the person that you grew up with. I wish I could take it back, but unfortunately I can’t change the past.”
Nicole looked at Anna with tears in her eyes and then she stared straight ahead at a blank space on the wall. Anna assumed that she was attempting to process this information, but she really had no idea what was going on in Nicole’s mind at that moment.
“Unfortunately, this is something you will have to live with forever,” Nicole said quietly after a moment of thought, “But being honest and talking to a professional about it is one step to taking the pain and guilt away. I’m proud of you for taking that step Anna. I’m not going to lie to you, this news definitely hurts, but I know that you are trying to better yourself now. No matter what Anna, you are on the path to becoming a newer and better version of yourself and I will help you in any way I can and I’m sure that Beth will be there every step of the way as well.”
Anna sat there dumbfounded. She could not believe that Nicole had just said she was proud of her and that she would support her and help her. She put her head in her hands as the tears threatened to fall. Anna had been so scared that her being honest would result in her losing Nicole for good. She had always thought of Nicole as a sister and she was afraid that the news would be the end of that.
“Anna, what you did was wrong and it hurt me more than I can say,” Nicole said quietly, “But I still love you and care about you. That will never change.”
Anna jumped up, the tears spilling from her eyes at this point and wrapped her arms around Nicole. Hearing Nicole say those words was a relief to Anna, it was like a massive weight was lifted off her shoulders. Nicole wrapped her arms around Anna and held her tightly. Anna knew that she had to work hard to get back to where she was before Chad because she didn’t like the person she had become.
“Good luck with your first session Anna,” Nicole said with a smile after they pulled apart, “Let me know if there is anything you need. I have to get going or I’ll miss my appointment. Beth, I’ll call you tonight.”
Nicole left the office and Anna turned and looked at her sister, astonished that that moment had gone the opposite of how she had imagined it. Beth smiled at her and pulled her in for a hug.
“Beth…she forgave me,” Anna stated with a huge smile, “I didn’t expect that.”
“Nicole is an amazing woman, Anna,” Beth said quietly with a smile, “She knows that she has to take care of herself and the baby and causing unnecessary stress is not the way to do that. It will take a while to get back to the way things were before everything happened, but give her time. You will earn her trust back, but I swear to god, if you make a move on Ryan…”
“Woah, Beth don’t go there,” Anna said, shutting her sister down immediately, “That was the old me, I don’t want to be known as that person anymore.”
“Ms. Calvert,” Dr. Mason called from her office, interrupting their heated conversation, “I’m ready for you.”
Anna and Beth gave each other a quick look before they followed Dr. Mason into the office.
Nicole and Ryan sat in the doctor’s office waiting patiently for Dr. Hayward. She was feeling nervous, not because they were about to find out the sex of the baby, but because she had chosen today to tell Ryan how she felt. Ryan took her hand in his and rubbed her palm with his thumb and goosebumps travelled over the length of her arm. She really hoped he hadn’t noticed but when she looked up at him, his lip curled up slightly, indicating that in fact he had noticed.
“It’s cold in here,” Nicole stated shyly.
“I bet it is,” Ryan chuckled, “Nic, what’s going on?”
The way Ryan was looking at her, it was like she couldn’t keep anything from him. She felt like he could see into her soul, but he really didn’t have to look that far because she knew she was wearing her heart, soul and feelings on her sleeve. Anyone would be stupid not to notice that she was completely head over heels in love with Ryan Wilson.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last six weeks,” Nicole said quietly, “And I’ve been struggling with what is right and what is wrong and how long I should wait before I let my feelings be known. I’ve only been a widow for seven weeks, but Ryan…I can’t push my feelings to the side anymore.”
“What conclusion have you come to?” Ryan asked with hope in his voice.
“I love you and I don’t want to fight it anymore,” Nicole whispered, “I have been fighting it for months and I don’t think my heart can handle much more.”
Ryan leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips just as Dr. Hayward walked into the office. They quickly parted, but not quickly enough. Dr. Hayward smiled and sat down on the stool.
“Dr. Hayward, this is Ryan,” Nicole said, feeling the heat in her cheeks, “He is going to be with me for the ultrasound.”
“Ryan, it’s very nice to meet you,” Dr. Hayward said with a smile, “I’m glad she has someone to support her during this time. Now, are you ready for your ultrasound?”
“Absolutely,” Nicole replied, beaming up at Dr. Hayward.
Nicole got up on the bed and laid down and reached for Ryan’s hand. The warmth of his hand travelled through her and she felt relief. She knew that with Ryan, she and her kids were going to be just fine. She smiled up at him and he leaned down and kissed her tenderly on the forehead.
“Ok, Nicole,” Dr. Hayward said quietly after dimming the lights, “I’m going to apply the jelly now, it’s going to be a little cold.”
Dr. Hayward lifted Nicole’s shirt slightly and squeezed the cool jelly onto her stomach, which sent a shiver through Nicole. Ryan squeezed her hand nervously as Dr. Hayward moved the wand over her lower stomach, taking measurements and pictures and making sure everything looked good. After a couple moments of silence while Dr. Hayward worked they heard a quiet thumping noise through the speaker. Nicole’s heart jumped in her chest and she instantly looked up at Ryan, and it was clear that he was unsure of what he was hearing.
“That’s the baby,” Nicole whispered to Ryan, “That’s its little heartbeat.”
“My ex never bothered to invite me to her appointments when she was pregnant with Emily, so I never got to experience this,” Ryan replied quietly as he looked down at Nicole, his eye glistening with unshed tears, “It’s is a beautiful thing Nic. So amazing to see that little growing and moving inside you.”
“I’ll print out some pictures for you two once we are done here,” Dr. Hayward said happily, “You’re little one is growing and according to the measurements and that little heart beat you heard, very healthy. Do you want to know the sex?”
Nicole looked up at Ryan and he was beaming with happiness and excitement. They both looked at her and nodded their heads in response.
“Nicole, Ryan...you’re having a boy,” Dr. Hayward said with a smile, “And he is a healthy and hefty boy at that.”
“We’re having a boy,” Nicole exclaimed happily, “Chad would be so happy to hear that it’s a boy.”
The doctor turned off the machine after a couple minutes and then wiped the jelly off of Nicole’s stomach and smiled at them. She handed them three different sonograms from different angles and Nicole admired her baby boy as Ryan glanced at the pictures from over her shoulder.
“I’ll leave you two alone now,” Dr. Hayward said quietly, “Congratulations. I’ll see you in one month.”
After Dr. Hayward left the room, Nicole sat up and readjusted her shirt before grabbing Ryan’s hands in hers. She looked into his eyes and he looked back at her, neither one of them sure of what to say. She couldn’t read his thoughts and she had no idea what was going on in that head of his.
“I’m sorry you missed out on all those special appointments when she was pregnant with Emily,” Nicole said quietly, “I’m glad you could be here with me for this. It is such an amazing experience.”
“I’ve never felt this way before,” Ryan replied quietly, “Hearing the heartbeat, being here with you, hearing you tell me that you love me, it’s kind of like emotional overload. I’m not quite sure to do with all of this information.”
“Embrace it,” Nicole replied with a giggle, “You’re stuck with me now.”
“You’re beautiful Nicole,” Ryan laughed, “You made me so happy today. I just don’t want to rush you if you aren’t ready. We can take things slow.”
“Ryan, stop,” Nicole said, putting her hands on his shoulders, “I’m ready. It may be soon for some people, but it’s not too soon for me. My counsellor made a good point today about how I started the grieving process months before Chad passed away. I never thought about it like that.”
“Neither did I,” Ryan stated before grabbing her hands in his and staring into her eyes, “Nic, you are such a strong woman and it amazes me every day that you have made it out of this in one piece. You inspire me to be a better man, a stronger man...I want to be the man to take care of you, even though I know you don’t really need it, and take care of Hudson and your new little one.”
“Our new little one,” Nicole corrected him quietly, “Ryan, this little boy needs a father...”
Ryan looked adoringly into Nicole’s eyes for a moment before he put his hands on either side of her face and pressed his soft lips against hers. A breath rushed from her lungs and her mouth opened, allowing him access as he pulled her body close to him. Over the last couple months Nicole hadn’t allowed herself to feel completely the effects that Ryan had on her, but now she let go and every emotion slammed together inside her causing a quiet whimper to escape from her throat. Nicole wrapped her arms around his neck as the kiss deepened and her body filled with a warmth she hadn’t felt in months. Her heart was full and she was beginning to feel complete again.
“Nic…I want to adopt them,” Ryan said quietly after he reluctantly pulled away from her, “If you are on board, I would like to do that. Both of them need a father.”
Nicole smiled so big that she thought her face would crack. She never thought that Ryan would want to officially become their father, but the mere fact that he had asked for it convinced her that he was all in, heart and soul. Chad would always be Hudson’s daddy, but he still needed that emotional connection and he already thought of Ryan as his “other daddy”. As for the little one growing in her tummy, he wouldn’t ever know Chad and he definitely needed a father figure in his life.
“I want that too Ryan,” Nicole responded, “I need you and I’m ready to play house with you.”
Ryan’s eyebrow raised slightly as did the corner of his mouth as he tried to keep from laughing. Nicole giggled as he helped her off the bed and she wrapped her arms around his waist and looked into his eyes. Only five more months and her life would be everything she had wished for and more. His eyes glistened as he held her close and looked down at her with a smile.
“We should think of a name for our little peanut,” Nicole said quietly, wanting him to give his thoughts.
“That’s easy Nic,” Ryan replied before kissing her on the nose, “There is only one name that would suit our little guy.”
“And what’s that?” Nicole asked sweetly.
“Chad,” he replied, “Keep his dad’s memory alive.”
Nicole was at a loss for words at his response. She had not expected him to suggest Chad, but she loved him all the more for it. Nothing else was said as Nicole nodded her head in agreement and then Ryan leaned down and closed the gap between them.