Chapter 26: Barracuda Spencer
Avery placed the last bit of her belongings into her backpack and scanned the room one last time in case she forgot anything. It seemed that pretty much everything she owned could fit into her backpack now. Most of her things had been destroyed in the fire, but she didn’t mind. Aside from a few sentimental items, she didn’t miss any of it. It actually felt somewhat of a relief to be rid of all the material things. There was no longer anything to weigh her down, which made her feel free to take off and do anything she wanted with her life, which was exactly what she planned to do as soon as she was finished with school. She only had one more semester to go, and then she was free.
“Avery, are you ready?” asked Juliet approaching the guest room where Avery stood.
“Um. Yeah. I think I am,” said Avery, taking in her last looks.
Juliet noticed that Avery looked different from their first meeting. It wasn’t just her physical appearance. She still had her piercings and dyed hair, but her look was toned down a bit and now had some more color to it. But also, she just seemed more mature, more content, a little less sad. Juliet suspected she was closer to the Avery she used to be before losing her mom, except much more grown up.
“Thanks again for letting me stay with you guys. It was nice to feel like I was part of a family again, even if it was just for a little while.” She smiled and looked at her feet. “But I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”
“You know you are always welcome here, Avery. If you didn’t still belong to your dad, I would let you stay for as long as you like. …Look, I know he isn’t the greatest father to you, but he’s still your dad and I’m willing to bet that he loves you even if he doesn’t always show it…or say it. Some dads are just not very good at being dads, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about their daughters.” Juliet spoke from her own experience.
“You’re probably right.”
“But just so you know, if you ever need anything. Even if you just need to talk, Shawn and I are here. Like I said before, you are never alone.” Avery grinned.
Shawn stepped into the room just then and added, “…and if you don’t mind making a few bucks every now and then, keep your schedule open for some babysitting gigs.”
“Ooo, good call, Shawn!” said Juliet. The three left the guest room and started for the stairs
“Definitely!” said Avery, “…speaking of which, I’m sorry you guys missed your ultrasound the other day.”
“Don’t be a short-necked giraffe, Avery. That wasn’t your fault,” said Shawn, holding the front door open for both girls and allowing them to pass.
“Besides, we’ve rescheduled for tomorrow,” added Juliet. She turned to Shawn. “Short-necked giraffe?”
“Yeah, you know those black and white striped ones.”
“Uh…you mean Zebras?” questioned Avery, while getting into the back seat of a brand new red Honda that had that very morning replaced Shawn’s motorcycle. Juliet’s Beetle had been recovered from the kidnapping but was still in the shop for repairs.
“Possibly…I don’t know. But hey! Avery, you survived your first kidnapping! How cool is that?!”
“First?You say that as if I’m planning on being kidnapped often.”
“Well, why not? You’re so good at it. You should have seen her Jules! - smart talking those bad guys and what not.”
“I’m reallysorry I missed it,” said Juliet sarcastically. All three were in the car, and Shawn pulled out of the driveway and headed in the direction of Avery’s dad’s new house.
“Well, you can be kidnapped all you want Shawn. I’m out!” said Avery.
“No. No. No.” said Juliet emphatically. “Shawn is not allowed to be kidnapped anymore! Not if I have something to say about it. I am not going through that again, and I am definitelynot going to be a single mom.”
“You hear that kidnappers!” shouted Shawn out of the car window. “Watch out! You do not want to feel the wrath of my baby mama! And not just because she’s a cop!” An elderly couple walking on a nearby sidewalk stopped in their tracks.
“Shawn! I toldyou never to call me that!”
Avery was amused to see Shawn put in his place. Ten minutes and a conversation on the plusses and minuses of keeping an alligator for a pet later, the car pulled up to her new home that was maybe even fancier than the last one. Avery saw her father standing in the doorway waiting for her, and thought she may have even seen some worry and guilt on his face. Maybe he did care about her a little more than she realized.
The next evening, Shawn and Juliet sat on the bench outside Henry Spencer’s beachside home. The sun was beginning to set behind the ocean, and the scent of salt water and gentle swishing of the waves filled the air, which was crisp with a chill October wind. Juliet was surrounded with Shawn’s sweatshirt and leaning against her fiancé, taking in his scent. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. His fingers intertwined with hers and both of their hands rested on her protruding stomach.
“All is right with the world again, Jules,” said Shawn. “Swaggerty, Trout, and all of their henchmen are behind bars. Chief Karen Charles Vick and Detective Lassie-face are back where they are supposed to be, and you will be too after our little one arrives…”
“I can’t believe McNab gets to be Carlton’s partner until then,” added Juliet. “Who thought thatwould ever happen?”
“Seriously, I’m still gonna keep an eye out for those pigs. What else…Gus and Rachael are happy. We’re happy. My Dad is still grumpy. Lindsay Lohan is still in rehab. Everything is back to normal!”
“Shawn, be sure and tell Gus that I appreciated him sending Rachael over to sit with me the other day. He is a good friend.”
“That he is,” said Shawn. “I doubt I would have kept him around all these years if he wasn’t. But, you know, I really don’t let him know that often enough do I?”
Juliet agreed but didn’t say so.
“Remind me to get him a huge box of taffy next time we are at the pier, and a new Xbox since I used his as a workout brick last week, and I might as well spring for the Captain and Tenille tickets while I’m at it. Hmm…I wonder if Rachael can tolerate that? I should ask her first.”
“She’s really good for Gus, don’t you think?”
“Hells, yeah! He’s so much less a Mopey Marvin now…I’m really happy for him,” Shawn said sincerely.
Juliet cuddled in closer to Shawn. She was proud of him for all of the changes he had made recently. Not only was he stepping up and looking more and more likely to be an attentive father, he was also becoming a better friend to Gus, and a better son to Henry. She just had to know one more thing.
“So, Shawn,” started Juliet. “Be honest with me. Are you disappointed?”
Shawn was confused. “Jules, what would I be disappointed about?”
“That we’re not having a boy. I know you really wanted a boy.” Even though she saw happy tears in his eyes when they saw their baby girl on the ultrasound earlier that day, she had to be sure.
“Jules, I’m going to have a daughter.” A smile graced his lips when he said the word. I’m…I don’t even think a word exists to describe how excited I am.”
Shawn leaned over and kissed Juliet passionately. “What does that tell you?”
“Ok, I get it,” she said.
“Besides,” continued Shawn. “When I said I thought we were going to have a boy, it wasn’t because I wanted a boy. Actually, I’m not quite sure I didwant a boy. Don’t get me wrong, it would be awesome to have a son. But…well, you’ve seen my relationship with my dad. I was just worried that my son and I would turn out the same way…that I wouldn’t be able to avoid that fate, you know. And it would be just my luck if we had a boy right now…because I’m not ready for it.”
“And you think you’re ready for a girl?” asked Juliet
“Are you kidding?! A mini-you! What is better than that?! Now, am I ready for pink tutus? ...I don’t know…Barbie dolls? ...I’m not sure…Hello Kitty? ...maybe, that cat is darn cute…Glittery nail polish? Cabbage Patch Kids? Mary Kate and Ashley movies? Rainbow Brite? Skip-it? Mall Madness? Gem and the Holograms…?”
“You do know what decade it is, right Shawn?”
“Well, help me out here. I don’t know what little girls are into these days!”
“Shawn, be serious. Are you ready for a daughter?”
“Honestly, I’m probably not ready for anything. What first-time parent really is?”
Juliet nodded in agreement.
“All I know is, I’m not quite as worried about messing up with a daughter than a son. I believe that would be your job.”
“Hey!” Juliet smacked him playfully. “Thanks for that, though.”
Juliet shifted when the baby began moving and she felt the gentle kicking with her hands. Shawn too tried to feel what he could.
“So, now that we know it’s a girl, can we start discussing names?” asked Shawn.
“Yes, let’s do!” said Juliet excitedly, “I’ve been waiting months for this!” It was true that they hadn’t discussed names so much yet, but Juliet had been thinking about it for quite a while.
“Ok. Let’s see,” said Shawn. “I’m still partial to Barracuda, unless you’d rather go with Seahorse. Either is good for me.”
“Aaah! Enough with the ridiculous aquatic names already!”
“Honestly, Jules, I really don’t see what you have against them.”
“Shawn, I don’t get it. After everything we’ve just been through with a guy named after a fish, I don’t understand why you would want to name our daughter after one.”
“That’s a fair question, Jules. I’ll explain this for you. First of all, a trout is a freshwater fish. A barracuda lives in salt water. There’s a big difference there. Secondly, if a trout and a barracuda got in a fight, the barracuda would totally win. There’s no question about that. I mean, come on! A fish with teeth?! Nothing beats that. And finally, I don’t know if you realized this, but the man who shot my dad…was also a fish…”
“Jerry Carp!” Juliet realized.
“I just have to believe that not all fish are bad…You know?”
“Ok. That makes total sense…I think. At least in your crazy brain it does.”
Silence and understanding fell between them for a few moments, until Shawn finally continued the conversation. “I chose Barracuda when I thought we were having a boy, anyway. I suppose it’s not that great for a girl, though. What did you have in mind?”
“Do you remember me telling you about my Grandma O’Hara?”
“Yeah, Frank’s mom, the one you used to visit during the summers.”
“Yeah. I’d like to name our daughter after her. Her name was Margaret, but everyone called her Maggie.”
Shawn tried out the name. “Margaret Spencer. Maggie Spencer. Maggs.” He nodded and smiled. “Yes, I do believe that works. I like it. I like it very much.”
Juliet beamed. It was what she really wanted, but she was afraid that Shawn would think the name was too old-fashioned and that she would have to do some convincing. But he liked it!
“On one condition, though!” added Shawn, and Juliet was momentarily worried that she wouldn’t get the name she had chosen. “I also get to name her after my mom…for the middle name, I mean.”
The ear-to-ear smile returned to Juliet’s face and she said the full name out loud as if addressing the baby inside her. “Margaret Madeline Spencer. I love it.”
“That’s it then,” said Shawn proudly. “Our daughter’s name is Maggie!” He put his hand on Juliet’s stomach. “Hey, Maggs! Do you approve?” Shawn felt a strong kick to his hand that startled both him and Juliet. “I’m gonna take that as a yes.”
“Shawn, I don’t want to wait anymore.”
“Neither do I, sweetie, but Maggie isn’t ready to come out yet. She still has three and half more months of growing to do first.”
“No. Not that.” Juliet fiddled with her engagement ring. “I think we should get married…soon.”
“While you’re still pregnant?” asked Shawn.
“We could still have a big ceremony after the baby is born, but yeah…I’d like to do it as soon as possible. I almost lost you this week and I just thought…it made me wonder what we are waiting for.”
“Ok,” said Shawn. “I’m game. Christmas is only a few weeks away and all of the family will be here. Why don’t we do it then?”
“Yes. Let’s do it!” said Juliet sitting up excitedly and looking Shawn in the eyes. “Let’s get married on Christmas! Well, maybe not onChristmas. I’d like to have our own special day to celebrate our anniversary every year, but how about a few days before or after!”
“Ok, then, we’re getting married in a few weeks. Holy MC Hammer pants Jules! We’re getting married in a few weeks! We need to start planning. Let’s go tell my Dad!”
Shawn and Juliet left the now starlight-specked beach behind them and headed hand-in-hand towards Shawn’s boyhood home to tell Henry the good news.