Sitting on what was and will be my grandparents’ porch, it’s surreal. The sun is setting on the Tennessee horizon as I sit out on the deck with Alex. We couldn’t meet up the first night because our plane landed too late, and by the time we were on our way, it was almost midnight. Instead, Travis drove Ryann and me to our hotel, and we passed the fuck out.
But as soon as I woke, I was in contact with Alex to work out a time for us to come for an extended day visit. Unbeknownst to Ryann, we aren’t going back to our hotel tonight but camping out in the woods at an old favorite family spot.
“So, what do you think of the house? Will your grandparents approve?”
Hearing laughter, I look over my shoulder and through the front window leading into the small open living room. Rose and Ryann are on the floor, talking while little baby Brian is laying on the floor, reaching up towards a dangling playground of toys. I think Rose called it his floor gym. But Ryann looked so at ease with Brian earlier today and even offered to feed him, so Rose could eat her lunch.
But seeing Ryann’s motherly instincts come out sent a stabbing sadness through my veins because that could have been us. I thought it would have been Ryann who’d have a hard time seeing Alex and Rose’s young one, but it’s me.
“Ya, it looks good. It’s almost like stepping back in time. Grandma is excited to get back out here. As soon as you give the word, they’re on their way.”
Alex laughs, “Well, give me a month, and they’ll be set. Now, any changes for your and Ryann’s home before we do the final touches?”
Shaking my head, “Nope, I think we’re all set. Ryann was more than happy with the home, and so am I. Once again, Alex, you’ve outdone yourself.”
When he built my home out in California, I just told him to build it. Not guidance. No specifics as to what I wanted; Alex just ran with whatever came to mind. The only time he had any type of guidance was when he built my grandparents’ house.
Looking out into the backyard, the buzz of insects sends a rushing calmness through my body. I remember so many times coming out here with my mom and grandparents and sitting on the deck floor coloring or playing whatever game I just invited. There were many nights I brought out my keyboard and played a new tune that came into my head. My mom created new lyrics to go with the new melodies playing out and us busting out laughing because she couldn’t find a word that rhymed with orange.
God, what I wouldn’t give to have just one more night like that with my mom.
But those are the recollections I hold onto now. They are also the memories I want to create with my family. With Ryann. I don’t want to recreate anything from my past but create new and happy memories as the adventures come. Ryann and I have already made so many fond memories, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us.
“Do you remember,” Alex starts on a laugh, “the time we were at a bar, and we pranked Ross?”
Taking a sip from my glass of water, “Which time?” I smirk. “Because if I remember correctly, there were several times we pranked him.” There was a time he pissed me off that I put laxatives in his drink to get back at him. I still don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for that little stunt. Cost him a hookup too. Then there was a time Alex and I got him on stage with strippers and told him we hooked him up with an audition. He was too drunk that night to realize what the hell he was doing. Plus, he ended up going home with three of the strippers. So, that night was a blessing for him because Ross’s game is like a four out of ten.
“True, you’re still not his favorite person to be around. He kept looking over his shoulder at the little shower we threw to tell everyone we were expecting.”
Arching a brow, there is no way I would have expected an invite, and I’m honestly not sure I would have openly gone to a baby shower thing. Isn’t that for women anyways? That is way out of my realm of comfort just thinking of it. “Wait, let’s back up a minute.” Because I don’t think we’ve ever covered how Alex and Rose even met. “How did you mee Rosalee anyways? A bar?”
Scratching his nose, he looks out into the backyard with a twitch of a smile. “You’ll laugh because it was not in a bar.”
More than likely, but then again, he’d probably kill me if he knew me and Ryann’s relationship’s history.
“Met her on the ferry, then ran into her again at a musical…..”
He wasn’t lying; yup, I’m going to laugh. “A musical? You have to be kidding?”
Eyeing me, “Don’t poke fun. I know you were spotted going into Hamilton.”
“What did you do? Fuck up and ran after the girl?”
“More or less,” I admit. “I’m lucky she’s still with me.”
“Aww, are you gushing over me?” Ryann coos as she holds baby Brian, bouncing him in her arms. My heart swells at the sight and at the adorning smile across her face. Both Alex and I get to our feet, offering up our chairs, but Ryann shakes her head as she continues to bounce the baby in her arms. “I’m good. He wants to move around.”
“Ya….Brian doesn’t like to hold still for too long. Just like his mom.”
“Hey!” Rose calls as she walks out, her hands full with trays. Bolting to my feet, I reach out to take one of the trays from her and set it down on the little table between Ian and me. “Thanks.”
“Wait, when did you become a gentleman?” Alex jokes.
“It’s still a working progress,” Ryann says around her soft giggles. “But I’d like to think he’s getting better.”
“Standing right here,” I say, turning back around and taking the platter of sandwiches from Rose and setting it next to the tray of fruit. “Thanks again Rose, you didn’t have to go through all of this trouble.”
“It was no trouble. I’m glad to finally have some adult time. The baby tends to keep us a little busy.” She says with a smile before dropping her voice into baby talk and taking hold of Brian’s little chubby hand, “But it’s worth it! Yes, it is!” Reaching for a sandwich, Rose takes a bite, catching crumbs in her other hand, “Are you two thinking of having kids?”
Panic rises in my chest, and it’s not a question that is offensive. Especially since the knowledge is very, very limited. My concern is that I’ll see Ryann break down. And I immediately want to kick myself in the nuts, for that being my first reaction because Ryann is smiling and cooing at the baby. She’s so in her element. When our time comes to become parents, I know I’ll be the luckiest man, and our child will be blessed as hell because Ryann will be one hell of a wife and mother.
“It’s crossed our minds,” Ryann almost says in baby talk as the baby starts cooing back to her and reaches up for her necklace.
Rose gently takes Brian’s hand and slowly peels his fingers from the charms. And I can tell by the concentration on her Rose’s face, she’s reading Sloane’s name on the silver pendant. And by the melancholy creeping its way into her eyes, Ryann knows what’s coming next.
Watching Rose closely, Alex seems to have picked up on the sudden shift in atmosphere and reaches for Rose’s arm. His fingertips grazing across her skin. “Beautiful necklace. Who’s Sloane?”
I feel my hand immediately twist the bracelet on my wrist, catching Alex’s attention. By the look on his face, I can tell he realizes Sloane’s name is more than a close relative that may have passed.
“Rose, honey, do you want to help me get the drinks from the kitchen?”
Turning towards him with her brows slightly arched, Rose looks over to the half-full glasses on the table that we were drinking from and the two she brought out for her and Ryann. And now, I feel like I’m really about to panic because I’m not sure how to deviate from the question without it looking like that is what I’m doing.
“It’s okay,” Ryann suddenly says, which causes confusion on Rose’s face before falling with a sudden realization.”
Rose gasps out, “Shit, I’m so, so, so sorry. I had no idea.” Looking at Alex, I can see the tears in Rose’s eyes, “Did you know?” Now it’s his turn to look confused because maybe losing a child didn’t cross his mind. I mean, if the shoe were on the other foot, it wouldn’t have crossed mine either.
“It’s okay, really,” Ryann says with reassurance. “We didn’t know, and the car accident caused so much trauma and stress, and…….” Ryann’s voice wavers, the glossiness in her eyes starts to build, but Ryann keeps her sights on the baby in her arms, who is smiling and cooing at her.
Running a hand through my hair, this is the first time we’ve openly talked to others outside of our small group of close-knit friends and family. And by the looks on Alex and Rose’s faces, there is a reason why we haven’t told everyone we know.
“God, I’m so….we had – God, I’m so, very sorry,” Rose says with tears slowly falling down her face.
“Ya, man, you should have mentioned something. Rose could have gone back home with Brian.”
That was my original thought but beating around the bush version. However, Ryann overruled that plan. But by the pure happiness in Ryann’s eyes and the smile across her face as she bounces Brian in her arms, just this once, I’m glad I was overruled.
“And miss this bundle of joy,” Ryann coos as she talks to the baby. “Please don’t feel guilty for not knowing. We didn’t tell you, and you wouldn’t have known.”
Ryann’s attention is solely focused on the baby, but I can still see the grief and heartache in Alex and Rose’s eyes. “We really appreciate the sympathy that you guys are feeling, but we don’t want it. And I’m sorry if that makes me sound like an ass. But we don’t want our loss to seem…..” How do I word what I’m thinking without feeling like a complete ass?
“We don’t want the loss of our child to define us,” Ryann suddenly adds in. “With each new day, we celebrate what we have and Sloane. Who will always be with us.”
I watch a slight smile twitch in the corners of Rose’s mouth as Alex holds her tight. And I can’t help but watch the joyous look in Ryann’s eyes as she bounces Brian around and delivers the baby talk, making him laugh out.
“Sooooo……” Alex says cautiously. “Does this mean when you two are officially in Tennessee, we can count you in for babysitting?”
“Alexander,” Rose warns.
Laughing, “Ryann, most defiantly.”
“Ahh, come on, man, you can babysit too.”
I catch Ryann with a sly smiling on her face as she slowly approaches and suddenly hands me the baby. Feeling awkward as hell, I hold Brian like a football ready to be passed downfield. “You can get your practice in tonight, and then you can help me babysit.”
Alex lets out a boast of a laugh like I was just burned and leaving me to fend for myself with a tiny human being. Maybe I won’t make it as a good dad. I mean, I can’t even hold a baby correctly.
“Well, since you two have a handle on Brian. Ryann, I have an idea to show you for your guys’ house.”
Umm….she can’t be serious. And as I watch Ryann place a quick kiss to my cheek, the two girls disappear into the house. Leaving me holding Brian like a football. Fuck, they were serious.
“Erm….you want a little help?” Alex chuckles. Feeling very unsure, Alex takes two quick, easy steps towards me and adjusts baby Brian in my arms. The tiny little human in my hold is smiling, and his eyes are this striking honey brown color. A genuinely unique eye color. “He has his mom’s eyes. A color I’ve never seen before until Rosalee.” Alex pauses as I sit in the rocker and start to rock the cooing baby in my arms. “I had her dad as a professor at Berkely, small fucking world.” He laughs.
“So, you met her before the ferry?” I ask.
Alex shakes his head, “No. I had no clue who she was until the Ferry ride and didn’t learn who her father was until later. Actually, I ran out of her apartment the first night we met after she fell asleep.”
“Smooth, man,” I laugh.
“Ya, well, it gets better. Because it turned out, she was working as the front receptionist at the office Ross and I owned. Ross was keeping her hidden from me. Didn’t want me to jack up our star employee.”
“I see that didn’t work.”
Laughing, Alex reclaims his seat. “Ya, but man, she was worth breaking every single rule for.”
Me and Alex may have played the field, and we played it very well, but we had rules for a reason. They weren’t the same rules, but policies we set out in a way to avoid attachments and to protect ourselves. He was notorious for sleeping with his employees. I did not. I slept with fans, and he avoided anyone who associated him with the family name. We have our dumb and idiotic reasons for the rules we had, which at the time made sense, but looking back on them…..not all of them did. Some of them were set in place because we wanted to be dickheads. Like no redheads on Wednesdays or not fucking anyone taller than us. Even if they were hot. We were assholes with guidelines.
But there are those rare moments when rules are meant to be broken, and I’d break any rule if it meant being with Ryann.